Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Global Food System Stability and Risk: At the Nexus of Defense and Development

As a signatory to the UN Global Compact and facilitator of efforts to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Thomson Reuters regularly works with public and private sector institutions to strengthen the global food system through a combination of data tools and programs to strengthen food security.  Additionally, our Foundation also supports the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and hosts dedicated news sites dedicated to both food and land tenure.

As part of this commitment, Thomson Reuters has also supported the work of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Jahn Research Group to produce two reports. The Risks of Multiple Breadbasket Failures in the 21st Century: A Science Research Agenda, was released last year at the US Department of Agriculture. The second, Global Food System Stability and Risk: At the Nexus of Defense and Development, was released this April and also features authors from the U.S. Army War College; NASA Earth Observations for Food Security and Agriculture Consortium, Northwestern University; and the University of Southern California.

Food System and Risk: At the Nexus of Defense and Development highlights the importance of the food system in a global security and national defense strategy by shining a spotlight on the dynamic, complex interactions between traditionally disaggregated features given the recent inclusion of the term in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The authors review the concept of “food systems” and present a framework to help put a necessary spotlight on challenges to the global food system whether they are natural hazards, conflict, dislocation or migration. Additionally, the framework incorporates new big data technologies and data sources from critical infrastructure, trade and even sentiment analysis to better “see” signatures of impending risks, threats, vulnerabilities and opportunities in global food systems. The report offers an analysis and recommendations based on four scenarios and six drivers which the authors and contributors argue all affect global food systems today:

 Scenario 1: Multiple Breadbasket Failure (MBBF)

   Driver: Population Growth, Increased Urbanization, Changing Consumption Patterns

   Driver: Global Climate Change

Scenario 2: Multi-State Food Crisis (MSFC)

   Driver: Endemic Corruption, Institutional Capacity, Bad Governance

   Driver: Inter-State and Intra-State Conflict

Scenario 3: Exploitation of the Food System by Violent Non-State Actors

   Driver: Weak Institutions, Endemic Corruption, Kleptocratic Regimes

Scenario 4: Implications of Gray Zone Activity and Inter-State Conflict

   Driver: Connectivity, Interdependencies, Supply Chain integration

Five recommendations supporting the Defense-Development Nexus are also presented to introduce a holistic, scalable risk assessment framework to capture the impact of food systems risks and potential failures:

  • Interagency Cooperation
  • Developing a New Framework for Food System Stability
  • Developing a Food System Risk Index
  • Maximizing Usable Big Data
  • Public Private Partnership


Sharing updated report following public release in April.