What is food security

When the World Food Conference of 1974 first defined food security it meant that basic food products should be available, at a stable price, for all people of the world. The concept of food security evolved over time as we began to learn more about the environmental impact of food production. The WFC expanded their meaning of food security to explain that accessible food should be safe and nutritious, as well as being environmentally sustainable. [1]

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” [2]


What is food security?

This is such an important topic because any person from any community can be impacted by food insecurity. A growing population means there are more mouths to feed, yet people across the world rely heavily on just a handful of crops.[3] For example, wheat rust is a fungal disease that can effect wheat crops worldwide.[4] The spores of wheat rust are windborne which means they can travel a major distance, and when they land they are highly effective in infecting the crop and making it inedible. If diseases like this are able to take hold on certain strains of crops it will result in a much smaller harvest. Should this happen globally there would be dire consequences. [5]

Climate change only elevates the situation.  Rising levels of CO2 reduce the nutritional content of grains, tubers and vegetables, which in turn changes the nutritional levels of things such as zinc and iron. [6]

Categories of food insecurity:

There are two categories that make up food insecurity, one focuses on the household level whilst the other examines problems on a national scale.

Chronic food insecurity is the name given to the long-term problem of hunger at a household level. This category defines people with a low income who may not be able to provide for themselves or their family. These challenging situations allow for people to go malnourished. This takes different forms. Whilst some have access to the wrong kinds of foods, some have no access to food at all.

Transitionary food insecurity is the name given to a short-term food security problem which is caused by a disruption in the food production line. For example when natural disasters occur it can be extremely difficult to get resources into the affected area. It could also go to define a country experiencing drought resulting in the country’s crops being unable to grow. It is generally defined as meaning food is inaccessible on a larger scale for a prolonged period of time.

What are the three pillars of food security?

The three main pillars all need to be achieved before food security can be claimed. The pillars are:

  • Availability
    Availability categorises the physical existence of food on a national level. It is a combination of “domestic food production, commercial food imports and exports, food aid and domestic food stocks.” Food can be accessed by growing the product independently, or purchasing from a store. Food availability also covers water resources, meaning that there is enough green and blue water accessible to drink, produce crops, and to be used industrially and environmentally.
  • Access
    Access refers to all households having enough resources to acquire good quality, diverse and nutritious food needed to maintain a healthy diet.  This hugely depends on household income, but is also affected by environmental changes. Developing countries can be disproportionately affected by floods and droughts, which in turn effects their harvests, which in turn sparks the price of food. This results in a lack of access for everyone.
  • Use and Utilisation
    Use describes the socio-economic aspects of household food. The food accessed should be able to provide a wide variant of nutrition. It also describes the knowledge of how to prepare food after purchase. It also relates to the body’s ability to utilise the nutrients it has been given and be able to convert the food into energy. [7]

How our gas sensing solutions play their part

Edinburgh Sensors understands the importance of global food security, which is why we are keen to play our part. Here’s just a little taste of what we do:

  • Vertical farming – the mission of vertical farming is to create food products in an efficient and waste-free way. Vertical farms can be built in small urban spaces and use 95% less water than their horizontal counterparts. CO2 gas sensors are paramount for vertical farming. Edinburgh Sensor’s Boxed Gascard provides rapid and reliable CO2 measurements allowing for precise and essential measurements. Read more here: https://edinburghsensors.com/news-and-events/perfect-environment-vertical-farming/
  • Detecting early spoilage – Over 50% of grains are lost after harvesting due to spoilage by mould or insects. If grains are properly stored and monitored their shelf life can greatly increase. With Edinburgh Sensor’s gas detection solutions you can control the levels of temperature and moisture levels, meaning a much more successful harvest. https://edinburghsensors.com/news-and-events/stored-grains/
  • Cutting Dairy Farm Emissions – We offer a range of solutions for monitoring the methane and carbon dioxide created during the milking process. Our range of OEM sensors are manufactured to the highest specification, and can be easily integrated into a wide range of systems. https://edinburghsensors.com/products/oem/

Food security CO2 gas sensing solution used

Edinburgh Sensors Gas Sensors

Edinburgh Sensors is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of gas sensors providing a range of cutting edge gas detection solutions. The full range of products and industries served can be viewed here on our website. If you would like to know more about the interesting food sensor technology work done at Edinburgh Sensors you can easily follow us on our social media platforms using the links above, or sign up today for our infrequent newsletters.


[1] Food and Agriculture Organization. (2016) Food Security. Policy Brief. 2 (1) 1
[2] World Food Summit (1996)
[3] Shiferaw, B. et al. (2019). Crops that feed the world 10. Past successes and future challenges to the role played by wheat in global food security. Food Secur., 2013, 5, 291–317.
[4] Crop Science – Wheat Rust Diseases
[5] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Plant pests and diseases
[6] Global Food Security – Sustainable, healthy food for all
[7] WOCATpedia – Definition and Dimensions of Food Security