May 21, 2013

Commentary - Addressing Food Security Beyond our Food Supply

This post is part of a series produced by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its annual Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, D.C., which will be held on May 21st. For more information on the symposium, click here. Follow @globalagdev and #globalag on twitter to join the conversation on May 21st.

John Ginascol, Vice President of Global Supply Chain, Abbott Nutrition

I’ll soon be attending the Symposium on Agriculture and Food Security. It doesn’t happen often that world leaders, researchers and philanthropists have the chance to gather for two days to discuss the progress made in the past year – and the work that’s still ahead – in addressing food security challenges.

As a company, Abbott believes it’s important for people to have access to the right kinds of nutritional foods, regardless of their location. A more critical layer that is not always discussed, however, is making sure that the food is safe and of the highest quality.



I believe food safety is a shared responsibility; everyone benefits when consumers have access to safe, high quality products. This accountability to safety becomes more critical as the world— and world’s food supply— becomes more connected. To make sure the food we are delivering around the world is safe, it comes down to three needs. The need for standardization, collaboration and prevention. 


Food and nutrition companies are expanding their reach into new and emerging markets. Entering these markets can have its challenges, as many countries and regions have unique regulations and customer preferences. We must develop clear, internationally-accepted standards for the level and types of ingredients we use and how we test our products. Implementing more standardized processes leads to a more seamless regulatory process, and creates less confusion among companies and their customers around these differing standards. 


No one company or organization can do this alone. To maintain the highest quality products for our consumers, we strongly believe that collaboration is critical, especially as companies enter new markets.

When Abbott expands into a new country or region, we become part of the community. We know our bottom line is inextricably linked to the public good, because the only way we can do well, is if the community thrives. One way we help the community is by working with local suppliers.

Suppliers are critical as they allow companies to source the best ingredients and technology and focus on their core competencies. While there are many benefits to working with suppliers, they need to follow the same safety standards. Companies must hold their suppliers to the same quality standards. This often means working closely with local suppliers to implement new quality and safety processes when first building relationships in new markets. 


The third need combines everything I’ve mentioned and makes sure we are not just talking about food safety, but implementing it into our day-to-day work to prevent food safety issues. Companies can look at how their manufacturing process proactively identifies any potential issues in order to quickly address them. We also can ensure that we have the communication strategies in place to quickly communicate with our customers and consumers.

I’m looking forward to gathering in Washington, D.C. to learn from other leaders who have the same end goal – making nutritious, safe food available to people around the world.



The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

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Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

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International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

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Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

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WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.