World leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other groups will come together from 20-22 June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to take part in the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20).

In our Seven Issues, Seven Experts series UN officials tell us more about the key issues that will be discussed during the conference and how we can contribute to make our planet more sustainable.

In the fourth installment, the UN News Centre spoke with the Chief Development Strategist at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Carlos Sere, about the role of hunger and obesity, and why small farmers are the key to ensuring food security.

UN News Centre: What is the global food situation at the moment?

Carlos Sere: The food situation in the world is that we have a rapidly growing population, rapidly growing incomes, changing consumption patterns, people eating more animal products, vegetables, fruits, oils, and all of this is compounding to a very rapid increase in the total amount of food needed.

At the same time, the resources of the world are finite and we’re getting more and more to the limits of what we can do. So this means that it’s getting tighter, if you want, and therefore we have seen very high volatility in the recent past. So a drought in Australia or Russia would rapidly increase the price of wheat, especially because there are no large buffer stocks to control the markets. We took food for granted for many years, but right now food has become a very critical and strategic issue.

One other very important dimension which has changed is the fact that due to the rapid increase in oil prices, the world is looking at renewable energy sources and a lot of the renewable energy right now is bio-ethanol produced from corn. So we are now connecting the food market and the energy market. All of that adds a lot of volatility.