The unanticipated international food price spike of 2008 has raised concerns about global food security. Might food systems lastingly fail to supply, trade, and distribute food? Might widespread unsustainable agricultural practices irreversibly alter ecosystems? Or might large scale food shortages trigger political unrest? To answer these questions, we reflect upon the concept of systemic risk and conduct a review of the literature on systemic risks and food security. First, we present the concept of systemic risk and current trends in systemic risk research.
We then analyze contributions on systemic risk and food security. We first show that the literature has so far focused on a) agricultural production and correlated yield-losses, and on ways of pooling risk at regional or global-level, and b) the role of international trade in increasing or decreasing systemic risk. We then identify avenues for further research, highlighting the impact of intensive farming on ecosystems. Finally, we discuss the concept of systemic risk: we show that scholars need to be careful when assuming that there exists just one global food system; we show that systemic risk can be understood in various ways, beyond the domino effect paradigm.