• food security;
  • animal and plant diseases;
  • sustainable intensification;
  • biosecurity

As part of a themed section, this introductory paper provides critical insights into important social science debates associated with food security and animal/plant diseases. Continued volatility in the price of basic foodstuffs on international commodity markets has ensured that food security will be one of the ‘master frames’ of early twentieth century public policy. While increasing food production through ‘sustainable intensification’ characterises the essentially scientific solution to food (in)security issues, other ‘framings’ of food security are also important. These include providing access to affordable and good quality food, reducing food waste and encouraging more urban-based agriculture. Animal/plant diseases are a considerable threat to food security because of growing trade, travel, transport and tourism. A range of national/international and scientific control measures help to reduce the risk of disease spread, but micro-scale studies are needed to help understand the practicalities of applying biosecurity controls at local geographical scales.