World at Risk for Devastating Food Crisis, Deeper Reform Needed Finds New Report

January 18th, 2012

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

While the 2007-08 food price crisis has been a catalyst for important policy reforms, governments have yet to address its underlying causes, finds a new report from IATP and the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University. In the report, authors Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy warn that the international community is avoiding deeper structural reforms, leaving the world at risk of another devastating spike in global food prices.

The report, “Resolving the Food Crisis: Assessing Global Policy Reforms Since 2007,” is based on a comprehensive assessment of the policies and actions taken since 2007 by four international groups of actors: the U.N., the G-20, the World Bank and international donors. The authors document the welcome renewal of attention to agricultural development and to the contributions of small-scale farmers and women. But they warn that policy reforms fall well short of what is needed to meet the world’s current and future food needs in a sustainable way. Wise and Murphy put the onus on rich-country governments to take responsibility for their agricultural policies that are contributing to the fragility and volatility in food systems around the world and to support the renewed interest in many developing countries to increase agricultural development and reduce dependence on food imports.

Wise and Murphy call for urgent attention to three issues:

  • Reducing financial speculation on commodities markets: Reforms have been limited, leaving commodities markets prone to wide price swings. Proposals to increase the use of food reserves to limit volatility have been largely rejected.
  • Halting “land grabs”: As food-producing resources become more valuable, resource-constrained countries and speculative investors have bought or leased millions of acres of agricultural land in Africa and in other developing regions. This unregulated new market compromises the long-term food-producing capacity of developing countries while dispossessing those who have traditionally worked the land.
  • Limiting the further expansion of crops and land dedicated to biofuels: Government incentives are spurring biofuel expansion in industrialized countries, contributing to the underlying demand-growth that is driving agricultural prices steadily upward.

Read the full report: “Resolving the Food Crisis: Assessing Global Policy Reforms Since 2007

See an interview with the authors on Real News Network

Read an op-ed by the report authors: “Resolving the food crisis: Global leaders fail to make crucial reforms

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