Published Jul 20 2009 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Jul 20 2009

Food Crisis and the G8 - July 20

by Staff

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G8 Summit: Feed the Hungry or Fuel Hunger?

Anuradha Mittal, Foreign Policy in Focus

Proposals to challenge hunger have become a common feature of international conferences since the 2008 food crisis. The 83% increase in food prices between 2005 and 2008 led to a massive surge in global hunger, as the number of hungry in 2008 increased from 854 million to 963 million in the space of a year. As warnings of political instability and social unrest grew, heads of state suddenly began to discuss food security. The political intent to combat world hunger, however, was short-lived. Perhaps the decline in crop prices that started in the middle of 2008 made the problem appear less severe for policymakers, while bank bailouts and automaker bankruptcies captured all the attention and resources.

The hunger crisis, however, is far from over. The number of hungry reached a historic high in 2009, with 1.02 billion people — one-sixth of humanity — going hungry every day. Despite an improved global cereal supply situation and a decline in international prices of most cereals from their highs in the first half of 2008, food prices remain high in developing countries. Thirty-two countries face acute food crises. The economic crisis has worsened the situation by further shrinking the purchasing power of the urban poor and subsistence farmers in poor countries.

In the midst of this deeply entrenched epidemic of poverty and hunger, the G8 will announce a new initiative that seeks a more coordinated approach to food aid and development. The G8's performance on its past commitments, however, casts a shadow on the sincerity of their intentions.

A recent speech by Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), also reflected this G8 logic that international trade will help solve the global food crisis. Lamy claimed that increased competition reduces prices and thus enhances the purchasing power of the consumers. Secondly, he argued, trade helps transport food from places where it can be produced efficiently to where there is demand.

...This assertion that free trade will help solve hunger, however, is based on amnesia. Liberalization of agricultural markets has yet to deliver on the promised or expected gains in growth and stability in the developing world. In a submission to the Commission of Sustainable Development (CSD) in May 2009, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, pointed out that the multilateral trading system is "heavily skewed in favor of a small group of countries, and in urgent need of reform." He was referring to how rich countries have used their heavily subsidized agriculture to help secure markets by flooding developing countries with cheap farm imports, making subsistence farming uncompetitive and financially unstable.

The dumping of cheap, subsidized food has converted developing countries that had once been self-sufficient, and even net exporters of agricultural products, into net importers. In the 1960s, developing countries had an overall agricultural surplus of $7 billion. By the 1970s, with the increase in imports, this surplus had shrunk to $1 billion. Most of the 1990s and 2000s saw developing countries turn into net food importers. In 2001, the deficit grew to $11 billion.

The worst impact of the indiscriminate opening of markets has been felt in the rural areas, where agriculture is the main occupation for most of the poor as well as a source of purchasing power. Increased imports have not increased food security in these areas. Also, the notion that further liberalization of agricultural markets increases access to food belies the fact that most people in countries classified as having "widespread lack of access" are unable to procure food because they don't have enough money.
(8 July 2009)

G8 Calls for Decisive Action to End Hunger, Recognizes Role of CAADP and AGRA at L'Aquila Summit

Text of L'Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security - L'Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI)

L'Aquila, Italy — 1. We, Heads of State, Government and International and Regional Organizations convened in L'Aquila, remain deeply concerned about global food security, the impact of the global financial and economic crisis and last year's spike in food prices on the countries least able to respond to increased hunger and poverty. While the prices of food commodities have decreased since their peak of 2008, they remain high in historical terms and volatile. The combined effect of longstanding underinvestment in agriculture and food security, price trends and the economic crisis have led to increased hunger and poverty in developing countries, plunging more than a further 100 million people into extreme poverty and jeopardising the progress achieved so far in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The number of people suffering from hunger and poverty now exceeds 1 billion.

2. There is an urgent need for decisive action to free humankind from hunger and poverty. Food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture must remain a priority issue on the political agenda, to be addressed through a cross-cutting and inclusive approach, involving all relevant stakeholders, at global, regional and national level. Effective food security actions must be coupled with adaptation and mitigation measures in relation to climate change, sustainable management of water, land, soil and other natural resources, including the protection of biodiversity.
(10 July 2009)

From the website:

Download the 'L'Aquila' Joint Statement on Global Food Security (PDF 100KB)

Read AGRA's Statement to G8: Shortest Path to Food Security is through Africa's Breadbaskets

U.S. working group on the food crisis statement on the G8 in L’aquila, Italy

U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis

The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis calls upon the Group of Eight Countries meeting from July 8-10 in L’Aquila, Italy to reject the broken status quo of reliance on biotechnology and the WTO Doha free trade agenda as solutions to the global food crisis. Instead, the Working Group, representing religious, anti-hunger, international development, family farm, food jsutice, labor, consumer and environmental groups, urges the nations of the G8 to base investment in agriculture research and productivity on the authoritative findings of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a landmark study sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank and conducted by 400 scientists and development experts.

The IAASTD represents the best intergovernmental, multi-stakeholder expert assessment of how to address global hunger and price volatility. The report recommends the use of agroecological methods to boost productivity as the most promising way to improve food security rather than “business as usual” reliance on chemical-intensive production and biotechnology.
The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis issued a Call to Action on the World Food Crisis in October 2008 and sent a letter to President Obama detailing lasting policy solutions to fix the global food crisis. We urge the G8 to review these solutions, including:

  • Stabilize and guarantee fair prices for farmers and consumers globally through regulation of commodity markets and the establishment of publicly-owned food reserves;
  • Rebalance power in the food system through antitrust enforcement and other measures to reduce the influence of agribusiness corporations on public policy;
  • Make agriculture environmentally sustainable through farm policy and investment reform, including purchasing and procurement incentives;
  • Respect, protect and fulfill workers’ rights for farmworkers and other food system workers; and
  • Guarantee the right to food and build healthy local and regional food systems that foster social, ecological and economic justice at home and abroad.

(July 2009)
Many more articles and resources are available on this website. KS

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Related: A very comprehensive article on the National Geographic website that covers the recent food crisis in depth. KS.