Comprehensive World Food Policy

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 18 May 2020

René Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

In a recent 12 May 2020 report the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that the COVID-19 impact would increase by some 15 million the 820 million persons who the FAO estimates are the daily victims of hunger.  The COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the finances of many already marginalized, especially those in the informal economy.  Overall agricultural production has not radically declined but with the closing of national frontiers, importation of food has been hindered and the migration of agricultural workers sharply cut or impossible.

A central theme which Citizens of the World have long stressed is that there needs to be a world food policy and that it is more than the sum of national food security programs. The focus on the formulation of national plans is clearly inadequate.  There is a need for a world plan of action with focused attention given to the role that the UN and regional institutions must play if hunger is to be sharply reduced.  It is clear that certain regional bodies, such as the European Union, already play an important role in setting agricultural policy both in terms of production and export policy.  There may be a time when the African Union also will play a crucial role in setting policy, monitoring and coordinating agriculture.

It is certain that attention must be given to the local and national level of food production, distribution, and food security.  Attention needs to be given to cultural factors, the division of labor between women and men in agriculture and rural development, in marketing local food products, to the role of small farmers, to the role of landless agricultural labor, and land-holding patterns.

Unfortunately, there are hardly ever adequate national food policies, in part because of a lack of political power on the part of rural populations.  The control of government administration by the urbanized elite is strong in nearly every country − even those where the bulk of the population lives in the rural area.

For the formulation of a dynamic world food policy, world economic trends and structures need to be analyzed, and policy goals made clear.  Government food and agriculture policies need to be analyzed and reviewed carefully. The agricultural policies of the European Union and the larger food-exporting countries − USA, Canada, Brazil, Australia − need to be reviewed along with the impact of agricultural subsidies and export encouragement.

A world food policy for the welfare of all requires a close look at world institutions and patterns of production and trade.  As Stringfellow Barr wrote in his 1952 book, Citizens of the World:

“Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some men die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live.”

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René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 May 2020.

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One Response to “Comprehensive World Food Policy”

  1. George Kent says:

    I appreciate René’s efforts here but, having studied the hunger issue for decades, I am convinced the global approach is not likely to be successful. In “Are We Serious About Ending Hunger?” World Nutrition. 2019. 10(3):3-22. https://worldnutritionjournal.org/index.php/wn/article/view/657/571 I show that there has never been a serious plan to end world hunger.

    I advocate an approach that starts at the community level, in Caring About Hunger. Sparsnäs, Sweden: Irene Publishing, 2016.

    George Kent

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