The Economist: It’s OUR view for the future of FOOD

There was an article in a November issue of the Economist titled “How to Feed the World.” The article begins: “In 1974, Henry Kissinger, then America’s secretary of state, told the first world conference in Rome that no child would go to bed hungry within ten years. Just over 35 years later in the week of another United Nations food summit in Rome, 1 billion people will go to bed hungry.”

The article blames the rise of crop prices on agricultural ‘failings,’ that have not gone away. What those are, it does not specify quite enough–however, we do know that the world’s population will rise by a third in 2050 and demand for agricultural goods will rise by 70%, demand for meat, will double.

Here is another little snippet: “Countries need to do two things, invest in the productive capacity of agriculture and improve the operation of food markets. Governments have done one but not the other. Over the past year investment has risen faster than anyone expected. But distrust of markets and reaction against farm trade are growing. Unless governments restrain those impulses, they will undermine the gains from rising investment.”

This is partly something I can agree with, and partly not. I believe that what this article is trying to get at ignores the complexity of the uneven food market, the fact that rich countries can subsidize crops and boost their products and then sell them to poor countries for cheap, for example. The fact that markets for rural farmers have to grow is true, and acting at a local level (which I think has been undermined by the Bigger levels) is crucial. The article says, GM crops have to have a role in the agriculture and thankfully suggests that the technology should be distributed in a localized level as opposed to controlled by Monsanto.

Finally, the article emphasizes the importance of opening up trade between nations as opposed to shifting towards a self-reliance in agriculture. This, the article argues, is ‘in nobody’s interest.’ I don’t disagree, but I would add the importance of fair trade and a further examination of the inequality in the market.

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