Food Crisis

The UN has just finished an emergency meeting on the global food crisis.  We (at PRI’s The World) took it as an opportunity to review the causes of the crisis and some of the proposed solutions. Here’s my report. We followed it with a piece from Vietnam where rice is in short supply. That was followed by an interview on the pace of change in China where economic growth is gobbling up farmland and fuelling demand for meat, both factors in the rising price of food worldwide. I thought it was a good sequence.

I learned a lot from a briefing by three leaders of organizations in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) which is pushing for much more investment in agricultural research.   Joachim von Braun of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington began his remarks with a comment that stuck with me:

“Before I come to the policy issues I want to point out that the nutrition system of the bottom billion of the world population is at risk when they are not shielded from these price rises. The higher food prices lead poor people to limit their food consumption and shift to even less balanced diets with harmful effects on health in the short and long run. The child which is not appropriately nourished under the age of 3 for a couple of months will be harmed for the rest of its life.  So the question whether these food price increases will stop and come down again and whether then everything would be back to normal is a market-related question. Concerning people it’s a different issue. We have to keep in mind the nutrition situation of the poor.”



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