International community lax to respond to food crisis

The international community is avoiding deeper structural reforms in agriculture, leaving the world at risk of another devastating food crisis, according to a new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Global Development and Environment Institute at US-based Tufts University.

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While the food price crisis of 2007/2008 was a catalyst for important policy reforms, governments have yet to address its underlying causes, the report states. Authors Timothy Wise and Sophia Murphy based their report on the policies and actions taken since 2007 by the United Nations, the G-20, the World Bank and international donors.

Wise and Murphy put the onus on wealthy governments to take responsibility for their agricultural policies that are contributing to the fragility and volatility of food systems around the world and to support the renewed interest in many developing countries to reduce dependence on food imports.

They say urgent action is needed on three issues. Firstly, financial speculation on commodities markets needs to be reduced. Proposals to increase the use of food reserves to limit volatility have been largely rejected. Secondly, land grabs should be halted. As food-producing resources become more valuable, resource-constrained countries and speculative investors have purchased or leased millions of hectares of agricultural land in Africa and in other developing regions.

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Lastly, the further expansion of crops and land dedicated to biofuels should be limited. Government incentives are spurring biofuel expansion in industrialised countries, contributing to the underlying demand-growth that is driving agricultural prices upward.