UN Platitudes Will Not End Hunger -- IPN
IPN Press release
Kendra Okonski, +44 77 95 844 685
For immediate release
LONDON, 15 NOVEMBER -- Tomorrow, government officials from across the world will meet in Rome at a UN “Hunger Summit” (also known as the World Summit on Food Security). But the summit will do nothing to reduce the problem, as Julian Morris, Executive Director of International Policy Network observes:
“While political leaders from across the world feast in Rome, millions of their citizens wallow at home, unable to feed themselves because of restrictions on their freedom to trade – many of them imposed by those same politicians.”
Morris points out that the real causes of hunger and food insecurity are not even on the agenda or in the draft declaration. Restrictions on trade within and between countries have undermined investments in improved agriculture – such as better seed, irrigation, pesticides and fertiliser. Trade enables specialisation, which leads to increased output, as Morris notes:
“Increased specialisation, driven by trade, has been the pattern in most countries – and has resulted in dramatic increases in per capita food production, even with rising populations. It is the reason global deaths from drought-related famines have fallen by over 99 per cent since the 1920s.”
Many potentially beneficial innovations already exist that could increase yields and reduce hunger in Africa, yet these are not being widely adopted because of excessive government regulation of biotechnology and other restrictions on trade.* That is why, in the current drought, millions of people in East Africa once again face famine.
This is the third time in a decade that government ministers have met to discuss “food security”. Each time they have committed to reducing the incidence of hunger. Yet there are more hungry people today than in 2002 when they held their first summit.
“Instead of making bland commitments, it is time for governments to take action to reduce the barriers to trade that currently inhibit investments in new agricultural technologies and economic diversification. Only then will they end hunger,” concluded Morris.
*See: Fixing Famine: How Technology and Incentives Can Help Feed Africa by Daniel Sacks and Jasson Urbach, published 15 November 2009, International Policy Network
Based on fieldwork in Kenya and Malawi, Fixing Famine identifies four simple innovations that are already making a real difference: hybrid and genetically modified seeds; greenhouses; drip irrigation; and plug seedlings (planting young plants instead of seeds).
See also: “Starving for Freedom”, by Julian Morris Wall Street Journal Europe, 16 October 2009