Europe and the Global Food Crisis

PARIS – The world has been shaken by unprecedented spikes in food prices, by hunger riots, and by social tensions that demonstrate that food supplies have returned as a source of insecurity – to which global warming and declining natural resources are adding unprecedented urgency. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be nine billion people on earth, so the need for food may double – primarily among urban populations in the world’s poorest countries.

But there is more to finding a solution than simply identifying those nations that are capable of feeding the rest of the world. It is increasingly urgent that every nation gain the means of feeding itself. This means that agriculture should become an international priority, with the poorest countries helped to safeguard the security and independence of their food supplies.

Countries and organizations are already mobilizing. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization argues that rising food prices could lead to increasing global conflicts. The Davos World Economic Forum ranks food insecurity as a major risk to humanity. The World Bank has forcefully emphasized the importance of agriculture to jump-starting economic expansion and breaking the cycle of poverty. UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon has created a working group to define a common plan of action, and France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a global partnership for food.

Sarkozy’s proposed partnership has three pillars. First, an international group should draft a worldwide strategy for food security. Second, an international scientific platform should be charged with evaluating the world’s agricultural situation, sending out warnings of upcoming crises, and possibly facilitating governments’ adoption of political and other strategic tools to deal with food crises. Finally, the international finance community, despite its current problems, must be mobilized.