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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/2007-10-15_T...

by Luc Guyau

There’s Nothing Inevitable About Hunger!

Translated Sunday 30 December 2007, by Gene Zbikowski

Three changes to end world hunger, by Luc Guyau, president of the Permanent Assembly of Chambers of Agriculture and vice president of the Social and Economic Council.

On the calendar, the World Day Against Hunger, October 16th, and the World Day Against Poverty, October 17th, follow one another, but this succession also reminds us of something that should be obvious: hunger and poverty are linked. There are one billion overweight adults on our planet, and at the same time, 850 million people go hungry. The geography of this hunger reflects world inequalities, for, while we presently produce enough to feed the world’s 6.5 billion people, food remains inaccessible to a large part of the population. Today, hunger kills more people than war. These statistics are all the more shocking for us, the farmers of France and of Europe, as many measures have been taken to limit our food output. When we look to the future, we see colossal challenges. The facts are known: we are going to have to feed half as many people again by 2050. How are we going to manage that, when we have not even succeeded in ending the scourge of hunger in the recent past?

Three major changes are needed:

First, we have got to mobilize the private sector more. For a long time, this has barely been tolerated. This approach has deprived troubled countries of the financing and the technology that they need. The size of the coming food challenge means that we have to overcome this mental block and work with private sector players more, whether they are for-profit or philanthropic organizations. Governments alone cannot finance the massive investments that these countries need to improve access to food: not only the building of roads and railroads, the introduction of techniques and construction of facilities to store food, and so on, but also the use of information and communications technologies, through simple interfaces, to optimize the chains of distribution and transport of food products.

Second change: improve local government. This is a sensitive subject, to the extent that one agrees with the idea of Amartya Sen, the Nobel prize winner in economics, who has said that “people rarely die of hunger under a democratic system of government!” The expression remains “diplomatic,” but it says it all. While the sphere of responsibility of the different nations must be scrupulously respected, this principle also implies that government authorities have a real responsibility to their people. Under this heading, the development of dynamic intermediary structures should be supported, and inasmuch as social and economic councils represent civil society, they certainly have a role to play.

Finally, the third change: world government of food. The world food balance is at one and the same time a question of food production and of access to food. Meeting this challenge requires that certain questions, which are sometimes considered to be uncomfortable, be clearly put: Can we envision an increase in the world’s capacity to produce food? What will the impact on the environment and other living resources be? Should we concentrate on food production in a few areas of the planet, which is the dominant idea today, or should we favor production everywhere in the world as much as possible? How is trade to be regulated so that it does not aggravate economic or natural imbalances? Should world food government take precedence over commerce when there is a conflict of interest?

Today, the debate has begun and, luckily, the taboos are beginning to be challenged. In this context, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) could play a more aggressive role in the play of inter-governmental organizations. In particular, the FAO should reaffirm its role and mission vis-à-vis the World Trade Organization. This is all the more necessary today as the tools of government that are available to us have, in the course of time, revealed their limits. Let us draw lessons from this and let us be bold.

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