Boosting food production alone will not solve hunger crisis – UN expert

7 May 2009

An independent United Nations expert warned today that ramping up food production on its own would not alleviate the suffering of the hundreds of millions going hungry around the world.

Increased investment in agriculture, particularly in Africa, is necessary, but it must benefit those who are food insecure, stressed the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter.

Mr. De Schutter, who took up his post in 2008 when the world was experiencing dramatic food price increases, noted that increased harvests resulting in a return to low food prices would further discourage and marginalize small-scale farmers.

“In responding to the global food crisis, it is easy to move from the symptom – prices which have suddenly peaked – to a possible cure – produce more, and remove as soon as possible all supply-side constraints,” Mr. De Schutter said in a submission to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which is currently meeting in New York.

“Increasing agricultural production must go hand in hand with increasing the incomes of the poorest, particularly small-scale farmers, and switching to modes of production which do not contribute to climate change,” he stated.

The Special Rapporteur noted that “efforts by agronomists will be pointless if the right institutions, regulations and accountability mechanisms are not established and implemented.” He called for a form of sustainable development that was “more about how to help the world feed itself” than “how to feed the world.”

In October, Mr. De Schutter – who reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in an independent, unpaid capacity – declared that nearly one billion people worldwide are now hungry. The “real problem of hunger” is not linked to inadequate food supplies, but rather that many people lack the purchasing power to buy available food, he said.

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