Learning from the past

I am currently in Rome working at the FAO library. It’s sorta the greatest… if you are a food security policy nerd, which I am… so yes, it is decidedly the greatest.

Reading through some documents from the early 70s (think oil crisis and food crisis), I have been sort of shocked by how similar the pronouncements were to what we heard post 2008 food crisis and also how similar the policy prescriptions are.

Some quotes that I have founds interesting (and sort of depressing… why didn´t we listen?):

At the first Session of the Committee on World Food Security, the Committee declared:

“Bearing in mind the serious problems which have arisen in the past owing to the accumulation and disposal of large agricultural surpluses, full consideration should be given by governments to the possible repercussions on the structure of production and trade which might arise from implementing the world food security policy.”

In an interesting report titled “The World Food and Energy Crises: The Role of International Organizations” by Richard Gardner (1974), there is a copy of the Key Note speech to open the conference by Kurt Waldheim, Secretary-General of the United Nations, where he stated:

It might be worthwhile to begin by taking a quick look at the facets of our lives which until recently, we took for granted, ad which now must be held in some doubt.

Cheap energy has been the basis for the remarkable post-war expansion of the economy of the industrial countries and was one of the principal articles in the faith of those who believed that given enough good will and sufficient resources, a similar process could lead to the rapid industrialization of the developing countries. It is now abundantly clear that cheap energy, at least for the time being, is a thing of the past, and that our future plans will have to be based on a much more realistic view of the price at which energy can be purchased and generated.

Similar caution will have to be shown in any appraisal of the prospects for an adequate world food supply. The implicit assumptions, which governed much of our thinking in the optimistic sixties, was that the high productivity of the major food-producing countries could assure a sufficient supply of basic grains to provide a minimally adequate diet for most of the world until developing countries could modernize their agriculture sufficiently to provide for at least their own needs and preferably yield an exportable surplus.

Interesting to note that he articulates the importance of countries prioritizing food production to meet national needs and then exporting surpluses.

Back to the archives! Get ready for a lot of CFS-related posts!

 

 

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