Summary

For this special report, The Broker asked Carlos Oya and Pedro A. Sanchez to present their views on the global food crisis. Oya explores the problems of unequal food distribution and market liberalization. He argues that deregulated markets should no longer be the primary food distribution mechanism. Their intrinsic volatility causes significant food supply and price fluctuations. Inevitably, it is the most vulnerable who are affected, as they cannot cope with sudden price increases.

About the author

Carlos Oya is senior lecturer in political economy of development at the School of Oriental and African studies, University of London, UK.

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Pedro Sanchez is the Director of the Tropical Agriculture and the Rural Environment Program and Senior Research Scholar and Director of the Millennium Villages Project, the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

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Special Report: The heart of the matter

For this special report, The Broker asked Carlos Oya and Pedro A. Sanchez to present their views on the global food crisis. Oya explores the problems of unequal food distribution and market liberalization. He argues that deregulated markets should no longer be the primary food distribution mechanism. Their intrinsic volatility causes significant food supply and price fluctuations. Inevitably, it is the most vulnerable who are affected, as they cannot cope with sudden price increases.

 

In 2007-08, we witnessed a global food crisis. And there are new challenges on the horizon. Climate change will almost certainly affect the capacity of world agriculture to produce food. Water may become so scarce in some key food-producing areas of the world that the current global distribution of food production may be altered forever with unforeseen consequences.

For this special report, The Broker asked Carlos Oya and Pedro A. Sanchez to present their views on this contested subject. Oya explores the problems of unequal food distribution and market liberalization. He argues that deregulated markets should no longer be the primary food distribution mechanism. Their intrinsic volatility causes significant food supply and price fluctuations. Inevitably, it is the most vulnerable who are affected, as they cannot cope with sudden price increases.

The broad solution, according to Oya, is to introduce regulatory measures to protect commodity markets for agricultural produce from the harmful influence of financial speculation. In addition, developing countries should be given policy autonomy when it comes to food security. These kinds of measures, Oya argues, will go a long way to stabilizing food supply systems at the global and local levels.

Sanchez takes a provocative stance when looking at another side of the story: how to produce more food. He argues that there are five main myths concerning agriculture that need to be dispelled. One of these concerns the fierce resistance to the use of transgenic crops for food production. But, he argues, we should take the scientific evidence that supports the use of transgenics more seriously. It suggests that these human-made crops are not harmful to our health or to the environment, despite claims to the contrary. If they are safe and can benefit humanity, Sanchez, asks, why not use them?

These and other questions are explored in this special report on food security, food distribution and food production. They remain heated topics, and Oya and Sanchez have approached their subject from interesting vantage points that will hopefully bring people with opposing views together to find solutions. The stakes are high.