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Geopolitics of Food | Article Analysis

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  • Hans Goder

 

In a world, which constantly needs more and more food and facing also some ecologic issues, a change in our way of producing and managing the outputs is needed to face the future challenges (population of 2050). As it is a global challenge, it is the role of the international bodies such as the WTO or the FAO to find and implement those changes. But the question is, are those bodies still have the means to response to this challenge.

2. Primary Sources

This academic article written by Bezuneh, Mesfin, Yiheyis and Zelealem for the University of Atlanta, published in the Journal of Economic Development in 2014and supported by many other studies related to the same subject, try to see if trades liberalization has a positive effect on the food security in developing country. As 98% of the undernourished persons of the world are in the developing countries where the average of undernourished is around 15% (FAO, 2014), the present article wants to understand the possible correlation (which can be either positive or negative) between food security in countries which are opening their trades (through regulations and agreements) and introducing themselves in the global market.

According to this article, food security is not just the amount of food present in the country. It is reach when the population at all-time have the physical, economic and social access to sufficient, nontoxic and nutritious nutriment which encounters their dietary needs for a healthy and proper life (Bezuneh, Mesfin, Yiheyis and Zelealem, 2014)

Methodology used: The methodology used in this article is clear and can be compared to the scientific way of studying a subject. The authors chose 37 different developing countries in different regions of the world. Those countries at the time were encountering the opening of their trades to the world. Then, they compared the figures of the food security (based on the per capita daily energy supply (DES)) before and after the trades opening hoping that a clear pattern and correlation would be seen amongst the results.

Also, the authors used some other characteristics to see and understand which of the different factors have the most important effect on food security. Those characteristic were for instance, the political stability of the country and time’s evolution.

Then they put those characteristics into figures and ratios, in a mathematical and statistical function to compare each characteristics and its effect on the food safety compared to the trades liberalization factor. Then the result and the patterns were represented into chart and table to improve the understanding of the results.

As stated, the overall methodology used in this article was the scientific one following the hypothesis, research, study and finally result pattern.

Results: The effects of the opening of the market were not as strong as expected. In fact, those effects were slightly positive but not as relevant as we thought. According to the authors, those positive outcomes could have been done by other thing than the trading policies which were not in the study, once those factors were controlled, the outcome came to be, in some cases, even negatives. Again, according to the authors, this result is to be considerate with caution as the factors and so on are difficult to put into figures at this wide range. But at the end of the day, this study sort out that the relationship between food safety and trades liberalization (which is the main objectives of organization such as the world trade organization) could be considerate as weak, which follows the results of previous studies (Stiglitz and Charlton, 2005). Moreover, still according to the study the relationship between the political stability and food security is even stronger. To conclude this study shows that the trades’ liberalization is an important factor to help those countries (through economic growth) but it is not to be used on its own. It needs to be completed by other actions and strategies in order to see a real positive outcome at the end.

According to another study led by Stiglitz and Charlton in 2005 – 2006 entitle Aid for Trade, the authors, through a structured analysis admit that developed countries, when on the global market war field, benefit from advantages against the developing country. For them, in order for poor county to benefit from the opening of their market they have to benefit from advantages or ‘’aid’’ to counterbalance the equilibrium of positive outcomes for both sides. For the authors, increasing aid is vital for the poor countries if they are to grasp the opportunities provided through trade and meet transition cost (Stiglitz and Charlton, 2006). Moreover, the authors sort out that the adjustment effort in summit such as the Doha round would be too costly for the poor country due to the loss of the preferences that they are benefiting from.

Again, as a conclusion, this article state that trade and aid won’t be the great solution for food and development security. It is just one of the multiple factor that can enhance the development of those countries.

Both of the articles tend to state that liberalization of trades, which is encouraged by non-governmental bodies to reduce hunger in the world, might not be the solution. Counting just on this factors could arm those economies on a long run basis and worsen the issues.

2. Secondary Sources

The article entitled ‘’Trade and Transnational Corporations: the Solution to World Hunger or a Major Part of the Problem?’’ , written by Peter O’Driscoll, expert in the field of developing markets, speaks about the effect of NGO’s such as the World Trade organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on food insecurity in developing countries. The organizations have as main weapon against this plague of food insecurity the liberalization of trades through opening regulations and the insertion of those countries in the global market.

According to this article, effectively, during the liberalization era, the amount of international agricultural trade has increased by 800 million tons per year. Through the article, the authors state that this increase has benefited mostly to the developed country and, in the contrary, destroyed and dislocated developing countries’ agricultural industries. Moreover, the article sort out another critical point, the number of hungry persons in the world between 90 ( pre-liberalized era) and 2002 (post liberalization) has increase by a huge amount around 18 million people.

In addition, subsidiaries and economic dependence have worsened the situation. While country such as India use those subsidiaries to feed its population by decreasing prices, it affect the world worldwide as other farmers around the world need to decrease their price in order to be competitive. This reduces their turnover, which can at term led to a huge crisis.

De Schutter,O in his study ‘Droit à l’alimentation : une question de qualité, non de quantité’ speaks about the food fundamental right and state that the base of the problem could come from an inequality in the food distribution between the developed countries and the developing countries. To improve this situation, the author doesn’t put the liberalization of trades as the solution. In the contrary De Schutter state that the solution would be to change between a quantitative focused industries to a qualitative based one where the food question will be put as first priority and the economic aspect as the second. For him, doing that won’t reduce the turnover of organization; contrarily it will open new market and provide new opportunities for agriculture based organizations.

Moreover, the writer also states that it would be more effective to concentrate resources into improving their own agriculture sector instead of increasing their dependence to the global market.

According to Chris Arsenault in his article ‘’Global dependency on food imports makes countries vulnerable’’, the global prices are at their lowest level in five years. But still according to the author, due to population increment and also standards of living improvements, those low prices won’t last long. When those prices will start to go up, the developing countries which are vulnerable and dependent to the global economy will have to face a disastrous crisis. To prevent this, the authors state that government in those countries should be smart and protect their arable earth and try to reduce their dependence on food import. Finally, according to this article, the market has an important role to play but it shouldn't be the final arbiter of who gets food and where it comes from (Arsenault, 2015).

The report entitled The State of Food Insecurity in the World of the FAO in 2010 shows us that some part of the non-governmental organization has already understood the importance of the qualitative point of view. In fact, the improvement of the support to livelihoods within the country could be a better solution than trades itself but an re-architecture should be apply for it to be more effective and obtain some long term benefits. This would increase the strength of the country, it development, it stability and so one but a better understanding is required. Moreover, this article do state that doing that would be benefic for the developed country, as those stable country would become interesting markets full of opportunities on the long run.

3. Etat de l’art

Those works and articles present in the previous parts of this state of the art represent a brief surrounding of all the ideas and studies present nowadays in this field of study. To sum up, they all tend to say and prove in different way and through different methodology and approach, which can be scientific or not, that trades liberalization and by extension globalization couldn’t and can’t be a good response to food insecurity in poor and developing countries around the world on its own. According to some of those articles, in some cases this facilitation and liberalization could be armful for those weak and dependent economies.

As we already know, the fight against food insecurity is led by some non-governmental organization such as the World Trade Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation or the World Bank. Those organization, first have their headquarters in developed country such as the United States, where trades, profits and wealth are the priorities. Secondly, they might have a wrong strategy to win this plague. Indeed, those NGOs, since the beginning of this combat, want to answer it through an economic and trade based point of view, which, for De Schutter could be qualified as the quantitatives optics (De Schutter O. 2013) through summit such as the Doha cycle and the Bali one. Concretely, they try in most of the cases to make the developing countries open its barriers and incorporate the global market. In addition, they help those countries to develop their own organization in order, at the end, to make them trade on this global market.

But the problem is that, according to many studies, this strategy tends to be more profitable for the developed country (O’Driscoll P, 2014) as they are provide with new markets where competition is easy to handle. For the developing countries, the findings are more mitigated. When they try to enter this huge market, where competition is much bigger and hard, they are obliged to compete by reducing the prices and by doing that they can’t really develop themselves. Moreover, after this opening, those weak countries become highly dependent and vulnerable to the international market. Through that, when some distortions happened within the global economy through the market rules, it strikes even more those countries as their populations are more sensible to price fluctuation and also as their economy is weaker than the developed ones. For example, between 2006 and 2009 the number of undernourished people has increase due to price fluctuations (FAO, 2010)

These statements should be taken with precautions. In fact, according to some other articles, the correlation between food insecurity and trades opening is not really clear and strong but this factor stays a key factor for life quality and improvement through economic growth (Stiglitz and Charlton, 2005). Moreover, trades facilitation might be a short-run solution but not a long-run one. What we have to understand is that we can’t just rely of this only factor to be able to reach the objective of 2050 which is to feed 9 billion people.

Taking and understanding all those ideas we will use and go further in those study by using and applying them to the core NGOs, and see through a quantitative and qualitative research method if whether or not the existing non-governmental organization are still able to provide effective strategies and solutions to the upcoming challenges through their present point of view or if a rethinking of their entire goals and approaches is needed to provide long terms solutions.

To do so, we will structure our thoughts in a specific way. Initially, we will have a deeper look at diverse other information related to the same field and problematic stated earlier to gatherer some crucial inputs. Then, we are going to have a close look to the different bodies present in the world according to the angle chosen and their different actions and outcomes. Finally, founded on the previous assumptions, we will try to sort out the opportunities of the situation and give also, if case is, some concrete solutions and strategies that might improve the present situation.

References

  • Stiglitz, J. and Charlton, A. (2006). Aid for Trade. 1st ed. Commonwealth Secretariat.
  • FAO, (2015). The State of Food Insecurity in the World. 1st ed. FAO.
  • Kumar, R. and Nair, S. (2009). INDIA: STRATEGIES AT THE DOHA DEVELOPMENT AGENDA- JULY AND BEYOND. Geneva, p.4.

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