World Food Problem in Global Political Context: Towards a Universal Food Policy

  February 10, 2021   Read time 2 min
World Food Problem in Global Political Context: Towards a Universal Food Policy
In one sense, many key moments in the world history have been informed by food crises and food problem. Conflict over food resources has triggered wars and caused sufferings. World population is growing while there is no sufficient food resources and this gives rise to serious encounters that in some cases turn into violent clashes.

In the early 1930s, Yugoslavia proposed that in view of the importance of food for health, the Health Division of the League of Nations should disseminate information about the food position in representative countries of the world. Its report was the first introduction of the world food problem into the international political arena. Dr. Frank Boudreau, head of the League’s Health Division, with Drs. Aykroyd and Bennet, visited a number of countries and submitted a report on Nutrition and Public Health (1935), which showed that there was an acute food shortage in the poor countries, the first account of the extent of hunger and malnutrition in the world. Discussions held on nutrition policies in the Assembly of the League of Nations were based on some important pioneering efforts that had helped to prepare the ground and led to further practical progress. These endeavours marked the beginnings of co-ordinated nutrition policies in a number of countries. Meanwhile, the hardships caused by the unprecedented slump of the early 1930s, and fears of their recurrence, led governments to adopt national price and production controls for foodstuffs and other agricultural products in exporting countries, coupled with trade restrictions in importing countries. At the same time, there was also growing interest in the regulation of world trade in foodstuffs and other staple products through intergovernmental action. The ILO, in a comprehensive report on intergovernmental commodity control agreements, stated that ‘although there was a marked tendency for raw material control schemes to develop before the great depression, intergovernmental schemes have developed during the years since the depression’ (ILO, 1943). In essence, the inter-war agreements for foodstuffs were based on quotas as well as the operation of buffer stocks. The possibility of organizing international buffer stocks as part of international control arrangements was first discussed more thoroughly only in 1937 by the League of Nations Committee on the Study of the Problems of Raw Materials. To sum up, the main trends of thought and action developed during the 1930s were: first, the beginning of national nutrition policies based on the spread of newer knowledge of nutrition and promoted by international co-operation; second, and partly in conflict with the first, the growth of market rigidities, national price and production controls, and trade restrictions; and third, growing interest in intergovernmental commodity arrangements.