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Food Security, Law and Globalization: Part Two

JURIST Columnist Volha Samasiuk holds an LL.M. from the University of Arkansas School of Law. In the second entry of a two-part series, she argues for changes in social policy to address food security...

The dramatic population growth in developing countries raises concerns about particular social issues, such as family planning. Every country develops different policies addressing birth control. China's one-child policy started in 1979 and yields measurable results. This policy was initiated primarily for economic and education reasons, but also appeased environmental concerns. However, the policy produced negative consequences, as well, including labor shortage and a decline in women's health.

The global community cannot set aside these problems. Non-governmental organizations and foreign governments fund projects educating young girls, hoping to reduce countries' high birth rates and to achieve smaller, healthier families. Additionally, the US contributes to this process despite disputes on controversial social issues related to reproduction. In particular, the US Congress enacted foreign assistance legislation [PDF] that places restrictions on federal funding for abortions and family-planning activities abroad.

At the end of the twentieth century, scientific achievements played an important role in increasing food production. The Green Revolution provides a good example. Norman Borlaug, the founder of this agricultural movement, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His advances in plant breeding led to spectacular success in increasing food production in Latin America and Asia and has been credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives.

At the same time, the Green Revolution came under attack from environmental and social critics. Too much cheap grain was produced and thus, Western leaders encouraged poor nations to buy it rather than grow it themselves, and the surplus was shipped as food aid. Aid systems, however, have been ineffective in addressing broader agriculture problems facing impoverished countries.

In response to the 2007 and 2008 spikes in prices of commodities, foreign investments in land of developing countries dramatically increased in hopes of ensuring food supplies. Recently, new international players, including private corporations and government agencies from the Gulf States, China, Libya, India and South Korea have acquired new land abroad.

Undoubtedly, foreign investment may provide key resources for agriculture, including the development of necessary infrastructure and expansion of economic opportunities for local people. These land acquisitions, however, threaten international livelihoods and ecological sustainability. After an outcry from developing countries, a UN meeting in Rome addressing global food security adopted guidelines to protect communal land users from wealthy and exploitative land grabbers.

These non-governmental actions demonstrate that the economic, social and environmental consequences of population growth are too large to be overcome by any country alone. While moving toward food security, developing countries are under much more pressure than developed ones. In most cases, developing countries need structural reforms to reorganize their agriculture and food policy, which also requires adequate funding and technical assistance. Some success stories include the creation of agricultural cooperatives in Cuba and the foundation of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. To assure food security internationally, the world also needs, at the very least, to double its spending on agricultural research to produce reliable crops.

In this context, the role of law is also increasingly vital. In developed countries, there is a need to amend statutes and regulations to address current issues of international development, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act [PDF]. Additionally, in developing countries, a new legal framework must be created. Not only national, but also, international law should be developed to provide adequate level of food security including a special emphasis on the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements.

At the same time, writing new laws may not be enough. The efficiency of law enforcement, the elimination of corruption and the protection of fundamental rights should also be increased in both developed and developing countries.

Suggested citation: Volha Samasiuk, Food Security, Law and Globalization: Part Two, JURIST - Dateline, July 10, 2012, http://jurist.org/dateline/2012/07/volha-samasiuk-food-reform.php.

This article was prepared for publication by Leigh Argentieri, a senior editor for JURIST's student commentary service. Please direct any questions or comments to her at studentcommentary@jurist.org

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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