Leading article: Aid is no answer to the food crisis


Related Topics

The aim of the "hunger summit" to be hosted by David Cameron tomorrow is a laudable one: bringing together heads of state, charities and athletes – including Somalia-born gold medal winner Mo Farah – to talk about the problem of malnutrition in the developing world.

There is certainly much to discuss. An appalling 170 million children across the world are malnourished: some will die; those that live will not reach their full physical or mental potential. The contrast with the soaring human capability on display at London 2012 is stark.

But it is not only the Olympics that will help to focus minds this weekend. Severe droughts in the US have sent global prices for commodities such as wheat, corn and soybeans spiralling dangerously high. The situation may not yet be as bad as in 2008, when the last price spike led to rioting from Somalia to Bangladesh to Haiti, but with as many as 53 million people already facing food shortages worldwide, the situation is rapidly becoming critical.

There is much to be done: more food aid, more micronutrient supplements and better healthcare for the hungry would all help, as would a boost to broader initiatives such as education programmes. But the solution is not just about aid. Soaring global prices must also be tackled globally. Since the last crisis, however, there has been limited progress.

One of the trickiest issues is biofuels. Oxfam says all subsidies should be ended forthwith, and the UN has this week called for Washington to suspend the ethanol targets that siphon off 40 per cent of US corn. But with the corn lobby gearing up for a fight and Barack Obama facing an election, the debate is no more easily resolved now than when it first surfaced in 2008.

Questions as to how far futures markets exacerbate price gyrations are also yet to be satisfactorily answered. And the world continues to rely overwhelmingly on a few "breadbaskets" – such as the US – leaving supplies vulnerable to both local weather and to the panic-struck export bans that added to the crisis last time around.

There are, of course, no easy answers. But we are facing the third food crisis in five years. As the world population continues to rise, and climate change continues to disrupt weather patterns, the problem is not going to resolve itself. Mr Cameron is right to try to create some momentum on the issue, ahead of Britain's presidency of the G8 next year. But it is only the most modest beginning to tackling a truly global challenge.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam