Theme on Macroeconomics, Trade & Investment Report (TEMTI)

20 November 2013 | Article

“Resolving the Food Crisis: Assessing Global Policy Reforms Since 2007”. This latest addition to the TEMTI Working paper series deals with one of the most critical aspects of environmental and social sustainability. The authors show how the spikes in food prices of 2007-08 served as a wake-up call to the global community on the inadequacies of the global food system. A second price spike in 2010-11 deepened the sense that the policies and principles guiding agricultural development and food security were deeply flawed and exposed the fragility of the global food system.

The paper examines the deep integration of agricultural, energy and financial markets in a resource-constrained world made more vulnerable by climate change. Powerful multinational firms dominate these markets. Many benefit from current policies and practices and their interests are a dominant influence in national and global policies—slowing, diverting, or halting needed action. This leaves international institutions promoting market-friendly reforms but resistant to imposing the concomitant regulations required to ensure well-functioning food and agricultural markets.

Authors Tim Wise and Sophia Murphy find that although the crisis was an important catalyst for change, reversing the long-standing neglect of agriculture, there is still much to be done and the international institutions reviewed in this study have shown little resolve to address the fragility of the global food system. Tim Wise is with the Global Development and Environment Institute of Tufts University and Sophia Murphy is with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.