Provocative Writing On Future Of Food Supply

WFP's Nancy Roman says she found a great deal of food for thought in "What We're about to Receive", an article by British author Jeremy Harding about what events like the April eruption of Eyjafjallajökull reveal about the world's food supply. The article was published in the 13 May 2010 issue of the London Review of Books.

Jeremy Harding has written the single most provocative piece I have read on the future of food supply – prompted by the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, and the quick awareness it brought of the connectivity between food production in places like Kenya and food consumption in places like his own home in the UK.

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“Until recently the discussion was largely about quality,” he writes. “Quantity and availability only entered the picture when we tried to reconcile the diet of a British family with that of a poor family in east Asia, say, or the Horn of Africa. The answer used to be simple: free up the markets, oppose trade barriers for producers in the developing world, extend bilateral aid to their countries, but be sure to eat up, because the more we put away, the better off the struggling poor will be. In the newer thinking, however, our habits are dangerous for them, but also for us: we are eating beyond our means and stretching our supply lines . . . “

As we at the World Food Programme look at reaching 100 million hungry people worldwide, it becomes increasingly clear that the food supply for the hungriest is connected to the food supply of we who are less hungry.

Though Harding doesn’t purport to solve the problems of food supply for the hungriest or for the well fed, he offers a contribution merely in connecting the dots. In the end, he urges us to consider eating simply less . . . But it is the logic and intelligence en route to that recommendation, rather than the recommendation itself that make the piece well worth reading.

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Nancy E. Roman is WFP's Director of Public Policy, Communications and Private Partnerships. In this capacity, she helps craft the organization positioning on public policy issues ranging from climate change to biofuel.