Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

9 posts from April 2010

Support Funding for Hungry Kids

We need your help this week to convince Congress to allocate $1 billion a year in new investments for nutrition programs for children.

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Child Nutrition Bill at $450 million annually. Now we need to convince the House Education and Labor Committee, which is drafting its version of the Child Nutrition Bill, to find the full $1 billion requested by President Obama.

School lunches, school breakfasts, summer feeding programs, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program – these are the critical programs the Child Nutrition Bill will strengthen.

More funding will also help serve kids who currently aren’t in these programs – but who are eligible for them. Of the 19.4 million low-income children receiving lunch assistance each school day, only 46 percent receive breakfast assistance and just 11 percent have access to summer food programs.

Representatives James P. McGovern (D-3/MA) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-8/MO) are circulating a letter to their colleagues to show Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-7/CA) that a majority of the House supports a strong child nutrition reauthorization. We have 172 signatures but we need 218 – and we only have until noon on Friday, April 30, to get 46 more signatures.

Please call your representative at 1-800-826-3688 by noon, Friday, April 30, and tell him or her to sign onto the Dear Colleague letter being circulated by Reps. McGovern and Emerson in support of an additional $1 billion per year for child nutrition reauthorization.

Check Bread’s website to read the letter, see if your representative has signed it, or look up your representative.

Reducing Malnutrition: We Know What Works

Every year, nearly 3 million mothers and young children die of malnutrition. But putting more resources into programs and strategies that we know work can dramatically reduce this number.

“If we focus on babies and their mothers, you save the most lives,” said Bread President David Beckmann in “Investing in Nutrition,” a video the World Bank produced to urge country leaders to step up their nutrition efforts. “You provide food for hungry kids, and help those mothers introduce nutritionally healthy patterns into their family’s diets. Then set up systems to get key vitamins and minerals into the foods that everybody in the country eats. If we do those few simple things, we could improve the nutrition of hundreds of millions of kids.”

Ministers, leaders of development agencies, and civil society organizations made a similar appeal during last week’s World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington, DC. Participants at a “nutrition roundtable” highlighted the progress their countries have made on malnutrition -- and the challenges they still face.

Children who are malnourished suffer the effects throughout their lives. But focusing on the nutritional needs of pregnant mothers and children under 2 has the highest impact on child mortality, maternal health, the optimal physical and intellectual development of children, and a country’s future economic productivity and growth.

Check out Bread's website for more on why nutrition is critical for development, including “New Hope for Malnourished Mothers and Children,” a briefing paper from Bread for the World Institute.

A Green-Letter Day

Earth Day was a green-letter day in the fight against global hunger.

Clamor was raised. Action was taken. Momentum was accelerated.

Earth Day in Washington was all about growing more things. Particularly growing more food. And especially helping the small farmers of the poorest countries -- who are also the world’s hungriest people -- grow more food.

The action:

A global agriculture trust fund was launched by three powerful institutions that, by acting in concert and with others, can move the needle on reducing hunger: the U.S. Treasury, the World Bank, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The fund, which is called the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program and will be administered by the World Bank, begins with initial contributions of about $900 million.

Donors who chipped in at the launch include the U.S. ($475 million), Canada ($230 million), Spain ($95 million) South Korea ($50 million) and the Gates Foundation ($30 million). The U.S. contribution is part of a $3.5 million commitment to agricultural development over the next three years; the Gates contribution is part of $1.5 billion invested over the past several years to spur the productivity of small farmers.

The hope is that this fund will be a magnet for other donors -- be they countries, foundations or corporations -- to finance the war on hunger. So far, there have been pledges galore; world leaders at the G8 and G20 summits last year promised to come up with $22 billion over three years for agriculture development in the poorest countries. The fund is one way to round up the money, perhaps like the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria attracted billions of dollars in relatively short order to combat those scourges.

The fund’s money will be dispensed by a steering committee of donors and recipient countries, with input from development organizations both international and local. The intention is that the investments will follow agriculture priorities set out by the recipient countries and will provide long-term, predictable financing. The aim is to reverse the neglect of agriculture development investment over the past three decades; agriculture’s share of total development assistance from the rich world to the poor shrank from about 17% to about 3%.

The fund will finance medium- to long-term agriculture development projects focused on three main areas:

  • Raising agriculture productivity through projects such as improvements in water management and irrigation infrastructure, land use planning, and access to common farming machinery;
  • Linking farmers to markets with investments in rural roads, market information and communication technologies and post-harvest warehouses and transport;
  • Technical assistance and capacity development, such as expanding networks of seed and fertilizer distributors, modernizing rural administrations and strengthening producer organizations.

The challenge will be to find consensus on the investment priorities, avoid the red tape that has so often strangled promising initiatives and crushed incentive, and move swiftly to put the funds into play, particularly in Africa. The best measurement of success will be to actually see fields flourishing and hunger declining.

The clamor:

The warning of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner rattled around Washington: “A global economy where more than 1 billion people suffer from hunger is not a sustainable one.”

While the fund was being launched at the U.S. Treasury, a clamor was rising in Congress. In testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there was consensus across the political aisle that 1 billion hungry people indeed posed a looming international economic and security threat, as well as a great moral challenge.

The senators heard exhortations to pursue the policies and support the investments in agriculture development necessary to reduce hunger and keep the world fed as food demand doubles with the expected increase of the earth’s population to more than 9 billion people by 2050. Agriculture development, they were told, has been demonstrated to be the most effective way to alleviate rural poverty and hunger over the long term. The drumbeat was consistent and steady, by USAID Administrator Raj Shah, Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and former World Food Program Executive Director Catherine Bertini, as well Senators Dick Lugar and John Kerry.

History was an important touchstone for much of the Earth Day clamor. “Investing in small farmers is an incredibly effective way to combat hunger and extreme poverty -- history has proved it many times,” Bill Gates said at the fund launch.

And, as the Green Revolution proved, what works best is when everyone works together, when governments and financial institutions and universities and philanthropies and corporations are supporting the same agriculture development goals, and when these efforts are adequately funded.

The momentum:

No one was clamoring to re-invent the wheel. The clamor was to keep the wheel spinning. “The world knows what works,” Gates insisted.

The day should provide a momentum boost to President Obama’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, also known as Feeding the Future. But to keep the wheel spinning, Congress needs to appropriate the money for the global agriculture fund and the remainder of the $3.5 billion pledged for ag development. The U.S. has already contributed $67 million to the fund and has requested $408 million more in the president’s fiscal 2011 budget, which is subject to congressional approval.

Korean Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-Hyun, celebrating the fund launch, did his best to keep up the momentum by speaking from experience – and from the heart.

He noted that Korea suffered from severe food shortages as it embarked on its economic development in the 1960s. Thus, his country was quick to put an initial $50 million into the fund. Ending hunger through agriculture development, he said, should be a matter of “empathy rather than sympathy, deep down in the heart.”

Roger Thurow’s blog post appears courtesy of the Global Food for Thought blog. Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Hunger in the News

International
IMF Proposes New Bank Taxes to Fund Bailouts
. Banks and other financial institutions face paying two new taxes to fund future bailouts… [BBC]

Emerging Nations Push for Say in Global Economy‎. Developing countries will this week demand a louder voice at the World Bank and the IMF, now that they are contributing more funds and it's a euro zone country, Greece, that is in need of a rescue plan. [Reuters]

India Opposition Party Protests against High Food Prices. Thousands of people have gathered in the Indian capital, Delhi, to take part in an opposition rally to protest against rising food prices. [BBC]

Official Development Assistance 2009: Poverty On the Up as EU Aid Falls. The figures on official development assistance (ODA) in 2009, published today by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, paint a bleak picture. [Eurodad]

Domestic
Report Links School Lunches to National Security. Many American children are so overweight from being fed french fries, pizza and other unhealthy foods at school lunchrooms that they cannot handle the physical rigors of being in the military, a group of retired officers say in a new report. [AP]

The 10 Scariest Charts of the Recession. Check out these charts from the recession's still lingering impact… [Huffington Post]

Ill Fares the Land. Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest… [The New York Review of Books]

Climate Change/Environment
Polluting Nations Downplay Goals for Cancun Climate Conference. The biggest polluting nations are downplaying goals for climate-change talks in December after failing last year to agree on a global treaty, the top U.S. climate negotiator said. [Bloomberg]

African Agriculture Suffers from Erratic Climate. From Africa's humid jungles and cocoa plantations to its growing semi-deserts and wilting maize fields, erratic weather linked to climate change may be ruining subsistence crops and export commodities alike. [AlertNet]

Senate Republicans Move to Bar NEPA Analysis of Climate Change Impacts. Republican senators introduced legislation that would block White House efforts to require federal agencies to consider climate change in environmental analyses of proposed projects. [The New York Times]

A Video Postcard From Oregon

Former EITC recipients, faith leaders, food pantry coordinators, and concerned citizens sent this video postcard to Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley in an effort to support Bread's 2010 Offering of Letters Campaign, which calls on Congress to make the 2009 Recovery Act expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit permanent. Special thanks to the Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger for making this possible.


Hunger in the News

International
Afghan Officials Want to Direct More Foreign Aid. Tired of their backseat role, Afghan government officials are increasingly standing up to Washington and other foreign capitals… [AP]

India Raises Poverty-Rate Estimate. India's top policy-planning body raised its estimate of the nation's official poverty rate to 37.2% of the population from 27.5%, a key development as the government drafts legislation to give the poorest Indians a right to state-subsidized food grains. [The Wall Street Journal]

UK Water Imports 'Unsustainable'. The amount of water used to produce food and goods imported by developed countries is worsening water shortages in the developing world... [BBC]

A Troubling Trend in a Prosperous Society. The suicide rate [in South Korea] has doubled in the past decade and is now the highest in the industrialized world. [The Washington Post]

Domestic
Trust In Government? Poll Finds Nearly 80% of Americans Don't. America's "Great Compromiser" Henry Clay called government "the great trust," but most Americans today have little faith in Washington's ability to deal with the nation's problems. [Huffington Post]

Poll: Obama Slips, Other Dems Slide, Too. President Barack Obama's national standing has slipped to a new low after his victory on the historic health care overhaul, even in the face of growing signs of economic revival… [AP]

New Deal Safety Net Not Catching Today's Middle Class. The social safety net established as part of the New Deal in the 1930s is missing a huge swath of today's middle class... [Huffington Post]

Middle Class No More: New Jersey Family Scrapes By on Half its Former Income. Two years ago, Ben and Jennifer Agins of Somerset County, New Jersey, thought they were on track to finally purchase their first house. [Huffington Post]

Climate Change/Environment
Bolivia Hosts Mother Earth Talks
. Delegates are gathering in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba for a grassroots alternative to last year's UN climate change summit in Copenhagen. [BBC]

U.N.-U.S. Split is Brewing over Climate Talks. A document accidentally left on a European hotel computer and passed to the Guardian reveals the US government's increasingly controversial strategy in the global UN climate talks. [Guardian]

Allergies Worse Than Ever? Blame Global Warming. Allergy sufferers like to claim — in between sniffles — that each spring's allergy season is worse than the last. But this year, they might actually be right. [Time]

All Together Now

It’s all the same really, the clamor over hunger, climate change and environmental preservation. The common goal: improve food production and nutritional quality to feed the planet’s ever-expanding and more prosperous population while adapting to climate change and protecting delicate eco-systems.

Yet the attention of policymakers is often divided as if these are unique problems with separate solutions. At the end of last year, for instance, there were separate summits on hunger and climate change at opposite ends of Europe. The food summit in Rome got relatively little attention while world leaders stampeded to the microphones and cameras at the climate change summit in Copenhagen. One summit would have riveted attention on the two issues: the 1 billion chronically hungry people and the environmental challenges that threaten to make that number much worse.

We need to harmonize the clamor. One effort to do that is the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project. In a paper released this week, it identifies three challenges “that are central to the global conversation on hunger reduction”:

  • Unify the food security, climate change and ecosystem protection agendas;
  • Rise above conflicting perspectives on the causes and solutions to hunger;
  • Empower farmers and communities to feed themselves.

“Historically, there has been a major disconnect between policymakers focused on hunger reduction and the newer voices mobilizing around ecosystem conservation and climate mitigation and adaptation,” says Sara Scherr, president and CEO of Ecoagriculture Partners, who has co-authored a paper for Worldwatch outlining these goals.

“The various models for agricultural, food security, climate, and ecosystem conservation, and the policies to promote them, are in serious conflict, which threatens to cancel out progress on production, food security, climate or environmental goals,” notes the paper, “Agricultural Innovation for Food Security and Poverty Reduction in the 21st Century: Issues for Africa and the World.

“Yet,” says Scherr, “in the midst of all this conflict, a rapidly growing set of individuals and institutions has been exploring innovations for reconciling these objectives – for developing landscape mosaics that overcome these challenges simultaneously.”

These innovations, suggests the paper, are aiming to grow more food, mitigate climate change and conserve critical ecosystem services, such as watershed protection, pollination and pest and disease control.

However, these innovations – be they on the scientific or markets fronts, or on the ground of Africa’s small farms -- are often overlooked by governments, funders and private sector agribusiness. In the past several decades they have been more concerned with mobilizing large amounts of relatively cheap food for the global food chain of urban retail and wholesale consumers, rather than ensuring that resource-poor rural populations and people with little purchasing power in developing countries (the 1 billion hungry and others on the edge) have access to adequate food supplies and nutritional quality. This perspective was one of the factors leading to the sharp decline in agriculture development aid for the poorer countries of the world since the 1980s.

And, as we illustrate in our book Enough, these innovations are often undermined by policymakers’ self-interested adherence to practices that sap the incentive of these small farmers. Namely, food aid systems that feed the hungry through handouts rather than encourage them to feed themselves, and agriculture subsidies that are showered on farmers in the richer world and denied to farmers in the poorer precincts, particularly in Africa. The resulting uneven plowing fields of agricultural trade subvert innovation.

I have often marveled at the entrepreneurial ability of Africa’s small farmers. What they are able to accomplish with very little resources is remarkable and inspiring. But still they often fall short. Given support, they can be the leading innovators in the drive for their own food security.

These farmers don’t look at the problems of hunger, changing climate and environmental threats as separate challenges. And, in unifying our clamor to spur political and popular action, neither should we. Their goal – and we should share it -- is to feed their own families and communities despite climate changes while making sure the environment can support their farming for generations to come.

Roger Thurow’s blog post appears courtesy of the Global Food for Thought blog. Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Defusing Threats

It was in the scary days of the Cold War when Norman Borlaug, a plant breeder from small-town Iowa, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. An odd choice, perhaps, given the nuclear standoff at the time, but the Norwegian committee bestowing the award had a good reason:

“The world has been oscillating between fears of two catastrophes: the population explosion and the atom bomb. Both pose a mortal threat,” said Aase Lionaes, the head of the Nobel Committee, in presenting the award. “In this intolerable situation, with the menace of doomsday hanging over us, Dr. Borlaug comes onto the stage and cuts the Gordian knot. He has given us a well-founded hope, an alternative of peace and of life – the Green Revolution.”

These words came rushing back to me this week as U.S. President Obama and Russian President Medvedev met in Prague to sign a new treaty that reduces the number of weapons in each country’s nuclear arsenal. President Obama said the pursuit of the goal of a world without nuclear weapons would “make the United States, and the world, safer and more secure.”

So one mortal threat was diminished, but another – the one Dr. Borlaug had defused, only temporarily it turns out, back in the 1960s – still hangs over us more menacingly than ever. While the number of American and Russian nukes pointed at each other shrinks, the number of hungry in the world swells; while the nuclear weapons threaten to kill millions, hunger actively does.

That’s because the momentum of Borlaug’s Green Revolution quickly ebbed after the 1970 celebration. The world became complacent in its pursuit of agriculture development; the small farmers at the center of Borlaug’s efforts to end famine were neglected. The agriculture transformations of the 1960s and 1970s that boosted the economies and reduced the hunger in Asia and Latin America never came to Africa. While constant vigilance held nuclear destruction at bay, the forces of hunger re-gathered with a vengeance. Today, more than 1 billion people are chronically hungry, more than before the Green Revolution.

The widespread hunger that destabilizes societies and rocks our conscience remains a great threat to world peace today. As Borlaug often said, “You can’t build peace and democracy on an empty stomach.”

This is the driving calculation behind the Obama administration’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative. Notice the word Security. The program’s mission is to reduce hunger through agriculture development, particularly development that will create the conditions for Africa’s small farmers to grow as much food as possible to feed their families and their communities. And thus ensure a more stable, secure world.

Hunger’s “mortal threat” was perhaps best described by another American president as peace settled in following World War II (and the Cold War approached). Herbert Hoover, the former president, had been asked by then-President Harry Truman to serve as America’s roving hunger envoy. He traveled more than 35,000 miles, visiting 25 countries in Europe, Asia and North Africa, to gauge the extent of the hunger problem, which threatened to undermine the peace after World War II. He found starvation not only among the ruins of the war in Europe, but also where drought was choking farming efforts in great swaths of the world beyond.

Hoover reported back to the American public, framing the need for an assault on hunger (which was central to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe) in security wording. With haunting relevance to today, this is what he said in a radio broadcast from Chicago’s Sherman Hotel on May 17, 1946:

“Along the 35,000 miles we have traveled, I have seen with my own eyes the grimmest spectre of famine in all the history of the world.

“Of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the one named War has gone – at least for a while. But Famine, Pestilence and Death are still charging over the earth…

“Hunger hangs over the homes of more than 800 million people – over one-third of the people of the earth. Hunger is a silent visitor who comes like a shadow. He sits beside every anxious mother three times each day. He brings not alone suffering and sorrow, but fear and terror. He carries disorder and the paralysis of government, and even its downfall. He is more destructive than armies, not only in human life but in morals. All of the values of right living melt before his invasions, and every gain of civilization crumbles. But we can save these people from the worst, if we will.”

If we will.

President Truman saw that “grimmest spectre” as threatening the hard-fought peace after World War II and launched the Marshall Plan and then backed the initial work of Norman Borlaug and colleagues that would bring forth the Green Revolution. He told his fellow Americans that the effort to conquer hunger was “a battle to save our own prosperity.”

As Scott Kilman and I wrote in our book ENOUGH: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty:

“After World War II, eliminating hunger was seen to be a bulwark against the extremism of the day: international communism. Today, eliminating hunger would be a bulwark against the extremism of the 21st century: global terrorism.”

As President Obama was on his way to Prague for the signing of the nuclear treaty, his agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, was in Tokyo, rallying support for the administration’s Global Food Security Initiative -- the two “mortal threats” of Borlaug’s time, as defined by the Nobel Committee, still clamoring for action.

In Tokyo, Vilsack summoned the echoes of Hoover and Truman:

“Food insecurity is first and foremost a moral issue. We should all feel a humanitarian imperative to take on the challenge and ensure that children do not go to sleep hungry. But it goes beyond that…

“Working to eliminate food insecurity across the globe will provide incredible economic benefits to developing and developed countries alike. It will increase political stability in conflict and poverty-stricken regions, and put these countries on a path to future prosperity…

“In the coming decades, ensuring global food security will only become more difficult. We face the reality of a world population that is growing by 79 million people each year, the equivalent of six Tokyos. Future food demand is expected to increase by 70% by 2050 – challenging our capacity to grow and raise enough food… Growth in agricultural productivity faces increasing threats from scarce water supplies and competition for energy resources from industry and urbanization. Climate change also promises to have an outsized impact on the global food supply…

“In the coming years and decades we must give the world’s poor a reason for hope by tackling food security with a renewed commitment to agricultural development. The world’s economic and political stability, and the prosperity of our two nations, depends on how well we meet this challenge.”

If we will.

Roger Thurow’s blog post appears courtesy of the Global Food for Thought blog. Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The Hungry Can’t Eat Words

A blunt reminder of the task at hand came from Europe this week, aimed at the powers-that-be in the Group of Eight leading industrial countries, also known as the G8:

“Declarations, commitments, and speeches don’t feed hungry people.”

Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agriculture Development, was speaking to more than 1,000 researchers, policymakers, farmers, donors and humanitarians from around the world gathered in Montpellier, France. The participants in the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development assembled to tell the G8 leaders -- from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Russia -- that it was time to put their declarations, commitments and speeches about attacking hunger through agriculture development into action.

Nwanze’s broadside reminded me of a plea from a speaker at an earlier conference on the future of African agriculture, this one back in 2004. The official from a West African agriculture ministry rose to say he was tired of attending such conferences in splendid convention centers. It was time, he said, that they all gathered in the fields of Africa to see how such fine words were turning into food. It was actions that counted, he said, not words.

The G8 is famous for its fine words. Last July, at their summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the G8 leaders issued a lofty statement, saying, “There is an urgent need for decisive action to free humankind from hunger and poverty. Food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture must remain a priority issue on the political agenda.” They pledged $22 billion to that effort.

As the number of chronically hungry in the world has soared past 1 billion this year, those gathered in Montpellier urged the G8 to get moving on that priority and deliver on those pledges. The main focus in France: revitalize research aimed at helping the world’s small farmers, who also are, ironically, the world’s hungriest and poorest people.

Desperate numbers provided a dire backdrop to the proceedings: Agriculture development aid from the rich world to the poorest countries had plummeted from a peak of 17 percent of all aid in 1979, during the zenith of the Green Revolution, to a low of just 3.5 percent in 2004. In absolute terms, agriculture development aid shrunk to about $3 billion in 2005 from $8 billion in 1984.

The results of this negligence have been devastating: Africa’s agricultural research institutions are in shambles, rural infrastructure is crumbling, soils are barren, seeds are weak, markets are dysfunctional.

The conference stressed the importance of reviving the continent’s research capabilities, especially in the areas of soil, seeds, water use, adapting to climate change, and crop diversity to achieve greater nutrition. And it said these efforts should be focused on women, who, according to a conference report, account for as much as 80 percent of Africa’s food production but receive only 5 percent of agricultural extension training and 10 percent of rural credit. Only a quarter of agricultural researchers in Africa are women, and very few of them are in research management.

“We need action, action, action, and abolition, not alleviation, of poverty,” said Uma Lele, a former senior adviser to the World Bank and lead author of the conference report, “Transforming Agricultural Research for Development.” The report says that just to make up for the past underinvestment will require agriculture research investments more than double or triple current levels. “We need for donors to make the contributions that I know they are capable of making.”

This was a sharp prod to the G8 leaders, who will be meeting again in late June, this time in Canada. (Rather they should be meeting in the fields of Africa, to see the meager harvest -- so far -- of their fine words.) While they have often talked at these sessions about aiding Africa, the present escalation of hunger and the challenge to world agriculture is injecting new urgency. Estimates are coming from several quarters that the world will need to nearly double food production by 2050 to deal with increasing population (from 6 billion to 9 billion) and increasing prosperity of formerly hungry places like China and India. We continue to ignore the potential of Africa’s farmers to make a great contribution to global food production at our collective peril.

Those gathered in Montpellier wanted to make sure that the writing on the wall is unmistakable.

“Millions of people around the world are enduring lives of hardship and misery today. We are collectively and personally responsible for this tragedy,” said Dr. Monty Jones, an African scientist who developed a new strain of rice and was awarded the World Food prize in 2004. Despite such advances, he said, the world should have achieved far more. Swelling with emotion as he contemplated the 1 billion hungry, he added: “I am personally ashamed.”

Dr. Jones summoned the spirit of Norman Borlaug, the Iowa seed breeder known as the Father of the Green Revolution who died last fall at the age of 95, still trying mightily to bring the revolution to African agriculture. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, Dr. Borlaug warned that his and future generations would be judged harshly if they didn’t keep up the pace of agriculture development to defeat hunger.

“We will be guilty of criminal negligence, without extenuation, if we permit future famines,” Dr. Borlaug prophesied. “Humanity cannot tolerate that guilt.”

To that burden of negligence, Dr. Jones and the others at Montpellier shouted, “Enough.”

Roger Thurow’s blog post appears courtesy of the Global Food for Thought blog. Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Stay Connected

Bread for the World