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Resolving the Food Crisis:
Research for Global Policy Reform

In their January 2012 report, “Resolving the Food Crisis: Assessing Global Policy Reforms Since 2007," Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy argued that the recent crisis has been a catalyst for important policy reforms, but the international community had thus far avoided deeper structural reforms, leaving the world vulnerable to further crisis.

The report launched a GDAE research program on the causes of and policy solutions for the current food crisis. Research includes ongoing work on:

Resolving Food Crisis CoverThe report, “Resolving the Food Crisis,” is based on a comprehensive assessment of the policies and actions taken since 2007 by four international groups of actors: the UN, the G-20, the World Bank and international donors. The authors warn that policy reforms fall well short of what is needed to meet the world’s current and future food needs in a sustainable way, particularly in the context of rapidly changing climate.

Several issues received priority attention in the Food Crisis report, and they are the focus of ongoing GDAE research:

  • Reducing financial speculation on commodities markets – Reforms have been limited, leaving commodities markets prone to wide price swings. Proposals to increase the use of food reserves to limit volatility have been largely rejected. (See further research below)
  • Limiting the further expansion of crops and land dedicated to biofuels –Government subsidies, incentives, and mandates spur biofuel expansion in industrialized countries, contributing to the underlying demand-growth that drives agricultural prices steadily upward. (See further research below)

  • Expanding sustainable food production in developing countries – Yield gaps are largest among smaller scale farmers, and investing in the sector can close those gaps, improving livelihoods, resource management, and food production. (See further research below)
  • Halting “land grabs” – As food-producing resources become more valuable, resource-constrained countries and speculative investors have bought or leased millions of acres of agricultural land in Africa and in other developing regions, compromising the long-term food-producing capacity of developing countries.

Timothy A. Wise is deepening GDAE’s food crisis research with an Open Society Fellowship in 2013-14 on “A Rights-Based Approach to the Global Food Crisis.” (See more on the fellowship research)

Further analysis from GDAE's work on the Food Crisis:

Right to food wins 'defensive battle' in World Trade Organization deal, Timothy A. Wise, Global Post, December 8, 2013

10 signs of US hypocrisy on India's food security programme, Timothy A. Wise, Firstpost, December 6, 2013

US opposition to ambitious Indian program a 'direct attack on the right to food, Timothy A. Wise, Global Post, December 3, 2013

Can We Feed the World in 2050? A Scoping Paper to Assess the Evidence, Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Working Paper 13-04, September 2013. (A related ActionAid report is also available)

How We Count Hunger Matters, Frances Moore Lappé, Jennifer Clapp, Molly Anderson, Robin Broad, Ellen Messer, Thomas Pogge and Timothy Wise, Ethics & International Affairs FirstView Article, pp 1-9, July 9, 2013

Measuring Hunger: A Response to the FAO, Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, June 21, 2013

Book Review of Food by Jennifer Clapp, Timothy A. Wise, Review of Policy Research, June 2013

Framing Hunger: A Response to "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012", Frances Moore Lappé, Timothy A. Wise, et. al. Small Planet Institute, May 2013

Food Crisis Update: Main Drivers of Price Volatility Still Not Addressed, by Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, February 12, 2013

A year of squandered opportunities to resolve the food crisis, by Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy, IATP Commentary, January 31, 2013

Resolving the food crisis: The need for decisive action, Timothy A. Wise & Sophia Murphy, Al Jazeera, January 30, 2013 (Also reprinted in Third World Economics: Trends and Analysis)

Global Food Security in a Volatile World, Timothy A. Wise, World Politics Review, November 6, 2012

Spotlight G-20: Mexico’s Surreal Leadership on Food Security, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, June 18, 2012

G-8 punts on food security … to the private sector, by Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, May 22, 2012

Resolving the Food Crisis: Global leaders fail to make crucial reforms, by Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, January 18, 2012.
Also available in Spanish. And in Portuguese at Opinion Sur.

Read "The Continuing Food Crisis: Global Policy Reforms Lag," an article by Wise and Murphy in Economic and Political Weekly, February 25, 2012.

Analysis of financial speculation on commodity markets:

The Damaging Links Between Food, Fuel and Finance: A growing threat to food security, Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, April 8, 2013

New Data Confirms Food Crisis Model: Warns of coming price spikes, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, March 6, 2012

Food Price Volatility: Market fundamentals and commodity speculation, by Timothy Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, January 27, 2011.

Spotlight G20: More fodder for the food price debates: ethanol, speculation drove prices, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, October 19, 2011.

Spotlight G20: Identifying the drivers of price volatility, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, July 27, 2011.

Spotlight G20: New Evidence of Speculation in financialized commodities markets, by Timothy A. Wise,GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, July 14, 2011.


Analysis of Northern biofuels policies and their impacts on developing countries:

Commentary: And the prize goes to ... genetically modified foods, Timothy A. Wise, Global Post, October 23, 2013

Fiddling in Rome while our food burns, Timothy A. Wise and Marie Brill, Al Jazeera, October 17, 2013

Committee on World Food Security: Biofuels Intervention, Timothy A. WIse, presentation of Civil Society Mechanism intervention, October 8, 2013 (See related open letter to the Committee on World Food Security)

Changing Course to Feed the World in 2050, Timothy A. Wise and Marie Brill, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, October 3, 2013

Biofuels and Hunger: The Story from Guatemala, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, January 7, 2013

Biofuels and the Right to Food: Time for the US to get its head out of the sand, Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, November 27, 2012

US corn ethanol fuels food crisis in developing countries, Timothy A. Wise, Al Jazeera English, October 10, 2012

The Cost to Developing Countries of U.S. Corn Ethanol Expansion, Timothy A. Wise,GDAE Working Paper, October 2012. (A related ActionAid report is also available.)

If we want food to remain cheap we need to stop putting it in our cars
, by Timothy A. Wise, Economics Blog from The Guardian, September 5, 2012

Running on Empty: U.S. ethanol policies set to reach their illogical conclusion
, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, July 23, 2012

Spotlight G20: Will Mexico Lead Action on Biofuels, Food Crisis?
, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, May 16, 2012

The Cost to Mexico of U.S. Corn Ethanol Expansion, Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Working Paper, May 2012. (A related ActionAid report is also available in English and Spanish.)

Hitting Them Where They Drive: Will rising gas prices prompt action on commodity speculation?, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, March 5, 2012


Research on expanding sustainable smallholder food production:

El TLCAN: El arte de entregar los valores, Timothy A. Wise La Jornada del Campo, November 16, 2013

Achieving Mexico’s Maize Potential, Antonio Turrent Fernández, Timothy A. Wise, and Elise Garvey, GDAE Working Paper, October 2012. (Also available in Spanish)

Growing Out of the Food Crisis: Mexican Smallholders Key to Food Sovereignty, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, October 10, 2012

Small-Scale Farmers and Development: Assume a Different Economic Model, by Timothy A. Wise, Triple Crisis Blog, September 27, 2010.

The True Cost of Cheap Food: The globalisation of the food market has made food cheap, but who is benefiting? by Timothy A. Wise, Resurgence, Issue 259, March/April 2010. Also available in Spanish.


Multimedia & Media Coverage:

Timothy A. Wise on the Real News NetworkNew GMO Crops Temporarily Blocked in Mexico
Timothy A. Wise discusses the controversy in Mexico over government moves to approve proposals by Monsanto and other biotech firms to grow transgenic corn in Mexico. He states that the anti-GMO activists in Mexico recently scored a major, if tentative, victory. (November 2, 2013)

Tim Wise on TRNNDecisive Action Needed to Resolve Food Crisis
Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy speak on the need action on speculation, biofuels, land grabs, climate change and low levels of public food reserves. Read additional coverage in: Food Crisis Update: Main Drivers of Price Volatility Still Not Addressed, by Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, February 12, 2013

Olivier De Schutter speaking at TuftsThe Right to Food: A Weapon Against Global Hunger
On November 27, 2012, Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, spoke at Tufts University.
See coverage of the event:
UN rapporteur discusses food policy, world hunger, Tufts Daily, Daphne Kolios
Biofuels and the Right to Food: Time for the US to get its head out of the sand, Triple Crisis Blog, Timothy A. Wise

Wise on "Fueling the Food Crisis"Fueling the Food Crisis
Tim Wise discusses the report published by ActionAid and his related Working Paper, The Cost to Developing Countries of U.S. Corn Ethanol Expansion, on The Real News Network (September 10, 2012)



"Mexico To Urge More Non-Food Biofuel Research At G-20 Summit" by Jean Guerrero, Dow Jones Newswires, May 30, 2012

Wise on Cross Talk
Feeding capitalists
GDAE's Timothy A. Wise appears on this videocast produced by Russia TV, an affiliate of EuroVision, to discuss rising food costs and overconsumption. (August 27, 2012)


Wise TRNN Interview on Biofuels
The Drought and the Coming Food Price Bubble- Timothy A. Wise was interviewed by The Real News Network to discuss how biofuels, climate change, and speculation exacerbate the food crisis. (August 13, 2012)


Read an interview with the authors in "The Road to Rio" by the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development.

Wise and Murphy on TRNN
See an interview with Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy on The Real News Network, Bio-fuels, Speculation, Land Grabs = Food Crisis, January 18, 2012


Learn more about GDAE's work on The Food Crisis and Agricultural Development
Read more on IATP's work on food and agriculture

The Global Development and Environment Institute’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program examines the economic, social and environmental impacts of economic integration in developing countries, with a particular emphasis on the WTO and NAFTA's lessons for trade and development policy. The goal of the program is to identify policies and international agreements that foster sustainable development.

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