chapter  3
15 Pages

Food Security and the WTO

ByJENNIFER CLAPP

Food price volatility experienced in the 2007-2011 period has had a profound impact on food security in the world’s poorest countries. The food price spikes experienced in 2007-2008 were especially stark, with the doubling of prices of key staples, such as wheat, soybeans, and corn in a short period of time. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) price index of internationally traded food commodities rose by 56 percent from January 2007 to June 2008.1 This sharp and sudden rise put basic food staples out of the reach of many of the world’s poorest people. Food price riots experienced in 2008 across the developing world were witness to this basic fact. Food prices have remained volatile since that time, with sharp ups and downs. By 2011, food prices had again reached the peaks experienced in 2008. At the height of the 2008 food price spikes, policy briefs issued by the

World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) all called for a rapid conclusion to the Doha round of trade talks as a key policy response to address the crisis.2 In a speech to the World Food Summit in June 2008 Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), echoed these reports: “In order to cope with soaring food prices, supply must adjust to demand. For this to happen, trade will help. Easier, more open trade can strengthen the production capacity of developing countries, rendering them less vulnerable … This is why the WTO Doha round of trade negotiations can be part of the medium-to-long term response to the food price crisis.”3