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close this bookNews & Views - A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment - March 1999: Are We Ready for a Meat Revolution? (IFPRI, 1999, 8 p.)
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A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment


Are We Ready for a Meat Revolution?

It happens in developing countries the world over - when poor families in Africa, Asia, and Latin America get access to a little more money, they spend a sizable share of it on meat to supplement their meager diet of staple grains. On a worldwide scale, this tendency produces dramatic results. For all developing countries combined, per capita consumption of beef, mutton, goat, pork, poultry, eggs, and milk rose by an average of about 50 percent per person between 1973 and 1996.

"As populations and urbanization increase and economic reforms lead to higher gross domestic product levels, the demand for livestock products will only grow stronger," says Simeon Ehui, coordinator of the Livestock Policy Analysis Project in the Ethiopia office of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). "We are in the midst of an animal food product revolution," says Christopher Delgado, an IFPRI research fellow and coauthor of a forthcoming 2020 Vision discussion paper on trends in livestock supply and demand.

Work conducted at IFPRI shows that in 2020, each person in the developing world is likely to demand about 29 kilograms of meat and 63 kilograms of milk a year, up from 21 kilograms and 41 kilograms, respectively, in 1993. Can the world produce the livestock necessary to meet this future demand? Even if it can, what will be the consequences for health and the environment and for small-scale farmers?

Income Is Not the Only Factor

"The poor consume cereals first to keep from going hungry, because cereals are cheap," says Howarth Bouis, an IFPRI research fellow. "The very poor don't have any money left over. But as people's income goes up, that's what they buy: meat and dairy products." In China and other countries of East Asia, which have seen large jumps in income since the early 1980s, meat consumption has grown by more than 5 percent a year.

Another important contributor to rising demand for meat products is urbanization. As people move to cities, studies show they start to eat more meat, milk, and other livestock products. "We're not sure of the cause," says Bouis. "It may be reduced activity patterns and, thus, lower cereal consumption - farming is more strenuous than most urban occupations. It may be that in cities people have more choices about what to eat and are exposed to new foods and recipes,"


This trend will probably mean large increases in meat consumption in coming decades. In the future, the rural population in developing countries is expected to remain about constant while the urban population will increase rapidly.

Urbanization is already changing diets in India, according to Vijay Vyas, professor emeritus of the Institute of Development Studies in Jaipur, India, but not necessarily leading to much higher consumption of meat. "The importance of cereals in the food basket is declining, even among the poorest of the poor," says Vyas. "But the increase in meat consumption is not happening at the same speed in India as in China and other Southeast Asian countries. We are seeing a large increase in consumption of milk and eggs, as well as other noncereal foods like vegetables and fruits." Vyas attributes the shift partly to urbanization and partly to increased availability of these products and the religious sanctions against eating beef. "India has surpassed the United States to become the world's largest producer of milk," says Vyas.

But Peter Hazell, an IFPRI researcher and coauthor of a study on food balances in India, believes India is poised for an explosion in demand for meat, as well as more milk and eggs. "Most people in India, including government officials, don't believe a huge increase in meat consumption will happen, but I think they're in for a big surprise. Our study showed that in the last 10 years prices for livestock products went up and income growth for rural people in India was slow. So you wouldn't think that consumption of meat products would rise much. In fact, however, consumption shot up. Imagine what will happen if real incomes do grow more rapidly as a result of India's ongoing policy reforms."

The reasons, says Hazell, are many. Television is everywhere. Restaurants and street foods are more prevalent. Transportation is better, so rural people travel to town more often. The middle class is growing larger, and others see how they live. And advertising works.

The Meat Factor

By developed-country standards, people in the developing world still eat very small amounts of meat and livestock products. In the early 1990s, on average, each person in the developed world ate nearly four times as much meat and consumed nearly five times as much milk as each person in the developing world. And many poor people in developing countries still do not get enough calories or protein.

There are sound nutritional reasons for poor and malnourished people to wish to add more meat to their diet. Food staples like rice and maize offer calories but are not dense in micronutrients or protein. Christopher Delgado says, "You can get complete protein from vegetables, but you need to eat a wide variety of them. Eating meat is an easy way to get usable protein into your diet."

Meat can also aid in the absorption of other nutrients. "Meat contains iron, but it also helps the body absorb iron from other foods. This trait is known as the meat factor," says Catherine Geissler of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at King's College London. "Only small amounts of meat are required to do this. Vegetarians can get an adequate diet, but a mixed omnivore diet is an easier way to get all your nutrients."

In Bangladesh; says Bouis, people get only about 2 to 3 percent of their calories from meat, and their diet contains insufficient amounts of bioavailable iron. "More than half of adult women and 40 to 45 percent of preschool children are anemic," Bouis explains. "This iron deficiency retards mental development, particularly for infants, and reduces work capacity for adults. More meat, fish, and dairy consumption would be the best thing for nutrition in Bangladesh."

"Our research shows that a fivefold increase in meat, fish, and dairy consumption would lower the prevalence of anemia by 50 percent," says Bouis. "But with their income level, such an increase is totally infeasible, so finding ways to reduce prices of animal products is really important."

The Nutrition Transition

While some developing countries are struggling with how to add more meat to their diets, others are already facing the problem of too much meat consumption. "A nutrition transition is occurring in some developing countries," says Geissler. "The diseases of affluence are beginning to take over from the diseases of poverty. China is seeing a shift from undernutrition to such problems as heart disease partly caused by a rich, high-fat diet."

"China is trying to increase the consumption of traditional protein-rich products like soy through education, but it's not working too well. The general demand is for meat and other animal products," says Geissler. "Now that trade in food is freer, the government has less control. Farmers are freer to produce what they want."

To complicate matters, countries like China have a mixture of poor and better-off communities, containing both undernourished and "overnourished" people. "So targeted policies are needed," says Geissler.

"Meating" Demand

Increases in demand have been met largely by substantial growth in livestock production in developing countries. Meat production grew 5.4 percent annually between the early 1980s and early 1990s, a rate almost five times the developed-country average of 1.1 percent. Although per capita meat production in developing countries is still only a little more than a fourth of the developed-country average, the developing world supplies almost half the world's meat. Asia is the fastest growing supplier, accounting for more than 80 percent of the net increase in meat output of developing countries.

"Globally, livestock will become the most important economic subsector within agriculture," predicts Henning Steinfeld, senior officer in the Animal Production and Health Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Increases in the supply of livestock products in developing countries - with pork and poultry production growing particularly fast, at 6.1 and 7.8 percent per year, respectively - are coming predominantly from industrial production. Steinfeld says there are several reasons why the traditional, small-scale producer cannot respond to the surge in demand: "Traditional livestock production uses feed resources, such as grazing, that simply cannot expand at a fast enough rate. There is also the difficulty that livestock products are easily perishable, and rural producers often don't have adequate market access. Economies of scale in production and processing favor large-scale livestock production, which is now found in the vicinity of virtually every large developing-country city. And policies do tend to favor the large producers with capital subsidies."

Nonetheless Steinfeld sees livestock offering "a great development opportunity that could be missed." He worries that donors and development agencies have turned away from livestock mainly because of environmental and social concerns. "But these problems have little to do with livestock activities themselves," says Steinfeld, "and much more to do with the broader policy framework that has not dealt effectively with health, environment, and poverty issues as they relate to livestock."

How Will the Smallholder Fare?

The rewards of a dynamic livestock sector could especially benefit the poor, many of whom derive a larger share of their income from livestock than do the well-off. About half a billion pastoralists depend on livestock for their livelihood, and at least 200 million smallholder farm families in the developing world derive most of their income from livestock. In some African countries, livestock contributes roughly 80 percent of cash income in crop-livestock farming systems. "As livestock production increases," says Ehui, "smallholders will increasingly walk away from poverty."

Joyce Turk, senior livestock adviser at the U.S. Agency for International Development, enumerates the ways livestock can help the poor: "In addition to improved human nutrition, of course, livestock generates economic growth through cash stability in the form of collateral and savings that aren't easily dissolved by inflation, reduces the need to purchase inorganic soil amendments, and provides products that can be sold at market." Delgado agrees but warns, "If research and policy do not find market-oriented ways for the smallholder to compete with large-scale commercial farming, the smallholder may well be shut out from an unprecedented growth opportunity."

Some analysts fear that booming livestock production could divert cereals away from food and toward feed markets, pushing prices for staple cereals out of the reach of the poor. But such concerns are misplaced, says Delgado. "World cereal prices are experiencing a long-term trend downward, because a substantial reserve capacity for production exists. IFPRI's projections to 2020 show that increasing livestock consumption will prevent inflation-adjusted cereal prices from falling below their already low levels, or raise them marginally, but nowhere near the high levels of the 1980s."

Dairy production has been one means the poor have used to improve their lives through the livestock sector. "Women especially tend smaller livestock, and this gives them increased control over products and the income from their sale, all of which promotes gender equity," says Jim De Vries, head of international programs at Heifer Project International, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) that supplies poor families with livestock to help them become self-reliant. "We have seen that one of the primary benefits of our work with goat husbandry, for example, is that the increased income particularly benefits the nutrition and education of girls," adds De Vries.

Market-oriented dairy production is also an avenue for smallholder women farmers to increase income and food security. In some cases, however, women do not gain as much as men despite providing as much or more livestock labor. "Only in areas where women traditionally dominate in agriculture do they control most of the income from dairying," explains Steve Staal, an economist at ILRI. "And even where men and women control income fairly equally, women's participation in dairying can be constrained because of lack of access to adequate investment resources," he adds.

Effects of Production on Health and the Environment

In addition to its benefits, livestock production presents enormous environmental challenges. Cees de Haan, livestock adviser at the World Bank, says, "The large increase in demand for livestock products expected in the developing world over the next decades will put tremendous pressure on natural resources. Livestock production can help the rural poor to escape the poverty trap, but policymakers and researchers will have to meet the challenge of putting in place the policies and technologies to make livestock production more sustainable."

About 37 percent of the world's meat supply comes from industrialized livestock production. In recent years, industrial production, which concentrates large numbers of animals in confinement, has grown twice as fast as production in farming systems that mix crops and livestock, and six times as fast as production in grazing systems. Increased industrial production has brought its own environmental problems as well as animal diseases. "In East Asia," says Steinfeld, "increased animal density near urban centers now results in unparalleled waste loads, with the capacity of plants to use nutrients from manure sometimes exceeded by 1,000 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare, which poses risks to flora and fauna and ultimately to humans." Manure also produces greenhouse gases - 16 percent of annual methane emissions and 7 percent of the more aggressive nitrous oxide - that cause global climate change.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an NGO based in the United States, reports that "factory" farming in 29 U.S. states is poisoning drinking water supplies and contributing to hazardous air pollution. Robbin Marks, senior resource specialist at NRDC, points to the large corporate farms that dominate livestock production as "the culprits that create pollution problems when their enormous manure storage sites contaminate bodies of water and release toxic fumes into the air." Tightening regulations, involving communities in decisions about setting up factory farms, and banning manure runoff and open-air cesspools are some of the solutions Marks proposes. The US; Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency are now drafting a strategy to limit these problems.

Livestock can improve environmental quality when used in traditional farming systems. De Vries says that "ownership of livestock is a great motivation for farmers to plant forage bearing trees and shrubs, grass contours, and pasture, all of which help to control erosion and conserve water."

But without proper training and incentives for smallholders, livestock can damage the environment, especially through overgrazing on open rangeland. "There are too many people raising too many animals in the low-rainfall areas in West Asia and North Africa," says Hazell. "The encroachment of cropping further erodes the soil in these lands, some of which are already drought-prone." He believes livestock production should rely less on grazing systems and more on intensive production in higher-potential areas. Hazell agrees, however, that problems arise with this method as well, including waste disposal and transfer of disease from animals to humans: "In Hong Kong the lethal flu virus that jumped from poultry to humans didn't learn to spread from human to human, otherwise we could have seen millions of people die in a worldwide epidemic. We were lucky that time."

Another problem is the conversion of forest to ranches in the Amazon, Central America, and elsewhere. "The truth is," Hazell says, "cattle are more profitable than forest." He sees deforestation and degradation increasing if the world's demand for livestock products goes up substantially and if countries fail to intensify and industrialize their production in a sustainable way.

Milking the Benefits of Livestock Production

With rising incomes and freer markets in developing countries, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for governments to control their people's demand for meat products. The key for policy, therefore, is to ensure that meat, milk, and eggs are available to the poor, who are likely to derive the greatest health benefits, and that livestock production is organized to bring the greatest benefits to the poor and to minimize damage to the environment. "The worst thing that well-motivated agencies can do is prevent investments in small-scale, sustainable, market-oriented livestock production," says Delgado. "Such investments won't stop the animal food product revolution, but they will help ensure that it contributes as much as possible to poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability."

Reported by Heidi Fritschel and Uday Mohan.

All or part of the text of this article maybe reprinted without permission but with acknowledgment to IFPRI. Please send copies to IFPRI.

Photo credits: Page 1, Philippe Berry, IFPRI.

How Large a Threat Is Soil Degradation?

Global population in the year 2020 will be a third higher than in 1995, but demand for food will rise by an even higher proportion as incomes grow, diets diversify, and urbanization accelerates. The pressure on arable land is likely to intensify greatly. In Soil Degradation: A Threat to Developing-Country Food Security by 2020?, 2020 Discussion Paper 27, Sara J. Scherr examines the magnitude and effects of soil degradation now and in the future. She then spells out areas in which more research is needed and suggests policy measures that can lead to better soil quality.

On three-quarters of the world's agricultural land, soil quality has been relatively stable since the middle of the twentieth century. On the rest, however, degradation is widespread and the overall pace of degradation has accelerated in the past 50 years. Almost 75 percent of Central America's agricultural land has been seriously degraded, as has 20 percent of Africa's and 11 percent of Asia's, according to recent studies.

This degradation has affected agricultural productivity, agricultural income, and economic growth, reports Scherr. The cumulative productivity loss for cropland from soil degradation over the past 50 years is estimated to be about 13 percent, and for pasture lands 4 percent. In South and Southeast Asia estimates for total annual economic loss from degradation range from under 1 to 7 percent of agricultural gross domestic product: Estimates for eight African countries show annual economic losses ranging from under 1 percent of agricultural GDP in Madagascar to 9 percent in Zimbabwe.

Poor people tend to suffer more than others from soil degradation. They are particularly dependent on agriculture, on annual crops (which generally degrade soils more than perennial crops), and on common property lands (which generally suffer greater degradation than privately managed land). The poor also often lack the capacity to invest in land improvements.

Estimates of future land loss due to degradation vary widely, from 5 to 12 million hectares a year. Assuming that land loss continues at current rates, an additional 150 to 360 million hectares would go out of production by 2020. Although degradation appears likely to pose only a modest threat to global food supply or trade by 2020, some groups and regions will be particularly affected. Countries or subregions that depend on agriculture as the engine of economic growth will probably suffer. Degradation will threaten the consumption of poor farmers in the degrading regions. The greatest problems will probably occur in the densely populated marginal lands of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, especially where markets are less developed and inputs such as fertilizer are expensive. Significant threats to food supply may also result from the salinization of irrigated lands in Asia.

To combat soil degradation, Scherr argues, policymakers must support broad-based agricultural development and enhance farmer's' incentives and ability to invest in land improvements. In some areas, policies to promote information sharing about existing land husbandry practices and to support research on technologies to reduce conservation costs may be sufficient for addressing the degradation problem. But more specific policies and investments are also necessary, says Scherr, and should be targeted to areas where the economic effects of degradation - on supply, income, or consumption - are identified as most serious. Depending on conditions in each country, these might include finding low-cost sources of plant nutrients to replace fertilizer use, investing in proper water drainage systems, finding alternative uses for saline or degradation-prone lands, reforming land use regulations, helping farmers invest in improving soil quality, and supporting farmers' organizations to address local problems.


In Memoriam

Henry W. Kendall, chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists and a member of IFPRI's 2020 Vision International Advisory Committee, died February 15 in Florida while making an underwater photography dive. Dr. Kendall was a Nobel prize-winning physicist whose work revealed the existence of quarks, small particles inside atoms. As a founder of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Kendall also brought science to bear on public policy worldwide, speaking out on issues such as nuclear arms control and world food security. His voice calling for the wise and just use of science will be greatly missed.

2020 Vision Advisory Committee to Meet

The International Advisory Committee for the 2020 Vision initiative is scheduled to meet April 14 and 15 in Accra, Ghana, to identify the key emerging issues and knowledge gaps that must be filled if the 2020 Vision is to be realized. The committee, chaired by President Yoweri K. Museveni of Uganda, consists of more than 40 policymakers from developing countries, heads of donor agencies, leaders in civil society, and researchers from around the world. Vice President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana will host the meeting, whose results will be described in a future issue of NEWS & VIEWS.

Agricultural Aid to the Developing World Can Reap Big Harvests in the United States

As the impacts of the Asian crisis reverberate around the globe, it is becoming increasingly clear that developing countries can have major effects on U.S. exports. On December 16, 1998, a panel of experts at a 2020 Policy Seminar at IFPRI pressed home the need for the United States to increase its investment in agriculture in the developing world. August Schumacher, Jr., undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Jack Eberspacher, chief executive officer of the National Association of Wheat Growers; and Per Pinstrup-Andersen, IFPRI's director general, discussed the current under investment before some 120 attendees.

In recent years, the United States typically has sent half of its agricultural exports to developing countries, but exports to Asia have fallen precipitously since the crisis broke. In fact, U.S. farm exports to Asia were expected to fall by about 15 percent in 1998. "Washington state growers sold more apples to Indonesia than to all of Europe, but now that market has virtually collapsed," noted Undersecretary Schumacher. The effects on the American farmer - not to mention the overall U.S. trade balance - could be severe. "Wheat growers are really feeling the pinch," said Eberspacher, "and that is combined with a twenty-year low for wheat prices."

Largely because of this crisis, President Clinton announced a US$6 billion aid package to farmers in 1998, but while the aid is welcome, many of the root causes of the crisis remain. Schumacher warned that, in addition to the Asian crisis, the collapse in Russia combined with an expected softening in Latin American markets could make 1999 "a very tough year." Projections show that by 1999 global trade in agricultural commodities will have declined by nearly US$50 billion, or 15 percent, from its high-water mark in 1996, he added.

Growth in U.S. exports is inextricably linked with rapid recovery from the Asian crisis and faster growth in the rest of the developing world. As Pinstrup-Andersen pointed out, "We are forgoing an important opportunity by not assisting agriculture in developing countries, because effective aid in this area can lead to greater exports from developed countries, including agricultural exports."

An IFPRI study has shown that on average, for each dollar increase in their farm output, developing countries spend 73 cents on new imports, including 17 cents on agriculture, of which 7 cents goes to cereal imports. Yet investments in developing-country agriculture still receive little attention from donor countries. "All ships rise when we stimulate appropriate targeted research in developing-country agriculture," said Schumacher.

The panelists agreed on the importance of rekindling awareness in the global nature of this critical situation, particularly in the developed world, where some people live under the illusion that the Asian effects are local, not global. They also acknowledged that developing countries offer the greatest opportunities for growth in U.S. agricultural trade: "Aid to developing-country agriculture, combined with sound policies in the developing countries themselves, can be a win-win proposition," concluded Pinstrup-Andersen.

2020 Vision Committee Member Elected President of Nigeria

Olusegun Obasanjo, a member of IFPRI's 2020 Vision International Advisory Committee, was elected president of Nigeria on February 27. In 1990 Obasanjo won the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger from The Hunger Project. Obasanjo, who served as president of Nigeria from 1976 to 1979, will assume office on May 29.

The Myths, Risks, and Benefits of Globalization

Editor's Note: "2020 Views" seeks to generate dialogue and discussion through interviews with leading policymakers, researchers, and opinion leaders on 2020 Vision topics. For this issue, NEWS & VIEWS interviewed Keith Bezanson, director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

NEWS & VIEWS: What are the basic features of globalization?

It's probably one of the most misunderstood terms around. To some people it holds pernicious and frightening connotations, and to others it conjures up images of the promised land. To some it risks nothing less than the Marxist vision of armies of surplus labor and class warfare, while to others it promises the David Ricardo vision of comparative advantage where everyone benefits. So the most basic feature of globalization is confusion and conflict over what it means. This said, globalization entails first the integration of trade through the removal of trade barriers. A second feature would clearly be the vastly increased mobility of capital, again through the removal of barriers. A third feature would be the speed of technological change and diffusion both as a cause and a consequence of the above two factors. A fourth feature involves a generalized rise in global consumerism, spurred by the power of information and communication technologies that are now penetrating small towns and communities even in quite poor countries. There are other features associated with globalization, but these are among some of the most basic ones that I would list at the outset.

What we do know is that the effects of globalization are terribly uneven and produce big winners and losers. And so the exaggerated claims that globalization is a universal, unequivocal good distorts both reality and policy decisions that are made.

NEWS & VIEWS: What are globalization's most troubling features, and its most appealing? And how do these compare with its predominant public image?

I think the most troubling feature about globalization is all the hype about it. The lack of serious data that support the claims about the benefits of globalization and the relative absence of serious and nonpolemical questioning is troubling. Now, I am not saying that globalization should be viewed as negative or pernicious, but rather that it needs to be unpackaged and subjected to serious, non ideological scrutiny. What we do know is that the effects of globalization are terribly uneven and produce big winners and losers. And so the exaggerated claims that globalization is a universal, unequivocal good distort both reality and policy decisions that are made. The other troubling feature, as I see it, is that globalization has brought about a real shift in power; the nation-state has weakened, and with this has come a reduction in social accountability. Because globalization is exceedingly potent and complex it requires the kinds of especially strong social innovations suited to the nation-state. It seems to me, therefore, that we urgently need to deepen our understanding of the processes of openness and mobility and of the institutions and innovations that these require if social damage is to be minimized and gains maximized.

Keith Bezanson

NEWS & VIEWS: Specifically, then, which countries are the winners and losers?

Not long ago, the experience of the Asian Tigers was cited as exemplary proof of the benefits of globalization. But as I was saying before, the situation has become much messier and the reality of globalization is far more complex. The positive examples tend to be less individual countries than specific groups within countries: those who possess specialized skills and those who hold or who have the ability to mobilize capital. The line between beneficiaries and losers is now less a matter of one part of the world versus another and more a messy mosaic that cuts across communities and draws new lines within what used to be discrete societies.

NEWS & VIEWS: What sorts of domestic and international mechanisms exist or need to be put in place to protect vulnerable groups as globalization proceeds?

The so-called "Washington consensus" about the management of development held full openness to capital movements as a good thing for all countries, including the most weak and vulnerable economies. As a result of the East Asian crisis, however, there is now a growing, although by no means universal, view that a whole set of institutional arrangements must be developed before countries embrace capital account liberalization. The antecedents may include strong, transparent, and accountable banking systems; policy instruments that help to restrain capital volatility; and possibly caps on certain types of capital flows such as hedge funds. There is also the matter of social safety nets. For most of this decade, the dominant conventional wisdom has championed personal security as the responsibility of the individual. The emphasis has been on people making their own social choices. Here again, East Asia, where public social spending ranged from 5 to 15 percent of national wealth, was held up as a desirable model for all to follow. Well, few are heralding that model today because when the trouble came in Asia, we saw the terrible effects that lack of adequate national safety nets can have on vulnerable groups. So it seems to me that we now need to rethink what the appropriate arrangement is for safety nets and how they are funded.

Because globalization makes the same goods available everywhere, it is creating a new situation where "process" is becoming more important than "product."

NEWS & VIEWS: Should anything further be done to protect national economies from the instability caused by the international capital flows resulting from globalization?

I have already mentioned that we are witnessing a significant shift in the conventional wisdom on this subject. One thing that seems obvious to me is that unless we come up with shared international mechanisms that help to moderate capital volatility and the dangers that go with it, nations will come up with their own uncoordinated solutions. The history of a previous move to globalization at the end of the nineteenth century and in the early years of this one shows very high levels of trade integration, financial integration, and mobility of people. It was all turned back before the outbreak of WWI, largely, I believe, be cause that effort at globalization produced within European states and North America a socially and politically unacceptable gap between rich and poor. Nation-states closed down borders when the costs of global integration were seen to exceed the benefits going to a broad segment of society. My view is that this will happen again if steps aren't taken at the transnational level to avoid a repetition.

One of the principal architects of our current international system for facilitating global economic order was John Maynard Keynes. His vision included the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the World Bank, and the WTO (World Trade Organization). But we never established the kind of global central bank that he envisaged as necessary to deal with capital volatility and to serve as the lender of last resort when the movement of capital created dangerous imbalances. Such a central bank now has new proponents, including the dean of the business school of Yale University and the financier George Soros. It must also be said that the idea of a global central bank was thwarted at the time of the creation of the IMF and World Bank by the same kind of strong opposition that exists now.

It seems to me that debate on this issue will become a major international battleground over the next few years.

NEWS & VIEWS: What can be done at the international and local levels to promote the benefits of globalization as broadly as possible?

Promoting the benefits requires mechanisms to prevent the excesses. So the first thing is to remove the defects of the international system along the lines I've been indicating. Other things include addressing what is called "the fallacy of composition," which means giving the same advice to everyone. We've got to stop thinking that there's a single universal solution that promotes the benefits of globalization to all people, in all locales, and at all times. There needs to be much more in the way of disaggregated, carefully constructed strategies geared to the needs and characteristics of individual communities if the benefits are to be widely known. I suspect that we are going to see a revival of a policy instrument that has been scorned over the past decade or so - namely industrial strategy. The broad macro-economic instruments associated with globalization are likely to be increasingly complemented by industrial strategies that gear investment and comparative advantages to longer-term, more carefully constructed assessments of markets.

NEWS & VIEWS: Finally, what are the changing demands in agriculture as a result of globalization?

There are many things that are changing. I'll give you two that are illustrative but by no means exclusive. First, because globalization makes the same goods available everywhere, it is creating a new situation where "process" is becoming more important than "product." For agriculture the questions increasingly are:

Were pesticides used? Were insecticides used? Was the product organically grown? Also labor issues, such as working conditions and the use of child labor, are increasingly important as a consequence of globalization. Thus, process issues are coming to the fore in the agricultural value chain as markets integrate. The second issue has to do with the proprietary nature of products. Much of our agricultural production today depends on the genius of science, including genetic breeding. The ownership of genetically modified products is a much more crucial issue as a consequence of globalization. Increasingly, agriculture has become a multibillion dollar global industry, and the stakes that go with intellectual property rights have exploded as a result. Not surprisingly, new agricultural technologies, including seed varieties, are being defined increasingly as matters of private ownership and corporate gain than as public goods. The issue of who has ownership and how far ownership extends will, I believe, define much of the international agricultural debate well into the next century.


Both as former managers and evaluators of programs making use of food aid and participants in the formulation of U.S. and international food aid policy, we commend IFPRI for its November 1998 NEWS & VIEWS article "The Changing Outlook for Food Aid."

The article brings into sharp focus the contrast between the precipitous decline in food aid availability and the increased needs of nutritionally vulnerable populations in the developing countries. The juxtaposition of these two disturbing trends does not augur well for the developing world's poor.

The alternative way to look at food aid suggested by Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Bjorg Colding echoes an eminently appealing theme for making food aid part of a well-designed food security strategy. Such a needs-driven plan should be attractive to policymakers and economists and garner considerable international support. However, steadiness and consistency of purpose have not been strong characteristics of food aid and food security policy and practice.

Too often, the international aid community has resorted to competition, rather than cooperation and coordination. Too often, international agencies have concentrated on protecting their turf rather than focusing on cooperation. Too often, those private agencies with trained food aid and food security staffs are left on the sidelines because of mandate and turf issues. Too often, the European Union and the United States subscribe to and support different approaches to the problems of food insecurity and poverty alleviation. Although they achieve rhetorical agreement, the frequent, pro forma transatlantic meetings on donor coordination and cooperation in too many instances fall short of obtaining results in the field. Those who pay the price for this lack of cooperation are neither the donors nor developing-country governments, but poor people who desperately need to extricate themselves from the debilitating effects of food insecurity.

This need not be. There are numerous examples of successful, well-managed food aid programs for the international community to use as models in making more effective use of food aid.

As veteran advocates and activists in the international development community, we have witnessed the great increase in confidence that occurs when developing countries, through their own efforts, have been able to significantly increase their agricultural production and stimulate broad-based economic growth. Should that not continue to occur, we can ill afford to look the other way. Food aid can play a significant role in helping others realize their potential. It is imperative that donor countries, on moral and ethical grounds, be prepared to continue to assist vulnerable groups in poor, food-deficit countries to close the nutrition gap. We cannot rest, no matter how high the standard of living may be in the industrialized countries, if one-fifth of the world is ill fed and food insecure.

Some of our most memorable experiences in developing countries have been as the guests of communities and families who insisted on sharing their very limited food supply with us, just as sharing food with visitors was not an unknown tradition in rural communities in America and Europe. Can we draw a conclusion from such seemingly universal behavior? Can we conclude that regardless of economic circumstances, food is truly a unique and bonding resource that should be shared at the family, community, and global levels? As the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore once said, "For many people in this world, God can only appear in the form of bread."

William Cousins, former senior
urban adviser, UNICEF
Daniel Shaughnessy, president,
Project Concern International
Charles Sykes, former director of
CARE operations in Poland,
India, Pakistan, and Egypt

New Publications

· 2020 Vision Discussion Paper 27, Soil Degradation: A Threat to Developing-Country Food Security by 2020? by Sara J. Scherr.

· 2020 Brief 58,Soil Degradation : A Threat to Developing-Country Food Security by 20207 by Sara J. Scherr.

· 2020 Brief 59, Agricultural Growth, Poverty Alleviation, and Environmental Sustainability: Having It All, by Peter Hazell.


A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment is an initiative of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to identify solutions for meeting future world food needs while reducing poverty and protecting the environment. NEWS & VIEWS, available in English, French, and Spanish, seeks to stimulate dialogue and to inform readers of the progress of the 2020 Vision initiative. To offer comments for publication in NEWS & VIEWS or obtain more information about the 2020 Vision and its publications, contact IFPRI at 2033 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006-1002 U.S.A.; telephone: 1-202-862-5600; fax: 1-202-467-4439; e-mail:; web: IFPRI reserves the right to excerpt and edit NEWS & VIEWS submissions.

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