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close this bookNew and Noteworthy in Nutrition (World Bank, 150 pages)
close this folderNo. 28 December 10, 1996
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentOperations
View the documentTwists in Project Design
View the documentStudies Important to Bank Operations
View the documentUnexpected Outcomes
View the documentNutrition and Educability
View the documentMore on Micronutrients
View the documentThe Food Link
View the documentWorth Noting

(introductory text...)

1. Random Harvest. While food production, of itself, is not the answer to malnutrition, it of course is not exactly unimportant either -- and fears of acute shortages dominated concerns in the international nutrition community just a few months ago. Relatively poor harvests last year, coupled with strong demand, meant that little grain would be available before this year's crops were harvested. And then prolonged drought in key producing areas meant that prospects for this years crop weren't bright. Grain markets panicked, and prices of some commodities skyrocketed before it became clear that the weather for the rest of the growing season would be close to perfect. Now, unexpectedly large corn and wheat crops have ended the prospect of acute shortages. Rarely have there been such dramatic movements in wheat and corn prices as in the last 18 months -- wheat from more than $7 to below $4 a bushel, for instance. And seldom such a happy ending to what many had forecast.

2. Talk Show. Not much new or earthshaking came out of the World Food Summit, attended by many heads of state at FAO headquarters in mid-November. The hand-wringing and earnest vows were all there. And promises were made, as in the past, to reduce the amount of hunger and malnutrition; a Declaration on World Food Security and a Plan of Action pledged to reduce by half the number of people in the world suffering from chronic hunger in 20 20 years. But, according to The New York Times, the pre-cooked declaration was vague, lacking in ambition, silent on many important food issues, carries no legal weight and makes no financial commitments. The Summit was deeply divided over whether free trade was the best way to offer hope to the undernourished. Summit superstar Fidel Castro captured the hearts of any developing nations when he inveighed against the laws of a wild market that were killing the worlds poor. A number of NGOs denounced the conference as applied hypocrisy. Save the Children, for instance, called it an effort to legitimatize a new international code of practice that basically subordinates basic rights to the market philosophy. Editorials in leading papers were also critical; The Guardian wrote Please, just for once, could the worlds leaders surprise us by taking seriously what remains the worlds biggest shame?