In a report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) entitled A year of squandered opportunities to resolve the food crisis, Susan Murphy of IATP and Timothy A. Wise, a program director at Tufts University, highlight some of the biggest development failures of 2012.
First, funding to developing countries to alleviate poverty changed. According to Murphy and Wise, the G8 switched from a program that pumped funds into the governments of countries in need, to a new program focused explicitly on Africa, and public-private partnerships. The shift moved control of development initiatives away from local government, and toward private companies.
Second, the United States still has the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates for bioethanol. In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required that fuel be composed of approximately 11 percent biofuel, to be mixed with gasoline. In a strange policy triangle, the tariffs on imported ethanol and subsidies for U.S. produced ethanol have been dropped, but the mandate remains the same: in essence, the U.S. has turned biofuels into a globally traded commodity, reducing its environmentally friendly impact while doing nothing to reduce the food insecurity that arises from shifting crops away from food and towards fuel production.
In addition, food price spikes have occurred more frequently. The IATP cites that financial speculation over agricultural commodities and poorly managed food reserves exacerbated price spikes that arise from crop shortages. Specifically, G20 countries’’ lack of transparency about food reserves and failure to establish appropriate buffer stocks (which help to reduce price volatility) has made price spikes worse. IATP points towards the unwillingness of some of the largest G20 countries to share information about their food reserves, and the unwillingness of the four largest private companies (taking up three quarters of the international grain market), as key problems in reserve transparency.
According to the report, profitable biofuel and export markets have contributed to another problem in agriculture: ‘land grabs’. This term refers to the increasing incidence of private companies or governments purchasing large swaths of land in developing nations; the report cited that 70 percent of recent land acquisitions were in Africa, “there is rarely prior and informed consent by residents…little employment is generated…biofuel production is a significant reason for many investments, and [food production] is rarely for the domestic market”. International agencies have been slow to deal with the detrimental impact that land grabs can have on local communities; this is cited by the IATP as another failure.
Lack of initiative in climate change is listed as the final failure of 2012. The United States did not agree to a second term of the Kyoto Protocol, and resolutions and legislation that targets climate change have failed to materialize into real change.
In short, the IATP report identifies failures caused by ineffective international aid, production of non-edible crops, insufficient efforts to address food price speculation, limited action to prevent land-grabs, and poorly executed attempts to combat climate change.