By Chase Sova.
Twenty years ago, negotiators from around the world came together in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The goal: to identify global principles for agricultural exchange. Export subsidies in the late ‘80s from industrialized economies like the United States resulted in the dumping of cheap agricultural products in developing countries, undermining local producers. These and other trends fueled efforts to correct growing inequalities in an increasingly globalized food system. Yet given food security’s central role in national security and an evolving belief in food security as a fundamental human right, an agreement on agriculture was slow to be reached.
Today, the world has come together again, and while the conversation has shifted toward the urgent need to tackle climate change, the same agricultural challenges remain. Nearly 1 billion people across the world are food insecure or undernourished; populations continue to grow in sub-Saharan African (SSA) and South Asia; and food systems face severe impacts from a world that, on its current trajectory, is likely to be four degrees warmer than present averages. At the Lima climate negotiations, however, the collective answer to the ‘agricultural question’ was, yet again, to avoid it altogether.