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The G-20 and Food Security: What Is the Right Agenda?

Sophia Murphy
Policy Analysis Brief
March 2013

Food security issues have been on the G-20 agenda in one form or another since 2009, yet without a consistent focus. For instance, the group at times has highlighted agricultural productivity issues (knowledge sharing, investments in small-holder farming) on which it has little comparative advantage relative to other multilateral venues. On the other hand, the problems of access confronting food-insecure populations—especially in globalized markets where food, feed, and fuel all compete for land, water, and infrastructure—fit very well with the G-20’s global economic remit.

As Sophia Murphy’s new analysis brief outlines, there are numerous ways the G-20 could help: by reforming certain problematic domestic policies (for instance, US and European biofuels mandates); by accepting greater transparency in the level and use of grain stocks; by improving the regulation of speculation on commodity futures markets; through progress shifting their agricultural production systems toward less-polluting models; and by accepting disciplines on the use of export restrictions and working with net-food importing developing countries to restore confidence in international trade.

Murphy’s analysis shows how the G-20 could help make international markets more robust, more sensitive to the food security concerns of net-food importing countries, and less prone to harmful disruptions or spillovers through better coordination of national policies. The piece confirms a perception among officials involved in the process that these issues are ripe for cooperation, well matched to the G-20’s strengths, and offer G-20 leaders a chance to boost food security globally. Indeed, the leaders should seize that opportunity.

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