Education International
Education International

Lamy and UN expert squabble over food security

published 27 January 2012 updated 27 January 2012

A public spate broke out between WTO Director General Pascal Lamy and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, during the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference in December.

The squabble centred on a report prepared by de Shutter in November in which he concluded that countries need to rely less on trade to meet their needs and that WTO rules are putting global food security at risk.

“The WTO continues to move forward and operate in isolation without sufficient consideration of the consequences of the global food crisis for agricultural trade and food security and how this requires a critical rethinking of trade policy and food security,” de Shutter wrote in his report. “If the Doha Round [of trade negotiations] continues on its present track, future agricultural trade rules are unlikely to be well-suited to support global policy efforts to address food security and may potentially further fragment efforts to develop effective global governance for food security.”

In a public response to the report, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said he strongly  disagreed with de Shutter’s contention that countries need to limit their reliance on international trade to achieve food security objectives.

“On the contrary,” Lamy stated, “there is agreement among most UN-led experts that international trade is part of the package of solutions to achieve food security.”

Responding to Lamy’s criticisms, de Shutter argued that “the right to food is not a commodity, and we must stop treating it that way.”

“The policies currently shaped by the international trade regime are not supportive of these small-scale farmers,” de Shutter added. “Instead, we impose a lose-lose upon them. They do not benefit from the opportunities that access to international markets represents for some. But it is they who are the victims of the pressure on land, water and natural resources on which they depend, for which they increasingly have to compete with the agro-export sector.