Since 1979, World Food Day has been held every October 16, the day that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was founded in 1945. Around the world, events and conferences this week will seek to draw international attention to ways that agricultural development can ease world hunger and malnutrition.
Approximately 1 billion people worldwide do not have enough to eat, in part because the price of staple foods has continued to surge since 2005. According to the World Bank study High Food Prices: Latin America and the Caribbean Responses to the New Normal, food prices have increased more than 43 percent since June 2010. Numerous factors—including drought, high energy and transport costs, speculation in commodity markets, and decisions to replace food crops with biofuels—have driven the surge in food prices.
Many countries in Latin America are major food producers (and exporters), and are thus better positioned to mitigate the rising prices that impact their own populations, as well as those in other regions of the world. However, Latin America’s status as a net food exporter does not mean that access to safe and nutritious food is readily available for all, due to vast disparities in wealth and access to land and water. Recently, the growth of large-scale agribusiness in Latin America has come into violent conflict with policies of environmental sustainability and issues of local and national sovereignty, and the political fallout has been tremendous.