Population control is not the answer to global food shortages, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a free market think tank. Market-driven innovations in fertilizer use, high-yield seed hybrids, and biotechnology have produced tremendous leaps in agricultural productivity. Yet the reasons for increased food abundance are being ignored at the UN World Food Summit being held this week in Rome, Italy.
"The keys to reduced hunger are growing economies and rising incomes, which allow citizens to become healthier and live longer. Coercive actions by governments to squelch population growth is no solution," said James Sheehan, research associate at CEI.
Confounding alarmists predictions, the U.S. returned a record corn crop in 1996. Prices of corn, wheat, and other commodities have fallen dramatically, ending fears of a severe global food shortage.
The refugee crisis in Zaire focused the world's attention on global hunger just as ten thousand delegates convened at the Rome Summit. "The problem in this part of Africa is political instability, government repression, socialist planning and civil strife, not overpopulation," says Sheehan. "The strategies contained in the World Food Summit's Plan of Action would have done nothing to head off the current refugee crisis."
The UN is also calling on the U.S. to give far more foreign aid to developing countries. The regime in Zaire has already received $8 billion in foreign aid in the last twenty five years, but was used simply to finance the lavish lifestyle of its corrupt leadership, according to CEI. More foreign aid lending, which has had the effect of miring the poorest countries deeply in debt, is likely to further impede their capacity to create wealth and grow economically.
"Inept government policies are responsible for economic distortions and localized shortages," says Sheehan, "this is what prevents the poor from having access to the global abundance of food."
Market-oriented perspectives have been absent at the Food Summit because of the UN's arbitrary decision to limit the number of credentialed non-governmental organizations permitted to participate in the conference. That decision had the effect of excluding NGOs who do not support the summit's population control objectives. "It appears that the UN does not welcome dissenting points of view," commented Sheehan.
From Rome, Julian Morris of the Institute of Economic Affairs (UK) contributed to this release.
For more information contact James Sheehan at sheehan@CEI.org.