Demand for and supply of “sustainable” coffee (and other commodities) have grown markedly for two decades, as has the literature analyzing the effects of voluntary sustainability standards for coffee. The evidence for assessing the impacts for smallholder producers and the environment remains relatively weak, however.
A healthy US agricultural sector is critical to global food security. American farmers help keep food affordable around the world, but they also receive public assistance that too often comes at the expense of American taxpayers and consumers, as well as millions of poor farmers in developing countries. While the farm bill is not the primary vehicle for setting policy on biofuels or antibiotic use, Congress could use the legislation to advance smart policy changes that set the stage for broader reforms.
In Global Agriculture and the American Farmer, Kimberly Elliott focuses on three policy areas that are particularly damaging for developing countries: traditional agricultural subsidy and trade policies that support the incomes of American farmers at the expense of farmers elsewhere; the biofuels mandate, which in its current form can contribute to market volatility while doing little if anything to mitigate climate change; and weak regulation of antibiotic use in livestock, which contributes to the global spread of drug-resistant super bugs. While noting that broad reforms are needed to fix these problems, Elliott also identifies practical steps that US policymakers could take in the relatively short run to improve farm policies—for American taxpayers and consumers as well as for the poor and vulnerable in developing countries.
While the misuse of antimicrobials in human health is a key factor accelerating the emergence of drug resistance, we should not overlook the role of agriculture. This paper makes the case for a global treaty to reduce antimicrobial use in livestock.
Attention presidential transition teams: the Rethinking US Development Policy team at the Center for Global Development strongly urges you to include these three big ideas in your first year budget submission to Congress and pursue these three smart reforms during your first year.
The debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been raging for twenty years and there is still more heat than light around the topic. While some developing countries have embraced the technology, much of Africa has followed the European Union’s precautionary approach. While not a panacea, GMOs could be part of a new green revolution in Africa if governments address the policy and institutional weaknesses that prevented Africa from participating in the first one, and if GM technology continues to develop.
The world will struggle to achieve the goals of ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030 unless there is a sharp increase in agricultural productivity in Africa. Across sub-Saharan Africa, most people live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for their livelihoods; most of them are poor and many are hungry. Could genetically modified organisms (GMOs) help to address some of the causes contributing to Africa’s lagging agricultural productivity? Our answer is a qualified maybe.
There is no question that the “mega-regional” trade deals in the Pacific and across the Atlantic are big. If completed and implemented, they will cover a large portion of global trade and investment. This paper examines the TPP text to identify provisions that are more or less development-friendly, especially for Vietnam, which is the poorest signatory to the deal by far. It concludes with with recommendations for US and EU policymakers that would mitigate potential negative effects for developing countries and for the multilateral trading system, including rules of origin that minimize trade diversion.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, if completed and implemented, will cover a large portion of global trade and investment, but they will exclude the majority of developing countries.
The United States is not using trade as effectively as it might to promote development. The executive and legislative branches of the US government have long recognized that trade can be an important tool to help poorer countries generate resources, create jobs, and reduce poverty. They also recognize that growth in developing countries contributes to global prosperity and growing markets for US exporters as well. Despite that, the few significant US trade barriers that remain often target agricultural and labor-intensive products in which developing countries have a comparative advantage.
Even as Congress was mandating large increases in the consumption of biofuels a decade ago, the world was changing. In the early 2000s, replacing fossil fuels with biofuels made from corn, sugar, or oilseeds seemed like a good idea. Increased crop demand would prop up prices for farmers, and replacing petroleum with renewable energy would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote energy independence.
Trade is a key tool to bring food security to an estimated 800 million people around the world that remain chronically undernourished. Many countries need reliable access to international markets to supplement their inadequate domestic food supplies. Better policies to make agriculture in developing countries more productive and profitable, including via exports, would also help alleviate food insecurity and reduce poverty. Stronger international trade rules would help by constraining the beggar-thy-neighbor policies that distort trade, contribute to price volatility, and discourage investments in developing-country agriculture.
The discovery of antibiotics in the early 20th Century was a major breakthrough for human health, markedly reducing the infection threat from minor cuts, surgery, and cancer treatment.
Food security has arisen again on the development agenda. High and volatile food prices took a toll in 2007–08, and in many low-income countries agricultural yields have risen little, if at all, in the last decade. Moreover, food production in these poor countries is especially vulnerable to climate change. Meeting this demand is a global challenge. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is expected to lead the way in meeting this challenge and, with the arrival in 2012 of the first new director-general in 18 years, it has an opening to restructure itself to do so.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, agricultural commodity prices reached new lows and subsidies and mandates to promote biofuels seemed like a solution for multiple problems.
If the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is to remain as a key part of US development policy in Africa, it needs to embrace the sector on which so many of the poor in Africa depend. According to World Bank data, more than 60 percent of Africans live in rural areas, and they are more likely to be poor than their urban counterparts. Yet, while almost all manufactured goods enter duty-free under AGOA and other trade preference programs, US policy (unintentionally) discriminates against agricultural sectors in which Africa could be competitive.
Opening markets to trade with poor countries was a key part of the eighth Millennium Development Goal and its global partnership for development. Countries recognized that development is about more than aid and that the poorest countries needed to be more integrated with the global economy to help them create jobs and opportunities for growth. In 2005, the World Trade Organization embraced this goal and developing country members agreed that those of them “in a position to do so” should also open their markets to the least developed countries (LDCs). Since then, most developed countries have removed barriers on at least 98 percent of all goods for LDC exporters, while China and India adopted less expansive programs to improve market access for these countries.