Special Issue of Contemporanea- Food Security and the Contemporary World

July 15, 2014

Food security is currently the focus of an international debate, which, in tackling the questions of malnutrition and starvation, also looks at global problems such as the North-South relationship, asymmetrical access to resources, and the world food system. Historians have contributed to this debate by generally identifying the years following the Second World War as the period in which contemporary policies took shape. This development//may been seen by the United Nations’ decision to take up the question of food security and the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), later accompanied by the World Food Programme (WFP 1961). From this perspective, the policies of the UN Agencies, intergovernmental agreements and negotiations between states have provided scholars with a key to interpreting the events of later decades within the context of the Cold War.

Some studies, however, have challenged this periodization and have broadened the range of possible approaches to the topic. Special attention has been devoted to the rise of colonial empires whose development was linked to the historical construction of the global food system. Scholars have shown how the research conducted among the colonial populations of Africa and Asia was of fundamental importance in establishing nutritional sciences at an international level, and for the emergence of the debate over the possible role these sciences play in ensuring the health and well-being of humanity. The League of Nations later recognized the importance of the food question when it devised policies of socio-economic cooperation that revolved around the linkages between agricultural production, nutrition and health care, but also as part of emergency aid programs undertaken to address the devastation of the post-war period. It was precisely on this second front that the problem of addressing basic food needs also became crucial for non-governmental organizations and took center stage as the priority intervention area for international humanitarianism.

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Posted: February 10, 2014