Hungry for Ethics:
Land Grabs and the Call for New Global Governance
Lila Buckley 2009
This week, agricultural experts and policy makers from around the world will convene at the World Food Summit to discuss the growing crisis of world hunger. Working under a the Millenium Development Goal to reduce the number of undernourished people by half, preparations for the meeting have targeted investments in poor country agriculture as a key tool for achieving food security (FAO, 2009). As the world faces a continuing food crisis aggravated by global recession (Von Braun, 2008), the necessity for WFS leaders to “get it right” is critically important. Through a discussion of a growing investment trend known as “land grabs,” this essay critically explores the assumption that increasing investments in agriculture will increase food security. Specifically, it examines these new bilateral land deals through the lens of contrasting frameworks for understanding globalization, and concludes that the goal of achieving food security requires that ethical issues be integrated into food policies and governance structures (Daniel and Mittal, 2009; Maxwell and Slater, 2003; McMichael, 2000; Von Braun and Diaz, 2008). This conclusion leaves little room for land grabbing as a meaningful avenue for achieving global food security.
In today’s increasingly integrated world, our agrifood systems are undergoing shifts in production, investment and trade (Von Braun and Diaz-Bonilla, 2008). One important emerging shift explored in a recent report by the US-based Oakland Institute is towards land purchases in developing countries by private-sector investors and food-insecure countries for export-based food production (Daniel and Mittal, 2009). This phenomenon has increased rapidly in recent years, with 180 instances occurring by the end of 2008, covering tens of millions of acres of farmland (ibid.). Proponents of these investments argue that they are a win-win approach...