October 16 is World Food Day.
This blog was originally posted on IFPRI.org
By Ashley St. Thomas

About one in eight people worldwide suffered from chronic hunger during the past two years, according to the United Nations. Though daunting, that ratio is an improvement over previous years. In fact, the 2013 Global Hunger Index report released Monday shows that global hunger levels have declined by nearly 35 percent since 1990.

FAO recently released its 2013 State of Food Security in the World report. This annual report looks at the number and location of people suffering from chronic hunger around the globe, and provides analysis of how different policies can be used to target different regions and populations.

Global trade policies have the potential to significantly impact food security, for better or for worse. With the ninth WTO Ministerial Conference upcoming in Bali in December, some developing country leaders are pressing negotiators to keep this connection in mind and fast-track talks on proposed changes that would give developing countries greater flexibility in following the new WTO agricultural trade rules.

The WTO Doha Development Round trade negotiations have been at an impasse since their launch in 2001, and have gotten particularly bogged down over the difficult technical and political aspects of agricultural trade reform. Further complicating the talks is the fact that the global economic, trade, and geopolitical context has changed significantly since the Doha Round was launched.

High food prices affect poor populations in a variety of ways. While households that only consume food suffer as a result of rising food prices, households that also produce food can actually benefit from price increases. But there is another, less recognized avenue through which high food prices can impact the poor: rural wages. The lion's share of the world's poor relies on agricultural jobs to make a living; whether or not agricultural wages increase as a result of rising food prices therefore has significant implications for how those price increases will help or hurt.

As the global population continues to grow and become more urbanized, smallholder farmers will play a critical role in feeding the world. Despite their importance to global food security, however, these farmers face daunting challenges in the form of climate change, price volatility, limited access to credit and insurance, and inadequate access to nutritious food. And addressing these challenges effectively is complicated even further by the fact that small farmers have widely varying needs, advantages, and abilities.

The European Union could be on the road to more stringent biofuel regulations. In a hard-won compromise, the European Parliament’s Environmental (ENVI) Committee on July 11 voted to cap the transportation industry’s use of first-generation biofuels at 5.5% and to require reporting of the indirect land use changes (ILUC) caused by biofuel production. The vote also calls for countries and suppliers to promote the use of alternative biofuel sources, such as algae and straw.