Sept. 21, 2011

Pinstrup-Andersen co-pens new book on food policy

Despite technological advances in agriculture, nearly a billion people around the world still suffer from hunger and poor nutrition. Another billion are overweight or obese. This imbalance highlights the need not only to focus on food production but also to implement successful food policies.

In a new 424-page textbook, "Food Policy for Developing Countries: The Role of Government in Global, National and Local Food Systems" (Cornell University Press), the 2001 World Food Prize Laureate Per Pinstrup-Andersen, the H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy, and economist Derrill Watson II of the American University of Nigeria, analyze how national and international food policies can and must address the complex challenges that lie ahead. They identify policy options to guide food systems for developing countries to better achieve such goals as reducing poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition; improving health and economic growth; sustainably managing natural resources; and reducing adverse interactions with climate change.

Pinstrup-Andersen will sign copies at a book event Oct. 7, 4 p.m., at the A.D. White House.

"We believe that policymakers will more likely achieve their various stated goals and better meet the challenges and pressures they face when policy is founded on evidence drawn from a holistic understanding of food systems," Pinstrup-Andersen said.

Pinstrup-Andersen, who is the J. Thomas Clark Professor of Entrepreneurship and professor of applied economics at Cornell, is the editor of "The African Food System and Its Interaction with Human Health and Nutrition" (2010) and author or editor of many other books and journal articles.

Although both authors are economists, they took a "social entrepreneurship" approach to food policy analysis. Calling on a wide variety of disciplines including economics, nutrition, sociology, anthropology, environmental science, medicine and geography, the authors show how all elements in the food system function together. Using a political economy framework, the authors highlight stakeholder interests and pressures in a complex systems analysis of food policy processes.

"Food Policy" is written for college students and scholars in the field and is likely to also be of interest to policy advisors and policymakers and the general development community. It can be used as the sole text for a course on food policy or in combination with the three volumes of "Case Studies in Food Policy for Developing Countries" (also from Cornell University Press), co-authored by Pinstrup-Andersen.

The book begins with descriptions of what food systems are and how food policy is made. It moves on to cover topics ranging from human health and nutrition policies to food security, poverty alleviation, domestic market policies, food production and supply policies, climate change and natural resource management policies, governance, globalization and ethical aspects of food systems.

"[The authors] give us a comprehensive road map for understanding how governments and markets are shaping food outcomes in the developing world," says Robert Paarlberg of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "The book provides food policy analysis with a sound political-economy foundation, international data on everything from sustainable farming to consumer food safety, and a complete set of recent and vivid stakeholder-based case studies. I have used the case studies to great advantage in my own classroom. At a moment when interest in global food policy is peaking, this is the book to read," Paarlberg adds.