Food crisis payback for ’20 years of mistakes’: UN expert

PARIS, May 2, 2008 (AFP) – The UN’s new top advisor on food blamed two decades of wrong-headed policies by world powers for the food crisis sweeping the globe, in a stinging interview published on his first day in office Friday. Frenchman Olivier de Schutter, a law professor and human rights campaigner, told Le Monde newspaper the international community was “unforgivable” for its failure to anticipate the riots sparked last month by soaring food prices.

“This is a call to order. The days of cheap food are behind us,” said the United Nations rapporteur on the right to food, arguing that the current crisis showed the “limits of industrial agriculture.”

“We are paying for 20 years of mistakes. Nothing was done to prevent speculation on raw materials, though it was predictable investors would turn to these markets following the stockmarket slowdown.”

Schutter said the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had “gravely underestimated the need to invest in agriculture,” and accused the IMF of forcing indebted developing countries to invest in export cash crops at the expense of food self-sufficiency.

Workers across Asia, where one billion people are now seriously affected by the food price surge, made fo