The United States must assume leadership in the struggle to meet increasing worldwide food demands in order to prevent a food crisis of unseen proportions within the next decade, Jean Mayer, professor of Nutrition at the School of Public Health, said last night.
Mayer addressed about 100 people at the Cambridge Forum stressing the need for extended U.S. assistance to the developing nations whose agricultural production has been seriously crippled by the shortage of fertilizer.
"The developing countries face catastrophe as agricultural progess is becoming inaccessible to many of them because of the financial difficulties involved," Mayer said.
He described the present oil situation as the most serious crisis of all, due to the policy of the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries of "oftering basically nothing" in assistance to the developing nations. He suggested that they could substantially alleviate the food problems by selling oil to them at concessional prices.
Mayer said he recognizes that the current two-digit inflation rate in the U.S. presented a real handicap to moves to extend U.S. assistance abroad.
However, Mayer cited the lack of effective control over exports, continuation of export subsidies, and the dollar's devaluation as past "errors" on the part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which severely hindered the provision of U.S. food aid assistance.
Mayer said the role played by the U.S. in the November World Food Conference in Rome displayed a distinct lack of leadership.
"The U.S. should have arrived in Rome with the attitude of a newly appointed chairman of the United Farm Drive. We should have come prepared to make a generous offer on the condition that everyone else does what is expected of them," he said.
Mayer emphasized, however, that the solution to the world food problem was not for rich countries to continue to supply food to poor countries, but to help these countries become independent as soon as possible.
Mayer suggested several methods of increasing agricultural production, including the introduction of new technology, the production of larger supplies of fertilizer, and transformations in the social structure of some nations.