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Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Clinton and CEO of the Center for American Progress, have urged rich world leaders assembled for the G8 summit in Japan to take action on the global food crisis, including rapid release of Japanese rice stockpiles imported mostly from the US. In an Op-Ed in today's Boston Globe they write:

The food crisis must be a top priority at this week's G8 summit. Agriculture continues to experience more trade distortions than any sector in the global economy. For its part, the developed world -- particularly the United States, the European Union and Japan -- must confront the global impact of our subsidies and tariffs on agricultural products. Barriers to trade between developing countries must also be reduced. The United States should redouble its diplomatic efforts with key food producing countries to discourage government and private sector export restrictions that encourage hoarding.

The evidence is clear that our global agricultural system is broken and that in our interdependent world, food security is a challenge we must tackle together. The actual release of Japan's imported rice will be a welcome step toward ending the immediate crisis. But over the long term, getting the system right will require heavy political lifting, painstaking negotiations, and the modernization of agricultural policies that have not kept pace with globalization.

Seems to me that they got the balance exactly right. With millions of people facing malnutrition and worse because of skyrocketing food prices, it is unconscionable that Japan should be both hosting the G8 and sitting on some 1.5 million tons of unwanted rice. CGD visiting fellow Tom Slayton has been in the vanguard of people sounding the alarm on this issue, including his most recent blog posting in late June, Let them Eat: Tokyo Favors Subsidized Rice for Cattle Over World's Poor?. But releasing the rice, while urgent and necessary, is not sufficient. To learn more about what needs to be done, join us next week for an event moderated by CGD senior fellow Kimberly Elliott, Responding to the Food Crisis: The G8 Summit and the Upcoming WTO Ministerial. (hint: needed actions have something to do with trade and ag subsidies!)

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.