Food is life. Nonetheless, 25% of global food production is traded internationally like any other commodity. This huge movement of food comes with consequences. Trade liberalization can disrupt the economy of a developing country in many ways, but especially by disadvantaging domestic farming by importing cheap food from more developed nations where agriculture is more industrialized. Consider peasant farmers in Mexico who make a living by growing maize. In 1994, NAFTA required that Mexico lower its tariffs on imported maize. The US (where factory farms create a huge surplus of maize) subsidized the industry and gave financial incentives to export it. This caused import surges that Mexico’s maize farmers couldn’t compete with, and the economic devastation may have even contributed to the Chiapas uprising the same year. (Clapp, 2016)
Some progress has been made since then. Agreements made at WTO meetings in 2005 and 2013 have since banned export subsidies in the EU, but there is still uneasy peace between superpowers such as the US, Brazil, and India on the issue. A compromise couldn’t come soon enough for the developing world, where hunger still exists at a stunning scale. As of 2016, over 40 percent of children in India are “stunted” (or fail to reach their physical potential) due to food deficiency (Clapp, 2016). The question we are left with is: has this liberalization of trade been worth the human costs?
Clapp, J. (2016). Food (Second ed., Resources (Polity Press)). Cambridge, UK ; Malden, MA: Polity Press.