This book analyses the political viability of the basic right to food in the society of states and assesses how this right is affected by the existing patterns of international trade. Famine kills more people than any other violation of human rights: 24,000 people die every day from the consequences of hunger. If this number of deaths occurred as a consequence of breaching civil and political rights, outraged calls for immediate action would echo across the globe. Instead, these deaths are often treated as a permanent, albeit unfortunate, feature of the system. Like the poor, the starving seem to be always with us. In total nearly 800 million people are hungry (FAO's 2003 figures) because their subsistence rights are not being met due to socio-politico-economic conditions at local, national and international levels.
Most of those who suffer undernourishment do so as a result of national and international structural failures, and only a fraction of the cases (67 million people) are attributable to man-made and natural disasters. Governments across the world have not only acknowledged the problem but also signed in 1996 an unprecedented set of legal commitments to eradicate starvation and malnutrition. Their biggest commitment is to halve the global number of hungry people by 2015. However, at the current rate of progress (a reduction of 2.5 million per year), it will take over a century to meet that deadline. The moral price of this delay is the loss of millions of lives.
The big question now is how to break the vicious circle that inhibits progress. The international response to this question will determine the viability of the project to end world hunger. In this book I focus on the international side of the right to food, and in particular on the connections between hunger and international trade (agricultural trade specifically). This side of the problem has triggered a heated discussion in public discourse. However, it is underdeveloped in academic discourse, where more systematic enquiry could help to widen the horizons of the policy debate.