Robert Paarlberg

Adjunct Professor of Public Policy

This course reviews the policy landscape around food and farming in rich and poor countries. This is a highly contested landscape, with scientists, commercial farmers, agribusiness and food companies, environmentalists, consumer organizations, and social justice advocates often holding sharply different views.  Policy actions by national governments usually drive the system, together with the behavior of international organizations, private companies, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, and humanitarian relief agencies.  Understanding the economic and institutional foundation beneath these actions is key to effective public policymaking.  Food markets can be global, but agricultural circumstances are highly localized and can differ dramatically between rich and poor countries.  The poor still rely on low-resource farming systems not well supported by public policy, while most rich countries benefit from highly capitalized agricultural sectors that receive generous subsidies from government.  Nutrition circumstances differ as well, as persistent hunger is still a deadly challenge in many tropical countries, while in rich countries (particularly the United States) excessive food consumption and obesity are now a more prominent diet-linked threat to health. The environmental impact of different farming and livestock systems, and different dietary patterns, will be explored and debated. Fish farming and wild catch fisheries will be examined. Attention will also be paid to policies that address consumer choice, food safety, genetically modified foods, and animal welfare.  Course requirements will include a decision memo, op-ed style essays, and participation in briefs or debates in class.