U.S. Faces Scrutiny at Food Conference

An upcoming U.N. meeting is likely to question America's ethanol policy and how it gives aid.

World Food Program workers in Sudan offload sacks of rice donated by the US Agency for International Development.

At times, U.S. aid can also inflict unintended damage on small farmers abroad. In the case of Malawi, Garrett points out, sending in U.S. corn rather than cash wound up serving fewer poor children while undercutting Malawi corn growers, who faced "a massive glut of donated corn from the United States."

The mixed agendas that lie behind dispensing food from donor nations are drawing more fire. Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal's president, is calling for shifting from food "charity" to support for developing food self-sufficiency.

In Rome, the Americans are likely to receive genuine thanks for their enhanced generosity—along with sharp questions about how their priorities play out in such acts of kindness.

For an in-depth analysis of the food crisis, click here for a recent working paper by CFR Senior Fellow for Global Health Laurie Garrett.