Reclaiming the Right to Food as a Normative Response to the Global Food Crisis

Smita Narula, NYU School of Law


The number of hungry in the world has crossed the one billion mark, a dubious milestone that has been attributed in large part to consecutive food and economic crises. Over ninety-eight percent of these individuals live in the developing world. Ironically, a great majority are involved in food production as small-scale independent food producers or agricultural laborers. These facts and figures signal a definitive blow to efforts to reduce global hunger and lift the world’s poorest from abject and dehumanizing poverty. They also bring to light the deep imbalance of power in a fundamentally flawed food system. This Comment explores both the urgency and paucity of the “right to food” as a legal and normative framework for addressing the current food crisis. It begins with an articulation of the contours and limits of the right to food under international human rights law. It then explores how powerful states, international financial institutions, and transnational corporations affect the right to food globally. The Comment concludes by addressing particular doctrinal challenges that are essential to reclaiming the right to food as a relevant normative framework under economic globalization.