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Tracking hunger.

In the name of historical accuracy, I want to protest the inaccuracy of the first sentence of the article "The Price of Hunger" [March/April, Environmental Intelligence]. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] did not begin "keeping track in the 1970s...." It began to track the statistics of hunger under Director General B.R. Sen in the late 1950s and the first mentions were in Dr. Sen's introduction of the Freedom From Hunger Campaign to the United Nations and to the General Conference of FAO in 1960.

By the time of its First World Food Conference in 1963, the statistics on hunger were part of the major Basic Studies on the state of world agriculture put out as the background papers for the several commissions of the Food Congress. The statistics, including the numbers suffering from outright hunger and those suffering from malnutrition, were also part of every publication of the Campaign and every major speech of the director general, and were repeated by major NGOs and national Campaign committees from every continent for the rest of the decade.

What poor quality research. And what a down-putting for a great leader, B.R. Sen, who pioneered bringing NGOs into a working relationship with an international intergovernmental organization. I sincerely trust that other citations used in World Watch are more carefully researched.


Madison, Wisconsin

Brian Halweil responds: I wrote that the FAO started to keep track in the 1970s because the data provided with the new findings only cited FAO's numbers from the 1970s onward, and so I felt this was the most valid benchmark. Of course, you are correct that enlightened and humanitarian individuals, including Dr. Sen, have been trying to raise awareness about hunger for many decades and have made national, regional, and even global estimates. I do not know why FAO chose not to cite its data from the 1950s onward--perhaps because their methodology has changed?--but no doubt our readers will be pleased to know there are data sources on hunger going back half a century.
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Title Annotation:FROM READERS
Publication:World Watch
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:May 1, 2005
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