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In 2009, the number of hungry in the world 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. Responses to the current crisis have emphasized the responsibility of states to realize the right to adequate food, and have called for greater coordination and cooperation between states, civil society organizations, international institutions, and private sector actors. These calls conspicuously fail to attribute specific obligations or responsibilities to global actors that have had a profound and often devastating impact on the right to food, and whose policies and practices were instrumental in facilitating the current food crisis. Under economic globalization, the power exerted by global actors such as dominant states, international financial institutions (IFIs), and transnational corporations (TNCs), has wreaked havoc on the global food system and has made it increasingly difficult for weaker states to assert full control over policies that are central to their ability to fulfill the right to food. Yet these actors are not given equal consideration in international policy prescriptions, or under international law.

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, which organizes itself around the obligations of states to individuals in their jurisdiction. It then explores how powerful states, IFIs, and TNCs affect the right to food abroad both directly and indirectly by impeding the ability of states to fulfill their economic and social rights obligations. 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.