Courtesy Reuters

Food as a Political Instrument in Europe

TO Americans the word "food" has fairly simple connotations. Food satisfies man's most basic and urgent need, and so seems eminently an affair of civilian economy. It is "our daily bread" of the Lord's prayer -- the stuff that keeps people from going hungry. Whether a person gets his share or not generally depends upon his income and food prices. For two decades, moreover, our government has been worried by the presence of too much rather than too little food. It has tried to master the unwieldy food surplus in order to help the farmer, and has made a virtue of necessity by distributing surplus supplies free of charge among the needy and unemployed.

In the course of the public debate in this country regarding the European food problem Americans have shown that they are thinking too largely in conventional physical terms. They speak about shortages created by the hostilities on land and sea, about food losses and destruction, about the consequent threat of famine to civilians, and about how to transfer enough from our land of plenty to relieve the stricken areas. Such thinking is natural enough in a democratic country where there is an abundance of the consumer goods typical of a competitive price economy. But the resulting picture is incomplete. The American public is not yet aware of the full implications of what is really going on in connection with Europe's production, distribution and consumption of food.

II

In the totalitarian state food has ceased to be simply food as we all know it -- a commodity of civilian origin and destination. It has acquired new and different aspects. It has become a complete chest of tools in the workshop of the modern tyrant. Even statistically food has been driven underground. Information on how much is harvested, imported, exported, lost or fed to the people is now a military secret, guarded almost as carefully as the blueprints of a new bomber. Hence, a survey of Europe's food situation

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