Courtesy Reuters

How Europe Is Fighting Famine

NEWSPAPER headlines have assured us that famine stalks in Europe, but often the articles underneath consist mainly of conjectures based on supposed analogies with conditions during World War I or on out-of-date or fragmentary evidence. It is highly important for us, politically, to know whether the conquering, the conquered, and the few remaining neutrals of Europe are actually suffering from empty stomachs, or are likely to suffer in the near future, and whether there is anything they can do about it, and if so what. Let us therefore examine the facts in so far as we can learn them.

After knowing disastrous sweeps of famine for centuries, Europe finally succeeded in conquering hunger just as earlier she had banished the Black Death and other scourges. In Russia, India and China waves of hunger were, and still are, common. But in Europe they had disappeared, except in times of war. Among the measures which had brought about this result the more significant were an extensive storage policy; quick adjustments, when necessary, in the supply of grain set aside for the feeding of livestock; the reduction or expansion of livestock herds in view of the food and fodder situation; a readier access to overseas supplies; the accumulation of private reserves by ever-vigilant speculators; and, most important of all, the increased cultivation of high-yielding crops such as potatoes, sugar beets and fodder.

But though famine had disappeared as a phenomenon in Europe it remained a traditional fear. Children still are brought up never to waste a bit of food, because scarcity, if not famine itself, may be just around the corner. And Europeans are also aware from actual experience that war brings a scarcity of almost everything they eat and wear. As a result, consumers in European cities make more of a habit of keeping their pantry shelves well-stocked than Americans do. The farmers, too, as producers, are used to acting to forestall any threatened scarcity, for when crops are failing their governments instruct

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