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Lord Boyd Orr: A World Citizen's Focus on Food Lord Boyd Orr: A World Citizen's Focus on Food
by Rene Wadlow
2019-09-23 08:10:25
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There can be no peace in the world so long as a large proportion of the population lack the necessities
of life and believe that a change of the politicl and economic system will make them available. 
World peace must be based on world plenty.  
Lord Boyd Orr

boyd001_400John Boyd Orr (23 September 1880 - 25 June 1971) was a specialist on food policy, an ardent Scots regionalist, and a devoted world citizen.  He was knighted in 1935 for his outstanding work on nutrition and was made a Life Peer as Baron Boyd Orr  at the time, 1950, when he became a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

After the First World War in which he had served as a medical doctor, he had helped to found and then direct the Rowett Institute, one of the world's leading centers for the study of nutrition.  He had begun his work on animal nutrition but then shifted to the problems of human nutrition and food supply.

Boyd Orr came to realize that nutrition is a question of public policies and is indicative of a whole social climate, especially the differences among social classes.  His study of the hungry during the 1930s, depression-era Britain Food, Health and Income was to raise the issue of hunger as a public policy challenge.

During the Second World War, Boyd Orr became increasingly preoccupied by the food problem at the world level.  Thus he was a natural choice to become the first Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) located in Rome.  From the start, he proposed world structures that would be adequate to meet the critical food problems that faced not only the war-devastated countries of Europe but that existed at a chronic level in most of the rest of the world.

Boyd Orr's plans for a World Food Board that would give the FAO sufficient executive powers to meet the emergency of the world food crisis were adopted in principle by the government experts at the first FAO Conference in 1946 in Copenhagen.  The World Food Board would have had the power to buy, hold, and sell stocks of agricultural commodities.  It would have helped the stabilization of agricultural prices by working out price ranges and in keeping famine reserves.

However, once the proposal of a World Food Board went beyond the view of the agricultural experts who had been largely represented at the first FAO Conference and fell on the desks of the political hands, the world government aspects of the ideas were noted.  The United States and the United Kingdom frankly rejected the idea, the USSR ignored them. (1)  Faced with the impossibility of creating the structure he felt was absolutely necessary, he resigned from the FAO and took up leadership in the World Citizen movements and to work against the start of the East-West arms race that was literally "taking food from the mouths of the poor."

From his long experience with governments and their slowness, Boyd Orr remained confident in the possibilities of the pressures of citizens of the world.  He wrote " While governments are loth to change their ideas, the people of the world have changed.  They have begun to realize that a spurious nationalism supported by a contorted national history which tries to make it appear  that each nation is a nation of supermen is nonsense...The hope of the world lies with those private international organizations which must create a strong and well-informed world-wide public opinion which will force governments to agree to a comprehensive world food policy."

wc00The Association of World Citizens has continued his efforts to create a comprehensive world food policy.  In recent years, the Association has stressed in meetings at the United Nations 3 critical areas:

1) Fostering a people-centered policy framework;

2) Building human and institutional capacities;

3) Protecting the environment.

Non-governmental organizations with consultative status with the U.N. are rising in status and influence.  They are taking a "place at the table" with States in international decision-making and gaining leverage on States to embrace new norms.  Lord Boyd Orr set a clear path which we try to follow.


1) For a good account of Boyd Orr's World Food Board proposal see the memoires of a later FAO Director: B.R. Sen Toward a Newer World (1992)


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens


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