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78 Bruce to Curtin

Letter [LONDON], 22 November 1942

You will recollect that in July last you cabled to me suggesting that Mr. F. L. McDougall should go to Washington to attend the first meeting of the International Wheat Council. [1] I greatly welcomed this suggestion as apart from the fact that McDougall has been associated with the International Wheat discussions since they were initiated in 1931, it afforded an opportunity of ascertaining, relatively at first hand, the trend of thought in the United States with regard to post-war reconstruction through contacts made when I took McDougall with me to Washington in 1939, which were renewed, in his case, when he went there last year.

During our visit in 1939 most cordial relations were established with Mr. Wallace, Mr. Sumner Welles and many others and these relations have continued ever since.

From the report which McDougall has made to me, a copy of which I enclose [2], you will see that the visit was extremely fruitful and owing to the fact that he was not in Washington for official Governmental discussions he had an opportunity of hearing views and obtaining opinions which otherwise would not have been available to him.

As a result of these opportunities he has convinced me that in the Administration there is a wide realisation of the need for the United States to play their part in world reconstruction and to accept positive responsibilities in both the political and economic spheres. This view, if correct, is very heartening particularly if he is right in thinking that on such subjects the Administration has behind it a large measure of public support. I am sure that you feel as strongly as I do that American cooperation is essential if our post-war hopes are to be realised.

I also enclose herewith a draft Memorandum on a United Nations programme for Freedom from Want of Food. This paper has an interesting origin. After McDougall had obtained a general impression of the work on post-war problems in the manner and from the sources set out in his report to me, he pointed out to Mr.

Sumner Welles that in the admirable preparatory work that was being done in Washington there appeared to him to be one gap, namely in respect to the joint problems of food and agriculture.

State Department officials, after looking into the matter, agreed with this view and asked McDougall whether he would collaborate with the Department of Agriculture in preparing a preliminary paper on these subjects. McDougall consulted me by telegram and having regard to the importance of the questions both as to post- war reconstruction and specifically to Australia I agreed to his accepting this suggestion.

An informal group was then formed, constituted in the manner and with the personnel set out in McDougall's report. Although in the time available the group could only make a preliminary survey of the world food problems and the need for the reorganisation of world agriculture, a large volume of work was done and a series of papers were submitted for the consideration of the group.

The outcome was the preparation of the Memorandum on 'Freedom from Want of Food'. This paper should be regarded as unofficial and as expressing the personal views of the members of the group. It will, however, be closely considered in the State Department in the hope that it may be found to provide a suitable basis for the formulation of the Administration's policy on this subject.

McDougall tells me that he is satisfied that the Vice President, Mr. Sumner Welles, Mr. Acheson and Mr. Berle are now convinced that the Food and Agriculture approach should be given a high priority in the United Nations programme for reconstruction. He cannot indicate what Mr. Cordell Hull's attitude is likely to be but Mr. Hawkins, the head of the Commercial Treaties Division of the State Department, was a keen member of the group and Mr.

Hawkins is a trusted adviser to Mr. Cordell Hull. McDougall found the officials of the United States Department of Agriculture keenly interested and desirous of playing a considerable part in the development of policy along these lines. He has, however, emphasised that he cannot form any opinion as to whether the method suggested in the Memorandum of the setting up of technical expert commissions appointed by a projected United Nations Economic Council will commend itself to the Administration. [3]

I would particularly commend the enclosed Memorandum to your personal attention because Australia is in a strong position to exercise considerable influence along the lines of this approach to world reconstruction. In 1935 it was the Australian Delegation to the Assembly of the League of Nations that took the initiative in urging that the economics of consumption and in the first instance nutrition provided the best approach to the achievement of a better world economic system. After 1927 the deterioration of political relations in Europe frustrated our hopes but in post-war reconstruction the policies we advocated in the prewar years are likely to become of major significance. If any real meaning is to be given to the phrase-Freedom from Want-a start must be made with food policies. The Memorandum indicates how widespread would be the effects of the United Nations pledging themselves to a sustained campaign to achieve this objective. It is perhaps a slight handicap to our presentation of this case that such policies are so greatly to the interest of Australia. However, since the proposals would be beneficial to all countries, there is a great opportunity for the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to take a leading part in advocating freedom from want of food as one of the principal means of world reconstruction.

While we are in a particularly strong position with regard to the question of future food policies, Australia, owing to the part we played in pre-war days, has also a special position in regard to other social and economic questions. It was the Australian Delegation which took the initiative with regard to standards of living, the control of trade cycles, etc. at the League of Nations Assembly in 1937. I was Chairman of the Co-ordinating Committee of the Economic and Financial Committees of the League of Nations and I was also the Chairman of the special Committee set up in 1939 to report to the Assembly on how the work of the Economic, Financial and Social Organisations of the League should be organised for the future. This report was accepted with considerable warm[th] by the last Assembly of the League in December 1939.

I draw your attention to this background because I believe that the international policies advocated prior to the war are closely in harmony with the views of your own Government and also with those of the present United States Administration.


1 See unnumbered cablegram of 22 July on file AA:A981, Conferences 378, i.

2 Dated 20 November. On file AA:A989, 43/735/751/1, i.

3 On 17 February 1943 President Roosevelt suggested to the Pacific War Council that a meeting of the United Nations should be held to discuss post-war policies on food supplies (see Dixon's cablegrams S23-4 of 18 February on file AA:A981, War [41B]). Bruce subsequently cabled to Curtin 'I have now good reason to believe that President's reference at Pacific War Council meeting to post- war food policy and his subsequent statement at his White House Press Conference on this subject was inspired by Memorandum forwarded to you with my letter of the 22nd November last' (see cablegram 43A of 1 March 1943 on file AA:M100, March 1943).


Draft Memorandum on a United Nations Program for Freedom from Want of Food [1]

WASHINGTON, October 1942


The purpose of the United Nations is first to win the war and then to win the peace.

To win the peace we must, during the war, reach agreements which will determine the pattern of the post-war world.

Our pledges have been given in the President's Four Freedoms [2], the Atlantic Charter, the Mutual Aid Agreements, the International Wheat Agreement and in declarations by representatives of the Governments of the United Nations.

We have promised to our own citizens, and to the peoples of the world, freedom from want through an expansive economy with full employment, better labour conditions and social security. We have, in effect, undertaken to engage in a world-wide campaign against poverty.


At the end of the first World War we believed that it would be possible immediately to return to 'normalcy'. Wartime mechanisms for economic co-operation were abruptly discarded in favour of 'business as before'. The history of the between-wars decades- unemployment at unparalleled levels throughout the world; the unsuccessful struggle against monetary chaos; the insecurity which proved a forcing bed for the growth of Nazi terrorism;

malnutrition and hunger with world markets burdened with surplus food-is sufficient indication of the magnitude of our error.

The stress of war has forced us to return to international co- operation and if our pledges are to be fulfilled we must, during the war, prepare to enlarge and adapt our wartime co-operation for the purposes of peace. To achieve freedom from want will require many forms of action in the economic and financial fields.

The more advanced countries must ensure their citizens full employment and the provision, to everyone willing to work, of diets, housing and health facilities adequate to develop and maintain their vigour, efficiency and intelligence. The advanced nations must also assist other nations to develop their potentialities and to achieve as high a standard of living as their human and other resources permit.

Finance must become the servant and not the master of the world economic system. No human or physical resources in any country should be forced to remain idle or to fail of development owing to the lack of adequate financial mechanisms. International financial arrangements must be devised to make possible consumption on a scale commensurate with the world's capacity to produce.

The interest of the consumer will require the most efficient use of the world's agricultural and industrial resources and greatly expanded world trade.

The United Nations, and ultimately all nations, must participate, as partners in world reconstruction, in world authorities set up to direct international methods for winning the peace and to co- ordinate national endeavours.


Freedom from want of food must be given high priority in the actions taken to fulfil the pledges of the United Nations. For not only is food the most essential of human needs but the production of food is the principal economic activity of man.

We have determined to provide relief to the war-torn countries as soon as they are liberated. In this relief, food will be the most urgent need but we must carry straight on from relief and rehabilitation to reconstruction and development.

(a) Health Lack of adequate food is the sole cause of some prevalent diseases and is the principal predisposing cause of many others such as tuberculosis: it destroys vigour and inhibits mental alertness: it is accompanied by premature death.

Although the application of modern nutritional knowledge to public health is a development of only the last twenty-five years, we already know that sound nutrition will further reduce the toll of disease and will also do more to secure sound minds in healthy bodies than any other social reform.

In the 19th century the discoveries of the bacteriologists and the achievements of the sanitary reformers greatly reduced the toll taken by infectious disease.

The provision to all classes of adequate diets would lead to an advance in public health comparable to that which followed the work of Pasteur.

(b) Food Deficiencies No country can boast that all its citizens obtain adequate food.

The best fed countries are those where the national income is both high and relatively equitably distributed, but even in these countries about a quarter of the population do not obtain enough of the foods needed for abundant health.

In those advanced countries where the contrast between the income groups is more pronounced at least a third of the people suffer from malnutrition.

In the rest of the world malnutrition and hunger is the lot of a majority of the people. 'Most Chinese suffer from malnutrition all the time', is the opening sentence in a report of the Chinese Government to the League of Nations. The same could be said with equal truth of other large areas of the world.

(c) Social Importance of Agriculture About 60 percent of the world's gainfully employed population is engaged in agricultural pursuits. The proportion varies from about 35 percent in Europe to over 70 percent in Asia and Africa. Food production probably represents 90 percent of the total activity of world agriculture. Thus the conditions under which farm people live and work are the most important social problems of most countries. Freedom from want of food is therefore of double significance to the great bulk of the world's population for, in addition to its direct effect upon their individual welfare, its attainment must require a widespread improvement in agricultural efficiency. [3] This can only be brought about if education and sanitation, security of tenure and adequate credits are progressively extended to the farm people of each nation and continent.

(d) Effects upon World Economic Activity The fact that farming still remains the principal economic activity of the bulk of mankind and the further fact that there is great need to increase food production are in themselves clear indications of the effects which the widespread adoption of sound nutritional policies would have upon world economic activity.

Progress towards the attainment of the goal of freedom from want of food will require measures in every country to increase the efficiency of agriculture, to improve farm plant and equipment and to secure better methods of transportation and distribution. It will also call for a great expansion of the facilities for processing, warehousing and handling food. These developments will create a substantial demand for industrial goods.

The solution of the agricultural problems of such densely populated countries as China, India, Java and parts of Eastern Europe requires, in addition to agricultural reforms, industrialization which will involve large capital expenditures over a series of years for electrification and other development projects. But, parallel with the industrialization of such countries, sound technical assistance in agricultural production together with relatively small financial outlays would enable these countries, as well as others, to make great progress in the improvement of their agricultures.

The acceptance of sound nutrition policies must also involve a determination on the part of governments drastically to reduce agricultural protectionism. International co-operation to secure freedom from want of food will necessitate a great increase in world trade, especially in the staple agricultural products.

International investment to improve agriculture can contribute materially to world economic activity before the larger scale methods of development can be expected to exert their full influence.


Although information about food consumption is too inadequate to enable accurate estimates to be made of the needs of each area of the world for the various foods, preliminary work indicates that to provide diets adequate for health for everybody in all parts of the world food supplies would probably need to be doubled.

The goal must be to ensure that all sections of the population, farm people included, have enough of the right kinds of food. To accomplish this on a world basis would require expansion of production of the following orders of magnitude: cereals, 50 percent; meat, 90 percent; milk and other dairy products, 125 percent; vegetable oils, 125 percent; and fruits and vegetables, 300 percent.

Much closer estimates can be made of the food requirements for certain countries. In the United States, for example, where diets are comparatively good, a program of adequate [4] consumption would require an 18 percent increase over the 1940 acreage of land in crops, a 44 percent increase in the number of milch cows, a 16 percent increase in the number of chickens, a 7 percent increase in the number of cattle, and about the present number of hogs, sheep and lambs.

In the Southern States over six million acres of cropland and nine million acres of pasture land would be needed to supply the additional farmgrown products needed for the farm families of that region alone.

Estimates made for the United Kingdom in 1934 indicate that if food consumption for the whole population was raised to that of the top 10 percent (i.e. those who spend 12 shillings per week per head on food) this would have required 80 percent more milk, 40 percent more butter, 55 percent more eggs, 30 percent more meat, 125 percent more fruit and 90 percent more vegetables.

The keystone of agricultural reorientation should be the principle that the first duty of domestic agriculture is to make the most economical contribution, from the standpoint of the nation as a whole, to the food supplies required by the citizens of the country concerned.


One of our most urgent immediate problems is the inability of the lower-income groups to buy sufficient food to maintain good health. Its solution will depend upon economic and social policies designed to increase purchasing power and to reduce the costs of production and distribution.

The needs of the poorer people in many countries, however, demand the adoption of direct methods of making certain foods available at lower than commercial prices. The methods whereby this objective will be carried out will vary from country to country. A number of countries had already in pre-war years tentatively adopted methods of subsidizing supplies of certain foods for mothers and children. In the United States a further development and modification of the Food Stamp Plan or some other variant of the system may prove a suitable method. One method which might well be recommended for world-wide application is the provision of nutritious lunch and of milk to all children under school leaving age. If this was as freely provided as teaching and text books, the effect upon the well being of children and adolescents would be profound.

Food rationing is now general in the United Kingdom and in Continental Europe and it may become more generally necessary in the United States and Dominions. Wartime rationing restricts the consumption of the higher-income groups but cuts down waste and improves, at least relatively, the position of the lower-income groups. We may find it an opportunity of developing war methods for the more liberal purposes of peace.

Rationing in the United Kingdom is accompanied by government subsidies to keep the retail prices of certain imported and home- grown foods within the purchasing power of the lower-income groups. In war this involves large sums to offset high transport charges and high prices paid to encourage domestic production. In peace time lesser sums wisely allocated to encourage the production, distribution and consumption of the most needed foods would go far to secure for all, diets adequate for health.

The most important method of solving this problem is to increase national agricultural efficiency and to abandon, in favour of cheaper imports, high-cost domestic production of those foods for which a country is at a comparative disadvantage. In the long run this would be just as advantageous to producers as to consumers.


Eleven of the United Nations have pledged themselves in the Mutual Aid Agreements 'to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce, and to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers. . .'The fulfilment of this pledge will greatly assist in the provision of diets adequate for health at a cost within the reach of all by encouraging the production of protective foods, as well as of staple products, in countries and regions where production is most efficient.

During the decade before the present war many nations, especially in Europe, were impelled either in preparation for war or by consideration of defense to adjust their agricultures to strategical factors. This led governments to attempt to secure agricultural self-sufficiency by greatly expanding the production of energy foods, especially bread cereals and sugar, at the expense of the health and standards of living of their peoples.

The pledges of the United Nations to prevent a renewal of aggression should remove this strategical motive from the planning of the national agricultures of the food importing countries and preclude its use in the future as an excuse for agricultural protectionism.

Making adequate nutrition the first concern of agricultural policy would require a reversal of the pre-war movement toward agricultural self-sufficiency. It would involve a marked increase in the local production of such perishable foods as liquid milk, fresh vegetables and soft fruits, and there are many other farm products for which soil, climate and proximity to markets give advantages to the home producers. The adoption of sound nutrition policies would, on the other hand, probably result in the industrial countries of Continental Europe importing two or three times as much bread cereals, sugar and feed grains as before the war.


The achievements of the United Nations' purposes, summarized in the President's phrases 'Freedom from Want' and 'Freedom from Fear', will require the establishment of a World Authority. This Authority will have both political and economic functions. Its economic mechanisms will need to cover a wide range of economic, financial and social activities.

The immediate need is to establish at once a United Nations Organization, such as an Economic Council, charged with the duty of preparing the plans and mechanisms required for dealing with the principal problems of economic reconstruction. The Economic Council should appoint Technical Commissions to work out definite proposals.

The Technical Commission on Food and Agriculture should formulate action programs designed to assist the nations to achieve freedom from want of food. Its recommendations should include ways and means of setting up an International Agricultural Authority and the methods whereby such an Authority would work in close liaison with the suggested International Bank and its subsidiary International Agricultural Credit Bank, an International Raw Materials Authority and an International Authority established to assist in the development of backward areas throughout the world.

It should be the duty of the Economic Council of the United Nations to see that the work of each Technical Commission is coordinated with that of the other Commissions.

The Technical Commission on Food and Agriculture should be requested to report to the Economic Council within six months and its report should contain specific and comprehensive recommendations regarding the constitution, organization and functions of the proposed International Agricultural Authority.



The more prosperous countries of the United Nations should pledge themselves (A) to institute policies designed to secure that diets adequate for health are available within the purchasing power of all their citizens (B) to assist other nations towards the progressive accomplishment of the same objective and (C) to commence immediately to implement these pledges by undertaking:-

(i) During the War and the Relief Period:

(a) to institute or continue the rationing of essential foods in short supply for as long after the war as is necessary to enable the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration adequately to perform its function of relieving distress in the homes of the nationals of both the victor and vanquished powers;

(b) to stimulate the production of such protective foods as can be readily processed and stored until the war is over;

(c) to take appropriate action to secure a more equitable distribution of food within their own territories, subject to the need to provide food to maintain the war effort and to provide stockpiles for post-war relief;

(ii) After the Immediate Post-war Relief Period:

(a) to adopt such social and agricultural policies as shall ensure in the advanced countries the attainment of the goal of diets adequate for health for all within a five-year period and, in the less advanced, the progressive attainment of this goal;

(b) to institute international action to make available to the backward countries financial and technical assistance for the development and reorientation of agriculture and the improvement of the nutrition of their people.


The necessity for immediate action cannot be over-emphasized. We must act now if we are to avoid the risk of losing the peace.

Our own peoples, the enslaved peoples of Europe and Asia and also many people in enemy countries long to know what use the United Nations will make of their victory. This knowledge is the ammunition of psychological warfare. Its provision and effective use will shorten the war.

The end of the war will find all peoples impatient for a return to peace conditions. The United Nations must be ready with measures and organizations to carry out their pledges, otherwise national legislatures may adopt ill-considered, short-sighted and nationalistic policies and vested interests will re-entrench themselves.

Our programs for the actions to be taken during each of the three periods of war, relief and reconstruction should all be put forward now on behalf of the United Nations.

Although, owing to the exigencies of war, the United States and the British Commonwealth are in a more favourable position than other countries, now more grievously oppressed by aggressors, to make major contributions to the preparation for post-war reconstruction, there must be no attempt to impose an Anglo- American way of life on the world.

We look forward to a co-operative World Commonwealth to which every nation will make its individual contribution, in which variety of culture will be matched by unity of purpose to secure for all the four essential freedoms, and the right to participate in, and contribute freely to, international counsels for the future welfare of mankind.

[AA:A989, 43/735/658]

1 The original was annotated 'Prepared by a group of United States and British Commonwealth officials, economists and medical scientists'.

2 See Document 42, note 6.

3 The original was here annotated: 'The use of the term "agricultural efficiency" throughout this Memorandum does not necessarily imply modern mechanized or commercial farming; family sized farms are more efficient in industrialized and densely populated regions and many areas require a great increase in subsistence farming.' 4 The original was here annotated: 'The basis taken has been that called "the best adapted diet", i.e. a low-cost diet to all low- income families, a moderate-cost diet to all families with moderate incomes and a liberal diet to all high-income families.' 5 The suggested functions of this authority were set out in Appendix E to this memorandum. All appendixes are on file AA:A989, 43/735/658.

[AA:M100, NOVEMBER 1942]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History