​Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E (2016) State Food Crimes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 270 pp.

​ISBN: 9781107589964

Ida Rudolfsen

Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University & PRIO

​Freedom from hunger is the only human right that is seen as fundamental. Yet, there is currently no international law or covenant dealing only with the right to food. In this volume, Howard-Hassmann presents four contemporary case studies of state food crimes and how they could be prevented or punished. North-Korea, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Israel in the occupied territories are regimes that through either intent, recklessness, indifference or incompetence have deprived their citizens of food. The book attempts to investigate states' direct responsibility for deprivation of food, leading to malnutrition, starvation and famine. The four case studies show the importance of domestic civil and political rights, and the rule of law to protect the 'economic' human right to food. However, to pin down the degree of intent can sometimes be difficult, and the difference between the categories of food crimes are blurred. Also, the lack of enforcement of international human rights laws makes it unlikely that it will have a strong effect on the states most likely to commit state food crimes. That said, the author makes a valuable contribution on the topic by presenting a broader interpretation of what state food crime is, and highlights the centrality of previously understudied aspects relating to food security such as citizenship, mobility and property rights and the right to work for adequate access to food. The volume emphasizes the importance of domestic human rights to ensure food insecurity, but also that an international human rights treaty concerning food could still have an effect in safeguarding citizens from regimes which promote policies that increase the threat of food deprivation.