George E. Wanamaker, 52, an economist with the Department of Agriculture, where he had worked since 1951, died Tuesday at Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital in Arlington. He had cancer.

Mr. Wanamaker was born in Poland, where his father was an American businessman, and grew up in Seymour, Tenn. He graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1949. He served in the Army Air Force from 1946 to 1947 and was a captain in the Air Force Reserve from 1948 until 1967.

He came to Washington in 1950 to do graduate work at George Washington University. He joined Argiculture the following year. In 1959, he became a marketing specialist with the Oil, Seeds and Products Division of the Foreign Agriculture Service. He had been a supervisory economist since 1964.

Mr. Wanamaker, who lived in Falls Church, was the chairman of the U.S. delegation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's intergovernmental group on oil, seeds and fats. He was a representative to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.

He was awarded the Department of Agriculture's Certificate of Merit in 1963 and again in 1976. He received a Special Merit Award in 1968.

Survivors include his wife, Diana, and a son, Mark, both of Falls Church, and his mother, Mildred Wegner of Solvang, Calif.