by Asinus Asinum Fricat
Wed Apr 23rd, 2008 at 06:21:15 AM EST
The sharp increase in food prices over the last couple of years has raised serious concerns about the food and nutrition situation of poor people in developing countries, about runaway inflation, and in some countries, growing civil unrest, as food riots break out across the globe.
Much has been written in these boards about the causes of rising prices and it should be noted that one of the major culprit is the shadow of "a new hunger" that has made food far too expensive for millions. Rising prices for all the world's crucial cereal crops and growing fears of scarcity are sending shivers through international markets, creating turmoil and, as GWB is fond of stating his newly found word, uncertainty.
Uncertainty creates panic buying. Brokers know this well.
Diary rescue by Migeru
The sharp rise in raw food prices in the past few months will intensify in the next few years amid increased demand for meat and dairy products from the growing middle classes of countries such as China and India, as well as heavy demand from the biofuels industry. The greatest challenge to the world is not US$100 or more oil, it's going to be about getting enough food so that the new middle class can eat the way our middle class does, and that means we've got to expand food output dramatically, and more importantly, avoiding falling into the trap of biotech companies like Monsanto whose drive for global domination of its GM products is near total.
Here's why some US growers may be seduced by Monsanto's logic: a quick math calculation will tell you that crop yields around the world need to increase to something close to what is achieved in the state of Illinois, which produces more than 200 corn bushels an acre (compared with an average 30 bushels an acre in the rest of the world). How can that be achieved, you may ask? That can only be done with more fertilizer, with genetically modified seeds, and with advanced machinery and technology. But, between you and I, the real reason for promoting GM products has not been to end world hunger as previously touted but to increase the stranglehold multinational biotech companies already have on food production. One dirty word: monopoly.
What to do, what to do? There are a number of avenues open to governments since the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation states that there is more than enough food on the planet to feed everyone, in fact there's enough to feed one and a half planet Earth's. The problem is distribution:
Seventy percent of the world's hungry live in rural areas. That is where it is most critical to provide food and employment. The seed planted by a farmer leads to a flourishing agribusinesses that pay taxes, and help build rural schools and roads. Agricultural development is the first step of a long-term sustainable economic growth. Everyone gains from investment in agriculture.
To properly address hunger, governments need to support sustainable farming that meets the needs of the local people and environment. Successive studies have documented the social and environmental benefits of sustainable low-input and organic farming in both the Northern & Southern hemispheres. These offer a practical way of restoring agricultural land degraded by industrial farming with chemicals and over-production, allowing family farmers to fight poverty and hunger. Again political will is needed to put into place policies that will help farmers worldwide. Greenpeace has a few words to say about GM:
Sustainable agriculture leads to better soil, a varied locally grown diet, increased harvests, a better environment and increased food security. Like illusionists using sleight of hand tricks, the biotech companies are diverting resources away from these more sustainable solutions and towards GM technologies simply to further their own interests.
Another source of funds that seems to be working is the International Fund for Agricultural development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, which was established as an international financial institution in 1977 as one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference. I'm impressed at their record. So far nearly $30 billions have been spent in various countries to promote better farming, rural poverty reduction, hunger and malnutrition and raise productivity and incomes as well as improve the quality of their lives. Its local-level operations in 115 countries and territories keep them in continuous and direct contact with the rural poor.
But the real change will have to come from the next President. And that is why I would urge voters to petition their chosen candidate, and ask the hard questions: how will poverty be tackled, when will the food imbalance be restored, will subsidies be given to organic farmers etc... the list is long, very long.