Saturday, April 12, 2008

Food Crisis brought on by Capitalism

It should be remembered that the global left has been warning of a food and farming crisis for at least the past 50 years and especially since the rise of corporate agribusiness. In 2003, martyr Lee Kyung-hae (pictured on the left) gave the ultimate sacrifice of his life in protest of the WTO and the policies which were and continue to destroy the lives of farmers in South Korea and throughout the world.

Today, world food prices have increased by an average 200% since 1995, having posted most of that gain in 2007. The increases are directly a result of corporate agribusiness, "free-trade" policies, the "Green" revolution, the "GMO" revolution and the ongoing assault versus the global peasantry (e.g. land dispossession and financial ruin forcing them into the massive third world slums).

Food riots have become increasingly prevalent with recent examples in Haiti and Egypt. The UN reports that 33 countries are at risk of serious food shortages resulting in political unrest in 2008 including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Thailand and Pakistan. One UN official has gone so far as to call bio-fuels a "crime against humanity," a sentiment echoed by Fidel Castro in his series of biofuel articles from 2007, publicly derided by the capitalist press I might add.

From an interview in Al Jaazera:
Prices of basic foods have sharply increased amid a rise in costs of commodities.

The crisis has led to riots in poor countries by people who have limited access to food.

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, activist, editor, and author of many books. She talks to Al Jazeera about the food crisis in India, and what can be done to overcome it.

Al Jazeera: One of the causes of the huge rises in India's food prices is the soaring rate of inflation. India is experiencing its highest rate of inflation in three years. What is behind this increase?

Dr Shiva: There are a number of reasons why the prices of food commodities are rising in India. The first is related to economic policies – the policies of integrating India with global markets.

There is a huge agrarian crisis but it's not from the beginning of our freedom, it's not a leftover of feudalism. The agrarian crisis is a result of globalisation.

The farmers who are committing suicide in India are precisely in those areas where genetically engineered cotton is being grown by Monsanto [a chemicals and agricultural science corporation].

This is a new crisis. A small farmer could make a living in this country a few years ago. Today, as a result of globalisation, agriculture is being run down.

We have grown enough wheat in the last few years – 74 million tonnes. We are still self-reliant in food, but we are being forced to import; both under the multilateral globalisation free trade agreements as well as under bilateral arrangements like a crazy treaty called the Agriculture Knowledge Initiative between the US and India.

It was signed at the same time as the nuclear treaty was signed. The nuclear agreement has had a lot of political attention. The agriculture treaty has had absolutely no attention.

Indian farmers are being paid 8,000 rupees [$200] for a tonne of wheat. When the farmers ask for more, to make a viable living, the government says it will cause a rise in inflation.

So the government goes to Cargill [a transnational agricultural corporation] and the United States because of this bilateral agreement and buys wheat at $400 dollars a tonne, which is 16,000 rupees a tonne – twice the price that Indian farmers can produce wheat for.

11-Apr-2008. The Recipe for Food Rights. Al Jazeera.

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