Tuesday, May 20, 2008
by Corrie Sakaluk
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)
There is not a food shortage in the world today. There is more than enough food being produced to healthily feed everyone living on the planet Earth. And yet almost one sixth of the world’s population is starving.
International institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations have worked together with a few huge agricultural businesses to ensure that the global food industry is designed to make a lot of money for a few people who own ever-expanding agricultural businesses instead of to do what we all need it to do – provide enough affordable food for our families and communities.
On April 2nd, 2008 the President of the World Bank told a meeting in Washington that there are currently 33 countries where hikes in food prices could cause social unrest. On April 3rd in Haiti demonstrators took matters into their own hands, looting trucks carrying rice and attempting to burn a United Nations compound. Similar demonstrations took place in Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Egypt, Cote D’Ivoire, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Zambia. Popular slogans of these world-wide actions included “We are hungry!” and “Life is too expensive! You are killing us!”
High food costs – and therefore hunger and starvation – are inevitable under capitalism.
Most present-day Third World countries were brutally colonized and then deliberately left in a state of underdevelopment after decolonization. Forced to take loans to provide for the basic needs of people, these countries then had to comply with political and economic loan-conditions designed to make them dependent on agricultural exports from the United States, the European Union (especially France and Germany), the British Commonwealth countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa), and Argentina and Brazil. These four regions have flooded the Third World with government-subsidized food products over the past three decades, making any sale of locally produced food impossible for the domestic population. Poor people anywhere are obviously not going to buy food that is locally produced when it is more expensive than the imported products.
Another thing that has happened over the last three decades is that Third World countries were often successfully coerced, due to their desperate circumstances, into producing only one type of crop. This crop is always used for export purposes, and can often be a luxury item for people living in the First World.
For example, in Colombia where 13% of the population is malnourished, 62% of all cut flowers sold in the United States are produced and exported. Much of the land now used for growing flowers used to be able to provide food.
Traditional farming, organized by and for communities and families, has been pushed aside by industrial farming organized by and for agribusinesses.
This new structure of agricultural production for capitalist profit has resulted in millions of people starving in countries that export food. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s tragically true.
It has also resulted in massive environmental damage, such as poisonous air and water, which create horrible health problems for human beings and other living creatures.
The issue of rising food prices and the resulting food crisis is a political and social problem. It is a problem that people all over the world are taking in to their own hands, and we should do the same.
Canada is not immune from rising food prices, and many of us have families living in areas directly affected by the first wave of food crisis hunger.
The only way that global hunger and starvation can be stopped is for urban and rural working people to join together and actively organize an alternative society where the wealth and resources can be evenly distributed to meet people’s needs, as oppoosed to this miserable capitalist system we currently live in. ∗