GLOBAL HUNGER:Food Insecurity In An Age of Affluence A CounterPublics Digital Report By Daniel Drache and Paul Longhurst York University, May 2012 http://www.yorku.ca/drache
The Key Question:Why today are theremore people thanever who are foodinsecure while cropsproduce the highestyields in history andfood distributionsystems are global?
The consensus is that it’s a world of feast and famine. This tragic storyis best told in facts and numbers.
The High Cost of Basic FoodsAs the Food and Agriculture Organizations recentFood Price Index shows, since 2007, commodity prices have shot to unprecedented highs.
The recent doubling of the cost of staple foods hashad the greatest impact upon the most vulnerable. Tragically, many people today are forced to choose between paying for food or for shelter.
On average,people of theGlobal Northspend less than10% of theirhouseholdincome on food.In contrast, families from the Global Southspend nearly 50% of their income on food.
Where food insecurity exists,malnourishment is sure to follow.
Undernourishmentcontinues to be the #1 problem facing the South. Meanwhile, obesity has become an out of control health crisis for the North.
Global Hunger will cease only when Food Security is achieved. Food Security has a specific meaning: “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” -1996 U.N. World Food Summit
Billions are spentevery year toaddress foodinsecurity, yetwidespread hungerpersists.Since these effortsare not meeting theneeds of the hungry,alternatives need tobe implemented.
Experts agree that theworld has enoughfood to feed itspopulation.Agriculture today produces 17% more calories perperson than 30 years ago.In the Global South, 80% of malnourished childrenlive in countries that produce a food surplus.
Since there is enough food to feed the planet,the food crisis must be a result of the systems of food production, distribution and access.
5 key factors have been identified asbeing at the heart of the food crisis.
The Surging Price of OilFor every calorie that weeat, 1 calorie of fossil fuelis required to get that foodto us.As the price of oil hasclimbed to +$100/barrel,the cost of feeding afamily has risenaccordingly.
A Carnivore’s WorldFood does more than simplysustain us: What we eatreflects our social status.The growing middle class inIndia and China have begunto eat more meat. The resultis that the grain that oncefed the poor ends up sizzlingon a King-sized grill.
Climate Change & Crop FailuresExperts have linked recentunprecedented global cropfailures to the volatileweather patterns thataccompany climate change.For example, in 2006 and2011 drought decimatedwheat harvests Australiaand Argentina, whileflooding in Southeast Asiadestroyed rice crops.
The Western Thirst for BiofuelThe boom in Ethanol hascaused 300% increase inthe price of corn in recentyears.This thirst for “greenerfuels” has caused thediversion of primeagricultural land from foodto biofuel production.
Wall St. and Food MarketsToday, commodity speculationand agricultural hedge fundsare viewed as a AAAinvestment opportunities.In 5 years, investment in thissector increased by 1900%.From April 2007 to April2008, global food commodityprices rose by 85%. This is thelargest annual rise in foodprices ever.
Wall St. & Food Markets part IICommodity futures areagreements to buy or sell aset amount of a commodityon a set date for a set price.They provide a secure way tohedge risk in commoditymarkets. A futures contractlets the buyer and seller knowthe price of their futuretransaction, regardless of anychanges in the market.
As there are many factors that havecontributed to the food crisis, there will be no single remedy.
On a positive note, the food crisis has been a catalyst for long overdue change.Government, business, and civil society have agreedthat the status quo isn’t working and have begun to take steps to improve the global food system.
This Crisis Must Be Addressed On Multiple Fronts:1. Through Humanitarian Aid5. Through Policy Reform6. Through Grassroots Movements None of these approaches can succeed alone.
Humanitarian Aid & the Food CrisisThe world food program needs a full range of resources to enable it to respond to acute malnutrition. The affluent nations of the world must be prepared to quickly assist where lives are at immediate risk.
Improving Humanitarian Aid Emergency Aid must not only be delivered quickly, it must also be delivered ethically. Aid programs often flood an already precarious local market with food purchased from North America and Europe. Aid is an essential stopgap measure, but it is only the first step.
Policy Reform Nations have slowly begun to adopt the UN’s position that access to food is a human right. Brazil has been a leader in this regard with their “National Food and Nutritional Security System” policy. For too long, politicians have allowed the rights of the market to eclipse the rights of people.
Existing food policy has enabled transnational agri-business to enter new markets easily.“Lands Grabs” are the most recent crisis facing the small-scale farmers of poor nations.
Land GrabsSince 2000:- there has been over 1000 major lands grabs documented- they account for over 70,000,000 ha- 10% of investors account for 80% of all transactions- just under 50% took place in AfricaLand grabs occur when prime agricultural land in a poornation is purchased by foreign entities as a way to secure their privileged positions within the commodity cycle.
Who is Responsible for Land Grabs?1. Nations that rely onimported food are buying uphuge amounts of cheapfarmland for offshore farming.2. The food industry andprivate investors seeforeign farmland as animportant source of revenue. As a result, poor nations become more foodinsecure, rural livelihoods become more threatened.
Seeds of Change:Grassroots Solutions to the Food CrisisCivil Society has been a leader in thinking outside ofthe box when it comes to addressing the food crisis.
Food Sovereignty:an alternative food policy framework created by the global grassrootspeasants movement La Via Campesina (the peasant’s way) in 1996. Food Sovereignty addresses the failures of the Food Security policy: it promotes food as a human right, agrarian reform, environmental stewardship, global/local food trade and social stability. “Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture system.”
A Shared Struggle: North/South Solidarity While citizens of the South struggle to retain access to their land and establish sovereign food systems, many citizens of the North have begun to also distance themselves from unsustainable food systems. Many community-based sustainable food projects, like The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto, bring diverse citizenstogether to grow, cook, eatand learn about food justice and mutual aid.
Democracy may be coming through a crack in the wall…however, in Leonard Cohenswords, we don’t have to look farto see the continued “homicidalbitchin’ that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.” There are reasons for hope, but today we continue to live in a world of the stuffed and the starved.
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GLOBAL HUNGER:Food Insecurity In An Age of Affluence For questions or comments, please contact: Daniel Drache: firstname.lastname@example.org or Paul Longhurst: email@example.com