Sunday, December 04, 2016

Feeding the mind to feed the world and to feed the future

Monoculture or Agroecology
"There is food on the shelves but people are priced out of the market."... World Hunger Program's executive director, Josette Sheeran

Capitalism, poverty, and hunger are intimately connected. Feeding the growing world’s population is not about increasing food production; it’s about ending the capitalist system. One of the aims of socialists is a world free of hunger. People are hungry because the "global food system" we've built prioritizes corporate profits while failing to either feed people or steward our land and water resources for future generations. This is true whether we live in Detroit or Denver, in Delhi or Dakar. Despite what Monsanto & Co. would have us believe, widespread, intensive production of a few commodity crops — many of them pesticide-promoting — is not the answer to global hunger. In fact, it’s a major contributor to the problem. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.

There are an oft-repeated claims that "there are too many people in the world” and “overpopulation is the cause of hunger. One origin of this belief arose just as the Industrial Revolution was arising. The Enclosure Acts evicted the peasants from the land so that the gentry could make money raising wool for the new and highly productive power looms in the new towns. Massive starvation was the inevitable result of this expropriation. The intellectual elite had to then rationalise the consequences and absolve the new capitalist class for the responsibility in the upsurge of the poor.

 Today we witness a similar scapegoating of the poor by placing the responsibility of their poverty and hunger upon their numbers. While the mill-owners got their initial start in Great Britain, they and others soon expanded to colonise the world. And as they did with the Enclosures, they simply expropriated the natives and assumed land title. Once established they proceeded to eradicate centuries-old customs and practices to permit the plunder and looting of resources and raw materials and eliminating any potential competition. The empire-builders placed the local people into impoverishment. And is this legacy that generates much of to-days hunger. Food is grown often for export while local people go hungry. Valuable fertile land is therefore misused to rear cattle, sugar, tobacco, tea, coffee and other luxuries.

In 2011, 27% of U.S. grain crops were fed to cars. More than five billion bushels of corn went to U.S. ethanol distilleries that year.
In 2011, China used approximately 70% of its total corn production for livestock feed, 20% for industrial use and only 5% for food.

The problem is not that there is too little food to go around. In fact, the figures have nothing to do with the global food supply, according to Michael Windfuhr of the German Institute for Human Rights. "We've seen a global surplus for over five decades now."

There is enough water in the world's rivers to meet the demands of the expanding global population, but the rivers have to be better managed, according to a series of studies at the 14th World Water Congress in Porto de Galinhas, Brazil. The key problem for water use is not scarcity but inefficient use of supplies because of poor governance and regulation, concludes a special issue of the Water International coordinated by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research's Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF).

Famine is, by and large, preventable. There are still disasters and droughts, but much of the problem is a man-made catastrophe.  Hunger is not a matter of scarcity. Alongside social democracy, economic democracy, we must be demanding food democracy.