Monday, December 05, 2016

The Food Industry

With globalisation, agriculture as an independent sector has ceased to exist, becoming instead, just one part of an integrated supply chain. The hungry all over the world are linked by a common threat: the tightening of control over the most basic human need – food. The process of increasing concentration of control over land and other productive resources. Because of the selective way news is transmitted to us, we are often unaware of the courageous struggle of millions of people everywhere to gain control over food-producing resources. Distribution of food is a reflection of the control of the resources that produce food. Whoever controls the land determines who can grow food; what is grown; and where it goes. Thus fair-trade redistribution programmes cannot solve the problem of hunger. Instead, we must face up to the real question: how can people everywhere begin to democratise the control of food resources?

There is sufficient capacity in the world to produce enough food to feed everyone adequately. Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Hunger and food insecurity above all are expressions of rural poverty. Scarcity cannot be considered the cause of hunger when even in the worst years of famine there is always plenty of food in the world – enough in grain alone to provide everyone in the world with 3000 to 4000 calories a day, not counting all the beans, root crops, fruits, nuts, vegetables and non grain-fed meat? In Central America and in the Caribbean, where as much as 70% of the children are undernourished, at least half of the agricultural land (and the best land) grows crops for export – not food for the local people. Fertile lands are thus made to produce largely low-nutrition crops (sugar, coffee, cocoa) exclusively for export. The same land now growing cocoa, coffee, rubber, tea, or sugar, could grow an incredible diversity of nutritious crops – grains, high-protein legumes, vegetables, fruits and root crops.

Some people say that population growth is the major cause of world hunger. They tell us hunger is caused by too many people pressing against finite resources and we must have strict population control before we can hope to alleviate hunger. The relationship between hunger and population levels is not a simple one. For example, population densities in the Netherlands and Singapore are among the highest in the world but few people would say they are over-populated and starving. Hunger is not caused by too many people sharing the land. If ‘too many people’ cause hunger, we would expect to find more hungry people in countries with more people per agricultural hectare.  Yet we can find no such correlation. Bangladesh, for example, has just half the people per cultivated hectare that Taiwan has. Yet Taiwan has no starvation while people in Bangladesh often experience food shortages. South Korea has just under half the farmland per person found in Bangladesh, yet no one speaks of overcrowding causing hunger in South Korea. Countries with comparatively large amounts of agricultural land per person have some of the most severe and chronic hunger in the world. While severe hunger is a recurring problem for many people in Bolivia, for example, they live in a country with well over one-half acre of cultivated land per person, significantly more than in France. Brazil has more cultivated land per person than the United States. Mexico, where many rural people have suffered from undernourishment, has more cultivated land per person than Cuba, where now virtually no-one is underfed. In the Central America and Caribbean region, for example, Trinidad and Tobago show the lowest percentage of stunted children under five and Guatemala the highest (almost twelve times greater); yet Trinidad and Tobago's cropland per person - a key indicator of human population density - is less than half that of Guatemala's. Costa Rica, with only half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life expectancy - one indicator of nutrition-eleven years longer than that of Honduras and close to that of northern countries. The Netherlands, where there is very little land per person, it has not prevented it from eliminating hunger and becoming a large net exporter of food

A study of 83 countries reveals that just over 3% of the landholders control about 80% of the farmland. Yet research shows that in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala the small farmer to be three to fourteen times more productive per hectare than the larger farmer. In Thailand plots of one to two hectares yield almost 60% more rice per acre than farms of 55 hectares or more. Other proof that justice for the small farmer increases production comes from the experience of countries in which the redistribution of land and other basic agricultural resources like water has resulted in rapid growth in agricultural production: Japan, Taiwan, and China stand out.

Diagnosing the cause of hunger as scarcity inevitably leads to the conclusion that increased production in itself will solve the problem. Techniques to boost production have thus been the central thrust of the ‘war on hunger’ for at least 50 years. Governments, international agencies and agribusiness corporations have promoted ‘modernisation’, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, all to make the land produce more.. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that some American farmers once used 50 million pounds of pesticides and lost 7% of their crop before harvest. Today they use 12 times more pesticides yet the percentage of the crop lost before harvest has almost doubled. The quantities of pesticides injected into the world’s environment, therefore, have little to do with the food needs of the hungry.

World hunger is extensive in spite of sufficient global food resources. Therefore increased food production is no solution. The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food. We need to replace the harmful myth of the importance of financial success – so important to modern capitalism– with the idea of well-being of community and the individual, of people aware of their connectedness with others and their environment, sharing their knowledge with each other.

With globalisation, agriculture as an independent sector has ceased to exist, becoming instead, just one part of an integrated supply chain. The hungry all over the world are linked through a common threat: the tightening of control over the most basic human need – food. The process of increasing concentration of control over land and other productive resources. Because of the selective way news is transmitted to us, we are often unaware of the courageous struggle of millions of people everywhere to gain control over food-producing resources. Distribution of food is a reflection of the control of the resources that produce food. Whoever controls the land determines who can grow food; what is grown; and where it goes. Thus fair-trade redistribution programmes cannot solve the problem of hunger. Instead we must face up to the real question: how can people everywhere begin to democratise the control of food resources?

There is sufficient capacity in the world to produce enough food to feed everyone adequately. Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Hunger and food insecurity above all are expressions of rural poverty. Scarcity cannot be considered the cause of hunger when even in the worst years of famine there is always plenty of food in the world – enough in grain alone to provide everyone in the world with 3000 to 4000 calories a day, not counting all the beans, root crops, fruits, nuts, vegetables and non grain-fed meat? In Central America and in the Caribbean, where as much as 70% of the children are undernourished, at least half of the agricultural land (and the best land) grows crops for export – not food for the local people. Fertile lands are thus made to produce largely low-nutrition crops (sugar, coffee, cocoa) exclusively for export. The same land now growing cocoa, coffee, rubber, tea, or sugar, could grow an incredible diversity of nutritious crops – grains, high-protein legumes, vegetables, fruits and root crops.

Some people say that population growth is the major cause of world hunger. They tell us hunger is caused by too many people pressing against finite resources and we must have strict population control before we can hope to alleviate hunger. The relationship between hunger and population levels is not a simple one. For example, population densities in the Netherlands and Singapore are among the highest in the world but few people would say they are over-populated and starving. Hunger is not caused by too many people sharing the land. If ‘too many people’ cause hunger, we would expect to find more hungry people in countries with more people per agricultural hectare.  Yet we can find no such correlation. Bangladesh, for example, has just half the people per cultivated hectare that Taiwan has. Yet Taiwan has no starvation while people in Bangladesh often experience food shortages. South Korea has just under half the farmland per person found in Bangladesh, yet no one speaks of overcrowding causing hunger in South Korea. Countries with comparatively large amounts of agricultural land per person have some of the most severe and chronic hunger in the world. While severe hunger is a recurring problem for many people in Bolivia, for example, they live in a country with well over one-half acre of cultivated land per person, significantly more than in France. Brazil has more cultivated land per person then the United States. Mexico, where many rural people have suffered from undernourishment, has more cultivated land per person than Cuba, where now virtually no-one is underfed. In the Central America and Caribbean region, for example, Trinidad and Tobago show the lowest percentage of stunted children under five and Guatemala the highest (almost twelve times greater); yet Trinidad and Tobago's cropland per person-a key indicator of human population density-is less than half that of Guatemala's. Costa Rica, with only half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life expectancy-one indicator of nutrition-eleven years longer than that of Honduras and close to that of northern countries. The Netherlands, where there is very little land per person, it has not prevented it from eliminating hunger and becoming a large net exporter of food

A study of 83 countries reveals that just over 3% of the landholders control about 80% of the farmland. Yet research shows that in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala the small farmer to be three to fourteen times more productive per hectare than the larger farmer. In Thailand plots of one to two hectares yield almost 60% more rice per acre than farms of 55 hectares or more. Other proof that justice for the small farmer increases production comes from the experience of countries in which the redistribution of land and other basic agricultural resources like water has resulted in rapid growth in agricultural production: Japan, Taiwan, and China stand out.

Diagnosing the cause of hunger as scarcity inevitably leads to the conclusion that increased production in itself will solve the problem. Techniques to boost production have thus been the central thrust of the ‘war on hunger’ for at least 50 years. Governments, international agencies and agribusiness corporations have promoted ‘modernisation’, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, all to make the land produce more.. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that some American farmers once used 50 million pounds of pesticides and lost 7% of their crop before harvest. Today they use 12 times more pesticides yet the percentage of the crop lost before harvest has almost doubled. The quantities of pesticides injected into the world’s environment therefore have little to do with the food needs of the hungry.

World hunger is extensive in spite of sufficient global food resources. Therefore increased food production is no solution. The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food. We need to replace the harmful myth of the importance of financial success – so important to modern capitalism– with the idea of well-being of community and the individual, of people aware of their connectedness with others and their environment, sharing their knowledge with each other.

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