Monday, June 16, 2008


Finance ministers from the G8 countries met on 13 and 14 June in Hokkaido, Japan to discuss the current state of the global economy. The group expressed "strong concerns" about soaring crude oil and agricultural commodity prices, issues that are also high on the EU's current political agenda.

They "focused" also on the global food crisis.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a great plan from the developed world. That's what some protesters from around the world said last Friday at a protest in Brussels.

The fact of the matter is that it is the policies of the powerful that are causing the crisis in the first place.

Take Haiti for example.

Haiti used to produce most of the rice that its population ate. Then, in 1995, the World Bank and IMF made it open its markets to cheap imports and the country was flooded with cheap rice from the US. Now it import 80% of its rice. When prices rocket, as they're doing now, and poor people spend 50-80% of their income on food, it doesn't take a genius to work out what will happen.

Haiti has seen some of the worst food riots in recent months. More than half the population is malnourished while an estimated 830,000 jobs have been lost in recent years, primarily in agriculture.

Another example of the irony of it all comes from another a different food crisis conference earlier this month in Rome (these conferences are becoming all the rage). At the Rome conference the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, spoke about the importance of helping small farmers in developing countries (forgetting to mention that his organisation has helped to put a lot of them out of business over the last 20 years).

Let's not forget a large percentage grain production now goes into making biofuels. Subsidies worth $11-12 billion for biofuels were used to divert 100 million tons of cereals from human consumption in 2006. Why? Because it would help "fight climate change." However, the carbon footprint of the developed world shows no sign of decline as a result. There is in fact little evidence that biofuel production does anything to help out in the fight against global warming. Actually, quite the contrary.

An editorial in the Appeal-Democrat (California) states:

"To continue these subsidies in the wake of the current food crisis is indefensible on economic and humanitarian grounds. Eliminating them for a few years at least would be the single most constructive thing developed countries could do to alleviate food shortages. Yet the U.S. and Europe — joined by Brazil, which has a huge domestic industry in ethanol from sugar cane — stubbornly refused to reconsider their policies."

In other words, a large part of the mess that agriculture is today is the result of the developed world's policy, the policy that puts profit above everything else.

Venezuela's ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Gladys Urbaneja Duran, told delegates at the Rome conference that the current food crisis is "the biggest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model".

"The main reason for the rise in food prices isn't growing demand from the Indian and Chinese markets, or the rise in petroleum prices," she said. "The main reason is that food has been turned into yet another object of market speculation."

José Ramón Machado Ventura, vice president of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, summed it up this way in Rome:

"The world food crisis is not a circumstantial phenomenon. Its recent appearance in such serious form, in a world that produces enough food for all its inhabitants, clearly reveals that the crisis is systemic and structural."

...the countries of the North bear responsibility for the hunger and malnourishment of 854 million people. They imposed trade liberalization and financial rules that demanded structural adjustment on a world composed of clearly unequal actors. They brought ruin to many small producers in the South and turned self-sufficient and even exporting nations into net importers of food products."

The governments of developed countries refuse to eliminate their outrageous agricultural subsidies while imposing their rules of international trade on the rest of the world. Their voracious transnational corporations set prices, monopolize technologies, impose unfair certification processes on trade, and manipulate distribution channels, sources of financing, trade and supplies for the production of food worldwide. They also control transportation, scientific research, gene banks and the production of fertilizers and pesticides."

He also cited this truism, "The right to food is an inalienable human right."

The following is from La Via Campesina.

EU in bed with hunger profiteers : Dying for money

The farmers organisations and social movements CPE, COAG and Seattle to Brussels Network staged a symbolic action in Brussels on Fiday the 13th of June, 2008, to denounce the EU involvement in the corporate profit over the food crisis.

Last week in Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference on food security, the EU promoted more free-trade by concluding the Doha Round, fuelling cars instead of feeding people and more pesticides and fertilizers.

Over the last years, these so-called « solutions » have lead to more profits for the big agribusiness corporations and more poverty and hunger for the people.

These figures are for just three months at the beginning of 2008.

Number of hungry people:

+ 100 million people, reaching one billion hungry people in the world (1/6 of the world total population)

Grain Trading:

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM): Gross profit: $1.15 billion, up 55% from last year

Cargill: Net earnings: $1.03 billion, up 86%

Bunge: Consolidated gross profit: $867 million, up 189%.

Seeds & herbicides:

Monsanto: Gross profit: $2.23 billion, up 54%.

Dupont Agriculture and Nutrition: Pre-tax operating income: $786 million, up 21%


Potash Corporation: Net income: $66 million, up 185.9%

Mosaic: Net earnings: $520.8 million, up more than 1,200%

Meanwhile, local markets are being destroyed and land, water and seeds are being privatized, preventing peasants and small-scale farmers to supply their communities with appropriate food.

Small-scale food producers are able to produce healthy food for everybody. They supply local markets all over the world, while cooling down the earth and protecting biodiversity. For them to continue to do so and prevent further food crisis, we need market regulation and agrarian reform, we need food sovereignty.




Seattle to Brussels Network: Tom Kurschaz +34 619949053

CPE: Morgan Ody +32 486888845

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