World food riots have begun. There is social unrest, precipitated by the deepening world food crisis and rising food prices, in at least 30 nations, and spreading rapidly. Food shortages – primarily a crisis of distribution, and not supply – grow while prices rise, as global warming, biofuel production, environmental degradation, commodities speculation, oil depletion, rising energy costs, rising meat and dairy intake, over-consumption, hording and waste, as well as the increasing global economic madness of a predatory neoliberal corporate dominated world economy, drive the crisis to deepening levels. The crisis is world-wide, affecting North and South, East and West, though Africa, Asia and Latin America are taking the worst of the brunt, as usual. However, this is a truly global crisis, particularly as the middle class is being wiped out in the “advanced” industrial nations, and no stop-gap measures will suffice to remedy the growing problem. It is a problem of spreading poverty, primarily, with ecological and geological factors weighing in heavily as well. It is primarily a testimony to the utter failure of the global corporatist order of neoliberal politics and economics – or its success, depending on whether you are among the tiny business elite, or among the vast majority of the world’s polulation, which is sliding rapidly downward into not only serfdom, but also abject poverty. It is the latest chapter in the rape of the Earth.
Common sense, cooperation and basic human traits such as solidarity and sharing will be needed to resolve this growing disaster. That may be a tall order, but within reach.
However, as much as this is the case, soon we will hear the cries of the giant agro-chemical-biotech corporations (which are all now merged) – the same corporations that bear a large portion of the responsibility for undermining ecosystems, world food security and equitable food distribution, helping to cause the crisis they will claim to solve – claiming again that genetically modified foods will be the salvation of the world.
As most people now are aware, genetically modified (GM) foods pose far too great a risk to humanity and the earth, as their effects are unknown. The popular film I Am Legend speaks eloquently of the more dire possibilities arising from unleashing technology we do not understand. But we should be ready for the PR campaign, as it will unfold shortly.
Half a dozen giant corporations dominate the world food system. It is these same giants that have been deeply involved in the food crisis which has unfolded and worsened over many decades, and who will shortly present their highly deceitful plans to “save the world” from hunger, through biotechnology and genetic engineering – a move that will only increase the risks to humanity, while further increasing the already great control over world food production and distribution which is held by the world’s financial elite. Watch for this.
While the biotech and agrochemical giants are storing the world’s seeds in a Doomsday Vault in Norway, they are simulataneously preparing to push genetically modified food crops on Africa. Something truly nefarious is in the works. I shudder to think what the robber barons have in mind this time. Probably they plan to use a global food crisis, which they have consciously helped to create, to bring about the wide-spread implementation of bio-tech foods, which will give them even greater profits and even greater control over the world’s food system – which means greater power over the world’s population, and which will effectively consolidate their position as the Lords of the Earth. At least, this seems to be the general outline of what the world’s business elite have in mind. And for anyone who has any knowledge of the history of the past 150 years, this should come as no big surprise, considering the unspeakable record of the food and chemical giants – United Fruit, Unilever, IG Farben, Dow, Dupont, Cargill, Monstanto and Union Carbide to name a few – and with the generally appalling record of contempt for humanity shown by the world’s corporate elite more generally.
The leading figure in both the GM foods drive and the Doomsday Vault in Norway, appears to be none other than the most powerful businessman in the Americas, head of the Trilateral Commission as well as City Bank, America’s biggest bank, and half a dozen other corporate lobby groups and think tanks: the most slithery David Rockefeller. God help us all.
Thankfully, such megalomaniacal power plays have never faired well through history, and every one of them has been ultimately defeated, as we will do once again.
The clear aim of the world’s business elite is simply world dominance – as was the case for every power monger and would be emperor of the past. The strategy, apparently, of the global business elite, now that scaring the public into submission is not working as well as was hoped, seems to be to starve us into submission. There seem to be two interwoven strategies for global dominance on the part of the world’s financial barons. One is to frighten the people into submission, via the “war on terror” – and since the effectiveness of that stratggy is waning and falling short, there will likely be a devoted search for new ways to scare us into giving up our liberties, our rights and our power. The second strategy is even more dark, if that is possible, and that is to lay seige to the world: to squeeze the public so tightly economically, including the method of depriving the basics of life, such as food, so that surrender is obtained. I would dare speculate that this is the second part of the strategy. Intimidation, manipulation, deciet, and seige: in short, psychological warfare and control of resources – strange that the tactics of empires have changed so little over the ages. In any case, the necessary actions on our part are the same.
While the corporate players work their dark schemes, back here in the world of basic sanity and simple human decency, we can see pretty clearly what needs to be done, if we are willing to look.
A number of actions must be taken collectively if we are to seriously address and resolve the world’s growing food crisis, including a rapid shift to organic farming and green energy (and not biofuels which effectively burn food), the protection of forests, wetlands and farmland, reduction of meat and dairy consumption, a dramatic reduction in consumption and waste among the consuming classes, a re-orientation of the economy, including production, distribution and purchasing, toward re-localization and bioregionalism, and above all, the elimination of poverty, which in turn requires a radical restructuring of the global economy, away from its present drive for accumulation of massive wealth and power in the hands of a few, and towards an economic system which benefits all.
The most pointed part of the question concerns resource allocation, including access to land, food and water, as well as equitable and universal economic empowerment more broadly. While we must address the environmental causes of the food crisis, as well as biofuel usage, the current problem is not one of supply but of distribution. If we continue to destroy the environment, then we will soon have supply problems as well – and of vast proportions. Naturally, we must cease to destroy the basis of agricultural production, viable living oceans and life on earth generally. But the primary cause of hunger and the growing food crisis at present has nothing to do with supply, and everything to do with control.
It is a matter of the globalization of poverty, as Ottawa University economics professor Michel Chossudovsky has called it, under a global neoliberal economic order which effectively consolidates dominance over the world’s economy as well as the world’s food system in the hands of a few giant transnational corporations. Three companies control over 90% of world trade in bananas. Three companies dominate the world trade in coffee. One company controls 90% of world tea markets (Unilever). One company dominates in world grain distribution (Cargill). With such a stranglehold, the biggest corporations can squeeze both the farmers who produce the food, paying them as little as possible, and less every year, while queezing the consumers as well, driving prices up for the end buyer while robbing the farmer. Hence, world prices for bulk coffee have plummetted over the past 30 years, while the end consumer still pays dearly enough to ensure Nestle makes nice fat, growing profits. Coffee farmers can barely survive, but Nestle seems happy. Prices of bread and rice rise to levels world wide where more and more people can’t afford to eat properly, but Cargill has record profits, rising every year. It is a shell game, the natural result of monopoly capitalism. If we want food security or food availability for all, then the robber barons must go. Until this happens, the world’s food crisis will continue to deepen, and social and political instability, including the eruption of violence and wars, will continue to escalate.
The world currently produces enough food to feed all. The problem, presently, is not production but distribution. If we cut waste and over-consumption, learn to share equitably, as kindergarten was supposed to teach us, we will have a future of mutual abundance. Population must be addressed, but population is not the primary issue: 20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of the world’s resources; a trend that is only worsening. Further, experience has shown that the best way to halt population growth is to end poverty. When poor people know that their only security in later years of life comes from their children, and half their children will die before adulthood, they will continue to have large families. End poverty, and children become an expense, rather than an insurance policy, and population growth halts, as has heppened in every region, state and nation where poverty has been substantively reduced (Kerala State in India being the text book example). Therefore the choice we face is clear: war and greed, or peace and solidarity with sharing and dignity for all. A choice is at hand. Freedom, abundance and dignity for all is a possibility, if we choose to act on it.
We cannot understand nor realistically address the growing world food crisis if we do not understand its causes. Basic common sense and human decency are all that is required. But we will have to act quickly and decisively.
I hope this overview has been of some small help in dealing with this issue, which is but one more of the great and troubling issues plaguing the world and begging for action – one more issue which is intertwined with the rest. Empire, poverty, destruction, war and greed, or freedom, equality, peace and sustainability? The choices become more stark by the day. And these are all tied together.
J. Todd Ring,
May 14, 2008