Food crisis

Wonderful article in the December New Internationalist about the global food crisis. As the magazine points out, we hear a lot about the financial crisis, but comparatively little about the food crisis which pushed 100 million people into situations of life-threatening malnutrition last year.

What makes it worse was that at the height of the food crisis, Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader, was making $471,000 in profit every hour from its grain trading operations. Also, one of the reasons why people in poor countries were so vulnerable was the World Bank and IMF intervention in the 1990s to force them to accept then-cheap food imports from countries like the US, destroying their own agriculture. Haiti, for example, was self-sufficient in rice in the 1980s, but conditions on a 1994 IMF loan package made it open its markets to subsidised US rice, local production was virtually wiped out, and now the average Haitian cannot afford to buy their staple food. Honduras was nearly self-sufficient in rice before World Bank intervention, and now imports over 80% of its rice. Cote d’Ivoire was a net exporter of rice in the 1970s, but now imports more than half the rice it consumes. And so on…

Another good article in the December was Meat’s Too Expensive, giving lots of statistics to show how unsustainable meat production is, for example that meat production accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Or  that a farmer can feed up to 30 people throughout the year on one hectare with vegetables, fruits, cereals and vegetable fats, but if the same area is used for the production of meat, milk or eggs, the number of persons fed varies from 5 to 10. The conclusion:

The burden of justification should be turned around – not ‘why are you vegetarian?’ but rather ‘why on earth do you eat meat?’