THE food crisis of 2008 never really ended; it was ignored and forgotten. The rich and powerful are well fed; they had no food crisis, no shortage, so in the West it was little more than a short-lived soundbite--tragic but forgettable. To the poor in the developing world, whose ability to afford food is no better now than in 2008, the hunger continues.
Hunger can have many contributing factors: natural disaster, discrimination, war, poor infrastructure. So why, regardless of the situation, is high-tech agriculture always assumed to be the only solution? This premise is put forward and supported by those who would benefit financially if their 'solution' were implemented. Corporations peddle their high-technology genetically engineered seed and chemical packages, their genetically altered animals, always with the 'promise' of feeding the world.
Politicians and philanthropists, who may mean well, jump on the high-technology bandwagon. Could the promise of financial support or investment return fuel their apparent compassion?
A New Green Revolution?
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, supposedly works to achieve a food-secure and prosperous Africa. While these sentiments and goals may be philanthropy at its best, some of the coalition partners have a different agenda.
One of the key players in AGRA, Monsanto, hopes to spread its genetically engineered seed throughout Africa by promising better yields, drought resistance, an end to hunger, etc. etc. Could a New Green Revolution succeed where the original Green Revolution had failed? Or was the whole concept of a Green Revolution a pig in a poke to begin with?
Monsanto giving free seed to poor smallholder farmers sounds great, or are they just setting the hook? Remember, next year those farmers will have to buy their seed. Interesting to note that the Gates Foundation purchased $23.1 million worth of Monsanto stock in the second quarter of 2010. Do they also see the food crisis in Africa as a potential to turn a nice profit? Every corporation has one overriding interest - self-interest - but surely not charitable foundations?
Lack of justice, not food
Food shortages are seldom about a lack of food - there is plenty of food in the world - the shortages occur because of the inability to get food where it is needed and the inability of the hungry to afford it. These two problems are principally caused by, as Frances Moore Lappe put it, a lack of justice. There are also ethical considerations; a higher value should be placed on people than on corporate profit - this must be at the forefront, not an afterthought.
In 2008, there were shortages of food, in some places, for some people. There was never a shortage of food in 2008 on a global basis, nor is there currently. True, some countries, in Africa for example, do not have enough food where it is needed, yet people with money have their fill no matter where they live.
The recent food riots in Mozambique were a result of increased wheat prices on the world market. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates the world is on course to the third largest wheat harvest in history, so increasing wheat prices were not caused by actual shortages, but rather by speculation on the price of wheat in the international market.