“Ruinous” agricultural policies forced upon poor countries by donor governments and financial institutions are to blame for the food crisis that threatens 100 million people with hunger, according to the international anti-poverty group Christian Aid.
The report, “Fighting Food Shortages: Hungry for Change,” called for “fundamental changes” in the way the international community seeks to influence agricultural and trade policies in the developing world.
“Nothing less than a pro-poor revolution in agricultural thinking” is required to stop the crisis from worsening, said the report, released on the eve of the recent G8 summit meeting in Japan.
Leaders of the world’s wealthiest nation drew fire at that meeting for, just hours after stating they were “deeply concerned” about rising food shortages and unneeded consumption, dined on a lavish six-course lunch and eight-course dinner served by their Japanese host.
According to Christian Aid, one major long-term cause of food shortages is that, in return for trade and aid, poor countries are forced to accept trade liberalization, which undercuts their ability to raise food for themselves.
Requiring poorer nations to remove protective tariffs in return for aids and loans forces their markets to compete with heavily subsidized crops from richer nations, the report said, forcing local farmers out of business.
Because many poor countries do not grow enough food to feed their own populations, they have to buy supplies from abroad, which have recently more than doubled in price.
One part of the problem, the study said, is that new markets have shifted much planting away from food production to cash crops like tobacco and flowers. That includes demand in the United States for biofuels, which has led to diverting of corn from food to fuel throughout the Americas. Ethanol production has increased about tenfold in the last 10 years.
The price of oil has more than doubled over the past year, pushing up costs both to grow and transport food. The report also blamed global warming for droughts and other extreme weather events that have hit some of the main grain-exporting countries hard.
The report called the food security crisis “a life-threatening emergency” for more than 800 million people who lacked sufficient food even before the current crisis.
It called for a wide range of reforms, including investment in small-scale staple food production, market development, infrastructure, science and technology–first and foremost to counter global warming–to avoid future emergencies
It also challenged “the doctrinaire belief” that “free trade” is an engine that always drives economic growth.
Christian Aid called for improving the plight of women, who in some parts of the world are responsible for up to 70 percent of their country’s food production.
BMS World Mission is focusing on food security this year in its annual “Harvest” resource.
Entitled “For the Least of These,” the resource is inspired by Matthew 25:40: “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?… The King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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