Interesting viewpoints on the future of food security

The following 2 posts were in the Western Producer. It’s interesting how Big Biotech’s are on this crusade to ‘feed the world’. I have commented many times both here and in speaking that they have no such intention. Poor people can’t buy food. Period. Finally, someone else shares my thoughts, only this time with a twist:

By Barry Wilson, Ottawa bureau
November 19, 2009

The marvel of 21st century science is that it seems to have almost no limit other than stilted imaginations.

The physical mysteries of life are revealed through genome mapping.

A rocket is crashed into the moon and water is discovered.

The laboratory has become nature-in-a-hurry, making discoveries that would have been science fiction a generation ago.

Now, if those brainiacs could just create a way to embed calories into empty rhetoric, the world’s billion hungry people would find their bellies growing from nutrition.

Sixteen months ago, in the midst of soaring food prices that were driving millions more citizens of the world into hunger, representatives of nearly 200 countries that are members of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization gathered in Rome to pledge to do something.

FAO director-general Jacques Diouf lectured them. He argued that the widespread hunger of 2007-08 was “disaster foretold,” The Western Producer reported from the 2008 world hunger summit.

Twelve years ago “in this very chamber,” delegates pledged to halve hunger by 2015, he said. By 2002, the number of hungry was rising so another summit recommitted. Yet investment in agriculture continued to decline, he said.

They gathered again only after “media thrust the painful spectacle of suffering into the homes of the wealthy countries. It was only when the destitute and those excluded from the abundant tables of the rich took to the streets to voice their discontent and despair that the first reactions in support of food aid began to emerge.”

Once again, there were solemn promises of a real attack on the blight of hunger in a world awash in food.

Sixteen months later? The world economic crisis has added tens of millions to the hunger rolls, which now top a record one billion.

So last week, they were at it again.

FAO called a world food summit. Delegates unanimously approved a declaration “pledging renewed commitment to eradicate hunger from the face of the earth sustainably and at the earliest date.”

This time, Diouf put a price tag on it. “Eliminating hunger from the face of the earth requires $44 billion US of official development assistance to be invested in infrastructure, technology and modern inputs.”

For perspective, the annual expenditure on military is $1.34 trillion.

After the dinners and speeches, delegates headed home, presumably pumped by their new commitment to rid the world of a shameful situation that results from political indifference rather than lack of resources.

This time will be different! Even Pope Benedict XVI got involved, praising them for their resolve.

“God bless your efforts to ensure that all people are given their daily bread,” he said.

Back on the ground, the chronically hungry almost certainly were not glued to their radios cheering the dawn of a new, food-plentiful day.

They were lining up for food aid or scrounging for scraps or dying.

_____________

From Western Producer Jan. 7, 2010

Barry Wilson’s article “For rich nations, words far cheaper than food; if only the poor could eat them” (WP, Nov. 19) provides an important lesson.
Wilson writes that we appear unable to reduce hunger, no matter how many words are used.
There have been many proud pronouncements about how hunger will be beaten.
At the 1974 World Food Conference in Rome, U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger stated: “Within 10 years, no child will go to bed hungry.”
Similar pronouncements have been made at each of the major global food summits during the past 45 years. However, hunger has increased. Why?
Perhaps we use the wrong words. Actions needed to reduce hunger run counter to dominant economic and political thinking.
Hunger is a matter of wealth distribution; poor people are the ones hungry. Seventy-five percent of the world’s hungry are small-holder farmers. Do our words reflect this reality?
Words like land reform, fair trade, appropriate technology, and local control are needed. Why does the Dole pineapple company in Honduras get all the good land while poor local farmers get only hill slopes?
Hopeful words are now coming from other places — the biotech industry, for example (see “Anti-GMO threatens ag: Syngenta”, WP, Nov. 5).
The biotech industry is using the world hunger issue to advance its business. I question the words coming from biotech companies and offer two examples.
Monsanto promises to improve the water use efficiency of crop plants by 30 percent within 15 or so years.
People who have come to believe that all things are possible with biotechnology should listen to those who really know plants — people like Tom Sinclair of the University of Florida, one of the world’s top plant physiologists.
At last year’s American Society of Agronomy conference in Houston, he stated: “I don’t care what any chemical company tells you …” referring to the fact that the amount of water required to bring a molecule of carbon dioxide into plants (water use efficiency) is fixed in the plant’s hard drive and cannot be changed.
The way to increase water use efficiency is to reduce water evaporation from soil through no-till and cover crops and not use precious water to irrigate corn for feedlots.
By making this promise, Monsanto gives the illusion that it has the answer to a critical global problem. It has fallen into the same trap as the food summit people.
Dr. Brian Rossnagel has his own word to describe such empty promises (“Processors keen on purchasing GM oats” WP, Dec. 17).
Solving the world’s problems requires people with integrity. Syngenta is using Rosa Parks, the woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus during the civil rights movement in the U.S., and Gandhi, the man who brought dignity and independence to India, to endorse its latest campaign called “Take a stand for sustainability.”
Syngenta’s project is not about sustainability. It’s about herbicide resistance management, a problem Syngenta helped create.
Using Rosa Parks and Gandhi in such a campaign shows how low agribusiness will stoop for profits. If Syngenta really wants to change, I suggest inviting people like Rosa Parks and Gandhi to serve on its board of directors.
Creating food security requires serious people, not opportunists. Thank you, Barry Wilson, for reminding us to choose our words and actions wisely.
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