Posts Tagged ‘food security’

“Global food prices are at record highs, driven by huge increases in the price of wheat, corn, sugar, dairy and oils. A complex mix of factors simultaneously boosting demand and constraining supply means the recent price surges might be just the beginning”. Below is a list of some of the main factors on the demand and supply side:


  • continuing rapid population growth, especially in so-called developing countries, means rising demand for food (we’re close to reaching 7 billion people on this planet this year, with 9.5 billion predicted by 2050, which will be a 300% increase on 1950s’ figures)
  • rising prosperity, especially in Asia and Brazil: wealthier people eat differently compared to poorer people, and they eat more and are willing and able to pay more for food; meat and dairy consumption has been growing rapidly and dietary pattern developed in Western countries over centuries have shifted in developing countries in decades
  • the arrival of new investors in food commodity markets (including large pension funds), being attracted by higher profits as a result of higher food prices


  • ever-increasing production of biofuels: a result of peak oil, rising fossil fuel demands from growing economic power houses like China, India and Brazil, climate change concerns, misguided and unsustainable government policies and economic interventions, profiteering by energy companies and other factors that made energy prices shoot up; all have led to a reduction in available areas dedicated to growing food and diverting millions of tons of cereals away from food markets
  • climate impacts, having led to weather related crop destruction over the last few years in main food producing countries like Russia, the US and Australia
  • the so-called Green Revolution that started to deliver increasing outputs since the 1960 is coming to the end of its life cycle
  • urbanisation and pollution are contributing to a growing scarcity of land and water; it is predicted that by 2030, 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas under water stress if current trends aren’t being reversed (and that will not just affect to so-called developing world)
  • government policies, especially restrictions and bans on food exports having negative consequences on food availability

Interesting times ahead, not just for food supply but also for whatever exists as world peace …

Source: SMH

The following is the text of a talk given by Jorge Soberon, Cuba’s Consul General in Toronto, Canada, to a meeting of food sovereignty sponsored by the Venezuela We Are With You Coalition (CVEC).

[“Food sovereignty” is a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996 to refer to a policy framework advocated by a number of farmers, peasants, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, rural youth and environmental organizations, namely the claimed “right” of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces. See additional information at the end of this article.]

cuban market
Farmer’s market in Havana; Source:

As a sovereign country, Cuba is working to develop its food industry and reduce dependence on food imports.

Cuba is working to ensure an adequate level of food to more than 11 million inhabitants. In Cuba no one is helpless or dying of hunger. There are special programs to ensure food for the most vulnerable segments of the population.

To achieve this goal, Cuba faces high world market prices and the growing negative effects of climate change and the policy of the United States.

Food imports from the United States continue to be affected by insecurity. They are subject to strict supervision and licensing for export and transportation of agricultural products to our country. Moreover, Cuba has no access to the technologies available in the United States or to credit from that country.

The Cuban government has identified food production as a major task and a matter of utmost national security. More than half of the agricultural land in Cuba is held by non-governmental organizations.

Due to the demise of the Soviet Union and the strengthening of the blockade of the United States during the 90s, Cuba faced an economic crisis that forced us to seek solutions to our national food production.

Thus the urban agriculture in Cuba, a country where 75% of its population lives in urban areas, but an important part comes from the countryside and has farming culture.

Urban agriculture is carried out throughout the country and is planned taking into account the number of inhabitants of each town or city. The organic matter that is used and the biological controls in place makes it possible to preserve the fertility of the soil. The available area is used to produce food in an intensive manner. Science and technology are applied, maintaining a supply of fresh products, all with the goal of obtaining a balanced production of agricultural products.

Urban agriculture is an important source of income, due to the demand of the popular market, the workplaces, and special places that exist to take care of vulnerable populations. The high educational level of the people facilitates the rapid assimilation of new techniques and technologies. Urban agriculture constitutes a major source of urban nutrition, contributes to the elimination of urban rubbish dumps and constitutes an important source of employment. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have jobs in urban agriculture. In Cuba, urban agriculture is supported by seed houses and agricultural centres of production of organic matter.

Foods obtained through urban agriculture constitute an important amount of the total consumed by the population in cities, in addition to other options like imported food or food guaranteed by the state.

The system of urban agriculture in Cuba produced more than 1.4 million tons of food in 2008, in more than nine thousand hectares located in all municipalities. In 10 years, vegetable production increased six times over.

Three factors have been crucial to their advancement: Training of the workforce. The system of payment to workers by the end results of labour. Systematic evaluation of the results.

Urban agriculture is one of the best alternatives for the restoration of food production after the passage of hurricanes, allowing the recovery of agricultural production in few months.

Among the recent steps taken to further develop agricultural production is the distribution of vacant land for its use, for those that can produce food. At present, Cuba is modernizing its food industry to increase the ability to process and preserve agricultural products.

The development of agriculture in Cuba receives strong support from the state. The actions taken contribute to food security and adequate nutrition. The goal is not only to produce food, but also to make it affordable and accessible to the population. The habit of consuming vegetables has grown and generates jobs and income, product prices are competitive and urban agriculture has improved hygiene and sanitation of the cities by developing agriculture in areas that are abandoned.

In addition, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA: Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela) is a tool for agricultural and rural development of nations of the region and aims to ensure access to fair and stable prices of basic foods through cooperation on food sovereignty and security.

Cuba will continue to work and cooperate with other countries to ensure the solution of dietary and nutritional needs for all its people, protecting and enhancing thereby the living standards of the Cuban people and other peoples and promoting national initiatives to ensure our sovereignty and independence in food production and distribution.

[Thanks for this to Suzanne Weiss of CVEC.]

[Via Climate and Capitalism]

cuba herbs
Herbs and spices production; Source:


Via Campesina’s seven principles of food sovereignty include:

  1. Food: A Basic Human Right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
  2. Agrarian Reform. A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people – especially women – ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
  3. Protecting Natural Resources. Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.
  4. Reorganizing Food Trade. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
  5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger. Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.
  6. Social Peace. Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
  7. Democratic control. Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decisionmaking on food and rural issues.

Food sovereignty is increasingly being promoted as an alternative framework to the narrower concept of food security, which mostly focuses on the technical problem of providing adequate nutrition. For instance, a food security agenda that simply provides surplus grain to hungry people would probably be strongly criticised by food sovereignty advocates as just another form of commodity dumping, facilitating corporate penetration of foreign markets, undermining local food production, and possibly leading to irreversible biotech contamination of indigenous crops with patented varieties. U.S. taxpayer subsidized exports of Bt corn to Mexico since the passage of NAFTA is a case in point.


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The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 1 billion people on the planet (or 1/6 of the human population) do not have to enough to sustain themselves; in other words they suffer from hunger, malnutrition and all related after-effects. And while the wealthy countries’ governments are busy spending tax money on bailing out their rich upper class peers, the situation for those 1.02 billion is getting worse.

Australia for example promised to spend a meagre 0.5% of gross national income (GNI) on international aid by 2015 BUT, because that income isn’t rising as fast as predicted, even that half a percent will be less money for the poor than projected – a result of international bankers and other shady figures, including those in government, having ripped the heart of the world’s economy.

This is a particularly poor performance by this country given that it is a relatively rich island in a poor neighbourhood: 642 million of the total number of those who don’t have enough to eat live in the Asia-Pacific region (a further 265 million are in sub-Saharan Africa, 53 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, 52 million in in the Middle East and north Africa and even the euphemistically called ‘developed’ countries have their share of 15 million hungry people).

Originally the FAO expected a better than expected food supply and had lowered its estimate for the world’s hungry from 963 million to 915 million. However, the organisation’s head Jacques Diouf now says that a “dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people that last year into chronic hunger and poverty”. And this year the number of the hungry is “expected” to  grow by another 11%! (I wonder how Jacques must feel when he talks about the hungry poor while sitting on a US$250-300,000 base salary).

What always amazes me is the clinically clean and detached language used by those ‘activist’ bureaucrats to describe the causes for poverty and hunger: economic crisis, global economic slowdown, high national food prices, reductions in expected food supply. These are words that won’t change anything, certainly not in terms of the structure that causes the growing gap between the rich and poor, the North and South, the haves and havenots. It is a structure based on exploitation of the bottom by the top, competition for power and wealth in which the poor count nothing, and a patriarchy that has never known values such as care, empathy, compassion and respect and instead thrives on greed, warfare and violence.

Patriarchy is a large contributor to economic and social injustice, wars and violence. The vast majority of those suffereing from hunger and poverty are women and children, and the vast majority of those involved in wars, oppression and other callous and violent acts against others and the environment are men.

As long as these bureaucratic hunger managers on fat salaries don’t sacrifice large chunks of their salaries and get their hands dirty in helping the poor hands-on plus have the courage to name the real structural causes of suffering, adversity and injustice, nothing will change. And it’s a similar case for the rest of us: if we don’t get up collectively to do our part to overthrow this exploitative, unjust and violent system of privilege and power, neither poverty nor injustice will disappear on either side of our doorstep. If we don’t change, nothing else will change, and in the end we all might join the big suffering when our most consequential violence, the one against nature, takes its big toll.

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Abhiyan (Seed Freedom Movement) protest against GM

By Priya Kumar
Global Research

“Over 100,000 farmers have committed suicide…” – a very comprehensive and insightful article on India’s agriculture and the immeasurable damage international trade rules, multi-national agro-business conglomerates and the Indian government have inflicted on the traditional farming culture and its people.


The reality for the average Indian remains the same: agricultural cultivation and the ability to farm is the bedrock of rural living. With its historical practices, values, and communal sentiments of respect, cultivation and the practice of farming has embedded roots. Farming for Indians is not only a source of income – it is a source of culture and identity. Since the late 1990s however, Indian governmental officials have wilfully compromised this sentiment for the ‘bright lights’ associated with the West.

After over a decade of trade liberalization and free market reforms, mainstream economic development has left rural India to fend for itself. Amidst great levels of industrialization and growth, the vast majority of Indians have been left behind. Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for some 70% of Indians[1]. Considering the fact that only 1% of Americans and 2-3% of Europeans derive their livelihood from agriculture, this is a huge level of dependence[2].

India’s desire to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the adoption of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs) specifically has compromised the livelihood of farmers. With the adoption of such neo-liberal policies, the sovereignty of rural India has been threatened. TRIPs in particular has created a gateway for agro-business conglomerates to engage in biopiracy and GM seed monopolization, effectively marginalizing rural communities. Through the manipulation of intellectual property rights (IPRs), conglomerates such as Monsanto have put rural farmers on the defensive. This paper highlights the manipulative nature and destabilizing affects of patents, IPRs and agro-business conglomerates in the context of rural India. Special focus is placed upon the infamous Basmati rice case, and Bt cotton, the first GM seed made available to Indian farmers.

Through these case studies, this paper will illustrate both the intent and impact of agro-business conglomerates and the associated costs incurred by farmers. Centuries of indigenous knowledge, tradition cultivation practises and sharing techniques are being compromised. Many farmers have lost their right to cultivate and control the agricultural production cycle. As a result, farmers increasingly find themselves indebt, disempowered and most alarming, suicidal. With approximately one in every four farmers globally being Indian, the rural lifestyle – the cultural origins of India are being threatened[3]. Agro-business conglomerates are promoting a cycle of dependence, which, if not stopped will carry with it disastrous affects for the entire country.


The list represents a collection of recent articles by the Global Research Institute:

Sid Shniad, Daniel Estulin, James Petras & Russ Baker on The Global Research News Hour– Host: Stephen Lendman. Program Details, June 1-5 – 2009-06-05

Biopiracy, GM Seeds & Rural India

– by Priya Kumar – 2009-06-02

The Economic Crisis in Australia

– by Peter Murray – 2009-06-01

Is Larry Summers Taking Kickbacks From the Banks He’s Bailing Out?

– by Mark Ames – 2009-06-01

Grand Theft Auto: The Bankruptcy of General Motors

– by Greg Palast – 2009-06-01

We Can’t Break Up the Financial Giants . . . Or Can We?

– by Washington’s Blog – 2009-06-01

“The True Story of the Bilderberg Group” and What They May Be Planning Now

A Review of Daniel Estulin’s book
– by Stephen Lendman – 2009-06-01

Danger of Military Conflict over Arctic? Battle For Resources May Intensify

– 2009-06-01

Homeland Security to Scan Fingerprints of Travellers Exiting the US

– by Brett Winterford – 2009-05-31

World Farmers’ alliance Challenges Food Profiteers

Review of Annette Aurélie Desmarais’ book
– by John Riddell – 2009-05-31

Is Obama Truly Serious on Ending Failed “War on Drugs”

– by Sherwood Ross – 2009-05-31

Iraq: The Return of the Resistance

– by Dahr Jamail – 2009-05-31



The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse. These are the key concepts of an article in this month’s Scientific American:

  • Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos.
  • Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.
  • Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production.
  • Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order.

To read the full article, click on this link.

The earth’s surface is covered to 70% by water of which only 3% are drinkable. No wonder large multi-nationals are muscling in on controlling this resource, which will become economically even more valuable as the climate disaster will make it more scarce in many parts of the world. With oil production having moved moved past its peak, water will become the new ‘oil’ in terms of profiteering and vandalising the environment.

ISTANBUL – A global ministerial meeting was putting the final touches here Saturday to resolutions for tackling the world’s water crisis but activists attacked the process as a corporate-driven fraud.

h2oistanbulThe communique to be issued by more than 100 countries on World Water Day on Sunday climaxes a seven-day gathering on how to provide clean water and sanitation for billions and resolve worsening water stress and pollution.

“The world is facing rapid and unprecedented global changes, including population growth, migration, urbanization, climate change, desertification, drought, degradation and land use, economic and diet changes,” according to a draft seen by AFP.

The document, which is non-binding, spells out a consensus for boosting cooperation to ease trans-boundary disputes over water, preventing pollution and tackling drought and floods. It also describes access to safe drinking water and sanitation as “a basic human need.” France, Spain and several Latin American countries were striving to beef up this reference, from “need” to “right,” a change that could have legal ramifications.

But campaigners representing the rural poor, the environment and organized labor blasted the communique as a sideshow, stage-managed for corporations who are major contributors to the World Water Council, which organizes the Forum.

Maude Barlow, senior adviser to the president of the UN General Assembly, said the Forum promoted privatization of resources by “the lords of water” and excluded dissident voices. She called for the meeting to be placed under the UN flag. “We demand that the allocation of water be decided in an open, transparent and democratic forum rather than in a trade show for the world’s large corporations,” Barlow told a press conference.