In the year 2007, wheat prices rose 77 percent and rice 16 percent. These were some of the sharpest price hikes ever. But this year the speed of change has accelerated even further. Since January 2008, the price of rice has soared just over 140 percent.
Says Josette Sheeran, head of the UN World Food Programme, “… This crisis is different. It is occurring in many countries simultaneously, the first time that has happened since the early 1970s. And it is affecting people not usually hit by famines.”
So what’s happening?
There’s a lot of talk about the rising demand for biofuel being the culprit, as more farmers are now growing biofuel products rather than food, spurred on by various governmental incentives. But that’s certainly not the one and only factor fueling this world-wide problem.
What has Caused This Burgeoning Food Crisis?
Other factors that have been pointed out, in various articles spread across the past weeks, include:
--Improved financial situation of people in China and India has increased demand for western-style diets rich in grains, meat and dairy
--Export quotas by large grain producers, coupled with panic-buying by grain importers
--Trade imbalances among nations
--Population growth, adding 78 million people per year
--Global warming. Unfavorable climatic conditions in 2007 devastated crops in Australia and reduced harvest in other European countries. Southern Africa and the western U.S. have been plagued with severe drought.
--Unsustainable use of land and water
--Rising oil prices, as fossil fuels are needed throughout the agricultural process, from running tractors, to fertilizer production, to shipping
--A few others, from non-traditional media outlets, bypass all these “excuses” and point the finger directly at the similarities between our current situation and previous man-made famines for the end purpose of mass genocide.
In January 2008, the BBC broadcast a segment in their “The Things We Forgot to Remember,” featuring Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen, among others, speaking about the 1943-1945 Bengal famine in which 6-7 million people perished when the price of rice doubled, and then finally quadrupled. However, that famine, as now, was not caused by a food deficit per say, but rather by the callous politics in the area at the time.
Personally, one of the things that bother me most after reading through multiple articles on this issue, are the frequent references to the need for “higher yield crops,” rather than the development of sustainable agriculture. Although the names of any particular biotech companies are never mentioned, it walks, talks and reeks like poorly cloaked Monsanto propaganda.
Monsanto’s Rich Harvest
Monsanto’s genetically altered seeds tripled their first-quarter earnings, from $90 million to $256 million, according to BusinessWeek in January 2008. Their GM seeds have been a prime beneficiary of the growing demand for food and alternative fuel sources.
I have a sinking feeling that Monsanto will eventually ride in like a knight in shining armor, offering to end the world-wide plight with its high-yield spawn – those one-time-use-only seeds with dubious genetic signatures that may or may not kill anything that’s left. They already began that project in mid-2007, with the Gates and Rockefeller foundations donating $150 million worth of GMO crops to “reform agriculture and end hunger in Africa.”
That would surely be one of the absolute worst case scenarios we could possibly face, as GM crops are bound to do far more harm than good, both to the biodiversity of the planet and your individual health, through the unchecked introduction of foreign genetic material and hardier pests.