some thoughts on our food security as a global community

August 27th, 2010 by brooke

heres a little rant originally written for and included in the first issue of Germination:

“The first and most important impact of climate change on human civilization will be an acute and permanent crisis of food supply….Eating regularly is a non-negotiable activity and countries that cannot feed their people are unlikely to be ‘reasonable’ about it” says Gwynne Dyer, a journalist of international affairs in his book Climate Wars. He points out that climate scientist predict the global temperature rising by approximately 3-4 degrees farenheit by 2050 which would reduce the world’s grain supply by 10-20%.

The Oakland Institute published a report last year called The Great Land Grab:Rush for world’s farmland threatens food security for the poor. The report discusses the widespread phenomenon of wealthy nations and private investors purchasing vast tracts of remaining arable land in developing countries, stating that between 37 and 49 million acres of farmland were purchased by foreign investors between 2006 and 2009. The report also “lays bare the insidious role played by international financial institutions like the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank and Foreign investment Advisory Service(FIAS), as well as rich nations, in promoting and facilitating this widespread land re-appropriation-all in the name of promoting food security through foreign investment in agriculture….the report exposes how the huge sell-offs of resources undermines food security and land reform efforts.” the authors ask that “we question the assumption that increased investment in agriculture is beneficial for all parties involved”

Many regions, especially in the global south, but also in the north already experience drought, desertification, erosion, water pollution etc. due to climate change and human land use patterns. An estimated sixth of humanity-1.92 billion people currently suffer from chronic hunger. Of course we can point to industrial agriculture as one significant root cause of our ecological catastrophies, but we also have to look sharply at the political institutions that devised, the concepts of life systems as a business, agriculture as an industry in the first place. Capitalism has a very bad track record.

The ravages brought upon people and place by corporate industrial agriculture are a mirror of the ideological system that engineered it. Wendell Berry argues in his essay Agricultural Solutions for Agricultural Problems that the logic of industry will never solve the problems that it has created, because , as efficient and redemptive as it claims to be, it is “characterized by exhaustion and contamination”. He believes that the dire problems that we face must instead be solved by taking cues from biological systems where waste does not occur, and by following the lead of human cultures who have designed agricultural systems around these principles.

I would also add, in dire times regarding food and water security, it is extremely important not to look to the same political ideology (corporate, “freetrade” capitalism) and the same political institutions, to ameliorate the massive and complex problem that it has conceived via more complex technologies and more massive financing schemes.

Recently i saw that Monsanto had published a full page color advertisment in the New York Times which showed a picture of seed and a water droplet on a leaf. The text read: “how can we squeeze more from a rain drop?” An article published on analyzes: “the promise of the ad is more or less that Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds are going to save the world from environmental catastrophe and human hunger, all the while the corporation made more than 11 billion dollars in 2008 amidst a world food crisis” As well as monopolizing the ag industry and seeding the destruction of small farming economies throughout the world, the bio-engineered products of Monsanto (and other companies of their ilk) have directly led to increased pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use which is what poisons the water supply and degrades the land in the first place.

So this is just the thing–in times like these, when there really is alot to be scared about, our corporate ‘leaders’ harness this authentic and tender human emotion-fear-to their advantage, to disguise the real issues. In this case, the real issue is simple:people’s need to have control over their own food supply: their land, water, seeds, pest managment systems, their agricultural and cultural traditions . The systematic destruction of food sovereignty in thousands of communities around the world is the heart of the world hunger crisis.

So how can we re-take our food sovereignty? First we would need land reform, de-privatization of resources, then we would probably see re-localization of trade. These are certainly radical issues which have been the center of many a war and battle. We would have to put an all-out halt on ecologically destructrive industry so that we have land and water left to cultivate. This would set the stage for an all-out cooperative re-investment in restoring ecological systems.

These ideas are so basic-they would have you beleive that they are naive. Maybe they sound crazy and unlikely . But how much more crazy could it get than the way we currently treat food, resources and people. And if we are going to be crazy we might as well be crazy in a good way.

Leave a Reply