Fellow WordPress.com blogger Dandelion Salad (and I call him my fellow blogger, which is a disservice to him, or gives me way too much credit) has a thoughtful essay on the increasingly dire global food price calamity.
You’re aware that food prices are skyrocketing, aren’t you? Here’s what The Economist (best magazine on the planet) had to say about it recently:
“This is a silent tsunami,” says Josette Sheeran of the World Food Programme, a United Nations agency. A wave of food-price inflation is moving through the world, leaving riots and shaken governments in its wake. For the first time in 30 years, food protests are erupting in many places at once. Bangladesh is in turmoil (see article); even China is worried (see article). Elsewhere, the food crisis of 2008 will test the assertion of Amartya Sen, an Indian economist, that famines do not happen in democracies.
That got my attention.
Many explanations have been presented for this tragedy in the making. Two popular ones: global warming, and biofuel production diverting crops from nutritional to industrial use. Richard C. Cook, writing in Dandelion Salad (newly added to our blogroll) provides considerably more informed analysis.
Crisis in Food Prices Threatens Worldwide Starvation: Is it Genocide?
Posted on April 24, 2008 by dandelionsalad | Dandelion Salad | by Richard C. Cook |Global Research, April 24, 2008
Rising worldwide food prices are resulting in shortages, riots and protests, promises by governments to expand food aid, expressions of concern by international bodies like the World Bank, and stress on household budgets even in developed countries like the U.S. Did this just “happen” or is there a plan?
Plenty of commentators think they have it figured out and blame such factors as greater demand for high-end protein menus by the increasingly upscale populations of China and India, weather factors relating to global warming such as drought in Australia, and the diversion of animal feed crops such as corn and soybeans to ethanol production. L.H. Teslik of the Council on Foreign Relations speaks of “bubbling inflation and rising oil prices.”
There is also the question of whether a role is being played by commodity speculation. The idea is that faced with the global financial crisis,and the collapse of mortgage-based securities, investors are flocking to resource-based tangibles as a hedge against recession and the decline of the U.S. dollar. Hence gold is at record levels with oil keeping the same pace. How else to explain, for instance, the doubling of the price of rice in Asian markets in less than two months? Standard Chartered Bank food commodities analyst Abah Ofon says, “Fund money flowing into agriculture has boosted prices. It’s fashionable. This is the year of agricultural commodities.”
Here’s a commentator with a talent for coining a phrase:
First of all, let’s get rid of the idea that we are seeing “impersonal market forces” at work. “Supply and demand” is not a “law”—it’s a policy.
[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]
Finally, we’re reminded that this dreadful issue is really not on the radar of the U.S. electorate:
And not one of the candidates remaining in the U.S. presidential election—John McCain, Hillary Clinton, nor Barack Obama—has addressed the food pricing issue. Indeed, all three are part of a government that has gone so far as to exclude much of the rising cost of food from measurements of inflation, an innovation that took place on Bill Clinton’s watch.
Finally, let’s allow The Economist to frame the issue in dollars-and-cents:
Famine traditionally means mass starvation. The measures of today’s crisis are misery and malnutrition. The middle classes in poor countries are giving up health care and cutting out meat so they can eat three meals a day. The middling poor, those on $2 a day, are pulling children from school and cutting back on vegetables so they can still afford rice. Those on $1 a day are cutting back on meat, vegetables and one or two meals, so they can afford one bowl. The desperate—those on 50 cents a day—face disaster.
This is an environmental issue that is not debatable in the way that global warming continues to be. But it’s still invisible to many who could work to get the attention of our government, including the three presidential candidates, in order to positively intervene. For most of us in the U.S., this crisis is as yet mostly an inconvenience.
For many of the 95% of the rest of the world, it’s potentially deadly. And, with the will of global governments, perhaps avoidable.
It’s it for now. Thanks,
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