John Nichols’ article “The World Food Crisis” appeared in the May 12 edition of The Nation. He quoted a Wisconsin dairy farmer who said,
So, they finally figured out, after all these years of pushing globalization and genetically modified seeds, that instead of feeding the world we’ve created a food system that leaves more people hungry. If they’d listened to farmers instead of corporations, they would’ve known this was going to happen.
But hunger isn’t just a new, “current” issue. Hundreds of millions of people were starving and malnourished last year, even 11% of Americans were “food insecure” according to recent statistics. The only change is that as the scope of the crisis has grown and it has become more difficult to “manage” the hunger that the failed food system accepts, rather than feeds.
The current global food system, created by US-based agribusiness multinationals like Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM and forced into place by the US government and its allies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, has, according to Nichols,
…planted the seeds of disaster by pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash crops for export and alternative fuels rather than grow healthful food for local consumption and regional stability.
The result? Bush called on Congress at the beginning of May to approve $770 million in food aid, a “solution” touted to help alleviate escalating food prices that threaten hunger and increasing social unrest around the world.
According to the Associated Press the money is actually being included in a broader $70 billion Iraq war funding measure for 2009, which means it isn’t helping the crisis at hand; it won’t reach those in need until late next year. In addition, something else (you won’t hear from the mainstream media) was slipped into that $770 million aid package: It would direct the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is taxpayer-funded, to spend $150 million of the total aid package on development farming, which includes GE crops.
As I mentioned in Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, US taxpayer dollars are being used for foreign assistance programs to subsidize the export of GE products to the Third World and to finance GE research. According to their website, USAID’s “training and awareness raising programs” provide companies such as Monsanto opportunities for technology transfer and to “enhance public knowledge and acceptance of biotechnology.”
Multinational agribusinesses are enjoying massive profits out of the world food crisis that is driving millions of people towards starvation. In “Multinationals Make Billions in Profit Out of Growing Global Food Crisis” in The Independent, Geoffrey Lean reported that in April, Monsanto reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543 million to $1.12 billion. Cargill’s net earnings soared by 86% from $553 million to $1.030 billion over the same three months.
The “fix” for what ails the global food system, according to John Nichols, is not more of the same globalization and genetic gimmickry, which has left 37 nations with food crises.
However, for the multinationals that influence (and determine) public policy, it is business as usual. What a business opportunity for corporations like global grain giant Cargill, that harvests an 86% rise in profits and Monsanto, that reaps record sales from its herbicides and seeds. If corporations make a profit, that’s one thing. But when we taxpayers subsidize these private corporations that make insane profits at the expense of health and the environment, something has to change.
Keep in mind, food security problems exist, and they are not and never have been solved with GE food. The USDA has acknowledged that GE crop yields are not greater than those of conventional crops and a compelling number of studies by independent scientists demonstrate that GE crop yields are lower than, or at best equivalent to, yields from non-GE varieties. In addition, GE crops have led to a large increase in pesticide use and have failed to increase yield or tackle world hunger and poverty.
We, the American taxpayers, support the multi-billion dollar biotech industry by massively funding GE crop subsidies, state initiatives, and tax breaks for biotech companies, while biotech crops are exported for foreign aid, and other biotech support is doled out by the US government.
There might be little or nothing you can do about how your tax dollars are spent, but as a consumer, your dollars wield the most influence. Stop buying GE food, which contributes to multinational corporations that are only interested in profits. Tell food manufacturers you don’t want GMOs. Go to local farmers’ markets. Find out about local Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). A CSA is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. Find a CSA near you.
You choose with your dollars–and you can make a difference.