Food crisis - how do we get out of it?

by GRAIN | 1 Mar 2011


Food prices - especially cereals, but also dairy and meat - had been rising throughout 2007, way out of synch with wages.

By early 2008, grain prices were surging and riots had broken out in nearly 40 countries, instilling fear among the world's political elites. The price of oil on which industrial food production depends is through the roof and rice, in some parts of Asia at least, nearly approximates gold as a financial asset. One of the more obscene dimensions of the food crisis is that big agribusiness is making spectacular profits at every link in the food chain - from fertilisers and seeds to transport and trading. In the first quarter of 2008, while many hungry people were further cutting back on the amount of food they could eat, the major food and fertilizer companies were reporting even more spectacular profit increases. It's not that the food is scarce. There is more than enough. But poor people cannot afford it.

Obviously something is wrong with what's happening. This is clearly a time to turn things around, to mobilise around a new, creative vision that can not only bring short term remedies, but the kind of profound change that we truly need to get out of this food crisis. Small farmers, the majority among food producers, should be the ones setting agricultural policy, rather than the WTO, the IMF or the World Bank or the governments. Access to land by peasant farmers is clearly central to the issue. It is impossible to talk of self-sufficiency unless lands are redistributed and feudal bondage abolished. It is also imperative to stop trade liberalisation and other measures that lead to ruthless dismantling of tariffs and other tools that developing countries had created to protect local agricultural production.

And finally, there is no better time than now to support local farming systems that are organised around a broad use of locally available biodiversity, as these have a lot to offer in getting us out of this food crisis.

Author: GRAIN
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