by Barry Weisleder
Globally, more than 935 million people go hungry every day. The dramatic rise in food prices adds millions monthly to the mass of starving people. It precipitated the “Arab Awakening” from Tunisia to Egypt. It sparked food riots in Bangladesh, and now confronts Afghanistan with a 50 per cent shortfall in funding for food operations.
Food prices soared 36 per cent over the past year, according to the World Bank. Why? Severe weather and crop diseases certainly took their toll.
But other causes are man-made (even if you think climate change is not). Market speculation and the diverting of farmland to biofuels are two of the causes, and they are no freaks of nature. They are the products of capitalist greed.
Corn, cassava, canola, and sugar are increasingly used to make ethanol to power cars and trucks. “Global maize prices rose about 73 per cent in the six months after June 2010,” said the World Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development Team. Forty per cent of the U.S. corn crop now goes into ethanol production.
Using food to make fuel is profitable for business, but as a substitute for oil, it’s like flipping humanity from the frying pan into the fire—with no reduction of the impact of carbon-burning on nature.
Since world population is predicted to top 9 billion by 2050, the urgency of increasing food production cannot be overstated. At the same time, the hypocrisy of the capitalist rulers should never be underestimated. In 2008, leaders of the G20 countries pledged $22 billion over three years to help poor countries increase food production. According to the World Bank fund set up to administer this money, only $400 million has so far been received.
How long will the starving wait? How long can capitalism get away with murder?
> This article was originally published in the May 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.