D&P lays blame for food crisis on agribusiness 

  • July 16, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has released a 22-page booklet blaming the roots of the current worldwide food crisis on the rise of for-profit agribusiness.

Entitled Food System in Crisis: Hunger and the Pursuit of Profit, the booklet calls for a return of decision-making power to the people who grow and consume food, promoting “food sovereignty.”

Though the world produces enough food to feed everyone, food prices have risen 83 per cent in the past three years, and the price of rice has tripled, the report says. The report predicts that 100 million hungry people will soon join the 860 million worldwide who do not have enough to eat.

“Decision-making power over one of the most primary elements of life — food — has been wrenched from the people who produce and need food, and placed in the hands of people who profit from its trade,” the report says.

The report blames the policies of international financial institutions, the World Trade Organization and government policies of the developed world for “systematically undermining the capacity of individuals and communities to access food and the resources to grow their own.”

The growth of agribusiness that depend on fossil-fuel fertilizers, hybrid seeds and monoculture have undermined traditional agricultural practices, the report says. Free trade policies have inundated countries with cheap supplies of staples that have undermined local agriculture. As food production gets concentrated in the hands of transnational businesses, peasant farmers are being forced off the land and shareholders concerns are trumping local needs, the report says.

The food crisis has roots in the so-called Green Revolution and pressure from the WTO and financial institutions to liberalize trade, but it has been exacerbated by a shift to bio-fuel production for automobiles, increased demand for meat and grain in burgeoning economies like India and China, and speculation on commodity futures, according to the report.

“Our food system is increasingly controlled by an ever smaller number of corporations,” the report says. “Multinationals, not farmers, are in control.”

The stress on markets instead of food security has resulted in “widespread hunger,” the report says. Countries have been denied the ability to make policies promoting local agricultural development.

“Such a situation is clearly untenable, unethical and unacceptable for Christians who have chosen to promote the ‘preferential option for the poor,’ ” the report says.

The report urges remedies that will “emphasize peoples’ rights over commercial interests.”

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