Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Politics of Starvation

The growing world food crisis looks like a montage in a disaster movie--crowd scenes of hungry rioters in Haiti, Egypt and Africa's Ivory Coast; close-ups of emaciated mothers holding out starving children to anyone who will feed them; well-fed gray men in paneled rooms clucking impotently.

Before the World Bank meeting last weekend, president Robert Zoellick talked about the growing emergency caused by doubling wheat and rice prices in the past year. "While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs and it's getting more and more difficult everyday,” he said.

But at the meeting, nothing was done. An official of the International Monetary Fund observed that "the best sort of response is to allow market forces to operate, to allow prices to rise so that there can be a supply response."

To his credit, President Bush acted more forcefully by releasing $200 million in emergency food aid and promising to do more. But in Congress, a farm bill that could alleviate hunger in the US with food stamps and nutrition programs is tied up by political wrangling as members stuff it with provisions to help breeders of race horses and farmers in law suits over the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Meanwhile, the disaster movie keeps unreeling, and the only way for onlookers to change the script is by supporting organizations like Oxfam, Bread for the World and the UN's World Food Programme--and letting members of Congress know that, if they don't act responsibly, they may have to look elsewhere for their own bread and butter after November.


Trevor Hammack said...

Thanks for posting the story. I believe the food crisis is an important issue that is going to have a major impact on the world. I am following the story at my blog, Worldview. You can read my latest post at

Anonymous said...

I'm posting the same comment I just left on the blog mentioned above because this is important:

Thanks for helping to get this story out. I think it's also important to point out that as we inflict the standard American diet on other countries (heavy on animal products), things will get worse and worse.

Cycling grain through animals is highly inefficient and results in less food calories than it takes to produce - and a WHOLE LOT of pollution and greenhouse gases.

Already 70% of the grain produced in the USA goes to feed animals. (That's according to the LA Times.) Why aren't we feeding people?

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. Thanks for highlighting this issue. I appreciate the way that you tie it back to the farm bill and the outrageous arguments taking place right now in the halls of congress. It baffles me that we will continue tax breaks and subsidies to wealthy land owners or racehorse owners while people in our own nation struggle to put food on the table.