The International Food Crisis
Wealthy countries of the world are being encouraged to hand over more ready cash to ensure that the World Food Program can meet immediate needs. Canada, already the world's second-largest donor to the program after the United States, has today increased its pledge from $150-million to $200-million. As the largest distributor of emergency food aid, the WFP fears that 100-million people now face dire food shortages.
Rioting in Haiti has riveted world attention on that poorest of poor countries, forever in political and social ferment. A dozen people have died as a result of rioting in Yemen. Indonesia has increased subsidies to assuage public anger over high food prices. Farmers in poor countries who cannot afford fertilizer costs at the best of times now see the price rising beyond their reach.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Bank are becoming involved in offering millions to farmers in badly-affected countries in hopes of increasing food production, and to assist in the purchase of seeds. Lending by the World Bank to Africa for agriculture is to be doubled. The World Bank president says export bans by producing countries are serving to increase shortages.
Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, China, Cambodia and India, all major grain-exporting countries have imposed export restrictions. These are panic reactions to rising food costs and growing scarcity. Controls which have been imposed in countries like Russia, Ukraine and Argentina are singled out as encouraging hoarding, driving up prices and ultimately harming the poorest in the world.
In the Philippines, government troops armed with M-16 rifles supervise the sale of subsidized rice. Police enforce a presidential decree outlawing food hoarding. Pakistan has ordered troops to guard flour mills. Protests have been occurring in Mexico, Jordan, Egypt, Mozambique and other countries facing shortages.
Because of the biofuels initiative by the European Union, the United States and Canada, farmers have turned to growing crops for ethanol production, diverting their lands from food-crop production. Ironically, while previously grain farmers were receiving just enough pay-back from their efforts to get by, they're now becoming wealthy on biofuel crops.
In parts of Latin America, peasants and indigenous peoples are being turned off their land for agribusiness to take over, growing crops so that "people in rich countries can feed their cars" according to Javiera Rulli, a biologist turned human rights defender in Paraguay. "Farmers in our countries pay with their blood. The grain used to fill one SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year."
Yet, according to EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, "There is no question for now of suspending the target fixed for [use of] biofuels." Brazil is the world's largest exporter of ethanol made from sugar cane, and its president, Lula de Silva claims: "Biofuels aren't the villain that threatens food security. The real crimes against humanity are discarding biofuels ..."
Malawi plans to restrict corn exports, Kazakhstan has banned wheat exports - it is the world's largest wheat exporter. India has stopped the export of non-basmati rice, peas and beans. To our great discredit, the United States and Canada remain committed to their programs promoting biofuel production and subsidizing biofuels in their effort to fight carbon emissions.
Yet a worldwide survey of a thousand scientists discovered a low level of trust in biofuels as a response to our environmental problems. Solar power remains the most-favoured low-carbon technology.
It's amazing how government bureaucrats and elected officials can seek feverishly for answers to vexing problems, and come up with solutions that are not well-balanced, whose repercussions are never fully realized, yet they cling to them, despite obvious symptoms of failure.