December 31, 2007

"Failure as Usual" Food Summit

Ciao FAO: Another "Failure-as-Usual" Food Summit

Issue: During the 3-5 June 2008 World Food Summit, governments patched together sufficient funds to keep the lid on food rebellions for a few months but all the fundamental and long-term institutional and financial problems remain. In Rome, governments opted for a mythical "techno-fix" led by agribusiness in collaboration with the Gates Foundation and other philanthro-capitalists. These "klepto-mandates" are usurping the multilateral system. There is also a clear power shift away from the much-maligned Rome-based agencies to the U.N. in New York and the Bretton Woods institutions in Washington. A series of "High-Level" meetings in the final quarter of 2008 could decisively impact the world's ability to respond to the ongoing food emergency.
Stakes: Failure to redress the failed policies of the past 34 years (since the last major food crisis) is already making a mockery of the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015. Instead of reducing the ranks of the hungry to around 415 million, the immediate crisis could grow the numbers from today's 862 million to 1.2 billion by 2025. A new report from Oxfam claims that biofuel policies in OECD countries have already dragged more than 30 million more people into poverty.
On the front lines are 450 million smallholder farmers who are being told by the U.N. Secretary General that food production must increase by 50% by 2030 - while coping with the uncertain perils of climate change. An FAO report released in March 2008 warns that a temperature increase of 3-4 degrees Celsius could cause crop yields to fall by 15-35% in Africa and west Asia and by 25-35% in the Middle East. Nothing that happened in Rome in June changed these figures.
Takes: The real focus in Rome was fuel not food. With even conservative agencies like IFPRI and the International Monetary Fund estimating the impact of agrofuels on food prices around 30%, Brazil's sugarcane companies and Southeast Asia's industrial oil palm producers were as anxious as the U.S. and Europe to protect their green credentials and gross subsidies. The agrofuels industry had to convince poor countries that devoting a growing chunk of the world's arable land to feed cars will have no impact on food security. Shamefully, they succeeded.

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