The FAO Conference on World Food Security opened today in Rome. With few exceptions, most participants will rehash the fallacious arguments of Killer Biofuels, Luxurious Meateating in China and India, Poorer Harvests due to Climate Change (or simply Bad Weather) and Too Many Mouths to Feed. You and I know that biofuels, although truly a threat, actually only represented 5% of grain production last year (1), meat production, which yes, is a serious grain gobbler, increased 3% (2) while last year was an absolute record for grain production, up 5% at 2.1 bn tonnes (3), enough to feed the world almost twice over if rationally distributed (4).
The men and women that pull the strings in agribusiness and their institutional allies at the World Bank, IMF and WTO want to hypnotise us into solving the food crisis with the same means that caused them – heavily industrialised, monopolised and monocultural agriculture that is highly dependent on petrol and patents and liberalised trade and investment that has transformed food producing countries into food importing countries and took away land and markets from smallholder farmers. They’ll ask us to throw some more money at feeding the weakest of all (a typical neoliberal tactic to assuage guilt) without ever tackling the fundamental issues of our long lost food sovereignty.
The way out of the food crisis is in the opposite direction. It is to wrench food production and distribution from the greedy hands of agribusiness and speculators and hand it to those who respect the land, its fruit and its people. The way out is to say no to more trade liberalisation, more fertilisers, more GMO and more debt. It is to stop the land grabbing, dismantle food speculation, dismantle the food cartels, abolish seed patents and let farmers take care of the land again, in the name of food security, our tired soils and our long-suffering, contaminated biodiversity.
Even if you can't or don't want to lobby against the giants, there's a lot you can do to change our perverse model of food production and distribution. You can start by eliminating processed foods, going back to preparing food the way our grandparents did. You can found a cooperative and buy directly from farmers or fair trade. You can decrease your meat consumption. Best of all you could become a producer. Instead of grabbing a burger, grab a spade and start on that vegetable garden.
GRAIN July issue preview: Getting out of the food crisis
(1) FAO, April 2008
(2) World Watch Institute
(3) FAO, April 2008
(4) How we could feed the world