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When corporations 'manage' the food crisis

If you want to know what happens if you leave corporations, bankers and global capitalist agencies in charge of something important, you just have to look at what has happened to food supply in the developing world. In spite of pledges to halve hunger by 2015, it has continued to increase worldwide, reaching over 1 billion people this year.

So when those responsible for the crisis gathered in Madrid yesterday to discuss “food security” over a two-day conference hosted by the Spanish government, they had no intention of allowing small farmers a real voice in proceedings. Instead, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and corporations like Monsanto were given space on the panels while representatives of small farmers –  who produce 80% of the world's food – were given only a few minutes from the floor. Only some handpicked NGOs are asked to give their opinion. 

The organisers were no doubt aware that nearly 50 organisations had just signed a statement condemning the corporations, the WTO et al for intensifying the food crisis with policies based on intensive sale and use of fertilisers, agrochemicals and genetically modified seeds, alongside the acquisition of large areas of fertile land.   

They would not have enjoyed the section that says:

The central cause of the current food crisis is the relentless promotion of the interests of large industrial corporations and the international trade that they control, to the detriment of food production at the local and national levels and the needs and interests of local food producers and communities. At the World Food Summit in 1996, when there were an estimated 830 million hungry people, governments pledged to halve the number by 2015. Today, in the midst of a terrible food crisis, the figure of hungry people has risen to well beyond 1 billion.

Funds designated to resolve the food crisis are being used by the World Bank and the AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) in a way that can only intensify matters.

Transnational companies are moving into southern countries on a huge scale and starting to capture millions of hectares of land in order to bring agricultural production further under their control for industrial agrofuel and food production for the international market. 

Millions of peasants will be pushed out of food production, adding to the hungry in the rural areas and the slums of the big cities. The few that remain will work under full control of the transnational companies as workers or contract farmers, the statement warns. The signatories says that national governments should enhance food sovereignty and:

They also want United Nations agencies to exclude the WTO, IMF and the World Bank from implementing UN Task Force proposals and an end to the proliferation of what the statement describes as a “circus of the ongoing creation of new structures and spaces” said to be tackling the food crisis. 

Laudable as these aims are, they come up against the fact that not only the UN but most national governments are tied to the corporations and their agencies in a variety of ways. Extricating them from this relationship, creating truly democratic and sovereign governments alongside an independent UN, will require the defeat of the corporations and the seizure of their resources. The grave global economic crisis presents both small farmers and workers in the developed economies with a golden opportunity to take the initiative. 

Paul Feldman
AWTW communications editor
27 January 2009

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