The Food Bandits
"The number of hungry people has soared to nearly 1 billion, despite strong global harvests...Just four companies control at least three-quarters of international grain trade; and in the United States, by 2000, just ten corporations—with boards totaling only 138 people—had come to account for half of US food and beverage sales. Conditions for American farmworkers remain so horrific that seven Florida growers have been convicted of slavery involving more than 1,000 workers. Life expectancy of US farmworkers is forty-nine years."
Nation Magazine's upcoming Oct 3 issue carries an anchor piece by Francis Lappe Moore (author of Diet for a Small Planet), along with replies by well-known experts on the topic of food security: Raj Patel, Vandana Shiva, Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan.
That this is a vital issue of both individual liberty and national sovereignty is without question. That it is discussed so little is a reflection on our myopia.
Raj Patel in his piece Why hunger is still with us says,
"[W]e’re growing more crops than ever before not for direct human consumption, or even animal feed, but as biofuels, to keep cars on the road. Already, more than a tenth of the world’s total coarse grain output is used for fuel, and the OECD predicts that within a decade a third of all sugar cane grown on earth will be used not for sweetening but for combustion."Eric Schlosser places the problem in larger context,
"The corporate monopolies and monopsonies, the contempt for labor unions, the capture of federal agencies, the corruption of elected officials, the lies routinely told to consumers, the disregard for the environment and for public health—none of these things are unique to the food industry. You will find them in the oil, chemical, media and financial industries, among many others. They have become commonplace in the US economy. They are signs of a much larger problem, of a society where a handful of corporations choose the lawmakers, dictate the laws, control production and distribution, widen the gulf between rich and poor."And increasingly, one might add, none of these things are unique to the United States either. As Vandana Shiva says of the situation in India,
"But the biggest threat we face is the control of seed and food moving out of the hands of farmers and communities and into a few corporate hands. Monopoly control of cottonseed and the introduction of genetically engineered Bt cotton has already given rise to an epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India. A quarter-million farmers have taken their lives because of debt induced by the high costs of nonrenewable seed, which spins billions of dollars of royalty for firms like Monsanto."Far more significant than who wins in 2012, don't you think?