In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Eric Holt Gimenez, executive director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, reflects on the global implications of a drought in the U.S., writing, “[I]f the 2008 and 2011 food price crises are any guide, the global effects of the U.S. drought are fairly predictable.” He continues, “The failure of the U.S. corn harvests spells a disaster for the world’s poor, but not because the poor eat our corn. … The poor will suffer the third global food disaster in four years because the price of corn will push up the price of other food commodities, like wheat, soybeans and rice …, push[ing] up food prices overall.” He writes, “The global response to food crises is also well rehearsed,” and makes a number of predictions as to how USAID, the United States Department of Agriculture, “seed and chemical monopolies,” and “the mega-philanthropies” will respond to the crisis.
Food Security and Nutrition
“America’s worst drought for 25 years is threatening the global economy as it cripples the country’s grain production and sends the price soaring,” the International Business Times reports, adding, “According to a report by HSBC, bloated food prices loom over the global economy and present the temptation for governments to hoard produce” (Croucher, 8/20). “When food prices spike and people go hungry, violence soon follows, [scientists and activists] say,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “Riots caused by food shortages — similar to those of 2007-08 in countries like Bangladesh, Haiti, the Philippines and Burkina Faso among others — may be on the horizon, threatening social stability in impoverished nations that rely on U.S. corn imports” (Kennedy, 8/21).
“More than 435,000 people have been displaced in Mali, as the country faces a complex humanitarian emergency due to conflict and food insecurity, according to a new report released by the United Nations relief agency,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/16). “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report nearly 262,000 displaced persons have registered as refugees in neighboring countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria, while another 174,000 are internally displaced in the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal,” according to United Press International (8/16). “The World Food Programme (WFP) says there are 4.6 million people at risk of hunger in Mali,” Examiner.com notes (Lambers, 8/18).
In this post in the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ “Global Food For Thought” blog, Howarth Bouis, director of HarvestPlus, a global research program that develops and disseminates nutrient-rich staple food crops to improve nutrition globally, writes, “David Cameron’s decision to tie a hunger summit to the Olympics was imaginative … because Cameron saw how the Olympics, that celebrate the best of human athleticism and teamwork, could also be used to draw attention to those who will never ever come close to competing in an Olympics event.” He continues, “The Global Hunger Event exemplified the approach that we need if we are to race, not inch, towards the finish line of significantly improving nutrition by the next Olympic Games,” concluding, “Collectively, we must now assume this mantle of Olympian leadership if we are to bring down the historic and arbitrary barriers between agriculture, nutrition and health ” (8/17).
“Downpours and heat waves caused by climate change could disrupt food supplies from the fields to the supermarkets, raising the risk of more price spikes such as this year’s leap triggered by drought in the United States,” Reuters reports. “Food security experts working on a chapter in a U.N. overview of global warming due in 2014 said governments should take more account of how extremes of heat, droughts or floods could affect food supplies from seeds to consumers’ plates,” the news service writes (Doyle, 8/15). “The U.N. and global leaders have paid particular attention in recent weeks to U.S. biofuels policy as drought ravages corn supplies,” The Hill’s “E2 Wire” blog notes, adding, “They say the country needs to free up more of its corn for food to combat rising prices that heavily affect poor nations” (Colman, 8/16).
“Genetically modified rice could be a good source of vitamin A for children in countries where deficiency in the vitamin is common,” according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Reuters reports. “The study tested so-called Golden Rice against both spinach and supplements in providing vitamin A to 68 six- to eight-year-olds in China,” the news service notes. “Researchers found that the rice was as effective as the capsules in giving kids a boost of vitamin A, based on blood tests taken over three weeks,” and that “it worked better than the natural beta-carotene in spinach,” according to Reuters. “The product has been around for years, but it has yet to come into real-world use for a number of reasons,” the news service notes, adding, “Because it’s genetically modified, it has faced opposition from environmental groups and others.” Reuters writes, “There have also been questions about how efficiently the beta-carotene in Golden Rice can be converted into vitamin A, especially in children” (Norton, 8/15).
“The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) carried out the first in a series of air drops to replenish rapidly diminishing food stocks for more than 100,000 people in South Sudan who have fled fighting in Sudan,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/15). “The refugees are severely malnourished going for days without supplies after being driven from their homes by the violence,” Examiner.com notes (Lambers, 8/15). “The first air drops were made Wednesday in Maban County in Upper Nile state,” the Associated Press/Washington Post writes, adding that camps there — “along with another in the region called Yida — have received more than 160,000 refugees who have fled war on the other side of the border in Sudan.” According to the AP, “WFP plans to deliver up to 2,000 metric tons of food to Maban over the coming days and weeks” (8/16).
“The U.N.’s World Food Programme [WFP] said Tuesday it needs $48 million in food aid for about 11 percent of Malawi’s population who will face hunger due to bad crops,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘It is estimated that those needing food assistance in the southern African country will rise to 1.6 million people during the peak of the lean season early next year,’ the WFP said in a joint statement with Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID),” the news service writes.
This post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Views from the Center” blog, Owen Barder, a senior fellow and the director for Europe at CGD, addresses the recent hunger summit in London, citing two reasons for concern surrounding the discussion. “First, it is wrong to conflate the problem of hunger with the need to improve agricultural productivity. Hunger has very little to do with food production,” Barder writes, continuing, “Second, the conversation is too much about money and not enough about what we should do to address the structural causes of hunger and malnutrition.” He concludes, “If the [G8] leaders cannot get together and make meaningful decisions about something as important as this, why do they bother meeting at all?” (8/13).
“With one billion people chronically hungry and Earth’s population expected to increase by 50 percent before the end of the century, it’s time to get serious about family planning,” a Los Angeles Times editorial states. “At one point, the prevailing wisdom was that nations needed robust birthrates to protect their economic welfare, and that if only we could produce food more efficiently, feeding the Earth’s burgeoning population wouldn’t be a problem,” it continues, adding, “Now â€¦ we know better. Or we ought to.” The editorial continues, “No one has a good solution. That’s why family planning assistance is one of the most important forms of humanitarian aid that the United States and other developed nations can provide.” It concludes, “Without the necessary resources and an existing economy prepared to absorb large numbers of new workers, nations that promote high birthrates set themselves up for economic distress and political unrest” (8/10).