The Food Crisis: Not just Biofuels

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500_Apples
The Food Crisis: Not just Biofuels

 

500_Apples

Before going on with this, I would like to make two things clear. The first is that I consider the international food crisis to possibly be the most pressing short-medium term social justice issue, and I see a serious potential for untold millions to starve, children to be malnourished and western middle classes to have their standards of living drastically reduced. The second is that it does seem obvious to me that biofuels are a scam, they waste money and are bad for the environment, and are responsible for some of the food crisis.

Soybeans, sugar and corn are all related to ethanol, and thus it is not surprising that their value is rising as oil prices rise. However, wheat and rice and coffee are not related to ethanol - what's happening?

There are clearly some other factors. [b]For those who don't feel like checking my sources, I have a concise summary at the end.[/b]

[b]Stem Rust and Wheat:[/b]
[url=http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20050924/food.asp]http://www.science...
Stem Rust is something that reduces wheat output, and wheat species used tend to be resistant. However UG99 is a new variant of stem rust which gets past these resistances (UG stands for Uganda). Here's a quote from the above-linked [b]2005[/b] article:

quote:

At the Nairobi meeting, officials with the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center—an organization best known by its Spanish acronym, CIMMYT—summed up much of what they know about the Ug99 rust. For instance, the centers' scientists noted that most wheat currently being grown around the world has either established susceptibility to the new pathogen or unknown susceptibility. At present, CIMMYT officials reported, [b]"only 0.3 percent of the more than 44 million hectares planted to known varieties [of wheat] is moderately resistant to Ug99.[/b]"

In monitored test plots of wheat, Ug99 reduced grain yields by as much as 71 percent. Its virulence indicates Ug99 "has broken down the sources of resistance that have provided effective protection [for wheat against black-stem rusts] for over 30 years," the CIMMYT researchers said.

If not quashed soon, Ug99 infections might bloom into global crop epidemics within the next 15 years. In Africa alone, CIMMYT projected, grain-yield losses from such blights could approach $1 billion in value. Such events would increase the price of wheat on global markets and contribute to regional food shortages. These risks are especially grave for developing nations where reliance on wheat is high and budgets for fungicides are almost nonexistent, CIMMYT noted.


A follow-up 2007 article from [url=http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg19425983.700-billion... Scientist Environment[/url], excerpt:

quote:

The strain has spread slowly across east Africa, but in January this year spores blew across to Yemen, and north into Sudan (see Map). Scientists who have tracked similar airborne spores in this part of the world say it will now blow into Egypt, Turkey and the Middle East, and on to India, lands where a billion people depend on wheat.

There is hope: this week scientists are assessing the first Ug99-resistant varieties of wheat that might be used for crops. However, it will take another five to eight years to breed up enough seed to plant all our wheat fields.

The threat couldn't have come at a worse time. Consumption has outstripped production in six of the last seven years, and stocks are at their lowest since 1972. Wheat prices jumped 14 per cent last year.

Black stem rust itself is nothing new. It has been a major blight on wheat production since the rise of agriculture, and the Romans even prayed to a stem rust god, Robigus. It can reduce a field of ripening grain to a dead, tangled mass, and vast outbreaks regularly used to rip through wheat regions. The last to hit the North American breadbasket, in 1954, wiped out 40 per cent of the crop. In the cold war both the US and the Soviet Union stockpiled stem rust spores as a biological weapon.

After the 1954 epidemic, Borlaug began work in Mexico on developing wheat that resisted stem rust. The project grew into the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, known by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT. The rust-resistant, high-yielding wheat it developed banished chronic hunger in much of the world, ended stem rust outbreaks, and won Borlaug the Nobel peace prize in 1970.

Yet once again Borlaug - now 93 and fighting cancer - is leading the charge against his old enemy. When Ug99 turned up in Kenya in 2002, he sounded the alarm. [b]"Too many years had gone by and no one was taking Ug99 seriously," he says. He blames complacency, and the dismantling of training and wheat testing programmes, after 40 years without outbreaks.[/b]


Saudi Arabia, which has historically been an independent food producer, has decided to slash wheat production because it's running out of water, and plans to be 100% import dependent by 2016, exchanging oil for food. Here is an article from [url=http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSL08699206]Reuters.[/url]

From the [url=http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_... Online[/url] (A London England paper), circa February 24, 2008, some numbers on the present state of the wheat economy (taken [i]ad verbatim[/i]):
- THE world is only ten weeks away from running out of wheat supplies after stocks fell to their lowest levels for 50 years.
- The crisis comes after two successive years of disastrous wheat harvests, which saw production fall from 624m to 600m tonnes, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
- Experts blame climate change as heatwaves caused a slump in harvests last year in eastern Europe, Canada, Morocco and Australia, all big wheat producers.
- Booming populations and a switch to a meat-rich diet in the developing world also mean that about 110m tons of the world’s annual wheat crop is being diverted to feed livestock.

That it for wheat. I'll note that according to [url=http://www.agriview.com/articles/2007/12/13/crop_news/crops09.txt]Agrivi..., Ug99 could also threaten barley.

*******

[b]Rice Supply Contaminated and shrinking[/b]

According to the [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/18/AR200608... Post[/url], the American rice supply is contaminated. Apparently it's due to a Bayer designed genetically modified variety not approved for consumption, that is spreading across wheat fields. Quoting: [i]The variety, known as LLRICE 601, is endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weedkiller made by the agricultural giant Aventis.[/i]

From [url=http://edition.cnn.com/2008/BUSINESS/03/27/asia.food.ap/index.html]CNN[/...

quote:

Part of a surge in global food costs, rice prices on world markets have jumped 50 percent in the past two months and at least doubled since 2004. Experts blame rising fuel and fertilizer expenses as well as crops curtailed by disease, pests and climate change. There are concerns prices could rise a further 40 percent in coming months.

The higher prices have already sparked protests in the Philippines, where a government official has asked the public to save leftover rice. In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a ban on rice exports Wednesday to curb rising prices at home. Vietnamese exporters and farmers are stockpiling rice in expectation of further price increases.
.
.
...
The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts [b]global rice stocks for 2007-08 at 72 million tons, the lowest since 1983-84 and about half of the peak in 2000-01.[/b]


I'll note India has also banned exports, except for the highly profitable basmati variety. (Nota Bene: The Babble spell check thinks basmati is not a word, as well as Nota Bene it seems).

Another excerpt from an article in the [url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/feedarticle?id=7466763]The Guardian[/url]

quote:

In times of grain shortages, the world typically turns to the United States, the world's largest food exporter, for supplies as it has in the past for wheat, corn or soybeans.
But U.S. rice stocks have been cut in half the last two years. Rice acreage is being diverted to soaring corn, wheat and soybeans. But rice is also just not a major U.S. crop.
In 2007, the United States produced about 6 million tonnes of rice, out of total world production of 425 million tonnes.
"It's just a drop in the bucket," Taylor said. "We don't have anywhere near enough quantity to bail anybody out."
Bob Papanos, a former vice president with the U.S. Rice Producers Association and head of The Rice Trader, a weekly rice marketing publication, underscored the point.
[b]"We've had declining stocks, declining stocks-to-use ratios for the last 15 years," he said of the current market. "It all came together and slapped the world in the face."[/b]

Finally, there are the issues due to speculation. For example, since the US dollar is no longer a viable reserve currency, a lot of moneymen have been turning to commodities as a safe heaven and the latest quick buck (following tech stocks, US real estates, credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, et cetera). There's a review from the [url=http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2008/RES032008A.htm]IMF[/url].
They also mention rising demand from emerging economies, biofuel production, and sluggish responses to higher prices.

*******

I offer no insight as to what is happening to coffee prices, I didn't have time to look into it.

*******

[b]Summary[/b]

There is more going on to this potentially devastating food crisis than just biofuel. That would be convenient if it were biofuel, as if there was only one problem it would be relatively easy to fix. Our reliance on standardized crops makes out agriculture more susceptible to certain diseases such as the above-mentioned fungus. A lot of the arable land on Earth is already being used, and thus the prospects of greater production easing pressures seem unpromising, especially in light of UN predictions that global population will peak at 9 billion around 2050.

- Biofuels are an environmental scam
- Speculators are pouring into commodities
- We are maxing out our natural resource potential
- Our lack of agricultural biodiversity makes our food supply vulnerable.
- Global warming worsens the problem.
- The second and third worlds are starting to eat like the first world, especially with respect to meat.

Anyone of these causes would be a challenging global economic problem to deal with if they were all alone. We would need strong ideological promotion of vegetarianism globally, a reduction of ridiculous ethanol subsidies, courage on global warming, and a return to biodiversity, and we need to strangle the financial gamblers. I don't think the prospects for dealing with all five are rosy.

There were some predictions from the 1950s and 1960s that humanity would begin to starve around 2000, I forget the man's name. He's been mocked the pasty fifteen years by conservative people. He may turn out to be correct.

[ 20 April 2008: Message edited by: 500_Apples ]

Fidel

quote:


[i]"In a world overflowing with riches, it is a outrageous scandal that more than [b]826 million people suffer hunger and malnutrition and[/b] that every year over [b]36 million die of starvation and related causes[/b]. We must take urgent action now.[/i] --
Jean Ziegler, April 2001, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

[url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7065061.stm][b]Biofuels 'crime against humanity'[/b][/url] 2007

Cash crop capitalism doesn't work any better today than it did in 1847 Ireland. It's planned and enforced genocide.

[ 20 April 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

pogge

[url=http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/raj_patel/2008/04/a_manmade_famine.h... man-made famine[/url]

quote:

For anyone who understands the current food crisis, it is hard to listen to the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, without gagging.
...
The reason for the price rise is perfect storm of high oil prices, an increasing demand for meat in developing countries, poor harvests, population growth, financial speculation and biofuels. But prices have fluctuated before. The reason we're seeing such misery as a result of this particular spike has everything to do with Zoellick and his friends.

Hat-tip to [url=http://firedoglake.com/2008/04/19/famine-globalizations-latest-treat-for... post[/url] at [i]Firedoglake[/i] which has more.

[ 20 April 2008: Message edited by: pogge ]

Michael Hardner

Calling it 'planned genocide' is unfair, when the UN itself has pushed biofuels. It seems like just another sad mistake.

500_Apples

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]Calling it 'planned genocide' is unfair, when the UN itself has pushed biofuels. It seems like just another sad mistake.[/b]

I guess some people did not read my post.

Biofuels are not the supreme cause of these problems.

Notice how the biggest problems are due to rice, which is completely unrelated to biofuels.

This is not planned genocide, this is callous incompetence and short-sightedness.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]Calling it 'planned genocide' is unfair, when the UN itself has pushed biofuels. It seems like just another sad mistake.[/b]

President dubya has pushed for biofuels, and so have Al Gore , Phil "Windsor" in Britain, and many more powerful and influential plutocrats in the western world. The WTO is a very undemocratic institution and pushing cash crop capitalism and unsustainable agriculture on hundreds of millions of displaced and hungry and dying people.

Somewhere over 80 percent of chronically hungry nations export food to "the market" as was the case in 1847 Ireland.

The "new" capitalism is similar to religion in that it has an escape hatch when things don't seem to be working out so well, and it's called the [b]economic long run.[/b] And like religion has the afterlife to point to as a reward for the faithful, the nouveau capitalist economic long run is a way of promising great things for millions who persevere. No one knows how long the long run actually is, and this is one thing that economics and religion don't share, because economic prophecy is sometimes expected to be exact when it comes to predictions. At this point, trained scientists and political economists explain to the flock that they should have faith in the long run. They sometimes forget what J.M. Keynes once said, that: ~[i]"In the long run, we're all dead."[/i] At that point all bets are off, and the cruel and criminal ideology is hatched in the fertile minds of born again ideologues.

And religiously, millions are sacrificed on the altar of this cruel and merciless ideology each and every year as it was the year before and the one before that. And nothing is new under the sun as long as we have faith in the old, tried and true ways.

[ 20 April 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

500_Apples

Fidel,

What do you think of the issues raised in the OP relating to Saudi Arabia, for example.

huberman

As for the local dimension of this problem - lack of local food production, rising prices, apple juice in Canada from China... - I think we should get some local organic food production going by converting all golf courses to organic agriculture. Otherwise they are just a total waste of land, laden with poisons (fertilizers, pesticides) that get into our drinking water (while the rich who play the courses can afford to buy bottled water). I encourage all nations to do the same and ban this elitist stupid game that wastes so much land, so much water, and which poisons us.

500_Apples

quote:


Originally posted by huberman:
[b]As for the local dimension of this problem - lack of local food production, rising prices, apple juice in Canada from China... - I think we should get some local organic food production going by converting all golf courses to organic agriculture. Otherwise they are just a total waste of land, laden with poisons (fertilizers, pesticides) that get into our drinking water (while the rich who play the courses can afford to buy bottled water). I encourage all nations to do the same and ban this elitist stupid game that wastes so much land, so much water, and which poisons us.[/b]

A creative and insightful suggestion.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by 500_Apples:
[b]Fidel,

What do you think of the issues raised in the OP relating to Saudi Arabia, for example.[/b]


I think it doesn't help the overall situation. Saudi Arabia is afterall an imperialist country supported by the west but not a democratic one.

The richest countries have been somewhat delinquent on funding new agricultural research as we have with funding green and alternative energy technology since the 1980's, which also happens to coincide with the approximate beginning of the new capitalism here in the west.

I think the WTO should be scrapped and individual countries start working on their own food production plans and partnering with neighboring countries where inclement weather patterns, IMF indebtedness and lack of general means are preventing them from growing and-or supplying their own food. Global warming, water shortages, and looming western world financial system collapse should be the impetus for governments to begin contingency planning. Because we've left things to the market before throughout history and during what were some fairly optimal conditions for producing enough food. It didn't really work even then, and leave it to the market hasn't really been tested under adverse global economic and environmental conditions. We need global central planning. Globalization and deregulation should be cancelled ASAP.

[ 20 April 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

Bubbles

quote:


We need global central planning.

Fidel, you realy believe that? Would local knowledge and experience not trump global central planning? The long feedback track would doom central planning in my opinion.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Bubbles:
[b]

Fidel, you realy believe that? Would local knowledge and experience not trump global central planning? The long feedback track would doom central planning in my opinion.[/b]


Globalization was a good idea in the beginning but fell into disrepute because of a few powerful business and banking interests since the Bretton Woods Conference of 1946. And I think the antiglobalization movement has been misunderstood as a result. Most of the countries where globalization isn't working are effectively being run by the IMF not local governments. I think the future is Keynesian not Friedman or Von Hayek.

Farmpunk

Odd, I think local farmland should be for growing food. Golf courses are for golf.

Merowe

hm, don't we already live in a world circumscribed even defined by a degree of global 'planning', albeit chiefly according to the logic of capital?

A development which has surged in the last three decades?

So that it is more a matter of implementing a more genuinely democratic form of planning...

to replace the extant relatively undemocratic - because deployed at the service of capital, not the population per se - web of instrumentalized 'global' planning?

I think Saudi Arabia may not be the most opportune place to cultivate wheat and they do well to recognize that. One can see a return to more localized food production on the one hand, also a gradual redistribution of human populations to more closely follow the productivity of the land base...and the development of essentially food-dependent regions which will continue to flourish much as cities do today by dint of their various other contributions to the general economy...trade, I suppose...

Bangladesh is in trouble.

Fidel

[url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2003/sep/08/sciencenews.chile]Stafford Beer[/url] is considered an important founder of cybernetics, [i]"an interdisciplinary study of the structure of complex systems, especially communication processes, control mechanisms and feedback principles. Cybernetics is closely related to control theory and systems theory."[/i] - wikipedia

Salvador Allende invited Beer to participate in the development of knowledge economy and electronic democracy in 1970's Chile. Of course, we have stock markets and some vague beginnings of IT based economies today, but Wall Street and Bay Street tend to use computers more for speedy mathematical calculations for gambling with other people's money in the NeoLiberalizing casino economy. Western world governments adhering to NeoLiberal banking and finance only seem to have money to bailout deregulated banking disasters and NATO forays into other countries but not for green infrastructure, researching sustainable agriculture, and even less money for investing in people.

It's hoped that cybernetics will, some day, introduce transparency and participatory democracy and be used as a tool toward building a truly democratic global government and one where every nation is an equal partner.

Stephen Gordon

quote:


Originally posted by Merowe:
hm, don't we already live in a world circumscribed even defined by a degree of global 'planning', albeit chiefly according to the logic of capital?

Here's a very important thing to know: [b]no one is in charge of markets[/b]. There is no central plan or central planner that determines what outcomes markets will generate. No more than there is some central plan or some central planner that determines which species will flourish, and which will die out.

Fidel

Except that the rich and superrich seem to be doing really well without anyone in government representing their interests apparently. And that reminds us. [url=http://senatehalloffame.ca]This[/url] abomination has no place in a modern democracy.

Erik Redburn

quote:


Originally posted by Stephen Gordon:
[b]

Here's a very important thing to know: [b]no one is in charge of markets[/b]. There is no central plan or central planner that determines what outcomes markets will generate. No more than there is some central plan or some central planner that determines which species will flourish, and which will die out.[/b]


There is no 'central planner' no. But that doesn't mean there aren't legally binding trade deals like NAFTA which set the terms of exchange and too often legislation among nations (generally called a "level playing field"), or that shrinking numbers of growing conglomerates and banking institutions don't dominate far too many consumer and financial markets now, or that too many media outlets don't use their own near monopoly over public discourse to further this agenda, or conversely that dominant companies like Pepsi or Coke will ever "compete" over who can pay higher wages for their labour or more taxes for their managers and shareholders. Therefore the constant refrain by neo-liberal acolytes (who dominate our education and financial systems now and receive most the press) that we should abandon all government "intervention" in favour of letting "the markets decide" is on much shakier footing than they appear ready to admit as yet.

The problem now alas is that after two plus decades of dismissing these uncomfortable realities it will require more far sighted international agreements between nations and some unusually public minded structural shifts for our elected representatives to be able to effectively counteract this growing imbalance between the short term interests of the managerial/shareholder classes and longer term concerns of the rest of the world. Including the growing number of species who are being exterminated by these life blind corporate interests. I hope I didn't leave anything out.

[ 21 April 2008: Message edited by: Erik Redburn ]

Stephen Gordon

No-one is saying that markets always and everywhere yield optimal results. I'm saying that assertions to the effect that there is some vaguely defined group of Bilderbergers/Davos Men/blablabla that is expressly dictating market outcomes are fundamentally wrong-headed and counterproductive in understanding what are what the problems we face and how they can be dealt with.

Erik Redburn

quote:


Originally posted by Stephen Gordon:
[b]No-one is saying that markets always and everywhere yield optimal results. I'm saying that assertions to the effect that there is some vaguely defined group of Bilderbergers/Davos Men/blablabla that is expressly dictating market outcomes are fundamentally wrong-headed and counterproductive in understanding what are what the problems we face and how they can be dealt with.[/b]

On that we can probably agree. Ironically I'm now finding that a too-conspiratorial view (there are funded think tanks, PR campaigns and the like) on these collective problems sometimes tend to support the basic either/or assumptions of the other extremes. Even if only inadvertently.

[ 21 April 2008: Message edited by: Erik Redburn ]

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

quote:


Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed. What happened?

In 1986, after the expulsion of Haitian dictator Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Haiti $24.6 million in desperately needed funds (Baby Doc had raided the treasury on the way out). But, in order to get the IMF loan, Haiti was required to reduce tariff protections for Haitian rice and other agricultural products and some industries, to open up the country's markets to competition from outside countries. The US has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF.

Doctor Paul Farmer was in Haiti then and saw what happened. "Within less than two years, it became impossible for Haitian farmers to compete with what they called 'Miami rice.' The whole local rice market in Haiti fell apart as cheap, US subsidized rice, some of it in the form of 'food aid,' flooded the market. There was violence ... 'rice wars,' and lives were lost."

"American rice invaded the country," recalled Charles Suffrard, a leading rice grower in Haiti in an interview with the Washington Post in 2000. By 1987 and 1988, there was so much rice coming into the country that many stopped working the land.

The Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest who has been the pastor at St. Claire and an outspoken human rights advocate, agrees. "In the 1980s, imported rice poured into Haiti, below the cost of what our farmers could produce it. Farmers lost their businesses. People from the countryside started losing their jobs and moving to the cities. After a few years of cheap imported rice, local production went way down."


[url=http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/042108R.shtml]Markets starve Haiti[/url]

Jerry West

quote:


"In a world overflowing with riches, it is a outrageous scandal that more than 826 million people suffer hunger and malnutrition and that every year over 36 million die of starvation and related causes. We must take urgent action now. --
Jean Ziegler, April 2001, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

If everyone in the world having a consumption level equivalent to the average Jordanian or Uzbeki and no more is considered a world overflowing with riches, then this is correct.

If an overflow of riches means a consumption standard somewhat more than that, say a very modest one like Turkey or Bosnia, then it is wrong.

By industrialized standards the world does not have an overflow of riches, at least on a per capita basis, what it does have is a severe distribution problem that results in great inequalities with a few having way too much.

[ 21 April 2008: Message edited by: Jerry West ]

Jerry West

quote:


Stephen Gordon:
Here's a very important thing to know: no one is in charge of markets.

Are you saying that no one can influence markets? If someone can influence markets, at point does the degree of that influence rise to the level of being more or less in charge?

Or, would you argue that no one is in charge of markets because they are all too ignorant of the effects of their actions?

Erik Redburn

FM: "Markets starve Haiti "

Yes, Haiti is a particularly shameful example in a long hall of shame, and a case where some active conspiracy can be found. But that's more like the usual intervention from the usual foreign governments at the behest of their usual clients. That is sadly nothing new and so falls rather short of proof of an overall global conspiracy circa 1980 to now.

[ 21 April 2008: Message edited by: Erik Redburn ]

Stephen Gordon

quote:


Originally posted by Jerry West:
Are you saying that no one can influence markets? If someone can influence markets, at point does the degree of that influence rise to the level of being more or less in charge?

Or, would you argue that no one is in charge of markets because they are all too ignorant of the effects of their actions?


[b]Everyone[/b] influences markets. In every transaction everyone makes, markets are affected.

There are some examples where certain people have a significant amount of market power. But they have pretty much nothing to do with the subject at hand. No-one planned the spike in food prices; it just happened. Trying to figure out how and why it happened requires a certain amount of thought. Pinning the blame on an unnamed and ill-defined йlite is only a slightly more sophisticated explanation than saying that the increase in food prices is a manifestation of God's Will.

500_Apples

Stephen,

What do you think of the food crisis?

To what extent do you think biofuels are responsible, and not responsible?

Do you think the current situation might be in argument in favour of countries subsidizing domestic agricultural production?

Jerry West

quote:


Stephen Gordon:
But they have pretty much nothing to do with the subject at hand.

Possibly, but I was responding more to your generalized statement that wasn't modified to specify only the subject at hand.

quote:

No-one planned the spike in food prices; it just happened.

Do we know that absolutely? If so, then I guess we have a case for ignorance and poor planning.

I am willing to bet that many of those who created this situation probably don't give a damn about anyone starving as long as they make their profit from it.

quote:

Pinning the blame on an unnamed and ill-defined йlite is only a slightly more sophisticated explanation than saying that the increase in food prices is a manifestation of God's Will.

Maybe so, but research and adequate data can prove or disprove the claim that this was planned. Nothing known to man can prove or disprove the will of God. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

CMOT Dibbler

quote:


Didn't Moore endorse Bill Clinton, and later on, his wife? Given Mike's track record when it comes to endorsing candidates, should we really trust his opinion when it comes to selecting our elected leaders?

Imperialist? Have the Saudis conquered and colonized Oman and Yemen? [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img]

Stephen Gordon

quote:


Originally posted by 500_Apples:
Stephen,

What do you think of the food crisis?

To what extent do you think biofuels are responsible, and not responsible?

Do you think the current situation might be in argument in favour of countries subsidizing domestic agricultural production?


The biofuels story is clearly a factor, but the scale of these things is pretty big. Biofuels account for a significant fraction of US agricultural output, but as a fraction of world output, it's pretty small.

I don't think that subsidising production is the way to go: farmers are already getting good prices for their crops. The danger is the reflex of many govts (ex: Argentina) to respond to the crisis by forcing farmers to accept artificially low prices. That would just make things worse: money-losing farmers would just cut back production.

Ideally, the best thing to do would be to simply give poor people money so that they can deal with the rise in prices. But that's hard for many poor countries to do.

As for what rich countries can do, well, I like the reasoning behind this suggestion:
[url=http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2008/04/the_quick_fix_f.html]The Quick Fix: For the Love of God, Give Every Haitian a Green Card[/url]

quote:

Give every Haitian a green card. Invite the world's most precious resource - human labor - to leave a dirt-based economy and get an entry-level job in the modern economy. It's called doing well while doing good. And unlike everything else the world has ever done for Haiti, it works.

[ 21 April 2008: Message edited by: Stephen Gordon ]

500_Apples

[img]frown.gif" border="0[/img]

I'm skeptical even a single person read a single one of my links. Almost all responses thus far are rehashes of previous posts. I thought I was posting new information such as the export bans, the diseases, saudi arabia's pull out, et cetera.

Lesson learned: never more than one idea at a time.

[ 21 April 2008: Message edited by: 500_Apples ]

Stephen Gordon

[img]confused.gif" border="0[/img]

No, I didn't read them; I was already familiar with much of it, and I didn't see anything in your summary that suggested that I'd learn anything new.

Neither that, nor the fact that I don't have a simple explanation of, or a simple solution to the problem means that I don't think this is an extremely important issue.

Jerry West

quote:


500_Apples
I thought I was posting new information such as the export bans, the diseases, saudi arabia's pull out, et cetera.

I thought what you posted made a good argument that there was more to the problem than bio-fuels. That has also been my conclusion, and which I wrote on this week in my column.

500_Apples

quote:


Originally posted by Jerry West:
[b]

I thought what you posted made a good argument that there was more to the problem than bio-fuels. That has also been my conclusion, and which I wrote on this week in my column.[/b]


You have a column? Where?

500_Apples

quote:


Originally posted by Stephen Gordon:
[b] [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img]

No, I didn't read them; I was already familiar with much of it, and I didn't see anything in your summary that suggested that I'd learn anything new.

Neither that, nor the fact that I don't have a simple explanation of, or a simple solution to the problem means that I don't think this is an extremely important issue.[/b]


If 200% inflation and shortages on the means of survival are not an important issue, then what is?

Jerry West

quote:


You have a column? Where?

[url=http://www.rabble.ca]Here[/url] [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

Merowe

quote:


Originally posted by Stephen Gordon:
[b]

Here's a very important thing to know: [b]no one is in charge of markets[/b]. There is no central plan or central planner that determines what outcomes markets will generate. No more than there is some central plan or some central planner that determines which species will flourish, and which will die out.[/b]


Perhaps I wasn't clear enough, I fear I have sown unintended confusion. I don't mean to invoke Bilderbergian conspiracies, simply to note that given the amount of international production distributed according to the limited range of needs of transnational capital, that production at least is ordered, on a global scale, a de facto 'planning'.

You can get a parcel from Luxembourg to Luanda in a couple of days. That requires a global infrastructure.

I don't think I made any valuations about the roles or possibilities of the 'market' per se.

And, certainly, the crisis was manmade, predicted well in advance, and avoidable. It wasn't an 'act of God' and you can't just dismiss it with a shrug of the shoulders as beyond our competence to analyse accordingly. The impact of extensive shifting to biofuels on global food markets was treated in readings I was doing a few years ago when North American agribusiness first started crooning about ethanol.

Bubbles

Fidel, I read your link to the Stafford Beer story. Sounds to me that he set up a system somewhat akin to the weather station network. Where weather stations report their atmospheric conditions on a regular schedule to a central location sothat weather forcasts can be made. But there is a big difference between knowing what is happening and controling the events.

I am not convinced that a global control centre for food production and distribution would work under current conditions. The current problems can be mostly traced back to a lack of an effective feedback system to the producers. The feedback system is heavily manipulated by processors, bankers, equipment manufacturers, chemical suppliers and the government, bought by these corporate interests.

Fidel

Certain business men and shop owners waged strikes across the country in protest of Allende's democratically elected government. And then there was the infamous Nixon order to the CIA to "make the economy scream" in Chile. This exacerbated rising inflation, but the Cybersyn system of telexes stationed the length of Chile apparently alerted the capital as to where and when shortages and surpluses were occurring. The socialists used that information to counter the effects of striking businesses and allocate goods and food staples where necessary.

quote:

Originally posted by Bubbles:
[b]I am not convinced that a global control centre for food production and distribution would work under current conditions. [/b]

In countries like Haiti and Bangladesh and various regions of India where desperately poor people struggle to provide even one meal a day for them and theirs, the current system isn't working well at all. It's said that democratic capitalist India manages to produce as many skeletons prematurely every eight years as what China did in all it's years of shame from 1958 to 1961.

This leave everything to the market mentality is failing millions of people who are condemned to agonizing deaths while food staples are either exported to or imported from "the market." I think the fact that millions of human beings starve to death on a regular, annual basis is the ultimate in inefficiency.

I think all the zeros appended to some large number each and every year like clockwork should have been an indication to the stupid bastards decades ago that something was amiss. It's more than just bad arithmetic. It's planned and enforced stupidity in an age of computers. Fuck!

[ 22 April 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

quote:


Originally posted by 500_Apples:
[b]If 200% inflation and shortages on the means of survival are not an important issue, then what is?[/b]

I think he's saying it [i]is[/i]:

quote:

Originally posted by Stephen Gordon:
[b][i]Neither[/i] that, [i]nor[/i] the fact that I don't have a simple explanation of, or a simple solution to the problem means that I don't think this is an extremely important issue.[/b]

Merowe

quote:


Originally posted by 500_Apples:
[b]Before going on with this... ][/b]

Considering the state of the planet in the present moment we can't avoid concluding that a host of relatively new and gravely threatening issues rapidly approach, and I think you've clearly identified some of the heads of this Hydra.

There is a temptation to look for some singular root cause that lies beneath the various symptomatic manifestations. I think though, given the unprecedented complexity and interpenetration of modern global economies we're dealing with a 'perfect storm' in which various factors combine with devastating synergy.

But I'd put the implications of peak oil and global warming as the ultimate source of these threats; behind them one might locate the entire project of industrial civilization. They account for the stellar growth in resource use and human populations in the past century or so.

These issues are of course resolvable but my reading is the scale and degree of adjustment required on the part of the 'first world' to successfully address them will prove politically impossible to implement. So rather than a well-ordered downshift to a sustainable human population practicing sustainable resource use what I suspect will happen is a piecemeal disintegration with those on the bottom, both inter and intra nationally, suffering first and worst. The food riots in Chad, Haiti, etc are just the beginning and even at this early stage the UN is looking at a half billion dollar shortfall in its food aid budget.

'First world' politicians will continue to talk a good game; poverty will increase significantly, to the point where some populations will decline. Food and oil prices will continue to climb: why shouldn't they?

The most energy-intensive economies will be the slowest to adapt because they have farther to fall. Denial will be the order of the day, as it is now, particularly as western nations continue to throw up reactionary governments - itself perhaps a reflection of the growing awareness of the 'masses' that the party is winding down, and proactive 'defensive' strategies are required to defend their overlarge share of the pie.

Ethanol is a good example of this denial. Greenwashing. A second's thought demonstrates that one can't shift enough cropland to fuel crop production to replace any useful portion of the oil budget without impacting global food production. This did not prevent such a large scale shift, with the consequences we've seen, because of the power of the agribusiness lobby.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Jerry West:
[b]

[url=http://www.rabble.ca]Here[/url] [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img] [/b]


Good stuff. I notice there's also a column from Heather Mallick about discarded plastic in the sea which I intend to read as well.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Jerry West:
[b]

[url=http://www.rabble.ca]Here[/url] [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img] [/b]


excerpt:

Add to this an increasing population with shrinking grain surpluses, toss in weather related crop failures linked to global warming, and it is understandable why the price of food is rising and poor people around the world are finding it more difficult to afford food. Add to that the diversion of crop land and crops to the production of fuel and it gets even worse.

I'm increasing the amount of crops I will seed in my veggie garden this year. Last year friends and neighbours have expressed interest by asking "how's my garden going?" which probably translates into "boy, I'd sure like some of that". [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

So, although I don't have a hankering for beets or radishes, I'm going to grow them for friends who don't have gardens, for free. Last year I gave almost half of my lettuce, turnips, and carrots away. This year I hope to double the amount I can give. Why? Because these folks have been good to me - looking after the house while I've gone out to the hospital, and so on, and they never accept payment. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

Fidel

I think we have a situation where fifteen or so multinational conglomerates control a significant amount of world food supply. This is not working for millions of people who expire every year for a lack of food and related diseases.

Globalization and deregulation of outdated mechanized farming methods forced on poor countries has them clearcutting forests and renting the best land to big western multinational agribusinesses. Their farming methods transform the land into overworked and overfertilized tracts in record time. Increasing desertification is the result and food is exported to countries which can afford to buy it while millions starve in countries victimized by criminal IMF and WTO rules for neocolonialism.

It amounts to planned and enforced genocide.

Fidel

[url=http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8754][b]Haiti - the World Hunger Poster Child[/b][/url]

>by Stephen Lendman

quote:

Here's what it's like for poor Haitians. They have large families, live in cardboard and tin homes, there's no running water and little or no electricity, and life inside and around them is horrific. Bed sheets can be thick with flies, there's no sanitation, and outside garbage is everywhere. Children are always hungry, there's never enough food, often it's for one meal a day, illness and disease are common, life expectancy very low, and so-called Blue Helmet "peacekeeper" and gang violence plague communities like Port-au-Prince's Cite Soleil.

Haiti, the [i]"freest trading nation in the Caribbean"[/i] according to Washington. What a sad god damn joke it is when they can't even afford dirt to eat. They need a revolution in Haiti and for Yanqui imperialists to mind their own Yanqui business for a change.

[ 22 April 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

Jerry West

quote:


Boom Boom:
I'm increasing the amount of crops I will seed in my veggie garden this year. Last year friends and neighbours have expressed interest by asking "how's my garden going?" which probably translates into "boy, I'd sure like some of that".

I grew up in a place where agriculture was like Jack In The Beanstalk, toss out seeds and garden overwhelmed you. Now I live in a condo on the 50th parallel where gardening requires some work and patience. I have enough yard space for a bunch of whiskey barrels which I use for planters, and between them and smaller pots I grow snow peas, tomatoes, squash, basil, oregano, parsley, chives, green beans, chard, chili peppers and a few miscellaneous things.

I get a a fair amount of stuff all summer, and some in the winter in a lean-to homemade hot house. Snow peas, parsley and scarlet runner beans are the heaviest producers, enough to give away to friends and neighbours.

quote:

I notice there's also a column from Heather Mallick about discarded plastic in the sea which I intend to read as well.

I haven't read Heather's piece yet, but I know from my own research that there is a vast, continental sized island of plastic debris dating back to the beginning of plastic in common use, swirling around in the North Pacific, and some other ones in the oceans around the globe. I don't have a link handy, but you can find info on the net.

I can remember over 30 years ago walking on the beach at Drake's Bay, just north of San Francisco and noting that the predominant debris on the beach and in the surf was plastic tampon applicators. Lots of them.

[ 22 April 2008: Message edited by: Jerry West ]

Jerry West

quote:


Why More Food Is Not the Answer
By Kelpie Wilson
t r u t h o u t | Environment Editor

Tuesday 22 April 2008

With food riots across the globe in the news, the immediate cause of food shortages is simply this: grain prices have doubled over the last year and poor people can no longer afford to buy enough food. There is no one single cause for the price rise; it is a combination of supply and demand.

Steady population growth means there are about 70 million new mouths to feed every year, and increasing affluence is also spurring more people to buy more meat. Meat is grain-intensive - it takes about seven pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. Biofuels are another new demand on grain stocks, and a potentially insatiable one. The grain used to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed one person for a year.

There is more than enough grain to feed every hungry human on the planet, but the poor cannot compete with wealthier buyers of meat and biofuels. Markets are not interested in feeding hungry people - they want to make money, so from a capitalist point of view, the only solution is to increase supply in the hope that it will drive prices down.

However, on the supply side, serious limiting factors are coming into play: dwindling water supplies and increased drought exacerbated by climate change; increasingly degraded land and soils; the rising cost of energy used for everything from water pumping to transport, and the growing cost of fertilizer and other inputs.

The world wants more food - a lot more food - but the planet will not be able to provide it. For this reason alone, more food is not the answer - it cannot be the answer.

[url=http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/042208A.shtml]Link to full article[/url]


Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I live on the Quebec coast, and walk on the beach often. I usually see white plastic shopping bags and green plastic garbage bags scattered here and there, and our school kids do a clean up at end of the school year - I use my truck to collect everything and take it to the dump. Last summer I found a small toy plastic boat on the beach, in perfect condition except for a crack. I left it there (moved it inland a bit) in hopes that one of the children playing on the beach that summer would rescue it.

It's disgusting how much plastic lands in the water.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I live on the Quebec coast, and walk on the beach often. I usually see white plastic shopping bags and green plastic garbage bags scattered here and there, and our school kids do a clean up at end of the school year - I use my truck to collect everything and take it to the dump. Last summer I found a small toy plastic boat on the beach, in perfect condition except for a crack. I left it there (moved it inland a bit) in hopes that one of the children playing on the beach that summer would rescue it.

It's disgusting how much plastic lands in the water.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Stephen Gordon:
[b]As for what rich countries can do, well, I like the reasoning behind this suggestion:
The Quick Fix: For the Love of God, Give Every Haitian a Green Card[/b]

I don't understand this part of Stephen's post. Does anyone else?

[ 22 April 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

quote:


Global food price rises are leading to "silent mass murder" and commodities markets have brought "horror" to the world, the United Nations' food envoy told an Austrian newspaper on Sunday.

Jean Ziegler, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, told Kurier am Sonntag that growth in biofuels, speculation on commodities markets and European Union export subsidies mean the West is responsible for mass starvation in poorer countries.

Ziegler said he was bound to highlight the "madness" of people who think that hunger is down to fate.

"Hunger has not been down to fate for a long time -- [b]just as (Karl) Marx thought[/b]. It is rather that a murder is behind every victim. This is silent mass murder," he said in an interview.


[url=http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-33134320080420]Source[...

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