BBC reports Oxfam’s perspective on an impending global food crisis estimated to reach a fevered pitch due to high prices by 2030, which they say will be half caused by climate change. They estimate food output has dropped globally by half, since 1990. That was a surprise to me! With all the glut of food being produced in this country (however unethically and ill-used), I’d lost sight of the fact that food production may be down in many other areas of the world. This is taking place while we are on target to reach 9 Billion people on the planet by 2050–that’s almost two times the 1990 population of 5.2 Billion! If I’m doing my math right, that’s about a 1/4 the ration of food/per person on the planet in 2050 than in 1990, if food production yields do not rise. The question is how to gain higher yields all over the world without taxing the environment and yoking farmers to corporate profiteering.
The article goes on to mention a “minority” few who profit from the current globalized system of food production & distribution. While the article is far too tame to call out major corporate or political players specifically, it sites “subsidies for big agricultural producers, powerful investors “playing commodities markets like casinos”, and large unaccountable agribusiness companies as destructive forces in the global food system.”
“The food system must be overhauled if we are to overcome the increasingly pressing challenges of climate change, spiralling food prices and the scarcity of land, water and energy,” said Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive.
It mentions that in Guatemala “865,000 people are said to be at risk of food insecurity because of a lack of state investment in smallholder farmers who are highly dependent on imported food.”
The article goes on to quote an investment fund manager who feels that large scale agribusiness is the right system, and that governments would be remiss to focus too heavily on promoting small farmers. She believes these businesses employ people… and create spin-off industries. Really, Nicola Horlick? You’re boring me with your archetypal banker’s complacent lack of perspective on the ramifications of agribusiness on food, labor, and environmental integrity.
What about maximizing small farm output through best-practice skill-sharing in permaculture systems? What about sustainable, small farmers working together cooperatively with the same subsidies governments now give to corporate growers to prop up their artificially boosted GMO yields? Or spin-off industries formed by producer collectives?
Oxfam offered the following suggested policy solution, the last of which apparently made Nicola (and likely all other corporate land-raiders) very uncomfortable:
- increase transparency in commodities markets and regulate futures markets
- scale up food reserves
- end policies promoting biofuels
- invest in smallholder farmers, especially women