Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Food Crises, Agribusiness and Famines

There's an interesting post over at Lenin's Tomb connected to my recent posts on global food prices. Lenin throws in some interesting historical analysis as well and asks the very pertinent question: "Why is it that for the first time the number of obese people (1 billion) exceeds the number of starving people (850 million)?"

But don't just stop at reading the post, I also strongly recommend reading the comments. Of particular interest are several running debates amongst the impressively informed readers, that include the question of whether Mao's agricultural policies saw an improvement in the lives of the bulk of the peasantry, the massive famine associated with the Great Leap Forward notwithstanding, and (more my own area of interest and expertise) to what extent the massive famines of the last 19th century in colonial India were the direct result of British policy. [I strongly recommend the book that is referenced, Mike Davis' Late Victorian Holocausts]

Another article well worth reading is this one in the Telegraph. It argues that rising demand in Asia for meat has less to do with the dramatic increase in prices than the switch to biofuel and speculation on the commodity trading markets [incidentally it is also commodity traders that are artificially raising the price of oil higher as well], citing the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. There certainly is an element of capitalism gone mad when we find that rain forest is being slashed and burned in Brazil to clear land to grow grain for "environmentally friendly" biofuel.

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