Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Food for the hungry

If you haven't heard it on the news, there is a food shortage. Millions of people are going to starve to death because they can not get food. This isn't just in countries where one meal is served a day. This is in our western countries, like Australia and the United States too.

People have many different theories why there is such a massive food shortage. Most people are willing to label it as the cost of farmers growing bio-fuel instead of food for human consumption. But why would farmers chose bio-fuel crops over food crops?

Perhaps one of the reasons lies in copyright.

In traditional farming, a farmer buys seed, plants his crop, and then collects a portion of the crop's seeds for the next seasons planting. In today's farming, corporations own the copyright on the genetically modified (GM) food. This means that each season, a farmer must purchase more seeds or risk prosecution for using seeds that have the copyrighted DNA. Farmers have a higher overhead on these foods. It is cheaper for them to produce biofuel, thus, they can afford to continue farming.

In 2006 Monsanto, a corporation who makes GM foods, had a revenue of over $7 Billion USdollars. They got their revenue party by forcing those who use their products to continue to buy every season. Their tactics have forced hundred of farmers out of business around the globe. They continue to make no aplogies for they're actions. (Sadly, this is only one of their atrocities against their own customers, but if you'd like a full report, i suggest a read of their wikipedia entry.)

The next time you go to the store, check the label. By local food without the GM label. It will be better for you, and better for the person who grew that food.

4 comments:

Ben said...

That is the only good reason I've heard to not eat GM food. I'm not against GM food as it is, because if a plant can be made to be more resistant to disease or can grow better in unfavourable conditions then it must be good. Even if the modifications go too far, I for one welcome our new plantish overlords.
But corporations that mess with the natural cycle (we plant the seed, nature grows the seed, we eat the seed, then we plant the seed, nature grows the seed, we eat the seed, then we plant the seed...) just to get a little more money are evil.

Another thing about GM foods, and correct me if I'm wrong on this, but when the US had tons of surplus grain and such, they tried to give it to humanitarian work in third world countries but it was returned because it was GM. Now that is silly.

kris said...

I hadn't heard about the grain being dumped because it was gm food. I do know that third world countries are being forced into growing gm foods because major markets don't want to buy anything else. Which effectively prices them out of the market.

watson_vagabond said...

ok, maybe GM has a part, and bio-fuel definitely has a part too, but there's a lot of countries this year that are contributing to the food shortage:

-Australia's worst drought ever recorded which is in it's fifth year and created sky rocket water prices for farmers. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6749073.stm]

-Argentine farmer 3-week strike last month(they're currently in talks with the government this month and then deciding whether to go back on strike). They're one of the world's leading soya, beef and wheat exporters. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7327476.stm]

-political unrest and violent turmoil in Kenya which has led to SERIOUS decline in planting, because so much of it gets destroyed or taken over by raiders anyway. [http://allafrica.com/stories/200803240603.html?page=2]

-China increasing population and their middle-class, causing more demand for diary and meat products, which takes up a lot more land to produce.
(the amount of land and resources required to raise meat rather than grains and food is actually what caused my hippy non-adventist professor to become a vegetarian back in the day. if everyone in the world was a vegetarian, he said, there would be enough food for everyone in the world to eat and it would be more economically friendly. so he gave up beef to help world hunger.)

Prices have started to rise in 2002: "In 2007 alone, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s world food index, dairy prices rose nearly 80 per cent and grain 42 per cent."--[http://www.business24-7.ae/cs/article_show_mainh1_story.aspx?HeadlineID=4792]

ansell said...

Patenting DNA is just as stupid as patenting computer algorithms IMO. The idea of patents was never to prop up a huge global corporation in the eyes of the law, it was to help upstarts keep their innovative product safe with the idea that they would license it to people at a fair and reasonable price to spread the idea around.

As Ben says, this is one of the very few reasons not to use GM food. Fancy telling someone they can't replant grain...

I guess they learn from Microsoft that people have to keep paying for things of the world will fall down. Save XP (I honestly don't want to ever have to relearn windows :-S )