Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hunger? What's the real problem?

CAPITALISM

Whereas progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, hunger has been slowly but steadily on the rise for the past decade, FAO said. The number of hungry people increased between 1995-97 and 2004-06 in all regions except Latin America and the Caribbean. But even in this region, gains in hunger reduction have been reversed as a result of high food prices and the global economic downturn that started in 2008.

Today, one in nine people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life, making hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health worldwide -- greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The greatest scandal of our age is the fact that just under 1 billion people on the planet go to bed hungry every night. This is despite the fact that we produce more than enough to feed every single person in the world.

Why is there hunger? The obvious answer to this question is that there must be a lack of food. It’s nothing to do with a lack of food. Can the world feed itself? The answer is: “Yes”. The Great Bengal Famine of 1943 claimed 1.5 million lives. Yet food production was only marginally below the previous year, and in fact higher than other years which had not seen famine. The Ethiopian famines of 1972-74 also saw only single-digit declines in food production, too small to account for the 50-200,000 deaths. In the 1974 Bangladesh famine, food availability actually hit a four-year per capita high. In the Sahelian famine which peaked in 1973, drought did lead to significant declines in food availability. During the food crisis in 2008 there was enough food for everyone in the world to have 2,700 kilocalories. Yet a silent tsunami threw more than 115 million into abject hunger. Food being exported from famine-stricken areas may be a ‘natural’ characteristic of the market which respects the rights of private poverty and commerce rather than needs.

 The opening lines of  Amartya Sen’s hugely influential 1981 essay on poverty and famines:
“Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there not being enough food to eat.”

The fact there’s enough food to feed everyone has been acknowledged by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which statedclearly that:
“There is sufficient capacity in the world to produce enough food to feed everyone adequately; nevertheless, in spite of progress made over the last two decades, 805 million people still suffer from chronic hunger.”

There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life. By 2030, with population growth continuing to decline and agricultural output predicted to rise, the UN forecasts enough food will be grown worldwide, despite a global estimated population of 8.3 billion, to give everyone 3050 kilocalories per day. In the United States, enough food is produced for everyone to eat eight full plates of food per day—yet almost 40 million Americans struggle to put food on the table and are classified as “food insecure.”

Solving World Hunger is not rocket science. We have the tools, and the technology to put an end to hunger. There is enough food to go around. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day  according to the FAO in  2002.  The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food. So what needs to change? Discussions of world hunger almost invariably assume that food production is and will continue to be commodity production, whilst simultaneously assuming that food is produced for use. But whatever climate change has to throw at us, there is always a gap between what is possible and what is possible in capitalism. All other things held equal, declining crop yields and loss of arable land can be expected to increase world hunger. But all other things need not be held equal. The social relations through which our natural resources are organised are not themselves laws of nature: they are subject to change. Essentially control over resources and income is based on military, political and economic power that typically ends up in the hands of a minority, who live well, while those at the bottom barely survive, if they do.

Again a very basic question people ask is “Does population growth explain food shortages?” and again many will instinctively answer “Yes”. It seems commonsense that more people in the worls must mean more resource use, therefore fewer resources to go around for everyone. It is a false logic that has led to some highly unsavory arguments and policy decisions. By arguing that population growth is the main cause of mass starvation and environmental ruin we play into the hands of ruling elites who want to blame the victims. One such consequence is that helping the poor not only hurts them, but also threatens to drag the well-fed down to their subsistence level. Under this credo, no sharing is permitted, as it will only generalise starvation to the entire population because there is only so much to go around. The more sophisticated of the Malthusians talk of the carrying capacity of the planet. The number of humans a local or global environment can support depends not on numbers but on the level of economic development and the social relations of that society. Humans can both grow more food and, given the opportunity, consciously self-limit our reproduction based on rational economic and social considerations. The overpopulation argument obscures the more immediate causes of suffering under capitalism. How many people the Earth can support depends primarily on the level of productivity of the existing population and the social relations within which they are embedded. “Carrying-capacity” is as much socially as it is materially determined from the given level of productive development, not some arbitrary measure of what constitutes “too many” people. Poverty and hunger are the  products of social relations, not overpopulation. At no point in the last thirty years, as hunger has increased, has world population growth exceeded growth in food production.

The pioneer of the environmental movement, Rachel Carson, author of the ground-breaking Silent Spring in the 60s, was clear that the primary blame for destruction of the natural world lay with the “gods of profit and production” as the world lived “in an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at any cost is seldom challenged.” Capitalism is a system predicated on continual expansion with an ever-increasing throughput of energy and resources. For those corporations promoting their green credentials that do act to reduce their energy or resource use, the purpose is not to decrease their impact on the environment, however much money they spend touting their ecological awareness. Rather, the objective is to lower production costs so as to maximise profit in order to reinvest in expansion of production to corner market share, thereby negating the original reduction. Contrary to all claims of capitalist efficiency, the amount of senseless waste and pollution under capitalism is enormous. This includes not only the toxic byproducts of the production process that are routinely dumped into the surrounding environment, but also the production and distribution of useless products, the creation of mounting piles of garbage as a result of planned obsolescence and single-use products.the preponderance of inefficient transportation systems based on cars rather than effective public transportation, and, of course, all the wasted labour and materials spent on the military.

It should be clear from all of the above that it isn’t population growth that is causing food scarcity or is primarily responsible for the many accelerating global environmental crises. Even if population growth were to end today, worsening rates of starvation, the growth of slums, and ecosystem collapse would continue more or less unabated. Food production continues to outstrip population growth, and therefore cannot be considered the cause of hunger. There are very serious planetary problems of soil erosion, overfishing, deforestation, and waste disposal, to name only a few, which are putting pressure on the sustainability of food production over the long haul. However, these are all inextricably bound to questions of power and a system run in the interest of a small minority where profit continually outweighs issues of hunger, waste, energy use, or environmental destruction. Concentrating on population confuses symptoms with causes while simultaneously validating apologists for the system. Population growth arguments fit in with the ideological needs of the system rather than challenging them and is the primary reason that they receive so much publicity. It is completely acceptable to capitalism to place the blame for hunger and ecological crises on the number of people rather than on capitalism.

A central concept of capitalism is the idea that there isn’t enough to go around. There isn’t enough food, there aren’t enough jobs, there isn’t enough houses, or schools or hospitals.  “There isn’t enough…” really means “It isn’t profitable…”  The problem is capitalism. The motivation for big business to produce food is profit, not to provide for people. Despite the enormous advances in technology and knowledge, this system cannot provide the most basic necessities for the world’s population. It is not a question of there being too many people or not enough food available. Food production and distribution is not planned but is at the behest of the anarchy of the market, controlled by a handful of multi-national companies. Capitalism is unable to feed the world. The future under capitalism – one of increasing damage to the environment and austerity – will mean this terrible situation gets worse. Socialism is the only solution to stopping and reversing climate change. The world's population is larger than ever before - but so is world food production. Billions of people regularly struggle to get enough to eat but the problem isn't a lack of produce or a rising population. It is a system driven by profit. Despite all the pessimism of mainstream environmentalists, the problem we really face is that we have allowed a system to develop where there is hunger amidst plenty. What we need is to take control of the food system. This will enable us to deal with the wasteful system. Socialists look forward to a world of plenty built on the greatest gift of nature, that of human labour. Real change will only come when the power of those running the system for the purpose of profit is challenged.

Advances in nutrition and agricultural science could allow us to produce abundant, healthy, safe, and tasty food for everyone. Humanity could produce an enormous variety of foods, both to guarantee food security against pests, disease, and climate change through agricultural diversity, but also to keep meals interesting. The infrastructure exists to develop a vast network of public restaurants serving affordable, delicious and interesting food. Home cooking and eating could be transformed into relaxing social activities, not the compulsory drudgery it is for billions today. In short, the knowledge, technology, and collective potential to completely transform the way the world eats exists now. What doesn’t exist is a social structure that allows for a rational and balanced approach to food production, distribution, preparation, and consumption. But virtually all the proposals out there are limited to tinkering with the existing system or appealing to the good will and reason of the rich and powerful. This is utopian. In a system driven by and defined by commodity production and money, what matters to the capitalists is not food quality or human health, but maximising profits. The solution to this is not to be found in blaming individuals for their “individual choices,” or in changing this or that aspect of the status quo. The solution can only come from abolishing the dysfunctional system of capitalism itself.

At the Rome International Conference on Nutrition – organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) 90 ministers and hundreds of government officials agreed on recommendations for policies and programmes to address nutrition across multiple sectors which “enshrines the right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food” while committing governments to preventing malnutrition and hunger. A utopian aspiration under capitalism. But FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva confirmed one truth, “We have the knowledge, expertise and resources needed to overcome all forms of malnutrition.”




Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cheap hospital food

 Scotland’s biggest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s catering budget was slashed last year by £1million and documents released under freedom of information laws suggest the average daily spend per person is just £4.08.

Critics say patients could end up taking longer to heal because they are not getting adequate nutrients and vitamins at a time when they need them most.

Dr Margaret Richie, of Edinburgh University, said it was unlikely the limited budget could provide a healthy diet, unless patients were served baked beans every day.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

It is a waste

Yet another report on unnecessary food waste. This time from India.

 40% of India’s fruits and vegetables and roughly 22% of wheat are lost annually due to poor cold storage facilities and infrastructural bottlenecks, according to a study done by a UK-based institute. 1.2-2 billion tonne of food items, or 30-50% of total production, is lost each year. Losses of rice in South-east Asian nations can range from 37% to 80% of production, depending on the stage of development, totalling around 180 million tonne a year, the report also said. About 550 billion cubic meters of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer

‘‘This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as the nearly one billion people in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food,’’ said Tim Fox, the head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. There is the potential to provide 60-100% more food by eliminating losses and wastages while freeing up land, energy and water resources, the report said.

Despite the economy tripling in size between 1990 and 2005 to become Asia’s third largest, 42% of children under five years are underweight – nearly double the rate of sub-Saharan Africa.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Fact of the Day

Although there are 50,000 edible plant species, we are only eating between 15 and 50 of them explained Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Thursday, December 13, 2012

There is enough food to feed the world

Some attendees at a conference in London’s Chatham House to debate how to feed the planet’s growing population without degrading the earth’s resources argued that current levels of food production - if better managed - could accommodate everyone. They acknowledge that many people around the world are already going hungry, but contend this is not an issue of food shortage. Instead, they point out that vast quantities of edible produce are used for animal feed or biofuel production, or are allowed to spoil in storage or otherwise go to waste. 

The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo Nwanze, explained “There is enough food in the world to feed every man, woman and child. Yet one-third of the food that is produced goes to waste. Fifty-seven per cent of food produced is not used for consumption. There is enough food to feed every mouth. The issue is access to food.”

The issue is indeed access to food - free access.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fact of the day

One hundred and ninety million – that’s more than the populations of Germany, France and Poland combined - is also the number of children affected by vitamin A deficiency around the world. India represents 37 percent of victims, including roughly 80 million children.

An insufficient intake of this vital nutrient – found in foods like liver, carrots and kale – can be fatal and causes blindness in 250,000 to 500,000 children every year.

 Solving the problem of hunger does not necessarily tackle the question of nutrition. For instance, rice can represent up to 70 percent of caloric intake in many Asian countries, while cassava – rich in calories but also poor in nutrients – is the main food source for many Africans.

Monday, November 12, 2012

FEED THE WORLD

One in eight people — 870 million worldwide — will go to bed hungry tonight. One-third of all child deaths globally are caused by under-nutrition. Most of the world’s hungry are farm families; 75 percent of the world’s poor are rural. In poor countries, people spend two-thirds of their daily income on food. When food prices rise, poor households eat less nutritious food. Malnutrition decreases learning capacity. 80 percent of our brain develops during the first 1,000 days of life; if malnourished, then it doesn’t recover.

The tragic irony is feeding the planet, now and in the future, can be done. According to estimates by several studies, there are already 3,000 calories available for every man, woman and child, which is more than enough to sustain us.

 Who cares what’s in store for the future, as long as the rich can pocket the money they make today? Who cares what their craving for more profits may bring tomorrow?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why are you fat?

Nearly 14 percent of women in the world are considered obese, up from 7.9 percent in 1980. Among men, 10 percent are obese, up from 5 percent in 1980.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public policy at New York University, one of the leading nutritional experts who has written many books on the food industry, explains obesity rates started to rise in the 1980s, she says largely because of demands Wall Street placed on food makers.

Wall Street "forced food companies to try and sell food in an extremely competitive environment," she says. Food manufacturers "had to look for ways to get people to buy more food. And they were really good at it. I blame Wall Street for insisting that corporations have to grow their profits every 90 days."

 Large government subsidizes given to the corn, wheat, soybean and sugar industries allowed farmers to reap high returns on their crops. Farmers could grow these commodities cheaply and were encouraged by the food industry "to plant as much as they could. Food production increased, and so did calories in the food supply," Nestle writes. Inexpensive food encouraged more eating, and more eating led to bigger waistlines. "Today, in contrast to the early 1980s, it is socially acceptable to eat in more places, more frequently and in larger amounts, and for children to regularly consume fast foods, snacks and sodas" Since 1980 the index cost of fruits and vegetables has gone up by 40 percent. Whereas the index price of sodas and snack foods have gone down by 20 to 30 percent.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wasted Capitalism

One third to one half of all food produced in the world goes to waste uneaten, according to data recently collected by the Natural Resources Defense Council and presented this month at the 2012 Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit. Yet the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 925 million people went undernourished in 2010 alone. And hunger is not a problem restricted to developing countries: last year, an estimated 1 in 4 American children lived in households where food was not always available, and 1 in 5 Americans sought food aid through the federal food stamp program.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average American throws away 33 pounds of food each month — that’s nearly 400 pounds each year. Food waste makes up nearly 14% of American families’ trash. Americans toss more food in their garbage cans than plastic products. This waste includes both leftover cooked foods, and food that was purchased but allowed to spoil without being eaten. The foods most commonly discarded without ever being eaten include fresh produce, eggs and fish.

Farmers, packaged food producers and retailers all waste edible food, too. Farmers may throw away excess produce that cannot be sold; food process may discard edible byproducts; grocery stores often reject or discard produce with minor defects. And at any point along the food supply chain, failure to deliver food promptly or store food properly may lead to spoilage.

Agriculture and food production are highly energy-intensive industries. Industrialized farms use petrochemicals to fertilize soil, and fossil fuels to power farm equipment. Transporting food from field to plate consumes even more energy. According to the a report issued by the UN FAO in November 2011, the food sector accounts for nearly 30 percent of the world’s energy consumption. Wasted food, essentially, is wasted energy. And wasted water, too: the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that agriculture accounts for roughly 70 percent of human water consumption. Beyond the substantial environmental impact of the wasted energy and water represented by wasted food, food waste contributes significantly to global climate change when it decomposes in landfills. When left to decompose in natural conditions or in a compost pile, food waste naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But under unnatural landfill conditions, in the absence of air, most food waste undergoes anaerobic decomposition, which results in the production of large amounts of methane gas instead. Though both carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases that can contribute to climate change, EPA scientists estimate that methane gas is 20 times more efficient at trapping the sun’s heat than carbon dioxide — making excess methane much more dangerous to the climate than excess CO2. Landfills are currently the third-largest source of methane in the United States, producing more of the dangerous greenhouse gas than coal mining or crude oil production. And much of the methane in landfills comes from decomposing food waste.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/while-children-starve-up-to-half-of-the-worlds-food-goes-to-waste.html#ixzz1qIF2NUnI

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

HUNGRY FOR PROFITS

Along with caviar and truffles, foie gras is part of the top three Western gourmet items. However, the forced feeding of geese in order to fatten up their livers has been plagued with controversy internationally. Geese or ducks forced to undergo gavage feeding, starting when they are between 10 and 14 weeks old, have a 20 to 30-centimeter-long tube stuck into their esophagus two or three times a day. Food is poured down this tube. Occasionally this causes the bursting of the esophagus. Sometimes the bird develops liver disease. “Feeding like this for two weeks is the limit of what the poor birds can bear. Beyond this limit, they’d die in large number,” says Zhou Zungo, director of the World Animals Welfare Farms Association.

Countries like Germany and Poland outlaw the “gavage” method of feeding, while California prohibits the sale of foie gras. the European Union has planned to stop, from 2019 onward, the production of this traditional cuisine. Currently, Hungary, which used to be the second-biggest producer, has gradually decreased its output. Israel, another major producer in the past, has also discontinued its production. Last year, some French foie gras producers were shut out at the Cologne International Food Fair.

So it is not altogether surprising that production is shifting eastward to China. The world’s biggest goose farm and foie gras factory will soon be established on the banks of Poyang Lake, Jiangxi Province, China. The American investment company Creek Project is said to be putting $100 million into the venture. The planned Poyang Lake project will raise around two million geese and eight million ducks annually. China already produces an estimated 1,000 tons of foie gras per year, double its output in 2006. France still remains No. 1 with about 20,000 tons a year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Poor and fat

Studies about the predictors of obesity in the UK have shown that the poorest are most likely to be obese. For example, one University of Glasgow study found that residents of an impoverished Glasgow neighbourhood were more than twice as likely to be obese compared with residents of an affluent neighbourhood only miles away. This pattern holds among children, teenagers and adults; men and women; and across ethnic groups.

In places such as Ethiopia (a low-income country that has had several serious famines in recent decades), the cheapest foods are the least calorie-dense; therefore, the poor systematically lack access to energy-rich foods, and have a higher likelihood of suffering from undernutrition and starvation. By contrast, in a city such as Glasgow, the cheapest foods are the most calorie-dense – kebabs, chips, crisps, pies and puddings, fizzy drinks etc – so the poor there are more at risk from obesity.

Deprived areas in cities , termed "food deserts" in the academic literature about obesity, fundamentally limit the food choices that poor people can make, thereby promoting unhealthy lifestyles, and ultimately, obesity.A basket of healthy food would cost more in a poor part of east London, for example, than it would in somewhere like Fulham.

Another issue is what is termed "food insecurity", or lack of regular, dependable access to food. This can also promote obesity. Imagine that you didn't know where your next meal would come from, and you had a large meal in front of you at the time: what would you do? I would eat the whole thing (probably more than my fill), so that if, in fact, I didn't get a meal later, I would have eaten enough for the day. Now, what if the next meal did come (again, in the same setting of insecurity about where the next meal would come from)? A cycle of insecurity-based overconsumption can set in, ultimately leading to obesity.

A study in the International Journal of Obesity upon following over 11,000 Britons for 33 years, showed that low parental social class at age seven was a significant predictor of obesity at age 33. If a factor as intractable as parental social class can influence obesity risk 26 years later, it is hardly helpful to blame every obese individual for his or her condition.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Malnutrition in the UK ?

“We think we are heading towards malnutrition happening here in the UK.” - Save the Children’s Colette Marshall told the BBC. "Benefits simply haven’t been enough and with rising food costs it means that families cannot afford to give children proper decent food. "

Children are being deprived of dietary staples and instead are being raised on cheap packaged food high in fat, salt and sugar. The Grocer magazine shows food prices rising by almost a fifth over the past year, with basic essentials such as rice and milk among the worst hit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The crazy logic of capitalist economics

The Sunday Times has found that home-grown products are being transported thousands of miles overseas for processing before being put on sale back in Britain. Socialist Courier reported this market madness back here .

Scottish prawns are being hand-shelled in China, Atlantic haddock caught off Scotland is being prepared in Poland and Welsh cockles are being sent to Holland to be put in jars before going on sale in Britain.

Meanwhile, products grown overseas are taking circuitous routes to Britain. African-grown coffee is being packed 3,500 miles away in India, Canadian prawns are processed in Iceland, and Bolivian nuts are being packed in Italy.

“We are producing food in one corner of the world, packing it in another and then shipping it somewhere else. It’s mad.”

Dawnfresh, a Scottish seafood company that supplies supermarkets and other large retailers, cut 70 jobs last year after deciding to ship its scampi more than 5,000 miles to China to be shelled by hand, then shipped back to the River Clyde in Scotland and breaded for sale in Britain.

The company said it was forced to make the move by commercial pressures. “This seems a bizarre thing to do but the reality is that the numbers don’t stack up any other way,” said Andrew Stapley, a director. “We are not the first in the industry to have had to do this. Sadly, it’s cheaper to process overseas than in the UK and companies like us are having to do this to remain competitive.”

Haddock is one of the fish most commonly caught by British trawlers, but Tesco sends its Atlantic haddock for processing to Poland where labour costs are lower. It is then driven more than 850 miles to Tesco’s depot in Daventry, Northamptonshire.

Traidcraft coffee, sold at Sainsbury’s, is made from beans grown in Bukoba, Tanzania.

Once the coffee is cultivated, it is driven 656 miles to Dar-es-Salaam and then shipped 3,250 miles to Vijayawada in India where it is packed. The coffee is loaded back on the ships and transported another 5,000 miles to Southampton. It is then driven 330 miles to Gateshead and is finally driven to Leeds for distribution to Sainsbury’s stores.

Sainsbury’s organic fair trade rice, produced in the lush foothills of the Himalayas, is shipped to Lille, France, rather than Britain, to be packed. It then makes a second journey to end up on Sainsbury’s shelves.It is not just fair trade coffee that is sent from country to country. Instead of directly importing coffee beans from Costa Rica for their instant coffee, Sainsbury’s and Tesco first send them to Germany. The final product then undergoes another 500-mile lorry journey to get to Britain.Similarly, French-grown walnuts sold in Waitrose are sent to Naples to be packed. The retailer’s Brazil nuts from South America are also transported to Italy before being sent to Britain.

The industrialisation of the food chain means even small firms are being forced to ship their produce abroad for processing. Pilchard fillets, produced by the Pilchard Works in Cornwall, are sent on the overnight ferry to France because there is no suitable processing plant in England. The pilchards are canned in Douarnenez in Brittany, then returned to Cornwall. Similarly, Welsh cockles – produced by Van Smirren Seafoods – are driven across Britain to Dover and then transported to Yerseke in Holland. They are pickled and put in jars before being sent back to Britain.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MEP, said: “Ultimately, the price is paid by all of us in the shape of higher greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and congestion, and food that is both less tasty and less healthy.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

the shopping price hike


High food costs have added £15 to a weekly supermarket shop for a family of four in the UK, new research suggests.
Comparison website MySupermarket says a basket of 24 staple items including tea bags, milk and eggs costs 15% more than it did 12 months ago. The findings are based on its price comparisons of certain everyday items at Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.
The increases mean that families spending an average of £100 a week on food will be spending £780 a year more at a time when customers are under increasing pressure from higher mortgage, petrol and energy costs.

Johnny Stern, managing director of MySupermarket said: "The conclusion is that supermarkets are passing on a sizeable amount of the increased costs."

The price of wheat, rice and maize have nearly doubled in the past year . Analysts have warned that the higher prices are threatening to drive an extra 100 million people worldwide into poverty.

White loaf at Sainsbury's and Tesco: 65p - up 20%
Butter: 94p - up 62%
English mild cheddar: £1.52 - up 26%
Garden peas at Tesco: £1.79 - up 63%
Basmati white rice: £1.45 - up 61%

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Scotland and the food shortages

Britain is only 70% self-sufficient in cereal grains, down from 90% in the 1980s. Scotland is even worse, at only 40%. Most of that goes into the whisky industry and to animal feed. Scotland is thus almost totally dependent on others for this most basic of commodities for human consumption, which raises the question of whether Scotland could, if need be, feed itself.

The answer is yes, but only after significant change in land use and a rather drastic adjustment of the national diet.

Professor Peter Gregory, CEO of the Scottish Crop Research Institute says: "Technically, this is not a crisis for Scotland. There is enough arable land to provide for every person in Scotland. Our cereal yields are around twice the global average."

It would be possible to start making bread for five million people living in Scotland if we switched rape fields for wheat fields.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

hunger: it’s a market thing

From Ian Bell of the Sunday Herald

Lots of food, lots of hunger: it’s a market thing.

Last week the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development was published...Its main findings were simple enough, however. There is enough food for everyone. It is cheaper and, broadly, more nutritious than it has been in decades, but 800 million go hungry...

...there are no food shortages. Instead, according to one of those complicated theories they teach at Oxford and the like, there are money shortages. Or rather - and this is apparently so complicated it never gets discussed - some people are very short of money and some are anything but...

...The relationships between land, food security, politics and bread at £1.13 a loaf are not abstract. The laws of economics should not be mistaken for acts of God...

As Bell writes , the law of economics is not abstract but neither is it complicated . Simply put , in capitalism , if you cannot pay , you cannot have , no matter your dire need . The Socialist Party understand this , as too does the working class , even if they so far have not understood or sought the solution - socialism - and it is not more abstract analysis from philosophers and politicians that is required , instead the point now is to change the way the world is organised for the benefit of the few against the interests of the many to a system where we all enjoy the fruits of our labour . That takes political action and a political movement to organise around and that requires members and commitment.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Capitalism's Waste


Waste & Resources Action Programme reports that a third of the food we buy, amounting to 6.7 million tonnes, gets discarded from UK households annually. Fruit and vegetables are a major component at around 40% of this. The top five fruit & vegetables which get binned without even being touched are apples (4.4 million or 179,000 tonnes pa), potatoes(5.1m or 177,000 tonnes pa), bananas (1.6m or 77,000 tonnes pa), tomatoes (2.8m or 46,000 tonnes pa) and oranges (1.2m or 45,000 tonnes). Producing, storing and getting the food to UK homes consumes much energy through transport, packaging etc. If we could stop the wastage of all this food, it would save the equivalent of at least 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This would be equivalent to taking 1 in 5 cars off UK roads, according to WRAP.


The amount of discarded food-stuff is boosted by supermarket marketing promotions such as "two-for-one" deals with the result millions of Britons buy more than they need and then fail to eat much of what they bought before it goes off.


The study findings show essentially that much is discarded because it simply goes off, and storage conditions at home bear much blame. Simply storing most fresh fruit and vegetables inside the fridge keeps these foods stay fresh for up to 2 weeks longer.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Food Shortages - "it's capitalism" - says a capitalist

We have reported on the rise in food prices that many commentators blame on changes in supply and demand for grain but the Times reports that the managing director of Greggs, the well known high street baker-shop chain , has attacked speculators for driving up the price of wheat and fuelling famine in Africa.

Michael Darrington said commodity traders were more to blame for spiralling food price inflation than poor harvests or farmland given over to biofuels.

“There are stocks of wheat and grain in the world, and crops are growing at the moment but funds are being set up as speculators see an opportunity to make some short-term money and someone has to pay for it. It's really sad for people in the developing world where food can account for 70 per cent of the family budget. Wheat is predominantly grown in America, Australia, Europe - the wealthier areas - and people in under-developed nations are hurting the most.” He added I suppose that's just capitalism but it's jolly disappointing. If society looked down on these funds then perhaps it would make a difference.”

Can't pay - Can't have - So starve .

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas Good Cheer


The Herald reports that food prices are set to rise around the globe after years of decline, with climate change making it harder for the world's poorest to get adequate food . Rising global temperatures as well as growing food consumption in rapidly developing countries such as China and India are pressuring the world food system, meaning that prices will rise for the foreseeable future, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. In addition, switching to crops used for biofuels will also reduce the amount of available food and increase prices


Hunger and malnutrition could rise as poor agricultural communities most sensitive to the environment, such as in Africa, are affected. Dependency on food imports will also increase as cereal yields decline in poorer countries. The world's agricultural production is projected to decrease by 16% by 2020 due to global warming, the report said, with land used for certain crops shrinking.


And we have the Independent reporting that the World's wealth already cannot provide for all its population and it is making the customary Christmas appeal for charity and alms .


Even in this supposed rich developed country there are tens of thousands of homeless yet according to Empty Homes Agency, a campaigning charity there are currently 663,000 wasted empty homes in England .


There are three main reasons for these 663,000 empty homes:-


First group have small-scale owners who've let the properties fall into disrepair, or have bought/inherited them in that state. But they don't have the time or the means, and so nothing is done year after year.


The second group are a consequence of property speculation. They are new-builds bought for investment. People buy off-plan with the intention to sell, will wait for their high expectations to be met rather than to accept what they're worth now or to rent them out. They'll gamble for big returns in the future rather than settle for a small but good income now .


The third group are publicly owned such as the Ministry of Defence or local authorities compulsory-purchasing homes with a view to regeneration. But some of those regeneration projects take forever, and in the meantime, homes that could be put to good use are sitting vacant.


Meanwhile between July 2005 and June 2006 139,760 were found to be homeless and the rate of homelessness in London is twice as high as the rest of England with over 50,000 homeless households. In Scotland , the number of households officially recognised as newly homeless in 2005/06 was 40,000.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Market Madness

Capitalism is a system that if it doesn't make the profit , it doesn't get made .

Low prices led to sheep on hill farms being slaughtered because they could not be sold and faced a shortage of grazing with the onset of winter. Mr Picken of National Farmers Union Scotland said the difficulties facing livestock farmers could see grassland being ploughed up and left fallow.

But when it comes to making a buck , there is always an alternative .

Mr Picken said the UK was lagging behind other countries in the production of biofuels. "So there is a bit of room so to speak for growing energy crops."

Ineos Enterprises' proposal to build one of Europe's biggest bio-diesel plants in Grangemouth was given the go-ahead . And there are pending plans by DMF Biodiesel for a processing facility in Rosyth . And there will be another at Motherwell , partly financed the Scottish Parliment's Regional Selective Assistance .

So as elsewhere in the world , it is will now be a matter of growing crops for fuel not food - and farmers will be eligible for a single Common Agricultural Policy payment and also claim EU energy aid payment to a maximum of 45 Euros (£32) per hectare.

The greed for profits will starve hungry bellies .

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