domingo, abril 13, 2008

The New Green Revolution and World Food Prices

By Raj Patel and Eric Holt-Giménez

It was just a matter of time… and not long at that. The world food crisis and the explosion of “food riots” across the globe has been turned into an opportunity. By whom? By the same institutions that created the conditions for the crisis in the first place: proponents of the new Green Revolution.

In their April 10 editorial entitled “The World Food Crisis,” the New York Times warns that increases of 25-50% in the price of food and basic grains have sparked unrest “from Haiti to Egypt.” The Times rightly lays part of the blame on the doorstep of northern countries’ thirst for ethanol, pointing out that the substitution of fuel crops for food crops, “[Accounts] for at least half of the rise in world corn demand in each of the past three years.” A rise in demand means a rise in price. This puts food out of reach of poor consumers.
But then confusing economic demand with actual availability, the Times jumps to a dubious solution. Quoting World Bank president Robert Zoellick, the paper calls for “[A] ‘green revolution’ to increase farm productivity and raise crop yields in Africa.”

This was of course, a likely response from the World Bank, the institution that, along with the International Monetary Fund, forcibly applied the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) responsible for destroying the capacity of African nations to develop or protect their own domestic agricultural systems from the dumping of subsidized grain from the U.S. and Europe. Over the same 25 years in which SAPs were being implemented, the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) invested over 40% if its $350 million/year budget in Africa’s “Green Revolution.” The result? A big zero. Actually, it was worse, because as African marketing boards, agricultural ministries, national research programs and basic infrastructure fell under the scythe of the mighty SAPs, Africa’s agricultural systems steadily eroded. Now their entire food systems are hopelessly vulnerable to economic and environmental shock—hence the severity of the current food price inflation crisis.


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