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Most Americans take food for granted.

Even the poorest fifth of households in the United States spend only 16 percent of their budget on food. In many other countries, it is less of a given. Nigerian families spend 73 percent of their budgets to eat, Vietnamese 65 percent, Indonesians half. They are in trouble. Last year, the food import bill of developing countries rose by 25 percent as food prices rose to levels not seen in a generation. Corn doubled in price over the last two years. Wheat reached its highest price in 28 years. The increases are already sparking unrest from Haiti to Egypt. Many countries have imposed price controls on food or taxes on agricultural exports. Last week, the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, warned that 33 nations are at risk of social unrest because of the rising prices of food. “For countries where food comprises from half to three-quarters of consumption, there is no margin for survival,” he said. Prices are unlikely to drop soon. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says world cereal stocks this year will be the lowest since 1982. The United States and other developed countries need to step up to the plate. The rise in food prices is partly because of uncontrollable forces — including rising energy costs and the growth of the middle class in China and India. This has increased demand for animal protein, which requires large amounts of grain. But the rich world is exacerbating these effects by supporting the production of biofuels. The International Monetary Fund estimates that corn ethanol production in the United States accounted for at least half the rise in world corn demand in each of the past three years. This elevated corn prices. Feed prices rose. So did prices of other crops — mainly soybeans — as farmers switched their fields to corn, according to the Agriculture Department. Washington provides a subsidy of 51 cents a gallon to ethanol blenders and slaps a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on imports. In the European Union, most countries exempt biofuels from some gas taxes and slap an average tariff equal to more than 70 cents a gallon of imported ethanol. There are several reasons to put an end to these interventions. At best, corn ethanol delivers only a small reduction in greenhouse gases compared with gasoline. And it could make things far worse if it leads to more farming in forests and grasslands. Rising food prices provide an urgent argument to nix ethanol’s supports. Over the long term, agricultural productivity must increase in the developing world. Mr. Zoellick suggested rich countries could help finance a “green revolution” to increase farm productivity and raise crop yields in Africa. But the rise in food prices calls for developed nations to provide more immediate assistance. Last month, the World Food Program said rising grain costs blew a hole of more than $500 million in its budget for helping millions of victims of hunger around the world.

Industrial nations are not generous, unfortunately. Overseas aid by rich countries fell 8.4 percent last year from 2006. Developed nations would have to increase their aid budgets by 35 percent over the next three years just to meet the commitments they made in 2005. They must not let this target slip. Continued growth of the middle class in China and India, the push for renewable fuels and anticipated damage to agricultural production caused by global warming mean that food prices are likely to stay high. Millions of people, mainly in developing countries, could need aid to avoid malnutrition. Rich countries’ energy policies helped create the problem. Now those countries should help solve it.

Food crisis can create law, order situation’ * Expert recommends announcement of support price of wheat crop on cultivation time By Manzoor Ali Shah PESHAWAR: Experts here on Thursday voiced concern over the increasing prices of food items and said that food crisis might lead to law and order situation if not controlled in time. Experts and researchers at the NWFP Agricultural University Peshawar told Daily Times that the food crisis reflects the lack of planning on the part of the government and growing prices of wheat flour and other food items in an agricultural country need to be worried about. Professor Dr Said Wahab at the Food Science and Technology Department of the University said that easy access of the population to food was necessary and the government should prepare a plan for future to ensure the same. “If food crisis was not controlled, it might create a security situation and increase street crimes,” he said. He said that inflation in prices of food items is hitting the consumers hard, adding that dissolution of magistracy system which used to keep a check on food prices, had also contributed to the rise in prices. s Support price: “The government should announce the support price of a crop at the time of its cultivation which will encourage the farmers to sow it, but the recent increase in support price of wheat gave a chance to those people who have a monopoly over the market to steer it where they want,” he said. Dr Mohamad Tahir at the Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences said that agriculture mainly depends on nature and policy makers should be aware of this fact and plan accordingly. “Recently the prices of rice have also recorded a surge and this is very strange given the

facts that rice is not a staple item in Pakistani food and secondly Pakistan was among top five rice exporters,” he said. He said that the Frontier province is facing a dilemma as in the first place it has small cultivable land and if it sows more wheat, the production of sugarcane and tobacco would decline, which are cash crops. “The Charsadda Road, Faqir Abad and other areas of Peshawar which were open lands and provided the city with vegetables in 1980s have now been turned into commercial areas and housing societies and fragmentation of the land is also hitting the agricultural production,” he said. He said that there were provisions in law under President General Ayub’s government against the commercialisation of agricultural land and the government should invoke them. He said that land in most of the southern districts of NWFP is barren due to shortage of water and if proper irrigation system is developed for these lands, Frontier province would be made self-sufficient in food. Chairman, Food Science and Technology Department, Prof Dr Javedullah said that proper planning is a key to solution of the problem and trained people should be inducted in the food department. “Our policy makers do not consider Afghanistan while formulating their policies but Afghanistan directly influences our policies and this factor should be kept in mind while making policies,” he added. As the flour and other edibles’ prices are on the rise in the country for the past several months, international organisation are cautioning against rising prices, poverty and food riots. This week World Bank head Robert Zoellick warned that around 100 million people in poor countries could be pushed deeper into poverty by spiralling prices, while the International Monetary Fund last week said hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of starvation because of food shortage. United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Agency (FAO) report put Pakistan among the 37 countries where the food crisis looms. FAO Chief Jacques Diouf warned last week that food riots in developing countries will spread unless world leaders take major steps to reduce prices for the poor.

The World Food Crisis
By John Nichols
This article appeared in the May 12, 2008 edition of The Nation.

April 24, 2008
The only surprising thing about the global food crisis to Jim Goodman is the notion that anyone finds it surprising. "So," says the Wisconsin dairy farmer, "they finally figured out, after all these years of pushing globalization and genetically modified [GM] seeds, that instead of feeding the world we've created a food system that leaves more people hungry. If they'd listened to farmers instead of corporations, they would've known this was going to happen." Goodman has traveled the world to speak, organize and rally with groups such as La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasant and farm organizations that has been warning for years that "solutions" promoted by agribusiness conglomerates were designed to maximize corporate profits, not help farmers or feed people. The food shortages, suddenly front-page news, are not new. Hundreds of millions of people were starving and malnourished last year; the only change is that as the scope of the crisis has grown, it has become more difficult to "manage" the hunger that a failed food system accepts rather than feeds.

Iron City in the Shadow of G-20
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Fortress Pittsburgh
Globalization Robert S. Eshelman: In heavily fortified Pittsburgh, protesters are kept isolated from local residents and from conference attendees.

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Globalization Robert S. Eshelman: Climate change groups occupy a central place among G-20 protests in Pittsburgh.

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The World and Pittsburgh
Corporate Responsibility & Accountability John Nichols: At the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, activists will push the United States to back proposals to regulate CEO compensation and require corporate responsibility.

For Competitive Primaries
Electoral Politics John Nichols: Yes, primaries can be divisive and expensive. But the Democratic Party is usually at its best when it trusts grassroots activists and voters to make choices.

Food Without Fear
Food & Nutrition John Nichols: Bad peanuts and killer spinach: that's the food story of 2009. But in the coming months we may see a huge turning point in the fight for safety. The current global food system, which was designed by US-based agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill, Monsanto and ADM and forced into place by the US government and its allies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, has planted the seeds of disaster by pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash crops for export and alternative fuels rather than grow healthy food for local consumption and regional stability. The only smart short-term response is to throw money at the problem. George W. Bush's release of $200 million in emergency aid to the UN's World Food Program was appropriate, but Washington must do more. Rising food prices may not be causing riots in the United States, but food banks here are struggling to meet demand as joblessness grows. Congress should answer Senator Sherrod Brown's call to allocate $100 million more to domestic food programs and make sure, as Representative Jim McGovern urges, that an overdue farm bill expands programs for getting fresh food from local farms to local consumers. Beyond humanitarian responses, the cure for what ails the global food system--and an unsteady US farm economy--is not more of the same globalization and genetic gimmickry. That way has left thirty-seven nations with food crises while global grain giant Cargill harvests an 86 percent rise in profits and Monsanto reaps record sales from its herbicides and seeds. For years, corporations have promised farmers that problems would be solved by trade deals and technology--especially GM seeds, which University of Kansas research now suggests reduce food production and the International

Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development says won't end global hunger. The "market," at least as defined by agribusiness, isn't working. We "have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror," says Jean Ziegler, the UN's right-to-food advocate. But try telling that to the Bush Administration or to World Bank president (and former White House trade rep) Robert Zoellick, who's busy exploiting tragedy to promote trade liberalization. "If ever there is a time to cut distorting agricultural subsidies and open markets for food imports, it must be now," says Zoellick. "Wait a second," replies Dani Rodrik, a Harvard political economist who tracks trade policy. "Wouldn't the removal of these distorting policies raise world prices in agriculture even further?" Yes. World Bank studies confirm that wheat and rice prices will rise if Zoellick gets his way. Instead of listening to the White House or the World Bank, Congress should recognize-as a handful of visionary members like Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur have--that current trends confirm the wisdom of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's call for "an urgent rethink of the respective roles of markets and governments." That's far more useful than blaming Midwestern farmers for embracing inflated promises about the potential of ethanol--although we should re-examine whether aggressive US support for biofuels is not only distorting corn prices but harming livestock and dairy producers who can barely afford feed and fertilizer. Instead of telling farmers they're wrong to seek the best prices for their crops, Congress should make sure that farmers can count on good prices for growing the food Americans need. It can do this by providing a strong safety net to survive weather and market disasters and a strategic grain reserve similar to the strategic petroleum reserve to guard against food-price inflation. Congress should also embrace trade and development policies that help developing countries regulate markets with an eye to feeding the hungry rather than feeding corporate profits. This principle, known as "food sovereignty," sees struggling farmers and hungry people and says, as the Oakland Institute's Anuradha Mittal observes, that it is time to "stop worshiping the golden calf of the so-called free market and embrace, instead, the principle [that] every country and every people have a right to food that is affordable." As Mittal says, "When the market deprives them of this, it is the market that has to give."