Al Jazeera has a couple of interesting articles on the food crisis. One is specifically on Haiti, where last week's food riots triggered the alarms on the crisis somewhat, the other is more focused in India but it deals with some reasons behind the crisis that can be extrapolated to the whole planet, it is a very interesting interview with an Indian ecologist: Dr. Vandana Shiva.
Haiti has seen rice prices double in the last few months. Rice is not a local produce but it became staple food in the Caribbean country when import taxes were lowered after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship: this allowed everybody to buy rice then but destroyed the local agricultural economy, making the poor country even more dependent from the exterior.
Aristide, 'Titid', was again claimed as the legitimate Haitian president in the food riots last week.
India is not yet at the levels of food stress of Haiti, Philippines or Egypt. But it's builiding up, with many people going hungry for hours or days, and the reasons are largely the same: agriculture has become a globalized industry, where benefits are more important than feeding the people. This doesn't happen in the rich developed countries, by the way: in the USA, EU, Japan... agriculture is protected by the state, making sure that local farmers, or at least some of them, get much more than just market price for their produce.
Dr. Shiva says:
There is a huge agrarian crisis but it's not from the beginning of our freedom, it's not a leftover of feudalism. The agrarian crisis is a result of globalisation. The farmers who are committing suicide in India are precisely in those areas where genetically engineered cotton is being grown by Monsanto.
He points out that, at the same time that India and the USA signed a nuclear treaty, they also signed an agricultural one, almost ignored by the media that leaves India exposed to foreign food imports, specially from the USA.
With the price rise, I can see about 70 to 80 per cent of India will be pushed into hunger and starvation.
Asked for a short term solution, Dr. Shiva says:
There is a very short term solution: give up the industrial agriculture using fossil fuels, high cost imports. Give up the forced linking with an international commodity market. Allow farmers to grow and give them a just price.
We can solve the problem tomorrow. I work with 400,000 farmers in India growing organic food. We have doubled yields and doubled output on farms. Nobody is dying of starvation in the villages where there is organic farming.
He warns that, if the government does not adress the problem of having the people fed, riots will increase and can even overthrow governments. After all it's a matter of life or death.