Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Global Food Crisis No Longer Under the Radar

In the early 1990’s the festering unrest between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda went pretty much unreported. Violence, fear and exodus festered under the surface for years. The only thing that made the news here in the U.S. was the tragic slaughter of some of Jane Goodall’s favorite gorillas. Then in 1994 all hell broke loose. Hutus no longer concealed the savage slaughtering of Tutsis. There were literally rivers of blood.

Somehow if it doesn’t make the network news, we’re able to achieve some modicum of blissful unawareness. Unfortunately, the world’s suffering is not alleviated so easily.

A global food crisis is upon us. Food riots have broken out in at least fourteen countries, and untold numbers of people are literally starving to death.

The causes are many and no one measure will resolve the whole of it, but a bit of awareness is required if we are going to see things turn for the better. Here are just a few of the symptoms and causes, in no particular order of importance. Sources include Janet Tu’s “Region’s aid groups grappling with global food crisis” (Seattle Times) and Anthony Faiola’s “Global Food Prices and Africa’s Economic Famine”, transcript from an online chat.

Organizations like World Vision and Farms International, whose ministries and services are directly focused on helping the Third World needy, are especially attuned to the crisis. Joseph Richter, Executive Director of Farms International, brought the seriousness of the crisis to our attention yesterday. Currently there are food riots in fourteen countries, he said. The causes are complicated. Chief of these are rising fuel prices, the conversion of crops to corn for ethanol, the greater demand for meat in China and India, and draughts in two other breadbaskets, Australia and Russia.

In Anthony Faiola’s “Global Food Prices” piece, the journalist fielded questions from around the world. One question drew attention to the increased crop substitution that is taking place in order to produce ethanol. Faiola replied, “Thanks for the good question. One of the big problems is crop substitution. As corn prices increased because of biofuel demand, some farmers shifted production from consumption crops such as wheat, soy beans, etc, to capitalize on the high prices for corn. It has helped link prices for these grains together, one reason they are shooting up at the same time.”

The situation is worsening at an alarming rate because of simultaneous setbacks on so many fronts along with the rising prices. Americans who wish to contribute to a trustworthy organization that is doing real good in this area, with bare minimum overhead, can find a worthy conduit at Farms International.

No comments: