High food prices have pushed another 105 million people into hunger in the first half of 2009, the head of the U.N. World Food Programme said on Friday, raising the total number of hungry people to over 1 billion.
Urging rich nations at a meeting of G8 development ministers not to cut back on aid, Josette Sheeran said the world faced a human catastrophe as more people struggle to eat a decent meal.
“This year we are clocking in on average four million new hungry people a week, urgently hungry,” Sheeran told Reuters.
“For the first six months of this year, 105 million people have been added,” she said, citing figures to be released by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization next week that will raise the total number of undernourished people to over 1 billion.
In 2008, FAO said the world’s hungry numbered 963 million.
The WFP needs $6.4 billion this year for food aid, but donors’ contributions have fallen way behind that level — it had around $1.5 billion at the end of last week.
The agency says it has had to cut food aid rations and shut some operations in eastern Africa and North Korea because of the credit crunch.
“I know it seems a big figure, but if you compare it with the global stimulus package, it means that for less than 1 percent of that we could help meet the urgent human crisis that is unfolding, and that is just as essential to the stability of the world,” Sheeran said.
She said despite a decline in most food prices from record peaks last year, they remained high in developing countries, while global food aid was at a 20-year low.
The financial crisis has made things worse, and in terms of staple food, people in poorer countries today can only afford about a third of what they could afford three years ago. Full Story
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The Obama administration’s policy of producing ethanol as a renewable fuel substitute for gasoline will add to the number of people in Third World countries who are chronically hungry, according to energy experts.
The administration’s mandates for the use of ethanol are “immoral,” asserts Robert Bryce, managing editor of the monthly industry magazine Energy Tribune.
“We are burning food to make motor fuel at a time when there’s a growing global shortage of food and no shortage of motor fuel,” Bryce told WND.
“The corn ethanol scam is not an energy program,” he continued. “It is a massive farm subsidy program masquerading as an energy program.”
The U.S. Department of Energy did not respond to a WND request for comment on this story.
A controversial report released earlier this month by the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, said the increasing demand for corn to produce ethanol contributed between 10 to 15 percent of the overall 5.1 percent increase in the price of food from April 2007 to April 2008, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. Full Story
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Biofuel production is certainly one of the culprits in the current global food crisis. But while the diversion of corn from food to biofuel feedstock has been a factor in food prices shooting up, the more primordial problem has been the conversion of economies that are largely food-self-sufficient into chronic food importers. Here the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) figure as much more important villains.
Whether in Latin America, Asia, or Africa, the story has been the same: the destabilization of peasant producers by a one-two punch of IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programs that gutted government investment in the countryside followed by the massive influx of subsidized U.S. and European Union agricultural imports after the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture pried open markets. .
African agriculture is a case study of how doctrinaire economics serving corporate interests can destroy a whole continent’s productive base. Full Story