The Global Food Crisis
June 10th, 2008
Lack of access and the high cost of food are making national and international headlines as the food crisis spreads in developing countries. Haiti, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Mexico, Niger, Cameroon, Somalia, Mauritania, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Argentina and Ethiopia have all recently faced social unrest over the skyrocketing of food prices. According to Catholic Information Service, a major Catholic seminary in Nigeria faces closure because it doesn’t have enough food for its seminarians. The crisis clearly threatens the world’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty and hunger in half by 2015.
Like a Tsunami, the global food crisis has left government institutions scrambling for quick solutions. Poor people trying to live on $1 a day are experiencing deeper impoverishment. Limited access and rising food prices have led to greater hunger and starvation. The World Bank estimates that food prices have risen by 83% since 2005 and warns that at least 100 million people would be thrown into poverty as result of this crisis.
The global food crisis is being blamed on a number of factors, such as climate change-induced floods and droughts resulting in poor harvests, armed conflicts, and rising oil prices. The increase in consumption by a growing global middle class of meat from grain-fed cattle may also be pushing up the price of food. Biofuel production from corn is a further drain on scarce supplies.
Responding to the Global Food Crisis
Government leaders and international food agencies are responding to this crisis with appeals for funds to buy food to feed their hungry populations. Long term solutions are needed, though, along with a re-thinking of the current agricultural system to insure global food security. One of the major problems identified is the influence of corporate agribusiness giants on government legislators, the market, and on food production itself. Climate change and our consumption habits – both of food and of energy – must be addressed to try to minimize the crisis of food scarcity.
The Center of Concern has produced an excellent seven page analysis of the food crisis, which includes a reflection based on Catholic Social Teaching. (Download PDF)
The International Peasant Movement, La Via Campesina, offers a suggestion for achieving food security: An Answer to the Global Food Crisis: Peasants and small farmers can feed the world! (Download PDF)
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