Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Reels of figures depicting the extent of hunger in this planet do not seem to be causing any loss of sleep to most of the governing class of politicians and bureaucrats as these figures continue to rise rather than dip in spite of years of 'sermons' heard at various forums national as ,well as international. Rich gets richer and the poor becomes poorer each day obviously due to the distortions in the society all over the world. Global food prices are estimated to have doubled in the last 3 years while the buying capacity of the impoverished population is declining, thus shrinking the food bowl of the poorer families to critical levels and accentuating the calorie- protein malnutrition already prevalent widely. The aid levels are also falling and doling out free foods to starving people in selected areas, especially in Africa under many international programs, only buys time and postpones the crisis. USA's budgeted aid dropped dramatically by 75% compared to that in 1980 and one can imagine the real value of this aid in terms of to day's depreciated dollar.

The huge agricultural subsidies to rich farmers of the West, use of valuable foods like corn, edible oils etc for converting to bio fuels, the inherent wastage of foods in raising meat animals all contribute to food scarcity and ever escalating food prices. It is estimated that the net increase of 50 million tons of corn production in USA since 2004 has been channeled into ethanol production and bio fuels while there was a net addition of population of about 200 million in the world during this period. Naturally this would cause strains on food availability and price distortions in the global market. Similarly the well known inefficiency in raising meat animals which require 7 kg of grains to yield 1 kg of meat siphons of a significant portion of foods, otherwise available to human beings. This is in contrast to the cattle raising practices in many developing countries where only food materials not consumed by the man are used sparing valuable food grains for human consumption. Large scale use of Palm oil in Europe as a bio fuel caused spiking of edible oil prices globally and this practice must be discontinued for the sake of humanity. There are enormous non-food resources like lignocellulosic materials available in plenty that can be converted into alcohol through enzymatic process for which technology is readily available.

A larger question to the donors of aid is why they are not providing soccour to the poor nations in the form of high yielding seed materials and relevant technology to increase productivity and self-sustenance. The Green Revolution of Asian fame did not had any impact in Africa where yields are one third of that attained in Asia. Even the traditional yields are going down because of resource crunch forcing the farmers not to use fertilizers. To add insult to injury USA is aggressively promoting GM crops in Africa under the illusion that it will be panacea for all the ills afflicting the region! It has been shown conclusively that conventional breeding technology is best suited for a green revolution as achieved by countries like India and Brazil in sixties and seventies. The reluctance for using the aid money to buy and distribute seeds may pose conflict of interests with the US farmers as perpetuating declining trends in production create a ready
market for US food grains in the region.

One is reminded of the story of a cat which drinks milk surreptitiously closing its eyes, imagining that no one is noticing it. Same way the developed world seems to be under the illusion that by shutting their eyes and minds to the global reality the problems will get dissolved automatically!


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