I submitted the following for one of my classes. The assignment was to write a “Cause and Effect” paper.
World hunger persists despite tremendous scientific advancements. A person might think that we haven’t yet figured out how to produce massive quantities of food. That belief, if it were true, would explain why the government continues to provide billions of dollars to large corporations to find cheap and efficient ways to produce food and food-like substitutes. But in fact, we don’t have to produce more food, and corporations like Monsanto and ADM, far from providing solutions, divert critical resources from promising efforts while becoming , themselves, a major cause of world hunger. The lucrative experiments of highly connected agribusinesses are unnecessary because we already produce enough food to feed the world. Instead of asking how we can punish the ground to force out more crops, we should be asking how to raise adequate quantities of healthful food, consistently and sustainably, and do so in places where people who need it have access to it.
World hunger has never been caused by a lack of world food supplies. It has always been caused by the inability of some to gain access to food while others have more than enough to share. In fact, even successful efforts to increase food production have actually contributed to the food crisis. The so called “Green Revolution”, a campaign to implement new farming technologies in poor countries, was celebrated for its improvements in agricultural production but displaced millions of people, caused ecological harm, and did not halt the rise in world hunger (Gimenez, 5).
The good news is some people are asking the right questions. Organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are not asking if we can produce enough food, but if we can do so using organic methods that allow crops to be raised by local farmers without harming the soil. The answer is yes. Organic agricultural methods produce more nutritious food than industrial methods and can improve access to food “outside the mainstream markets, where most hungry people are found”, according to a presentation to the FAO by the Rural Advancement Foundation (Sigh and Christman, 1).
Still, billionaire executives continue to profit from government research grants by claiming that they’re fighting world hunger by increasing production. What they’re actually doing is using American tax dollars to drive traditional farmers out of business and corner the market on food distribution. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database, the U.S. government spent more than $177 billion in agricultural subsidies during a twelve year period, with seventy five percent of that money going to less than ten percent of the recipients (EWG 1). The results of this expenditure include the disappearance of the traditional farm, huge quantities of nutrition deficient food substitutes, and a less secure world where people are becoming dependent on fewer and fewer sources of nutrition which, in many cases, are inaccessible to them.
But the corporate executives and their government allies are not just undercutting regular farmers with low-priced industrial food substitutes; they’re actually creating laws that make it illegal to farm. When asked what some of the “biggest challenges” he faces are, Joel Salatin (a hero in the sustainable farming movement) replied “The on-farm hurdles we’ve faced, from drought to predators to flood to cash flow, are nothing compared to the emotional, economic and energy drain caused by government bureaucrats” (Phelps, 3). By passing laws that make it illegal to process meat on the same land that the meat is raised, by requiring slaughter houses to actually provide exclusive facilities for inspectors, and by the ominous NAIS, which should be killed, our government is using it’s authority to kill the small farm business.
As Americans discuss the evils of “redistributing wealth,” and consider the Randian philosophy that it’s wrong to help the poor, we should realize that wealthy executives and their government counterparts talk about letting taxpayers keep more of their “own money” while diverting billions of dollars to themselves and exacerbating the impoverished conditions that they claim to be solving. We don’t have to spend more money than we’re already spending to make a difference. If we spent that money supporting small farmers in our own country and throughout the world, rather than the corporations that are driving them out of business in an effort to monopolize the world’s food supplies, we would begin to make progress towards solving world hunger, rather than making the problem worse.
“EWG Farm Subsidy Database Update”, Farm Subsidy Database. 14 April 2008. Web. 28 Feb 2010.
Eric Holt-Gimenez “Food First”, Institute for Food and Development Policy. October 2008. Web 1 March 2010.
Phelps, Megan. “Everything He Wants to Do is Illegal.” Mother Earth News. Byran Welch, 1 Oct. 2008. Web. 2 Mar. 2010.
Michael Sigh and Carolyn Christman. “Organic Agriculture and Access to Food.” Rural Advancement Foundation International. Web. 3 May 2007. Web. 28 Feb 2010.