The poor starve amidst plenty
2.Indian poor starve while grain rots in depots
QUOTES: "As we stand on the edge of a new millennium, we dream of a tomorrow without hunger”¦ Worrying about starving future generations won't feed them. Food biotechnology will." - Monsanto
"If anyone tells you that GM is going to feed the world, tell them that it is not”¦To feed the world takes political and financial will." - Steve Smith, when head of Syngenta UK (then Novartis Seeds UK).
For more on why GM is no solution to global hunger:
1.Of feast and famine
The Guardian, 10 August 2010
*America discards 40% of the food it makes, while a billion in the world go hungry. How can we stop such dire misallocation?
The world's food systems are in crisis. Droughts and flooding have compromised crop production across the globe and more than 1 billion people are hungry. But here in America, our overstocked supermarket shelves continue to propagate the illusion of plenty and, in the past decade, our rate of food waste has more than doubled.
According to a recent study, over 40% of the food produced in America is wasted each year, and only 2% of this waste is composted. Food waste is now the second largest waste stream sent to landfills, where it produces methane, a deadly greenhouse gas that further impacts climate change. Climate change, in turn, is having a deadly impact on our food supply.
One time-honoured way to reduce waste is to increase the perceived value of the goods in question. Despite the fact that food prices have increased substantially in the past few years, Americans on average still spend proportionally less than any other nation on food.
According to research compiled by the USDA, 6.9% of household spending in America was on food, compared to 13.7% in France and 45.7% in Indonesia. If we were required to lay out a greater percentage of our household budget for food, we would probably be less likely to throw it in the garbage.
Increasing food prices is a hard sell when 14.6% of American families are food-insecure. But government intervention, which leads to artificially cheap food, is wreaking havoc with the global food chain and needs to be addressed. Farm subsidies, for instance, which favour certain crops, encourage over-production and flood the market with underpriced goods. This has a devastating effect on developing countries, which cannot compete with the subsidised produce; it also has a negative impact on the domestic market, as farmers end up leaving food in their fields to rot since it would cost more to harvest than would be gained by selling it.
Figuring out how to salvage this food and deliver it to the needy is the next problem. During the Clinton administration, Joel Berg was USDA co-ordinator for food recovery and gleaning, but when the Bush administration took over, the position was discontinued. These days, if you call the USDA to ask for information about gleaning, you will be connected with the Society of St Andrew (Sosa), a privately funded, faith-based organisation that does an excellent job salvaging approximately 25m lb of food.
Sosa only has offices in eight states, however, and volunteer operations in an additional 11 states. What happens to discarded food in the other 31 states is anybody's guess.
Another scandalous reason that food is discarded is because it doesn't meet superficial aesthetic criteria. So carrots that are not straight enough and potatoes that are not round enough end up being weaned out in the sorting process. But even perfectly formed vegetables and other perishables will end up in supermarket dumpsters because as Berg put it, "we are far too hung up on cosmetic issues and artificial sell-by dates."
There are many non-profit organisations such as DC Central Kitchen and City Harvest in New York that work with supermarkets and restaurants to recover food. But many businesses choose not to get involved in recovery because it seems like more trouble than it's worth. There is some cause for optimism, though, as more businesses are starting to realise the cost benefits of reducing waste. Walmart, of all places, is leading the charge to becoming a sustainable company. At a recent EPA roundtable on food recovery issues, Bobby Fanning, senior manager of solid waste and recycling for Walmart, discussed plans to make the round stickers on bananas biodegradable. Somehow, that makes me feel that all is not lost.
The other cause for optimism is that individual consumers have a lot of power to effect change by altering our own behaviour. Jonathan Bloom, author of the upcoming book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of its Food (and What We Can Do About it), has a five-step plan to reducing post-consumer waste. Plan your meals; make a detailed shopping list and stick to it; serve reasonable portions; save your leftovers and eat those leftovers.
Since I started writing this piece a day ago, I've had to discard three broccoli crowns, two peaches and a tub of yoghurt that I failed to eat on time. Any one of the hungry billion people in the world would have been very glad of that food. As the global population continues to explode it is expected to reach 9 billion by 2045 and our ability to produce food continues to be compromised, more and more people will go hungry. I'm going to try to keep this in mind next time I dump my food in the trash can.
2.Indian poor starve while grain rots in depots
RT, 12 August 2010
India is home to one quarter of the world's starving population and one third of its malnourished children while, at the same time, maintaining a surplus of food grain in government storage areas.
In the village of Danapur in Eastern India, villager Rita says she has had nothing to feed her son for four days.
"My hungry child cries all the time, there is no food to feed him. How can we survive like this? To keep the child quiet I make him drink water," Rita says.
Yet the government has record amounts of surplus stocks: 59 million tons of wheat and rice. It does have a huge public distribution system that provides free food to families below the poverty line. But corruption and complex bureaucracy means the poorest of the poor often don't make it onto the list.
"We are poor people and are desperate for food to eat. Our children go to sleep hungry. Our names are not on the government’s poverty list and we don’t get any food grain from the government. We can we do?" questions labourer Jugari Paswan. "Ultimately we will have no choice but to commit suicide."
With people starving, the recent images of piles of wheat rotting at a storage facility erupted into a major political issue. In the state of Punjab, it was discovered that 49,000 tons of food grain had perished.
Subhash Zadoo , the General Manager of Food Corporation of India based in Delhi, explains that "Despite FCI taking precautions, there is every likelihood, as we have in a household, that whenever you are pouring a cup of tea from a kettle, that two spoons can spill over on the table. And if you see a thumb rule in FCI, vis-a-vis the total food grain which we handle, our losses they are not in that huge abundance."
In the largest food storage depot in the capital New Delhi, grain is safe in permanent warehouses with fixed roofs. But when it is stored temporarily with just a plastic cover to keep out the rain, it can last only one year. And with the government keeping 17 million tons of wheat and rice stored like this because it doesn't have enough permanent warehouses, the scale of the problem becomes apparent.
Experts say about 10 million tons enough to feed 140 million people for a month has been stored during at least one monsoon and is at risk of rotting. If this grain were released instead, it could help those most in need. But distributing it would cost US$1 billion, and the government cannot afford to add it to its food subsidy.
That does not come as good news for Rakesh Kumar and his family, who depend on the handouts.
"We cannot afford to buy rice for our family. Whatever food grain the government has, it is allowing it to rot in its warehouses," Rakesh Kumar grieves. "The ration cards they issue don’t reach the actual poor. Whatever rice is distributed to the local dealer for us, is instead sold by him in the open market."
With global wheat prices rising due to the drought in Russia, if India loses its wheat stocks to poor storage this could fuel the price surge and that would hit the poor in India the hardest.