Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I KNEW somebody else was to blame
June 30, 2008
H/l: Current agro policies causing food crisis: UNESCO
Intro: Food report slams delink between technologies introduced by developed countries and poverty increase in developing nations
Mumbai: A UNESCO-supported initiative in which 400 scientists worked for over three years to compile findings about the world's agricultural patterns and economies has been released at a time when the world is grappling with a food crisis. Interestingly, their findings raise pertinent questions about what the effects of agro-technology have been on countries like India.
Titled 'Why Modern Agriculture must change' and written by Susan Schneegans, the June-September 2008 report chronicles the current global food crisis and its effect on the economies of developing countries.
In the context of India, Schneegans writes, "How is it that in India, one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Green Revolution, the number of landless rural farmers rose from 28 million to over 50 million between 1951 and 1990s? And why does India grapple with one of the world's highest rates of child malnutrition?
Current international policies promoting economic growth through agriculture do not necessarily resolve the issue of poverty. The cost of structural adjustment policies advocated by the World Bank in recent decades is one cause of the high migration from the countryside to urban centers in search of jobs in India and elsewhere."
She further adds, "Resource constraints limit the extent to which many governments can actually support their farmers: for example, 8 to 10 per cent in India and Vietnam. Middle-level exporting countries like India are trying to obtain agreements which will maintain their own existing levels of support while reducing the levels allowed to developing countries."
The findings of the study point towards small-holder farmers suffering competition from cheaper imports than their own products. "Opening up sections of agricultural markets to liberalised trade led to a 55 per cent fall in cotton prices in India between 1996 and 2003 in the face of competing imports from subsidised producers like the USA. Many destitute cotton farmers have been driven to suicide," Schneegans writes.
Scientists have predicted that with growing populations, there will be a growing competition for water. "Under current water-use practices, increases in population and changes in diet will increase water consumption in food and fibre production by 70 to 90 per cent. Between now and 2020, the amount of water available per person in East and South Asia and the Pacific, for instance, will drop to one-third that in 1950, or even less," the report warns.
They also caution: one of the key factors causing the current food crisis is the global homogenisation in eating habits. "Many countries have abandoned their traditional foods in favour of a more Western model with its focus on a handful of cereals and a copious consumption of meat and sugar," Calvo said, adding, "this had created an enormous dependence on overseas markets. If countries don't maintain a rich agricultural biodiversity, they risk a growing dependence on a shrinking choice of cereals."
The investigators also say that "the current food crisis is a wake up call, a warning that a sporadic food crisis could turn into a chronic crisis if nothing is done to change modern agricultural practices in the days and months to come."