World leaders were meeting at the United Nations world food summit in Rome as Socialist Worker went to press.
The summit takes place in the shadow of a drastic rise in the global price of staple foods that is causing hunger for millions.
Early signs suggest that the big topics at the summit will be biofuels and genetically modified (GM) crops. US secretary Ed Schafer said on Monday that biofuels have been wrongly turned into a “bogeyman”.
However most commentators now accept that diverting much land or grain to producing fuel from crops has been a significant factor in pushing up food prices.
Biofuels are not a green solution. They require large tracts of land that are either diverted from food production or created through deforestation or clearance.
Large energy supplies are needed to grow, process and transport the crops. But biofuels are extremely profitable and there has been a big rush to invest in them over the past few years.
GM crops are similarly profitable – and they too offer a false answer to world hunger. They increase the grip corporations have over agriculture and impoverish small farmers by making them more dependent on agribusiness for seeds and fertilisers. They reduce biodiversity and can even cut productivity.
The argument about GM crops misses the central point that there is already enough food to feed everyone on the planet.
Growth is now predicted in almost every area of agriculture including grains, dairy and meat production. Yet millions cannot afford to access that food.
At the heart of the crisis are the neoliberal policies that have brought world agriculture into the international market – and the speculation on the commodity markets that has driven the recent rocketing of food prices.
World leaders are not willing to tackle these issues. Most of those assembled at the summit have been pushing these destructive policies for many years now.
The food crisis is surely one of the most damning indictments of the market and its champions.