Food Crisis and the failure of the capitalist model

Published on Countercurrents.org, by Ian Angus, 29 April, 2008.

If the government cannot lower the cost of living it simply has to leave. If the police and UN troops want to shoot at us, that’s OK, because in the end, if we are not killed by bullets, we’ll die of hunger – a demonstrator in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Part I: In Haiti, where most people get 22% fewer calories than the minimum needed for good health, some are staving off their hunger pangs by eating mud biscuits made by mixing clay and water with a bit of vegetable oil and salt.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the federal government is currently paying $225 for each pig killed in a mass cull of breeding swine, as part of a plan to reduce hog production. Hog farmers, squeezed by low hog prices and high feed costs, have responded so enthusiastically that the kill will likely use up all the allocated funds before the program ends in September.

Some of the slaughtered hogs may be given to local Food Banks, but most will be destroyed or made into pet food. None will go to Haiti.

This is the brutal world of capitalist agriculture – a world where some people destroy food because prices are too low, and others literally eat dirt because food prices are too high.

Record prices for staple foods: …

… During previous waves of food price inflation, the poor often had at least some access to food they grew themselves, or to food that was grown locally and available at locally set prices. Today, in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, that’s just not possible. Global markets now determine local prices – and often the only food available must be imported from far away.

Food is not just another commodity – it is absolutely essential for human survival. The very least that humanity should expect from any government or social system is that it try to prevent starvation – and above all that it not promote policies that deny food to hungry people.

That’s why Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was absolutely correct on April 24, to describe the food crisis as the greatest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model.

What needs to be done to end this crisis, and to ensure that doesn’t happen again? Part Two of this article will examine those questions. (full long text).

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