Ban Ki-moon called for immediate action by the U.N and all members of the international community.
An increase in food prices by as much as 40 percent since last year has sparked violent protests in the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia. Josette Sheeran, the World Food Program‘s executive director, has likened the price increases to a "silent tsunami."
According to The World Bank’s estimates, food prices, overall, have increased 83 percent in the last three years. Since January of this year, the price of rice has risen more than 140 percent.
Although we haven’t experienced any violent outbursts in the United States yet, countries in the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia have already seen deadly riots due to rapidly rising food prices.
Last week I discussed this issue in the article Beware -- Food Crisis Getting Worse, explaining my growing fears of what this may be leading toward: the final death knell by genetically modified foods, all in the name of rescuing us all through “higher yield crops well-suited for the small farmer.”
Everyone is talking about the need for higher yields. Not one mention of increasing sustainable agriculture, even though the unsustainable use of land and water is one of the contributing factors to this global crisis. Other factors, which were pointed out in my last commentary, included:
- Biofuel mandates directing more crops to the manufacturing of ethanol
- Improved financial situation of people in China and India has increased demand for western-style diets rich in grains, meat and dairy
- Export quotas by large grain producers, coupled with panic-buying by grain importers
- Trade imbalances among nations
- Population growth, adding 78 million people per year
- Global warming. Unfavorable climatic conditions in 2007 devastated crops in Australia and reduced harvest in other European countries. Southern Africa and the western U.S. have been plagued with severe drought.
- Rising oil prices, as fossil fuels are needed throughout the agricultural process, from running tractors, to fertilizer production, to shipping
- Artificially induced price hikes for the purpose of population control
What I did not discuss was the issue of government payments to farmers who don’t farm.
Why are We PAYING Farmers Who Don’t Farm?
An article in The New York Times, published April 24, 2008, highlights the disastrous politics of the farm bill, and the ostrich-like behavior of our U.S. government officials in light of the current food crisis.
Between 2000 and 2006, the U.S. federal government paid at least $1.3 billion in “direct payment” subsidies for rice and other crops to people who did no farming, according to The Washington Post, in July 2006.
This was a result of a misguided 1996 farm law, meant to phase out farm subsidies that began during the Depression. Though the regular subsidies helped farmers who were facing low prices, they also imposed strict controls on which crops could be grown.
The farm bill, dubbed “Freedom to Farm,” was meant to remove these government limits and phase out the subsidies by offering farmers an annual fixed cash payment based on the farm’s number of acres. The payments came without restrictions, meaning the farmers received the money as long as they did not develop the land, even if they didn’t grow anything.
As a result, non-farmers moving into residential areas that once were farmland are receiving government checks just for living on the land! And farmers are also still receiving annual payments, regardless of whether or not they grow the subsidized crop.
These annual payments were supposed to decline over a seven-year period to transition farmers away from the subsidies, but instead the program expanded.
This year, as Congress works toward the final passage of the farm bill, the bill still includes the disbursement of $5.2 BILLION in “direct payment” subsidies, whether food is grown or not!
The farm bill, as it stands, does little or nothing to address the current concerns. It doesn’t change any of the biofuel mandates that direct more corn to ethanol, for example – another factor contributing to the global rise in food prices.
Said Representative Ron Kind (D-Wis), who has advocated broad changes in farm subsidy programs, “It really is astounding. It’s as if this farm bill is being negotiated in a vacuum.”
And Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, stated, “There really doesn’t seem to be any intervention that reflects these broader crises. They are sound asleep at the leadership level.”
Industrial agriculture lobbyists wield incredible power in Congress. However, they cannot dictate where you choose to buy food for your family. So please do your health a favor and support the small family farms in your area. You’ll receive nutritious food from a source that you can trust, and you’ll be supporting the honest work of a real family farm.
Support organic (and local) farmers who do not use GM seeds by boycotting all GM foods. The Non-GMO Shopping Guide is an excellent start to doing this, as you can print it out and take it with you to the store so you can avoid GM foods like the plague.
Maintaining Your Health as Food Prices Rise
There are no easy answers to the issues of rampant price hikes on food. Many deal with the current situation by cutting down on their medical care. Others start looking at the 99 cent burger deals at the local drive-through, or the processed meals in the frozen section of their supermarket, thinking they’ll save a few bucks.
Don’t go that route, folks.
You might save a few dollars today, but I can virtually guarantee you, you’ll pay for it later when ill health sets in. If you want to maintain optimal health, keep these simple – and in many cases free – guidelines in mind:
- Eat as much raw, locally grown organic food as you can afford, paying attention to your nutritional type
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of appropriate sunshine, which has been proven to help prevent numerous cancers and other diseases
- Manage your stress
- Limit toxin exposure as much as possible
- Get plenty of sleep