Let Them Eat Mudcakes
by Luise Light, M.S., Ed.D.
June 2, 2008 (EIRNS)The following article was written for circulation by EIR News Service in connection with the Rome conference of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Dr. Light is the former director of dietary guidance at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and author of What to Eat: The Ten Things You Really Need to Know to Eat Well and Be Healthy.
The greatest hunger crisis in history is ravaging the world. Engineered by British banking interests and industrial elites who are the apostles of “free markets,” they have captured control of world trade through a system of supra-regulatory bodies (WTO) and international trade and tariff agreements (GATT, NAFTA) designed to optimize the profits of the industrialists and their investors while forcing all others to comply with rules that strip away consumer protections and supports which they say are “barriers to economic efficiency.” In this schema, there is no room for the poor who are judged to be “useless eaters,” in that they don’t have the ability to shop in the global marketplace and contribute to the profits of transnational middlemen and corporations. The bosses, the financial elites who own the system, recognize two classes of useful eaters, those who are dependent and do as they are told, no matter how dire the consequences for them, and those who are masters, determining all the rules of the game and absorbing the profits.
In the thirty or more years it has taken to institutionalize this controlling infrastructure, we have witnessed declines and deficits in every arena of life on the planet that we deem socially, culturally, and humanly important: world health has plummeted precipitously, the destruction of nature has accelerated and now all life on the planet is threatened. Economic insecurity, inequality, intolerance, and racial injustice have grown as people have become more preoccupied with the daily struggle for survival.
Can it be that the British bankers and traders have learned the secret of going back to the future? They seem determined to reverse history, returning us to the roles of medieval serfs who must pay fealty to our lords, at the cost of our lives. In the new global marketplace, there is no room for hundreds of millions of urban and rural poor so it was inevitable that they would be cut out of the picture, a strategy that seems to be in play, right now. In just three years, global food prices have climbed 83 percent, according to the World Bank, placing a life-sustaining diet beyond the reach of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth.
Staple foods that poor people depend on as their major source of nourishment are the most inflated in price, with rice, the grain of choice for half the world, at a 19-year high, and wheat, the staple for another third of the world, at a 28-year high. Other foods essential for a basic nutritional diet in poor countries, cooking oil, eggs, and dairy, have been equally hard hit by price inflation, affecting the working and middle classes, not just the poor. The exorbitant increases in world food prices threaten the stability of governments, with the potential for violence growing as people ravaged by starvation become ever more desperate. Food rioting already has been reported in 40 countries. The president of the International Red Cross warned recently, people become violent when access to food is withheld and their survival is threatened. The potential for destabilizing wars on every continent is now possible.
What is behind this global food crisis? Various rationales have been offered by experts, including the removal of food tariff barriers, liberalization of trade, and enforcement of policies that require developing countries to switch to exporting cash crops and importing food staples for their domestic needs. The results of these policies on the economies of poor countries have been nothing short of catastrophic! Cheap subsidized, surplus commodities from rich nations are dumped on poor countries experiencing shortages, resulting in decreased local food production and employment. Farmers become dispossessed from their land and stripped of their ability to feed their families.
FAO has documented the devastating consequences of such “trade liberalization” policies on the rural poor and local economies in the case of biofuels. Routing corn into biofuels, the FAO predicted in the State of Food and Agriculture Report in 2007, would create scarcities in essential food supplies and price inflation. Other key factors in skyrocketing food prices are the huge spikes in the costs of fuel and transportation, devastating weather catastrophes due to climate change, and growing water shortages. The breakdown of food self-sufficiency in countries is not only planned to destabilize Third World governments but it is intended to “de-peasantize” these countries, making them more attractive for foreign investors.
At risk are 1.2 billion people in the world who live at or near poverty, earning less than $1 a day. Runaway food prices across the globe have placed 200 million people on a deathwatch, in imminent danger of starving to death. Is it any wonder that there are angry people in the streets threatening governments across the globe, demanding food? Governments have responded by sending in riot troops and banging heads, which is not a permanent solution to a volatile, chaotic situation. While starving people in Haiti ate spiced and sweetened mudcakes, the cheapest food locally available to dull the pain of starvation, financial leaders met in Washington to discuss the crisis that threatens to plunge the industrial world into a long and deep recession or even a depression more severe than the one in the1930s.
In their deliberations, the economic engines of the “Free World,” including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Group of Seven, the governments of the richest nations: the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan, ignored the global food crisis, focusing instead on shoring up investment banks and restoring investor confidence. One economist for the World Bank later admitted, “We did not think that the human costs of these programs could be so great and the economic gains would be so slow in coming.” Meanwhile, national governments, abandoning the WTO restrictions, are resorting to old-fashioned ways of dealing with the problem of food shortages. They are issuing ration cards, freezing prices of essential commodities like bread, eggs and cooking oil, slapping export controls on foods essential for home consumption, and re-introducing fertilizer and seed subsidies for subsistence farmers.
But the most hopeful sign of the failure of this British attempt to establish a New Economic Order, is a brewing rebellion against the WTO and GATT by farmer groups networking internationally to oppose the globalist agenda. More recently, it was reported that seven former European heads of state, five former finance ministers, and two former presidents of the European Commission, including former EU Commission head Jacques Delors, former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, and former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, have gone public with an open letter to the EU Presidency and the EU Commission. The letter warns that the systemic collapse of the global financial system brings with it the threat of unprecedented poverty, proliferation of “failed states,'' migration of entire populations, and further military conflicts. The financial world, they argue, has accumulated a massive amount of “fictitious capital'' with very little improvement for humanity.
Among the immediate countermeasures they propose is creation of a European Crisis Committee, and the convening of a world financial conference to “reconsider'' the current international system and the global world order. In another remarkable rejection of the British trade agenda that is increasing the prospects for war, the Japanese Prime Minister has called for an international effort to help Africa double rice production over the next 10 years. Japan has pledged to help African countries to develop irrigation systems, improve crop varieties, and train workers in the field. He predicted that Africa would be a powerful engine for world agricultural growth, and Japan will help Africa develop the infrastucture to be successful.
Japan is not alone in calling for the doubling of food production. In a recent paper, Helga LaRouche of the Schiller Institute, writing in the Executive Intelligence Review, also called for doubling world food production. As a nutritionist and a public health worker, I urge the FAO to follow these and other calls for abolishing the WTO and GATT which are instruments of British banking and other special interests long associated with economic imperialism. In the 21st century, must free ourselves from this command and control mentality. All countries must have the right to fully determine their own consumption needs. In order for us to have a stable world in which all can be nourished, food sovereignty is essential. We must abandon Utopian schemes to create a single unified global consumer food market and encourage countries to develop their local agriculture to feed their own people, decrease reliance on food imports, and boost the local economy.
Right now, investor speculation in commodities is driving up the price of staples necessary for nutritional survival, and creating obscene profits for the biggest global food corporations. But when profitability overtakes morality, we call it criminal behavior. It is time for us to acknowledge that access to nutritious food is a basic human right, and any institutions or individuals responsible for widespread starvation and malnutrition, either from unjustifiable trade pressures or restrictive policies, in order to maintain corporate profit margins, should be called to account under international law. Adequate nutrition is central to human health and survival and makes important contributions to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer and are more productive. No government or private group has the right to abridge our freedom to nourish ourselves. It is our birthright.