The Guardian October 3, 2001


Globalising hunger

A tear is shed by a skinny young girl from Central America, while TV 
cameras capture the desperate face of her misery. She is part of the 
largest and most vulnerable army in the world  the 800 million-plus 
hungry persons on the planet.

World hunger costs 24,000 lives per day. But this dreadful toll can be 
averted by new economic and social models, which must be far from those 
imposed by neo-liberal ("economic rationalist") globalisation.

This became clear during the five-day discussion sessions at the first 
International Forum on Food Sovereignty, held in Havana recently. The Forum 
was attended by 300 delegates from 60 countries, and representatives from 
200 agrarian, indigenous, social and professional organisations.

The world is no longer a world. It is a kaleidoscope of ever more 
incredible contrasts. In Brazil, some five million families have no land 
while 100,000 hectares lie idle. With 800 million hectares of land, Brazil 
imports much agricultural produce that could be provided by its own 
population.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has led to one million 
Mexican families losing their land and the import of foodstuffs formerly 
grown in Mexico.

Realities such as these were denounced in Havana by Michael Windfuhr, of 
Germany and Director of the International Agrarian Network; by Brazilian 
Egidio Brunetto of the Landless Movement; and by Uruguay's Silvia Ribeiro 
from the International Foundation for Rural Progress.

While the United States is the country with the highest subsidies to 
national agriculture, the nations of the South [the Third World or 
underdeveloped countries] are prohibited from protecting their rural 
economies.

Of the 100 largest economies in the world, only 49 are countries. The rest 
are mega-companies. The annual sales of General Motors are in excess of 
Denmark's gross domestic product (GDP), while those of General Electric are 
ahead of Portugal's GDP, Silvia Ribeiro noted.

The mega-corporations have a strong influence over the World Trade 
Organisation (WTO), which is forcing nations to become importers of food 
under the supposed theory that it is cheaper while it is generating 
national unemployment.

More than 30 per cent of the seed market and close to 90 per cent of 
agricultural chemicals are controlled by about ten companies that, in their 
turn, handle almost half of the sales of pharmaceuticals.

Ribeiro drew attention to the macabre project called Terminator. It was 
developed by the US Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the US 
multinational Delta and Pine Land, to produce seeds whose second-generation 
would be sterile thereby making farmers dependent on continually buying new 
seed stock.

Open warfare among the transnationals to strip countries of their fishing 
resources was exposed by the Panamanian representative, Alva Rosa 
Perez, from the World Forum of Fishing Workers.

Governments are being forced to give up their seas to the large trawling 
fleets of the developed countries. "In Chile", she said, "the state granted 
80 per cent of its fishing quotas to a 300-strong industrial fishing fleet, 
leaving only 20 per cent to the 60,000 national small fishing vessels."

She quoted the case of Argentine, where hake, the basic resource of that 
nation's fishing community, disappeared within a year of fishing agreements 
with the European Union.

The WTO is forcing the Canadian Government to modify its fishing 
regulations to the benefit of the transnationals.

Perez said that 60 per cent of world fishing is concentrated in the hands 
of one percent of the industrial fleet.

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Granma International

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