Economy, Globe, World

Playing with hunger

90% of food produced annually belongs to only 10 major multinationals. Companies which put their own profits before human lives. 1,000 million people suffer from starvation on a planet where food is abundant.

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Industria alimentaria  19Ramón Alabau

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Whilst Nestlé bottles and sells Pakistan’s underground water for high prices, many of the citizens of this Asian country don’t have access to drinking water.

Other inhabitants who are seeing how their resources disappear are the indigenous people of the Amazonian jungle. Their forests have been transformed into green meadows where the cattle of Kraft’s suppliers graze.

These are only two examples of the social and environmental impact caused by two major food multinationals, which have put their commercial interests before anything else.

Industria alimentaria  23Intermon Oxfam has published a report aiming to show the main irregularities of the 10 principal food companies, and how their businesses have a negative impact on The Developing World.

Companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Unilever, Associated British Foods and Danone are part of this study.

This investigation points out that the businesses of these multinationals are responsible for the degradation of the ecosystem, high rates of starvation and even cases of child exploitation

Industria alimentaria  8Today these powerful groups control the majority of world food production – up to 90% of the total volume. Also, the study warns that their commercial practices are ‘considerably weakening food safety, and are reducing the economic opportunities of the poorest people around the world’

The document adds that commercial politics do not help to create ‘a fairer food system’

Industria alimentaria  11Carlo Petrini, president and founder of Slow Food, in a conference in Bogota, blamed food companies for causing the hunger problems.

‘The food industry is a criminal mafia’, Petrini declared, where ‘80% of seeds in the world belongs to only five multinationals’, controlling by their decisions the future of many countries.

These statements were supported by Janaina Stronzake, from The Landless Worker´s Movement of Brazil, who states that ‘multinationals speculate in people’s hunger and receive benefits from it’.

Industria alimentaria  25Overproduction vs. Famine

The monopoly of these companies in food production allows them to fix their prices, a reality that is behind the ‘famine epidemic’.

The hunger crisis affects nearly 1,000 million of people. Paradoxically, the Earth is inhabited by approximately 7,000 million people, yet current food production could support 12,000 million, nearly double the amount.

Industria alimentaria  6Also, a report by the OECD points out that between 40% and 50% of food produced is wasted because of these companies’ own interests, governed by the laws of supply and demand.

Despite excessive productivity, nearly 2.5 million children die every year from malnutrition. Experts consider that the famine problem is not due to lack of food, but people’s lack of access to it.

Industria alimentaria  24High prices and basic food shortages in some regions are two realities caused by the commercial politics of the multinationals aimed at raising the prices of their products.

Speculating with hunger

One of the regions most affected by famine, and commercial interests, is the Sahel region. There, 18,000 million people don’t have access to a basic diet.

The inhabitants of this arid area need international help to be able to survive. But the famine in the Sahel, despite harsh meteorological conditions, is related to price speculation of basic foods.

Industria alimentaria  17An example of this is the 106% increase in price of basic cereals in Somalia in only one year, whilst in Kenya the price of corn increased 55% between 2010 and 2011.

Olivier De Schutter, member of the United Nations adds ‘the greatest cause of famine, in regions such as the Horn of Africa, is the sale by underdeveloped countries of their cultivable territories to private companies’.

Industria alimentaria 16 FAOAccording to studies Intermon Oxfam and Land Matrick Partnership, in the last decade some 227 million hectares have been transferred.

In countries like Ethiopia, the national government has sold part of its territory to Arab countries and multinationals, speculating on the cost of land and making it impossible for natives to buy their own farms due to the high cost of land.

World powers like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Arab Emirates, have bought thousands of hectares in Africa to grow crops that they will later export to be able to feed their fellow citizens, causing  food shortages in countries like Somalia and Ethiopia.

Industria alimentaria  26The cost of speculation

A Lehman Brothers report says that ‘the speculative investment in food went up from 13 billion dollars in 2003 to 260 billion in 2008’, these numbers increase in parallel with the number of food crises.

For Jean Ziegle, Adviser of the United Nations Human Rights Council, ‘it is absurd that food prices are fixed by the Stock Exchange’.

The adviser also says that it is actually the politics of developed world powers which encourage the dependency of poor countries. ‘The European Union exports agricultural products to Africa at very low prices and destroys African farming’.

Speculating with food prices is also a strategy used by major bank groups to gain investors.

Industria alimentaria  27Organizations like Africando.org have criticized major financial companies like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America, Santander or Deutsche Bank, amongst others, for making business ‘with food prices and presenting speculative investment as a profitable and secure business’.

Nevertheless, amongst countries with difficulties, there is also politics without ethics. An example of this is the strategy condemned by Amador Gómez, member of the organization Action against Hunger.

´Nigeria buys from Niger part of its production and waits until Niger exhausts its own reserves so that prices increase and they can then export the same product again at a higher price´, he says.

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(Translated by Evelyn Dench  – www.directevelyn.com)

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