Why Hunger Is Still With Us http://www.thenation.com/print/article/163402/why-hunger-is-sti...
Published on The Nation (http://www.thenation.com)
Why Hunger Is Still With Us
Raj Patel | September 14, 2011
Editor's Note: This piece is one in a series of replies to Frances Moore Lappé’s essay on the food
Amid the joy of local, seasonal ingredients and tides of young people with dirt freshly lodged under
their ﬁngernails, it feels unkind to point to the bigger problems within the food system. But it’s
worth tempering an optimism of the will with a pessimism of the intellect. Despite the food
movement’s gains over the past decade, it’s hard not to feel the latter outweighing the former.
For every White House organic garden, there’s an appointee to the US Trade Representative’s ofﬁce
from the pesticide industry. Sasha and Malia may be getting good grub, but the global South still
gets stuck with chemicals.
Harvests remain strong, and people still go hungry. This isn’t because of population growth
—there’s enough produced to feed everyone on a Small Planet’s diet. But the economics of crop
production have increasingly left concerns about human eating in the dust.
First, we’re growing more crops than ever before not for direct human consumption, or even animal
feed, but as biofuels, to keep cars on the road. Already, more than a tenth of the world’s total coarse
grain output is used for fuel, and the OECD predicts that within a decade a third of all sugar cane
grown on earth will be used not for sweetening but for combustion.
Luckily, there’s reason for optimism of the will here. La Via Campesina has taken aim at agrofuels
in its small farmers Cooling Down the Planet campaign. The group has refuted agribusiness
greenwash in the best way: by showing, with real living practice, exactly how to meet the climate
Yet, on the down side again, the only thing worse than burning food is speculating on it. As
economist Jayati Ghosh has pointed out, one consequence of the 2000 Commodity Futures
Modernization Act has been unregulated commodity futures trading reaching the $9 trillion mark at