* Is A World Wide Famine In The Works? *


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Is A World Wide Famine
In The Works?
By Thomas Riggins
21 December, 2007

Was it just seven years ago that the new millennium dawned? I remember all the 
talk about how this new era would give us a chance to escape from all the 
follies of the 20th century. Well, it didn't take long to realize that all the 
old follies were still with us, waiting to be repeated.

World hunger is one of them. The last century was dotted with mass famines, all 
of them man made. Surely the UN and the leading nations of the world would not 
let that sorry record repeat itself?

It appears, however, that they will. The UN is doing its part to help prevent 
famines, but the UN can only do what the leading nations, represented on the 
Security Council will allow it to do. We must remember that any criticism of the
UN is in reality a criticism of the five permanent members of the SC.

At any rate, the UN has warned us that a famine of Biblical proportions may be 
on the way. Tuesday's New York Times has the story. "World Food Supply is 
Shrinking, U.N. Agency Warns," by Elisabeth Rosenthal (12-18-07). Here is the 
gist of it.

Jacques Diouf, who runs the UN Food and Agriculture organization has stated that
there "is a very serious risk that fewer people will be able to get food" in the
coming years. That doesn't sound very good at all. Rosenthal, reporting from 
Rome, says his reason for announcing this is that because of "an 'unforeseen [?]
and unprecedented' shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food 
prices are soaring [good old supply and demand] to historic levels."

There appears to be only 12 weeks worth of wheat and 8 of corn left in storage 
(based on world wide consumption levels.) to feed the world in case of an 
emergency. One reason for this is that it is more profitable to grow non food 
crops than food crops. There has been "a shift away from farming for human 
consumption to crops for biofuels and cattle feed" [more McDonald's burgers for 
the First World obese]. And, don't overlook the fact that "the early effects of 
global warming have decreased crop yields in some crucial places."

The leader of the World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, is quoted as saying, 
"We're concerned that we are facing the perfect storm for the world's hungary." 
Other experts are equally glum. A major, crop disease or climate change in an 
important area would put the hungary in "a risky situation." This has already 
happened in Australia (lack of rain) and In Ukraine (also climate change) with 
less food being produced.

The UN's Diouf thinks the advanced countries will have to come up with new ideas
to reflect the new economic and environmental realities. New ideas are in the 
works, but they may be based on putting people before profits. When has the US 
done that lately?

But not to worry here in the USA. We will be able to ride it out. Ms. Sheeran 
noted that, "In the U.S., Australia and Europe, there's a very substantial 
capacity to adapt to the effects on food -- with money, technology, research and
development. In the developing world, there isn't." It's comforting to know that
if disaster strikes it will be the poor of the Third World who die off while we 
will continue to pollute the atmosphere, destroy the climate, and have all the 
junk food we need to see us through.

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor for Political Affairs and can be 
reached at •••@••.••• or at Thomas Riggins Blog.

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