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GLOBALIZATION AND POVERTY:

Posted by Ramoo on December 31, 2008

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Interview with Dr. Vandana Shiva By Gary Null Progressive Radio Network, Broadcast December 16, 2008

GARY NULL (GN): My guest today is one of the more remarkable individuals that you will ever hear speak on the subjects that we’re going to discuss: the relationship between globalization and poverty, the oil industry’s destruction of agriculture, plus other issues involving the disposition of land and power and the body politics in Africa and India. Dr. Vandana Shiva is one of India’s top nuclear physicists and an internationally renowned environmental and social activist. She has been credited as a principal founder of India’s ecological and eco-feminism movement.
In 1982 she founded The Research Foundation for Science and Technology and Ecology in New Delhi, which led to the creation of an organization, Navdanya, dedicated to the restoration of organic farming across India and the preservation of indigenous knowledge and culture. For several decades Vandana has fought for changes in the globalized practices of agriculture and food and has traveled the world speaking against the bio-piracy of indigenous plants and their medicinal properties by large agriculture and pharmaceutical corporations. She has received numerous international awards including the Alternative Nobel Prize, UNEP’s Global 500 Award, and the UN Earth Day International Award. Her most recent book is “Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in An Age of Climate Crisis.” There are so many pressing issues in the world today, and I would like to start with one that is not getting the mainstream media attention that it deserves, specifically the relationship between corporate globalization and increased poverty, including the policies of the World Bank, IMF, the WTO and their western government backers. From your point of view how has the US and its aggressive push for free market economics contributed to the increase in poverty and a widening of the gap between the haves and have nots throughout the world, especially in light of Barack Obama recently stating that he is very much for globalization and free market efforts.

VANDANA SHIVA (VS): I think India is a good test case to see how globalization increases real poverty even while measurements of growth make it look like the country is booming. India’s growth these last few years has been 9 percent and it is seen as one of the fastest growing economies. And yet in this decade of high growth under free market globalization India has the largest number of hungry people in the world. An agrarian society that has all the capacity to feed itself is today unable to feed its children partly because the land is being diverted for mining, for car companies and highways, and because agriculture itself is being diverted for luxury crops for the rich. One of the greatest tragedies of the new poverty that India is witnessing is the emergence of an epidemic of farm suicides. It’s one step beyond poverty to have to end your life because you’re so deeply indebted and the debt is completely related to corporate seed monopolies, such as Monsanto’s genetically engineered BT cotton. It’s a globalized agriculture controlled by a handful of agribusiness companies-the Cargill’s and ConAgra’s-and the WTO that wrote the rules of agriculture. The combination of seed and commodity controls has denied India its basic right to food, especially for the poor.

GN: There is also 9.1 percent growth in China and still 66 million hungry, unemployed people who are now beginning to protest. Do you believe that we will begin to see protests and riots in India such as what we have seen in Pakistan where the poor were not being subsidized and where there is no infrastructure to care for the poor?

VN: Actually protests are happening. Some protests come out in the language, voice and pain of the people themselves. They protest for land. They protest for food. They protest for water. They protest for forests, for the indigenous communities. But very often, just as our food is being genetically modified protests too are being genetically modified to appear as if they concern religion or are related to terrorism and extremism. And this mutation into a new form of response is partly a manipulation of those powers in control. They do not allow a farmer’s protest to be viewed as simply a farmers’ protest. This is what was happening in the state of Punjab two decades ago. Farmers’ protests were mutated into a protest about religion. Out of it came the invasion of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the military standoff, and finally the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who had ordered the army to deal with the issue of the Punjab and extremism. But today terrorism is made to look like it appears by itself. I can offer two examples of conflicts about land and livelihood which have been distorted to look like they’re conflicts initiated by people on the basis of caste, religion and ethnicity. We have had a major protest among the pastoral tribes in a region of Rajasthan, a desert area where livestock is the only economy because you can’t really farm extensively with very little water. All of those common lands which are pastoral have been handed over to industry to grow bio-fuel. The pastoralists are now without land as well as livelihood. When they protest they stop the entire transport system of India. Yet the protest is not written in the language of the land and people’s livelihood. It is written in the language of caste. Caste is a name for an occupation, just as pastoralists signify a pastoral occupation. Even the large Darfur conflicts in the Sudan, which are made to appear as if they are only about religious strife, is really about collapsing livelihoods with increasing desertification due to climate change. The settled agriculturalists and the pastoralists cannot meet their own needs. So they end up warring against each other. I think it is time for us to read the narrative of the new conflict and the new violence as distorted protests that were engineered to look like something else. And of course it suits the powerful and wealthy because they can keep free market globalization going and define war economies in every society as a means to contain terrorism.

GN: A lot of that has to do with policies on Wall Street and in Washington, which today are virtually one and the same. So if you have a peaceful protest of hungry farmers who cannot afford and do not want to use the genetically modified crops, such as cotton, and who are in such personal debt that they would rather commit suicide by the tens of thousands instead of seeing their families suffer anymore, then of course they would. But when you have people sitting on corporate boards and on Wall Street and in Washington who don’t give a damn about the Indian public-in fact they don’t even care about the average American because the average American is being thrown out on the street while these individuals are reaping humungous rewards by the very people who caused the problem. These are anti-civic individuals. How do you stop that mindset so that every truly progressive movement that deserves to be heard is not just stamped with the moniker of terrorist?

VN: I think the most important way to conduct resistance for a more just and peaceful society is to be absolutely committed to nonviolence. That was the bar of India’s freedom movement, and that is the bar of the civil rights movement in the United States-to challenge power and wealth strategically but also nonviolently. That is a very strong demand of our time. The second very important issue is to continue to defend the democratic right to dissent. After all what is democracy if not the right to dissent? A dictatorship doesn’t allow the right to dissent, and as I’ve written in book after book corporate globalization has become a dictatorship. It is drawing states into implementing that dictatorship, and as long as corporate globalization implements this dictatorship it will destroy democracy. It will treat every legitimate democratic action as equal to the worst form of terrorism. So we stand for democracy and democracy is our birthright and our duty.

GN: In our society, like your own, we have our own caste system. There are the have’s and have not’s. I’ve never in my lifetime seen the powerful bring in the poor and ask for their advice. So how in the world are we ever to change any thing constructively if the most powerful people in the land surround themselves with the elitists and refuse to acknowledge that the poor and those less up the ladder also may have something constructive to offer? Was it not Albert Camus who said, “We rarely confide in those who are better than we are?” What if the ‘better’ means people with more humanistic and practical views of how to solve problems, such as the advocates of the organic movement? What if all of India, Africa, and the United States were to start looking at long-term sustainability of small agriculture projects in every community using organic heirloom instead of genetically modified crops? Think of the consequences to the water, to the air, to the land, to erosion, to reforestation, to sustainability and compatibility. And yet we have no such movement except at the grassroots level. Not a single dollar in the United States goes for organic, and yet everything goes for the big and very immoral food companies.

VS: During the last 20 years I’ve worked with both a scientific realization as well as a political realization that one of the most radical revolutions of our time is adopting biodiversity, saving open-pollinated seeds and practicing organic farming. As you said it’s a solution to every problem we face. It’s a solution to climate change. Moving beyond oil returns more to the soil, and we find in an ecological and organic agriculture both the mitigation and the adaptation strategies for knowing how to deal with the mess that a fossil fuel civilization has created. Organic food is the best solution to the biggest health problem of our time. Two billion obese and ill with food-related diseases. One billion denied their rights to food. Hence three billion are denied the right to wholesome food that can be solved with a local ecologically robust food economy. Then there is the issue of water. Ten times more water is used in industrial chemical agriculture. Water is clearly a limiting factor and will become more of a crisis as climate change melts our glaciers, dries up our springs, and leaves more and more areas water scarce. It’s also a solution to the conflicts all around us. I recently returned from a long field trip in the very poor Indian state of Orissa. Culturally, in terms of peace and harmony between nature and people and between people and people, there are amazing examples. Every villager has the deepest humanity. Every villager has the deepest sense of self sufficiency and enough-ness. That is the future we have to strive for. And I think the biggest monopoly in our time is when agribusiness went into the oil economy. It is a new genetic engineering industry. They are not going to allow governments to move towards organic farming rapidly. They will try everything to force genetic engineering upon us. Two decades ago when I started the Navdanya movement in India, these companies had announced they would have all seeds patented and all crops genetically engineered by the turn of the century. They have so far only genetically engineered four crops on any significant scale: cotton, soy, rice and canola. They haven’t managed to patent everything under the sun, and we have built a movement that will not acknowledge patents. I call it the seed satyagraha just like Gandhi’s satyagraha when he told the British that nature gives salt for free. We need it for our survival. We will make our own salt. In the same way we get seeds from our ancestors and nature. We will continue to save them for future generations, and we will not obey patent laws. I believe if we keep saving our open-pollinated seeds, if we keep doing organic farming, and those in the cities commit themselves to eating only food that is genuinely free of patents, GMO’s, pesticides and toxins, and free of corporate control, we can succeed. Even if governments don’t change their policies we will have created another economy. And if you look at the growth of the movement, it has grown without policy protection in spite of adverse policies. When we combine the financial, climate and food crises, the manipulative corporate economies will not survive. The economies of care and compassion fight it by their recognition that we live on a very fragile earth and have a very high level of responsibility to protect it. If there’s going to be a future, it’s going to be found in people’s actions.

GN: I’ve always been an organic farmer, and I’ve been a major promoter of organic farming in the United States on a small scale. I’m a believer in moving back to the land, and then creating small sustainable communities. To grow one pound of organic potatoes takes 60 gallons of water. To grow one pound of meat, a 16 ounce steak, requires 12,000 gallons of water. If we’re running out of water, and we are, would you suggest that it would make sense to preserve our water by being conscious that you’re going to eat something that requires less? Now that meat has arachidonic acid. That arachidonic acid increases chemicals in the body called cytokines and tumor necrosis factors that result in inflammation. By eating organic and eating more naturally not only are avoiding these chemicals, besides many environmental toxins, but we are also saving water. Much food we buy at our corporate markets has traveled thousands of miles to reach our tables, and this leaves a large carbon footprint. So wouldn’t it be better to buy something local, support our local food crops and organic movements to lessen pollution? Isn’t it advantageous then to do everything we can to clean up the environment by going green? For those in India and other parts of the world who are principally vegetarian, and who care about life and the environment, do you imagine that at some point there needs to be a collective shift in consciousness that supersedes the power brokers and the policy makers, and says, “We tried it your way and look where we’re at. We’re now going to do it our way, and you’re welcome to join us, but we’re not going to listen to you anymore.”

VS: Just because the corporate media doesn’t cover it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening on a large scale. I think if you add together the people who want to eat and live consciously, who want to reduce the human ecological footprint on the planet, who want to do less harm to other human beings — because every economic system that does violence to the planet also violates the rights of fellow human beings — creates a powerful force in the world. I think as this information becomes more coherent and moves more quickly a conscious shift will take place. A year ago people would never have believed those of us who were saying all these measures of financial growth are fictitious. It’s just a bubble waiting to burst. Twenty years ago I started to organize rallies of half a million farmers in the street to declare that the agra-industrial system would kill our farmers. It was a death knell for our farmers and a recipe for hunger. People didn’t believe it. Today the farmers are committing suicide. Today the food prices have risen. Food sovereignty and local food systems are back on the agenda and that reveals the incoherence of the dominant corporate system. The governance of the truth we stand by, the truth of the earth, the truth of nature, the truth of justice is our greatest strength and that will only increase consciousness. From it we’ll only grow with every step along the way. The next five and ten years will be absolutely unpredictable times, but as long as we can hold our ground and hope, I believe the shift of consciousness will turn today’s dominators into the marginals who will be enlightened to come join our table of peaceful food and of abundant food.

GN: Well I absolutely agree with you. That was a very special insight. Now to two other areas that are not getting the attention, in my opinion, that they deserve in the United States. Every US administration, Democrat or Republican, has looked at profit as preferable to people. How has the mega corporations and western administrations given us a false utopian concept regarding human and economic development and environmental sustainability for raising people out of poverty? During the elections I didn’t see a single statement that was printed or a voice spoken about the hundred million poor in the United States, the 36 million who go to bed hungry each day, the 12 million children in the United States who don’t have enough to eat, let alone the 27 thousand children who die each year, and most of them from infections, from bad water or malnutrition. Not a word about these things, and yet they blather on as if somehow they’re in touch. I’m asking who are they in touch with? Since it’s always about profit and never about people.

VS: You know as the food crisis has intensified during the last year, food prices have doubled. But we’ve also seen the corporate profits driving the food system double. I think we now have a major contest between two futures. There’s the future that you and I are talking about and living in. It’s a future of providing food security to the last child on the basis of people working lovingly with the land. More farmers growing good food, growing organic food, and this will drive away hunger and food scarcity. I really find the United Nation’s millennium goals highly un-ambitious because seven or eight years ago they talked only about halving the number of people who go to bed hungry. Well, with ecological farming and biodiversity agriculture we are not only doubling and tripling but we could increase food production five-fold and nutritional production even higher because the foods grown organically have much higher levels of nutrition. That’s the way to address the problem of hunger. That’s the way to make sure society does not neglect people. Of course there is another agenda. And that agenda will attempt to use the crisis it has created to grab more of the food and agrarian economy. Look at what happened at the June Summit on climate and food. The biggest winner was fortune’s foremost Bill Gates and his foundation who wants to sell more chemical fertilizers to Africa, and then commercialize the food supply for Africa. The second winner was the genetic engineering lobby. Of course both of these plans are completely inappropriate. The prices of fertilizers are going high. Nitrogen fertilizers are a major cause of global warming because the nitrogen oxides emitted are 300 times more lethal in global warming than carbon dioxide. To push more chemical fertilizers during this period of climate change is doubly criminal because it will force African peasants into debt, and then it will force all of humanity into an ecological debt. The genetic engineering lobby offered a false solution. They said only they can solve the problem of addressing climate change. They can’t because genetic engineering can only deal with single gene manipulations. Climate resilience in crops is a multi-genetic trait. They cannot engineer climate resilience. They can steal salt resistant seeds from us. They can steal flood resistant seeds from us. They can steal sources of seeds from us. I’m in fact preparing for our next campaign against bio-piracy-when agricorporations patent our traditional knowledge, our indigenous seeds. And when corporations are patenting, and there are 500 pending patents on climate resilience traits in crops, all of this is based on bio-piracy. Of course the real solution that we are offering is building community seed banks, building the commons for people to share as disasters happen. For example, we took salt tolerant rice down to the tsunami areas and drought tolerant rice to the areas in central India where they were having a four-year drought linked again to a climate catastrophe. The corporations will continue to seek profits. So we have to build on community. We have to build on people’s rights. And this contest is not going to go away in a hurry. But the fact that it doesn’t go away in a hurry doesn’t mean we don’t build the power of people.

GN: I would like to discuss the relationship between how the loss of natural biodiversity increases population growth and thereby increases poverty. If you would address the large agro-industrial players that you mentioned earlier and the destruction of biodiversity with their genetically modified seeds. I might mention that Hillary and Bill Clinton were sponsors of the Stevens Financial Group out of Little Rock, Arkansas, who was a major player in developing these genetically modified seeds. Under NAFTA and the WTO, the Clinton administration and its supporters thought it was a great idea. Little did they ever consider or care about the consequences. So if you would take a look at what it means to be forced into using seeds because your own natural seeds are no longer available. This has been true around the world where the World Bank and IMF went into almost every developing country and said, “We’ll give you a loan, but you must now give us structural adjustments. No more growing sustainable crops. No more small crops. Now you’re going to plant cash crops: cotton, soybeans, rubber and crops that you can get out of the country and sell abroad. That was also the case in India. Also speak about the contradiction between the great Green Movement, which won one person the Nobel Prize. But they weren’t looking at what this green revolution actually meant in terms of the average person.

VS: Well you know the Green Revolution was far from green. It was introduced in India in 1965 and ’66 when we had a drought. Because of the drought we needed to buy grain, and the US government said we could not have higher imports unless we changed our agriculture to the new seeds and the new chemicals. This package of new seeds that required chemicals is what is called the Green Revolution. The seeds had been evolved by Norman Borlaug who received the Nobel Peace Prize. The assumption was that commercializing and making agriculture more dependent on purchases would create a capitalist alternative to the spread of communism. And the reason the Green Revolution was called green was because it was contrary to red. It was not called green because it was ecological. The word green did not describe any ecological movement at that time. The Green Revolution was also pushed by the World Bank, which forced structural adjustments on India. It gave loans linked to structural adjustment to move seeds, pesticides and chemicals. The World Bank financed large dams that provided the intensive irrigation their seeds and chemicals required. Within the first few years 25 percent of the peasantry of Punjab had been wiped out. They were displaced from the land. Well within a decade, agriculture in Punjab had fallen into disarray, which is what then led to the extremist movement of the late ’70s and early ’80s. That was the basis of my book, “The Violence of the Green Revolution,” because I wanted to understand why the land, which was called the most prosperous, is today the angriest and why young Punjabis were taking to guns. What the Green Revolution basically did was push farmers into debt. It left the land desertified. It destroyed variety. Punjab used to grow 250 crop varieties. Today it grows monocultures of wheat and rice during two separate seasons and a monoculture of genetically engineered cotton. Punjab is one of the areas where we have large numbers of farm suicides. Twenty percent of the Punjab is now unfit for cultivation. Ten percent is water logged by putting too much water in intensive irrigation. Now this is precisely the package upon which the genetic engineering revolution has been built. The biotechnology industry calls it the second green revolution, and Bill Gates wants to take this package to Africa as the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa. Gate’s, the Rockefeller’s and their corporate affiliates would like to bulldoze over Africa a green revolution like they bulldozed it on India in 1965 through conditions and through destruction of our sovereignty and democratic decision making. But the true green revolution is the ecological agriculture revolution. That’s what we are trying to build.

GN: A final question I would like you to address is the difference between what evolutionary biologists, such as the late Francisco Varella and others, call autopoetic systems as opposed to allopoetic systems. Autopoetic systems are those that are self-organized and are self renewed and such systems rely on biodiversity and are self-sustained. If agriculture, human development and economics were to think autopoetically there would be a flourishing of well being and sustainability. On the other hand, allopoetic systems are externally driven. This is what the entire Green Revolution believed in. Therefore, this revolution seized upon external stimuli to develop artificial energy and external resources. However, this is a completely mechanistic model. There is nothing holistic about it. It’s totally against what we’re talking about and requires increasing energy input like dumping more and more fossil fuels into an industry that would not be required if it was autopoetic.

VN: In my view, ecology is about self organization. It’s the ability of an eco system to clean itself up. That’s self organization, an autopoetic system. It’s about seeds being able to reproduce themselves. That’s an autopoetic system. A genetically engineered seed is an allopoetic system. It needs an external control for its reproduction. A genuine seed is a seed that needs only itself, some soil and sunshine to give you a plant. A child growing into an adult in their full humanity is an autopoetic system. Slaves live under allopoetic conditions. Chemical agriculture and industrial agriculture are allopoetic. The free market globalized economy is an allopoetic system. It’s externally organized. Sovereign local economies are autopoetic systems. Gandhi called this an economy of place, the ability to be creative and to produce for yourself and to meet your own needs. Self-organization is also the highest form of democracy. Democracy is not just going and voting. Genuine democracy is the ability to self-organize to make real decisions about how we are to live: to be able to shape our food system and our education. That means taking power back. That power will not be handed over to us by those who have taken it away. It will have to be shaped by our everyday actions. We will have to reclaim that deep democracy and that’s our autopoetic system.

GN: I want to thank you very, very much for being with us today. You’ve given us a lot of great insights, and hopefully people will read your new book, “Soil Not Oil: Justice in An Age of Climate Crisis,” or go to your website: http://www.vandanashiva.org and see all of your activities.

Gary Null, Ph.D. is the nation’s longest talk show host on alternative health on NPR and Pacifica radio stations, and an award winning director of documentary films. www.progressiveradionetwork.com

Posted in Food crisis, Globalisation | Leave a Comment »

UPA neglects Agriculture the most

Posted by Ramoo on October 25, 2008

Submitted by editor on Sat, 10/25/2008 – 18:27

Rajnath Singh
India today is on the brink of a protracted recession. Almost every economic indicator in the country is putting immense pressure on all economic activities in the country and painting a gloomy picture of our economy. Inflation is in high double digits, GDP growth rate is faltering, Industrial growth rate has touched a record low of 1.3 percent and the growth of our agriculture sector has turned bad to worse.

Declining capital formation and steep reduction in public investment in agriculture sector during the UPA rule has led to a complete stagnation of Agricultural growth in India. In other words the UPA Government has proved to be a big disaster on the economic front.

Agriculture is considered a recession proof sector as it does not face decline in demand even in a worsening situation. Being a predominantly agrarian society, India has the potential and resources to deal with any challenge posed by recessionary atmosphere in the world.

Eminent thinkers and economists around the world have started chalking out detailed action plans for agriculture and predicted that food security will be the top agenda of all the Governments in future. It clearly indicates that the world is now awakening to the growing importance of strengthening agriculture sector but the UPA Government’s slumber has deepened further.

By pursuing disoriented and confused economic policies the UPA Government has jeopardized our national food security. No wonder, India’s record on hunger today is worse than that of nearly 25 sub-Saharan African countries and all of South Asia, except Bangladesh.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s 2008 Global Hunger Index says that with over 200 million people insecure about their daily bread, Indian scenario is ‘alarming’ in terms of hunger and malnutrition.

According to the World Development Report, “To reduce poverty and hunger, the growth of the agricultural sector is the only solution.” But the higher cost of production without a corresponding increase in prices has made agriculture a non viable profession in India.

In the absence of remunerative prices, coupled with lack of timely, affordable and adequate credit and high interest rates have forced the helpless farmer either to quit farming or to commit suicide. More than five thousand farmers committed suicide in different parts of the country.

The Prime Minister’s ‘Vidarbha Package’ for the farmers has failed to address the key issues. The farmer’s loan waiver scheme also met the same fate as it left majority of the farmers agitated and disgruntled.

Both these schemes have proved to be a cruel joke on farmers and the Congress led UPA Government will have to pay a heavy price for it in forthcoming assembly elections and the General Elections scheduled next year.

The UPA Government has remained unconcerned over the gravity of the situation and adopted a casual approach while dealing with a sensitive subject like Agriculture.

I am happy to note that the BJP ruled states have performed better than the Congress led Governments on the agriculture front.
We have the shining example of Gujarat State before us which registered a remarkable 13 percent growth in agriculture in comparison to meager national agriculture growth of nearly 1.8 percent.

After coming to power the BJP led NDA Government will introduce a paradigm shift in agriculture where it will synthesise the old and the new, and focus on the economics of small land holdings.

The BJP will increase the quantum of public investment in agriculture and mandate banks to earmark 30% of their total loans for credit to the agriculture sector. We will take immediate steps to see that the farmers be given loans at not more than 4% interest for agriculture and allied activities.

The NDA Government at the Centre will implement the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers and assure the farmer of actual cost of production plus 50% over and above this cost as the MSP for his produce.

BJP led NDA Government will also implement Farm Income Insurance Scheme to ensure guaranteed income to all farmers in the country.

India facing economic terrorism

UPA Government’s soft and weak-kneed approach to deal with terrorist activities is a fact well known. Unfortunately the issue of internal security which warrants national consensus among all political major political parties and other prominent stake holders in our society has become a casualty of UPA Government’s vote bank politics.

During the 42 months of UPA rule terrorists and anti-India forces have galvanised its cadres and gained strength to strike India anywhere, anytime and at will. They have developed a multi-pronged strategy to damage India at every possible level. Recently we have witnessed a big surge in circulation of fake Indian currency notes in the country. It is well thought strategy of anti-India forces to unleash economic terrorism in the country.

Pakistan’s intelligence agency the ISI has pumped in counterfeit currency worth billions of Rupees into India through Bangladesh and Nepal borders. According to recent estimates by a Government panel, fake currency worth 1 lakh 69 thousand crores Rupees are already in circulation.

Fake currency notes have been recently confiscated in many States. Even at the branches of the Nationalised banks and their ATM’s fake currency notes have been confiscated. Counterfeit currency is being used to fund terrorist operations. I urge the present dispensation at the Centre to take effective steps to plug the supply of fake currency notes in India.

The BJP demands the Government that it should come out with a white paper on circulation of fake currency in India.

Posted in Economix, Farmers Suicides, Food crisis, GM Crops, Hunger | 1 Comment »

MP at bottom of hunger pyramid

Posted by Ramoo on October 19, 2008

BS Reporter / New Delhi October 15, 2008, 0:31 IST

http://www.business-standard.com/india/storypage.php?autono=337412

Madhya Pradesh, which reported deaths of malnourished children last month, has the most severe level of hunger in the country and ranks between African countries Ethiopia and Chad, according to a global hunger index released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute in conjunction with Welthungerhilfe (formerly known as German Agro-Action) and the University of California, Riverside.

MP is followed by Jharkhand and Bihar, according to the first-ever India State Hunger Index, which was released along with the global index. Punjab and Kerala scored the best.

The Indian state hunger index analyses hunger levels in 17 major states and scores range from “serious” to “extremely alarming”. It measures hunger on three leading indicators and combines them into one index. The three indicators are prevalence of child malnutrition, rates of child mortality and the proportion of people who are calorie deficient.

The index for India found that not a single state in India fell in the “low hunger” or “moderate hunger” categories. Twelve states fall in the “alarming” category, and one state — Madhya Pradesh — falls in the “extremely alarming” category. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fall in the ‘serious‘ category.

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FAO says no to moratorium on biofuels

Posted by Ramoo on October 17, 2008

http://www.financialexpress. com/news/fao-says-no-to- moratorium-on-biofuels/373966/
ASHOK B SHARMA
Posted: Oct 16, 2008 at 0113 hrs IST
Updated: Oct 16, 2008 at 0113 hrs IST

New Delhi, Oct 15 : The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which has acknowledged that bio-fuel programme as one of the factors responsible for the present global food crisis, has soft-pedaled on the issue by not calling for a moratorium. It has rather suggested to make an in-depth assessment of its risks and possible benefits.

An FAO report ‘The State of Food and Agriculture-2008’ said, “A variety of factors have combined to raise food prices to the highest levels since the 1970s (in real terms) with serious implications for food security among poor populations around the world. One of the most frequently mentioned contributing factors is the recent rapid growth in the use of agricultural commodities – including some food crops – for the production of bio-fuels.”

“The emergence of bio-fuels as a new and significant source of demand for some agricultural commodities – including maize, sugar, oilseeds and palm oil – contributes to higher prices of agricultural commodities in general, and for resources used to produce them,” it said.

According to the FAO representative in India and Bhutan, Gavin Wall, who released the report in Delhi on Wednesday, the potential benefits of bio-fuels and farmers’ income need to be considered.

Though the report said that the impact of bio-fuel on food prices and its potential to contribute to energy security, climate-change mitigation and agricultural development continue to remain as the topic for the debate. It, however, acknowledged that the future of bio-fuels and the role they would play for agriculture and food security remain uncertain. Though the bio-fuels will offset only a modest share of fossil energy use over the next decade, they would have much bigger impact on agriculture and food security.

The report also found the impact of bio-fuels on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions varying widely, depending upon where and how various feedstock crops are produced. In many cases increased emissions from land-use changes may offset or even exceed GHG savings obtained through replacing fossil fuel use. Other concerns are the impact on water use, soil and biodiversity.

FAO pinned its hope on the second generation bio-fuels which may offer additional benefits and called investment on is research and phasing out of production subsidies and trade barriers in OECD countries.

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Agrarian Crisis and Farmers’ Suicides

Posted by Ramoo on October 17, 2008


Source: Agrarian Crisis and Farmers’ Suicides in India

Srijit Misra, IGIDR

The larger agrarian crisis has two dimensions. On the one hand, there is a livelihood crisis that threatens the very basis of survival for the vast majority of small and marginal farmers as also for agricultural labourers. On the other hand, there is an agricultural developmental crisis that lies in the neglect of agriculture arising out of poor design of programmes and allocation of resources and having resulted in declining productivity and profitability. This twin dimensions could also be equated with the developmental discourse where the former is about displacement of people and the latter is about displacement of ideology. The outcome is that planning is not people-centric.
In monsoon India, abundance or paucity of water has always been considered as a major source of agricultural uncertainty. Today, this yield risk could also be because of spurious inputs or inappropriate use of technology. Increasing costs, price volatility, non-availability of credit from formal sources and other risks further compound it. Social responsibility of education, healthcare and marriage instead of being normal activities add to the burden. All these would even put the semi-medium farmer under a state of transient poverty.
An extreme response to this distress is the increasing incidence of farmerss suicides. Between 1995 and 2006, more than 190,000 farmers have committed suicides, 83 per cent of these being males. The suicide mortality rate (SMR, suicide death for 100,000 persons) for male farmers increased from 10.5 to 19.5 whereas that of male non-farmers has more or less remained around 13. The major states with SMR for male farmers greater than the all India average of 18 during 2001-06 are Kerala (233), Maharashtra (53), Chattishgarh (47), Karnataka (39), Andhra Pradesh (35), Tamil Nadu (31) and West Bengal (21). It is to be reiterated that suicide is a symptom of the larger crisis, and its absence does not in any way indicate the absence of a crisis.
It is only in Kharif 2008 that one observes a substantial increase in the minimum support prices of the 16 major crops. In fact, the absolute increase would be almost equal to increments in the entire decade. Though welcome, this vindicates the established fact that returns to agriculture had turned out to be abysmally low. Per-capita per day returns to farmer households from cultivation in 2002-03 was eight rupees. Another recent public policy intervention has been the Rs.70,000 crore debt waiver package. This is just a book keeping exercise and at best will reduce the burden from formal sources. Indebtedness, like suicides, is another symptom.
Risk mitigation has to go beyond suicides and debt. What is more important is to spruce of public investments that will increase returns to cultivation. Skill enhancement and linking of opportunities to local resources are required to spruce up non-farm income. Success of the credit and input markets require effective regulation. There is a case of encouraging technological and financial products that would reduce costs while increasing returns. Institutions that can organize farmers are required.
My earlier blog on a related theme is Indian Agriculture in Doldrums.
Selected Readings:
Bhaduri, Amit (2008), Predatory Growth, Economic and Political Weekly, 43 (16), 10-14.
Government of India (2007), Report of the Expert Group on Agricultural Indebtedness, Chairman: R Radhakrishna.
Mishra, Srijit (2007), Agrarian Scenario in Post-reform India: A Story of Distress, Despair and Death, Orissa Economic Journal, 39, (1 & 2), 53-84. IGIDR Working paper version is WP-2007-001.
Mishra, Srijit (2008) Risks, Farmers’ Suicides and Agrarian Crisis in India: Is There a Way Out? Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 63 (1), 38-54. IGIDR Working paper version is WP-2007-014.
Reddy, D. Narasimha and Srijit Mishra (eds.) (2008) Agrarian Crisis in India, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
This is the abstract of a presentation at a one day international seminar, “Environmental degradation and food crisis – Lessons for India” being organized by Greenpeace India on 24 October 2008 atIndia International Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, India.

Posted in Economix, Farmers Suicides, Food crisis | Leave a Comment »

Food First Policies needed to tackle hunger in India

Posted by Ramoo on October 17, 2008

Shiva: Food-First Policies Needed to Tackle Hunger in India

Indian activist Vandana Shiva holding a pin that reads 'No thanks to GMO food'

Shiva blames the increase in hunger on the use of genetically engineered seeds

Dramatic price increases have left nearly a billion people hungry worldwide. As World Poverty Day draws attention to the issue, DW’s Dennis Stute speaks with activist Vandana Shiva about India’s huge hunger levels.

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, activist and author. In India she has established Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers’ rights. She also directs the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy.

The UN has declared Oct. 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

DW-WORLD.DE: How has the food crisis affected India?
Vandana Shiva: Very severely. Prices of staples have literally doubled in the last year and that has meant that the poor who were already only eating half of what they should be eating are now eating a quarter of what they should be. Unfortunately, it is the poor who must make a living by working physically and what we’re basically doing is robbing them of their ability to earn a living.

In addition, when children don’t get enough food to eat or when a mother is malnourished and she gives birth to a low birth-weight child, we are creating generations of people deprived of full mental health and full physical health.

According to a new report, there are “alarming” levels of hunger in 12 Indian states and “serious” levels in the remaining five. What, in your view, is the reason for the widespread malnutrition?

There are two very big reasons why India has emerged as the capital of hunger. The first is the “Green Revolution” model of agriculture, which was actually a hunger-creating model proposed as a hunger solution. But when you destroy food sources in pulses, in vegetables, in grains, in oil seeds and create monocultures of rice and wheat, you destroy the millets — the nutritious grains that have 40 times higher level of nutrition — and call them inferior grains and push them to extinction. On the ground, you have less food per unit acre and you have less nutrition access per capita.

Man picking an ear of corn from a stalk GMO crops require more water and provide less nutritional value, says Shiva

The second is related to the new thrust of the 1991 policies of trade liberalization which instead of focusing on food for people focused on exports of luxury cash crops to rich countries, destroying India’s food security base. This was trade-driven and really put food on the back burner then, treated as something you don’t need policy for.

The food situation is particularly bad in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Why is this state doing even worse than the others?
The two reasons Madhya Pradesh is more severely affected than others is that it’s a large forest state and it’s largely a tribal state. The food security of the tribals came from abundant forest products including edible products from the forest’s produce. Mining and industrialization is so rampant that tribals are losing their food resources.

It’s also the state where the drought impact because of climate change has been felt very severely. Bundelkhan has had a drought and rainfall failure for four years — there has been no cultivation at all. And that’s partly because the agricultural model is based on new seeds like hybrid seeds which need chemicals. But that’s the stupidest thing you could do because climate change requires adaption to drought which means planting crops that are resilient to drought — the millets that use only 250 millimeters of rain.

But unfortunately the government, driven by international agencies like the World Bank, has walked on the wrong road for a period of market volatility and climate uncertainty. The combination is a recipe for hunger and famine. We need to shift our focus from global markets and global trades to local food security and away from export crops to growing food and nutrition for our people.

In the past ten years, more than 140,000 farmers in India have committed suicide according to official figures. Why is their situation so desperate?

The first suicide came in 1997. When the impact of the new policies of liberalizing the seed sector started to get felt and corporations like Monsanto, who wanted to sell genetically modified seed, entered the market.

They started to sell non renewable hybrid seeds which meant the farmers had to spent huge amounts of money buying seed every year. These seeds also needed irrigation and were vulnerable to pests to the farmers had to spend more money putting in irrigation systems and buying pesticides. That meant a higher debt burden on farmers. Falling prices of the products and rising costs of production squeezed the farmers even further into debt. And that is what has led to the spate of suicides.

How can you tackle the problem of hunger?

A bowl of rice is being handed from an adult hand to a child's Getting food into the hands of the poor is difficult due to heavy subsidies

I think the most urgent steps to be taken to tackle the problem are to actually develop the farming systems to produce more food per unit acre. Every assumption of industrial agriculture is wrong because it does not produce more food but uses more chemicals and more water per unit acre. It produces more commodities for international trade per unit acre but it does not produce more food or more nutrition per unit acre. Models of farming that can increase food-production fivefold, ten fold, depending on your climatic conditions have evolved through the organic movement. Those models of biodiverse, ecological systems can solve the problem of hunger.

The second thing that needs to be done is to bring back food-first policies. In India after independence we have not had hunger on the scale we are now witnessing. We had a famine in 1942 which killed two million people. We had enough food in the country but the British were extracting every bit of rice from Bengal and exporting it for profit — exporting it to finance the war. We drove that famine away through public policy that put food first through a universal public distribution system that meant everyone has a right to affordable food. That was dismantled by the World Bank and it has to be resurrected.

The poor must have food at affordable price instead of subsidizing global corporations. What the government has to do is to buy, preferably organics, from the Indian farmers and then subsidize the prices for the poor. We would save our financial budgets, we would save our taxes and we would have more food at lower prices. India this year is spending one trillion rupees in subsidies for global corporations to buy chemical fertilizers. That’s the wrong way to go. We can lower costs of production, increase output per acre, increase equity and distribution. That is food sovereignty. That is food security. That is food first.

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We can end the Food Crisis

Posted by Ramoo on October 16, 2008

Press Release

Via Campesina on world food day

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We can end the food crisis!

(Maputo, October 15, 2008) We can only end the food crisis through the principles of food sovereignty and agroecology. This is the focus of the Vía Campesina in Maputo, as its 5th Congress gets underway with a Youth Assembly for rural youth from all over the world.

There are many young people who want to start out in agriculture using agroecological farming methods, based on autonomous principles of sustainable production and local marketing of produce. Current policies, however, make this difficult, and favour industrial production methods.

Today, the 16th of October, 2008, the FAO World Food Day, the Via Campesina offers a message of hope in the face of the world food crisis.

The crisis is a direct result of the industrial and export-based agricultural model, at the expense of millions of rural workers and the population as a whole, in every region of the world. But the crisis can be overcome if we abandon this model, which drives out rural workers, destroys biodiversity and the environment, and results in hunger and poverty in the world. The food crisis is the most dramatic link in the chain of crises generated by the neo-liberal economic system – the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the financial crisis, the biodiversity crisis, etc.. It is time for a change of direction, starting with agriculture itself.

The alternative is food sovereignty, which allows peoples to develop their own agricultural and food policies, which favour local and sustainable rural production, and equitable distribution of healthy food to support their own people.

The Vía Campesina reiterates this message in the midst of discussions taking place during its 5th Conference in Maputo (Mozambique), attended by over 600 representatives of small farmer and rural worker organizationss from all over the world.

60% of all food consumed in Mozambique is imported, and the scourge of hunger and malnutrition is everyhere in this country. Mozambique, like every country in the world, needs food sovereignty and support for its sustainable peasant production sector – using environmentally-friendly means – to feed its own population and put an end to hunger.

Today on World Food Day, the Via Campeina Youth Assembly stresses the urgent need of new generations of farmers to have to access to farm land and means of production. It has become clear that many young people want to farm, using the principles of agroecology, yet are still unable to do so. The Via Campesina urges governments to improve access to land, credit and support for these young people, because the future of agriculture and food production depends on them. In other words, the food crisis cannot be solved if young people are not given a wide-ranging role in agriculture based on food sovereignty and agroecological models.

For more information: Isabelle Delforge (e-mail: idelforge@viacampesina.org, +258 829628439) www.viacampesina.org

Posted in Agroecological farming, Food crisis, Food Sovereignty | Leave a Comment »

Food Crisis: The Moral Failure of Liberal Economists

Posted by Ramoo on August 31, 2008

August 30, 2008

Time was when writers lampooned economists for “knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.” Today, they seem to be unaware even of the price of things!

By Aseem Shrivastava

From Hardnews (Delhi, India) August 2008
(Original title: (Stiglitz and Sen: Profit and Pain”)

An economic transaction is a solved political problem. Economics has gained the title of queen of the social sciences by choosing solved political problems as its domain.
— Abba Lerner

Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz has recently expressed his views on the ongoing food crisis around the world. Given his pre-eminence in the profession and his vast experience as an advisor to governments, his views deserve to be scrutinized carefully.

The Stiglitz diagnosis

Stiglitz traces the problem of inflation in food and energy prices around the world to the policies that have been enacted in the US and elsewhere during the past few decades. He finds fault with the massive financial deregulation and generous tax cuts for the rich in the Anglo-Saxon world since the Thatcher-Reagan years, attributing to them rightly the “huge increase in inequalities in most countries,” the dramatic fall in household savings rate in the US, significant declines in employment prospects for most people everywhere and most worryingly, threats to nutrition standards even in the so-called developed world. A less flattering catalogue of global failures would be hard to summon.

The proliferation of opaque financial products in the wake of deregulation didn’t so much manage risk as enhance it, converting the world economy into a gambler’s paradise (since most countries were made to choose similar policies of deregulation — by the IMF and the World Bank), which has been systematically transferring wealth and real income from the poor to the rich globally, relying on the unerring precision of market forces.

Additionally, Stiglitz points to two significant policies of the Bush administration that have exacerbated food and energy crises in recent years. He points to Washington’s war on Iraq. Bush’s foolish policies have made the connection between food and energy markets tight, thanks to a misguided biofuels programme during the past few years.

Stiglitz makes it a point to underscore how Third World agriculture has been put in severe jeopardy not just because of benign neglect by governments, international financial institutions and aid agencies, but also because of unfair competition from a systematically and heavily subsidized agriculture in the rich world. This last is a criminal hypocrisy (the West being at the forefront of the messianic crusade for ‘free’ markets) too

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banal to belabor. The powerful World Bank is once again waking up slowly to the resilient truth that there is simply no way to reduce (let alone eliminate) poverty in the world without paying special attention to agriculture.

The Stiglitz remedy

What according to Stiglitz is the solution?

“Rich countries must reduce, if not eliminate, distortional agriculture and energy policies, and help those in the poorest countries improve their capacity to produce food. But this is just a start: we have treated our most precious resources — clean air and water — as if they were free. Only new patterns of consumption and production — a new economic model — can address that most fundamental resource problem.” (The Guardian, June 15, 2008)

Other than a euphemistic argot all too familiar in Orwellian times and the habit-bound economist’s search for the universally right ‘model’ to implement everywhere, a technocratically enlightened formula for guaranteed success, the above words could have come from Jesus Christ himself.

So where does Stiglitz fall short?

Stiglitz wants rich countries to “reduce, if not eliminate distortional agriculture and energy policies.” But don’t we already know they will never do this? Stiglitz keeps appealing to a constituency he already knows has long been morally deaf. For someone sacked by the US Treasury from his plum position near the top of the World Bank not so long ago, Stiglitz certainly knows this. Under the revolving door system the Americans have between their highest public and corporate offices, it is a sure wager that it was precisely the annoyance at Stiglitz on the part of the global investor class that prompted his sacking. Then why does he pretend otherwise?

“The world” he appeals to for merciful economic policies in the future is in actual fact the world’s tiny and shrinking class of corporate captains, precisely the bunch which sponsors the lobbies and policy elites which have led the relentless, decades-long campaign for financial deregulation, the very phenomenon Stiglitz holds responsible for the mess around us. This band of global corporate czars lives better than the royalty of other ages of humanity. It takes a dozen flights on private jets every week and dines every evening on wine and caviar which have been flown half way around the world especially for their banquets. Why should they listen to mad men like Stiglitz?

For at least half a generation many have been trying to persuade the governments of the rich nations to remove the unjust agricultural subsidies that harm Third World agriculture. Why have the governments of the rich nations not followed this morally impeccable advice? Is it not because they are influenced by transnational businesses maximizing profits globally? Is it not because they are cynically Machiavellian?

The real world

The latter hypotheses can hardly be dismissed. Consider what US Senator Hubert Humphrey said 50 years ago:

“I have heard that people may become dependent on us for food. To me that is good news because before people can do anything, they have got to eat. And if you are looking for a way to get people to lean on you and be dependent on you, in terms of their own cooperation with you, it seems to me that food dependence would be terrific.”

So the idea, far from helping “those in the poorest countries improve their capacities to produce food” (as Stiglitz continues to wish in vain) is to keep them permanently locked into a state of fundamental economic dependence on the West. (Did we ever get done with colonialism?) If Stiglitz and his panglossian followers think that times have changed (and the West is more civilized after all these decades of folly upon culpable folly), they should listen to President Richard Nixon’s chilling words from a more recent decade: “Let us remember that the main purpose of aid is not to help other nations but to help ourselves.”

More recently, in 1986, John Block, the US Agriculture Secretary said:

“The push by some developing countries to become more self-sufficient in food may be reminiscent of a bygone era. These countries could save money by importing more food from the US.”

If Stiglitz thinks such an opinion is unusual, he might ask himself if it is fundamentally different from the following view:

“Food self-sufficiency is a peculiarly obtuse way of thinking about food security. There is no particular problem, even without self-sufficiency, in achieving nutritional security through the elimination of poverty (so that people can buy food) and through the availability of food in the world market (so that countries can import food if there is not an adequate stock at home)…The focus has to be on income and entitlement, and the ability to command food rather than on any fetishist concern about food self-sufficiency…”

The words belong to Stiglitz’s illustrious colleague and fellow-Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. He gave an interview on the topic of world hunger to The Guardian in 2002.

Sen writes as though trade, income and entitlement were there just for the asking! He surely knows enough history to know that food has always been a weapon of warfare. He writes:

“There are situations in which self-sufficiency is important, such as during wars. At one stage in the Second World War, there was a real danger of Britain not being able to get enough food into the country. But that is a very peculiar situation, and we are not in one like that now, nor are we likely to be in the near future.”

Iraq was invaded by Washington, London and Canberra within a year of Sen’s interview.

Sen’s “trade fetish” is symptomatic of a global pandemic among academic economists. It only indicates his deep-seated conditioning by the economics profession as it has been shaped by a decadent intellectual culture in the western world after World War II. The intellectuals of the ex-colonies have never considered decolonizing their minds. Sen is the leading example. They might do well to read Tagore and Gandhi once more.

State of the dismal science

This sums up the professional consensus within “the dismal science.” The real world for most hungry people (we know for sure after recent food price inflation) is very different from what economists imagine it to be. In the latter’s world, poor nations, on the verge of industrial breakthroughs and massive transfers of labour away from agriculture to more “productive” and lucrative occupations (events which have not transpired yet in countries like India and China), can feed themselves much like Belgium or the Netherlands do — by importing food from abroad (from rich countries which do not even have to have a comparative advantage in the production of food, but have profligate treasuries and ignorant, gullible taxpayers to fund the subsidies and can thus let their agribusinesses sell cheaper than anyone else in the world market).

From the real world where the poor and the powerless live under hegemonies of forced production and consumption along lines dictated by the megacorps, the latter’s ‘international’ financial institutions, and also their State patrons, things couldn’t look more different. Global markets could never seem so innocent to hungry, suicide-prone farmers in India or Africa, as they do to technocratic dreamers in the seminar rooms of Columbia or Cambridge.

Why economists perpetuate misunderstanding

In times as transparently and confidently unjust as ours, it’s either dim-witted naiveté or outright knavery for economists to continue to keep their technocratic heads buried in the “innocent” sands of social “science.” They keep pretending that economics and politics belong to different planets.

Economists are dispassionate thinkers practicing disinterested science. Economics is on its way to becoming a pure science. Society and human communities are irrelevant. In any case, “there is no such thing as society.” Governments are a nuisance. They ought to stay away from markets. Markets are omniscient. They know everything that needs to be known (and not just about prices). Markets are free of politics. (What have they got to do with corporate power and influence?) They are the repositories of the best virtues in human nature. Therein rules liberal utopia.

Thou shalt not doubt these time-tested verities.

These are the kernels of truth that adorn the seminar rooms of the economics profession around the world today. America’s imperial conquests are more obvious in the ‘intellectual’ realm than in any other, with an obviously unscientific bubble economics (suitably insulated from facts) always leading the charge. Give or take a little here, some there, and you get the spectrum of opinions within the economics profession. They all must have not human communities — but the ‘free’ market at the heart of their conformist meditations.

Every economist — and Stiglitz and Sen are iconic iconoclasts within the tribe — is career-habit-and-hide-bound to pay his homage to the wisdom of market forces, even when he is critical of them (as both Sen and Stiglitz are in measurable degree). Such are the touchstones of the theology that today provides the primary justification for the widespread ecological and social ruin being precipitated by globalized growth around the planet.

The world has been “liberalized, privatized and globalized” with a messianic passion over the past few decades in the name of this putatively omniscient economics. It teaches the ancient virtue of patience. A little pain for some now, so that everyone can gain more tomorrow. As long as the masters of the universe are allowed a free hand to invest anywhere from the Mariana Trench to the moon. Trickle-down truths. Stale air. They all have faith in it, even if they are Sen or Stiglitz.

But as always, the cash-strapped housewife or the woman slaving at the construction site (or the one waiting in queue for one of those employed to break an arm) knows better than the pundits.

Time was when writers lampooned economists for “knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.” Today, they seem to be unaware even of the price of things! They are desperate to rescue their fading conscience after having long back traded it away for professional success and career advancement. Moral failure was always on the cards. Now the writing is all over the wall for anyone with eyes to read.

The writer is an economist and independent researcher

Posted in Economy, Food crisis, Globalisation | 1 Comment »