A Statement Of Importance To All

As a proud supporting member of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (the only activism, albeit passive on my part, that I allow myself to engage in these days), I am happy to share the statement (see below and here on Facebook) read out on the State of Food & Agriculture in the Asia-Pacific Region at the 33rd FAO of the UN Regional Conference for Asia & the Pacific in Malaysia by Esther Penunia of the Asian Farmers Association on behalf of Civil Society.

Photo credit: Courtesy of AFSA on Facebook

This is an important statement which reflects the dire situation on food sovereignty that our region and indeed the world faces as a result of past and current agriculture and food policies to produce a broken food and agriculture system that benefits no-one except a few monopolistic commercial interests.

The statement (copied from here) is repeated below:

We, representatives of small farmers, landless, rural women, fishers, agricultural workers, pastoralists and herders, indigenous peoples, consumers, youth and NGOs coming from 17 countries met last weekend.  We would like to share with you our assessment of the state of food and agriculture in the region.

While we have halved hunger and malnutrition in the region we are still faced with issues of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and on the other extreme, extreme wealth,  overconsumption and obesity.  Ironically, farmers and rural communities, who are producing our food, are the ones who suffer from hunger and malnutrition.  Corporations and big supermarkets have taken over our food and agriculture systems.

This monopolistic and commercialized food and agriculture system has led to the lost of agricultural biodiversity.  Of the over 80,000 plant species available to humans, only three – maize, wheat and rice – supply the bulk of our protein and energy needs.  There is urgent need to diversify agro-ecosystems in order to have more diverse nutrient outputs, but this call has fallen on deaf ears as it runs counter to the Green Revolution approaches dominating the policy directions in this region.

We have a broken food and agriculture system.  This we see in the conversion of forests into monoculture and oil palm plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, corn and cabbage farms in Thailand, the loss of food diversity in Kerala, land grabbing in South Korea.  From Mongolia to Australia, we are losing control of international and domestic markets.  We suffer from low prices.  Our lands, waters, forests and seeds are taken away by corporations and local elites.

The international rules governing our food and agriculture system are also broken.  The demands of developing countries for immediate implementation of a special safeguard mechanism to counter import surges have been consistently ignored.  With the opening up of our markets, especially with the threat of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), local farmers will not be able to compete with imports.  Public stockpiling and , a mechanism to secure food supply in times of crisis and ensure procurement from local farmers, is seen as trade distorting.  Social protections for farmers have also been sidelined in international negotiations.

It is no wonder that the younger generation turns away from farming and fishing.  We thus have an ageing population of producers.

We need a radical change in order for us to achieve the SDG of eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2030.  We need a new food and agriculture system that brings resilience to our farms and farmers and help us achieve the SDG of eliminating hunger and poverty by 2030.  We need a reboot of our system, towards one that is responsive to the impacts of climate change.

We need to fully implement agrarian and aquatic reform and transition to agroecology.  Agroecology is the best pathway to achieve the goal of more sustainable food systems.  It is productive, climate resilient, environmentally and health-friendly, provides decent employment and secure livelihoods, and can directly deliver diverse, nutrient rich foods.  Thank you for your attention.

Famine And War, An Uncertain Future

News of the Day

I want to feature an article that came to my attention this morning courtesy of News.com.au (not usually one of my regular or recommended news sources, but we all have our good days) via AFSA, the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance.  The AFSA comment on this is:

A fairly alarmist NewsCorp story but it brings into focus why food sovereignty – for all countries of our region and globally – is a much better way to go than food dependency, which is what ‘free trade’ is creating.

There are two things to which I want to give expression here.

First Thing

The article itself.

This article, under the title ‘World food production report has serious implications for Australia’s security‘, I deem to be one of the most important I have read in recent times even though its source may be less than impeccable, coming from the NewsCorp stable of Rupert Murdoch.

Because news has such a short life cycle and this article is likely to disappear within a short time, for posterity I will try to summarise and provide links to supporting papers quoted in the article.

The world is beginning to struggle to feed itself both because of falling agricultural yields around the world and a rapidly increasing population.  For those interested in scientific data, the following report is referenced:  Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050.

Unrest, to say the least, is forecast for our region, where tensions are already growing and there is some likelihood of local wars erupting in the coming decades.

Retired Major General John Harley is quoted as saying to The Australian earlier this week: “There is the potential for significant food shortages in our region by 2025,”.  It is also noted that Australia is facing the concept of becoming a net food importer, something that we have never before needed to contemplate.

Here are some quotes from the article, which may be taken as NewsCorp alarmism but which I take very seriously:

“Shortages and rising prices may create a double whammy: Average families struggling to put food on the table, while at the same time government is forced to cut back on social welfare programs,” Dr Ganguly said.

“Growing anger may spill over onto our streets, leading to law and order problems. In the worst case scenario, food riots may break out, undermining Australian internal security and domestic stability.

“We need to focus our attention on increasing food production; in short, domestic food production simply must keep pace with the food requirements of a growing population.”

I personally think that we should not ignore or dismiss these things lightly.

Second Thing

The article includes a publicity photo for the remarkable Australian book based film of 2010 ‘Tomorrow When The War Began‘.  This movie was in my view, while ostensibly being merely a teen-flick, a much underrated highly prescient, predictive and, it has to be said, very enjoyable work of entertainment.  Even for a senior citizen like myself.

Tomorrow When The War Began

I have even bought and downloaded the movie to my computer so that I may watch it whenever or show it privately to others.  This story is from the first of a series of young teen books by Australian writer John Marsden. Note to self: Must buy the books or read for free online.

A brief synopsis of the story could go like this, which is entirely my own words:

A group of seven Australian teenagers arrange a weekend of camping in a remote area.  While there they see a huge number of unknown aircraft flying overhead. Curious, they head for home only to discover that the nation has been invaded and largely taken over, with little in the way of resistance, by an unnamed foreign power which turns out to be of vaguely asian origin (you don’t actually see much of their appearance, just the face of one very young dead soldier, because they are helmeted and goggled as active military tend to be these days and could really have been of any nationality).  The rest of the movie consists of their exploits to rescue one of their number who is trapped and in danger of being captured by the enemy followed by their brave mission to blow up a key bridge to slow down the movements of the foreign troops.

The reason that I found this movie so captivating was that I had realised for some time that such a scenario is entirely possible and even likely to eventuate at some stage in the type of world situation that we are living through today.

Does it not make sense that foreign investors in our land, when situations become desperate, such as the food shortages predicted by the article referenced above, that they will want to claim access to their vested interests here as security of resources for their own people.  In reality there is little that we could do, notwithstanding our famed military skills, to prevent such a well planned and executed invasion of our shores by any of our neighbouring nations or even by our current allies.

A scary thought.