It's not just about eating less meat.
For many the main takeway from a recent climate report seems to be people should ‘eat less meat and become a vegetarian’ otherwise we face a food crisis.
Its clearly a good thing for many reasons to cut meat consumption – health, climate etc. But whats missing from this story ?
Well, first of all – one in three people already face hunger issues, close to a billion face malnutrition. Not in the future but right now.
So the hunger crisis is happening but of course it is happening to people in the global South. It only matters when it might impact ‘rich’ people
Yet a third of all the food produced is wasted and a third of all soil eroded.
You would be forgiven for thinking this was a result of something magical that could only be fixed by ‘individual consumers’ changing their habits rather than this has been deliberately engineered.
But those responsible have names and addresses. They are the big industrial agri-businesses, the multi-national companies.
The top ten seed companies account for 73% of trade, often the same companies control grade in grain, bio-tech and industrial food production.
Just ten companies control every large food & beverage brand in the world.
Whilst four companies are the biggest commodity traders in agricultural products.
Unilever, Coke, Kellogs, Cargill, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF are the equivalent of the fossil fuel criminals like Shell & BP
They are destroying the planet and profiting from hunger. So stick with me whilst I spell out the story that the massed ranks of the NGO & the media should have told about ‘climate and land’
When talking about food – start with that 70% of all the food produced is by small farmers who make up 90% of all farms. Yet they produce that on 25% of agricultural land.
In Africa, 90% of all farms are small but they have less than 15% of total agricultural land.
Yup thats right – rest of the land is often controlled by industrial food producers, producing food & commodities for export.
In the last 2 decades its estimated that 100 million hectares of farmland have been turned over to export crops soya, sugar cane, rape seed, palm oil
This didnt magically happen – it happened because govts like the UK & other rich countries forced them to.
Under colonialism rich countries exploited the resources of the global South.
But that didnt stop after end of colonialism – western imperialism continued the exploitation
Be it the overthrow of govts in the global South – Allende, Lumumba, Mozzadegh – who threatened western control of their resources.
But also by using the WTO, IMF and World Bank and structural adjustment programmes to force corporate control of food and a massive land grab.
Developng countries couldnt support local farmers/peasants or have policies to stop food price increases.
Industrial large scale food production forced out local food producers and impoverished people. For example, for oner person working in soyabean in Brazil, 11 agri workers are displaced
The devastating result is that there are currently 1.7 billion people live in water stressed areas, set to increase 3.5 billion.Whilst consumption of water is set to grow by 40%.
Agriculture accounts for 70% of global water use, and half of all freshwater is polluted by industry and agriculture.
Here are some solutions we should be talking about & not just individuals making ethical choices.
1. The climate crisis is already happening & poorest are most impacted
2. Stop a breach of 1.5 degrees celsius of global warming
3. Rich countries to be at zero emissions by 2030 – not the current target of 2050
4. Food is a basic human right & public good to be enshrined in every national constitution
5. Land & agrarian reform – land belongs to people who work the land
6. Stop subsidies to industrial agri-business
7. Break up industrial food giants
8. Stop supermarkets’ control of food retail
9. Fix our trade system – we need trade justice
10. Stop speculation & trading on food
11. Promote agro-ecology – it can cool planet and feed world three times over
12. Stop the failed policies of the WTO, World Bank, World Bank
13. Democratic control of food decision making especially women
14. Stopping land grabs for mining, agro industrial plantations & biofuels
15. Banning land speculation by big financial institutions on land
16. Land and food are part of the global commons like energy. They need to be regulated & shared equally & fairly
17. End neo-liberal capitalism. The thing that no NGO dare utter (apart from WarOnWant) – its a systemic problem of a global economic system. One that impoverishes the poor to make the elite rich. Its not compatible with tackling climate change or ending globalisation of hunger
18. Join the bloody dots. We can’t stake our future on bio-energy with carbon capture and storage and negative emissions. Yes I know you know but those NGOs who darent say it because they think it might mean having to say capitalism and a safe & fair planet is incompatible.Go on you can tell the truth!
19. For God’s sake listen to the worlds farmers, peasants & indigenous peoples & half the world living on $5 a day.
20. Stop this white supremacy & sacrificing the global South – demand food sovereignity and climate justice.
Asad Rehman is the executive director of War on Want
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