Hungering for a True Thanksgiving
By Amy Goodman
November 19, 2009
"In the next 60 seconds, 10 children will die of
hunger," says a United Nations World Food Programme
(WFP) online video. It continues, "For the first time
in humanity, over 1 billion people are chronically hungry."
The WFP launched the Billion for a Billion campaign
this week, urging the 1 billion people who use the
Internet to help the billion who are hungry. But if you
think that hunger is far from our shores, here is some
food for thought ... and action: The
Agriculture released a report Monday stating that in
2008 one in six households in the
insecure," the highest number since the figures were
first gathered in 1995.
Economist Raj Patel, author of "Stuffed and Starved:
Markets, Power and the Hidden
Food System," told me he was "gobsmacked" by the
hunger numbers, which he finds appalling: "The reason
that we have this huge increase in hunger in the United
States, as around the world, isn't because there isn't
enough food around. Actually, we produced a pretty
reliable solid crop last year. ... The reason people go
hungry is because of poverty."
In addition to the online campaign, the United Nations
is hosting the World
this week, hoping to unite world leaders on the cause
of eliminating hunger. Patel remarked on the U.N.
summit, "They're making all the right sounds about
hunger around the world, but as some of the activists
outside that summit are saying, poor people can't eat promises."
Almost 700 people from 93 countries, many of whom are
small-scale food producers, have gathered outside the
U.N. summit. They are there in behalf of the People's
Food Sovereignty Forum, and they are pushing for small-
scale, organic, sustainable food-sovereignty and food-
security programs, as opposed to large-scale
agribusiness with its dependence on genetically
modified organisms and chemical fertilizers and
pesticides. Michelle Obama said last March when
planting the White House's organic kitchen garden, "It
is so important for them [children] to get regular
fruits and vegetables in their diets, because it does
have nutrients, it does make you strong, it is all
brain food." The first lady of the
that a homegrown, organic garden is a sustainable and
affordable way to strengthen family food security.
This has led some to wonder, then, why her husband has
appointed Islam Siddiqui to be the
agricultural negotiator. Siddiqui is currently vice
president for science and regulatory affairs for
CropLife America, the main pesticide industry trade
association. According to the Pesticide Action Network
keep pushing chemical pesticides, inappropriate
biotechnologies, and unfair trade arrangements on
nations that do not want and can least afford them." It
was CropLife's mid-America division that circulated an
e-mail to industry members after Michelle Obama's
garden announcement, saying, "While a garden is a great
idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun,
CropLife Ambassador Coordinator, and I shudder."
Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organization, engaged in a 24-hour hunger
strike over the weekend, before the food security
summit kicked off. He said in a statement, "We have the
technical means and the resources to eradicate hunger
from the world so it is now a matter of political will,
and political will is influenced by public opinion."
Diouf has estimated that it would take $44 billion per
year to end hunger globally, compared with the less
than $8 billion pledged recently to that goal.
Juxtapose those numbers with the amount being spent by
According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-
million per day in
that country in 2001 (which is a much lower estimate
than that provided by Nobel Prize-winning economist
Joseph Stiglitz and others). Even at that rate, five
months of military spending by the
Diouf's goal, and that would be if the
Consider pausing this Thanksgiving, which for many in
children who die of hunger every minute, and how your
elected officials are spending hundreds of billions in
public funds on war.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily
international TV/radio news hour airing on more than
800 stations in
"Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback.
c 2009 Amy Goodman