Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hungering for a True Thanksgiving

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 U.S. Department of

Agriculture released a report Monday stating that in

2008 one in six households in the U.S. was "food

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 Battle for the World's

Food System," told me he was "gobsmacked" by the U.S.

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 Summit on Food Security in Rome

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 U.S. made the point

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 U.S. chief

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

of North America, "This position will enable him to

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

the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.


According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-

Proliferation, the U.S. has spent on average about $265

million per day in Afghanistan since the invasion of

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 U.S. would meet

Diouf's goal, and that would be if the U.S. were the

sole contributor.


Consider pausing this Thanksgiving, which for many in

the U.S. is a major feast, to reflect on the 10

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 North America. She is the author of

"Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback.


c 2009 Amy Goodman


No comments: