Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Will We Prevent the Next Genocide?

The land grabbing orgy currently taking place in developing countries is a lot more serious than I thought. There are some countries buying up or leasing land but the biggest buyers are actually corporations. Corporations have amply demonstrated in the past that they don't care anything for the lives or livelihoods of people, they only care about maximizing profits for their shareholders and other interested parties.

In addition to grabbing land and denying millions of subsistence farmers their only means of survival, this trend is part of what has been driving up the price of food, especially staple foods. These corporations can also indulge in some practices that would be more difficult or expensive or perhaps even totally illegal in other countries. For example, land in developing countries is seen as ideal for biofuel crops. It's also seen as a good place to grow genetically modified crops that have not been given the go ahead in other countries.

Everyone feels the effects of rising food prices, of course. But for people who were barely able to afford enough food to eat a couple of years ago, the rush to buy up or otherwise occupy land in developing countries will push many people well below the threshold of having enough food, however lacking in nutritional value, just to survive.

Developing countries are also presently experiencing severe water shortages. Rich countries growing their food in developing countries means that they are effectively exporting huge quantities of water from those who have least to those who have most.

Corporate nobs may talk of 'win-win' situations, or even 'solving world hunger' but it is only people who are now rich who have any chance of winning anything and those who are now poor who face starvation. There is nothing in this for development, it is purely motivated by the need to make big profits. In addition, land and water supplies will be contaminated by the large scale agricultural practices which are absolutely necessary for this sort of investment to be really profitable.

I realise that those driven purely by profit are not going to be interested in these questions: but what will people now on the brink of starvation do once they have been thrown off their land? And what will those now barely able to afford basic foods do when the price has gone just that little bit too high? What will the rest of the world do when most of the land and water that have been supplying them with food are contaminated to the extent that they are no longer productive?


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