Government food policy ‘fuels hunger'

17 October 2011 - 1:00am
Press release

NEWS PEG: Monday, 17 October 2011 - UN committee on food security meets in Rome

Government food policy ‘fuels hunger'

Big business ‘infatuation' blocks solutions to food crisis, warns report

Hundreds of millions of people face starvation as a result of British government policy which puts food companies' profits before the needs of the world's poor.

This accusation is made today in a new report from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, which exposes UK government food policy as a central cause of global hunger.

War on Want publishes its report as the UK and other nations hold talks on the global food crisis at the UN food security committee in Rome.

The report – entitled ‘Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming the Food System' – contrasts the UK government's preferred approach of ‘food security', based on free markets supplemented by aid, with the positive alternative of food sovereignty, which returns control over the food system to farmers.

It shows how the government has driven a free trade agenda at the international level, while pressing countries to remove social protections that would reduce suffering.

Meanwhile, far from relieving hunger among the world's poorest, the Department for International Development (DFID) funds development of new crop technologies that deepen farmers' reliance on those companies' seed and agrochemicals at ever greater prices, leading to hunger on an unprecedented scale.

War on Want international programmes director Graciela Romero said: “The right to food is a human right, not a welfare issue. There is a real solution to the problem of the world hunger crisis: food sovereignty, which farmers around the world are increasingly demanding. But that solution has been consistently blocked by the UK government's infatuation with the corporate sector.”

War on Want criticises international development secretary Andrew Mitchell for using the aid budget to support the private sector by strengthening commitments to helping corporations develop new crop breeds.

Examples include funding for the African Agricultural Technology Foundation in expanding use of a weed-resistant strain of maize patented by agrochemical company BASF, the world's largest chemical firm.

DFID's 2009 white paper Eliminating World Poverty: Building Our Common Future pressed developing countries to remove social protections, insisting political leaders must make “tough choices about agricultural price controls, land policy and the agricultural business environment”.

War on Want calls for ministers to drop the failed model of food security for food sovereignty, which requires agrarian reform in favour of small producers and the landless, and the reorganisation of global food trade to prioritise local markets and self-sufficiency. It also demands tougher curbs on global food chain firms, such as supermarkets, and the democratisation of international financial institutions.

The charity highlights examples which offer positive farming alternatives from the UK, Sri Lanka, Mozambique and Brazil.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Miller and Labour MP Rob Flello, who both support food sovereignty, are available for interview.
  • Sarath Fernando,from War on Want's small farmers' group partner Monlar in Sri  Lanka, can also be interviewed.
  • The technological approach was pioneered in the Green Revolution, which between the 1970s and 1990s increased per capita food production while the number of hungry grew. For example, in South America food production increased by 9% while the number of hungry people increased by 19% during that period. In 2009 the global number of people officially classified as hungry exceeded one billion for the first time.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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Putting farmers in control

There is alternative to our global food system of free markets supplemented by aid

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