G8 Clueless on Food Policy

In June the G8 (Group of Eight; Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States), the rulers of the industrialized north, the power brokers of the world, met in Kobe, Japan. They meet annually to discuss topics of mutual and global concern. Not surprisingly, according to ABC News, the World Food Crisis and Africa were in the spotlight.

And what better way to prepare for intense discussions of the World Food Crisis than to start the meetings off with the "Blessings of the Earth and Sea Social Dinner," an eight-course, eighteen-dish banquet accompanied by five wines from around the world. While fifteen guests were invited, the leaders of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Senegal (who had taken part in the meetings that day) were not among them. Earlier that day UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged the world to reduce their "unnecessary demand" for food.A Apparently he wasn't speaking to the G8 leaders.

Does the G8 really understand the food crisis? I don't think they have a clue. An eight-course banquet? How demeaning. They invite leaders from African countries affected by the food crisis, hear their pleas, but certainly, do not let them interfere with their agenda, their industrial development, their pleasure.

While floods, droughts and climate change are contributing factors, they are not the cause of the current worldwide food crisis. The G8's pet projects, international trade, finance and corporate policy are the real cause of the food crisis. Does the G8 propose anything in the way of solutions to the food crisis or just more of the same, more of what caused the problem in the first place? Do they support anything other than the failed agenda of the Bush Administration? Policies which include:

-Removing export restrictions (So countries trying to protect their domestic food supplies by prohibiting export of food crops, like rice, are not allowed to do so).

-Successful conclusion of the Doha round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) (So food deficit countries cannot protect their domestic food production and farmers, but must produce commodity crops for sale on the world market).

-Increased access to Genetically Modified (GM) crops in food deficit countries. ( The White House supports the use of GM drought resistant crops, but those crops do not exist. GM crops have done nothing to lessen hunger anywhere in the world. Farmers in Africa cannot afford the seed, the fertilizer or the pesticides that GM crops require. African farmers stand a better chance of feeding their people with traditional crops. They do not need GM seed; they need roads, storage facilities, credit, investment in small scale agriculture and more democracy).

As the Democratic and Republican delegates move into discussions of their respective party platforms, they could move US foreign policy in a new direction. A new president, from whatever party, with a rational agenda could move the G8 to effect progressive change in Africa and elsewhere.

A new President could forgo the call of the banquet bell and listen to the farmers, farm workers and social justice advocates on the ground in Africa, perhaps join them for a meal of foufou and millet. See what it means to be hungry and listen to their pleas for Food Sovereignty.

A new President could insist it is time the G8 stops forcing the world to accept the expensive and failed trade policies of the WTO and the World Bank. Stop the unquestioning support of Monsanto, Dow, Cargill and the rest of the multi-national agribusiness giants who see their profit as being transcendent over the lives of farmers, workers and the people of entire continents.

National elections should motivate us. Clearly, most Americans are not pleased with the direction we have taken for the last eight years at home or abroad. In the eyes of the world we are no longer a compassionate nation. There are 800 million starving people in the world and 1 billion overweight people. It is time for a policy change. Delegates heading for St. Paul and Denver should think about that and they should think about how their party platforms could move the G8 to change world food policy.

Jim Goodman is a farmer in Wonewoc and a policy fellow for the Food and Society Fellows Program.

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