Growing the Future

07 Jun 2011

Oxfam has been responding to food crises for around 70 years, but now it is calling on public and private sectors to lead the transformation to a fairer more sustainable food system with the launch of a new international campaign GROW on May 31. Slow Food is proud to join the campaign that aims to link together all those groups currently fighting for a better food system and food justice around the world.

By investing in agriculture, valuing the world’s natural resources, managing the food system better and delivering equality for women who produce much of the world’s food, Oxfam argues we can help fix the broken food system and avert environmental disasters that underlie hunger. It is also calling on the private sector to shift to a business model where profit does not come at the expense of poor producers, consumers and the environment.

“Food is the most profound link humans have with the world around us, yet it has become a focus for constant worry, forever at the center of recurring food and health crisis,” commented Slow Food President Carlo Petrini. “Revitalizing local food systems by developing collaboration between those who share the desire to preserve, develop and promote local economies and responsible food production must become our common priority.”

A recent analysis of hunger by Oxfam shows how the broken food system and environmental crises are now reversing decades of progress on world hunger. Their report Growing a Better Future catalogues the symptoms of today’s problematic food system: growing hunger, flat-lining yields, a scramble for fertile land and water and rising food prices.

Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam said: “Our world is capable of feeding all of humanity yet one in seven of us are hungry today. In this new age of crisis, as climate change impacts become increasingly severe and fertile land and fresh water supplies become increasingly scarce, feeding the world will get harder still. Millions more men, women and children will go hungry unless we transform our broken food system.” 

Oxfam’s GROW campaign will expose the governments whose failed policies are propping up the broken food system and the clique of 300 – 500 powerful companies who benefit from and lobby hard to maintain it.

Some examples given by Oxfam include: 

India: Despite doubling the size of it economy between 1990 and 2005 the number of hungry people in India increased by 65 million – more than the population of France – because economic development excluded the rural poor and social protection schemes failed to reach them. Today one in four of the world’s hungry people live in India. 

United States: US policy ensures 15 percent of the world’s maize is diverted to engines, even at times of severe food crisis. The grain required to fill the petrol tank of an SUV with biofuels is sufficient to feed one person for a year. 

Traders: Four global companies control the movement of most of the world’s food. Three companies – Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill – control an estimated 90 per cent of the world’s grain trade. Their activities help drive volatile food prices and they profit from them. In the first quarter of 2008, at the height of a global food price crisis, Cargill’s profits were up 86 percent and the company is now heading for its most profitable year yet on the back of further disruptions to global food supplies. 

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