EXCLUSIVE – Yesterday at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania held a guest lecture on ‘The Causes and Consequences of the First Global Food Crisis in 2008’.
Dr. Katz was the founder and chairman (1984-1986) of the Task Force on the African Famine for the American Anthropological Association, which produced a series of monographs, symposia and reports on food security in Africa. He was the Series Editor of Food and Nutrition in History and Anthropology (Gordon & Breach Publishers, 1986-1995) and was Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (Scribner’s/Gale, 2003).
According to Prof. Katz, today for the first time ever a combination of crop failures, population increase, changes in diet and a sudden diversion of grains from the human food chain to fuel production are causing a catastrophic global food crisis.
In his talk, Prof. Katz emphasized that a side-effect of the current trend towards the use of biofuels is the snatching of food from hungry mouths. He supported his arguments with a series of disturbing episodes from around the world. He described how at least 30 countries risk social revolution due to food shortages, how food riots in Haiti have forced the PM to resign, how similar tensions in Pakistan are putting the new government to the test, how the Egyptian government too is under pressure, how rising food prices have led to mass demonstrations in Bangladesh.
In Australia, rice production has collapsed due to an unprecedented six years of drought and the Deniliquin mill, the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, has stopped working.
While admitting that there are no immediate solutions to what he referred to as a ‘question mark catastrophe’, Prof. Katz stressed the need, among other things, to develop sustainable agricultural practices, to alleviate strains on the world’s resources and to base agricultural and environmental policies more on certain scientific knowledge than on political expedience.
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