In recent weeks and months, countries around the world appear to be bulking up their food stocks.
This is the case in Jordan, which built up record reserves.
It is also the same in Egypt, which is the world’s biggest buyer of grain, and began buying grain from international markets, even during its local harvest. Cairo has boosted its buying by 50% since April 2020.
Taiwan said it will increase strategic food stockpiles, and China has been buying to feed its growing hog herd.
This behavior is not an accident, it is a result of various causes. The most obvious one is COVID-19, the hysteria and lockdown brought forth by it.
Global shipments were disrupted due to the lockdowns, and there’s concerns that if there is a sharp increase in cases of COVID-19 there could be more restrictions incoming.
The pandemic has so far led to food being abandoned at ports, since there’s nobody to transport it, there were trucking delays, as well as jams at warehouses, since storage space is scarce.
Supply chains are vulnerable, and those that can provide the full package also do not shy away from providing it at a very high price. The situation appears to have deteriorated dramatically with either a complete lack of food supplies, or them being provided at a very high price.
Countries that wish to bulk up their food stocks and have the resources to do so are fortunate. However, increased purchasing also means that the price is going up, and those countries that have less resources, or too many people to cover will begin to struggle.
This is further exacerbated by the fall of the population’s real incomes, and this relates to almost every country – US and Western Europe included, citizens appear to be making more money, but they can actually buy less.
The entire global financial and economic situation is in a state of disaster, which was initiated by Saudi Arabia’s crude oil price war, the disruptions in supply chain and, virtually, every sphere of life, by COVID-19 have brought forward the accumulated structural problems of the global economic model.
Capitalism is struggling and it shows its biggest proponents are willing to sacrifice lives in order to keep the economy afloat.
This was all caused not so much by actual issues, but rather by fearmongering and widespread hysteria, which continues in the 4th quarter of the year.
This has led to an unconditional increase in hunger-related mortality, either due to reductions in necessary rations, or due to the forced consumption of low-quality (and as a result cheap) food which leads to various diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular issues, metabolic diseases and more.
One would say that there have been hungering people in Africa and Asia for decades, how is that different now?
It’s different because it doesn’t relate to Africa anymore. It relates to traditionally rich countries such as the United States.
In the United States, 14 million children regularly miss their meals every day.
That is three times more than during the Great Recession and five times more than before the pandemic.
It’s even worse for Latino and Black families, whose rates of nutrition insecurity have spiked to 25% and 30%.
Even before the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated 37 million people in America struggled with hunger and nutrition.
The Centers for Disease Control reports 76% of people killed by COVID-19 had at least one underlying condition, most of which were diet-related. Diet-related diseases also fuel skyrocketing health care costs, which rose from 5% to 28% of the federal budget in the past 50 years.
And one would say that is an issue caused by COVID-19, but in 2019, some 13.7 million households, or 10.5% of all U.S. households, experienced food insecurity at some point during the year.
For about a third of these households, access to food was so limited that their eating patterns were disrupted and food intake was reduced. The rest were able to obtain enough food to avoid completely disrupting their eating patterns, but had to cope by eating less varied diets or utilizing food assistance programs.
38 million people used SNAP in 2019. One in nine people in the U.S. used SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps) — in 2019, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
During COVID-19, many Americans report that they do not have enough to eat. This is not a problem limited to certain populations or regions. Approximately 1 in 5 Black and Latinx adults say they do not have enough to eat, as do 1 in 14 white and Asian adults. In the vast majority of states more than 1 in 10 adults with children don’t have enough to eat.
In the U.S., the government’s hunger-relief plan known as the Farmers to Families Food Box program is starting to wind down. The supplemental $600 a week in jobless benefits authorized by Congress in late March expired in July, and lawmakers are still wrangling over another large stimulus bill.
School lunch programs were already struggling to meet rising demand before the pandemic. With COVID-19 now keeping children out of school, many don’t have access to school lunches at all.
“The other thing that COVID has done is it’s really affected kids a lot in terms of food insecurity,” Guardia said. “One of the things we’ve noticed across the board is that households with children are more food insecure. And we believe that also has to do with school closures. So a lot of kids get their nutrition from school meals, and that’s been disrupted.”
If the world’s superpower, the richest country on the planet cannot feed its population then what’s left for the others?
A study by the United States’ Food Research and Action Center looked into how COVID-19 exacerbated the food crisis.
It provided some notable insight for inside the United States. Such as that it’s not just the poorest families who are facing this struggle; among those who don’t have enough to eat, 1 in 4 have usual incomes above $50,000 per year.
Additionally, many other spheres of live have been made worse by the pandemic, and have negatively impacted access to food.
Those who report not having enough to eat are also experiencing other aspects of economic turmoil. As shown in Figure 8 below, a majority of those without enough to eat say they expect to lose employment income in the next month.
One-third say that they are not at all confident that they can make their next housing payment, and nearly half are not at all confident that they can afford the food they need over the next month. More than one-third report that they did not make their last housing payment.
More than 80% of those without enough to eat reported experiencing bad mental health symptoms at least half of the days in the prior week, including nervousness/anxiety, inability to stop worrying, little interest in doing things, and feeling down, depressed or hopeless.
Rates of bad mental health symptoms among those without enough to eat are 20 to 30 percentage points higher than those among the population overall.
There is also another side to every situation, and every crisis for some (or many) is a chance for others.
Who benefits the most?
Some obvious and very apparent beneficiaries immediately jump to mind – Big Pharma, Biotechnology companies, as well as Western food industry corporations.
More than ever they are pushing towards producing even more genetically modified foods, artificial meat and other ‘tweaked’ products.
Biotechnology is one of the praised “food for all” technologies, that would guarantee that no child (or adult) suffers or dies of hunger in the 21st century.
Gordon Conway, of Imperial College London looks into how it can be done.
“Hitherto, the success of the Green Revolution has depended on working with blueprints of “creating” desirable new plant and animal types through painstaking conventional plant breeding. Biotechnology, and especially genetic engineering, offers a faster route. Moreover, it will be essential if yield ceilings are to be raised, excessive pesticide use reduced, the nutrient value of basic foods increased, and farmers on less favored lands provided with varieties better able to tolerate drought, salinity, and lack of soil nutrients.”
The Green Revolution means less land being used for agricultural and animal rearing, so that there is less soil erosion and so on.
According to him, 2020 has proven that this is necessary.
Additionally, the above-mentioned biotechnology approach is largely safe for humans, according to reports, but there are some risks.
“The most serious environmental risk is the likelihood organic varieties escaping from cultivated crops into wild relatives (or contaminating organic varities on nearby farms). This is a justified concern. Genes from existing commerical crops can and do pass to organic crops, and vice versa, and genes from both transfer to wild relatives Even self-pollinated crops. such as rice, will cross with wild rices. The question is whether the genes remain in the wild relatives and whether they result in adverse ecological effects, such as the production of superweeds. Only extensive, well-designed, and monitored field tests will provide answers.”
Also there are threats of viruses, but at this point how much of a novelty would that be?
“Another potential hazard arises from plants containing genes from viral pathogens that confer resistance to these same pathogens. Expressing the viral genes in plants somehow disrupts the virus infection process. But exchange of these genes with other viral pathogens may be possible, creating entirely new virus strains with unknown properties.”
And the last risk relates to bacteria becoming resistant to toxins and then having super-resistant vermin that destroy natural and artificially created food, but how is it no worth it when there’s billions, or even trillions to be made in profit?
“A third significant risk-the potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) genes-is well known, as are some of the counterstrategies, One answer is to employ refuges of non-Bt crop plants. Another uses two or more toxin genes each with a different molecular target. Experience indicates the need to anticipate the eventual breakdown of control. Introduction of Bt into a wide range of crops implies a much higher selection pressure than from spraying the insecticide on a single crop. Insect populations need to be carefully monitored for resistance and alternative strategies continuously developed.”
Gordon Conway concludes with the following:
“It is possible to provide food for all in the 21st century, but there is no simple or single answer. It is not just a matter of producing more or enough food. If hunger is to be banished, the rural poor either have to feed themselves or to earn the income to purchase the extra food they require. This means a new revolution in agricultural and natural resource production aimed at their needs, which cannot be achieved by ecology alone or by biotechnology alone or by a combination of the two. It requires participatory approaches as well-involving farmers as analysts, designers, and experimenters.”
Essentially his proposal is such that individuals in rural areas should be stripped of their livelihood, and be given the chance to become “analysts, designers and experimenters,” as unlikely as it sounds. Another solution would be – either eat more of the food they produce and as such make less money and be incapable of affording basic utilities and commodities, or “earn the income” to purchase the extra food they need, how that would happen remains a mystery for an individual who earns income by producing food.
This is only one direction, in addition to developing biotechnology, there are requests to fully open the global market of all developing countries, which would lead to even worse crisis in all of them, or potentially including small producers in the global networks (which means that they will simply be bought out and then resold). Neoliberalism is openly being promoted, with the idea of traditional communities leaving the rural areas, and them being entirely abandoned, since the big cities always need more consumers or untrained labor.
As mentioned earlier, this is not a problem for the US alone, according to the United Nations World Food Program (which won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize), the global pandemic has the chance to double the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity, from 135 million in 2019 to 265 million in 2020.
After all, this relates to the livelihood, and little is more frightening than hunger, as such, a massive change of direction and the establishment of a new order to follow is made much simpler – after all, if it’s not implemented and followed through on, millions, or even billions would die a death of starvation.
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