Why do more than 800 million people still go hungry in a world marked by incredible affluence? 180 nations are gathering in Rome from June 10 to 13 to address just that question at the “World Food Summit: Five Years Later” meeting. At the 1996 World Food Summit, also held in Rome, 185 nations signed a commitment to cut the number of hungry people in half by 2015. There, Cuban President Fidel Castro made waves–echoing the feelings of many–when he called that goal “shameful” for its abandonment of any notion of eliminating hunger. Subsequent trends have been more shameful still.
The ink was hardly dry on the furious newspaper editorials inspired by the Bush administration’s decision to protect the steel industry when along comes the Farm Bill to further stoke the fire. The world is supposed to be moving toward more open markets, embracing liberalization as the route to globalization–and then the self-appointed leader of free trade abandons the script. These turnabouts couldn’t come at a worse time, as negotiations to deepen global trade rules at the World Trade Organization (WTO), just getting started in Geneva, will now begin with almost every country in the world expressing disgust with the U.S. retreat behind trade barriers.
As the American and allied military forces continue to operate in Afghanistan, the world is increasingly getting dragged into yet another war–the war for food supremacy. And like the war against terrorism, the battle for food superiority is also going to be long drawn. With the battle lines already sketched and with the back-up support of international financial institutions, this war is being aggressively pursued on the trade front.
I want to remind us that, even before September 11, we were heading toward a very militaristic world and police state, not only in the U.S. but globally. There have been recent revelations that the Bush administration was already planning on building up the antiterrorism campaign very intensively; and, at one of the street protests at Genoa, Italy, last year, a protestor was shot and killed by the police of Italy. So this is all part of a continuum. However, I would also agree that the movement is stronger than ever.