ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « La famine sur la planète est un massacre absurde »
by Ramine Abadie
Translated Saturday 5 May 2007, by
Interview. Jean Ziegler, one of the actors in Erwi Wagenhofer’s documentary ‘We Feed the World’, speaks out. This documentary came out in France on Friday 25 April.
Geneva, special correspondent.
Jean Ziegler, main protagonist of Erwin Wagenhofer’s documentary ‘We feed the world,’ is also the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the author of works which describe the fatal order of our world (his most recently published book is L’Empire de la honte; Empire of Shame, Editions Fayard.) He denounces the hunger scandal in a wealthy world and the mechanisms of this global tragedy. Here, he answers Humanité’s questions.
HUMA: Tens of thousands of people die of starvation and its complications every day. In an affluent world it is one of the biggest scandals of our era. To your mind, it is even worse, it is criminal…
ZIEGLER: According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) figures from 2006, there are more than 850 million lives that are put at risk because of under-nourishment. The situation worsens while our production and wealth increase more and more every year. According to the FAO, 12 billion people in total could be fed, which is twice the number of the world population. Every person who dies of starvation or of associated illness is murdered. Now, this avoidable slaughter which costs 100,000 lives a day is not only criminal, but for the first time in mankind’s history, completely unnecessary. This is an absurd and useless massacre perpetrated by the world order of a globalised financial capital.
HUMA: You denounce this terrible slaughter by pointing out the responsibilities of the big food-processing industries (such as Nestlé). Is it conceivable to feed those 12 billion people without that industry and its production methods?
ZIEGLER: 55% of the world population today live in rural areas. And they are those who suffer the most from hunger! The economic order created by big food-producing corporations, which are supported by Northern States and their agricultural subsidies, is to blame. Last year, industrial countries of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) subsidised their agriculture (for producing and exporting) with 350 billion dollars. As a result, products from Northern countries are sold up to two-thirds cheaper than local products on the third-world markets. Farmers from poor countries, whose only means of survival is often agriculture (also the case for many other countries), consequently do not have a single chance. They can work themselves to death; they will not be able to compete with these heavily subsidised prices. Private transcontinental food-producing societies and the big producers in Southern countries who can adapt to rich countries’ goods demand (fruit and vegetables not in season, etc.) take advantage of this system. Farmers, who nonetheless are able to grow food, are the victims. Out of the 52 African countries 37 are almost exclusively agricultural. There are 203 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who suffer from hunger. There were 81 million of them in 1977.
HUMA: What can be done so that developing countries and their farmers can cope? How can we reduce the number of starving people?
ZIEGLER: The first thing Southern countries have to do is to run a ‘food sovereignty’ policy. To put it plainly, they must prioritise food production in every country. It means that states have to invest in their agriculture, which is not the case at the moment for many of them. Farmers are left to themselves. Now some people want to convince us that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the miracle solution but they are not necessary. Today, 90% of the world food production is non-GMO and still, it could feed the world population twice over. GMOs, which are sometimes subsidised by the poor countries themselves, create one of the worst kinds of modern thraldom because once they are used, GMO seeds cannot be replanted, or, if they were, it would be at the cost of the rights that companies will claim from farmers. Beyond health risks which are still unknown, using these seeds ties farmers hand and foot to giving themselves over to private transcontinental societies such as Montsanto, Nestlé and Pionneer.