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Live Like You Mean It

June 15, 2011 – At the beginning of 2011, the UN issued a statement concerning global food production, saying that if the world’s “bread basket” nations did not all have bumper crops this year, there would be critical food shortages. Let’s take a look at how that’s playing out:
Here in the United States, the Mississippi River flooded yet again, leading the Army Corps of Engineers to destroy levees which kept the floodwaters contained. While Americans questioned the decision to flood many thousands of acres of some of the country’s richest farm land, it prevented the flooding of towns up and down the river (although, in fact, Memphis wound up being largely overrun by water). Needless to say, this has led to diminished food production. In combination with the fires and drought in Texas, and the severe drought in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas, which has devastated wheat crops in all those states, it is probably fair to say that bumper crops are not expected this year.
These are not the only areas of the country affected. Parts of the following southern states are enduring what meteorologists characterize as “exceptional” drought, the worst ranking: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. Out west, New Mexico can be added to that list.
France, a major wheat producing nation, is suffering the worst drought in its history this year. Here, too, production will be sub-par, if not drastically diminished.
On the other side of the world, China’s wheat crop is being deleteriously affected by one of its worst droughts on record. Rainfall levels this past winter and early spring, in an area known as the drainage basin (a drainage basin empties into a river) of the Yangtze River, have been 40% below the 50 year average. The Yangtze is both China’s longest and most economically important river.
None of this can be considered good news. For people in many parts of the world, some of whom are rioting as I write, this will mean the difference between eating two times a day rather than three. Ponder this: wheat prices in this country have increased 84% - my source does not say over what period of time. What on earth are poor people supposed to do, with food becoming ever more costly?
Sad to say, it’s not just the weather that’s turning food into an unaffordable luxury, for some. Because corn is now being grown in order to be sold to companies that process it into biofuel, there isn’t enough left for people to eat. In 2009, 26% of American-grown corn was used for ethanol production. As recently as 2006, non-food uses consumed only 15% of the total corn harvest. This year – 2011 – that percentage is expected to climb to 40. The reason for the sharply upward trend isn’t the least bit mysterious: those who produce ethanol are the recipients of some very generous government subsidies.
Think the madness stops at our borders? How very much I wish the answer were yes. It seems that the European Union has decided to engage in slow suicide, as well. The EU’s agricultural policies are tailored in such a way that they benefit seed-selling companies and no one else. While France’s current drought would mean trouble regardless of what farmers planted, the seeds they are ALLOWED to plant require a lot of water. That’s right, the seeds they are a l l o w e d to plant! Uniformity has become an end unto itself, and the subsequent loss of biodiversity means that growing conditions which are less than optimal doom farmers’ efforts right from the start.
A newly issued report forecasts food shortages in Europe (!), unless agricultural policies are changed. First and foremost amongst the report’s recommendations is the very common sensible suggestion that farmers participate in research. Biologist and author Colin Tudge writes, in the foreword to the report, that the current food production system “threatens to kill us all.”
I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: corporations are so anti-human, they don’t care who dies, as long as they profit from it. I’m not saying that everything corporations do is bad. I am saying that it isn’t hard to tell when a corporation, or a group of corporations, wants to kill you. Ever heard the expression “actions speak louder than words?” Start listening to the actions of corporations you don’t trust, everybody. Don’t worry – you’ll be able to hear them. They’re positively screaming.

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