Over at Culture Matters, there is a very interesting post about the complex interconnections between the impending foodcrisis in Burma and the new interest in biofuels, in this case the bitter biodiesel plant called jatropha. Apparently the Burmese junta has ordered farmers to replace rice with jatropha, resulting in the plant (which is suitable for very arid, desert climates) being cultivated all over the country, even in the fertile delta region.
This is what Australian anthropologist Monique Skidmore had to say in an interview at ABC:
“So people have had to rip up paddy in some places to plant hundreds and hundreds of acres of jatropha and this is a plant that doesn’t grow well, and people do not have the production and distribution facilities to do anything with the product once they get it, and they don’t get much. And of course they’re not being able to cultivate rice in the meantime.
“So it’s an incredibly ridiculous path to embark upon.”
Check it out!
Over the last 3 years the cost of basic food has risen by an average of 83% worldwide. This dramatic increase is partly related to agricultural plots being used for the supply of the booming bio fuels energy market. Rising costs os staples such as rice and wheat have led to unrest and violent protests in some 37 countries, from Egypt and Ethiopia to the Philippines and Indonesia. In Haiti, thousands of demonstrators erected street barricades, demolished shops and forced the prime minister to resign. At least 5 people were killed, as were 24 in riots in Camerooon.
Following Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Director of the International Monetary Fund and Robert Zoellick from the World Bank, Pascal Lamy, Director General of WTO also issued a stark warning and called for a reorientation of development policies towards a focussed support of local agriculture.
Concerning the larger picture of the crisis I found an interesting article by Guardian columnist and author George Monbiot (via culturematters). Quoting the World Bank he points out that “the grain required to fill the tank of a sports utility vehicle with ethanol … could feed one person for a year”. Read against the background of new environmental energy policies, such as Britains Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, which obliges sellers of transport fuels to mix it with ethanol or biodiesel made from crops, it becomes obvious what a highly sensitive balance needs to be found between environmental, energy and food strategies.
But Monbiot also points to another cause of the current food crisis: While this year 100 million tonnes of foodstuff will feed cars, 760 (!!!) million tonnes will be snatched from the mouths of humans to feed animals. With more and more of the world population developing a craving for meat, Monbiot reaches the conclusion that: “If you care about hunger, eat less meat.”