||PERMANENT FOOD CRISIS
The damage that has been caused by hunger has been going on for too long now, people are desperate and the situation is getting worse. The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that around 100 million more people will be unable to eat due to the spectacular increase in prices that has taken place recently. The price of wheat has gone up 130% in the last year and in Asia the price of rice has doubled in the past three months . The spiralling increase in the prices of cooking oil, fruit and vegetables, dairy products and meat caused a drop in the consumption of this produce in 2007. From countries such as Haiti to Cameroon and Bangladesh, people have taken to the streets fuelled by anger at not being able to buy food. World leaders have appealed for more help in providing food, scared that political conflict may arise, while countries responsible for exporting grains close their borders to international trade in order to protect internal markets and others are forced to panic buy through fear of food running out .
We are in the midst of structural collapse, the direct consequence of three decades of neoliberal globalisation, which has transformed food from something that assures the sustenance of people into mere merchandise used for the purposes of speculation and business. Let us look a little closer at this situation: the agricultural sector reported the production of a record breaking 2300 million tons of grain, 4% more than the previous year and we know that since 1961 world grain production has tripled, whilst the population has doubled .
In short enough food is produced in the world, but it is not reaching those who need it. The majority of the population consume less than half of the worlds grain production, while the majority of this production is used to feed animals and ever increasingly for biofuel.
Thus we find ourselves in a crisis which affects the majority of the population, but it is as if this population were invisible, because priority is given to producing expensive steak or biofuels that power luxury cars, and even grains native to Africa are being exploited through the health food industry  instead of feeding the great multitudes of human beings that are today going hungry.
Those who promote the policies that have shaped the current world food system have offered a series of explanations about the current crisis that the whole world has heard time and time again: the drought and other problems affecting the harvest; an increased demand for food in China and India where people are eating more and better; land and crops that are facing massive redirection towards the production of agrofuels, and other explanations. All these issues clearly contribute to the current food crisis, but they are not totally responsible for its depth.
Multiple factors have contributed to the current food crisis that are not referred to. We shall now look at some of these:
1. The constant push for the so-called Green Revolution agricultural model that has been taking place since the 1960’s. This consisted of the mechanization of the agricultural productive model thanks to the development of new highly productive genetic variations and the wide scale application of fertilizers and pesticides. In some cases these new technologies produced much higher productivity, but those who worked the land had a high price to pay: they became dependent on gigantic untransparent companies that control these materials. At the same time a process was set in motion whereby agricultural land and other natural resources, like water and biodiversity were impoverished.
2. The effect of the free market economy and structural adjustment policies imposed on poor countries. In the mid 1990’s the World Trade Organization was established and measures were developed to dismantle protective tariffs and other instruments that developing countries had to protect local agricultural production, thus forcing them to open up their markets and land to world agrobusiness. Through this process fertile land stopped being used to produce food for the local market and was used instead to produce export merchandise, seeking to supply western markets .
3. The growth of big commercial chains. Currently big supermarket chains control not only agricultural commercialization, but also agricultural production. They are the ones who decide what to grow, the characteristics of the crop and the price paid to the producer and the sale price. These kinds of advantages mean that supermarkets are enjoying a massive bargain .
Faced with this truly grave situation of food scarcity, or rather, bad distribution of food, if we want to be real agents of peace we need to take a stance and act accordingly. Positive peace leads to the process of making justice a reality on different levels of human relationship, rousing us to build a society where structural violence is reduced  and social justice is increased.
The food crisis will cease if states and international organisms apply immediate measures to reduce food prices and guarantee access to food for those who need it. They must also change agricultural policy so that small-scale farmers all over the world have access to land and can live off what they grow. However, the role of all citizens is to contribute to changing the current system of production, distribution and consumption. We can do this by becoming critical, responsible consumers.
Here are some alternatives:
- Go back to local consumption: preferably buy from small businesses and responsible consumer cooperatives . In this way you stop supporting big supermarkets who act as powerful middlemen and hold on to the majority of the profits, thereby controlling small-scale producers.
- Support agroecology : buy organic food from shops that are not supermarkets, otherwise they will continue to monopolise small-scale farmers.
- If you need to buy imported food, make sure products are Fair Trade: By doing this we contribute to the producers earning a decent wage, we help overcome child exploitation and we help to keep intermediaries between producers and consumers to a minimum .
- Listen to and support networks and organizations that defend the rights and customs of farmers whose work is in line with agroecology, such as the international peasant movement, Via Campesina or the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil.
Strategies that will put an end to the problem of hunger are at our fingertips. Millions of human beings are waiting.
 “Action to meet Asian rice crisis”, BBC, London, 17th April 2008.
 Hobbelink, Henk, “Making a killing from Hunger” en http://www.grain.org
 Brian Halweil, "Grain harvest sets record, but supplies still tight", Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C. En: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5539
 Such is the case of the “tef” grain, that is only grown in Ethiopia and which is used to make “injera”, a sticky kind of bread that is the base food of all Ethiopians. This grain is starting to awaken interest in lucrative health food industries in Europe and the US, who have named this as the “grain of the future”, it has no gluten, helps people to lose weight and control cholesterol levels. Which is why a new line of slimming biscuits made of tef are now on the market. La Vanguardia, 16th July 2008.
 Roughly 70% of all developing countries are currently net importers of food. And we find the paradoxical situation that out of 845 million hungry people in the world, 80% are small-scale farmers. Katarina Wahlberg, “Are we approaching a global food crisis?”, World Economy & Development en Brief, Global Policy Forum, 3rd March 2008.
 British Supermarket giant, Tesco, reports profits up 12.3% from last year, a record rise. Other major retailers, such as France’s Carrefour and the US’s Wal-Mart, say that food sales are the main factor sustaining their profit increases. Wal-Mart’s Mexican division, Wal-Mex, which handles a third of overall food sales in Mexico, reported an 11% increase in profits for the first quarter of 2008. Hobbelink, Henk “ Making a killing from hunger” http://www.grain.org June 2008.
 “The term structural violence can be applied to those situations where the satisfaction of basic human needs (survival, wellbeing, identity or freedom) is damaged as a result of social stratification, ie, without using direct violence. The term structural violence refers to the existence of a conflict between two or more groups in society (usually characterized in terms of gender, ethnicity, class, nationality, age, or others) in which the distribution, access or possibility to use resources is systematically provided to the benefit of one of the parties and to the disadvantage of the others due to the mechanisms of social stratification”. Tortosa, JM y La Parra, D. (2003). Violencia estructural: Una ilustración del concepto.
 In Catalonia there are more than 100 consumer cooperatives who, unhappy with the system, have formed an association of these so-called consumer cooperatives in order to create direct links with local farmers, who mainly use organic agricultural techniques.
 Agroecology brings together traditional knowledge on farming with modern scientific research by looking at agricultural systems from an ecological and socioeconomical perspective. The viability of this system comes from the use of simple techniques that pose no threat to the environment (nutrients are recycled, rather than using chemical fertilizers and bugs are controlled by increasing the biodiversity of agricultural ecosystems instead of using indiscriminate pesticides).
 For more information go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_trade
Amalia Valderrama-Mallku Negre (Psychologist and engineer)