Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Oxfam: We're Doomed (Again)

It’s Tuesday and the end, naturally, is nigh.

The prices of some staple foods will more than double by 2030 unless world leaders reform the global food system, Oxfam has warned.

Scarlett Johansson

The agreeable looking Scarlett Johansson - an expert in global food economics, apparently.

The ‘global food system’? Didn’t know there was one. Anyway …

The aid charity warned that millions more people could suffer food shortages in two decades due to a ‘perfect storm’ of ecological and sociological factors.
A combination of population growth, climate-hit harvests and rising energy prices will see countries ‘sleepwalk into an unprecedented human development reversal’.

Those of us of a certain age (and I am moving into the period when I can start using that phrase) will remember being at school in the Eighties (or earlier) and being told of the inevitable crises that were to ensue given the massive growth in world population by the year 2000. There would not be enough food to go round and very bad things will happen.

Now, granted, there are localised famines most years that occasionally grab the headlines, but most are as much products of war and (sometimes wilfully) incompetent government as pure over-population or poor weather. However, by and large food production has kept up with population growth as farming, food processing and transport become more efficient – thus billions of lives are saved thanks to the great evils of globalisation and free markets.

So, what are the answers?

Oxfam are launching a campaign in 45 countries, called Growing a Better Future, which has been backed by South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and actress Scarlett Johansson.

Scarlett Johansson? Really? Wow. I’m sold on it then. No, don’t bother explaining any more. Oh, go on then….

Solutions envisaged by Oxfam focus on cutting out waste, especially of water, and curbing agriculture and biofuel subsidies in rich countries.

More efficiency, yes – that’s what such increases in demand will drive. Curbing subsidies, also good – promoting free markets and allowing them to do their work.

The report also calls for prising open closed markets and ending the domination of commodities and seeds trade by a handful of large corporations.

Again, more free trade, lowering barriers to entry (such as protectionist duties and subsidies). All good. Doesn’t sound like Oxfam at all.

Oh …

The charity also called for new global governance to tackle food crises, including creating a multilateral food bank.

Global governance? Like the UN, that model of efficiency and effectiveness to which so many in Darfur Rwanda various places owe their lives. Perhaps they mean some structure whereby all the countries get together and agree on things in the global, rather than their national, interest. Always works well, that does.

And then, put that body in charge of a ‘multilateral food bank’? Superb idea. Perhaps they can ask the EU for help setting it up – Brussels has a wealth of experience with running food mountains banks.

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