Global food wars have begun, not with a shot heard round the world but with the now unsurprising news that multi-national agribusiness companies are investing in poor countries. Sure, it's under the guise of preventing world hunger but we know better.
This week, President Obama is making his first major visit to Africa since taking office. One topic that's likely high on his agenda: U.S. investment in African agriculture.
The US government appears to already be doing this, as a recent analysis of dumped embassy cables found that the State Department had lobbied governments around the world to adopt policies allowing for the cultivation of genetically modified crops.China's largest meat producer, Shuanghui International, has a very strong opening salvo in its desire to influence global meat production with its bid to purchase U.S.-owned Smithfield Foods, the worlds largest producer of pork. Does the U.S. want to be a CAFO for the world? The decision to approve the sale lies with the U.S. Congress.
"[S]ome may see our work in Africa as philanthropy, but it's much more than that," said General Mills CEO Ken Powell at an event hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation. "It's about creating shared value, and for our African partners, it is about unlocking opportunity—business opportunity—through knowledge-sharing."
As our land and water resources dwindle due to increasing population and consumption, and as climate change takes a big bite out of our agriculture productivity due to more extreme droughts and floods, the hands controlling the food purse strings will not be nations but the allegiance to profit global conglomerates.
It doesn't have to be this way. Frances Moore Lappe, in her iconic book Diet For a Small Planet, states that we already produce enough food to feed the world. "We feed almost half the world's grain to livestock, returning only a fraction in meat ... while millions starve." We use an area the size of Africa for livestock grazing and for cropland to produce livestock feed.