Oxfam Report: ‘The Global Food System Is Broken’

According to a new  report from Oxfam, a broken food system and environmental crisis are reversing decades of progress in the fight against global hunger. Oxfam projects that spiraling food prices will create millions of hungry people unless we radically transform the way we grow and share food. Starting June 1, 2011, Oxfam will launch a global campaign called GROW.

In the report published on May 31, 2011, Oxfam identifies the various symptoms of our broken food system: growing hunger, flat-lining crop yields, lack of water and fertile soil, and rising food crisis. The organization says that we have entered a new age of crisis where depletion of the earth’s natural resources and increasingly severe climate change impacts will create millions more hungry people. Naturally, poor countries will be affected dramatically more than industrialized nations. Oxfam projects that the price of staple foods such as maize, already at an all time high, will more than double in the next 20 years. Half of this price increase will be directly linked to climate change. The world’s poorest people, who spend 80 percent of their income on food, will be those hardest hit.

Oxfam predicts that by 2050 demand for food will rise by 70 percent. Yet our capacity to increase food production is in decline. The average growth rate in agricultural yield has declined by almost 50 percent since 1990, and it is set to decline yet further in the coming decade. Oxfam’s GROW campaign will expose government failure that is propping up the broken food system and the group of 300 to 500 companies that benefit from it. Four global companies control the movement of the world’s food. Three corporations: Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill control around 90 percent of the global grain trade. Their speculative activities drive volatile food prices and they profit from it. For example, in the first quarter of 2008, at the top of a global food crisis, Cargill’s profits were up by 86 percent. In 2011, Cargill is heading for its most profitable year on record. Needless to say, this speculation on food prices will further disrupt global food supplies.

“For too long governments have put the interests of big businesses and powerful elites above the interest of the seven billion of us who produce and consume the food. The G20 must invest in the 500 million small-scale farms in developing countries which offer the greatest potential for increasing global yields–and they must help them adapt to a changing climate. They must regulate commodity markets and reform flawed biofuel policies to keep food prices in check,” said Jeremy Hobbs, the Executive Director of Oxfam.



10 Responses to Oxfam Report: ‘The Global Food System Is Broken’

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  2. Michael W. Perry May 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    A quick scan confirmed my worst fears. This report is silent about what are often the real causes of famine: political repression or chaos. Even the section entitled “Government Failures” dumps much of the blame for Africa’s ills on American “agribusiness and shipping companies.” As best I could tell, the report says absolutely nothing. about the kleptocracies and dictatorships that plague much of Africa and leave its people so desperately poor and hungry.

    I’m left wondering if Oxfam actually cares about these unfortunate people, or if it’s simply well-fed, well-housed Westerners indulging in fashionable phobias and bigotries.

  3. christopher May 31, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    On October 11, 2010, it was reported that the number of malnourished people in the world exceeded 1 billion people, about a sixth of the world’s total population (Hunger index shows one billion without enough food BBC News, Health, Retrieved 12 October 2010). Six million children die of hunger every year. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “850 million people worldwide were undernourished in 1999 to 2005” and the number of hungry people has recently been increasing widely. According to estimates by the FAO there were 925 million undernourished people in the world in 2010. This was a decrease from an estimate of 1023 million undernourished people in 2009. The same organization reports that there were 923 million malnourished people in the world in 2007, which in turn represented an increase of 80 million since 1990.

  4. samuel May 31, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    “Half of this price increase will be directly linked to climate change” – there we need to learn from European farmers during middle of “little ice age”. While British and Nordic farmers adapted and changed crops and methods very fast, French stayed stubborn in following old practices. Hence the very odd result – people where climate was actually worse for farming in general did orders of magnitude better than those in generally speaking better position. Raging starvation in France originating from these mistakes yielded French Revolution… So, climate change -ADAPT to it (as humans did throughout their evolution).

    “Oxfam identifies the various symptoms of our broken food system: growing hunger, flat lining crop yields, lack of fertile soil and water, and rising food crisis” – no mention of personal responsibility… It is at least half of the cause. Both in production and in population growth (map hunger-to-population growth and you’ll see insane correlation). Perfect example is comparison between Haiti and Dom.Republic. Some level of organization, some suppression of anarchy and responsible behavior can be seen from space, never mind on the ground. Personal responsibility on every level of society is the crucial factor.

  5. justin May 31, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    What we need is a water grid like the electricity grid. There was too much water in the Mississippi River. If they had been pumping water from there and into reservoirs across the nation we would have plenty of water for farming and the flood problem could have been averted.

  6. Hisham Soliman June 1, 2011 at 10:18 am

    So sad. But rather than analyzing the situation, is anyone figuring out how we can change it?

  7. Michael Lange Optometrist June 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

    It’s sad that the people who are already starving will suffer the most. In America we complain about how the increased cost of food means we won’t be able to go to the movies or eat out as much, but for these people, it means starvation.

  8. Rajan Alexander June 3, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    OXFAM morphs into a Paul Ehrlich clone: Claims world faces mass starvation!

    Read More: http://devconsultancygroup.blogspot.com/2011/06/oxfam-morphs-into-paul-ehrlich-clone.html

  9. Rajan Alexander June 4, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    OXFAM morphs into a Paul Ehrlich clone: Claims world faces mass starvation

    Mass starvation! This is exactly what Oxfam warns us in their new report, “Growing a Better Future in a Resource Constrained World”.

    Oxfam’s future scenario of doom is a practical throwback to the 70s when Paul Ehrlich captured media headlines with his book Population Bomb where he warned of mass starvation deaths. Here’s an extract of the book:

    “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make….The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

    Has Oxfam caught the Ehrlich bug?

    Read more: http://devconsultancygroup.blogspot.com/2011/06/oxfam-morphs-into-paul-ehrlich-clone.html

  10. Rajan Alexander June 5, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    What is the assurance that Oxfam’s Grow Campaign would not repeat their Rwandan Genocide complicity? The New Internationalist in 2001 exposed Oxfam being complicit in the Rwandan Genocide – with an ex-employee spilling the beans. He accused Oxfam among other charges of following a philosophy where ends justify means.

    This is only one example of Oxfam’s justice agenda being suspect. It took over a decade for Oxfam to condemn bio-fuels. This programme encouraged crop land conversion to biofuel production, reducing agricultural output of countries contributing to hunger and starvation. The question, if Oxfam is so concern over hunger, why it didn’t act earlier.

    Through its growth programme, Oxfam will continue to have blood on its hands as its the focus continues to be conversion of cropland for (non-biofuel presumably) forestry. This has the same effect – cropland conversion for forestry reduces agricultural output, causing starvation and hunger. Why ? According to Oxfam, agriculture is responsible for 30% of all greenhouse gases and therefore this has to be slashed.

    Besides, Oxfam’s analysis is only a rehash of Thomas Malthus, the 18th century political economist’s theory in which whenever population outstripped food production, starvation would cull the numbers until the equation was restored. As we know, this is failed theory and should be extended the contempt it deserves.

    Read more: http://devconsultancygroup.blogspot.com/2011/06/oxfam-morphs-into-paul-ehrlich-clone.html

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