NACLA-Report mit Schwerpunkt Food Crisis

Der Report on the Latin Americas, Ausgabe Mai/Juni 2009 des North American Congres on Latin America hat den Schwerpunkt “Food Crisis”. Diese sei zwar Anfang letzten Jahres kurz aufgrund der “Food Riots” durch die Medien gegangen, die Aufmerksamkeit sei dann aber schnell wieder abgeebbt. In wirklichkeit sei das Problem aber permanent und hätte seinen Ursprung v.a. in der “Verletzlichkeit” der armen Bevölkerungskreise gegenüber Preisschwankungen. Die Empfehlungen in der Einleitung lauten entsprechend u.a.:
“strengthening the production of domestic small farmers through access to land and resources, labor rights enforcement for landless farmers, and government programs to insulate peasants from price swings.”
Einige Beiträge der Zeitschrift sind kostenpflichtig (darunter leider ein Bericht der letzten Konferenz von Via Campesina), andere kann man gratis herunterladen. Beispielsweise eine Fotoreportage zum Anbau von Soja in Paraguay und einen Bericht über einen genossenschaftlichen Nahrungsmittelbetrieb in Oaxaca.

Es folgen die Einleitung und das Inhaltsverzeichnis.

Introduction: Food Crisis in the Americas

In early March, Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, said there had been a “severe mistake in the diagnosis of last year’s food crisis.” Referring to the explosion of prices for basic grains in the global market that began in 2007, Schutter explained that development aid and reform proposals were misdirected at boosting exports. The real problem, he emphasized, was not low supplies but the vulnerability of the world’s near 1 billion hungry people to price volatility. In place of stimulating exports, he recommended strengthening the production of domestic small farmers through access to land and resources, labor rights enforcement for landless farmers, and government programs to insulate peasants from price swings.

These recommendations, though unspecific, resonate with many of those discussed in this Report, which aims to step back and reconsider the 2007–08 food crisis within its long-term context. As Peter Rosset makes clear in his contribution, there are, on the one hand, crises that may grab our attention as seemingly new—such was the urgent problem in the spring of 2008, when the media parachuted in to cover the latest disaster: “food riots” in several poor countries triggered by escalating prices. On the other hand, there is the slow-burning crisis that rarely gets media play—the normalized, routine violence of everyday hunger that we may think of as existing ever “out there.” Rosset emphasizes that the “new” crisis is just a new face of “the same old rural crisis,” which ultimately stems from the near total control wielded by transnational capital in the food systems of the world.

The corporate monopoly on food production, practically institutionalized over decades of neoliberal policies at every level, is a recurring theme in this Report. Contributors Annette Aurélie Desmarais and Luis Hernández Navarro, reporting from La Via Campesina’s October conference in Maputo, Mozambique, describe the 16-year-old transnational peasant movement’s articulation and consolidation of a powerful anti-neoliberal alternative: food sovereignty, which the movement views as “a prerequisite to realizing the human right to food.” At the conference, food sovereignty was described not only as a just goal but as “the only [solution] that responds effectively to all of the dimensions of the crisis.”

Protecting and renationalizing food markets, promoting local circuits of production and consumption, defending indigenous peoples’ territories, comprehensive agrarian reform—these demands, which form the basis of food sovereignty, could not contrast more sharply with the solutions to the crisis endorsed by Big Food. As Gerardo Otero and Gabriela Pechlaner note, the dramatic food price hikes last year inspired the quasi-utopian language of an imagined Green Revolution 2.0: We can feed the world with high-yield genetically modified crops, industry boosters told us. Using evidence from the NAFTA countries, Otero and Pechlaner deconstruct this argument, which is really about expanding agricultural exports—part of what UN rapporteur Schutter described as a “severe mistake.” Mexico, the birthplace of corn, now imports almost a quarter of its supply of the crop, much of it transgenic.

Finally, photojournalist Evan Abramson offers a window onto land conflict in Paraguay, where transgenic soy plantations have displaced thousands of small-scale farming families that once cultivated a plurality of food crops. Visiting former villages turned soy fields in the conflictive departments of Alto Paraná and San Pedro, Abramson photographed all the players in the drama—militant landless activists who have established encampments on private farmlands, the classic tactic of Latin America’s rural activism; landowners’ armed guards; the police, arresting landless activists; children poisoned by the liberal use of pesticides and herbicides, a hallmark of many transgenic crops; and the landscape itself, all but overtaken by transgenic soy.

While the media have moved on to the next spectacle, the food crisis hasn’t gone away. Unless, among other things, financial speculation in basic grains is regulated, if not abolished, the high volatility of food prices seems to be a fact of life now. In the face of the market’s vicissitudes, the organized peasants of La Vía Campesina declare: “Humanity depends on us, and we refuse to disappear.”

Introduction: Food Crisis in the Americas

Taking Note
Venezuela’s Opposition: Back Into the Frying Pan
Pablo Morales
If the Venezuelan right remains committed to electoral politics, it must confront a new reality after a decade under Chávez: Thousands of nonprivileged Venezuelans, enfranchised and energized, now constitute a voting bloc too significant to ignore.

Guadeloupe on Strike: A New Political Chapter in the French Antilles
Yarimar Bonilla
Although labor strikes are common in the French Antilles, the wide impact, mass support, and broad agenda of the LKP strike was unique in Guadeloupe’s history. For many, this episode marks the beginning of a new chapter of political and social activism in the French Antilles.

A New Model With Rough Edges: Venezuela’s Community Councils
Steve Ellner
The councils put into practice the “participatory democracy” embodied in the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution drafted by Chávez’s followers. Some of their activities also reflect Chávez’s discourse, which minimizes the importance of “experts” or “technocrats” and stresses the will of the people and their capacity to solve all problems, even highly technical ones.

Food Sovereignty in Latin America: Confronting the ‘New’ Crisis
Peter Rosset
The sudden crisis of high food prices in 2008 was the latest manifestation of a long-standing rural crisis that stems from the corporate takeover of agriculture. As we enter a new era of increasingly volatile commodity prices, food sovereignty offers the only comprehensive solution.

Voices From Maputo: La Vía Campesina’s Fifth International Conference
Annette Aurélie Desmarais and Luis Hernández Navarro
More than 500 delegates attended the fifth conference of La Vía Campesina, the transnational peasant movement, in October. High on the agenda was analyzing the food crisis, as well as codifying a statement on women’s participation in the movement and denouncing sexist violence.

Building a Transnational Peasant Movement
Annette Aurélie Desmarais

Is Biotechnology the Answer? The Evidence From NAFTA
Gerardo Otero and Gabriela Pechlaner
While biotechnology industry boosters would have us believe that more transgenic crops are what we need to solve the food crisis, the evidence of how they have affected food consumption in North America offers little to be hopeful for.

Eating to Dream: A Tortillería in Oaxaca
Deborah Poole and Benjamín Alonso Rascón
In the following excerpts from a conversation in December, Ramírez Leyva, a Mixtec restaurant owner in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca, calls for a profound rethinking of the market-based models of profit and trade that lie at the heart of capitalist understandings of food policy.

Soy: A Hunger for Land
Evan Abramson (photographs and text)
In this photo essay, small-scale farmers in the Paraguayan departments of Alto Paraná and San Pedro face off over land with industrial soy. Large-scale Paraguayan landowners have, with government collusion, displaced thousands of families in the last decade for their sprawling soy plantations.

Tears Learning to Be Cried: Profiles of Femicide in Ciudad Juárez
Irene Ortiz
Bajo Juárez is a film that opens broader lines of questioning: Who are the people ultimately responsible for the murders? What lies behind the “femicides” and violence against women in Mexico? How will this violence end? Can a measure of justice ever be provided to the victims and their families?

‘A Great Feeling of Love’: Hilda and Che
Hobart Spalding
Most works on the Cuban Revolution concentrate on larger political issues, breakthrough moments, and endless political debates, but this book strikes a more personal, day-to-day note without ever neglecting the political. It reminds us of the ties between the political and the personal, which are often overlooked in writings about famous personages.

New & Noteworthy
The Conquest on Trial, by Carlos A. Jáuregui; Cannibal Democracy, by Zita Nunes; and Twenty Theses on Politics, by Enrique Dussel.

Open Forum
Snubbing Davos: The Presidents at the World Social Forum
Marc Becker
Five of Latin America’s presidents skipped this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, instead making appearances at the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil. Signaling a deepening disengagement from neoliberal institutions, the presence of Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), and Evo Morales (Bolivia) generated excitement among social forum participants, but also tension.

The Fun House Mirror: Distortions and Omissions in the News on Bolivia
Dan Beeton
Bolivia’s history, both recent and distant, is, of course, unique, complex, and worthy of careful analysis. When it pays attention to Bolivian politics, however, the U.S. press sometimes offers coverage that treats the current government of Bolivia as a threat, and one that perhaps lacks appropriate popular support. One can only hope other U.S. media outlets will be more even-handed in their future treatment of Bolivia.

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