LETTER FROM ONTARIO
Myths About Hunger
Feeding the world takes economic justice, not GMOs

Farm & Countryside Commentary by Elbert van Donkersgoed

Editor's NOTE

This column was adapted from one of Elbert van Donkersgoed's weekly radio chats, called Corner Post, which are aired weekly on CFCO Radio in Chatham and CKNX Radio in Wingham, Ontario. Elbert is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, which is working hard to create a more satisfying and sustainable model for farming in the province. If you'd like to receive a transcript of Elbert's Corner Post address each week, send an email to evd@christianfarmers.org with SUBSCRIBE as the message.

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March 21, 2003: Food insecurity and hunger continue to impact millions around the globe. Its origins are many and inter-related. Myths can get in the road of understanding the root causes.

Myth: there is not enough food for all.
Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day. That doesn't include vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats and fish.

Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per day per person worldwide: two and a half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs - enough to make most people fat. BUT... millions do not have access to the money to purchase or the land that now produces this food.

Myth: new technology is the answer.
Thanks to new seeds, millions of additional tons of grain are harvested each year. But a narrow focus on increasing production does not change who can access the additional food. More production does not alter the concentration of economic power that determines who farms the land or who
has the money to buy food.

Myth: we need large farms in the developing world.
Small farmers often achieve four to five times greater output per acre, in part due to more "hands-on" farming practices. A World Bank study of northeast Brazil estimates that moving farmland into smaller holdings would raise output as much as 80 percent. However, lacking secure tenure, millions of tenant farmers in the developing world have little incentive to invest in
land improvements, rotate crops or improve soil fertility.

Myth: the free market can end hunger.
While the market is great for organizing the efficient distribution of food, the millions who are hungry do not have the means to participate. Market efficiencies work to eliminate hunger only when purchasing power is widely dispersed.

Myth: nature is to blame for famine.
Food is always available to those with means. Starvation during hard times hits only the poorest millions who constantly live on the edge of calamity because they do not have land, are trapped in debt or are poorly paid. Natural events rarely explain starvation. Human institutions and policies determine who eats and who starves during hard times.

The real causes of hunger are rooted in economies that do not offer opportunities for all and cultures that accept hunger as inevitable. Hunger continues because poverty continues, armed conflicts continue and access to adequate food and nutrition has not yet been entrenched as a basic humanright.

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For more on the myths about hunger and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a Christian response to hunger visit
www.foodgrainsbank.ca/research/myths.html.


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Corner Post can be heard weekly on CFCO Radio, Chatham and CKNX Radio, Wingham, Ontario. Corner Post is archived on the website of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario: www.christianfarmers.org. To be added to the electronic distribution list of Corner Post, send email to evd@christianfarmers.org with SUBSCRIBE as the message. To remove your name, send email with UNSUBSCRIBE as the message.