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Boston College: COMMENTARY: The first step in feeding a hungry world

01.01.70

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Global hunger and poverty are issues about
which people always seem to feel a bit bewildered. You obviously feel bad for those involved, the poor and hungry around the world. One tends to wallow in this state of depression for about 30 seconds, until the channel is promptly switched away from BBC or ABC World News coverage of Third World blight.
This past summer things became a bit different. The world held concerts to acknowledge the problem and then walked away from it a week later with little agreement coming out of what was to be a monumental G8 summit.
Few countries have stood behind their claims on the issue and cut tariffs or farming subsidies. While free trade seems to always be on the agenda, fair trade cannot find its way into the minds of the world's leaders.
Obviously this sort of ignorance is a terrible thing. The world may have worked against that with Live 8 this summer, but action has been a bit lacking. Last month's Oxfam visit to campus to educate students on the complexities of the Make Trade Fair campaign is a great example of how Boston College students took the opportunity to educate each other on the issue. Their efforts are truly commendable.
Unfortunately, though, education does not always lead to policymaking. And while the BBC issued another frightening news bulletin last week documenting a report claiming 80 percent of Sub-Saharan farmland is "degraded," simply reading these memos is not going to change much. The policy of fair trade has not yet been made viable to our world's governments.
The major issue with this movement is the cut in farming subsidies necessary for its progress. In order to allow an efficient, domestic, agricultural industry to develop in Africa, we must curtail our subsidies to homegrown grain.
We spend impressive amounts of money yearly supporting our own domestic grain industry so that in a time of war, American industry could support the American people. Unfortunately, this means massive surpluses by year's end, which we proceed to dump on poor Third World communities, killing off their own industry.
The question then relates to the validity of America's need for a massive domestic source of grain. We will always have grain farmers. They certainly are not going away and, in fact, may make gains in this new bio-fuel, ethanol era. Cutting Federal farming subsidies would not kill off the industry, nor would it put us in crisis if another "World War" type scenario were to take place, but it would help the Third World.
This is a perfect example of how American power, in its grandest age to date, could be used to help the world. Instead of farming industry greed dictating policy on fair trade, perhaps it's time sound, long term political thought did.
Aiding the Third World by allowing domestic industry to develop in those states would mean less poor and impoverished in those states.
Yes, the same poor and impoverished who complain the United States is not doing enough for them.
Yes, the same that may, if their state is most desperate, turn to a life of hate and terrorism against an entity that prevented their family from ever being able to get steady jobs.
This sort of root cause assessment of many of the problems facing the United States in the Third World might seem a bit farfetched, but it certainly is not ludicrous.
And even if cutting farming subsidies does not stop terrorism, it might help some African children live longer, healthier, and happier lives than the previous generation. That enough is well worth the budget cut.

Expert opinion

Halter Marek

02.12.06

Halter Marek
Le College de France
Olivier Giscard dEstaing

02.12.06

Olivier Giscard dEstaing
COPAM, France
Mika Ohbayashi

02.12.06

Mika Ohbayashi
Institute for Sustainable Energy Poliy
Bill Pace

02.12.06

Bill Pace
World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
Peter I. Hajnal

01.12.06

Peter I. Hajnal
Toronto University, G8 Research Group