| Vilsack went to the G8 a week or two ago and basically made no real changes. One thing he soundly rejected was the idea of a grain reserve. That's one of the few ideas out there I actually like. Take grain off the market when prices are low and put it back on the market when prices are high. In the long run it helps everyone by smoothing out volatility in prices. But Vilsack wasn't for it. Small surprise because as the article said it gives U.S. agribusiness "heartburn." They piss and moan when the prices get high (as they did in 2008) but they looooove it when prices are low and they don't want anyone to take those low prices away from them. The purpose of the G8 summit - and the idea behind the grain reserves - was to shield the world's hungry from price spikes, but I think it's been clear for a long time now that multinational agribiz companies don't really mind if their actions cause others to starve or go malnourished.
So what ARE we doing for the world's hungry, if not backing the establishment of grain reserves?
The Obama administration, for its part, has indicated that it wants to make global hunger issues a priority.
The administration has called for doubling agricultural development aid to $1 billion and appointed experts on development to key Department of Agriculture positions. Vilsack has pledged to redouble U.S. efforts to promote the acceptance of genetically engineered seeds. He said the technology is critical to poor farmers.
Mmm hmm. Paying lip service to fixing the problem, pretending that biotechnology will solve all of our ills, and appointing biotech-friendly people to high up positions at the USDA (in addition to Vilsack himself, I believe the article refers to Rajiv Shah).
The more I learn about the biotech industry, the more I see that they are absolutely dead-set on being named "THE answer to global hunger" and all other agricultural problems. They suppress independent research, and a recent UCS report shows that they do not live up to the promises they make for increased yields. When biotech companies or lobby groups participate in efforts to solve the world's agricultural problems, if they don't get their ways they take their balls and go home. (In those cases, even saying that biotech is ONE of the tools we have to solve our problems doesn't seem to be good enough for them - they want to be THE solution and won't accept anything less.)
I'm glad that the current administration is interested in helping the world's hungry and poor but they are not going about it the right way at present. I'm disappointed that Obama and Vilsack do not see through all of the biotech industry's bullshit. Nor do they wish to ruffle the feathers of meatpackers or grain processors. I'm not saying that it's a grain reserve or nothing - I don't know what the right answer is. But I've definitely seen what finding the right answer looks like. It means following the process of the IAASTD report, a report published by the World Bank and the UN that calls for sustainability in agriculture (among other things). They tried to pull knowledge from all possible sources, including indigenous populations, and they balanced the input they received so they would include all regions of the world, consumers, scientists, governments, academics, NGOs, etc. That exists in stark contrast from the corporate, Western-led approach the Obama administration has taken so far (along with Dick Lugar in the Senate and the Gates Foundation). If we are interested in doing what's good for the world's hungry, then that has to mean we aren't looking out for the interests of American corporations first.