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Flows - Food GEOG220 - Geopolitics. In this class: -Food aid – US -Food crisis - 2008 -Food security and the ‘Global Land Grab’

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Presentation on theme: "Flows - Food GEOG220 - Geopolitics. In this class: -Food aid – US -Food crisis - 2008 -Food security and the ‘Global Land Grab’"— Presentation transcript:

1 Flows - Food GEOG220 - Geopolitics

2 In this class: -Food aid – US -Food crisis Food security and the ‘Global Land Grab’

3 Food and geopolitical perspectives Classical: Influence of ‘geographical facts’ on politics ‘Agro-powers’: resources + technology + institutions Distribution of ‘surplus food’ affects ‘balance of power’ Critical: Influence of ‘geographical claims and assumptions’ on political debates and practices Reasons behind uneven food security Representations of the ‘food crisis’ influence debates around agricultural policies

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6 Food Aid

7 US policies 1921 “Russian Famine Relief” Act to promote save lives and end Bolshevik regime in Russia 1948 “Marshall Plan” for European recovery 1948 “China Aid” Act to help build infrastructure and ease hunger, followed by embargo from following Communist victory 1954 “Food for Peace” Office 1966 “Food For Peace” (or Freedom) Act made it impossible for any country that had trade agreements with Cuba or North Vietnam to trade with the United States  US seeing itself as the philanthropic nation pursuing both humanitarian and national interests objectives  Int’l Food Aid Convention agreed 1967, guides policies of 22 nations and EU, monitored through the Consultative Sub- Committee on Surplus Disposal

8 Assessing impacts Millions of lives saved? Food aid often made marginal contribution U.S. food aid increases the incidence, onset and duration of armed civil conflicts in recipient countries – Looting of food aid by belligerents – Sustaining authoritarian regimes Food aid attract population to overcrowded areas, increasing exposure to diseases and mortality rates US agroindustry lobbying for continued food aid (i.e. subsidized exports) rather than in-country food production Food production in developing countries often undermined => Deaths and poverty resulting from food aid programs

9 Cold War and Food Aid Distributing food aid “provided a way to managing unwanted commodity surpluses in Canada and the United States, and governments used it to buy goodwill, especially from countries thought to be strategic in the Cold War. The United States was unabashed in its use of food aid for political ends. The desire to create future commercial markets by changing local tastes and preferences was explicitly written into the legislation.” Murphy, 2008, Foreign Policy in Focus

10 Major works  use food aid if and only if a problem of food availability and entitlement/market failures underpin lack of access to food  new food assistance instruments, rather than surplus shipments

11 Only 7% of volume of food produced was internationally traded by 2001, estimated at 15% in Food aid near negligible (5 million MT in 2012)

12 Global Food Crisis

13 “Food crisis” Growing inequalities in global agro-food systems Erosion of agro-ecological systems and social safety nets Growing demand for grain (esp. agrofuels) Rising commodity input prices (esp. oil) Interest by financial markets towards ‘hard assets’

14 Washington Post

15 Food price hikes, riots and revolutions M. Lagi & al. (2012) Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and Middle East. Source: FAO Food Price Index and press reports

16 Brazilian peacekeepers of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) on patrol near the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, following the outbreak of protests against escalating food prices. (8 April 2008) UN Photo stories: Global Food Crisis UN takes action in response to soaring food prices

17 Chinese drought, wheat prices and the Arab Spring Troy Sternberg (2012) Chinese drought, bread and the Arab Spring. Applied Geography

18 Feeding (On) Geopolitical Anxieties? Asian Appetites, News Wires and the Food Crises CBS – China eats more meat

19 Grim projections

20 WFP FAO UN-SG WB WTO ‘International Community’ responses to the food crisis

21 Questioning the prevalent agro-industrial model? Unequal liberalization of agro-industries – Continued food production subsidies and barriers to imports in the North – Opening up of food markets (imports) and farmlands in the South Privatization of governance From state-based (agriculture ministries) to corporate agro-commodity chains (large agro-firms and supermarkets)

22 International trade agreements 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT): agriculture included, but no implementation => agriculture trade protection policies maintained by states (subsidies, lowering esp. int’l grain prices) 1980s: Structural Adjustments and liberalization of agricultural/food sectors in many developing countries (e.g. reduction of tariffs) 1994: (GATT/WTO) Uruguay Round of int’l trade negotiations => Agreement on Agriculture but uneven application 2008: Breaking down of the WTO Doha Round

23 Naturalizing policy outcomes

24 Fast rising consolidation and profits “Scarcity of supply and booming global demand have prompted all manner of commodities players to seek mergers in recent years“ WSJ

25 Framing food insecurity as ‘Yield Gap’

26 “The projected increase in the demand for agricultural commodities over the next decade could be met by increasing productivity without expanding into forested areas. In particular, crop yields in the Sub-Saharan African countries which are of most interest to investors seldom exceed 30 percent of potential yields on currently cultivated areas.” World Bank report, 2011

27 Food Security and the ‘Global Land Grab’ Interlocking crises (food-energy-water security nexus) Land grabbing ‘delocalizes’ food security beyond international food trade to foreign land and water control (vertical integration)

28 “Despite an association with science and systematic analysis, yield gaps are often purposively and loosely constructed by policy advocates to support particular narratives and policy options. In general, the link between the yield gap and issues addressed by the favoured policy options is lacking or at best poorly specified.” James Sumberg, 2012, Food Security

29 Fig. 3 General socio-ecological patterns characterising target contexts of large-scale land acquisitions. Accessibility and population density are indicated on a logarithmic scale along the x - and y -axes, respectively: mean accessibility [hours] from nearest city with 50,000 or more inhabitants, and mean population density [people per km 2 ] within the land deal buffer areas. Peter Messerli, Markus Giger, Michael B. Dwyer, Thomas Breu, Sandra Eckert The geography of large-scale land acquisitions: Analysing socio-ecological patterns of target contexts in the global South Applied Geography, Volume 53, 2014,

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31 Land grabbing documentaries NHK report on Ethiopia and Tanzania FOE on testimony, Uganda bank-ifc-bankroll-vietnam-cambodia-laos bank-ifc-bankroll-vietnam-cambodia-laos Guardian on Vietnamese rubber plantations in Cambodia Case study of Libyan investments in Mali Promotional video of Agro-investment company Ethiopian government promotional video on agro-investment policy

32 Responses from Fair Trade and Food Sovereignty movements?

33 Conclusions Food is a major component of international economy and politics Food policies and food aid are instrumentalized for political ends Food security and land acquisitions are objects of geopolitical calculation and strategy Representations of the current food crisis can challenge the dominant agro-industrial model, yet so far mostly legitimated a dominant agro-industrial model that seems prone to crises and can hurt local communities


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