Hundreds of millions of people face starvation as a result of British government policy which puts food companies’ profits before the needs of the world’s poor, says the anti-poverty charity, War on Want
The accusation is made in a new report from War on Want, which exposes UK government food policy as a central cause of global hunger.
The report is published as the UK and other nations hold talks on the global food crisis at the UN food security committee in Rome.
The report – entitled ‘Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming the Food System’ – contrasts the UK government’s preferred approach of ‘food security’, based on free markets supplemented by aid, with the positive alternative of food sovereignty, which returns control over the food system to farmers.
War on Want says the report shows how the government has driven a free trade agenda at the international level, while pressing countries to remove social protections that would reduce suffering.
Meanwhile, far from relieving hunger among the world’s poorest, says the charity, the Department for International Development (DFID) funds development of new crop technologies that deepen farmers’ reliance on those companies’ seed and agrochemicals at ever greater prices, leading to hunger on an unprecedented scale.
War on Want international programmes director Graciela Romero said: “The right to food is a human right, not a welfare issue. There is a real solution to the problem of the world hunger crisis: food sovereignty, which farmers around the world are increasingly demanding. But that solution has been consistently blocked by the UK government’s infatuation with the corporate sector.”
War on Want criticises the international development secretary Andrew Mitchell for using the aid budget to support the private sector by strengthening commitments to helping corporations develop new crop breeds.
Examples include funding for the African Agricultural Technology Foundation in expanding use of a weed-resistant strain of maize patented by agrochemical company BASF, the world’s largest chemical firm.
DFID’s 2009 white paper, Eliminating World Poverty: Building Our Common Future, pressed developing countries to remove social protections, insisting political leaders must make “tough choices about agricultural price controls, land policy and the agricultural business environment”.
War on Want has called on ministers to drop the failed model of food security for food sovereignty, which requires agrarian reform in favour of small producers and the landless, and the reorganisation of global food trade to prioritise local markets and self-sufficiency. It has also demanded tougher curbs on global food chain firms, such as supermarkets, and the democratisation of international financial institutions.
The charity highlights examples in Sri Lanka, Mozambique and Brazil which offer positive farming alternatives to the UK.