A new wave of food colonialism is taking food from the mouths of the poor.
In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis tells the story of the famines that sucked the guts out of
Now a new Lord Lytton is seeking to engineer another brutal food grab. As Tony Blair's favoured courtier, Peter Mandelson often created the impression that he would do anything to please his master. Today he is the European trade commissioner. From his sumptuous offices in
Seventy per cent of the protein eaten by the people of
The European Union has two big fish problems. One is that, partly as a result of its failure to manage them properly, its own fisheries can no longer meet European demand. The other is that its governments won't confront their fishing lobbies and decommission all the surplus boats. The EU has tried to solve both problems by sending its fishermen to
In a recent report on this pillage, ActionAid shows that fishing families which once ate three times a day are now eating only once or twice. As the price of fish rises, their customers also go hungry. The same thing has happened in all the west African countries with which the EU has maintained fisheries agreements. In return for wretched amounts of foreign exchange, their primary source of protein has been looted.
The government of
Mandelson's office is trying to negotiate economic partnership agreements with African countries. They were supposed to have been concluded by the end of last year, but many countries, including
The UN's Economic Commission for
This is one instance of the food colonialism which is again coming to govern the relations between rich counties and poor. As global food supplies tighten, rich consumers are pushed into competition with the hungry. Last week the environmental group WWF published a report on the
Now we learn that Middle Eastern countries, led by
None of this is to suggest that the poor nations should not sell food to the rich. To escape from famine, countries must enhance their purchasing power. This often means selling farm products, and increasing their value by processing them locally. But there is nothing fair about the deals I have described. Where once they used gunboats and sepoys, the rich nations now use chequebooks and lawyers to seize food from the hungry. The scramble for resources has begun, but -- in the short term at any rate -- we will hardly notice. The rich world's governments will protect themselves from the political cost of shortages, even if it means that other people must starve