Friday, April 30, 2010

Philanthrocapitalism

Timothy Geithner and Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal:

Today, the United States, Canada, Spain, South Korea and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are making a commitment to fight the threat of global food insecurity. Together we are launching the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, a new fund to help the world's poorest farmers grow more food and earn more than they do now so they can lift themselves out of hunger and poverty.

"Lifting millions of people out of poverty" is a popular way of saying that people denied their traditional livelihoods -- growing grain, for example -- should "grow more food and earn more than they do now" by producing something like coffee for export to affluent markets, with "private-investment" (read: agribusiness) playing the part of "benevolent" intermediary.     

Patented, high-yielding, pest-resistant, genetically-modified seeds! are just one of the mantras of this initiative, since the more poor people produce, the greater their fraction of the profits will be; the further they will be "lifted out of poverty" -- with cash on hand to purchase the very staples, now imported, that they used to produce themselves.

Unsurprisingly, the R&D and logistical expenses of these projects are to be borne by public bodies, including local governments "that are already using their own resources to invest in the most effective ways to boost crop production," with multinationals responsible for "visionary leadership" and collecting the returns.

It is worth recalling a time on this planet when communities produced their own food, suited to their own needs and "in partnership" with the local ecology.  That's not what Bill Gates is talking about.

5 comments:

Ben There said...

Great post. Interestingly, Bill Clinton (last week) admitted a couple of major mistakes during his presidency. One in particular was the forced removal of Haitian rice tariffs (one of the conditions of returning Aristide to power). He claims to have thought that that policy would have decreased poverty but admits now that clearly it did the opposite. (To say the least!)

JM said...

I'm a bit confused about rice tarrifs: would keeping those mean the U.S. supporting rice production, much like subsidies?

Ben There said...

The rice tariffs as they pertain to Haiti basically meant that U.S. agribusiness could dump government subsidized surplus rice into Haiti at way below market cost. (Previously the Haitian tariffs leveled the playing field.) This undercut the Haitian rice farmers which, according to some estimates, made up 60% of the rural population, essentially putting them out of business and forcing them to move into the slums of the city. The removal of the tariff was a condition of the IMF/World Bank loan that Haiti recieved when Clinton put Aristide back in power. The attitude was yeah, we'll put you back in power but you have to agree to all of these policies that will almost certainly devastate your country.

almostinfamous said...

i immediately thought of this post when i read this article - the battle is being fought, for sure. the question is how to ingrain it(no pun intended) into the broader populace

JM said...

So the price of rice was too low for market? I see.