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close this bookCERES No. 058 (FAO Ceres, 1977, 50 p.)
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The eight myths of hunger

the problem is to see how the people can democratize control over agricultural resources

by Frances Moore Lappe and Jos Collins

Learning often begins with unlearning. In seeking to understand the causes of hunger, one first has to cut through many pervasive myths. These myths paralyze many people with guilt and fear. They also prevent many from seeing that food self-reliance is possible for every country in the world.

People are hungry because of scarcity -both of food and of land.

Can scarcity seriously be considered the cause of hunger when even in the "food crisis" of the early 1970s there was plenty to go around -enough in grain alone to provide everyone in the world with ample protein and 3 000 calories a day, not counting any of the beans, tubers, fruits, nuts, vegetables and nongrainfed meat? Three thousand calories are about what the average American consumes.

Such global estimates mean little, we are told; what matters is the food per person in the "hungry countries " But focusing strictly on the Third World, one finds that food production has kept pace with and often exceeded the growth in population during the last 20 years in countries accounting for 86 percent of the total population of the developing countries.

What most undermines the assessment of developing countries as food-scarce, however, are not production statistics but trade statistics. The very countries that most people perceive as food-deficient and import-dependent are themselves, it turns out, agricultural exporters. Forty percent of all agricultural imports into the United States, itself one of the world's top three agricultural importers, comes from developing countries. In 1973, 36 of the 40 MSA countries exported agricultural commodities to the United States.

Agricultural exports from the Sahelian countries dramatically increased during the early 1970s, in the face of worsening drought and widespread hunger. In Mali, to take but one country, cotton exports went up 400 percent between 1966 and 1972, while groundnut production for export to feed Europe's cattle increased 70 percent; rice production, also largely for export, reached a record high. FAO surveys showed that every Sahelian country, with the possible exception of mineral-rich Mauritania, actually produced enough grain to feed its total population, even during the worst drought year. So, while many went hungry, it was not because of scarcity of agricultural production or even of food. In Bangladesh after the 1974 floods, 4 million tons of rice stacked up because no one had the means to buy it Each year, as much as one third of the grain marketed in Bangladesh is smuggled for sale outside the country.

And what of land scarcity?

Only approximately 44 percent of the world's cultivable land is now being cropped. This can partially be explained by the fact that many landowners who hold land as an investment, not a source of food, leave vast amounts unplanted. A 1960 study of Colombia, for instance, found that the largest landholders, in control of 70 percent of the land, planted only 6 percent.

But only by assessing what the cultivated land is growing can one understand that scarcity of land is hardly the cause of hunger. In Central America and in the Caribbean countries, where as much as 70 percent of the children are undernourished, at least half of the agricultural land, invariably the best land, is made to produce crops for export, not food for the local people. In most developing countries, this pattern is intensifying. In Africa, coffee production has increased more than fourfold in the last twenty years, tea production sixfold, sugarcane production has trebled, while cocoa and cotton production advances reflect both significant acreage expansion and official support-subsidies, credits, research -for boosting yields of these cash crops at the expense of food crops.

There are just too many people in the world. An exploding world population means there is less food for everyone.

If "too many people" cause hunger, one would expect to find more hungry people in countries with more people per hectare. We could find no such correlation. China, for example, has only half the cultivated acreage for each person than does India. Yet, in only 25 years China has succeeded in eliminating visible undernutrition. Yet, there are countries with comparatively large amounts of agricultural land per person that suffer from the most severe and chronic hunger in the world. While severe hunger is a daily reality for most Bolivians, they live in a country with well over 0.2 ha of cultivated land per person, significantly more than France (and a potential of over 4 cultivable ha per person). Brazil has more cultivated hectarage per person than the United States, yet in recent years the percentage of undernourished people has increased from 45 to 72 percent. Mexico, where most of the rural population suffers from undernourishment, has more cultivated land per person than Cuba, where now virtually no one is underfed.

Investigating the supposed "basket-cases," from Bangladesh to the nations of the Sahel, one finds that there is no country in the world lacking adequate physical resources to feed its population. Indeed, what one learns is that as long as food is bought and sold in societies with great income differences, the degree of hunger says nothing about the amount of food per person produced in a country. Similarly, the relationship of hunger to land turns out to be not so much a question of quantity; hunger has far less to do with the amount of land than with who controls it. Who controls the land determines whether or how it will be put to use and who will benefit from its fruits.

Neither the size of a country's population nor its growth is today the cause of hunger. Both hunger and rapid population growth are actually symptoms of the same disease. Fixating on symptoms is fruitless; it is a tragic diversion we cannot afford. If we are really serious about eventually balancing this planet's population and resources, we must now address the root cause of both hunger and high birthrates: the insecurity and poverty of the majority resulting from the monopolizing of national productive resources by a few.

Hunger will be overcome by concentration on producing more food.

Diagnosing the cause of hunger as scarcity inevitably leads to the conclusion that greater production in itself will solve the problem. Thus, techniques to boost production have been the central thrust of the "War on Hunger" for at least 30 years. Governments, international agencies, and multinational corporations have promoted "modernization"-largescale irrigation, chemical fertilizer, pesticides, machinery and the seeds dependent on such inputs - all to make the land produce more.

But when a new agricultural technology enters a system shot through with power inequalities, it profits only those who already possess some combination of land, money, creditworthiness and political influence. This selectivity alone has excluded most of the world's rural population and all the world's hungry

Moreover, once agriculture becomes a speculative investment in which sheer control over the basic physical resources promises financial success, a catastrophic chain of events is set into motion. Competition for land sends land values soaring. For instance, land values have jumped three to five times in the green revolution areas of India. Higher rents force tenants and sharecroppers into the ranks of the landless, who now make up the majority in many countries. With their increased profits, the powerful buy out small farmers gone bankrupt, in part through having been forced to double or triple their indebtedness trying to partake of the new technology. Fewer and fewer people gain control over more and more land.

Focusing on production totals has transformed rural development into a technical problem-one of getting the "right," usually foreign-made, inputs to the "progressive," invariably better-off farmers. This production focus is narrow precisely because it ignores the social reality of hunger- that the hungry are those with little or no control over food-producing resources. The real task is initiating the social transformation of the agrarian structure that will make the hungry the primary decision-makers and beneficiaries. The solution to hunger lies in releasing the great potential of people who can develop their own skills and local resources. By contrast, reducing the problem of agriculture to one of technology of production divorces agricultural progress from basic rural development. Agricultural modernization is but a mirage of rural development-a mirage that undermines the interests of the majority of the rural population to serve those of a few.

In country after country where agricultural resources are allowed to be sources of individual wealth, the narrow drive to increase production has made the majority of rural people increasingly marginal to the production process. And to be cut out of production is to be cut out of consumption. The observation of a 36 cent-a-day agricultural labourer in Bihar, India, confirms this truth: "If you don't own any land, you never get enough to eat, even if the land is producing well."

Indeed, in many countries more food per person is being produced; yet more people are more hungry. This is not a speculative point. Empirical studies recently prepared for ILO document that in the very Asian countries where the focus has merely been on increasing production and where, indeed, food production as well as the gross national product per caput have risen, the rural poor are absolutely worse off than before. The study concludes that "the increase in poverty has been associated not with a fall but with a rise in cereal production per head, the main component of the diet of the poor." Indepth investigations undertaken by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) of the impact of the green revolution technologies in over a dozen countries in Asia and Latin America have confirmed this consistent pattern-the retrogression of much of the rural majority even as production advances.

The prime obstacle preventing people from feeding themselves is not inadequate resources or even inadequate production. The obstacle is that people do not control the productive resources. When control is in the hands of the actual producers, people will no longer appear as liabilities, as a drain on resources. People are a country's most underutilized resource and, potentially, its most valuable capital. People who know they are working for themselves will not only make the land produce but are likely, through their ingenuity and labour, to make it ever more productive. Human energy, properly motivated and organized, can transform a desert into a granary. Thus, dramatic production advances have been the hallmark of every country that has under taken a genuine land reform putting productive resources into the hands of the real producers: countries as different as Japan, China, Viet Nam and Cuba.

To achieve food security the hungry world must rely on large landholders.

Governments, international lending agencies, and foreign assistance programmes have passed over smallholders because they have believed that concentrating on the large holders was the quickest road to production gains

In fact, however, it is the small farmer who is generally more productive, often many times more productive, than the larger farmer. A study of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala found small farmers to be 3 to 14 times more productive per acre than the large farmers. In Thailand, plots of 0.8 to 1.6 ha yield almost 60 percent more rice per ha than farms of 56 ha or more. Likewise in the United States. In only two of the 14 years from 1960 through 1973, was the realized net farm income per acre greater on the biggest farms than on family farms.

We need not romanticize small producers. They get more out of the land precisely because they are desperate to survive on the meagre resources allowed them. The smaller farmers plant more closely than would a machine, mix and rotate complementary crops, choose a combination of cultivation and livestock that is labour-intensive and, above all, work their perceptibly limited resources (especially themselves) to the fullest. The large holders, for whom land is not the basis of daily sustenance, invariably underutilize their land. Worldwide studies of the green revolution have shown that, even when the larger farmers are favoured with heavy investment in the new seed-fertilizer technology, the value added per acre continues to be less on the large farms than on the small. The large amounts of work put into the small farms more than compensate for the big doses of capital investment in the large.

Nevertheless, many believe that our food security is enhanced by entrusting production to large agricultural entrepreneurs. The fundamental pitfall, however, as has just been seen, is that smallholders and landless labourers are then even further cut out of production as the newly enriched large holders expand further and mechanize. Fewer and fewer rural people are left able to grow or to buy adequate food. With a widening circle of impoverishment, the national market for food stagnates or even shrinks. But if the domestic market stagnates, toward whom do the agricultural entrepreneurs orient their production? Toward high-paying markets-a few strata of urban dwellers and foreign consumers. For example, development funds have irrigated the desert in Senegal so that multinational firms can grow eggplant and mangoes for airlifting to Europe's best tables; farmers in Sinaloa, Mexico, find they can make 20 times more growing tomatoes for Americans than maize for Mexicans; Colombian landholders shift from wheat to carnations, which bring 80 times greater return per acre; maize in Pakistan, once a staple of the poor grown by small peasant farmers, has been converted into a cash crop.

The food security of a country in which large commercial growers virtually control food production is forever in jeopardy for yet another reason. The large growers can withhold food from the market in periods of rising prices in expectation of higher profits later.

Moreover, entrusting agricultural production to the large farmers invariably means the loss of productive reinvestment in agriculture. Profits of the large holders that theoretically go to improve the land are commonly spent instead on conspicuous consumption, investment in urban consumer industries or job-destroying mechanization.

Any approach that exacerbates the unequal control over productive resources, putting them into the hands of the elite, does not, therefore, serve to increase food security. In fact, just the opposite. The only solution to hunger is a conscious plan to reduce inequality at every level. The reality is that a democratic distribution of control over agricultural resources both decreases inequality and leads to production advances. Moreover, it is the only guarantee that the hungry will eat what is produced.

Consider the Chinese experience. Through an evolution to collective ownership of land, China has significantly reduced rural inequality. The gap between the richest and poorest segments of the rural population in China is probably only one fourth to one half as great as in other Asian countries. Production is directly controlled by and benefits those who work the fields. Food production in China has climbed consistently and there has been no famine since at least the early 1960s.

We have stressed that greater equality, through redistribution of control over land, has been associated with increased production in countries as different as Japan, China and Viet Nam But while redistribution of control over land and other agricultural resources, even if partial, can stimulate production, redistribution per se will not instigate a genuine development momentum.

If the programme is carried out by a state bureaucracy in which the people are mere passive recipients of government favours, the old dependency pattern continues. The only change is that the group now in power is acting benevolently. Since the development of any social structure is based entirely on the development of the individuals within it, the reduction of inequality must break this dependency pattern. It must involve a process of the people themselves taking more and more control over their own lives.

The process of land reform is therefore as important as the reform itself. The people must together deliberate and decide how they want to distribute the land and resolve any conflicting claims that arise. The experience of land reform will then become a valuable social education, training the people for the new task of collective administration. Such is the conclusion of a UN group of Asian rural economists reflecting upon what the Chinese experience has to teach: "Land reform through mass ... action also gives an opportunity for other dominance-dependence relations to be shaken up: women and youth, the low castes, even the children, will be in the thick of this experience which will shock them emotionally and help remove deep-seated inhibitions in their minds as well."

Thus, achieving greater equality through the initiative of the people is the only path to individual and social self-reliance and self-respect. Without these, there is no food security and there is no development.

A needed increase in food production can come only at the expense of the ecological integrity of our food base: farming must be pushed on to marginal lands at the risk of irreparable erosion; and the use of pesticides will have to be increased.

Is the need for food for a growing population the real pressure forcing people to farm lands that are easily destroyed ?

A Caribbean country offers a shocking picture of environmental destruction. The majority of the utterly impoverished peasants ravage the once-green mountain slopes in a desperate effort to grow food. Has food production used up every safely cultivated acre so that only the mountain slopes are left? No. The rich valley lands belong to a handful of people who seek dollars in order to live an imported life-style. These lands are thus made to produce largely low-nutrition and feed crops (sugar, coffee, cocoa, alfalfa for cattle) exclusively for export. Grazing land is export-oriented, too. Recently, Texas ranchers began to fly in cattle for grazing and re-export to the American institutional and fast-food market.

A World Bank study of Colombia states that "large numbers of farm families ... try to eke out an existence on too little land, often on slopes of ... 45 degrees or more. As a result, they exploit the land very severely, adding to erosion and other problems, and even so are not able to make a decent living." In fact, Colombia's good level land is in the hands of absentee landlords who use it to graze cattle, raise animal feed and even flowers for export to the United States.

The Amazon is being rapidly deforested. Brazil's ratio of cultivable land (and that excludes the Amazon forest) to people is slightly better than that of the United States. The Amazon forest is being destroyed not because of a shortage of farmland but because the Government refuses to break up the large estates that take up over 43 percent of the country's farmland. The landless are offered the promise of new frontiers in the Amazon basin even though most experts warn that the tropical forest is not suited to permanent cropping. In addition, multinational corporations can get massive government subsidies to turn the Amazon into a major supplier of beef to Europe, Japan and North America.

How pesticide-dependent is the world's current food production? In the United States, about 543 600 tons, a whopping 2.7 kg for every American and 30 percent of the world's total, are dumped into the environment every year. Surely, such a staggering figure means that practically every hectare of U.S. farmland is dosed with deadly poisons. U.S. food abundance, therefore, appears as the plus that comes from such a big minus.

The facts, however, proved us wrong. Nearly half the pesticides in the United States are used not on farmland but on golf courses, parks and lawns; only about 5 percent of the nation's crop and pastureland is treated with insecticides, 15 percent with weedkillers, and 0.5 percent with fungicides; non-food crops account for over half of all insecticides applied in United States agriculture. Cotton alone receives almost half (47 percent) of all insecticides used. It should be noted that, even then, half of the total cotton acreage receives no insecticide treatment at all.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that thirty years ago American farmers used 2 265 tons of pesticides and lost 7 percent of their crop before harvest. Today, farmers use twelve times more pesticides, yet the percentage of the crop lost before harvest has almost doubled. Even if all pesticides were eliminated, crop loss due to pests (insects, pathogens, weeds, mammals and birds) would rise only about 7 percentage points, from 33.6 to 40.7 percent.

In developing countries most pesticides are used for export crops, principally cotton, and to a lesser extent for fruits and vegetables grown under plantation conditions for export. The quantities of pesticides injected into the world's environment have little to do with the hungry's food needs.

The alternatives to chemical pesticides-crop rotation, mixed cropping, mulching, hand weeding, hoeing, collection of pest eggs, manipulation of natural predators, and so on-are numerous and have proved effective. In China, for example, pesticide use has been minimized due to a nationwide early warning system. In Shaotung county in Honan Province, 10 000 youths make up watch teams that patrol the fields and report any sign of pathogenic change. Appropriately called the “barefoot doctors of agriculture," they have succeeded in reducing the damage of wheat rust and riceborer to less than 1 percent and in bringing the locust invasion under control. But none of these safe techniques for pest control will be explored as long as the problem is in the hands of profit-oriented corporations. The alternatives require human involvement and the motivation of farmers who have the security of individual or collective tenure over the land they work.

A developing country's best hope for development is to export crops in which it has a natural advantage and to use the earnings to import food and industrial goods.

There is nothing "natural" about the developing countries' concentration on a few, largely low-nutrition crops. The same land that grows cocoa, coffee, rubber, tea and sugar could grow an incredible diversity of nutritious crops.

Nor is there any advantage. Reliance on a limited number of crops generates economic as well as political vulnerability. Extreme price fluctuations associated with tropical crops combine with slow-maturing plants (a coffee tree, for example, takes 5 years to mature) to make development planning impossible.

Often quoted illustrations of how much more coffee or bananas it takes to buy a tractor today compared to 20 years ago have indeed made clear that the value of agricultural exports has simply not kept pace with the inflating price of imported manufactured goods. But even if one considers only agricultural trade, the developing countries still come out the clear losers. Their share of world agricultural trade dropped from 40 percent in 1961-63 to 30 percent in 1971-72. And two thirds of the benefits of the most recent increases in prices of agricultural exports accrued to the industrial countries.

But the most serious flaw in the natural advantage theory is that the people who benefit from the foreign exchange earned by the agricultural exports are not the people who work to produce the exported crops and who need food. Even when part of the foreign earnings is used to import food, the food is not staples but items geared toward the eating habits of the better-off classes. On a recent research trip to Niger, we discovered that foreign exchange had even gone to import ice cream in cones straight from a shop on the Champs Elysees.

The very success of export agriculture can further undermine the position of the rural poor. When commodity prices go up, tenants and self-provisioning farmers may lose their land to wealthier export-crop producers expanding their holdings in order to profit on the higher commodity prices. An increase in the world price of a commodity can actually mean less income for the plantation worker or the peasant producer. When the price of sugar on the world market increased several-fold a few years ago, the real wage of a cane cutter in the Dominican Republic actually fell to less than it was 10 years earlier. A nominal increase in the wage of the cane cutter did not compensate for local inflation set off by the sugar boom.

Moreover, governments in developing countries, opting for a development strategy dependent on promoting agricultural exports, actively suppress land redistribution and other social reforms Minimum wage laws for agricultural labourers are not enacted, for example, because they might make the country's exports "uncompetitive." In certain countries, governments exempt land producing for export from land reform, and thereby not only maintain the poverty of the rural landless but further undercut food production as growers shift to export crops to avoid redistribution.

Finally, export-oriented agricultural operations invariably import capital-intensive technologies, such as chemical pesticides, to maximize yields as well as to meet foreign product and processing specifications. Relying on imported technologies helps ensure that the production will be exported to pay the bill-a vicious circle of dependency.

Just as export-oriented agriculture spells the divorce of agriculture from local food needs, food-first policies would make the central question: how can the people best feed themselves with this piece of land ? As obvious as it may seem, this policy of basing land use on nutritional output is practiced in only a few countries today; more commonly, commercial farmers and national planners make hit-and-miss calculations of which crop might have a few cents' edge on the world market months or even years hence. With food-first policies, industrial crops (like cotton and rubber) and feed crops would be planted only after the people are meeting their basic food needs. Livestock would not compete with people but graze on marginal lands or, like China's 240 million pigs, recycle farm and household wastes while producing fertilizer at the same time.

Most important, agricultural development would be measured in terms of the welfare of the people, not export income. Food self-reliance means making agriculture an end, not a means. In most developing countries, the rural population contributes much more to the national income than it receives. A UNRISD study of Africa notes that, although agriculture contributes 20 to 50 percent of the GNP, it receives only 10 to 30 percent of the public investment. With food self-reliant policies such priorities would be reversed. In China, for example, where the focus has been on food self-reliance, agriculture has received 23 percent more investment from other sectors of the economy than it has contributed. Priority goes to decentralized industry at the service of high-employment agriculture.

A commitment to food self-reliance would close the gap between rural and urban well-being, making the countryside an attractive place to live. Also, urban dwellers, like those volunteering to grow vegetables in Cuba's urban "green belts," would move toward self-reliance.

Food self-reliance is not isolationist. But with food self-reliance trade becomes an organic outgrowth of development, not the fragile hinge on which survival hangs. Only after food production has been diversified and people are feeding themselves can trade play a positive role. Clearly no country can hope to "win" in international trade as long as its very survival depends on selling its one or two products every year. A country simply cannot hold out for just prices for its exports if it is desperate for foreign exchange with which to import food. Once the basic needs are met, however, trade can become a healthy extension of domestic need rather than being determined strictly by foreign demand.

Hunger is a contest between the rich world and the poor world.

Terms like "hungry world" and "poor world" make one think of uniformly hungry masses They hide the reality of vertically stratified societies in which hunger afflicts the lower rungs in both so-called developed and developing countries. Terms like these make hunger into a place-and usually a place over there. Rather than being a result of a social process, hunger becomes a static fact.

Worse still, the all-inclusiveness of these labels leads one to believe that everyone living in a "hungry country" has a common interest in eliminating hunger. Thus, we look at a developing country and assume its government officials represent the hungry majority. Well-meaning sympathizers in the industrial countries then believe that concessions to these governments, e.g., lower tariffs on their exports or increased foreign investment, represent progress for the hungry. In fact, the "progress" may be only for the elites and their partners, multinational corporations.

Moreover, the "rich world" versus "poor world" scenario makes the hungry appear as a threat to the material well-being of the majority in the metropolitan countries. To average Americans and Europeans, the hungry become the enemy. In truth, however, hunger will never be redressed until average citizens in the metropolitan countries can see that the hungry abroad are their allies, not their enemies.

The poor majority in developing countries and ordinary Americans are linked through a common threat: the tightening of control over the most basic human need-food both within countries and on a global scale. The very process of increasing concentration of control over land and other productive resources that we have identified as a direct cause of hunger in developing countries is going on in the United States.

Only 5.5 percent of all farms in the United States now operate over one half of all land in farms. The resulting landlessness and joblessness in rural America are at the root of much of the persistent hunger in the midst of agricultural bounty.

Almost 90 percent of vegetable production in the United States is controlled either through contracts or directly by major processing corporations. Many farmers already have no choice but to sign the processor's contract or to go out of business.

Less than 0.2 percent of all food manufacturers in the United States control about 50 percent of all the industry's assets. The top four firms in any given food line control, on average, over half of the market. In 1972, the FTC staff calculated that such oligopolies in 13 food lines were responsible for $2.1 in overcharges. For the 1 out of 10 Americans who must spend 69 percent of all income on food, such inflated prices mean undernutrition.

Many of these same oligopolistic corporations, aided by governments and international agencies, are now expanding their operations into developing countries. Multinational agribusiness is busily creating a Global Farm to serve a Global Supermarket. Finding production sites in developing countries, where land and labour can cost as little as 10 percent of stateside costs, large food corporations are shifting production of high-value items-vegetables, fruits, flowers and meat-out of the industrial countries. They find ready partners in foreign elites who, given the increasing impoverishment of much of the local population, face a stagnated internal market for their production.

In the Global Supermarket, the poorest must reach for food on the same shelf as hundreds of millions of consumers around the world. Every item has a price and that price is determined by what the Global Supermarket's better-off customers are willing to pay. And the sad reality is that even Fido and Felix in countries like the United States can outbid the world's hungry. Consumers in the industrial countries unwittingly become a suction force, diverting food resources in the developing countries away from local needs.

In the metropolitan countries farmers and workers lose their jobs as agribusiness roams abroad. The United States imports annually between $9 and $10 thousand million in agricultural products, two thirds of which compete directly with what al Farm gives governments of metropolitan countries further rationale for metropolitan countries further rationale for supporting political and economic structures abroad that block hungry people from growing food for themselves.

Nor should we conclude that consumers in the metropolitan countries at least get cheaper food. Do mushrooms grown in Korea sell to Americans for less than those produced in the United States? Not one cent, according to a U.S. government study. Philippines pineapples actually cost American consumers more than those produced by a small company in Hawaii.

Under the banner of food "interdependence," multinational agribusiness corporations right now are creating a single world agricultural system in which they would exercise integrated control over all stages of production from farm to consumer. Once achieved, they would be able effectively to manipulate supply and prices for the first time on a worldwide basis through monopoly practices already well established on a national basis in a country like the United States. As farmers, workers and consumers, people everywhere are beginning to experience what the costs would be in terms of food availability, prices and quality.

The Global Farm and Supermarket create the type of interdependence no one needs. "Interdependence" in a world of extreme power inequalities becomes a smokescreen for the usurpation of food resources by the few for the few.

Hunger should be overcome by redistributing food.

Over and over again we hear that North America is the world's last remaining breadbasket. Food security is invariably measured in terms of reserves held by the metropolitan countries. We in North America are made to feel that the burden of feeding the world is squarely on us. Our overconsumption is tirelessly contrasted with deprivation elsewhere, the implicit message being that we cause hunger. No wonder that North Americans and Europeans feel burdened and thus resentful.

The problem lies in seeing food redistribution as the solution to hunger. We have come to a different understanding. Distribution of food is but a reflection of the control over the resources that produce food. Who controls the land determines who can grow food, what is grown and where it goes.

Thus, food redistribution programmes like food aid will never solve the problem of hunger. Instead we must face up to the real question: how can people everywhere begin to democratize the control over food resources ?