When speaking of health and health care the quality of food is first and foremost as is the quality of environment. When the Affordable Care Act sends all health care coverage for 80% of Americans to preventative care with continuous lab tests that monitor blood levels of sugar and fat with directives to lower these counts or face a fine------WHICH IS WHERE THIS IS GOING-----we need to look at the food supply to see that for most, being able to buy food that is good for us is getting harder and harder. Food inflation is now above 5% and terms like WHOLE PAYCHECK floats every time we grocery shop. The poor have long had health problems attached to fast food and no grocery stores that are the only low-cost food to eat and this is of course the source of low-income health problems. If we are going to tie health outcomes to healthy eating at the same time US food sources are being flooded with poorer quality of food and inflated prices limiting our access to quality food......
Food insecurity is at historic highs and getting worse
04/21/14 09:27 AM--Updated 04/21/14 04:58 PM By Ned Resnikoff
There is a hunger crisis taking place across the United States, and it is likely to get even worse. As of 2012, 49 million Americans suffer from food insecurity, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as lack of access to “enough food for an active, healthy life.” Nearly one-third of the afflicted are children. And millions of them don’t even have access to food stamps, according to a new report from the anti-hunger organization Feeding America.
The report, called “Map the Meal Gap,” tracks food insecurity by county and finds some regions of the country where the child food insecurity rate can go as high as 41%. The major hot spots for hunger tend to be rural counties, nearly 60% of which are classified as “High Child Food-Insecurity Rate Counties.” Yet in terms of absolute numbers, major urban areas take the lead, with Los Angeles County alone laying claim to more than 620,000 food insecure children.
“The variation of food insecurity at the county level is quite significant,” said Feeding America’s Chief Communication and Development Officer Maura Daly. Among both children and adults, the least hungry county in the United States is Slope County, N.D., which has a food insecurity rate of 4%. Humphreys County, Miss., where about a third of the population is food insecure, lies at the other end of the spectrum.
About 27% of food insecure people—including 32% of food insecure children—live in households which are ineligible for food stamps, the main public assistance program dedicated to combating hunger. That’s because food stamps only go to households with an income at or below 185% of the poverty line; hunger, though it may be linked in the popular imagination with utter destitution, is now encroaching on the lower middle class.
“When we talk about unemployment being one of the primary drivers of food insecurity, oftentimes you have people living right on that brink of 200% of poverty or higher,” said Daly. “And if you have a loss of a job [in the household] … you can go almost overnight from a food secure household to a food insecure household.”
As grim as the numbers look, they probably don’t capture the full extent of the problem. The 2014 edition of “Map the Meal Gap” tracks trends in food insecurity between 2011 and 2012. In all likelihood, subsequent policy decisions in Washington have caused food insecurity to rise even higher. Feeding America and other anti-hunger organizations have yet to quantify the damage done by the 2013 food stamp cuts and the further cuts included in the 2014 Farm Bill.
“I think it’s very possible that we will see an increase in food insecurity as a result of the [food stamp] cuts,” said Daly. “Unfortunately, all data is retrospective when it comes to federal government tracking and we oftentimes don’t know these things until later.”
Yet early indicators are not encouraging. Feeding America’s member food banks—described by Daly as “canaries in a mineshaft” when it comes to hunger—are reporting ever-increasing levels of demand for their services. Recent actions on the state level may have helped to slow the rate of rising hunger, but not stop it, much less reverse it. At least for the near future, America seems likely to only get hungrier.
WHAT DO THESE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT TIES TO FINES AND FEES FOR NOT DOING WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS MEAN?
Now, think about what it will be like to be low-income and in a managed care Medicaid plan that seeks to keep you as healthy as possible by making requirements to be met. I had someone in Baltimore tell me her Medicare doctor has her coming back every three months to take blood tests to monitor for fat, sugar etc and this patient has to pay for all of these extras office visits. If the patient does not do what this doctor says----she loses her Medicare doctor now in short supply.
THIS SENIOR IS BEING ROBBED OF ALL DISPOSIBLE INCOME SIMPLY MEETING THESE PREVENTATIVE CARE GUIDELINES MANAGED CARE AND CORPORATE WELLNESS PLANS ARE CREATING.
The Affordable Care Act stresses preventative medicine and gives great latitude to corporate wellness plans and Managed Care Plans to require a level of participation from patients and employees that basically say-----you will do this are else. Corporations will be sent your medical stats and if you are not meeting blood level guidelines for example for sugar and fat------corporations can remove you from their plans and may use this down the road to remove you-----all to 'contain health care costs'. Managed Care is tasked with making sure health costs are as low as possible so will be allowed to pressure compliance to meet medical stats or be able to remove you from these plans.
YOU ARE NOW REQUIRED TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE AND YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO MEET THE STANDARDS THAT WILL OFFER THE BEST AVOIDANCE TO DISEASE VECTORS.
Some may think this is a good challenge in the workplace but the reality is that most people are predestined to some health failure or another. Those pushed into Medicaid or Bronze are the people already financially distressed and will be the ones under constant pressure to meet medical guidelines----to keep costs down. As I state with food insecurity growing many Americans will not have the luxury of eating right----
SEE THE CONFLICT THAT WILL ARISE FROM WHAT WILL BE MANDATORY INSURANCE REQUIRING MANDATORY HEALTH GUIDELINES?
As someone with cancer in my family-----I see all kinds of ways corporations and these private Medicaid and Medicare plans will push the costs over to me!
We read that discrimination in the workplace against the disabled is soaring as equal protection laws are ignored so this article speaks to why employers will now not want to hire disabled and it speaks as well to the fact that workplace regulation has all but been dismantled. So, these programs will really have no guidelines or oversight----employees will comply or become unemployed or soaked with health plan costs.
Wellness Programs: Legal Requirements and Risks
If a 'voluntary' wellness program provides some sort of financial incentive for workers to participate in medical examinations or to answer questions related to their medical histories, is it truly voluntary? This is just one of the questions that employers must examine as they create wellness programs for their organizations.
By Patricia F. Weisberg
Tight budgets combined with skyrocketing health care costs have prompted more and more employers to develop companywide “voluntary” wellness programs in hopes of curbing mind-boggling group insurance premiums. Many of the programs conceived in the U.S. workplace are incentive-based, rewarding employees who participate, follow disease management protocols or choose to live healthy lifestyles. Some programs take the incentive model to a higher level by imposing penalties, such as higher health insurance premiums, upon employees who smoke or refuse to participate in company-sponsored wellness initiatives. The conundrum is this: In the past, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, has defined a voluntary wellness program as one that neither requires employees to participate nor penalizes them for non-participation. So, if a “voluntary” wellness program provides some sort of financial incentive for workers to participate in medical examinations or to answer questions related to their medical histories, is it truly voluntary? The EEOC and the courts have grappled with this issue for years, while employers continue to pave their own paths toward corporate wellness implementation, including programs offering participation incentives. A 2008 survey by the ERISA Industry Council, the National Association of Manufacturers and IncentOne reveals that the number of employers using incentives to promote employee wellness rose from 62 percent in 2007 to 71 percent in 2008. It’s a popular option in this economic environment. But by linking incentives and penalties to corporate wellness, employers do raise their risk of facing numerous challenges, including discrimination claims for alleged violations of a number of health- and employment-related regulations such as the ADA, the new Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Despite good intentions surrounding corporate wellness programs, employers must carefully navigate the legislative waters in order to develop programs that benefit not only employees, but also the company itself. What defines ‘wellness’? Quite simply, no true definition for a “wellness” program exists, at least not in corporate America. The federal government, however, has tried to establish some semblance of one to clear up confusion and maintain a balance between employee privacy and corporate intentions. The U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service have coined the term “bona fide wellness” to keep in mind the various nondiscrimination provisions outlined in HIPAA and, to some extent, other legislation related to health care. This phrase has particular importance to employers who want to create an incentive-based, companywide wellness program as part of their ERISA health benefit plans. A bona fide wellness program would require participants to meet some sort of standard that relates to a health factor, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels or maintaining a healthy weight. ERISA clearly states that voluntary, “bona fide wellness programs” must offer alternatives for workers who cannot participate in the program as it is initially outlined. As defined by federal guidelines, such programs must satisfy a number of requirements to comply fully with HIPAA: • Individual rewards must be limited, with the Labor Department suggesting a limit of 10 to 20 percent of the total cost of employee-only coverage. • The program must be “reasonably designed” to promote good health and disease prevention and individuals must have the opportunity to qualify for the incentive at least once per year. • Rewards must be available to all “similarly situated” individuals, and a reasonable alternative standard or waiver must be offered to those who have health factors that would preclude them from participating in the initial standard. • All materials describing the wellness program and its terms must disclose the availability of a reasonable alternative standard or a waiver. Additionally, under HIPAA, employers cannot use eight recognized health-status factors to discriminate against workers when determining enrollment eligibility or premium contributions. These are: Health status Medical condition Claims experience Receipt of health care Medical history Evidence of insurance Disability Genetic information Genetic discrimination Implementation of Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in November 2009 has placed further onus on employers and may have a chilling effect on wellness programs. This new law prohibits employers from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information from employees with very few exceptions. As a result of GINA, employers now cannot request, require disclosure of, or collect genetic information from employees in connection with an incentive-based wellness program. This includes the use of health risk assessments, which seek genetic information, including family medical history. Essentially, a company cannot offer a lower deductible, premium or contribution amount to participants who complete a health risk assessment that includes the disclosure of genetic information, or who otherwise participate in a wellness program that seeks genetic information. This is one of the most difficult challenges employers face in light of the recent increasing number of wellness programs that offer rewards to participants who complete a health risk assessment. The interim final regulations, however, do offer some guidance on how to collect genetic information without violating the law. For example, the regulations allow an employer to offer two separate health risk assessments: one that’s tied to an incentive and does not seek genetic information, and a second that is not tied to the incentive but does seek voluntary disclosure of genetic information. Family medical history actually can play an important role in wellness programs. Genetic information, when collected and used properly, can help employers gear a company’s wellness objectives to best suit the needs of its employee population. For example, if a company has a number of women on staff with a family history of breast cancer, perhaps the employer could offer incentives, such as paid time off, to help women get regular mammograms or even bring a mobile mammography center to the office. It’s just one example of how sharing genetic information can be helpful and not harmful. It’s a sticky situation regardless, and employers will need to carefully review and evaluate any programs, including health risk assessments that seek genetic information, in connection to their wellness initiatives, so they don’t unwittingly violate new GINA regulations, as well ADA and HIPAA restrictions. ADA challenges The ADA has had a longstanding and definite impact on how companies develop and implement corporate wellness initiatives. Nothing in the law prohibits employers from enacting programs designed to promote health and wellness. But the law does prohibit employment-based discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It does this by severely limiting what employers can ask about workers’ medical conditions through its “medical inquiries and examinations” provisions. These limits apply to both disabled and non-disabled individuals. Such questioning must be job related and consistent with “business necessity.” However, under the ADA, employers are permitted to conduct “voluntary” medical examinations as part of an employee health program, including obtaining “voluntary” medical histories. Such information gathered in relation to a wellness program must be done in compliance with ADA confidentiality provisions and cannot be used in any discriminatory manner. The EEOC has generally taken the position that voluntary wellness programs (with some exceptions) do not violate the ADA. But in March 2009 the EEOC stated in an informal opinion letter that a health risk assessment done as a “prerequisite for obtaining health insurance coverage” does violate the ADA. What’s more, if such an assessment could be considered part of a wellness program, it wouldn’t be considered voluntary. Workers choosing not to participate in the assessment would be denied a benefit. This denial would count as a penalty for those workers refusing to participate. Unfortunately, the EEOC has not issued much specific guidance about what it considers “voluntary,” so interpretation remains under constant discussion.
Changes to the ADA that went into effect in January 2009, known as the ADA Amendments Act, further expand the law’s coverage and protections to include a much broader group of individuals. And while medical inquiries apply to both disabled and non-disabled individuals, this puts even more responsibility on employers to prove the necessity of decisions in relation to disabled workers, in the hiring process and in such things as corporate wellness initiatives. Such responsibility includes clearly defining “reasonable accommodation” for employees who are unable to participate in any aspect of a wellness program as a result of disabilities, as outlined by the revised ADA, HIPAA, GINA and other regulations.
The idea that I will go to a doctor for my routine checkup and have to have a blood test that may be high in fat and then be required to bring that level down by required eating habits IS NOT WHAT WE WANT AS HEALTH POLICY. People's health is bad because they do not earn enough money to buy quality food and then to make it worse food prices are climbing because global food makes our food a Wall Street commodity to speculate and manipulate as they do gas prices.
THIS IS WHAT CLINTON GLOBAL CORPORATE POLS ARE DOING WITH OUR FOOD AND WATER SUPPLY AND TYING IT TO OUR HEALTH CARE WITH FINES AND FEES THAT MOST WILL NOT BE ABLE TO AVOID.
Know why Mexico's students and teachers are protesting en masse? Because the same US corporations pushing this education privatization reform in the US has tried to force it on Mexico and they are having none of it. The last thing the US forced on Mexico-----Clinton and his NAFTA----gave Mexico the ruthless drug cartels now attacking this peaceful protest. Mexico's drug cartels are mostly the small farmers from southern Mexico forced from their ancestral land by US big AG.
Clinton neo-liberalism is doing this around the world especially with nation's food economy and it is creating the same kind of destablization wherever Clinton neo-liberals go. Guess what? US big AG has drained American aquifers of water and are now buying all fertile land around the world leaving the US with a withering food supply-----looks like they will make a developing world of us yet!
Mexican Farmers Hammered by NAFTA
Mexico's poor farmers hurt by NAFTA, economist says
By Lourdes Medrano, Arizona Daily Star
Wed Aug 31, 4:40 AM ET
The North American Free Trade Agreement may have boosted big business, but it has had a disastrous effect on Mexicans, a Chiapas economist said.
"There have been losers, and the big losers are the Mexican people," said Miguel Pickard, one of the founders of the Center for Economic and Political Research for Community Action. Known by its Spanish acronym of CIEPAC, the nonprofit organization is based in San Cristo'bal de las Casas, Chiapas. Today, Pickard will speak in Tucson about how free trade policies have affected the Mexican population, particularly indigenous communities. His talk is sponsored by the immigrant-advocacy groups No More Deaths, Samaritans and the Coalicio'n de Derechos Humanos.
The free-trade agreement, which ended tariffs on most goods traded within the United States, Mexico and Canada, "is not the success story we've been told," Pickard said in an interview.
"Mexico's getting poorer. The purchasing power of a Mexican wage is falling. The concentration of wealth among the very rich is increasing, and there are no jobs being created," the economist added.
Neo-liberalism is doing this around the world and it will now come back to Americans as Big AG and Big Frack destroy all of our fresh water aquifers and our domestic food sources disappear. Right now the mid-west and southern California are drying up and Florida is being hit with floods and cold that keep crops failing more times than not. Big AG is now buying all the world's fertile land and water with the goal of sending that food from abroad to the US as food imports----just as developing worlds do. When food reliance for a nation becomes about importing-----the powers that be use that for dominance and that is the dynamic happening in the US today!
Think about from where our food will come when all of our local aquifers dry or are contaminated by fracking. Here in Maryland, the neo-liberals and neo-cons voted to install a natural gas export terminal that will make fracking around us soar and Marcellus aquifer will dry and be contaminated just as in the West. Grow local still needs water for crops. So, when Maryland starts handing our public water to VEOLA ENVIRONMENTAL to control as it pushes FRACKING CORPORATION PROFITS sure to contaminate our only remaining aquifer------
THEY ARE SETTING US UP FOR FOOD INSECURITY.
When you have to import the bulk of your food, food becomes power, and you get third world resource control. Where is health in all of this? The conditions that exist for the poor in America today with poor quality food and bad health is extended to the greater population. Those preventative health checkups with requirements to lower blood sugar and fat will become a financial impossibility for 80% of Americans.
BUT THE FINES WILL STILL BE THERE IF WE LEAVE THESE NEO-CONS AND NEO-LIBERALS IN OFFICE!
Below is a conservative Republican no doubt writing in a way that many may think is conspiracy theory. I would ask you to remember this-----there is widespread recognition that an economic crash is coming in 2015 that will be bigger than 2008 and it targets our public sector----government coffers and assets will be gutted. Inflation is predicted to be the highest ever----making food prices soar. At the same time, global markets for food export here in America are growing. There will be food insecurity coming with all of this and I think it will be steep and I agree with this Republican that it is planned to weaken the social fiber of our nation.
Think at the same time when the Affordable Care Act places people with a mandate to health care with managed care or corporate preventative health plans at a time like another economic crash----what will that look like? We have almost 70% of Americans living at or near poverty right now----
Planned Food Shortage In The US
“Most people have the idea that food in our grocery stores just magically appears; maybe it just pops up out of the floors or drops down from secret store rooms in the ceilings.”
Buy local? Ok! I will do that! Wait…..this says product of China, product of Brazil, product of Mexico, product of Egypt, Guatemala, Argentina ………where is the stuff produced in the US? How am I supposed to buy local to support my local economy when there is nothing here that was produced locally or even in the United States? And this stuff over here? It just says “distributed by” a company in the US and I have no idea where the heck it came from.
In what I see as a sick joke mouthed by sick individuals in our government, the call has gone out to “buy local! Know your farmer!” I know the farmers in this area but they are being regulated and pressured out of business with the passage of the fake food safety bill in the senate. Maybe I should say by one senator…..”Dirty Harry” Reid. It was his one, unanimous vote in an empty senate chamber that broke the back of independent agriculture in the US.
Food riots coming to a town near you! Or maybe even yours.
By now we have all heard of the massive riots in Egypt. Previously, Tunisia’s government was overthrown and the riots in Greece and Italy and India against rising taxes, food prices, and corrupt governments comprised of self-entitled elitists, is growing. The so-called global economy promoted as some perverted form of capitalism and riddled with jingoistic terms like “free trade”, is destroying one economy after another. Face it: A global economy as it is practiced is not only economically disastrous, but also is the tool used to destroy nations. In that sense, it is working.
At the core of most of the revolts is food, or more accurately, food prices. There is not, in my opinion, a food shortage. There is however a shortage of food that is not controlled by some government agency somewhere, and in many cases based around the world are USDA and FDA offices that work in tandem with the US central offices to manipulate and control food prices. It appears that tremendous efforts have been put forward to ensure food shortages in several third world locations where population levels are higher than the controllers of the world would like to see them. The problem with this is; now they are setting their sites on us, right here at home.
Most people have the idea that food in our grocery stores just magically appears; maybe it just pops up out of the floors or drops down from secret store rooms in the ceilings. Even with the 60% rise in food costs over the last six months, most shoppers have done little other than grumble as they went through the check out. Most of these people are totally unaware that everything in that store would last twelve to twenty-four hours at most in the event of an emergency and these same people have done nothing to prepare themselves for the planned shortage of food here in the US.
This shortage will not be because the crops didn’t grow, or the livestock didn’t procreate or were sick, or one area got flooded while the other had draught; it will be because everything our family and independent farmers and ranchers produce will be forced into the export market and shipped out of the country to some other country willing to pay a few dollars more. Our independent farmers and ranchers will have to participate in exporting if they are to remain viable. Those that refuse the export market and choose to remain as local suppliers will simply be regulated and harassed out of business by the FDA and or USDA or by extension through their state agricultural agencies which will be contracting with USDA/FDA against the public and in favor of corporations who can keep them flooded with funds at least until the takeover of agriculture is complete.
While the planned withholding of food is escalated around the world, the US is being set up for staged shortages the like of which most of us can’t imagine. The attacks on our food production and supply coming from our own government have set the plan in motion. Corporations have tampered with the very essence of life in order to claim they now “own” the seeds and the ensuing crops, and stand poised to take by force our right to produce our own food free from their genetically altered frankenfoods and our government is prepared to back them.
What I see being planned for US consumers is a sudden disappearance of food on the shelves of stores. For us in the US, this would be a shock to the senses. The value of shock cannot be underestimated. It is shock that will cause us to accept whatever terms the government offers in order to survive. You are not going to like those terms.
In the meantime you can either prepare yourself and your family or you can sit mindlessly surfing TV or checking your cell phones and texting nonsense messages to people you no longer speak actual words to. As for me, I intend to put back as much in dry supplies, canned goods and dried foods as possible. Hygiene products, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste etc.; take stock of what you use regularly and make sure you have supplies for at least a few months, longer if you can afford it.
All indicators and market predictions point to April as the time when food prices rise so high here in the US few of us will be able to afford much of anything. With more than 22 million Americans out of work and only 1 job for every 5 applicants, home foreclosures still at an all time high and while the homeless population grows across the country we are also faced with a government that is absolutely dedicated to deconstructing every last vestige of our Republic; we are facing a volatile situation.
Don’t even go off on the pointless tangent of claiming it is the “damn liberals or the self righteous conservatives”. It is them against us and we need to be prepared. The people orchestrating this crisis have no conscience and are comprised of both liberals and conservatives, all profiting from selling the rest of us out. The liberals will be dining with their good friends from across the isle, the conservatives, on steak and lobster while you eat dirt and they won’t miss a bite!
This is a long article that I hope you will glance through. What it shows is how neo-liberalism has affected the food economies around the world in a negative way and I hope you can see it coming home to the US.
The article above was written by a farmer that knows the effect of the new Farm Bill and its connection to Trans Pacific Trade Pact that will flood the US market with world food. Putting the remaining independent farmers out of business he said-----then look at the article below to see what these same neo-liberals in Congress are doing abroad.
Think about how Trans Pacific Trade Pact will bring all of this to the US and think who is doing this----Reagan/Clinton and now Obama neo-liberals and Bush neo-cons.
Globalisation of agriculture and rising food insecurity
Despite claims to the contrary, trade liberalisation and globalisation are resulting in declining food production and posing a threat to food security, particularly in the countries of the South. The same processes are also wiping out small efficient family farms and replacing them with inefficient and unhealthy industrialised food systems under corporate control.
THE Draft Plan of Action for the UN Food Summit to be held in Rome in November categorically states that 'trade is vital to food security'.
Trade liberalisation and globalisation of agriculture are supposed to increase production of food, increase efficiency of food production, improve the economic situation of farmers and improve patterns of food consumption. However, the evidence provided by the participants of an international conference on 'Globalisation, Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture' held in Delhi on 30 and 31 July pointed to the opposite direction.
In country after country, trade liberalisation is leading to declining food production, declining productivity, declining conditions for farmers in the North and in the South, and declining food security for consumers of the North and the South.
In her welcoming address which was on the theme 'Globalisation and Food', Dr Vandana Shiva said, 'The US and other industrialised countries of the North are trying to change the meaning of food security from being a fundamental human right to participation in global markets, which excludes the large number of poor without adequate purchasing power.'
'They are also trying to redefine food security to exclude food safety issues. Food security has always meant adequate, safe, nutritious and culturally safe food. While this meaning was inscribed in the earlier draft plans of action, it has been removed in the current draft of the World Food Summit,' she said.
Dr Shiva said the structure of governance that was being shaped 'is governments without rights, but with exclusive responsibilities for food security, and international organisations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) with absolute rights and no responsibilities. Since these organisations are controlled by the G7 group of countries, this structure has built into the North-South asymmetry of Southern governments with the largest number of poor and hungry people carrying responsibilities without rights for food security, and Northern governments pushing rights of their corporations without responsibilities for food security.'
Referring to the situation in India, she said, 'Land reforms (which put a ceiling on land holdings) are being undone in state after state to allow corporate superfarms for..... luxury production for international markets. Massive displacement of farmers is taking place, which can rapidly turn into a socially and politically explosive situation.'
Globalisation and Food Insecurity in the South
A paper on 'Globalisation and Agriculture in India' by Dr Vandana Shiva, Ms Radha Holla and Ms Kusum Menon showed through field studies how food production was being undermined by trade liberalisation policies. Food-growing land is being diverted to non-food crops such as flowers or luxury commodities such as shrimp. Farmers are being displaced on a massive scale and natural resources are being over exploited. Corporatisation of agriculture which is being pushed under trade liberalisation as a successor of the Green Revolution is leading to new poverty for small farmers as unequal and unfair contracts lock them into a new forms of bondage.
Farmers of Punjab who were contracted by Pepsico to grow tomatoes received only Rs.0.75 per kg while the market price was Rs.2.00. First the farmers rejected Pepsico and now Pepsico has abandoned Punjab and sold its tomato processing plant to a subsidiary of Levers.
Trade liberalisation is supposed to bring benefits to national agricultural economies. However, the beneficiaries are neither farmers nor governments of the Third World. A recent editorial of a business daily in India had the heading 'Freeing Wheat'. It is significant to ask what wheat is being freed from and whom it is being freed for.
This freedom to trade has mainly benefited the giant grain traders Cargill and Continental. They are buying wheat at $60 to $100 per tonne from India and selling it at $230-240 per tonne on the international market, making a neat $130-170 profit per tonne, while India is losing $100 million in exports because of the concentration of power in the hands of five merchants of grain.
The US grain giants are turning to the Indian market because the large- scale wheat farming in the US, has been wiped out in nearly 50% of the farm land by a combination of drought and the Karnal Bunt - a fungal disease. As a result of the US crop failure, India's wheat exports have increased dramatically. However, in the globalised world, it is ultimately not countries such as the US and India, which are exporting and importing grain, but corporations like Continental and Cargill. Treating countries as economic units in a free-trade world is misplaced since they have been replaced by corporations as the basic economic units. The gains and losses from globalised trade in food are more appropriately worked out at the level of people and corporations rather than at the level of countries. Globalised food trade is of course an opportunity in the trade perspective, but will have serious impacts on the entitlements of already vulnerable groups.
Dr Amitava Mukherjee, Executive Director, ActionAid India in his paper on 'International Trade and Food Security' confirmed that the area under food crop production in India is on the decline, as is evident from the fact that the index for the area under food grains (1981-82 =100) has declined from 100.7 to 97.3 in 1990-91 in 1994-95, while the index for the area under non-food crops increased from 120.0 to 125.7 during the period. Production of coarse cereals and pulses, the main food for the poor, has shown a declining trend.
Dr Abhijit Sen of Jawaharlal Nehru University showed how under liberalisation domestic production and consumption of food were declining. Removal of food subsidies had led to decrease in the amount of food purchase from the public distribution system. The off take of rice had declined from 10.1 metric tonnes in 1991-92 to 6.9 metric tonnes in 1995-96. The offtake for wheat has gone down from 8.8 metric tonnes to 3.8 metric tonnes. While agricultural exports as a percentage of total exports had gone down, cereals in exports had gone up from 1.4% to 3.4%, indicating that exports were increasingly based on the creation of domestic food insecurity.
Dr John Kurien of the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum elaborated how industrial aquaculture and fisheries were promoted with bilateral and multilateral aid for 'short-term "parking" of international capital in a specific location for a short duration of time during its race for profits'. This 'rape and run' industry is also based on the enclosure of the common resources of coastal communities. While the production feeds into the international luxury demand for humans and pets of affluent countries, they pose a threat to existing patterns of food production and a direct threat to national and local food security
Mr Victor Suares Carrera, Executive Director of the National Association of Peasant Maize Producers, Mexico said after 14 years of liberalisation under structural adjustment and two years of NAFTA in Mexico, 9,000 years of food security were being wiped out. Mexico, which like India was the centre of the origin of agriculture, from where corn expanded to the USA and the rest of the world, was now in danger in the wake of globalisation. Today, he said, his country was ruled by the law of comparative advantage. However, with NAFTA, the illusion of comparative advantage had evaporated. There was neither food security nor comparative advantage for Mexico under freetrade. Three years ago, Mexico imported half a million tonnes of rice. It now imports 7 million tonnes of rice.
While Mexico's corn economy is being destroyed, it was importing yellow corn from the US, which is used to feed animals in that country. Mexicans eat white corn which is culturally more appropriate to their food system. The government, he said, had abandoned its responsibility and there was no policy of food security and no employment policy. Everything had been left to market forces. The government had amended the Mexican land law and discarded the principles of the 1910 revolution. This had been done on the demand of the agri-business.
Referring to the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas in Mexico on 1 January 1994, the first day of NAFTA, he said, 'When we entered the club of the rich people, while the political elite were celebrating the event, thousands of indigenous peasants went up in arms.' They cried against the policy of impoverishment of the farmers and the denial of their rights. People have demanded a change in the National Agricultural Policy and support for the domestic producers. They have argued that it is much easier to support domestic production than to buy from the US, when the country did not have foreign currency.
In 1992, Mexico imported 20% of its food. In 1996 it was importing 43%. Eating 'more cheaply on imports is not eating at all for the poor in Mexico'. One out of every two peasants is not getting enough to eat. In the 18 months since NAFTA, the intake of food has been destroyed by 29%. 2.2 million Mexicans have lost jobs and 40 million are in extreme poverty.
Dr Regassa Feyissa, Director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ethiopia, said Africa was being treated merely as a cheap source of labour. Kenya was importing 80% of its food, while 80% of its exports were accounted for by agriculture. In Kenya, grain imports have risen, subsidised by the European Union, undermining local production and creating poverty by oversupply. In 1992, Europen Union (EU) wheat was sold in Kenya at a price which was 39% cheaper than that at which it was purchased by the EU from European farmers. In 1993, it was 50% cheaper. In 1995, Kenyan wheat prices collapsed through oversupply. All this in a country which had been self-sufficient in the 1980s.
Dr Kamal Malhotra, co-Director of FOCUS on the Global South, referring to South Korea, reported how the country had shifted from food self-sufficiency 40 years ago to dependence on the US today. During the five-year period from 1986 to 1991 agricultural imports in South Korea went up from US$1.8 billion to US$5 billion. In the Philippines acreage under rice was declining, while the area under 'cut flowers' was increasing. Three hundred and fifty thousand rural livelihoods will be destroyed by shifting from corn, rice and sugarcane to cut flowers and vegetables for export. The import of 59,000 metric tonnes under the minimum access requirement of GATT would displace 15,000 families annually.
Globalisation and Food Insecurity in the North
Referring to the massive growth of food insecurity in Britain, Dr Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at Thames Valley University, said there were mountains of food in his country and miles of supermarket shelves but many Britishers could not afford an adequate diet due to rising unemployment and declining social welfare. One-fifth of the population was classified as not being able to afford a nutritious diet. Poverty, he said, was a reality, even in rich countries.
Five companies controlled 70% of the food market in the UK. There was growing food insecurity even in rich countries as the food system became more centralised. The distance for shopping for food had increased from 2 miles to 5 miles, increasing 'food miles' embodied in food and creating a motorway food system. Long-distance transport and intensification of agriculture were linked. Tim Lang said that Britain had shifted from a policy for small farmers to a policy against farmers. The British model of farming, where farmers were systematically thrown out of agriculture, was being spread to other parts of the world.
The Mad Cow Disease, he said, was the result of the intensification of agriculture. The disease had affected dairy cows and beef cows, had totally undermined the UK beef trade and had led to the extermination of 165,000 cows because of the risk of the transfer of the infection to humans. The farmers, he said, were now questioning intensification of agriculture, adding that the big lesson for the public was that you cannot squeeze nature to the maximum.
The Mad Cow Disease was challenging freetrade, as 'passports' for sources of beef were becoming necessary to regain consumer confidence.
'We must stop intensification. We must re-inject food security in the system,' Tim Lang said.
Philip Lymbery from the Compassion in World Farming, UK said the repercussions of the Mad Cow Disease were going to be immense. It proved the pitfalls of factory farming. Since World War II, half a million farmers had disappeared following the corporatisation of agriculture in the UK. Displaying slides he showed how cattle were reared in inhuman conditions. In the UK alone, he said, 600 million broiler chickens were raised annually. They were kept in cages, too small for their well-being, with the result that 75% of the chickens were dying of heart failure. In intensive dairying, male calves were useless and were kept in inhuman conditions in cages till they were six months old and ready for slaughter. They are then exported. One of the biggest popular movements in the UK had emerged as a result of this violence to veal calves.
Mika Iba, Coordinator, Network for Safe and Secure Food and Environment, Japan said the story of the success of Japan on the economic front was also the story of failure on the food front, undermining the country's food security. The experience of the past 50 years was the undoing and selling out of the Japanese farmer for the country's economic growth. Today 90% of the farmers were part-time farmers, who lived on other incomes.
Ms Iba said 30% of land could be cultivated and there was competition for this land between housing and agriculture. Only 22% of the food was produced in the country. The remaining 78% came from abroad. Only in rice was Japan self-sufficient, while other grains were imported.
Accepting more food imports, she said, also meant accepting more additives in the form of chemicals and pesticides. In 1950, Japanese food imports had 78 food additives. In 1995, this had risen to 345. In 1996, there were 1,051 food additives in food imported by Japan.
In Russia, as reported by Vera Matusevich, an Agricultural Economist, World Bank, production and consumption of food had dramatically declined as a result of trade liberalisation and a transition to a market economy. One-third of Russians were now below the poverty line. Fifty per cent of food was being imported. Production had declined by 33% between 1990 and 1995. The livestock sector had declined by 40%. Meat production had fallen from 8.3 million tonnes in 1992 to 5.9 million tonnes in 1995. At the same time imports of meat had increased from 1.4 metric tonnes to 2.1 metric tonnes i.e. in 1995 imported meat had accounted for about 25% of all meat consumption. These imports are concentrated in big cities which account for 70% of retail turnover. Mafias linked to trade are dumping contaminated food on Russian consumers.
Kristin Dawkins, Director of Research Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy of the United States, said the US government had led the world in promoting globalised monopolies through international trade agreements, assisted by such bullying tactics as the use of Section 301. She said under encouragement from the US government food corporations controlled US agriculture and were now attempting to control world agriculture.
Dawkins said in 1994-95, 10 cents out of every food dollar spent in the United States went to Philip Morris and another 6 cents went to CongAgra. Four companies - IBP, ConAgra, Cargill and Beef America - sold 87% of all slaughtered beef. Two companies - Kelloggs and General Mills - sold two-thirds of all ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Campbells sold 73% of all canned soups. Frito-Lay sold 85% of all corn chips and 40% of all potato chips. Kraft is owned by General Foods, (the latter is owned by Philip Morris) sold more than half of all sliced processed cheese.
The dispensability of small farmers
Small farmers are paying the price for this corporatisation. They have been seen as dispensable in the US and the dispensability of the small farmer is now being globalised through trade liberalisation. As Kristin Dawkins reported, in 1962, the Committee on Economic Development which advised the White House recommended 'moving off the farm about two million of the present farm labour force, plus a number equal to a large part of the new entrants who would otherwise join the farm labour force.' Kenneth Boulding, an agricultural economist from the University of Michigan, described their plan bluntly: 'The only way I know to get toothpaste out of a tube is to squeeze, and the only way to get people out of agriculture is likewise to squeeze agriculture. If the toothpaste is thin, you don't have to squeeze very hard, on the other hand if the toothpaste is thick, you have to put real pressure on it.'
A V Krebs, Director, Corporate Agribusiness Research Project and author of Corporate Reapers, reports that in 1990 nearly 22% of US farm operator households had incomes below the official poverty threshold, twice the rate of all US families. In 1993, over 88% of the average farm operator household income was derived from off-farm income.
From 1982 to 1993 the index of prices received by farmers rose only 7.5% while the index of prices paid by farmers for inputs multiplied over threefold to 23%.
As Krebs queried: Is it any wonder that our farmers during the period from 1990 to 1994 saw an almost minuscule 1.98% return on their investment?
Is it any wonder that from 1987 to 1992 in the US farm entries dropped to less than 67,000 per year while 'exits' averaged 99,000 per year, resulting in the net loss of 32,000 farms a year.
The myth of the unproductive small farmers and fisherfolk
The main argument used for the industrialisation of food and corporatisation of agriculture is the low productivity of the small farmer. However, even the World Development Report has accepted that small farms are more productive than large ones.
In Brazil, the productivity of a 0-10ha farm was $85/ha while the productivity of a 500 ha farm was $2/ha. In India, a 0-5 acre farm had a productivity of Rs.735/acre while a 35 acre farm had a productivity of Rs.346/acre.
The state of Bengal was showed the highest rate of growth of 6.5% for agriculture as a result of land reform, while the rate of growth for India was a mere 3%.
Even biologically, small diverse farms have higher productivity than large monoculture farms.
Productivity of monocultures is low in the context of diverse outputs and needs. It is high only in the restricted context of output of 'part of a part' of the forest and farm biomass. For example, 'high yield' plantations pick one tree species among thousands, for yields of one part of the tree (e.g.pulp wood).
'High yield' Green Revolution cropping patterns pick one crop among hundreds e.g. wheat for yields of one part of the wheat plant (only grain).
These high partial yields do not translate into high total (including diverse) yields. Productivity is therefore different depending on whether it is measured in a framework of diversity or uniformity.
A recent article in Scientific American has developed this approach further and has shown how the economic calculations of agricultural productivity of the dominant paradigm distort the real measure of productivity by leaving out the benefits of internal inputs derived from biodiversity as well as the additional financial and ecological costs generated by purchase of external inputs to substitute for internal inputs in monoculture systems.
In a polyculture system, five units of input are used to produce 300 units of food thus having a productivity of 1.5.
In an industrial monoculture, 300 units of input are used to produce 100 units of food, thus having a productivity of .33.
The polyculture system which has been called 'low yielding' and hence incapable of meeting food needs is therefore five times more productive than the so-called 'high yielding' monoculture.
Quoting Mr Obaidullah Khan, Head of FAO's Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, Martin Khor of Third World Network said the intensive model of Green Revolution agriculture was not sustainable due to rising costs and falling yields.
As in the case of crop production, industrial fisheries and aquaculture also consume more resources than they produce. As Dr John Kurien pointed out, in 1988, global shrimp aquaculture consumed 180,000 tonnes of fish meal derived from an equivalent of 9 lakh tonnes of wet-weight fish. It is further estimated that by the year 2000 about 570,000 tonnes of cultured fish will be produced in Asia. The feed requirement for this will be in the order of 1.1 million tonnes. This is equivalent to 5.5 million tonnes of wet-weight fish, nearly double the total marine fish harvested in India today. Fish meal provides the crucial link between industrial aquaculture and industrial fisheries since the fish used for fish meal is harvested from the sea through trawlers and purseines which totally deplete marine stocks. This falsifies the often-used argument by agencies like the World Bank that promotion of aquaculture is like moving from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture in fisheries and will reduce the pressure on marine resources.
Other experts from India who presented papers at panels were Dr B D Sharma, Dr D Bandopadhyay, Dr Sultan Ismail, Dr Vijayalakshmi, Mr Pandhari Pandey, Prof Ramakrishnan, Dr Santosh Satya, Dr Indira Hirway and Dr Darshini Mahadevia. They gave details of the impact of structural adjustment on agriculture and food security and also developed the sustainable alternatives available to ensure safe and adequate food for all.
In spite of all evidence pointing to the high diversity, productivity and sustainability of small family farms, globalisation is wiping out these efficient systems and replacing them with inefficient and unhealthy industrialised food systems under corporate control.
The myth of low productivity of diversity-based small farms is also being used to promote genetic engineering. In her paper on 'Biodiversity and Biotechnology', Beth Burrows called genetic engineering a form of Structural Adjustment but directed by Ciba-Geigy and Monsanto rather than by the World Bank and IMF.
Vandana Shiva pointed out how the same corporations which want regulation for Intellectual Property Rights, want deregulation for biosafety. They want organisms to be treated as 'novel' when it comes to claiming property rights and as 'natural' when it comes to taking responsibility.
These corporations pushed for trade liberalisation of agriculture under the Uruguay Round of GATT. They are now demanding total freedom of investment as a right. As Martin Khor of the Third World Network stated, the industrialised countries are now threatening to launch a new Uruguay Round at the WTO Ministerial Meeting to be held in Singapore at the end of the year. The biggest issue was the Multilateral Investment Agreement, under which no country would have the right to screen foreign investment. Corporations wanted the right to enter and establish themselves with 100% equity, and total freedom to repatriate profits. They could buy farmers' land , set up plantations and fisheries and also undertake livestock rearing.
Everywhere across the world, less food is being produced and less diverse food is being grown, and less is reaching the poor and hungry. Fewer farmers are finding a place in agriculture and even privileged consumers have no food security in the sense of access to safe and nutritious food. BSE-infected meat and hazardous chemicals are creating new health threats to the consumers even in affluent countries.
The corporations are the only beneficiaries of freetrade and they are not in the business of ensuring food for all. As Senator McGovern of the US Senate had stated, 'Food security in private hands is no food security at all' because corporations are in the business of making money, not feeding people.
When trade liberalisation policies were introduced in 1991 in India the Agriculture Secretary stated that 'food security is not food in the godowns but dollars in the pockets'. Dr Shiva pointed out that the dollars go to the pockets of the Cargills, Continentals and Pepsicos, not the pockets of Indian farmers or fisherfolk. The centralised government-controlled food distribution system run by the Food Corporation of India depending on long-distance transport had its flaws, but these flaws can hardly be corrected by replacing it with an even more centralised corporate-controlled food system which promotes the export of Indian food grains and then imports food at high social, economic and political costs to people and the country. - TWN