UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Food poverty is a trade union issue

Food price hikes and food shortages are once again looming. And it is the poorest and most vulnerable that will suffer. Here in the UK food poverty amongst children is reaching epidemic proportions. In Manchester 42% of children are living below the poverty line – twice the national average. Increasingly youth workers and teaching assistants are digging into their own pockets to feed children who are quite simply hungry. Parents are going without in order to feed their kids. Food bills are taking up an increasing proportion of the meager household money.

But what about food on a global scale and the actions of national governments and the EU? Food and grain production in particular has become a trading commodity in international markets – replacing previous investments no longer considered ’safe’ and this food casino is driving world food prices.

This year the US maize harvest, already down by 15% because of poor weather conditions still saw 40% of what was left going into biofuel production. Oxfam report that more than 60% of investments in agricultural land by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010 were in developing countries with serious hunger problems. But two-thirds of those investors plan to export everything they produce on the land. Nearly 60% of the deals have been to grow crops that can be used for biofuels. It takes a special kind of stupid to grow food to feed vehicles and not people! Here in the UK by following immoral EU targets on bio-fuel are we driving crops into fuel tanks instead of bellies.

And meat production is also at issue. In the US, 157 million tons of cereals, legumes and vegetable protein – all suitable for human consumption – is fed to livestock to produce just 28 million tons of animal protein in the form of meat. Is that beef burger worth a child’s death?

Food prices and food production is an issue of poverty and internationalism for trade unions . We can’t stand ideally by whilst Government’s and markets commodify food.

Anna Rose