Saturday, October 31, 2009

End Hunger by Law

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No carpenter would attempt to build a wooden house without a hammer. Yet, in more than half a century since the right to be free from hunger was established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world has struggled to end hunger without the similarly crucial tool of strong law. The valiant aid and development programs we've relied on instead have proven insufficient to eliminate malnutrition, which still yields an annual death rate far exceeding that of the Nazi genocide machinery during World War II, and afflicts almost 800 million others. And it's not just the malnourished dying slow deaths who suffer - hunger also fuels overpopulation, which in turn inflicts corollary damage on the world's environment, economy, and urban, regional and international stability.

Famines and hunger are not inevitable necessities of nature. Widespread expert opinion holds that the planet has adequate food for all its inhabitants, and that famines and hunger are caused primarily by political conflict and detachment. As with other social ills like slavery and exploitation of the environment, the plague of hunger is sure to persist until legal safeguards against it are codified and enforced.

That's why hope is rising in many quarters for the prospects of the International Food Security Treaty (IFST). Based on existing international covenants, the IFST aims to establish enforcable international law guaranteeing the right to be free from hunger, and to oblige countries to establish their own related national laws. The IFST has been recognized as a crucial missing link in the world's efforts to eliminate hunger by leading figures in the United Nations, anti-hunger organizations, the U.S. Congress and courts system, and national religious groups.

These pages about the IFST will give you a glimpse of a vital new development in human history, through which anyone can help realize the world's potential to become more secure and just.

View the IFST Campaign flier and these pages to discover:

The Treaty Principles

The International Food Security Treaty

Law as Catalyst in the Eradication of Hunger

Declarations of Support

What You Can Do

How Long Can the World Feed Itself?

By Gwynne Dyer, 10 October 2006  (2009-10-31)

We are still living off the proceeds of the Green Revolution, but

that hit diminishing returns twenty years ago. Now we live in a finely

balanced situation where world food supply just about meets demand, with no

reserve to cover further population growth. But the population will grow

anyway, and the world's existing grain supply for human consumption is

being eroded by three different factors: meat, heat and biofuels.

For the sixth time in the past seven years, the human race will

grow less food than it eats this year. We closed the gap by eating into

food stocks accumulated in better times, but there is no doubt that the

situation is getting serious. The world's food stocks have shrunk by half

since 1999, from a reserve big enough to feed the entire world for 116 days

then to a predicted low of only 57 days by the end of this year.

That is well below the official safety level, and there is no sign

that the downward trend is going to reverse. If it doesn't, then at some

point not too far down the road we reach the point of absolute food

shortages, and rationing by price kicks in. In other words, grain prices

soar, and the poorest start to starve.

The miracle that has fed us for a whole generation now was the

Green Revolution: higher-yielding crops that enabled us to almost triple

world food production between 1950 and 1990 while increasing the area of

farmland by no more than ten percent. The global population more than

doubled in that time, so we are now living on less than half the land per

person than our grandparents needed. But that was a one-time miracle, and

it's over. Since the beginning of the 1990s, crop yields have essentially

stopped rising.

The world's population continues to grow, of course, though more

slowly than in the previous generation. We will have to find food for the

equivalent of another India and another China in the next fifty years, and

nobody has a clue how we are going to do that. But the more immediate

problem is that the world's existing grain supply is under threat.

One reason we are getting closer to the edge is the diversion of

grain for meat production. As incomes rise, so does the consumption of

meat, and feeding animals for meat is a very inefficient way of using

grain. It takes between eleven and seventeen calories of food (almost all

grain) to produce one calorie of beef, pork or chicken, and the world's

production of meat has increased fivefold since 1950. We now get through

five billion hoofed animals and fourteen billion poultry a year, and it

takes slightly over a third of all our grain to feed them.

Then there's the heat. The most visible cause of the fall in world

grain production -- from 2.68 billion tonnes in 2004 to 2.38 billion tonnes

last year and a predicted 1.98 billion tonnes this year -- is droughts, but

there are strong suspicions that these droughts are related to climate


Moreover, beyond a certain point hotter temperatures directly

reduce grain yields. Current estimates suggest that the yield of the main

grain crops drops ten percent, on average, for every one degree Celsius

that the mean temperature exceeds the optimum for that crop during the

growing season. Which may be why the average corn yield in the US reached a

record 8.4 tonnes per hectare in 1994, and has since fallen back


Finally, biofuels. The idea is elegant: the carbon dioxide

absorbed when the crops are grown exactly equals the carbon dioxide

released when the fuel refined from those crops is burned, so the whole

process is carbon-neutral. And it would be fine if the land used to grow

this biomass was land that had no alternative use, but that is rarely the


In South-East Asia, the main source of biofuels is oil palms, which

are mostly grown on cleared rainforest. In the United States, a "corn

rush" has been unleashed by government subsidies for ethanol, and so many

ethanol plants are planned or already in existence in Iowa that they could

absorb the state's entire crop of corn (maize, mealies). In effect, food

is being turned into fuel -- and the amount of ethanol needed to fill a big

four-wheel-drive SUV just once uses enough grain to feed one person for an

entire year.

There is a hidden buffer in the system, in the sense that some of

the grain now fed to animals could be diverted to feed people directly in

an emergency. On the other hand, the downward trend in grain production

will only accelerate if it is directly related to global warming. And the

fashion for biofuels is making a bad situation worse.

It's only in the past couple of centuries that a growing number of

countries have been able to stop worrying about whether there will be

enough food at the end of the harvest to make it through to next year. The

Golden Age may not last much longer.


Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles

are published in 45 countries.

GM seeds threaten food supply, claim researchers

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 11-Sep-2009

Related topics: Food prices, Financial & Industry, Cereals and bakery preparations

Modern seed companies are reducing crop diversity – and this could have serious consequences for food supply as the climate heats up, researchers claimed at the World Seed Conference in Rome this week.

This is the second time in a week that researchers have raised fears about the impact of climate change on crops. According to a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week, climate change could result in severe shortages of two of America’s most important grains – corn and soy. Although yields increase with temperature up to 29C for corn and 30C for soybeans, there is a sharp decline in yield above these thresholds, they said.

Now fresh concerns have been raised that food manufacturers could find it more difficult to source ingredients in the future, as researchers from the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) have suggested that large-scale seed companies could squeeze out traditional plant breeding.

The researchers argue that corporate control of the seed industry and widespread use of a relatively small number of seed varieties could mean that traditionally bred varieties for drought and pest resistance could be lost, with devastating consequences for food supply.

IIED project leader Krystyna Swiderska said: “Where farming communities have been able to maintain their traditional varieties, they are already using them to cope with the impacts of climate change. But more commonly, these varieties are being replaced by a smaller range of “modern” seeds that are heavily promoted by corporations and subsidized by governments. These seeds have less genetic diversity yet need more inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers and more natural resources such as land and water.”

The Carnivore’s Dilemma



Published: October 30, 2009

IS eating a hamburger the global warming equivalent of driving a Hummer? This week an article in The Times of London carried a headline that blared: “Give Up Meat to Save the Planet.” Former Vice President Al Gore, who has made climate change his signature issue, has even been assailed for omnivorous eating by animal rights activists.

Related Times Topics: Factory Farming

Food and Population - Educational ideas

... mainly on population and women’s health.

By Bonnie Humber; submitted by Julia Morton-Marr 2009-10-29

Awareness, Knowledge, Empowerment and a Vehicle to pass the information on.

1. Use the already empowered women to empower other women on population issues.

2. Population is a women’s health issue.

3. In areas of poverty, use food to attract and deliver condoms and educational messages.

4. Encourage women’s meetings and dovetail sex-ed with other programs like they do with the Grameen Bank who give micro loans in Bangladesh.

5. Donate a goat to a family with a case of condoms.

6. Include Mothers and daughters in western countries in the process. The message must be personalized.

7. Have safe zones for girls in Africa so that female mutilation is never achieved.

8. Classrooms need a real sex-ed curriculum component as a regular subject, not an additional one.

9. Use Dance, Drama Presentations and Road Shows to invite participation in condom use.

10. Listen and ask women what they need and organize it for them. If they ask to a tubal ligation, give it to them. This only after them understanding why they should limit the size of their family.


11. Conception education for men, invite them for a beer and give them a box of condoms.

12. Involve Fathers and sons, in the educational programs so that they understand the problems. They must understand the damage they can do to women.

13. Remove the myth that AIDS will cure men if they have sex with children under 5 years old.

14. Encourage same sex marriages, as they will not be children from these.

Government and Religious

15. The involvement of Churches and other Religious groups, as their members will follow if they understand the problems and they are presented well.

16. Governments need to ‘work with NGO’s’ wherever possible. One member of Parliament can make a huge difference.

Media & Laws

17. Use TV & Radio programs to get the message across.

18. Computer networking has amazing possibilities with the right messages.

19. Enforce laws that cover sexual criminal mis-conduct.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Contraception cheapest way to combat climate change

Contraception is almost five times cheaper as a means of preventing climate change than conventional green technologies, according to research by the London School of Economics.

By Richard Pindar

Published: 12:05PM BST 09 Sep 2009

Comments  141
Comment on this article

UN data suggests that meeting unmet need for family planning would reduce unintended births by 72 per cent Photo: PA

Every £4 spent on family planning over the next four decades would reduce global CO2 emissions by more than a ton, whereas a minimum of £19 would have to be spent on low-carbon technologies to achieve the same result, the research says. The report, Fewer Emitter, Lower Emissions, Less Cost, concludes that family planning should be seen as one of the primary methods of emissions reduction. The UN estimates that 40 per cent of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended.

connections of population growth to climate change

A Worldwatch Institute Blog


Climate Change: What’s Suicide Got to Do With It?

Robert Engelman Dateline Copenhagen 2009-10-21

Predictably, the growing debate about the connections of population growth to climate change is growing ugly. The ever-provocative U.S. radio commentator Rush Limbaugh has publicly suggested that New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin take his own life to help out the environment.

Revkin had floated the idea of carbon credits for one-child families as “purely a thought experiment, not a proposal.” (Elena Marszalek of Worldwatch helped spread the idea by immediately blogging about it, an assist Revkin duly credited.) It could hardly be anything but a thought experiment, given that no country on earth has come close to instituting carbon credits of any kind for families or individuals. And for reasons that Limbaugh’s tasteless suggestion helps clarify, no government negotiator headed for the Copenhagen climate conference will touch population with a pole the length of a wind turbine rotor blade. The whole idea that human numbers have anything to do with the world’s climate change dilemma remains too prone to Limbaugh’s level of discourse for most of the over-stressed climate-change negotiating community even to contemplate.

Which is exactly why Revkin performed a public service in putting out the idea of carbon credits for small families—non-starter though it is. The public interest in the population connection to climate change is growing fast, and for understandable reasons. Obviously human beings, and no natural or non-human phenomenon, are responsible for the dramatic rise in the concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution began. And just as obviously, the fact human population has grown well into the billions since then has a lot to do with the magnitude of the subsequent buildup of these gases. This is worth discussing, and was touched upon in State of the World 2009, but the conversation still has a long way to go before most climate negotiators and policymakers take it seriously. If Revkin can stand a call for his suicide, the rest of us can welcome more people thinking about the obviousness of the human and population connections to environmental degradation.

Revkin’s non-proposal is likely to be irrelevant anyway, once the world grapples seriously with climate change. The cost of living will probably rise as we phase out carbon-based energy, and even more so if we don’t—and we’ll suffer the climatic consequences as well. Modern parents respond to tough times by seeking to postpone childbearing. They’ll get plenty of economic incentives from life to want just one or maybe two children. What they’ll need—as Revkin recognizes—is good family planning services to make sure pregnancy happens only when a child is wanted. If Limbaugh weren’t so hungry for attention of any kind, he’d concede that none of this has anything to do with suicide.