LETTER : Starvation is not inevitable: are we prepared to stop it?

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The Independent Online
GEOFFREY Lean's article on global food scarcity ("The food runs out", 12 November) raises important issues.

Famine is never the result of food shortage. The issue is whether or not people have access to the food that does exist. The 8 billion people expected by 2020 could be fed, even given the trends Mr Lean reports.

However, it is increasingly difficult to argue this in the face of the remorseless move towards total marketisation, and the withdrawal of richer nations from responsibility for large peripheral poor regions of the world. In this context, the most worrying of trends is the rise in global food prices. This will impact most immediately on any country that has gross dependency on imported food. Such countries are over-represented in Africa.

In addition, free food aid, which has already declined from 15 million tonnes to less than 8 million tonnes annually, will decline further. The richer countries were only giving it away because they couldn't sell it.

If global crisis is to be avoided, it is redistribution that needs to be addressed. To put it simply, will an unrestricted food trade be morally acceptable? Will we be content to watch Africa starve? Or should European nations examine the use of surpluses and provision of food aid with a view to taking some responsibility for those who cannot compete on the terms of the world market.

Mike Aaronson

Director general

Save the Children

London SE5