Ethics Final part 12

What About Feeding The World!?

I hope to have shown earlier the negative effects that American rice subsidies have had on Haiti, while simultaneously lowering Haitian rice tariffs.  Because of subsidies and developments of technology most American crop harvests are yielding greater numbers every year.  The fact of the matter is that Americans have not only gotten obese from these abundant harvests, we have also sought new and creative ways to use the excess commodity.  Transforming it into ethanol for example.  The food that is still leftover gets shipped off to other countries.  The Haiti example demonstrates the insanity and sadistic nature of this practice.  Unfortunately, the USDA has aspirations to become even more involved in foreign food markets.

The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service has began implementing a strategic plan for 2006-2011 outlined on their website to boost the American food presence on foreign soil.  At present we have “free” trade agreements with the following regions of the world:  Australia, Central America, Chile, India, Malaysia, Morrocco, and most recently Korea. According to the USDA FAS strategic plan they hope to “level the playing field” by eliminating barriers to trade (tariffs),  enforcing trade agreements, and building international support for open trade. All of this is predicated on the potential for new American jobs and overall economic growth.  The complexities concerning this situation are nothing to ignore though.  According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, “As other countries then move “to level the playing field”, a subsidy competition is launched that in the end benefits no country. But those that receive the subsidies may be better off than otherwise, and will vigorously defend their new entitlements. This explains in large part why employing the use of subsidies to deal with a short-term problem often proves almost impossible to remove.  Developing countries that do not have the fiscal resources to compete on subsidies will be major losers in this situation, finding themselves excluded from protected markets. There is an enormous danger that the important advances made in recent years by some developing countries, helped by aid and by trade, will be lost.”

As we can see the aggressive nature of US policy concerning exporting our excess (subsidized) food could quite possibly have disastrous consequences for the countries that choose to play ball.  Regardless of those countries’ decisions, I am suggesting a more basic approach to our deals with foreign markets:  minimize them.  In our present rather dismal economic situation, it seems axiomatic that growing the economy does not necessarily equal healing the economy.  When something (or someone) needs to heal they typically become less involved in actively participating in programs/events/etc.  Instead they focus on their own health, nutrition and energy levels.

Indeed, Jesus himself addresses this issue in Matthew 7:3-5 and Luke 6: 41-42:  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  This analogy is wholly appropriate to the US/Foreign dynamic.  We in the US still have tragic proportions of our population living in poverty.  It seems to me that we should level the playing field at home first before we look abroad.  Cynically, the attempt to move further and deeper into foreign markets with our subsidized food is nothing more than an attempt at financial exploitation of these foreign markets for the benefit of corporate food interests.  When will we realize that even the USDA is for sale to the highest bidder?

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