In 2000, the U.N. General Assembly developed the Millennium Development Goals, one of which was to end extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. One analysis is that there is just not enough food to feed the world and that industrial agriculture and genetically engineered seeds are the solution. But the lived experience and demonstrated science reveals that there is enough food, but the problem is in distribution and that GE seeds leave farmers further in debt.
Columbans responded in 2000 by prioritizing GE seeds and as a deep justice concern. Columbans believe that no one should be able to patent life- which only God owns. Columbans have instead approached global hunger by supporting small organic farming cooperatives that ensure food security for whole families and communities. The Negros Nine Foundation in the Philippines (an organic farming cooperative) and an organic potato project previously supported in Peru are two examples.
Tufts University, ActionAid, and others have found that food production is not behind the global hunger problem. ActionAid and others suggest the following contributing factors:
- An overabundance of food waste and spoilage either from lack of transportation infrastructure in the Global South to food expiring in the grocery store or homes in the Global North.
- The expansion of food-based biofuels caused a global food crisis in 2008 when corn went from $2 a bushel in 2006 to $7 a bushel in 2008.
- Inadequate expansion to climate-resilient agriculture, especially among small-scale and women food producers. Small farmers are most vulnerable to climate change. Industrial agriculture greatly contributes to climate change through the machinery and transport of chemicals, seed, and food across nations and seas.
The World Food Prize is presented annually to an individual or organization that contributes to the quality, quantity, and abundance of the world food supply. This year the prize was given to two of the sponsors of the Prize and two of the largest producers of GE seeds- Syngenta and Monsanto. This year’s honorees exposed the prize for what it really is- a prize backed by companies that benefit from an industrial agricultural model at the expense of small farmers and fragile ecosystems.
Columbans felt compelled to respond when they heard that Cardinal Turkson would be present form the Vatican at the WFP. They shared this fact sheet with him and thanked him for his critical view of industrial agriculture as a Church leader from Ghana.
Church statements on industrial agriculture from Pope John Paul II to Pope Benedict have been critical of the industrial agriculture model. I hope that Pope Francis will continue to share a critical view of this practice.
In addition to advocating for Church leaders to take a strong stance against industrial agricultural practices to feed the world, it is important for our political leaders to create agricultural policies that both ensure that food is more fairly distributed. Whether that is advocating for a faithful Farm Bill or weighing in on a Responsible Agricultural Investment policy at the World Committee for Food Security, we can plant policies of hope that feed the global poor while protecting the livelihoods of small farmers and creation.