Friday, December 9, 2011

Food as a political weapon

Dear Lailla kindly provided a translation of my al akhbar article
Food is a Political Weapon

The British researcher, Jane Harrigan, chose Food Security in Lebanon and the Strategies of the Ministry of Agriculture as the title of her lecture last Wednesday at the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences at AUB. 
She pointed out that Lebanon imports 90% of its grains from international markets, but is almost self-sufficient in terms of vegetables and fruits. This is why the agriculture ministry decided to invigorate wheat production and modernise it. It succeeded in doubling the national product in the last few years.
Harrigan spoke of a simulation model to determine the most successful agriculture sector in Lebanon according to the principles of comparative advantage. The model showed that the fruit and vegetable export market had the highest potential. Harrigan offered nothing new in her conclusions, which we have been hearing from those who adhere to neoliberal economics for a long time now. It is the same approach, built on free markets and free trade, bowing to the control of markets which are in turn controlled by international economic forces and transglobal companies. 
Harrigan realizes this and pointed out that food can be a political weapon, particularly wheat, a principle component of people’s nutrition. This idea allowed her to justify the ministry of agriculture’s strategy as an exercise in sovereignty even if it is not economical. 
This is a very important issue because an economic siege, particularly in terms of food, might prove to be more ferocious than military war because it will affect a wider sector of society. This is why we have to rectify this situation before we find ourselves suffering the same crisis as the farmers in blockaded Gaza. They were encouraged by development organizations to concentrate on strawberry production for export to Europe. But they have to watch the product of their efforts destroyed at the blockaded crossings, while their children suffer from malnutrition.

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