In the last few weeks, the insanity of turning food crops into fuel for developed-world cars has become apparent, as rising food prices all over the world affect populations that were already threatened by hunger in such far flung countries as Pakistan, Mexico, Egypt and Haiti. This is the logic of our consumer driven economy, where morality is turned on its head. While the world worries about getting enough to eat, the over-developed countries are more concerned with feeding their cars and trucks. Rather than accept that the days of cheap fuel are over, we choose to rely on techno-fixes that convert food resources needed in some areas of the world, to energy "needed" in other areas. Consumer conveniences trump the survival of millions of starving people.
Americans may not realize that our government's policies caused countries like Haiti to depend on the US for food in the first place. By flooding the Haitian market with cheap imported rice, the US caused the collapse of local agriculture. Farmers couldn't compete, lost their land, and moved to the city to look for work in the assembly plants. Haiti went from producing 95% of its rice in the 1980s, to importing 80% of it from the US today.
Haitian President Rene Preval has promised to subsidize the cost of rice, but said the solution in the long term will be to grow more food locally. But can such a plan succeed if it contradicts the US's policy of maintaining dependent countries that are markets for our exports, and provide the cheap labor needed to produce our consumer goods? The same scenario is repeated in many countries: Mexico (traditionally a corn producer) now imports corn from the US, and former Mexican farmers cross the border "illegally" in search of work.
In the mean time the US, which is responsible for the situation, should be responsible for the food subsidy as well. Instead, our government helps further enrich agribusiness companies by subsidizing biofuels.
This is not a situation that can be fixed with temporary food aid. This is a result of the basic structure of the global economy. People in the West need to look at the way we live, the way we consume, and the government policies that support this way of life.