Monday, December 8, 2008

US Policy linked to dead children in Africa

It's not just the recurring safety issues anymore. It's one thing if you want to gamble on eggs or meat from the giant Mega-mart, but please don't forget about the children dying around the world due to our policy of favoring American corporations with our food aid, rather than trying to actually feed people.

U.S. farm and shipping lobbyists have stifled efforts to simplify aid deliveries, leaving Africans to starve when they might have been saved, said Andrew Natsios, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington who led USAID, the Agency for International Development, from 2001 to 2006.

“No one can take the high moral ground against it, so they hide behind closed doors and kill it,” he said. “It’s all done behind the scenes.”

It's the same story over and over again. People everywhere are finding themselves getting taken advantage of, and nobody wonders if it's something inherent in the system that's causing it. The system is sick, the system shouldn't be saved, even if that is still possible. The system is killing us.

Cargill Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bunge Ltd. accounted for 47 percent of 2007 commodities spending for aid, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program was created in the 1950s, partly to reduce domestic surpluses. The regulations require that almost all the peas, corn and other crops come from American sources, effectively steering the bulk of the business to the biggest food-trading companies.

The rules also stipulate that 75 percent of the food must be transported on U.S.-flagged vessels, benefiting ship operators, including Liberty Maritime Corp., based in Lake Success, New York, and Sealift Inc., of Oyster Bay, New York. In 2007, the program’s shipping contracts were worth $385 million, according to the USDA.

In all things, ask "Who benefits?" It's never the little guy, the common man; it's always the enormous corporations that feed on the suffering and injustice around the world in the name of profits. And how do they get governments to do their bidding?

ADM, the world’s largest grain processor, spent $1.78 million to lobby Congress and federal agencies though Dec. 3 this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non- partisan research group in Washington that tracks spending on campaigns and lobbying. Over the past two decades, the company’s campaign contributions amounted to $8.2 million, 91st among political donors, the center said. ADM declined to comment for this story.

Cargill, a closely held company that is the world’s largest agricultural business, spent $660,000 on lobbying this year, the center said. ADM, Cargill and Bunge lobby on other issues besides the aid programs. Cargill favors the added flexibility of local purchase, spokesman Bill Brady said in an e-mail.

Bunge, the biggest oilseed processor, devoted $395,000 to lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The company advocates the use of U.S. crops to ensure quality, said Deb Seidel, a company spokeswoman.

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