According to the latest report by UN Food and Agricultural Organization, the number of hungry people in the world had reached one billion and it continued to rise. More than 90% of hungry people globally come from developing countries (Clapp & Cohen, 2009). At the same time, 13.9% of the world’s population is chronically malnourished. As a result, a significant number of people in developing countries face hunger and are malnourished. Ironically, a substantial number of people in developed countries are obese. According to the World Health Organization, 1.6 billion people globally are obese and the majority is from developed countries, especially America and Europe. Therefore, the global food crisis is one of the striking paradoxes that the world is facing today. The paradox in global food crisis can partly be explained by the argument of Karl Marx and Friedrick Engels in one of the most controversial literatures known as Communist Manifesto . The current global food crisis is one of the ways in which the global inequality is manifested because it is linked to economic, geopolitical, and environmental dimensions.
There are a number of factors that are associated with global food crisis. However, one of the major causes is the stiff competition for cereals from both developed and emerging economies such as China. Emerging countries like China, due to increasing middle class, have adopted Western style of diet, which involves the consumption of large quantity of meet (Clapp & Cohen, 2009). Consequently, a substantial amount of cereals are now diverted from humans to feed livestock that produce meet for the growing middle class globally. The competition for cereal has been enhanced by the expansion of the biofuel industry, which has also led to diversion of cereals from human beings to cars and other automobiles. According to IMF, corn ethanol production in US alone accounts for 50% of the world’s corn demand, which led to an increase in corn prices globally (Clapp & Cohen, 2009). As a result, cereal prices has been increasing and it is now out of reach of many poor people in the world. Cereals are no longer produced to feed humans but they are used to feed animals and to power automobiles.
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The 2008-2009 financial crises also led to a significant increase in the prices of food, which led to the food crisis. The financial crisis affected the production of food in different countries mainly due to an increase in oil prices. The increase in oil prices led to a surge in the prices of agricultural input such as fertilizer, leading to an increase in the cost of agricultural production. At the same time, it led to an increase in production of biofuel and ethanol that rely on cereals as raw materials. Consequently, more cereals such as maize were diverted to industrial use instead of human consumption.
Other factors that have led to global food crisis include poor distribution system, drought, and uncontrolled growth of population. There is an unequal distribution of food globally with some regions having a surplus while others are experiencing shortages. Drought is also making it hard for food-producing regions to increase their agricultural produce, causing acute food shortage in different parts of the world, particularly developing countries (Clapp & Cohen, 2009). The drought has also led to an increase in prices of food in both developed and developing countries. Rapid population growth in developing countries has also caused global food crisis because food demand has greatly surpassed supply. Therefore, the global food crisis is associated with economic, social, and environmental factors.
A number of countries have experienced food riots due to the global food crisis. According to the latest report released by the World Bank, about 33 countries have experienced social unrests from 2008 due to the rising prices of food (Subramaniam & Bunka, 2013). The crisis has led to increased poverty among the poor who struggle to meet their basic needs due to the spiral cost of foodstuff. At the same time, workers have been struggling to ensure salary and wages increment in order to cater for the increasing price of food. Consequently, food crisis renewed the struggle between people of different social classes. Therefore, according to the view of Marx and Engels, only the proletarian class struggle can put an end to the global food crisis.
Marx and Engels would have viewed the crisis as caused by irresponsible use of world resources due to the desire to maximize the profit. The main objective of investors in biofuel industry is to generate profits and they do not care about the basic needs of poor people who struggle with poverty due to rising fuel prices. At the same time, many countries are now focusing on the production of cash crops instead of food crops, which can be used to end food shortage. Even though cash crops can enhance economic growth, the production only benefits a few rich people and not the entire population. Developing countries such as Congo are developing sugar cane for biofuel when their people are sinking in hunger (Subramaniam & Bunka, 2013). Hence, the increased use of cone and cane to produce ethanol and biofuel is based on the capitalist concept.
The increasing demand for foods in emerging countries such as China and Brazil due to the new eating habits is also suppressing the poor (Subramaniam & Bunka, 2013). The use of cereals to feed livestock instead of a human being is making millions of people to die with hunger while only a few middle class people can benefit. According to the view of Marx and Engels, the poor or suppressed should rise up and fight capitalism that is causing food crisis. They would have also associated environmental changes to increased capitalist industrialization that has destroyed the environment at the expenses of the needs of humanity such as food. Capitalism destroys the world’s crucial resources and it has led to anti-natural behavior among the rich in the society.
Therefore, based on the argument of Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto , has led to over-production that only capitalists alone benefit from, but not the poor in the society. Capitalism has led to the irrational production of products such as biofuel and mass production of meet that meet the demand of a few middle class while millions of people are left to starve. Based on the views of the two scholars, capitalism has created abundance in the production. However, as long as the capitalist system is allowed to continue, the world is likely to experience a situation where the overproduction of commodities such as biofuel and ethanol goes along with a shortage of basic foodstuff that is consumed by the majority. Hence, according to Marx and Engels, capitalism is no longer able to feed humanity and it is the time for proletarian to assume their responsibility and overthrow the exploitative system, capitalism. Marx and Engels would have maintained that it is through world communist revolution that the society is able to create enough food to feed the entire global population.
Clapp, J., & Cohen, M. J. (Eds.). (2009). The global food crisis: Governance challenges and opportunities . Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press.
Subramaniam, M., & Bunka, C. (2013). Food security and state: policy considerations for the contemporary food crisis. Purdue Policy Research Institute (PPRI) Policy Briefs , 1 (1), 7.