The Hunger Virus; Capitalist Trademark and Label

By Pasqualina Curcio on September 20, 2021

During the 10 minutes or so it will take you to read this article, 110 people in the world will have died of hunger, which is equivalent to 15,840 human beings daily, or almost 6 million a year according to Oxfam estimates. Imagine going to bed at night with nothing to eat. Imagine the anguish of a mother or father unable to feed their children. Think of the pain, and even more, the helplessness of knowing that a child died of hunger.

According to the recent report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) entitled The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021, in 2020, 30% of the world’s population, about 2.3 billion people, did not have access to adequate food. The report also reads that 12% of the world’s population, 928 million people, were severely food insecure during the pandemic year, 148 million more than in 2019.

The world hunger situation is even more outrageous by the fact that, while 2.3 billion people did not have access to adequate food and 6 million died because they had nothing to eat during 2020, 2.5 billion tons of food were wasted and went to landfill, no more and no less than 40% of global food production (World Wildlife Fund report). Of these 2.5 billion tons, 1.2 billion tons, equivalent to US$ 370 billion, were wasted in the agricultural production phase. The rest of the food, i.e. 1.3 billion tons, was thrown away in households (61%), food services or restaurants (26%) and stores (13%). According to the same report, 58% of food wastage in the agricultural production phase occurs in the high and middle-income countries of Europe, North America and industrialized countries, despite the fact that these countries account for 37% of the world’s population. In other words, food wastage in these countries is much higher in per capita terms.

Celsa Peiteado, head of the Sustainable Food program of the World Wide Fund for Nature said in July 2021: “The data are alarming: enough food is wasted to feed the whole world until 2050. We could feed all the hungry people on the planet more than seven times over.”

In 2016, the UN said that US$ 267 billion would be needed each year to end hunger by 2030. Paradoxically, US$ 370 billion worth of food is thrown away every year in the agricultural phase alone. On the other hand, also paradoxically, in 2020, the 10 richest people in the world increased their wealth by US$ 413 billion (Forbes), that is, only 10 people increased their fortune by almost twice as much as more than 2 billion people need to avoid going to bed without food or even starving to death.

According to Oxfam’s recent July 2021 report, it is estimated that 11 people die every minute from hunger, which exceeds the current covid-19 death rate of 7 people per minute. Oxfam says: “What looked like a global public health crisis has rapidly escalated into a severe hunger crisis that has exposed the enormous inequality of the world we live in”. Inequality that is a consequence, or rather, that is specific and characteristic of the prevailing economic, social and political system. We insist on reminding, especially those who repeat the discourse of the supposed success of capitalism versus the supposed failure of socialism, that 98% of the 195 countries recognized by the UN are capitalist, so, hunger in the world has a capitalist stamp and mark.

The problem of hunger in the world is not due to lack of food, it is due to the unequal distribution that originates in the very social process of production based on the exploitation of the worker, which generates poverty and great limitations for the access to food by the great majority.

In addition to the great global inequalities that result in poverty and misery, conflicts and wars are also an important cause of hunger. According to the World Food Crisis Report 2021, around 100 million people fell into a food crisis situation as a result of wars in 2020. In this predominantly capitalist world in which we live, military spending increased 2.7% over 2019, equivalent to US$ 51 billion, reaching US$ 2 trillion in annual spending, this despite the fact that in 2020 global production fell 3.5% (these are data published in the recent Stockholm Peace Institute report of April 2021).

The top five spending countries, which together accounted for 62% of global military spending, were the United States, China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom. On average, global military spending relative to GDP rose from 2.2% in 2019 to 2.4% in 2020. In the US it reached an estimated US$ 778 billion in 2020, up 4.4% over 2019 despite its economy falling 3.4% over the same period. Almost all countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (nato) increased their military burden during the pandemic.

Ending world hunger is not a matter of giving food to the poor, as neoliberalism prescribes in a focused manner when it recommends identifying those in extreme poverty and bringing them something to eat. Nor is it a matter of the famous phrase, very capitalist indeed, that says: “do not give them the fish, teach them to fish” because in reality the problem is not that they do not know how to fish, the fisherman/worker knows how to fish/work and does it well, the problem is that, what he fishes/the product of his work, is appropriated by the bourgeoisie at the moment when he does not fully reattribute to them the value of his labor power, and only gives him, in the best of cases, what is minimally necessary for him to survive and reproduce himself as a working class.

To truly put an end to hunger is to eradicate poverty, which requires putting an end to the great inequalities that originate in a mode of production based on exploitation. To end inequalities we must change the capitalist system, the same one that has dominated the world for centuries and that some insist on describing as successful despite the 2.3 billion people who do not have enough to eat and the 6 million who die of hunger every year while almost half of the food produced in the world is thrown into the garbage dump.

Source: Ultimas Noticias, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English