Example Of Starving While Surrounded By Plenty
'Letter To The Editor' The Courier-Mail, 5/7/2001
by Devinder Sharma, President, Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security, New Delhi, India

Dear Editor
I READ with interest the article "Seeds of destruction" (Inside Mail ,June 23) and the spate of letters that followed.

Malcolm Livingstone's letter (June 30) is an indication of how poorly informed bio-technologists are about realities in the developing world. As "a hungry Indian", I thought I would clarify the situation. It is true that 800 million people in the world go to bed hungry every night — not because of a shortage of food but because of issues linked to access and distribution. At the height of the African famine in 1984-85, north-west Ethiopia had heaps of grain which rotted waiting for lorries to take it to areas where it was needed.

This year, India has a record grain surplus of 60 million tonnes. At the same time, more than 320 million people do not have access to two square meals a day. Much of the food surplus is rotting because the hungry do not have the means to buy it. Instead of launching an all-out attack on combating hunger, given the food surpluses, the scientific community talks about "hidden hunger" or malnutrition. Genetically engineered rice with Vitamin A, for example, is part of this misguided strategy to divert public attention from the real issues.

An American company in India is converting rice bran into human food (still an untested patented technology). Rice bran traditionally is used for cattle feed in India.

At the same time, India is trying to find a market for its mounting food-grain stocks. Isn't it an irony and shame that our human food is being exported to the West for cattle to eat and we are converting cattle feed into so-called human nutritious food. The politics of food is stinking, and biotechnology is a part of this murky politics.