Daily Archives: 06/02/2011

( Government chief scientist Sir John Beddington calls it ‘the perfect storm’. Soaring world population, coupled with climate change, is set to create a world food crisis and leave billions starving.

‘We are at a unique moment in history,’ he said recently, while launching a report from his Government think-tank, Foresight.

The Foresight project, Global Food And Farming Futures, says only a revolution in the way the world grows its food can save us. Clearly, David Cameron’s top boffin wants to kick-start that revolution.

The world’s population will reach seven billion this year and may peak at nine billion by mid-century. There are plenty of things wrong with the world’s food system. But the amount of food it produces isn’t one of them.

We already grow enough food to nourish nine billion people, probably 15billion people, in fact, for we eat only about one third of those crops.

Much of the global harvest feeds livestock  –  an inefficient route for delivering our nutrition, since it takes eight calories of grain to produce one calorie of meat.

Plenty more is diverted to make biofuels. An African could live for a year on the corn needed to fill one gas-guzzling SUV fuel tank with ethanol.

That’s not all. In the developing world, an estimated 30 per cent of the harvest is eaten by rats and insects, or rots in grain silos. We in the First World are better at preventing losses, but then we throw about 25 per cent our food away, uneaten.

The truth is that the world’s farmers could probably double the amount of food they grow  –  using GM crops and other technologies  –  and still people would go hungry. This is ultimately not about production or about human numbers, it is about poverty.

Every time there is a famine, it turns out later that someone, usually just down the road, was hoarding food for sale. The problem is that the hungry families didn’t have the cash to buy it.

Every few years we get news reports that there are only so many days’ supply of grain in the world’s warehouses. If the warehouses are full, prices fall and farmers stop producing. When they start to empty, prices rise, farmers start planting and soon the warehouses are full again.

Beddington’s ‘perfect storm’ is the operation of a perfect market. Does this mis-diagnosis matter? Even if we grow enough food, surely growing more can’t hurt.

Well, yes, it does matter. Because Beddington’s planned revolution stands a good chance of making the poor poorer. It could mean we have both more food and more famines. This is because most of the methods he suggests to increase food production are about big farms and big investment.

Hungry worldGovernment chief scientist Sir John Beddington’s planned revolution could mean we have both more food and more famines 

Beddington wants to plough up vast tracts of African cattle pastures and amalgamate the smallholdings of millions of peasant farmers to create giant, high-tech farms. His blueprint will take land away from the rural poor.

Last month, I watched this scenario playing out on the edge of the Sahara desert in Mali. The government there has recruited foreign experts to help it invest in agriculture. Western aid agencies are building irrigation projects to boost production of rice.

Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, Mali’s biggest sugar daddy, has just dug a 25-mile canal to irrigate an area of dry scrub three times the size of the Isle of Wight.

The trouble is that these projects will take water out of the River Niger. They will empty fertile wet pastures just downstream, where one million of Mali’s poorest people currently live by catching fish and grazing their cattle. They fear the plans will create desert.

Most of the rice from the new fields will go to feed Libyans. Meanwhile, the poor of the Niger wetlands are likely to join the Al Qaeda groups already penetrating the country’s desert borders.

Beddington is right that farming needs investment. But it has to be the right investment. Perhaps he should have a word with another of the Government’s scientific advisers, Professor Robert Watson, the real Whitehall food expert.

He is currently chief scientist at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Three years ago he chaired an international report on the future of the world’s farming.

In the developing world, an estimated 30 per cent of the harvest is eaten by rats and insects, or rots in grain silos

Watson reached rather different conclusions from Beddington. He said African smallholder farmers should be backed, not stripped of their land; that local knowledge of crops would often work better than high-tech methods; and that fighting poverty was the key to feeding the world.

Watson told me: ‘It’s not a technical challenge; it’s a rural development challenge. Small farmers will remain the predominant producers. The question is how to help them.’

Beddington sees the spread of Western farming methods and giant food and seed companies as the solution to the food problem.

Watson sees it as part of the problem. Beddington’s report says: ‘We need to make agriculture more efficient.’

But more efficient for whom? For agribusiness and its bottom line? Or for farmers and consumers? In an age where the smart investment banks are putting their cash into biofuels rather than bread, and where large corporations are buying farms across the developing world to grow cotton for cash rather than food for people, the two are not the same thing.

Beddington’s report chastises countries such as India, which imposed bans on food exports during the food price crisis in early 2008 in an effort to keep their people fed.

He blames them for ‘undoubtedly exacerbating’ the crisis, and says such protectionist actions should be banned. He has no such strictures for the speculators who caused the soaring prices.

Surely if we’ve learned anything over the past couple of years, it is that unbridled markets can bring chaos, and speculators are a menace. It was bad enough letting the financial markets run riot. But if the food markets run riot we will have empty bellies as well as empty pockets.


( A recent article in the Financial Times (click to read) cites a certain Aaron Barr of the “security services” firm HBGay Federal (amirite?) as claiming to have discovered the identities of Anonymous’ operating leadership and founder, with this having been accomplished in large part by an infiltration of our entirely secret IRC server and in particular our ultra-clasified channels #opegypt, #optunisia, and, of course, #reporters, which itself is the most secret of all.

The following message was relayed to all Anons possessing at least 30 degrees of initiate status (17 in Scotland) or their equivalent in reddit karma, and is being leaked to the laity in an effort to gain their useless sympathy:


Mr. Barr has successfully broken through our over 9000 proxy field and into our entirely non-public and secret insurgent IRC lair, where he then smashed through our fire labyrinth with vigor, collected all the gold rings on the way, opened a 50 silver key chest to find Anon’s legendary hackers on steroids password.

As Mr. Barr has discovered in spite of our best efforts, Anonymous was founded by Q last Thursday at the guilded Bilderberg Hotel after a tense meeting with one Morrowind mod collection, which itself includes the essential Morrowind Comes Alive 5.2 as well as several retexturing packs, all of which seem to lower one’s FPS unless one has also installed the latest Risc Architecture framework and thus obtained the killer refresh rate that is the right of all world citizens, except for noted heterosexual Tom Cruise.

In addition to the sudden disappearance of Anonymous leader Q, Anonymous co-founder Justin Bieber also disappeared just before his top-secret mission to Eritrea to offer physical succour to the rebels, suggesting that Mubarak is in our base, eating our Cheetos, likely with military support authorized by Hill Dawg. All of this comes at a low point for the Official Anonymous Organization, Inc. and its valued shareholders; several Anons had already lost their Fallout New Vegas saved games in the unwarranted and faggy raids perpetrated by the U.S. federales.

At this point, it is safe to assume that the underground server sites at the North Pole have been compromised as well. Back up all porn drives now, because the super secret P2P centralized distribution server of Backdoor Sluts 9 is presumed to be immediately threatened. Male Anons have been commanded to switch back to traditional tentacle porn while femanons, or “Rei Ayanami wannabes,” continue to be shared among the Echelon Nine Working Group that has since replaced Owen as sky marshall.

However, David Davidson (who might also be the legendary Ceiling Cat, as rumors have it) so far eludes custody, so all is not lost. Mr Davidson skyped the anonymous leaders from his hideout in Philadelphia to remind them that he was “Never gonna give them up, never gonna let them down”. Meanwhile, the board of directors remains little more than a gin-addled menagerie of puppets.

Despite these setbacks, the planned conference in Vienna is not slated for cancellation, although the buffet may be altered to include fewer Cheetos. The scheduled appearence of Boxxy is a subject of much contention within Anonymous ranks, being an event of considerably greater importance than the 4th return of Raptor Jesus, which itself is older than the internet.

We shall note in conclusion that we like the guy and want to believe him, but we still have to ask: Did Aaron Barr shave and murder Alexander Hamilton in 1993? We’re just asking questions here, people. At any rate, the Pink Horse prophecy will soon be fulfilled.

All Hail Xenu,



(AlJazeera English) When the uprising there began nearly two weeks ago, there was a near-total internet blackout. But exactly how was access cut off?

An American advocacy group called Free Press says it’s uncovered a link to a California-based technology company which allegedly sold the Egyptian government equipment allowing it to track online activity. Rob Reynolds reports.

Rob Reynolds reports.