DURATION: 54 min.
"Control oil and you control nations. Control food and you control the people!"
Henry Kissinger 1974
A handful of multinational companies have managed to control the "heart" of the food we put on our table everyday: The very seed and, therefore, global agricultural production. Brokers in the developed world gamble with food, raising and lowering prices, playing with the fundamental right of millions of people to access food. Meanwhile, almost a billion people on this planet are undernourished and 25,000 die of hunger each day. Could it be that the Earth can no longer feed its population?
The evidence proves otherwise! The food crisis, as it will go down in history, occurs at a time when the planet is producing more food than ever. Filmed in India and the USA, "Dying in abundance" unfolds the absurd before our eyes, the interconnections of a system in which, while there is enough food, it is so expensive the poor cannot afford it.
Written & directed by Yorgos Avgeropoulos / Produced by Georgia Anagnou / Production Manager: Anastasia Skoubri / Director of Photography: Dinesh Lal / Research Coordinator: Aggelos Athanasopoulos / Editors: Yiannis Biliris, Anna Prokou / Original Music by Yiannis Paxevanis / Website Coordinator: Apostolis Kaparoudakis / Graphics: Sakis Palpanas / A Small Planet Production for Greek Public Television ERT © 2008 - 2009
Original shooting format: SD PAL 576i / Aspect Ratio: 16:9 PAL / Languages: Greek, Hindi, English / Subtitles: Greek, English / Available Versions: Greek, English, International
- PRÉMIO EDUCAÇÃO AMBIENTAL / Cine Eco / 15th International Environmental Film and Video Festival / Seia, Portugal / October 2009
- SECOND MENTION PRIZE / XII Festival Internacional de Cine de Derechos Humanos / Buenos Aires, Argentina / May 2010
- MENÇÃO HONROSA (Melhor Média-Metragem) / Xi Festival Internacional De Cinema E Vídeo Ambiental (FICA ) / Goias, Brazil / June 2009
"We, the Heads of State and Government... reaffirm the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger".
Rome Declaration, World Food Summit, 1996
What can result from a fundamental human right being turned into a commodity in the global stock exchange casino? In spring 2008, almost simultaneously, unprecedented protests broke out in 33 countries all over the world with one common demand. People at the verge of desperation took over the streets, even with guns in some cases, to claim their apparently not so obvious right to access food.
This possibility was not taken away from them by some dictator, neither was it caused by a real lack in food supply. Experts talk of a "perfect storm", in the context of the market
operation, which resulted in a rapid raise of food prices. In the course of one year, until March 2008, the price of corn had gone up by 31%, of rice by 74% and of wheat by 130%! There was plenty of food in the shops but people couldn't afford it. The population of Third World developing countries was affected the most, although so were those living in the big cities of the West.
"Did some people and nations affected by poverty find themselves in a very uncomfortable position? Yes, they did!... This is the hard truth of the market", admits Dennis Gartman, a world-famous guru of the credit-based economy, who often directs the market's tendencies with his predictions.
The world's biggest provisions stock market is in Chicago. That is where the price of the food we put on our table everyday is largely fixed. The Chicago stock market recently experienced an unprecedented influx of capital, as big financial and credit institutions turned to it after the "mortgage crisis" in order to counterbalance their losses and raise their profits once more. This time they profiteered from the people's possibility to access their everyday food with dignity.
In 2007, as a result of the subsequent torrential raise in food prices, 75 million people were added to those already facing hunger worldwide. Thus, the total global population affected by hunger approaches a billion. Just think of it, a child dies of hunger today every 30 seconds.
With approximately 700 million people dedicated to agriculture, India is home to the biggest group of small farmers in the world. Following China in rice and wheat production, it is one of the world's biggest food producers. Nevertheless, at the same time it harbors the world's biggest undernourished population, ranking over African countries. Absurd? Anyhow, it does confirm the information that 80% of those facing hunger in the world are farmers or agricultural workers.
In the small village of Paroda, in India, grandma Sharasvati must feed her 4 grandchildren. She knows nothing about stock markets and market rules, all she knows is that food prices in the village shop have gone up a lot in the last years. "The poor have big problems, we are very worried. The situation is dramatic. What can the poor do, see to their stomach, spend money on diseases or feed their children? There are days when we cannot satisfy our hunger, we go to bed without having eaten" she says. Back in Chicago, stockbroker Victor Lispanese explains us the rules of the game: "This is not something that fits into my reasoning. If it is logical or not, that's not the issue. I look at how this fact affects the market"...
The inhabitants of developing countries already spend 80% of their income to ensure their everyday food. When food prices go up, they have nowhere else to cut expenses from, so... they stop eating. The question returns mercilessly: how can our civilization tolerate the death of even one person from hunger today, when more wealth is produced than ever?
"Hunger, which has become permanent and world-wide, is wholly a creation of the global provisioning system, which has not been created to feed the world's population, but to maximize the profit of Monsanto, for seeds, of Cargill, for commerce, to sell pesticides, weed killers, fertilizers... During the period 2007-2008, while food prices were doubled, the profit of those companies was also doubled" denounces human rights activist in India, Vandana Shiva.
"I cook barely enough, I make bread and lentils, bread and vegetables, whatever I can come up with. I can't spend a lot of money", she explains. Her husband committed suicide two years ago, drowned in debt. He is one of the approximately 200,000 peasants that have killed themselves in India in the past 15 years, unable to face the continuously rising expenses of agricultural production. The purchase of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides is now an unbearable burden, since farmers are now forced to turn to the companies for their supply and have, themselves, turned from producers to consumers.
"Our success is the success of the farmers" answers Monsanto spokesman in India, Cristopher Samuel. We met him at Yavatmal, "they city of cotton", where the company's genetically modified cotton seeds are widely cultivated. "Food production must be doubled in 40 years and we believe we have a part to play as we are the biggest investors in agricultural research" he claims. And when we point out that, according to data, agricultural production is today sufficient... "Are you implying there is enough food for everyone? Then why are there so many millions facing hunger?" he asks with genuine wonder.