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Food Riots, Food Rights, a Fast, and a Corporate Agribusiness Campaign: A Global People’s State of Emergency Declared!

May 2008

Food Riots and a Fast

I have had the privilege of accompanying some of the largest and most dynamic social movements in Latin America over the course of my work at Grassroots International. In early 2001, we struggled with how to share the news of the agrarian reform and land rights struggles of our partners in Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries in ways that would resonate with folks here in the United States. What we came up with back then was to connect land rights with food rights.

More recently the right to food has been the daily bread of the news media as the sharp increase in food prices have resulted in food riots in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the US, the working poor are suffering hunger in silent resignation.

The director of the World Food Program (WFP)has said that high food prices are creating a “silent tsunami” threatening to plunge more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger.

Our friend and colleague, Raj Patel, aptly pointed out “Indeed, it’d be far more convenient for the governments and aid agencies involved if the catastrophe of hunger and poverty were silent, and especially if the hungry didn’t keep piping up with their own ideas about what they’d like to see happen. But they do, and their ideas are often at odds with those proposed by the development industry.”

Not only are our farmer colleagues piping up, but so are many of our friends in the progressive faith community who have begun a 3-day fast to honor the 3 billion people who are going hungry. When asked why the fast they say “Our souls are angry. So much injustice and avoidable suffering pains us, harms our collective dignity. The few in positions of power have cast a deaf ear for too long to the people of the land; the people of the streets, a few have fattened their hearts in a time of slaughter… (James 5: 5)”

See the attached Word document for the full statement announcing the fast, or visit Agricultural Missions for additional details.

Protesting the Bunge Corporation

Some of our friends from Agricultural Missions who are going to be fasting in New York City also went to support our friends from the Rainforest Action Network outside the stockholders’ meeting of the transnational agribusiness giant, the Bunge Corporation. This action is aimed at exposing Bunge for “disregarding human rights and the environment and charged that Bunge – whose profits reached a record high last quarter – is benefiting from the global food crisis, the use of slave labor in Brazil, and deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and the adjacent Cerrado.”

Grassroots International has posted on our website the full statement of Judson Barros , representative of Brazilian organization, FUNAGUAS, that successfully sued Bunge in Brazil, who spoke out at the shareholders’ meeting in New York this past week.

People’s State of Emergency

Finally, a broad international alliance of social movements of farmers, fisherpeople, consumers, environmentalists, women’s organizations and others from across the globe have declared a People’s State of Emergency, and have issued a declaration entitled “No more Failures as Usual” in which the blame for the current food crisis is put squarely at the feet of governments and international institutions. Copies of the full statement are available in English, French and Spanish at

I am proud that Grassroots International has signed this declaration that will be presented to governments at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Food Crisis Summit in Rome June 2nd through 5th, 2008. Grassroots has endorsed the 3-day fast called for by the faith community and we invite our supporters to consider joining, in part or in whole, the 3-day fast from June 3rd through 5th, 2008 to support the People’s Declaration of a State of Emergency and the recipe for change presented by the social movements and civil society groups.

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