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GM foods can save the day

Macro economic imbalances are the talk of the day. The ongoing global food crisis, with agflation sweeping across the world, is attracting heated discussion everywhere. Food and fuel have never been intertwined so closely. Since commentators in the West have identified the supply gap on account of increasing demand in the world's two fastest growing economies

Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion, has written one of the most linked comments [hyperlink] in recent blogospheric history. Posted at Martin Wolf's quasi-blog, it's on the food crunch: * Chinese are eating cows which are eating grain which would otherwise have been eaten by Africa's poor. * Americans are turning grain into ethanol which would otherwise have been eaten by Africa's poor. * Europeans are banning genetically modified crops, which are Africa's main hope of growing enough grain to feed its own poor.

The finance minister, Mr P. Chidambaram's proposal to impose a blanket ban on trading in food futures in India to contain prices has drawn sharp criticism from economists, one of who described the move as a "political gimmick." Mr Chidambaram, speaking at Asian Development Bank's annual meeting in Madrid on Monday, said, "The pressure is to suspend a few more food articles. If people perceive that commodity futures trading is contributing to a speculation-driven rise in prices, then in a democracy you will have to heed that voice."

The current crisis proves that agroenergy is not responsible for price rise. The deterioration of terms of trade is one of the historic factors behind underdevelopment, which should be understood not as a stage of development but rather a specific and distorted form in which peripheral economies are inserted into the world capitalist system. For the majority of these economies, colonial relations built around the export of raw materials were the primary cause of this trait.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed yesterday underscored the need for diversifying the use of potato through changing food habit to help ensure food security of the country. In a statement, he said it is equally important to create awareness in all tiers of the society alongside carrying out a massive campaign about various recipes of potato to popularise it. The CA appreciated the initiative of organising a three-day potato campaign marking 'International Potato Year 2008', declared by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The European Union too has jumped on the U.S. bandwagon to target India and China for driving food prices worldwide. EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural development Mariann Fischer Boel on Tuesday said change in dietary habits in India and China was responsible for the spiralling global food prices.

In striving for "efficiency' by means of narrow targeting, households that should be entitled to basic food security through the PDS have been left out.

By holding higher grain consumption in India and China responsible for global food crisis, US President George W Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, have needlessly started a blame game which is so far removed from the facts as to be laughable, which does not improve Mr Bush's already dodgy reputation on sticking to the facts, and which in any case leads the world nowhere in its combat against hunger.

India, now under scrutiny due to rice export curbs and growing consumption that have helped drive grain prices to record highs, could help ease global food security fears, M S Swaminathan, the country's most revered rural economist, said. A rich diversity of secondary food crops, a huge base of rural workers and good rainfall mean India is able to raise production quickly with small investments, allowing it to export a bigger surplus to world markets, he said on Monday.