Rich countries gobbling up poor countries’ farmland at truly alarming rates
A recipe for complete and utter world disaster: Rich countries and international corporations, including automakers, are buying up farmland in developing countries at a rate that ought to set off humanitarian alarm bells worldwide. New reports from the United Nations and others estimate that nearly 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of farmland — an area roughly half the size of all arable land in Europe — has been sold or has been negotiated for sale or lease in the last six months, to grow food and biofuels for countries such as Korea and the Gulf states who cannot produce enough for their populations. Around 10m hectares were bought last year. South Korea acquired 700,000ha in Sudan; its corporation Daewoo signed a 99-year lease for 1.3m hectares of agricultural land in Madagascar. Saudi Arabia bought 500,000ha in Tanzania. Western land speculators are getting in on the act: Morgan Stanley has bought 40,000ha in Ukraine. This sort of neo-colonialism, in which rich countries prey on poor, is a really, really bad idea and is going to bite the world in the ass, experts say (though not in those exact words). "Outsourcing food production will ensure food security for investing countries but would leave behind a trail of hunger, starvation and food scarcities for local populations," argues Devinder Sharma, analyst with the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security in India. "The environmental tab of highly intensive farming – devastated soils, dry aquifer, and ruined ecology from chemical infestation — will be left for the host country to pick up." Supposedly world leaders will discuss this "land grabbing" at the G8 meeting this week. (The Guardian; follow-up here; thanks for heads-up, Katie)
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