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The 2013 World Food Prize: Monopolizing the War on Hunger?

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The biotech industry has awarded itself the World Food Prize. A career Monsanto executive, a Syngenta scientist and a private industrial scientist will share the $250,000 prize for "feeding a growing global population."

The trouble is, GMO seeds produce feed and fuel, not food. Over the last 20 years they've yet to feed any of the planet's poor or hungry. In any case, the world already produces enough food for 10 billion people, so simply increasing production clearly won't end hunger. The World Food Prize's love affair with biotechnology not only elides the structural causes of hunger; it ignores the documented successes of agroecological methods for building in farm-scale resiliency and ensuring productive, sustainable yields.

The World Food Prize has become a corporate celebration of self. In addition to Syngenta, Pioneer and Monsanto, the foundation's donor list includes Cargill, ADM, Walmart, Pepsi, Land O'Lakes, the American Soybean Association, the Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Farm Bureau. Biotech boosters Howard Buffet and Rockefeller foundations each gave a cool million bucks; the Monsanto-friendly State of Iowa gave $1.4 million.

Even The New York Times suggested that this award may be a PR attempt to counter the growing global backlash against GMOs. It is also an effort to fibrillate the industry's flat economic performance that has followed the heady days of the 2008-09 food crisis (in which they made record profits while a billion people were pushed into the ranks of the hungry). Apparently the way to revive lackluster seed monopolies is to guarantee them a monopoly on ending hunger. But giving the World Food Prize to the monopolies profiting from hunger is like awarding the Nobel Peace prize for going to war... wait, that's already been done. So it goes.

It is no wonder farm and food activists have established the Food Sovereignty Prize to celebrate organizations working to democratize--rather than monopolize--our food system. While the World Food Prize emphasizes increased production through proprietary technologies, the Food Sovereignty Prize rewards social and agroecological solutions coming from those sectors that are most negatively impacted by the corporate food regime.

Given by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, this prize, first awarded in 2009, has been given to honorees that include the MST--Landless Workers Movement of Brazil (2011), Family Farm Defenders (2010): La Via Campesina (2009) and honorable mentions like the Movimiento Campesino a Campesino (Farmer to Farmer Movement), as well as urban organizations like the South Central Farmers of Los Angeles, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and the Toronto Food Policy Council.

Behind the thinning public veil of the World Food Prize lurk the corporate interests of the monopolies controlling the food system. It is time to recognize the people and organizations fighting to end the injustices that cause hunger in the first place.

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