Often (usually) after the second article, I have no idea what's coming up, so I have no idea what lead me to pick a particular article. (I had to go back and look)
The lead to this one was "Haiti: It's come to this". I dove in figuring it was just going to be something else, don't know what, but not what I ran into.
Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt
Rising Food Costs Force Haiti's Poor to Resort to Eating Dirt
Right then I had a very good idea of what the story was about.
[all emphisis mine]
It was lunchtime in one of Haiti's worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.
I've heard of people who eat dirt all over the world, but it's usually for some benefit, real or perceived, in addition to their regular diet, like:
The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium.
But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.
How can it be that those basic staples of nutrition, corn, rice and wheat are in short supply? When all else failed these commodities have always been the fall back to save people.
Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.
First, the price of oil.
I'm sure if you've had to sign invoices for a business or flown on a plane lately you've notice that surcharge on the bill for fuel. That's a companies way of saying "If it weren't for the cost of gas, you could reduce the cost of this item/delivery by this amount".
There is only so much oil available in the world at any one time (a post on this sometime in the future). With limited availability some countries get what they want, and some get shortchanged. If this were a Marxist world, then the "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" would be a consideration, but the real world works on capitalism. The person who is willing to pay the most, gets the goods. So the price goes up by who's willing to pay what in order to insure they get what they need.
Right now the big demands for oil come from China, the U.S.A. and India. The problem that comes from this is that the Kyoto Accords put restrictions on ONLY the United States ability to produce goods, while allowing the other two countries to do whatever they want. Yeah, they'll have to comply sometime in the future...sometime...to be negotiated later.
While the U.S. is not a signatory to the protocol, we have taken steps toward trying to comply...without just turning the power off. Americans do like clean air and water, and if you've live through the massive improvements that I've seen over my lifetime, you'd know that we've accomplished incredible feats of cleaning up past mistakes and oversites and making sure they don't occur again. Then restricting ourselves from taking a lessoned learned and applying it to future development (ANWR, Gulf Coast, Kalifornia Offshore).
Hope you were able to bear with me through that part, because now I'll deal with the highlighted part of the quote: Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.
As much as the Global Wormering crowd wants to believe that government intervention will cure the wrongs in the world, this is what happens when somebody who has little knowledge of how the world works writes a regulation to correct a problem.
The U.S. (and Brazil) have grabbed onto the biofuel gambit. The government is now subsidizing farmers to produce corn for biofuel and now there isn't enough corn production to feed everyone cheaply.
Why don't we " the Breadbasket of the World" just shuffle the corn from biofuel to food....they're different strains of corn! The corn we grow for food is different from the corn for biofuels, a cow wouldn't eat biofuel corn.
Back to the original story.
The global price hikes, together with floods and crop damage from the 2007 hurricane season, prompted the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency to declare states of emergency in Haiti and several other Caribbean countries. Caribbean leaders held an emergency summit in December to discuss cutting food taxes and creating large regional farms to reduce dependence on imports.
Now, by trying to do our best to reduce pollution (or doing nothing if you're a real leftie) who do you think the Useless Nitwits are going to call on to provide the food needed to correct this problem...3...2...1.
At the market in the La Saline slum, two cups of rice now sell for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.
Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared to food staples. About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy.
Well I guess there is a good side to this. A dirt cookie only cost 5 cents. Me, I wouldn't pay more than...5 cents, just so I could taste one...
A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.
Okay, maybe not.
Assessments of the health effects are mixed. Dirt can contain deadly parasites or toxins, but can also strengthen the immunity of fetuses in the womb to certain diseases, said Gerald N. Callahan, an immunology professor at Colorado State University who has studied geophagy, the scientific name for dirt-eating.
Haitian doctors say depending on the cookies for sustenance risks malnutrition.
"Trust me, if I see someone eating those cookies, I will discourage it," said Dr. Gabriel Thimothee, executive director of Haiti's health ministry.
I would think the major factor here is if you're eating it as addition to a normal diet, or eating it to survive.
Marie Noel, 40, sells the cookies in a market to provide for her seven children. Her family also eats them.
"I'm hoping one day I'll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these," she said. "I know it's not good for me."
I'm not going to make a judgment on Marie. I can feel for these people and she's just selling what their tradition has taught them to do in hard times, but I can make a judgment on the agencies whose major concern two decades ago was famine, and cannot look far enough ahead to see that as the population of the planet grows you cannot remove the sources of food from the equation.