The Hunger Crisis Isn’t New – But the Ruling Class Wants You to Think So

Wheat being harvested in Ukraine (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

For once, mainstream media is taking note of the global food crisis that is leaving millions to starve around the world. News outlets have been pointing to Russia’s war against Ukraine as the source of global food insecurity. While it is true that the Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of important agricultural resources, including around 30 percent of the world’s wheat and fertilizers, the conflict is merely exacerbating a long-time ongoing crisis generated by the for-profit global food system.

Around the world millions were starving or on the brink of starvation far before the war in the Ukraine. A report in 2019 showed that 9 percent of the global population, around 697 million people, were severely food insecure. 1.9 billion people, or one-in-four people in the world, were moderately or severely food insecure. In places like Yemen and Afghanistan the crisis has been severe for decades, due in part to wars waged or supported by the United States. Last year, the United Nations’ World Food Program reported that nine million people are dying each year from hunger. Nine million!

While we’ve seen a world under constant plague of hunger, none of it has been necessary. Globally we produce enough food to feed twice as many people than currently live on the planet. Yet around 40 percent of the food produced today is wasted, much of it before it even reaches grocery store shelves. This waste is generally due to the market, which inherently prioritizes profit over need. But fossil-fuel profiteering that causes climate change, as well as wars waged by the ruling class that disrupt supply chains, make the situation even worse.

In fact, under-development and so-called third world poverty are the result of a long history of colonialism and imperialism. The so-called first world has exploited the people and natural resources of Africa, Latin America, and large parts of Asia for centuries, creating the conditions that have led to global poverty and hunger.

Usually this goes ignored or barely mentioned in the mainstream press, but right now the ruling class is pointing out the crisis to use it as a bargaining chip. They’re pointing the finger at Russia, but not at the system they benefit from that has made the situation so dire and inevitable in the first place. We can’t be mistaken; this hunger crisis is serious. But it isn’t new – it was created by the capitalist ruling class around the world. They’ve known about it, they’ve caused it, but they only want us to pay attention to it when it benefits them.