Hunger is a ‘weapon of mass destruction,’ says Jean Ziegler

“Every five seconds, a child under 10 dies of hunger.—Thirty-five million people die each year from hunger or its immediate aftermath.—One billion people are permanently and severely malnourished and the situation is becoming increasingly catastrophic.” (Jean Ziegler)

In his latest book “Mass Destruction—the Geopolitics of Hunger,” Jean Ziegler[1] talks about the current state of the world and the neoliberal politics of starvation of the poor, which has led to a crisis situation amounting to calculated murder. What we are witnessing today is the worst hunger crisis in human history is. And it is all because of human greed, colossal mismanagement for profit.

Professor Ziegler deals in detail with the various causes of the current worldwide hunger disaster, which could have been avoided. This crisis is not determined by fate—or, to use Ziegler’s own word—‘La famine n’est pas une fatalité.’ The world could perfectly well provide food for 12 million people, almost the double of the present population of 7 million.

So what made this murderous situation possible where thousands of people are dying (37,000 every day) from lack of food and clean water? La famine n’est pas une fatalité. It could have been avoided. It should not be happening.

The agroindustry is killing off small farmers—some countries are fighting back

The goals of the ‘cold monsters’ (les monstres froids) of the agroindustry, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill and Bunge, et al. is to suck the life out of small farmers all over the world, especially in Africa and southern Asia.

The exceptional development that is taking place today in Latin America is liberating it from the grip of neoliberalism. This can only emphasize the point that the horrible famine that is seen in Africa and south Asia should never have happened. Latin America is forcefully fighting against dependency on the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO)—the three horsemen of the Apocalypse, in Jean Ziegler’s own words.

Redistribution of land from large estates with huge tracts of uncultivated areas to small farmers has proven extremely effective in raising the standard of living, in helping the poorest of the poor in several Latin American countries. These countries have wrenched themselves free from the killer treaties like NAFTA, CAFTA and FTAA[2], created exclusively for rich North America to take over the natural resources in the southern hemisphere.

The United States is intimately tied in with the Transnational Corporations (TNC) and they are firmly determined to end up owning the world. The way they proceed is to first take over the valuable commodities everywhere, in Latin America as well as in Africa and now also in India. Let us not forget that Latin America used to be quite naturally counted on as the backyard of the U.S. The leftist liberation movements to the south of its borders have been a bad blow to the deeply rooted feelings of superiority and selfrighteousness that Americans have always taken for granted.

Latin American countries have now created trade treaties of their own, like MERCOSUR and ALBA. However, It remains to be seen how well MERCOSUR will be able to stand up to U.S. imperialism.

Organized hunger has been made the order of the day, without any visible protest

It was done step by step, in the deepest secrecy, since the Main-Stream Media (MSM) did not even touch on the subject, if they knew about it at all. And all the time we were thinking: ‘There must be a way back. This can not go on.’ And then it went on. And it got worse. And worse.

The transnational corporations essentially own the western governments and they are running the world for the profit of their own cabal, and for profit alone.

The small farmers, the subsistence farmers who produced enough food to provide for their families and for selling at the market for a modest income, are being ruined, by careful planning.

The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse of organized hunger, the supra-state organizations IMF, The World Bank and the WTO carry out the wishes of the major food companies. The major three are Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Bunge. These cold monsters are able to fix the prices of food through the powers they have given themselves as cartels or monopolies.

The small farmers in Africa and elsewhere needed help to go on with their hard work to support their families and to produce food for the country. Droughts, military conflicts, political crises, natural catastrophes, man-made emergency situations, all these contributed to recurrent food crises.

IMF was ready to extend big loans, BUT with strings attached. Structural adjustment programs would follow and the people were the victims.[3] There was now less money for the governments to spend on education, health care, food aid to the desperately poor, infrastructure—and the list goes on. Unemployment and poverty increased and new loans were needed, if only to pay off the interest on the old loans to the tiger sharks, ‘les requins tigres’—Jean Ziegler’s term. Now the third world countries are enslaved in a vicious spiral of debts.

There is of course also disastrous corruption among the leaders of the countries in need that prevents the money from many well-intentioned NGOs from getting into the right hands.

To add to the many problems small farmers are faced with, there is also the other product of Western greed—big companies buying up land for huge plantations whenever the farmers are forced to sell at a ridiculously low price. And so those former poor but proud subsistence farmers are now forced to work for a pittance for the big landlords who, instead of producing food to feed the native people, grow cotton, green beans, coffee, tea, cocoa, peanuts and other crops to sell to the rich countries. And these foods for the wealthy are often produced by small children, severely exploited by cruel farmers. Slave labor conditions are the rule.

Jean Ziegler points out in ‘Destruction massive,’ p.327

“The ideologues of the World Bank are infinitely more dangerous than the sad marketing agents Bolloré, Vilgrain (French investors in Africa) and company. With hundreds of millions of dollars of credits and subsidies, the World Bank funds the theft of arable land in Africa, Asia, Latin America.”

Food has to be imported—all for the profit of the big corporations. Poor people can not afford buying imported food at artificially high prices. Children go hungry, pregnant mothers are undernourished and so their babies are born with what can be called birth defects. Very importantly, their brains are insufficiently developed and this deficiency can never be recovered. A large number of the infants die before the age of two.

Malnutrition is rampant and it causes unimaginably horrible diseases, such as noma, which is far less known than the killer diseases such as malaria, dysentery, cholera, tuberculosis, diphtheria and other infectious diseases. Noma is not an infectious disease but it has been proven that it is due to severe and chronic malnutrition.[4]

For the United States and their mercenary organizations, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO the UN declaration of the Universal Right to Food[5] has no importance whatsoever. It is very simply ignored.

Attempts by global structures to make the right to food a human right

“The ‘United Nations’ is a term that appeared for the first time in 1941. It was tied to the combat against hunger. The World War was raging and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met on the battleship USS-Augusta in the Atlantic off Newfoundland. What came out of that meeting was the first major attempt to create a document declaring the basic freedoms of man, including Freedom from want and Freedom from fear.

“US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941, in an address known as the Four Freedoms speech proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:

1. Freedom of speech and expression
2. Freedom of worship
3. Freedom from want
4. Freedom from fear

“His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional US Constitutional values protected by its First Amendment, and endorsed a right to economic security and an internationalist view of foreign policy.”

From The Atlantic Charter which was an outcome of the meeting on the USS-Augusta, articles 4 and 6 state:

“Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;
. . .
“Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;” (Destruction massive, pp. 139–140)

Jean Ziegler talks about the origin of the world food programs, p. 201:

FAO [the Food and Agriculture Organization] and the World Food Programme (WFP) are the big and beautiful legacy of Josué de Castro.[6] These two institutions are threatened with ruin.

They were born, as we have seen, when the great awakening of consciousness took place in Europe that was emerging from the night of fascism: the FAO in 1945, the WFP in 1963.

The sad fate of those two organizations, however, is that they were both rendered fairly helpless when the current economic crisis took hold of the world. The mandate of the WFP is precisely to eliminate hunger and poverty in the world, but with a severely reduced budget, how were they going to reach their goal?

Jean Ziegler writes (p. 216):

“On October 22, 2008, the 17 heads of state and government from the euro zone countries gathered at the Palais de l’Elysée in Paris. At 6 o’clock, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy appeared on the front steps of the palace, in front of the press. They declared to the reporters: “We have to free 1,700 billion to remobilize the interbank lending and to raise the floor of auto-financing of the banks by 3 to 5%.” Before the end of the year 2008, subsidies from the countries in the euro zone for emergency food aid decreased by almost 50 %. The WFP budget was about $ 6 billion. It fell in 2009 to $ 3.2 billion.
. . .
“For 2011, WFP evaluates its minimal needs to $ 7 billion. Until early December 2010, they had received $ 2.7 billion. This loss in revenues has had dramatic consequences.”

Jean Ziegler goes on to say:

“For the United States and its mercenary organizations—the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank—the
right to food is an aberration. To them, there are no human rights except civil and political.

“Behind the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, the Washington government and its traditional allies, appear of course the huge private transcontinental companies. The increasing control these transcontinental corporations exert on vast sectors of food production and trade have of course significantly affected the exercise of the right to food.” (Destruction massive, p. 155)

Food for fuel

Another highly important factor in the increasingly catastrophic problem of hunger in the world is of course the use of food for fuel, which has been dealt with in some detail in the essay ‘Food for fuel, a sure way of creating a hunger crisis’ by Jean Ziegler and Siv O’Neall.

It is of course perfectly clear to anybody who thinks with his brain, that growing sugar cane, wheat, corn or other food crops in huge plantations for the use of making ethanol for energy, first of all takes land away from small farmers and, secondly, ruins useful food to put gasoline in SUVs that we don’t really need.

In addition to this obvious truth, there is the crucial fact that the making of ethanol uses up more energy than it produces. It also gives off an enormous amount of carbon dioxide in the process.

Explosive increase in food prices beginning in 2007

The stage is open to the real tiger sharks, the financial speculators. Without the slightest shade of a moral conscience, they speculate on the value of a harvest, on land value, on currencies. Is it going up or down? In either case, they win, since they always hedge their bets. The noxious ‘futures trading’ has opened up the commodity market to conscience-free sharks who care only for the fast buck. These men are not dealing in any real product. They don’t sell or buy grain or anything whatever. They just speculate in the fate of these commodities, land, currencies.

The prices of corn, rice and wheat are literally exploding because of market speculation on the basic commodities. This is the Market neoliberalism that was once made out to be the self-regulating force of the Free Market.

The governments can well see the abyss that is open in front of them, but they obediently bail out the banks when the gamblers cause a total breakdown and the banks go bankrupt.

Jean Ziegler writes (p. 78):

“The speculative madness of the predators of the globalized financial capital has cost Western industrial states in 2008–2009, $ 8,900 billion in all. Western states have in particular paid trillions of dollars to bail out delinquent bankers.”

Neoliberals claim that no regulations are needed, because the market is regulating itself. That way they are free to speculate, to trade indefinitely and, in many cases, without even paying capital gains taxes, without any insight or any rules. There are of course also the tax-free havens where speculators can gamble with their billions without the slightest insight or taxation.

The whole point is to the neoliberal sharks that the rich must get richer and the poor must be made powerless. The numbers of the poor have been increasing drastically ever since the beginning of neoliberalism in the eighties (exploratory beginnings in Latin America already in the seventies, with catastrophic results). Poor people are made to be so invisible, so voiceless that they can be totally disregarded. Which is precisely the goal of neoliberalism.


It is mind-blowing how the world can have come to a situation where it is being run by hungry sharks with no understanding of how the world economy can function in a rational way. The gamblers follow no rules whatsoever, except profit, and humanitarian considerations have no place in this casino.

What Jean Ziegler is doing in such an expert and passionate way in his latest book is denouncing the monstrosities of the world we live in, using his typical forceful style, with his trademark of genuine human empathy. He is explaining how we got to be where we are and what has to be done to remedy the gross negligence of human rights.

We can no more sit lethargically in our comfortable homes, watching the blatant propaganda that is fed to us through the Main-Stream Media, listening to the biased reports about the U.S. wars that are fought, so they tell us, in the name of freedom and democracy. The truth is that the wars are fought to make huge profits for the arms industries and all the big corporations. Take over lands and nations by war or by insidious so-called ‘aid’ that ensnares the nations in a net of debts that it is impossible to get out of.

After reading Jean Ziegler’s book, one is convinced that the time has come to act on what we know to be the truth. The West is corrupt to the gills and, if we the people are too lethargic, ignorant or frightened to do something NOW, then the pillars of the world will crumble. And that will be the end.


[1] ‘Destruction massive—Géopolitique de la faim’ published in October 2011 ; Éditions du Seuil ; Jean Ziegler, a former professor of sociology at the University of Geneva and the Sorbonne, Paris, is member of the UN Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee with an expertise on economic, social and cultural rights. For the period 2000–2008, Jean Ziegler was the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. In March 2008, Jean Ziegler was elected Member of the UN Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee. One year later, the Human Rights Council decided, by acclamation, to re-elect Jean Ziegler as a member of the Advisory Committee, a post he will now hold until 2012. In August 2009, the members of the Advisory Committee elected Jean Ziegler as Vice-President of the forum.

[2] NAFTA = North American Free Trade Agreement; CAFTA = Central America Free Trade Agreement; FTAA = Free Trade Area of the Americas

[3] A study by Oxfam (Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) which has become famous showed that wherever the IMF applied a structural adjustment plan during the decade 1990–2000, millions of more people were thrown into the abyss of hunger. Jean Ziegler: Destruction massive; p.179

[4] For the horribly disfiguring and ultimately deadly disease called noma see ‘NOMA—The Face of Poverty’, By Siv O’Neall and the UN report ‘The tragedy of Noma’ by Mr. Jean Ziegler, Vice-President of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.

[5] On December 10, 1948, the 64 members of the UN unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It recognises in Article 25 that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

[6] This Brazilian doctor and physiologist (1908—1973) to whom Jean Ziegler devotes two entire chapters in Destruction Massive, was an ardent fighter for the right to food, starting with his homeland in the Nordeste region of Brazil. When his book Geografia da fome (Geography of hunger) was published in 1946, de Castro already had a long career behind him. He became a world famous fighter for the right to food, and in particular he had studied the effects of undernourishment and child malnutrition. He fled from Brazil to Paris in 1964 because of the barbaric military dictatorship that ravaged Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Geografia da fome has been translated into 26 languages.

Translation of excerpts from Jean Ziegler’s latest book ‘Destruction massive—Géopolitique de la faim by Siv O’Neall

Siv O’Neall is an Axis of Logic columnist, based in France. Her insightful essays are republished and read worldwide. She can be reached at

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