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Oxfam Canada calls for coordinated international action against world hunger

October 14, 2011

'World Food Day message to Canadian and other G20 governments'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper should join Canadians pressing for strong coordinated international action against world hunger, Oxfam Canada said Friday.

“This World Food Day, people across the country are holding events to confront the reality that nearly a billion people don't have enough to eat,” said Oxfam Canada executive director Robert Fox. “The government can take their message to the G20.”

Oxfam Canada urged the government to support strong action at the G20 meeting next month to stabilize global food prices, including endorsing proposals to expand emergency food reserves, limit speculation in food commodities and phase out incentives to use food crops for fuel.

The federal government should voice Canada's support for innovative ways to raise revenue to help the vulnerable, including taxes on financial transactions and on international shipping.

Hosting community potlucks, home-grown vegetable feasts and a banquet of beans and rice are among the ways Canadians are participating in Oxfam's Oct. 15-22nd GROW week, including World Food Day on Sunday, Oct. 16th. People in more than 40 countries are participating.

“There is tremendous potential among small-scale farmers, most of whom are women, to close the hunger gap,” said Fox. “But we need to reform the world's food system to ensure they have the land and tools they need and to ensure they are protected from unfair markets and the impacts of climate change.”

 Oxfam Canada calls on the federal government to:

  • Support the G20 proposal for emergency food reserves to speed up response to food shortages, and encourage countries to use food reserves to stabilize prices
  • Champion G20 efforts to tighten regulation of financial derivatives based on food commodities, in order to keep speculation from driving up food prices
  • Take leadership within the G20 to remove financial and tax incentives to use food for fuel, and suspending minimum biofuel content rules when food prices are high
  • Back Bill Gates's recommendation for new levies on financial transactions and international shipping to raise the revenue urgently needed to help the vulnerable

The G20, a group of 20 nations with industrialized and emerging economies, account for 70 per cent of global agricultural land and 80 per cent of global food trade.

At the G20 meeting in Cannes, France Nov. 3-4, leaders will discuss urgent measures to stabilize food prices and enhance the world’s ability to help the vulnerable when food crises hit. G20 finance ministers are meeting in Paris today and Saturday.


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For more information, interviews or information
about GROW events in your community, please contact:

Media Relations
Juliet O’Neill


Note to editors on GROW week

Many of the GROW week events are hosted by people who signed up for Oxfam Canada's World Food Challenge. The challenge is to host or attend a meal using local, organic and/or fair trade ingredients. Big or small, brunch or supper, the key to the challenge is to get people talking about where their food comes from, who cultivates it, and how the global food system can be made fairer and more sustainable.  Among the issues at stake are smallholder agriculture, large-scale land acquisitions, climate change and food price volatility.

A few examples:

  • The University of Saskatchewan Oxfam campus club is hosting a 'hunger banquet' and silent auction with all proceeds donated to Oxfam Canada's work in East Africa, where drought, conflict and rising food prices have driven tens of thousands of families from their homes to emergency camps.
  • In New Germany, N.S., organic farmers Shannon Jones and Bryan Dyck are having dinner with other vendors from the local farmers' market and a gluten-free baker. “An especially important food issue to us is to encourage the idea that farming (especially small-scale, ecological farming) can be a viable and rewarding career choice and that we, as consumers, need to value our food as the important input for our lives that it is,” says Jones.
  • In Ottawa, Courtney-Ann Craft and fellow servers at Oz Kafe are participating by donating their tips on World Food Day to Oxfam, where she serves as volunteer after graduating from the Human Rights program at Carleton University. “I am passionate about all issues in the promotion of a world without poverty, and a healthy planet,” Craft said. She predicts GROW week “will be a time of collective inspiration.”


Background on G20 Issues:

Food reserves:
Community and national food reserves can help stabilize prices by buying at above-market rates at harvest time and selling below-market during the “hunger season”. The G20 is discussing whether to endorse wider use of reserves, as well as a specific proposal to set up emergency food stocks to speed up response to food shortages.

Regulation of financial derivatives:
Excessive speculation in "derivatives" based on food commodities can accentuate food price spikes. Since 2008, the amount of money invested in such “commodity funds” has mushroomed into the trillions. The G20 is considering ways to ensure regulation of financial derivatives, initiated by the US and the EU, will relieve pressure on food prices.

Phasing out incentives to use food for fuel:
Requirements for minimum ethanol content in gasoline divert massive amounts of corn from the world market, contributing to price increases while doing little for the climate. Canada burns four billion kilos of corn as ethanol annually, enough to feed 3.3 million families for a year. The G20 has so far rejected a proposal to suspend such minimum content rules when food prices are high.

A new tax on financial transactions:
Economists from around the world have endorsed a proposal for putting a small levy (0.05%) on transactions by large financial institutions to discourage  excessive  trading on major markets and to provide a new source of revenue to fight poverty and help communities adapt to climate change. In a new report on innovative financing for the G20, Bill Gates endorses a tax on financial transactions.

A new tax on international shipping:
International shipping is a major source of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. A fuel levy would give industry an incentive to reduce emissions, while at the same time raising new revenue to help poor communities adapt to climate change and enhance their resilience to shocks. In a new report on innovative financing for the G20, Bill Gates endorses a tax on international shipping.


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