All Famines Are Political


great famineThe history of the Great Leap Forward,” one of my teaching colleagues used to begin a lecture, “is the history of Chinese accountancy.” The lack of excitement on his students’ faces was palpable, but his less than enticing opening does sum up this bizarre and desolate period in modern Chinese history. For with its tales of exaggerated grain production and ever-more fanciful industrial targets, the Leap was indeed a demonstration of how dubious statistics and lack of transparency could culminate in the deaths of millions.

What Yang found is worth knowing. One of the most devastated provinces was Henan, in central China. Henan had known famine before; the province was at the center of the horrific hunger that struck during the second world war in 1942-43, killing some 3 to 4 million people. The policies of the Great Leap led to a new desolation in the province. Reports uncovered by Yang make evident a cycle of starvation and violence: a file from 1959 tells of one farmer who was “harshly beaten” because a small piece of beef was found in his home; he died six days later. A woman who was found cooking grain was “subjected to group struggle” for stealing; bound up and soaked in cold water, she too died shortly afterwards. Henan lost at least 10 million to the Leap.

For a while, it was possible to think that the leadership had not understood the full level of the catastrophe in the countryside. The shattering of such illusions came at the Lushan conference of 1959. Peng Dehuai, one of the great marshals of the Chinese civil war against the nationalists, was a strong supporter of the Leap. But the discovery that people from his own home area were starving to death prompted him to write to Mao to ask for the policies to be adapted. Mao was furious, reading the letter out in public and demanding that his colleagues in the leadership line up either behind him or Peng. Almost to a man, they supported Mao.

Americans are malnourishing themselves to a slow painful death. 


“the Leap was indeed a demonstration of how dubious statistics and lack of transparency could culminate in the deaths of millions.” Ironically, good guy Trust Buster Teddy Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Agricultural-Industrial Complex requiring all milk be pasteurized.

After World War Two Monsanto began the chemicalization of American farming first in 1945 by manufacturing toxic agricultural chemicals like 2,4-D, later used in Agent Orange. In 1976 Monsanto introduces Roundup, a synthetic chemical herbicide whose overuse soon creates glyphosate-resistant super weeds. Around 1996 Monsanto introduces Roundup Ready soybeans, the company’s first genetically engineered, pesticide-promoting seed, and the first GE insect-resistant cotton, which produces its own insecticide.


Monsanto is the Standard Oil monopoly of US agriculture through their proprietary GMO seeds. Over 80% of America’s wheat, soy and corn crop is genetically engineered to survive carpet bombing doses of glyphosate aerial spraying.

How Malnutrition Causes Obesity

Americans are overfed and undernourished. That’s right, the most obese children and adults in the country are also the most nutritionally deficient!

How can those two things possibly co-exist?

The mistake is to think that if you eat an abundance of calories, your diet automatically delivers all the nutrients your body needs. But the opposite is true. The more processed food you eat; the more vitamins you need. That’s because vitamins and minerals lubricate the wheels of our metabolism, helping the chemical reactions in our bodies run properly. Among those biochemical processes greased by nutrients is the regulation of sugar and burning of fat. The problem is that the standard American diet (SAD) is energy dense (too many calories) but nutrient poor (not enough vitamins and minerals). Too many “empty calories” confuse the metabolism and pack on the pounds.

Malnutrition Michelle

Michelle Obama dances with an eggplant to promote her school lunch program.

About 85% of Americans do not consume the US Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily intakes of the most important vitamins and minerals necessary for proper physical and mental development.

More than half of American children do not get enough of vitamins D and E, while more than a quarter do not get enough calcium, magnesium or vitamin A, according to a recent Journal of Nutrition study. This can result in a compromised immune system, stunted physical growth, reduced mental ability, chronic disease and even death.

So, what happened? Why are we so undernourished?


Food is less nutritious. Processed foods, stuffed with high fructose corn syrup, refined flours and trans fats-are a modern phenomenon. These foods crowd out more nutrient-dense foods because they are inexpensive and convenient. Your grandmother wouldn’t recognize most of the foods filling the center aisles of our grocery stores today. Imagine what early humans would think of Lunchables! Our species evolved eating foods that contained dramatically higher levels of all vitamins, minerals, and essential fats (4). Wild game is leaner and healthier than animals raised in factory farms. Plus, the meats and fish eaten by hunter-gatherers were almost always fresh. Most store bought meat today are laced with chemicals, such as nitrates, used to process and preserve.

The Great American Malnourishment Famine is a result of industrialized agricultural: enabled, encouraged, perpetuated and protected by the USDA, EPA, FDA, BLM and farm subsidies.

  • Regulations: Forced pasteurization of dairy made milk a non-digestible commodity thereby driving 30 cow family dairies out of business, to be replaced with 15,000 head factory farms.
  • Not Enforcing Regulations: Monsanto has been committing crimes against humanity since 1902 e.g. aspartame, Roundup, GMO terminator seeds. Much as Agent Orange defoliated Vietnam the application of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides have degraded 75% of the carbon content US topsoil. The science is there, the US Department of Agriculture observes the desertification of America’s heartland and does nothing. The US Food and Drug Administration is well aware of the food safety threat but does nothing. The Environmental Protection Agency could declare all non-organic crop producing farms Super-Fund cleanup sites. The EPA tries to stop chemical run-off from polluting our streams, rivers, lakes, the Gulf, the ocean but is stymied by our agricultural Corporatocracy.

ag subsidies

  • Ag Subsidies: Adam Smith said governments should not distort free market capitalism with tariffs and subsidies. The Federal Government spends 30 billion a year on direct cash payments based on the size of the farm which translates to 10% of the farmers get 90% of the loot. As Bernie says, “socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. Our country neighbors grew rice, cotton, soy and corn. When the ethanol subsidy arrived in 2005 our neighbors threw the rice, cotton and soy out of the barn. They planted corn on every piece of dirt they owned and corn went from $2/ bushel to $10.


Feeling the Bern.