HIV/AIDS, Big Pharma, and Food

This broadcast attempts to tie together some of the most pressing global issues and observe just how interconnected our food choices are to the world around us, and just how significant of an impact our food choices can have on the shape and future of this planet and its inhabitants.

The connections between the global pharmaceutical industry and global food may not be so apparent, but the most startling example is the push to begin growing genetically modified crops to provide ingredients to the pharmaceutical industry. But as such technology is not yet approved for commercial use, we travel to Africa, where the connection between Big Pharma and Food exists today. In brief, the connections appear as such; pharmaceutical companies profit off of an industrial food system that in turn contributes to poverty and food shortages, which in turn contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS, and then, the pharmaceutical companies profit from the drugs they produce to treat the virus.

Helping to make the connections, Deconstructing Dinner uses audio productions from InterWorld Radio (IWR), a part of the UK-based Panos Institute, an international media organization which produces news, features and analysis about the most critical global issues of today.

Featured Audio

“Malawi: Toxic Hunger” – Around one million people in Malawi live with HIV and AIDS. Many people who fall ill find it hard to farm, and struggle to get enough to eat. Antiretroviral drugs which help boost the immune system can help people regain their strength. But taking such potentially toxic treatment without food can be dangerous. Research by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute argues food security is essential to break this vicious cycle. In Malawi, the charity Care International supports vulnerable households by running communal vegetable gardens. Hilary Mbobe visited Steria, who is living with HIV, in the village of Matapila. 01/02/2007 LINK to SHOW

“The Food On Your Plate” – More and more countries are producing food they don’t eat and eating food they don’t produce but is this a good thing? Do the big supermarkets have too much power? Is the organic movement and local production and consumption a sensible way forward? Many commentators favour relocalisation rather than globalisation. And does more choice just mean. 15/10/2003 LINK to SHOW

“Ghana: Foreign Flavours” – Rice and chicken is a signature dish in Ghana and there’s plenty of demand for the raw ingredients. But only if the price is right. Ghana’s farmers find they can’t compete with cheap cuts of meat from the European Union or subsidised rice from the US, and it’s fuelling hardship. Isaac Tetteh reports. 16/02/2006 LINK to SHOW

“Zambia: Buying Your Way Out of Hunger” – Each year wealthy nations donate more than five million tonnes of food aid to poorer countries. But some aid professionals think giving food should be a last resort. They say many people facing food shortages would be better off with cash or vouchers to spend in local shops. Researchers who looked into a scheme in Zambia’s western province in which aid workers gave out cash instead of food aid say the results are promising. Pamela Mnyantha reports. 01/02/2007 LINK to SHOW

“Zambia: GM Under the Microscope” – Genetic modification or GM is one of the most hotly contested technologies of today. Embraced in the US and shunned in Europe it affects the food we eat, our environment and the livelihoods of farmers. Genetic modification involves altering the genes of plants and animals in an attempt to produce crops more efficiently. But questions over its safety and whether it is in fact superior to other farming methods have divided consumers and scientists.Zambia was catapulted into the heart of the controversy three years ago when it famously refused American food aid during a famine because it contained GM maize. The government still maintains its ban today – not least, some say, because it wants to hold onto its European market. But farmers in Zambia are divided about the issue. IWR reporter Pamela Mnyantha found out what’s happening in Zambia now. 07/04/2005 LINK to SHOW

Musical Selection (name/title/album/label)
Theme/Soundclip – Adham Shaikh, Infusion, Fusion, Sonic Turtle (CDN)