Over the last decade (and especially during the last four years) wealthy nations have increasingly brokered deals for huge swathes of agricultural land at bargain prices in developing countries, installed industrial-scale farms, and exported the resulting bounty for profit. According to the anti-hunger group Oxfam International, more than 60 percent of these “land grabs” occur in regions with serious hunger problems. Two-thirds of the investors plan to ship all the commodities they produce out of the country to the global market. And droughts, spikes in food and oil prices, and a growing global population have only made the quest for arable land more urgent, and the investments that much more alluring.
In what a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) characterizes as a “new form of colonialism,” investors from the US, UK, and China are gobbling up foreign farmland at “alarming rates” and often with little consultation and compensation of poor small-scale farmers and local populations.
It’s not necessarily all doom and gloom. These industrial farms should be much more productive than the ones they’re pushing out, it should lower global food prices and may provide new revenue for the local governments. Who knows? Those governments might even spend it on improving infrastructure if they don’t just pocket it. But then the question is do these people even have access to global markets so they can benefit from lower food prices? And if they don’t now will that change in the future if the governments do begin to develop? And of course there’s all the disadvantages of industrial farming (environmental degradation and the growth of stronger viruses and bacteria).
The mortality rates from unintentional drug overdose (not including alcohol) have risen steadily since the early 1970s, and over the past ten years they have reached historic highs. Rates are currently 4 to 5 times higher than the rates during the “black tar” heroin epidemic in the mid-1970s and more than twice what they were during the peak years of crack cocaine in the early 1990s.
The rate shown for 2005 translates into 22,400 unintentional and intentional drug overdose deaths. To put this in context, just over 17,000 homicides occurred in 2005. The number of drug overdose deaths does not yet exceed the number of motor vehicle crash deaths overall, but for the first time more people in the 45-54 age group now die of drug overdoses than from traffic crashes.