Dead-Crops-Barren-DessertThe Great Famine of Ireland, in which mass potato crop failures resulted in more than 1 million men, women, and children dying of starvation, is now recognized by some as one of the first historical examples of the dangers of monoculture. But what few people realize about this grave time in Western history is that it is also one of the earliest examples of food being used as a weapon of ethnic cleansing and genocide. In his book The Famine Plot, Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan brings to light how the British monarchy essentially drove the Irish people of that time to their grim fate by engineering the food shortage that would eventually capture more than one in eight Irish lives. Based on the definitions outlined by the United Nations as to what genocide actually is, the way the Irish were treated by the Royal Crown during the mid-19th century serves as a clear example of genocide through food. According to Coogan’s account, the British government of the time purposely did nothing to help the Irish people when an unusual fungus began to wipe out much of the potato crop. With tensions high between the Protestant and Catholic elements of the two countries, England used the famine as an excuse to neglect and mistreat the Irish, claiming that they brought poverty on themselves by clinging to Catholicism. More