[permaculture] A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Sun Oct 2 19:06:28 EDT 2016


http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/26/a-system-of-food-production-for-human-need-not-corporate-greed/
September 26, 2016

A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed

by Colin Todhunter

There has been an adverse trend in the food and agriculture sector in
recent times with the control of seeds and chemical inputs being
consolidated through various proposed mergers
<http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-14/bayer-monsanto-confront-global-review-as-farmer-options-shrink>.
If these mergers go through, it would mean that three companies
<http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/colin-todhunter/bayer-monsanto-monopoly_b_12025918.html>
would
dominate the commercial agricultural seeds and chemicals sector. Over the
past couple of decades, there has already been a restriction of choice with
the squeezing out of competitor
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto#Acquisition_history>s,
resulting in higher
costs <https://organic-center.org/reportfiles/SeedPrices2-Pager.pdf> for
farmers, who are increasingly reliant on corporate seeds (and their
chemical inputs
<http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/february2013/the-gmo-seed-cartel.php>
*)*.

Big agribusiness players like Monsanto rely on massive taxpayer
<http://216.187.12.9/films/NovDec07Pics/novdec07calendar.pdf> handouts to
keep their business models on track; highly profitable models that have
immense social, health and environmental costs
<http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture/hidden-costs-of-industrial.html#.V9qTwB597IV>
to
be paid for by the public. Across the globe healthy, sustainable agriculture
<http://www.countercurrents.org/todhunter251015.htm> has been uprooted and
transformed to suit the profit margins of transnational agribusiness
concerns. The major players in the global agribusiness sector fuel a
geo-politicised
<http://www.globalresearch.ca/somalia-the-real-causes-of-famine/25725>,
globalised system of food production that result in numerous negative
outcomes for both farmers and consumers alike (listed here
<http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/colin-todhunter/bayer-monsanto-monopoly_b_12025918.html>:
4th paragraph from the end).

Aside from the domination of the market being a cause for concern, we
should also be worried about a food system controlled by companies that
have a history (see this
<http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-complete-history-of-monsanto-the-worlds-most-evil-corporation/5387964>
 and this
<https://corporatewatch.org/company-profiles/bayer-ag-corporate-crimes>) of
releasing health-damaging, environmentally polluting products onto the
market and engaging in activities that might be considered as
constituting crimes
against humanity <http://www.monsanto-tribunal.org/>. If we continue to
hand over the control of society’s most important infrastructure – food and
agriculture – to these wealthy private interests, what will the future look
like?

There is no need to engage in idle speculation. Foods based on CRISPR
<http://www.gmwatch.org/news/archive/2014/15546-genome-editing-gm-by-another-name>
(a
gene-editing technology for which Monsanto has just acquired
<http://gizmodo.com/monsanto-just-got-access-to-the-world-s-most-powerful-g-1786998287>
a
non-exclusive global licensing agreement for use) and synthetic biology
<http://www.synbiowatch.org/> are already entering the market without
regulation or proper health or environmental assessments. And we can expect
many more unregulated
<http://www.gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/16898-here-come-the-unregulated-gmos>
 GM technologies
<http://www.semencespaysannes.org/legal_status_of_products_derived_from_new_tec_12-actu_281.php>
to
influence the nature of our food and flood the commercial market.

Despite nice sounding rhetoric by company spokespersons about the
humanitarian motives behind these endeavours, the bottom line is patents
and profit. And despite nice sounding rhetoric about the precision of the
techniques involved, these technologies pose health and environmental risks
<http://www.independentsciencenews.org/science-media/gods-red-pencil-crispr-and-the-three-myths-of-precise-genome-editing/>.
Moreover, CRIPRS technology could be used to create genes drives and
terminator seed traits tools could be used for unscrupulous
<http://it%20also%20describes%20how%20through%20criprs%20genes%20drives%20and%20terminator%20seed%20technology%20tools%20could%20be%20used%20for%20unscrupulous%20political%20and%20commercial%20ends./>
political
and commercial ends.

There could well be severe social and economic consequences too. The
impacts of synthetic biology (another sector dominated by a handful of
private interests) on farmers in the Global South could result in a
bio-economy of landlessness and hunger. Readers are urged to read this
report
<https://www.cbd.int/doc/emerging-issues/emergingissues-2013-07-ETCGroup%282%29-en.pdf>
which
outlines the effects on farming, farmers and rural economies: synthetic
biology has the potential to undermine livelihoods and would mean a shift
to narrower range of export-oriented mono-cropping to produce biomass for
synbio processes that place stress on water resources and food security in
the exporting countries.

Aside from these social, health and environmental implications, can we
trust private entities like Monsanto (or Bayer) to use these powerful
(potentially bio-weapon) technologies responsibly? Given Monsanto’s long
history of cover-ups and duplicity, trust took the last train out a long
time ago. Moreover, the legalities of existing frameworks appear to mean
little to certain companies: see here what Vandana Shiva says about
the illegality
of Monsanto’s enterprise <http://vandanashiva.com/?p=260> in India.
National laws that exist to protect the public interest are little more
than mere hurdles to be got around by lobbyists, lawyers and political
pressure. So what can be done?

Agroecology is a force for grass-root rural change that would be
independent from the cartel of powerful biotech/agribusiness companies.
This model of agriculture is already providing real solutions
<http://www.theecologist.org/essays/2987346/resisting_the_corporate_stranglehold_on_food_and_farming_is_agroecology_enough.html>
for
sustainable, productive agriculture that prioritises the needs of farmers
and consumers. It represents an alternative to corporate-controlled
agriculture.

However, as much as people and communities strive to become independent
from unscrupulous corporate concerns and as much as localised food systems
try to extricate themselves from the impacts of rigged global trade and
markets <http://www.worldhunger.org/holt-gimenez/>, there also has to be a
concerted effort to roll back corporate power and challenge what it is
doing to our food. These corporations will not just go away because people
eat organic or choose agroecology.

The extremely wealthy interests behind these corporations do their level
best to displace or dismantle alternative models of production – whether
agroecology, organic, public sector agriculture systems or anything that
exists independently from them – and replace them with ones that serve
their needs. Look no further than attempts attempts to undermine indigenous
edible oils processing
<http://seedfreedom.info/satyagraha-for-gandhis-ghani/> in India, for
instance. Look no further than the ‘mustard seed crisis
<http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/monsanto_and_the_mustard_seed/>‘
in India in 1998. Or look no further than how transnational biotech helped
fuel and then benefit from the destruction of Ethiopia’s traditional
agrarian economy
<http://www.globalresearch.ca/sowing-the-seeds-of-famine-in-ethiopia/366>.

Whether it’s on the back of US-backed coups (Ukraine
<http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/01/opinion-the-corporate-takeover-of-ukrainian-agriculture/>),
military conflicts (Iraq
<http://www.mintpressnews.com/iraq-war-monsanto-cargill-dow-chemical-took-iraqi-agriculture/216614/>),
‘structural adjustment’ (Africa <https://www.tni.org/en/archives/act/19867>)
or slanted trade deals (India
<http://projectcensored.org/8-kia-the-us-neoliberal-invasion-of-india/>),
transnational agribusiness is driving a global agenda to suit its interests
and eradicate impediments to profit.

To underline this point, let’s turn to what Michel Chossudovsky says in his
1997 book ‘The Globalization of Poverty’. He argues that economies are:

“opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive
system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or
obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are
privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are
impoverished.” (p.16)

Increasing profit and shareholder dividends are the bottom line. And it
doesn’t matter how much devastation ensues or how unsustainable their
business model is, ‘crisis management’ and ‘innovation’ fuel the
corporate-controlled
treadmill
<http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsantos-hand-of-god-planned-obsolescence-of-the-indian-farmer/5476589>
they
seek to impose.

As long as the domination of the food system by powerful private interests
is regarded as legitimate and as long as their hijack of governments, trade
bodies and trade deals, regulatory agencies and universities is deemed
normal or is unchallenged in the sham ‘liberal democracies’ they operate
within, we are destined for a future of more contaminated food, ill health,
degraded environments and an agriculture displaced and uprooted for the
benefit of self-interest.

The problems associated with the food system cannot be dealt with on a
single-issue basis: it is not just about the labelling of GM foods; it’s
not just about the impacts of Monsanto’s Roundup; it’s not just about
Monsanto (or Bayer) as a company; and it’s not just about engaging in
endless debates with corporate shills about the science of GMOs.

Despite the promise of the Green Revolution, hundreds of millions
<http://www.stophungernow.org/learn/hunger-facts/> still go to bed hungry,
food has become denutrified
<http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/07/20/farm-subsidies-drive-health-problems.aspx>,
functioning rural economies have been destroyed
<http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/08/editorials/bello_afag.htm>,
diseases have spiked
<http://naturalsociety.com/34000-pesticides-and-600-chemicals-later-our-food-supply-is-no-better-for-it/>
in
correlation with the increase in use of pesticides and GMOs, soil has
been eroded
or degraded
<http://rinf.com/alt-news/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/THE-CRISIS-IN-INDIAN-AGRICULTURE-AND-HOW-THE-MINING-INDUSTRY-COULD-HELP-SOLVE-THE-PROBLEM.pdf>,
diets are less diverse
<http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2014/10/14/gates-agriculture-farming-revolution-africa/29493>,
global food security has been undermined
<https://www.grain.org/article/entries/4929-hungry-for-land-small-farmers-feed-the-world-with-less-than-a-quarter-of-all-farmland>
and
access to food is determined by
<http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/food-speculation> manipulated
international markets and speculation – not supply and demand.

Food and agriculture have become wedded to power structures that have
created food surplus and food deficit areas and have restructured
indigenous agriculture across the world and tied it to an international
system of trade based on export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity
production for a manipulated and volatile international market and
indebtedness to international financial institutions.

The problem is the system of international capitalism that is driving a
globalised system of bad food and poor health
<http://www.theecologist.org/essays/2987501/india_obesity_malnutrition_and_the_globalisation_of_bad_food.html>,
the destruction <http://fpif.org/destroying_african_agriculture/> of
healthy, sustainable agriculture and systemic, half-baked attack on both
groups
<http://www.ecowatch.com/greenpeace-to-nobel-laureates-its-not-our-fault-golden-rice-has-failed-1896697050.html>
 and individuals <http://vandanashiva.com/?p=105> who oppose these
processes.

At the very least, there should be full public control over all
GMO/synthetic biology production and research. And if we are serious about
reining in the power of profiteering corporations over food – our most
basic and essential infrastructure – they should be placed under democratic
ownership and control.

In finishing, let us turn to Ghiselle Karim who at the end of her insightful
article <http://www.marxist.com/gmo-human-need-corporate-greed.htm> says:

“… we demand that it is our basic human right to protect our food supply… [
*food*] would be planned to meet human need, not corporate greed.  We have
hunger not because there is not enough food, but rather because it is not
distributed equally. The core of the problem is not a shortage of food, but
capitalism!”
Join the debate on Facebook
<https://www.facebook.com/CounterPunch-official-172470146144666/>

*Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former
social policy researcher based in the UK and India.*


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