March 9, 2014

Agroecology and Food Sovereignty Are the Future, GMOs and Corporate Agriculture Are the Past


Over a hundred Indian farmer unions combined to issue a Charter of Demands upon all political parties as the country enters its Lok Sabha (national parliamentary) elections. The demands include a basic guaranteed income for farmers and a moratorium on GMO field trials. Such modest and rational measures would be a minimum for any sane society which intends to eat in the future.
The farmers emphasize how economically untenable their position is, and how this has resulted in history’s most prodigious and sustained suicide wave – over 300,000 to date, with another suicide every 30 minutes – and one of history’s most massive forced refugee migrations, as over 2300 farmers are forced off the land every day.
These overwhelming movements of tragedy are caused directly by globalized commodity agriculture, which renders smallholder farming economically impossible in globalized country economies where no socioeconomic protections or safety net for farmers exist. This was already a crisis prior to GMOs, and the advent of GMOs, in every way a doubling down on all the most pernicious aspects of corporate industrial agriculture, has made it much worse.
This record of agricultural globalization and corporatization is clear and unbroken across Latin America and Asia, and to a lesser extent North America and Europe. By now there can be no doubt about the effect of globalization in agriculture: It drives massive numbers of people off the land and into concentration camps called “shantytowns”, from which there’s no escape for the mass; and it accelerates landgrabbing, the concentration of land and resources in the hands of a tiny number of corporations and other 1% entities.
By now this record is clear enough that anyone who still supports any form of agricultural globalization, for example the looming “New Alliance” plan for a “Second Green Revolution in Africa”, is willfully planning the economic and physical destruction of many millions of African smallholder farmers. Just as anyone who supports globalization in India is by now a willful supporter of the ongoing mass expropriation and what has to be called a genocide there. What else can you call a campaign of economic aggression which has forced hundreds of thousands to suicide? If a gangster hounds a debtor to suicide, it’s really a murder. If a gangster syndicate hounds 300,000, it’s a genocidal campaign committing crimes against humanity.
The alternative is clear. Organizations like Campesino a Campesino and the Asian Farmer Field Schools already exist to propagate the most cutting edge agroecological knowledge and techniques to smallholder farmers. Of course this modern knowledge is really a refinement of and supplement to the age old techniques. But unlike fraudulent technologies like GMOs, these conceptual refinements and enhancements which require little in the way of expensive inputs really do produce great gains in yield and nutritional quality.
Helped by this knowledge, which Southern farmers can largely propagate among themselves with little help from the West (and this help too being primarily in the form of non-proprietary knowledge; and of course we in the West have at least as much to learn from the innovators of the South), Southern farmers can provide for themselves and their communities. Southern communities can attain prosperity and security through their own efforts, if the neoliberal corporate West would only leave them alone.
Meanwhile the appalling poverty of large parts of the South is primarily the result of the depredations of corporate imperialism, AKA globalization.
So the road to a human future is clear enough. Support and join the efforts of Indian farmer unions like these, and the efforts of the hundreds of farmer and citizen groups who have combined to form the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, and the efforts of the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil and elsewhere across Latin America, and the efforts of La Via Campesina, the Peasant Way, and the efforts of those of us in the West who are trying to build such movements here.
If humanity is to have a future, this great movement must succeed. We must defend ourselves as farmers and citizens, we must preserve our ability to democratically produce and distribute the true crops and real food, and we must build this effort as a movement to ensure the future of humanity.



  1. Morning, Russ. Remember (sometimes irrascible) me? My flat out apologies for opening my mouth before I’d walked a mile in your shoes. Now that I understand a lot better having invested several months with your posts [instead of spouting off after a one-off read 😦 ] and checking out the hot buttons at the end of this latest I’d bring to your attention FYI a very plain, modest website effort I’ve been cobbling together to contribute to the Local Food RULES effrort here in Maine, http://www.localfoodRULES.org.

    It’s still very much in the building stage, but I’ve gone public with it locally in the past few days to help in the effort to get the ordinance on the Town Meeting agenda here in Brooklin, Maine, and hopefully pass it April 5. The public hearing on our successful petition to get on the warrant is tomorrow. the sponoring team is two Republican voting libertarians, a progressive, and a Democrat. That broad spectrum of our roots has measurably enhanced our energy and conviction.

    Hendrik Gideonse

    Comment by Hendrik Gideonse — March 9, 2014 @ 7:37 am

    • Good site, Hendrik. I added it to my blogroll.

      When we got our backyard chicken reform town ordinance passed last year, two libertarian-type Republicans joined a liberal Dem plus a more conventional-seeming Rep, to outvote two conventional Reps.

      Let us know how your vote goes, and anything else of interest about the struggle.

      Comment by Russ — March 9, 2014 @ 10:50 am

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