Volatility

August 4, 2015

There Is No Science of Big Agriculture

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There is no valid science underlying Big Agriculture’s practices, just empiricism. While propped up by cheap, plentiful fossil fuels and aquifer water, along with massive government subsidies, Big Ag has been successful at concentrating power and wealth, maximizing poison usage for profit and for poison’s own sake, building a modern commodified agricultural input sector (aka agribusiness), and attaining three desirable (from the corporate point of view) socioeconomic outcomes: dispossessing and disenfranchising vast numbers of people by driving them off the land, rendering this mass available as inexpensive industrial labor, providing cheap calories for this proletariat.
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Although the second is no longer a goal, the first and third (nowadays as cheap calories for cheap consumerism) continue in full force.
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Therefore the empiricism has been successful, but the science is 100% against the basic ideas and practices.
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1. Industrial agriculture is based on a completely false and anti-scientific view of nature. It comprehends nature as a machine with discrete, interchangeable, mass-producible parts. This comes from 19th century agricultural dogma which decreed that all plant growth and health is based on three nutrients: Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K). The dogma holds that only these three important nutrients are necessary and sufficient for plant growth. This led to what organic agriculture pioneer Albert Howard called “the NPK mentality”, which would reduce all natural processes to simple manipulations of a few variables, preferably supplied synthetically and from off the farm. Once you’ve simplified everything that way, and done so in a way which recognizes only a few readily industrialized factors as meaningful, your path is open to organize everything according to the rhythms of industrialization, mechanization, corporate organization, and power and wealth accumulation.
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The NPK mentality was the perfect ideology to complement the rising industrialization of agriculture and its increasing control by big corporations and governments. Who cares that food production and distribution was always naturally locally and regionally based? Since agriculture is nothing but the measured application of three nutrients and some water, it’s best to put it under the control of centralized power hierarchies who can deliver these few inputs most prodigiously and efficiently.
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We find the same crackpot view of nature in Big Ag’s concept of the soil. The NPK ideology considers the soil to be an inert medium, there just to hold the roots in place. This is completely false. On the contrary, the soil comprises a rich ecosystem of microbes, annelids (like earthworms), and other organisms. These engage in an incredibly complex interaction among themselves and with a vast array of soil nutrients, far beyond the big three of industrial dogma, to create the organic basis of plant growth. Plants depend upon this soil ecology for their nutrition, for water (an organically healthy soil retains moisture far better than the sterile soils of monoculture), for the physical integrity of their roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits. Plant health starts from soil health (and of course seed health), and plant resistance to pests and disease depends upon the basic health of the plant and the soil.
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To sum up:
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Ideologically, NPK is the specifically agricultural version of scientific mechanism/reductionism, whose entire record proves its great limitations for real-world explanation and prescription, as well its psychopathy: It started with the dogma that animals are mere machines which feel no pain. From day one this was intended to justify cruelty to people as well as animals.
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Factually, NPK has long since been debunked as junk science. Plants require a far greater array of nutrients than the big three of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. And far from being an inert medium, soil is a critical ecosystem, both for agriculture and for the environment in general.
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Another reductive notion related to the NPK ideology is a distorted version of germ theory which claims that a germ comes along and “causes” a disease. This too is crackpot science. Organic terrain theory has proven the opposite. In most cases, for there to be a significant incidence of a disease, the pathogen must first find the right habitat (the “terrain”) where it can thrive, and then it must find an already weak target. This is the usual scenario where an epidemic breaks out. In agriculture, pest or disease outbreaks are usually from a combination of three factors: A degraded habitat provides the right terrain for a pathogen to proliferate, and unhealthy crops provide a good target for this pathogen. Of course to acknowledge the real science here would deprive industrial agriculture of another pillar of its fraudulent ideology and “science”.
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2. The Poisoner ideology exalts poison for its own sake and sees it as the only way to deal with agricultural pests or any other problem with living things. For corporate and industrial agriculture ideologues, this appetite for poison has calcified into a mental constriction unable even to think in a broader, let alone new, way. Then there’s the veritably religious cult of poison worship among scienticians and the militarist technology and mindset brought to agriculture. The same engineers who worked on poison gas weapons, insecticides and herbicides for the military now brought the technology, the mindset, the terminology to civilian life. It’s not much of a stretch since with poison-based agriculture the practitioners focus not on growing crops by balancing an ecosystem, but on growing them by killing an enemy. Big Ag ideology is a propaganda-driven extension of the history of poison-based agriculture as war technology refurbished for civilian use.
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Genetic engineering and the poisoner ideology are especially narrow, myopic, fraudulent, and destructive manifestations of the reductionist mechanist ideology. These will get their own separate posts.
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A typical example I’ll briefly discuss here is the growing evidence that pesticide synergy, especially the combined effect of the “active ingredient” with so-called “inert ingredients” such as surfactants and adjuvants, is far more toxic than the action of the so-called active ingredient by itself. But one of the standard methodological and regulatory frauds of the corporate science paradigm is to test and regulate only the ivory tower version of the poison which is never deployed in real life, while the far more toxic real-world commercial formulations are never tested by the establishment or regulated. That’s why the system invented the propaganda categories “active ingredient” and “inert ingredient”. These terms have no scientific meaning and do not mean the “inert” ingredients are non-toxic or even less toxic than the “active” component. On the contrary, the whole purpose of the inert ingredients is to render the active ingredient more toxic, and many such as POEA in Roundup are highly toxic in their own right.
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This dogma, that it’s meaningful to study an isolated ingredient and declare this to be sufficient for the combined product which will be deployed in reality, is a typical anti-scientific feature of corporate so-called “science”. The same dynamic applies to the combined effects of many poisons (i.e. multiple “active” ingredients at work); regulators never set upper limits to the combined poisons to be inflicted upon food or water, only each poison by itself. Same for the combined effects of “stacked” multiple-transgene GMOs, and any other synergy. It’s corporate science dogma that a stack or any other combination equals exactly the sum of its parts, nothing more and nothing less. Big Ag corporate science imposes its flat earth dogma across the board. Each individual part is to be considered only by itself and never in conjunction with any other part, no matter how promiscuously these parts are combined in real life.
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3. Big Ag “science” fetishizes industrial monoculture cropping as a kind of orderly, rational system. But much like with fascist mass rallies, in spite of the surface regimentation and “orderliness” monoculture does not mean law and order. On the contrary it means intellectual and agronomic/environmental chaos. Superficially orderly, monoculture is feverish with latent chaos. It’s really a great disorder, the ultimate form of decadence. Monoculture farming wipes out functional, balanced ecosystems and replaces them with a void which then is filled by vermin and disease, which then can only be fought off with an ever-escalating onslaught of poisons. Agriculture can never be removed from ecology. It can exist only as part of an ecological balance, or else it can eradicate this balance and open the void to be filled by pathogens and pests. This is true for all of industrial agriculture. Factory farms comprise the most extreme embodiment, but a monocrop field is the same incubator of biological and environmental pathology. It’s the same on the socioeconomic level, as corporate industrial agriculture wipes out human communities and generates, on one side shantytowns and on the other a small class of super-rich psychopaths and parasites with their pathological support structure. So socially as well monoculture destroys human balance and breeds pathology.
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Contrary to the junk science of Big Ag ideology, real science proves that where it comes to both insects and weeds, greater biodiversity and diversity of organic practice = fewer and more tractable pests. Few gambits in the history of science and technology have so quickly been so thoroughly disproven in principle and practice as have been the two GMO genres, insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. What keeps them in the field is nothing but brute economic and political force and a psychotic religion of poison. But the science has spoken as definitively on this as it ever has on anything – the concept is wrong, the practice doomed.
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Big Ag science’s denial of the evolution of insects and weeds in the face of poison pressure is of course a manifestation of evolution denial as such. We see how readily the ideology disposes of one of the iconic concepts of modern science the moment this concept becomes inconvenient for the corporate propaganda line. Lots more to come on corporate science’s evolution denialism in the GE “science” post.
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Meanwhile the canned lie that GMO cultivation can help sequester carbon through chemical no-till, also more euphemistically called “conservation tillage”, is being completely debunked as the spread of Roundup-resistant weeds increasingly requires the most aggressive tillage to give farmers any hope of keeping their fields partially clear.
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The concept of chemical no-till as carbon sequestration tactic was bogus in principle, since the slathering of Roundup destroys the soil ecosystem which incorporates carbon as humus in the first place. The very term “sequestration” demonstrates the fundamental error of the approach: Nature doesn’t “sequester” anything, but actively incorporates it into a dynamic system. Poison-based agriculture, of which the Roundup Ready system is the ultimate example, automatically destroys the soil ecosystem and leaves sterile dirt which would be incapable of incorporating carbon. That’s why irrigation water has to be fortified with chemical additives to bind it to dirt molecules. That’s the only way to keep the water from running off the site immediately, eroding all the dirt with it. Sure enough, studies found that chemical no-till could at best “sequester” a small amount of carbon in the immediate topsoil where the biomass from the previous crop degrades, but does nothing to build organic matter deeper into the dirt, turning it into real soil. The whole concept of chemical no-till is incorrect. That’s to be expected, as it’s an extension of the absolutely erroneous NPK ideology, which is the source of all the agronomic and ecological pathologies in the first place.
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So monoculture generates, in the short run the void to be filled by pathogens and poison, in the longer run chaos and destruction. It’s the agricultural manifestation of the lawlessness and chaos of corporate rule in general. “The policeman is there to preserve disorder.”
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4. Productionism is the crackpot obsession with “yield” as such, with no concern for how efficiently the calories yielded are used. Only a lunatic would look at how CAFO meat production takes 10 calories of grain* and turns it into for 1 calorie of food for people and call this efficient, rational, or sane. Grain-for-CAFO feed is second only to the GMO regime as an example of how the Big Ag system is set up through government policy and subsidies to promote production for profitable commodification, while food means absolutely nothing in itself**. The agrofuel rathole, as well as the fact that the system wastes up to one third of the food produced, also demonstrate how the yield-based system is not concerned with producing food at all or whether human beings have access to what food is produced. Nothing but profit and power matter, while food is expected to trickle down as an afterthought.
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Here the establishment science directly prostitutes itself by parroting the productionist lies in general (that producing mass calories of field crops has anything to do with food for human beings), as well as through such de jure direct lies as that acre for acre industrial agriculture produces more food than decentralized polyculture agroecology, or that GMOs out-produce either organic production or non-GM conventional. Here the alleged “science” doesn’t even have a false theory, but simply tells direct political lies.
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Each of these concepts/practices is 100% dependent upon cheap fossil fuels, cheap fossil water, cheaply mined phosphorus.
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Each is unsustainable in its own right even given infinite energy.
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Scientism/technocracy ideology exalts sterility, hermetic artificiality, total control, and extreme monocultural conformity as normative, desirable, and as the way nature and scientific truth realistically work. This is the basis of the reductive, mechanist ideology of science which has prevailed since Descartes. But all this is nothing but religious fantasy and falsehood.
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I stress that the whole notion that science is the study of things which can be removed from the general context and studied in hermetic isolation is precisely among the propositions we deny. On the contrary, we insist that science can provide meaningful and worthwhile results only when it’s practiced with an eye to the entire dynamic framework. So it’s in the nature of things that our discussion of science from here on will frequently shift to its interactions with other disciplines and areas of life. While scientific experimentation often artificially isolates certain variables, the findings then must be adapted back to the context of life in order to have validity and meaning. Only this comprehensive discussion can render science anything more than what’s at best sterile scholasticism, and often something far worse.
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Science condemns the industrial agricultural experiment as having failed at everything it ever promised it would do. All it accomplished was to use to use the temporary fossil fuel surplus to produce more gross calories. But it’s been an absolute failure in terms of ending hunger, food’s denuded nutritional value, food toxification, the destruction of the environment including greenhouse gas emissions – the industrial agriculture sector is by far the worst greenhouse gas emitter and worst destroyer of carbon sinks – and the destruction of economies, polities, and communities. Food corporatism and its “Green Revolution” promised to solve all these problems, all of which corporate industrial agriculture generated or exacerbated in the first place. By any scientific standard it’s a proven failure. To wish to continue the experiment is proof that the experimenters were lying about their proclaimed goals all along. Persistence Proves Intent. We know these facts: Corporate rule is purely wasteful and destructive, does nothing for humanity, and accomplishes nothing but to enable a small group of criminals to further concentrate wealth and power and exercise domination. In the end power and domination are their only goals and their only reasons for being.
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*Each of those ten calories requiring many more caloric equivalents of fuel and other inputs, as globalized commodity grain production is extremely inefficient and irrational in itself even before it reaches the factory farm.
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**That’s also how it’s possible for governments, corporations, academia, and media to turn food into poison, or support this poison system, with a clear conscience. In their minds they’ve completely jettisoned any connection of agricultural commodification with food for human beings. It’s very similar to how the Nazi system of assembly line mass murder removed the moral implication from view for most participants. Today, although we don’t (yet) have gas chambers, we do have the hideous assembly line animal cruelty of CAFOs, and the mass dispossession and immiseration of hundreds of millions of people driven off the land and into shantytowns, which are veritable economic concentration camps. The Big Ag system does what it can to render these monumental and ongoing mass crimes invisible to most participants. What little vestige of conscience is left for any of this is met with the “Feed the World” Big Lie, a lie as depraved as that which was posted at the entrance to Auschwitz.
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4 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on New Human New Earth.

    Comment by NewHuman NewEarth — August 4, 2015 @ 10:57 am

  2. […] picked up along the way during the GE process. . Genetic engineering developed its own version of the NPK ideology. Its dogma is: One gene = one trait. This dogma, along with the older one that genetics are […]

    Pingback by There Is No Science of Genetic Engineering | Volatility — August 6, 2015 @ 2:50 pm

  3. […] the same because it has an intrinsic imperative to maximize poison manufacture and use, what I call the Poisoner imperative. It also joins other agencies in having a mandate to bolster GMOs as an important […]

    Pingback by The EPA and Glyphosate | Volatility — January 11, 2016 @ 8:35 am

  4. […] commodity monoculture treadmill which Monsanto and the West want to escalate radically for Africa. Monoculture is an ecological dead zone which favors pests and disease. In that context these then have to be “fought” with an […]

    Pingback by Africa Vantage | Volatility — January 16, 2016 @ 4:00 am


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