What kind of agriculture do we really want? How sustainable, regional, animal-friendly and expensive can it be? These and other pressing issues are part of a debate about radical agricultural reform of policy currently going on in Brussels.
When negotiations on the common agricultural policy from 2020 are held in Brussels, one of the more contentious issues will be how to redistribute 60 billion Euros in EU agricultural subsidies. How will MEPs prioritize their options? Will they reach independent decisions or cave in to the big agricultural conglomerates and special interest groups? Our exclusive report uncovers their close ties with politicians in both Brussels and Berlin and shows how efforts to make farming more environmentally sustainable are being stymied.
The true cost of cheap, unhealthy food is a spiralling public health crisis and environmental destruction, according to a high-level commission. It said the UK’s food and farming system must be radically transformed and become sustainable within 10 years.
The commission’s report, which was welcomed by the environment secretary, Michael Gove, concluded that farmers must be enabled to shift from intensive farming to more organic and wildlife friendly production, raising livestock on grass and growing more nuts and pulses. It also said a National Nature Service should be created to give opportunities for young people to work in the countryside and, for example, tackle the climate crisis by planting trees or restoring peatlands.
“Our own health and the health of the land are inextricably intertwined [but] in the last 70 years, this relationship has been broken,” said the report, which was produced by leaders from farming, supermarket and food supply businesses, as well as health and environment groups, and involved conversations with thousands of rural inhabitants.
“Time is now running out. The actions that we take in the next 10 years are critical: to recover and regenerate nature and to restore health and wellbeing to both people and planet,” said the commission, which was convened by the RSA, a group focused on pressing social challenges.
The commission said most farmers thought they could make big changes in five to 10 years if they got the right backing.
Food industry monopolists are behind the dismal economic reality of rural America.
According to data compiled by the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2012, the four largest food and agriculture companies controlled 82 percent of the beef packing industry, 85 percent of soybean processing and 63 percent of pork. Market concentration drives up the prices that farmers pay for inputs, such as seeds, and forces them to accept lower prices due to the lack of any pretense of a competitive marketplace.
Farmworkers – according to some estimates numbering approximately three million – are forced to work for next to nothing as the landowners that employ them receive prices that are well below the cost of production. The inequity of the market that oppresses farmers and farmworkers does not benefit consumers either. According to Food and Water Watch, the prices that consumers pay at the grocery store have remained steady as those who produce our food struggle to make ends meet.
Not everyone in the food industry is hurting. In 2018, Brazilian agribusiness giant JBS, the world’s leading beef and pork processor, Land O’Lakes, a major player in dairy processing and seeds, grain marketer Cargill and the meat processor and marketer, Tyson, all increased their profits over the 2017 fiscal year.
Many of these same actors have been accused of breaking antitrust laws. Recently, Tyson, Cargill, and JBS have been accused of fixing prices to increase profit margins at the expense of farmers and ranchers. In another settlement, Tyson agreed to an out of court payment to food system workers for wage theft. Land O’Lakes, has also settled out of court for fixing prices on eggs and milk, while Dean Foods, paid dairy farmers millions just a few years ago for price fixing.
The economy is rigged and Washington has done nothing outside of the $12 billion “farmer aid package” that was issued in 2018, and yet another ad hoc $16 billion bailout that was announced May 23rd. With a final twist of the knife, the USDA eliminated the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), and with it, any hope for anti-trust enforcement in the meatpacking industry.
Truth is, farmers don’t want to put taxpayers on the hook. Farmers want fair trade and an end to Trump’s tariffs, a personal fight that has created uncertainty in the marketplace. The Booker/Pocan/Tester Bill is a start, but more can be done. The Democratic candidates need to talk about corporate concentration and antitrust seriously, starting with the Progressive Era Sherman, Clayton and Federal Trade Commission Acts. Over one hundred years ago, these laws were created to investigate and punish corporations for anti-competitive practices — such as mergers, price fixing and rigging contracts.
The Reagan administration, challenged the federal government’s antitrust philosophy, claiming that “bigger was better,” and that relaxing antitrust law enforcement would benefit everyone. Since the Reagan era, efforts to dismantle antitrust enforcement have been put on steroids in every sector of the economy. We know how the game has played out. Corporations cash in as farmers and farmworkers see their incomes plummet, and consumers get swindled at the grocery store.
The Department of Justice – at the federal and state levels must launch serious investigations into the illegal practices of agribusiness corporations, including the effects of mergers and acquisitions on food system workers. Next, breaking up corporations must be seriously considered – this means overturning past mergers, as well as looking into breaking up the corporate processors, retailers, and distributors that currently control the food system.
Anti-trust enforcement, like the greed it seeks to beat down, is never ending . The enforcement of anti-trust laws means continual oversight and regulation of corporate practices. This will require increased funding for the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to support a staff committed to public, not corporate service.
For decades Democrats and Republicans have let corporate concentration and power grow, while the incomes of farmers and farmworkers shrink. We have seen a steady erosion of regulation, when we need more of it. It’s heartening that the Democrats have realized that rural America is out there, and that market concentration is a very real problem. Taking on the monopolists is a serious task; now, it’s up to the Democrats to decide if they are truly willing to invest in our food system and rural America.
Anthony Pahnke is the Vice President of the Family Farm Defenders and Assistant Professor of International Relations at San Francisco State University.
Opendox SE – Stockholm the 9th of April 2014 – Posted by CCFSH Apr 10, 2019
The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation
One of the most important video lectures you will ever see on the history of the GMO industry and their agenda…CCFSH.
Opendox.se and Anarchos present F. William Engdahl’s lecture about GMO – genetically modified organisms; Monsanto; international politics of patenting plants and animals; central governance of all food production; controlling human birth rates and depopulation programs.
F. William Engdahl (born August 9, 1944) is an American German freelance journalist, historian and economic researcher. After earning a degree in engineering and jurisprudence from Princeton University in 1966 (BA), and graduate study in comparative economics at the University of Stockholm from 1969 to 1970, he worked as an economist and free-lance journalist in New York and in Europe. His first book was called A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. In 2007, he completed Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation. Engdahl is also a frequent contributor to the website of the Centre for Research on Globalization.
Anarchos is a Swedish publishing house which provides works with alternative world views and ideas from authors and researchers like F. William Engdahl, David Icke, Bill Still and many more – often translated from to Swedish.
by F. William Engdahl – Reviews from Goodreads – Apr 9,2019
This skillfully researched book focuses on the effort of a tiny socio-political American elite to gain control over the very basis of human survival: our daily bread. Control the food and you control the people. It’s no ordinary book about the perils of GMO. Engdahl takes the reader into the corridors of power, into the back rooms of labs, behind closed doors of corporate boardrooms. He cogently reveals a diabolical world of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain control over food production worldwide. If it often reads as a crime story, that should be no surprise: that is what it is. Engdahl’s carefully argued critique goes far beyond the familiar controversies surrounding the practice of genetic modification as a scientific technique. An eye-opener and must-read for all those committed to social justice and World peace. http: //globalresearch.ca/books/SoD.html
Marijan Jost, Prof of Genetics, Krizevci, Croatia – Back cover: “If you want to learn why biotech corporations insist on spreading GMO seeds around the world – you should read this carefully researched book. You will learn how these corporations want to achieve control over all mankind, and why we must resist…”
Anton Moser, Prof of Biotechnology, Graz, Austria – Back cover: “The book reads like a murder mystery of an incredible dimension, in which four giant Anglo-American agribusiness conglomerates have no hesitation to use GMO to gain control over our very means of subsistence…”.
Dr. Arpad Pusztai, biochemist, formerly of the Rowett Research Institute, Scotland – Back cover:” What is so frightening about Engdahl’s vision of the world is that it is so real. In this new age of ‘free markets’, everything – science, commerce, agriculture and even seeds – have become weapons in the hands of a few global corporation barons and their political fellow travellers.”
Dr. Shiv Chopra’s name has become synonymous with food safety. With full support of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada – a 50,000 member union of scientific and professional public service employees. Dr. Chopra and his colleagues refused to approve various harmful drugs such as Bovine Growth Hormone, Baytril, and Revalor_H, for use in meat and milk production. They opposed a series of prime ministers and health ministers who had little or no regard for public safety. They defied gag orders, spoke publicly to the media, and testified at many Senate and parliamentary committees. The courts supported Dr. Chopra and his fellow scientists. Today, the dangers of these drugs are internationally recognized. Chopra’s fight against the totally avoidable sources of Mad Cow Disease, calling the bluff on the Anthrax scare, and warning about the myth of safe and effective vaccines are equally inspiring stories.
Here is a full account of how government corruption endangers the public food supply. This book contains a blueprint for the establishment of food safety and security: Dr. Chopra’s “Five Pillars of Food Safety,” which was presented in April 2008 to the Canadian Parliament by MP (NDP) Paul Dewar.
The early 2008 food price crisis has often been wrongly associated with the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. The number of hungry in the world was said to have risen to over a billion, feeding a resurgence of neo-Malthusianism.
Agribusiness advocates fed such fears, insisting that food production must double by 2050, and high-yielding industrial agriculture, under the auspices of agribusiness, is the only solution. In fact, the world is mainly fed by hundreds of millions of small-scale, often called family farmers who produce over two-thirds of developing countries’ food.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, neither food scarcity nor poor physical access are the main causes of food insecurity and hunger. Instead, Reuters has observed a “global grain glut,” with surplus cereal stocks piling up.
Meanwhile, poor production, processing and storage facilities cause food losses of an average of about a third of developing countries’ output. A similar share is believed lost in rich countries due to wasteful food storage, marketing and consumption behavior.
Nevertheless, despite grain abundance, the 2018 “State of Food Security and Nutrition” report — by the Rome-based United Nations food agencies led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — reported rising chronic and severe hunger or undernourishment involving more than 800 million.
Political, philanthropic and corporate leaders have promised to help struggling African and other countries grow more food, by offering to improve farming practices. New seed and other technologies would modernize those left behind.
But producing more food, by itself, does not enable the hungry to eat. Thus, agribusiness and its philanthropic promoters are often the problem, not the solution, in feeding the world.
“Eating Tomorrow” addresses related questions such as: Why doesn’t rising global food production feed the hungry? How can we “feed the world” amid rising populations and unsustainable pressure on land, water and other natural resources that farmers need to grow food?
Family Farmers Lack Power
Drawing on five years of extensive fieldwork in Southern Africa, Mexico, India and the U.S. Midwest, Wise concludes that the problem is essentially one of power. He shows how powerful business interests influence government food and agricultural policies to favor large farms.
This is typically at the expense of “family” farmers, who grow most of the world’s food, but also puts consumers and others at risk, e.g., due to agrochemical use. His many examples not only detail and explain the many problems small-scale farmers, but also their typically constructive responses despite lack of support, if not worse, from most governments:
In Mexico, trade liberalization following the 1993 North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) agreement swamped the country with cheap, subsidized U.S. maize and pork, accelerating migration from the countryside. Apparently, this was actively encouraged by transnational pork producers employing “undocumented” and non-unionized Mexican workers willing to accept low wages and poor working conditions.
In Malawi, large government subsidies encouraged farmers to buy commercial fertilizers and seeds from U.S. agribusinesses such as now Bayer-owned Monsanto, but to little effect, as their productivity and food security stagnated or even deteriorated. Meanwhile, Monsanto took over the government seed company, favoring its own patented seeds at the expense of productive local varieties. A former senior Monsanto official co-authored the national seed policy that threatens to criminalize farmers who save, exchange and sell seeds instead.
In Zambia, greater use of seeds and fertilizers from agribusiness tripled maize production without reducing the country’s very high rates of poverty and malnutrition. Meanwhile, as the government provides 250,000-acre “farm blocks” to foreign investors, family farmers struggle for title to farm land.
In Mozambique too, the government gives away vast tracts of farm land to foreign investors. Meanwhile, women-led cooperatives successfully run their own native maize seed banks.
Iowa promotes vast monocultures of maize and soybean to feed hogs and produce bioethanol rather than “feed the world.”
A large Mexican farmer cooperative launched an “agro-ecological revolution,” while the old government kept trying to legalize Monsanto’s controversial genetically modified maize. Farmers have thus far halted the Monsanto plan, arguing that GM corn threatens the rich diversity of native Mexican varieties.
Much of the research for the book was done in 2014-15, when Barack Obama was U.S. president, although the narrative begins with developments and policies following the 2008 food price crisis, during the last year of former President George W. Bush. The book tells a story of U.S. big business’ influence on policies enabling more aggressive transnational expansion.
Yet, Wise remains optimistic, emphasizing that the world can feed the hungry, many of whom are family farmers. Despite the challenges they face, many family farmers are finding innovative and effective ways to grow more and better food. He advocates support for farmers’ efforts to improve their soil, output and wellbeing.
Hungry farmers are nourishing their life-giving soils using more ecologically sound practices to plant a diversity of native crops, instead of using costly chemicals for export-oriented monocultures. According to Wise, they are growing more and better food, and are capable of feeding the hungry.
Unfortunately, most national governments and international institutions still favor large-scale, high-input, industrial agriculture. This neglects more sustainable solutions offered by family farmers, and the need to improve the wellbeing of poor farmers.
Undoubtedly, many new agricultural techniques offer the prospect of improving the welfare of farmers, not only by increasing productivity and output, but also by limiting costs, using scarce resources more effectively, and reducing the drudgery of farm work.
But the world must recognize that farming may no longer be viable for many who face land, water and other resource constraints, unless they get better access to such resources. Meanwhile, malnutrition of various types affects well over 2 billion people in the world, and industrial agriculture contributes about 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Going forward, it will be important to ensure affordable, healthy and nutritious food supplies for all, mindful not only of food and water safety, but also of various pollution threats. A related challenge will be to enhance dietary diversity affordably to overcome micronutrient deficiencies and diet-related non-communicable diseases for all.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations assistant secretary-general for economic development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.