Category Archives: Food/Nutrition

The Collapse of Industrial Farming

The most upending event of the past 10,000 years is the advent of engineered food as fermentation farms displace factory farms. “We are on the Cusp of the Fastest, Deepest, Most Consequential Disruption of Agriculture in History.” 1

“Modern foods will bankrupt the cattle industry within a decade.”1

More on that to follow, but first: Industrial farming, alongside global warming, ranks at the top of the list of existential risks this century. And, similar to the dangers attendant to excessive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, industrial farming is dangerously out of control, but in contrast to global warming, it is not followed at all by corporate media, begging the Orwellian question whether media other than corporate media truly exist?

All of which serves to highlight George Orwell’s concerns as expressed in his famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (Secker & Warburg Publishers, 1949) wherein he explained the primary consequences of “media manipulation” described as: (a) “loss of a critical thinking faculty” and (b) “diminished capacity for self-expression.”

More than 70 years post-Orwellian, his words ring true as corporate media skims over the tragic news of a world in such a dangerous state that only the collapse of industrial agriculture itself, along with cutting GHG emissions, can help to stop the pronounced ongoing collapse of ecosystems throughout the world, especially evident at the extreme latitudes, north and south.

According to Forest Trends, as of 2021, clear-cutting of forests for commercial agriculture purposes, principally for beef and soy production, within the past couple of years increased by a rip-snorting +50%, mostly illegal, to 27 million acres a year. 2

That huge acceleration of clear-cutting follows in the footsteps of the New York Declaration on Forests signed in 2014 by 200 endorsers to cut deforestation in half by 2020 (ahem!) and stop it altogether by 2030 (lol).

Industrial farming is destroying the planet’s resources with clear-cutting as well as spewing tons upon tons of toxic chemicals that subtly destroy major ecosystems throughout the world, including wetlands, floral meadowlands, and precious farmland as toxic chemicals turn rich black soils into useless dirt.

The Center for Biodiversity and the World Animal Protection-US orgs in February of 2022 released a major report “Collateral Damage” documenting the deadly harm of toxic chemicals used by factory farms. Clearly, humans are poisoning the planet, and in a mind-blowing “tip of the hat” to Orwell’s prognosis about human dullness, it is legal! Yes, poisoning the planet is legal! Which suggest that Orwell’s concern about “loss of a critical thinking faculty” is uuderstated.

That amazing fact is underscored by the frightening knowledge that within only a few decades industrial farming, assuming it can be called “farming,” displaced thousands of years of family farming that husbanded nature, displaced by rapacious corporate models of stern-minded profit-oriented callous mass slaughter to satisfy the gluttonous fast-food craze that’s unique to the decadent 21st century.

This sudden emergence of CAFOs or concentrated animal feed operations is so gruesome and so powerful and so outlandishly disparate from traditional family farming that only a fantasy comparison can approximate its oddity via the passing of a magical wand that morphs Tinker Bell into Hannibal Lecter.

On the other hand, a turning point may be at hand. Factory farming is about to be disrupted via better foods, tastier foods, cheaper foods, healthier foods, and a much healthier environment. That future, sans institutional slaughterhouses and sans widespread use of chemicals and the end of clear-cutting has been theorized in detail by the independent think tank RethinkX.

The not-so-secret formula to better, tastier, cheaper, healthier, more prevalent food is the production of microorganisms. Already over past centuries humanity has shown the value of controlling microorganisms through fermentation, producing bread, cheese, alcohol, as well as preserving fruit and vegetables.

Moving food production to the molecular level promises a more efficient means of feeding ourselves and the delivery of superior, cleaner nutrients without the unhealthy chemical/antibiotic/insecticide additives required by current industrial means of production. 3

The capability to create foods with exact attributes of nutrition, structure, taste, and texture is advancing whereby ordering food will be similar to installing software on your phone but via databases of engineered molecules, as fermentation farms displace factory farms.

Impossible Foods is an example that utilizes fermented (heme) to create a higher-performing product. 4

According to RethinkX:

By 2035, 60% of the area currently allocated to livestock and food production will be freed for other uses. This is enough land that if it were dedicated to the planting of trees for carbon sequestration, it could completely offset U.S. greenhouse emissions.

Moreover, it is anticipated that rapid uptake of engineered foods means water consumption for cattle will drop by 50% within a decade. And destruction of rainforests for cattle-raising and soy oil production will plummet.

And most importantly for human health concerns, toxic chemicals will be unnecessary. The current industrial food supply chain, from A to Z, is loaded with chemicals. For starters, pesticides used to grow food and livestock end up in human bodies one way or another, and in high enough concentrations proven to influence cancers, brain, nerve, genetic and hormonal disorders, kidney and liver damage, asthma and allergies. 5

In addition to pesticides, some 3,000 chemical ingredients added to food are permitted by the FDA to enhance freshness, taste, and texture. Preservatives, for example, which extend shelf life, are chemicals that poison the bacteria and moulds that cause food to rot:

Common chemical preservatives such as sodium nitrate and nitrite, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sodium benzoate, parabens, formaldehyde and antioxidant preservatives, if over-consumed in the modern processed food diet, may also lead to cancers, heart disease, allergies, digestive, lung, kidney and other diseases and constitute a further reason for avoiding or reducing one’s intake of industrial food.  6

Two hundred million (200,000,000) or more than 50% of Americans have at least one chronic disease. 7 Prompting the query, what causes chronic disease? Answer: Mainstream medical sites blames tobacco, secondhand smoke, poor nutrition, alcohol and lack of exercise, sinful-related stuff. Yet, there are several books and science papers published that point the finger at toxic chemicals in our environment as the cause of chronic diseases.  Here’s one recent publication: 8

Interestingly enough, Europe only permits the use of 400 out of the 3000 food additives permitted in the US (ed.- the EU has only one-half the US rate of chronic diseases). Essentially, Europe has banned 4/5ths of the chemicals allowed in the US food chain. Europe outlaws any chemicals that do not meet its criteria for ‘non-harm to humans or the environment.  9

The Center for Biological Diversity in conjunction with World Animal Protection-US report Collateral Damage (February 4, 2022) studied the impact of an estimated 235 million pounds annually of herbicides and insecticides applied to feed crops for factory farms. The chemicals are applied to corn and soybeans for farmed animal feed in the US. Roughly 50% of toxic pesticide use on a global basis is for corn and soy for factory farms… hundreds of millions of pounds of chemicals are applied to corn and soy crops as pesticides in the US.

If only two out of the thousands of toxic chemicals could be eliminated; i.e., glyphosate (herbicide) and atrazine (pesticide); it would be a major health benefit to complex life and ecosystems.

Glyphosate, the king of toxic chemicals, is the most widely used herbicide worldwide. Already 13,000 lawsuits have been filed claiming it causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. WHO claims it is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Atrazine is one of the most widely used pesticides, especially in the US. To date, thirty-five (35) countries have banned its use, including the EU because of persistent groundwater contamination and dangerous levels of toxicity.

Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor and is linked to a variety of human health issues, including different types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and harm to the reproductive system. After just six hours of exposure an increase in cell death and DNA damage were observed. The same level of damage from exposure to Gamma radiation would take a full 15 minutes. Atrazine also alters the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain and decreases the electrical activity of certain cells in the cerebellum (the region of the brain that controls motor function). As an endocrine disruptor it can interfere with the balance of hormones in the body, significantly impacting overall physiology and development. 10

It’s not at all surprising that 35 countries, including the EU, banned atrazine. But, it’s enormously popular in the US.

Time after time, the brilliance of Orwell’s mass media prognosis of “loss of a critical thinking faculty” shows up on the shores of the United States.

It’s probably a good idea to reread Nineteen Eighty-Four:

IT WAS a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind… at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week… On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran. 11

  1. RethinkX.com
  2. “Trees Fell Faster in the Years Since Companies and Governments Promised to Stop Cutting Them Down”, Inside Climate News, May 19, 2021.
  3. RethinkX
  4. “A Rainbow of Opportunity: How Fermentation Biotech is Creating ‘Agricultural 2.0’”, Food Navigator, March 25, 2021.
  5. Julian Cribb:  Earth Detox, Cambridge University Press, August 2021.
  6. Earth Detox, p. 70.
  7. Rand Corporation, 2017.
  8. Stephanie Seneff, PhD: “Toxic Legacy: How the Weedkiller Glyphosate Is Destroying Our Health and the Environment”, Chelsea Green Publishing, London, UK, 2021.
  9. Earth Detox, p. 73.
  10. “Collateral Damage: How Factory Farming Drives Up the Use of Toxic Agricultural Pesticides”, World Animal Protection, New York, NY, February 2022.
  11. 1984, p. 1.
The post The Collapse of Industrial Farming first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From Rachel Carson to Monsanto: The Silence of Spring  

Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant is currently in the news. He is trying to avoid appearing in court to be questioned by lawyers on behalf of a cancer patient in the case of Allan Shelton v Monsanto.

Shelton has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is one of the 100,000-plus people in the US claiming in lawsuits that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its other brands containing the chemical glyphosate caused their cancer.

According to investigative journalist Carey Gillam, Former Monsanto CEO files for protective order in Roundup case (substack.com) Shelton’s lawyers have argued that Grant was an active participant and decision maker in the company’s Roundup business and should be made to testify at the trial.

But Grant says in the court filings that the effort to put him on the stand in front of a jury is “wholly unnecessary and serves only to harass and burden” him.

His lawyers state that Grant does not have “any expertise in the studies and tests that have been done related to Roundup generally, including those related to Roundup safety”.

Gillam notes that the court filings state that Grant’s testimony “would be of little value” because he is not a toxicologist, an epidemiologist, or a regulatory expert and “did not work in the areas of toxicology or epidemiology while employed by Monsanto”.

Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018 and Grant received an estimated $77 million post-sale payoff. Bloomberg reported in 2017 that Monsanto had increased Grant’s salary to $19.5 million for that fiscal year.

Even by 2009, Roundup-related products, which include genetically modified seeds developed to withstand glyphosate-based applications, represented about half of Monsanto’s gross margin. It is reasonable to say that Roundup was integral to Monsanto’s business model and Grant’s enormous income and final payoff.

But the cancer lawsuits in the US are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the damage done by glyphosate-based products and many other biocides.

Silent killer    

June 2022 marks 60 years since the publication of Rachel Carson’s iconic book Silent Spring. It was published just two years before her death at age 56.

Carson documented the adverse impacts on the environment of the indiscriminate use of pesticides, which she said were ‘biocides’, killing much more than the pests that were targeted. Silent Spring also described some of the deleterious effects of these chemicals on human health.

She accused the agrochemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting the industry’s marketing claims without question. An accusation that is still very much relevant today.

Silent Spring was a landmark book, inspiring many scientists and campaigners over the years to carry on the work of Carson, flagging up the effects of agrochemicals and the role of the industry in distorting the narrative surrounding its proprietary chemicals and its influence on policy making.

In 2012, the American Chemical Society designated Silent Spring a National Historic Chemical Landmark because of its importance for the modern environmental movement.

For her efforts, Carson had to endure vicious, baseless smears and attacks on her personal life, integrity, scientific credentials and political affiliations. Tactics that the agrochemicals sector and its supporters have used ever since to try to shut down prominent scientists and campaigners who challenge industry claims, practices and products.

Although Carson was not calling for a ban on all pesticides, at the time Monsanto hit back by publishing 5,000 copies of The Desolate Year which projected a world of famine and disease if pesticides were to be banned.

A message the sector continues to churn out even as evidence stacks up against the deleterious impacts of its practices and products and the increasing body of research which indicates the world could feed itself by shifting to agroecological/organic practices (see the online article “Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order“, January 2022).

The title of Carson’s book was a metaphor, warning of a bleak future for the natural environment. So all these years later, what has become of humanity’s ‘silent spring’?

In 2017, research conducted in Germany showed the abundance of flying insects had plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. The research data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany and has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture as it seems likely that the widespread use of pesticides is an important factor.

Prof Dave Goulson of Sussex University in the UK was part of the team behind the study and said that vast tracts of land are becoming inhospitable to most forms of life: if we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.

Flying insects are vital because they pollinate flowers and many, not least bees, are important for pollinating key food crops. Most fruit crops are insect-pollinated and insects also provide food for lots of animals, including birds, bats, some mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Flies, beetles and wasps are also predators and important decomposers, breaking down dead plants and animals. And insects form the base of thousands of food chains; their disappearance is a principal reason Britain’s farmland birds have more than halved in number since 1970.

Is this one aspect of the silence Carson warned of – that joyous season of renewal and awakening void of birdsong (and much else)? Truly a silent spring.

The 2016 State of Nature Report found that one in 10 UK wildlife species is threatened with extinction, with numbers of certain creatures having plummeted by two thirds since 1970. The study showed the abundance of flying insects had plunged by three-quarters over a 25-year period.

Campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason has written to public officials on numerous occasions noting that agrochemicals, especially Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup, have devastated the natural environment and have also led to spiralling rates of illness and disease.

She indicates how the widespread use on agricultural crops of neonicotinoid insecticides and the herbicide glyphosate, both of which cause immune suppression, make species vulnerable to emerging infectious pathogens, driving large-scale wildlife extinctions, including essential pollinators.

Providing evidence to show how human disease patterns correlate remarkably well with the rate of glyphosate usage on corn, soy and wheat crops, which has increased due to ‘Roundup Ready’ seeds, Mason argues that over-reliance on chemicals in agriculture is causing irreparable harm to all beings on the planet.

In 2015, writer Carol Van Strum said the US Environmental Protection Agency has been routinely lying about the safety of pesticides since it took over pesticide registrations in 1970.

She has described how faked data and fraudulent tests led to many highly toxic agrochemicals reaching the market and they still remain in use, regardless of the devastating impacts on wildlife and human health.

The research from Germany mentioned above followed a warning by a chief scientific adviser to the UK government, Prof Ian Boyd, who claimed that regulators around the world have falsely assumed that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes and the “effects of dosing whole landscapes with chemicals have been largely ignored.”

Prior to that particular warning, there was a report delivered to the UN Human Rights Council saying that pesticides have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole.

Authored by Hilal Elver, the then special rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, who was at the time special rapporteur on toxics, the report states:

Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.

Elver says that the power of the corporations over governments and the scientific community is extremely important: if you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies which deny the damage inflicted by their chemicals as they continue to aggressively market their products

While these corporations falsely claim their products are essential for feeding a burgeoning global population, they also mouth platitudes about choice and democracy, while curtailing both as they infiltrate and subvert regulatory agencies and government machinery.

Whether it is the well-documented harm to the environment or tales of illness and disease in Latin America and elsewhere, the devastating impacts of chemical-intensive agriculture which the agribusiness-agritech corporations rollout is clear to see.

Corporate criminals  

Post-1945 the nutritional value of what we eat has been depleted due to reliance on a narrower range of crops, the side-lining of traditional seeds which produced nutrient-dense plants and modern ‘cost-effective’ food-processing methods that strip out vital micronutrients and insert a cocktail of chemical additives.

Fuelling these trends has been a network of interests, including the Rockefeller Foundation and its acolytes in the US government, giant agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill, the financial-industrial complex and its globalisation agenda (which effectively further undermined localised, indigenous food systems) and the giant food corporations and the influential groups they fund, such as the International Life Sciences Institute.

Included here in this network is the agrochemical-agritech sector which promotes its proprietary chemicals and (genetically-engineered) seeds through a well-developed complex of scientists, politicians, journalists, lobbyists, PR companies and front groups.

Consider what investigative journalist Carey Gillam says:

US Roundup litigation began in 2015 after the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Internal Monsanto documents dating back decades show that the company was aware of scientific research linking its weed killer to cancer but instead of warning consumers, the company worked to suppress the information and manipulate scientific literature.

Over the years, Monsanto mounted a deceitful defence of its health- and environment-damaging Roundup and its genetically engineered crops and orchestrated toxic smear campaigns against anyone – scientist or campaigner – who threatened its interests.

In 2016, Rosemary Mason wrote an open letter to European Chemicals Agency Executive Director Geert Dancet: Open Letter to the ECHA about Scientific Fraud and Ecocide. More of an in-depth report than a letter, it can be accessed on the academia.edu site.

In it, she explained how current EU legislation was originally set up to protect the pesticides industry and Monsanto and other agrochemical corporations helped the EU design the regulatory systems for their own products.

She also drew Dancet’s attention to the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology and how, in 2016 Volume 46, Monsanto commissioned five reviews published in a supplement to the journal.  Monsanto also funded them. Mason argues the aim was to cast serious doubts about the adverse effects of glyphosate by using junk science. Straight out of the Big Tobacco playbook.

Mason told Dancet:

CEO Hugh Grant and the US EPA knew that glyphosate caused all of these problems. The corporation concealed the carcinogenic effects of PCBs on humans and animals for seven years. They have no plans to protect you and your families from the tsunami of sickness that is affecting us all in the UK and the US.

Meanwhile, on the US Right to Know site, the article Roundup Cancer Cases – Key Documents and Analysis sets out just why more than 100,000 cancer sufferers are attempting to hold Monsanto to account in US courts.

In a just (and sane) world, CEOs would be held personally responsible for the products they peddle and earn millions from. But no doubt they would do their utmost to dodge culpability.

After all, they were ‘just doing their job’ – and they would not want to feel harassed or burdened, would they?

The post From Rachel Carson to Monsanto: The Silence of Spring   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

History Rounds off Skeletons to Zero

Almagul Menlibayeva (Kazakhstan), Transoxiana Dreams, 2010.

On 16 March 2022, as Russia’s war on Ukraine entered its second month, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev warned his people that ‘uncertainty and turbulence in the world markets are growing, and production and trade chains are collapsing’. A week later, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released a brief study on the immense shock that will be felt around the world due to this war. ‘Soaring food and fuel prices will have an immediate effect on the most vulnerable in developing countries, resulting in hunger and hardship for households who spend the highest share of their income on food’, the study noted. South of Kazakhstan, in the Kyrgyz Republic, the poorest households already spent 65% of their income on food before these current price hikes; as food inflation rises by 10%, the impact will be catastrophic for the Kyrgyz people.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, immense pressure was brought to bear on the countries of the Global South to disband their food security and food sovereignty projects and to integrate their production and consumption of food into global markets. In his recent address, President Tokayev announced that the Kazakh government was now going ‘to oversee the production of agricultural equipment, fertilisers, fuel, and the stocks of seeds’.

Saule Suleimenova (Kazakhstan), Skyline, 2017.

Saule Suleimenova (Kazakhstan), Skyline, 2017.

While 22% of world cereal production crosses international borders, Big Agriculture controls both the inputs for cereal production and the prices of cereals. Four corporations – Bayer, Corteva, ChemChina, and Limagrain – control more than half of the world’s seed production, while four other corporations – Archer-Daniels-Midland, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus – effectively set global food prices.

Very few countries in the world have been able to develop a food system that is immune from the turbulence of market liberalisation (read our Red Alert no. 12 for more). Modest domestic policies – such as banning food exports during a drought or keeping high import duties to protect farmers’ livelihoods – are now punished by the World Bank and other multilateral agencies. President Tokayev’s statement indicates an appetite in the poorer nations to rethink the liberalisation of the food markets.

In July 2020, a statement titled ‘A New Cold War against China is against the interests of humanity’, was widely circulated and endorsed. No Cold War, the campaign which drafted the statement, has held a number of important webinars over the past two years to amplify discussions in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe on the impact of this US-imposed pressure campaign against China, and on the racism that this has inflamed in the West. Part of No Cold War’s analysis is that these manoeuvres by the United States are intended to discourage other countries from commercially engaging with China, and also Russia. US firms find themselves at a disadvantage compared to Chinese firms, and Russian energy exports to Europe are vastly cheaper than US exports. The US has responded to this economic competition, not on a purely commercial basis, but treated it as a threat to its national security and to world peace. Instead of dividing the world in this manner, No Cold War calls for relations between the United States and China and Russia based on ‘mutual dialogue’ centred ‘on the common issues which unite humanity’.

During this war on Ukraine, No Cold War has launched a new publication called Briefings, which will be factual texts on matters of global concern. Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research will share these periodic briefings in this newsletter (you can also find them here). For its first issue, No Cold War has produced the following Briefing, World hunger and the war in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine, along with sanctions imposed by the United States and Western countries against Russia, have caused global food, fertiliser, and fuel prices to ‘skyrocket’ and endanger the world food supply. This conflict is exacerbating the existing crisis of global hunger and imperils the living standards and well-being of billions of people – particularly in the Global South.

War in the ‘breadbasket of the world’

Russia and Ukraine together produce nearly 30 percent of the world’s wheat and roughly 12 percent of its total calories. Over the past five years, they have accounted for 17 percent of the world’s corn, 32 percent of barley (a critical source of animal feed), and 75 percent of sunflower oil (an important cooking oil in many countries). On top of this, Russia is the world’s largest supplier of fertilisers and natural gas (a key component in fertiliser production), accounting for 15 percent of the global trade of nitrogenous fertilisers, 17 percent of potash fertilisers, 20 percent of natural gas.

The current crisis threatens to cause a global food shortage. The United Nations has estimated that up to 30 percent of Ukrainian farmland could become a warzone; in addition, due to sanctions, Russia has been severely restricted in exporting food, fertiliser, and fuel. This has caused global prices to surge. Since the war began, wheat prices have increased by 21 percent, barley by 33 percent, and some fertilisers by 40 percent.

The Global South is ‘getting pummelled’

The painful impact of this shock is being felt by people around the world, but most sharply in the Global South. ‘In a word, developing countries are getting pummelled,’ United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently remarked.

According to the UN, 45 African and ‘least developed’ countries import at least a third of their wheat from these two Russia or Ukraine – 18 of those countries import at least 50 percent. Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, obtains over 70 percent of its imports from Russia and Ukraine, while Turkey obtains over 80 percent.

Countries of the Global South are already facing severe price shocks and shortages, impacting both consumption and production. In Kenya, bread prices have risen by 40 percent in some areas and, in Lebanon, by 70 percent. Meanwhile, Brazil, the world’s largest producer of soybeans, is facing a major reduction in crop yields. The country purchases close to half of its potash fertiliser from Russia and neighbouring Belarus (which is also being sanctioned) – it has only a three month supply remaining with farmers being instructed to ration.

‘The United States has sanctioned the whole world’

The situation is being directly exacerbated by U.S. and Western sanctions against Russia. Although sanctions have been justified as targeting Russian government leaders and elites, such measures hurt all people, particularly vulnerable groups, and are having global ramifications.

Nooruddin Zaker Ahmadi, director of an Afghan import company, made the following diagnosis: ‘The United States thinks it has only sanctioned Russia and its banks. But the United States has sanctioned the whole world.’

‘A catastrophe on top of a catastrophe’

The war in Ukraine and associated sanctions are exacerbating the already existing crisis of world hunger. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation found that ‘nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) did not have access to adequate food in 2020.’ In recent years, the situation has worsened as food prices have risen due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and related disruptions.

‘Ukraine has only compounded a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe,’ said David M. Beasley, the executive director of the UN World Food Program. ‘There is no precedent even close to this since World War II.’

‘If you think we’ve got hell on earth now, you just get ready,’ Beasley warned.

Regardless of the different opinions on Ukraine, it is clear that billions of people around the world will suffer from this hunger crisis until the war and sanctions come to an end.

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Stanisław Osostowicz (Poland), Antifascist Demonstration (1932-1933).

Stanisław Osostowicz (Poland), Antifascist Demonstration (1932-1933).

In 1962, the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska wrote ‘Starvation Camp Near Jasło’. Located in south-east Poland not far from the Ukraine-Poland border, Jasło was the site of a Nazi death camp, where thousands of people – mainly Jews – were caged and left to die of starvation. How does one write about such immense violence? Szymborska offered the following reflection:

Write it down. Write it. With ordinary ink
on ordinary paper; they weren’t given food,
they all died of hunger. All. How many?
It’s a large meadow. How much grass
per head? Write down: I don’t know.
History rounds off skeletons to zero.
A thousand and one is still only a thousand.
That one seems never to have existed:
a fictitious fetus, an empty cradle,
a primer opened for no one,
air that laughs, cries, and grows,
stairs for a void bounding out to the garden,
no one’s spot in the ranks …

Each death is an abomination; including the 300 children who die of malnutrition every hour of every day.

The post History Rounds off Skeletons to Zero first appeared on Dissident Voice.

An Inconvenient Truth:  The Peasant Food Web Feeds the World

In October 2020, CropLife International said that its new strategic partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) would contribute to sustainable food systems. It added that it was a first for the industry and the FAO and demonstrates the determination of the plant science sector to work constructively in a partnership where common goals are shared.

A powerful trade and lobby association, CropLife International counts among its members the world’s largest agricultural biotechnology and pesticide businesses: Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, FMC, Corteva and Sumitoma Chemical. Under the guise of promoting plant science technology, the association first and foremost looks after the interests (bottom line) of its member corporations.

Not long after the CropLife-FAO partnership was announced, PAN (Pesticide Action Network) Asia Pacific along with 350 organisations wrote a letter to FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu urging him to stop the collaboration and for good reason.

A 2020 joint investigation by Unearthed (Greenpeace) and Public Eye (a human rights NGO) revealed that BASF, Corteva, Bayer, FMC and Syngenta bring in billions of dollars by selling toxic chemicals found by regulatory authorities to pose serious health hazards.

It also found more than a billion dollars of their sales came from chemicals – some now banned in European markets – that are highly toxic to bees. Over two thirds of these sales were made in low- and middle-income countries like Brazil and India.

The Political Declaration of the People’s Autonomous Response to the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 stated that global corporations are increasingly infiltrating multilateral spaces to co-opt the narrative of sustainability to secure further industrialisation, the extraction of wealth and labour from rural communities and the concentration of corporate power.

With this in mind, a major concern is that CropLife International will now seek to derail the FAO’s commitment to agroecology and push for the further corporate colonisation of food systems.

The July 2019 UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts Report concluded that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture. This report formed part of the FAO’s ongoing commitment to agroecology.

But agroecology represents a direct challenge to the interests of CropLife members. With the emphasis on localisation and on-farm inputs, agroecology does not require dependency on proprietary chemicals, seeds and knowledge nor the long-line global supply chains dominated by transnational agrifood corporations.

There does now appear to be an ideological assault from within the FAO on alternative development and agrifood models that threaten CropLife International’s member interests.

In the report ‘Who Will Feed Us? The Industrial Food Chain vs the Peasant Food Web (ETC Group, 2017), it was shown that a diverse network of small-scale producers (the peasant food web) actually feeds 70% of the world, including the most hungry and marginalised.

The flagship report indicated that only 24% of the food produced by the industrial food chain actually reaches people. Furthermore, it was shown that industrial food costs us more: for every dollar spent on industrial food, it costs another two dollars to clean up the mess.

However, two prominent papers have since claimed that small farms feed only 35% of the global population.

One of the papers is ‘How much of our world’s food do smallholders produce?’ (Ricciardi et al, 2018).

The other is an FAO report, ‘Which farms feed the world and has farmland become more concentrated? (Lowder et al, 2021).

Eight key organisations have just written to the FAO sharply criticising the Lowder paper which reverses a number of well-established positions held by the organisation. The letter is signed by the Oakland Institute, Landworkers Alliance, ETC Group, A Growing Culture, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, GRAIN, Groundswell International and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The open letter calls on the FAO to reaffirm that peasants (including small farmers, artisanal fishers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers and urban producers) provide more food with fewer resources and are the primary source of nourishment for at least 70% of the world population.

ETC Group has also published the 16-page report ‘Small-scale Farmers and Peasants Still Feed the World‘ in response to the two papers, indicating how the authors indulged in methodological and conceptual gymnastics and certain important omissions to arrive at the 35% figure – not least by changing the definition of ‘family farmer’ and by defining a ‘small farm’ as less than 2 ha. This contradicts the FAO’s own decision in 2018 to reject a universal land area threshold for describing small farms in favour of more sensitive country-specific definitions.

The Lowder et al paper also contradicts recent FAO and other reports that state peasant farms produce more food and more nutritious food per hectare than large farms. It maintains that policy makers are wrongly focused on peasant production and should give greater attention to larger production units.

The signatories of the open letter to the FAO strongly disagree with the Lowder study’s assumption that food production is a proxy for food consumption and that the commercial value of food in the marketplace can be equated with the nutritional value of the food consumed.

The paper feeds into an agribusiness narrative that attempts to undermine the effectiveness of peasant production in order to promote its proprietary technologies and agrifood model.

Smallholder peasant farming is regarded by these conglomerates as an impediment. Their vision is fixated on a narrow yield-output paradigm based on the bulk production of commodities that is unwilling to grasp an integrated social-cultural-economic-agronomic systems approach that accounts for the likes of food sovereignty and diverse nutrition production per acre.

This systems approach also serves to boost rural and regional development based on thriving, self-sustaining local communities rather than eradicating them and subordinating whoever remains to the needs of global supply chains and global markets. Industry lobbyists like to promote the latter as ‘responding to the needs of modern agriculture’ rather than calling it for what it is: corporate imperialism.

The FAO paper concludes that the world small farms only produce 35% of the world’s food using 12% of agricultural land. But ETC Group says that by working with the FAO’s normal or comparable databases, it is apparent that peasants nourish at least 70% of the world’s people with less than one third of the agricultural land and resources.

But even if 35% of food is produced on 12% of land, does that not suggest we should be investing in small, family and peasant farming rather than large-scale chemical-intensive agriculture?

While not all small farms might be practising agroecology or chemical-free agriculture, they are more likely to be integral to local markets and networks, short supply chains, food sovereignty, more diverse cropping systems and healthier diets. And they tend to serve the food requirements of communities rather than those of external business interests, institutional investors and shareholders half a world away.

When the corporate capture of a body occurs, too often the first casualty is truth.

The post An Inconvenient Truth:  The Peasant Food Web Feeds the World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Right to Healthy Food: Comorbidities and COVID-19

In early 2020, we saw the beginning of the COVID-19 ‘pandemic’. The world went into lockdown and even after lockdowns in various countries had been lifted, restrictions continued. Data now shows that lockdowns seemingly had limited, if any, positive impacts on the trajectory of COVID-19 and in 2022 the world – especially the poor – is paying an immense price not least in terms of loss of income, loss of livelihoods, the deterioration of mental and physical health, the eradication of civil liberties, disrupted supply chains and shortages.

The mortality rate for COVID-19 patients is linked to their comorbid conditions. In the US, the Center for Disease Control provides a list of comorbid conditions in COVID-19 patients, which includes cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, Down syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Research conducted in a German hospital shows that for those who died after SARS-CoV-2 infection the median number of chronic comorbidities was four and ranged from three to eight. Arterial hypertension was the most prevalent chronic condition (65.4%), followed by obesity (38.5%), chronic ischemic heart disease (34.6%), atrial fibrillation (26.9%) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (23.1%). Of all patients, 15.4% had diabetes type II and chronic renal failure was noticed in 11.5%. The data suggests severe chronic comorbidities and health conditions in the majority of patients that had died after COVID-19.

The meta-analysis Prevalence of comorbidities in patients and mortality cases affected by SARS-CoV2: a systematic review and meta-analysis (2020) found that hypertension was the most prevalent comorbidity (affecting 32% of patients). Other common comorbidities included diabetes (22%) and heart disease (13%). The odds ratio of death for a patient with a comorbidity compared to one with no comorbidity was 2.4. The higher the prevalence of comorbidities the higher the odds that the COVID-19 patient will need intensive care or will die, especially if the pre-existing disease is hypertension, heart disease or diabetes.

In 2020, just 1,557 people aged 1-64 with no underlying co-morbidities were listed as having died from COVID in England and Wales out of a population of about 59 million. For the tens of thousands who were categorised as dying with COVID, co-morbidities were a major factor. UK data for 2020 shows that for ages 1-64 years, those who died with COVID had on average 1.71 co-morbidities. For those aged 65 and over, the figure is 2.02.

Patients with rare autoimmune rheumatic diseases have a 54% increased risk for COVID-19 infection and more than twice the risk for COVID-19 death, versus the general population, according to data published in the journal Rheumatology (2021).

In the paper ‘COVID-19 in patients with autoimmune diseases: characteristics and outcomes in a multinational network of cohorts across three countries’ (2021), which also appeared in Rheumatology, researchers compared influenza with COVID-19 and concluded that the latter is a more severe disease for people with these conditions, leading to added complications and higher mortality.

Of deaths in England and Wales where COVID-19 is listed, official government data shows the most common pre-existing condition recorded on the death certificate is diabetes (July to September 2021). This was identified in almost a quarter (22.5%) of ‘COVID deaths’.

Emerging data also suggests that obesity is a big risk factor for the progression of major complications such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), cytokine storm and coagulopathy in COVID-19.

A paper posted on the Center for Disease Control website provides an overview of factors associated with Covid-19 deaths for a 12-month period. The study, Underlying Medical Conditions and Severe Illness Among 540,667 Adults Hospitalized with COVID-19, March 2020–March 2021, looked at records of hospitalised adults and found that 94.9% had at least one underlying medical condition. The authors conclude that certain underlying conditions and the number of conditions were associated with severe COVID-19 illness. Hypertension and disorders of lipid metabolism were the most frequent, whereas obesity, diabetes with complication and anxiety disorders were the strongest risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness.

Based on the findings, Dr Peregrino Brimahdata (a molecular biologist, medical doctor, college professor and a published researcher) notes that obesity by itself gave a 30% increased death risk, anxiety disorders gave a 29% increased risk of death and diabetes led to a 26% increased risk of death.

Brimahdata concludes that about two thirds of ‘COVID deaths’ were patients who may be regarded as grossly unhealthy.

From the data presented above, it is clear that the vast majority of ‘COVID deaths’ (dying with COVID) are people who has serious, ongoing health conditions, the prevalence of which among the population has been rising year on year for decades and accelerating.

Food system

Although hereditary factors are involved, scientists at the Francis Crick Institute in London believe the growing popularity of Western-style diets is a major reason why autoimmune diseases are rising across the world by around 3% to 9% a year.

Professor James Lee from the institute recently told The Observer newspaper that human genetics has not altered over the past few decades, so something is changing in our environment that is increasing predisposition to autoimmune disease. His research team found that Western-style diets based on processed ingredients and with a lack of fresh vegetables can trigger autoimmune diseases.

Lee says that numbers of autoimmune cases began to increase about 40 years ago in the Western countries but are now also emerging in countries that never had such diseases before. These diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis.

It is estimated that approximately four million people in the UK have an autoimmune disease.

A Western-style diet is characterised by highly processed and refined foods with high contents of sugars, salt, and fat and protein from red meat. It is a major contributor to metabolic disturbances and the development of obesity-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease – the top comorbidities where ‘COVID deaths’ are concerned.

But it goes beyond that because a lot of the health-related problems we see can also be traced back to modern farming methods and how food is cultivated, not least the toxic agrochemicals used. Michael McCarthy, writer and naturalist, says that three generations of industrialised farming with a vast tide of poisons pouring over the land year after year after year since the end of the Second World War is the true price of pesticide-based agriculture, which society has for so long blithely accepted.

Professor Carola Vinuesa, who heads another research team at the Francis Crick Institute, argues that fast-food diets can negatively affect a person’s microbiome – gut microorganisms which play a key role in controlling various bodily functions.

The gut microbiome can contain up to six pounds of bacteria and agrochemicals and poor diets are disturbing this ‘human soil’. Many important neurotransmitters are located in the gut. Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, these transmitters affect our moods and thinking.

Findings published in the journal ‘Translational Psychiatry’ provide strong evidence that gut bacteria can have a direct physical impact on the brain. Alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome have been implicated in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression and Parkinson’s Disease. Gut bacteria are also important for cognitive development in adolescence.

Changes to the gut microbiome are also linked to obesity. Increasing levels of obesity are associated with low bacterial richness in the gut. Indeed, it has been noted that tribes not exposed to the modern food system have richer microbiomes. Environmental campaigner Rosemary Mason lays the blame squarely at the door of agrochemicals, not least the use of the world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate.

Mason has written to the two professors from the Francis Crick Institute mentioned above, making it clear to them that it would be remiss to ignore the role pesticides play when it comes to the worrying rates of disease we now see. She brings their attention to concerning levels of glyphosate in certain cereals in the UK.

Based on an analysis of these cereals, Dr John Fagan, director of Health Research Laboratories, has concluded:

The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals… is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).

Mason also refers the two academics to the paper Genetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the United States of America in Journal of Organic Systems (2014)

It notes:

The herbicide glyphosate was introduced in 1974 and its use is accelerating with the advent of herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops. Evidence is mounting that glyphosate interferes with many metabolic processes in plants and animals and glyphosate residues have been detected in both. Glyphosate disrupts the endocrine system and the balance of gut bacteria, it damages DNA and is a driver of mutations that lead to cancer.

The researchers searched US government databases for GE crop data, glyphosate application data and disease epidemiological data. Correlation analyses were then performed on a total of 22 diseases in these time-series data sets. The Pearson correlation coefficients were highly significant between glyphosate applications and a wide range of diseases, including hypertension, stroke, diabetes prevalence, diabetes incidence, obesity, Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal infections, end stage renal disease, acute kidney failure and various cancers. The Pearson correlation coefficients were also highly significant between the percentage of GE corn and soy planted in the US and most of the conditions listed above.

In 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, said:

Paediatricians have referred to childhood exposure to pesticides as creating a ‘silent pandemic’ of disease and disability. Exposure in pregnancy and childhood is linked to birth defects, diabetes and cancer. Because a child’s developing body is more sensitive to exposure than adults and takes in more of everything – relative to their size, children eat, breathe and drink much more than adults – they are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals.

Consider that little is being done to address the food-related public health crisis which, according to the data on co-morbidities, seems to be a major contribution to increased risk where COVID is concerned. Then consider that governments are going all out to vaccinate children for a virus that poses minimal or virtually no risk to them. There is no logic to this approach.

While there is currently much talk of the coronavirus placing immense strain on the NHS, the health service was already creaking due to spiralling rates of disease linked to the food we eat. But do we see a clampdown on the activities or products of the global agrochemical or the food conglomerates? Instead, we see that successive governments in the UK have worked hand in glove with them to ensure ‘business as usual’.

The UK government is going out of its way under the guise of a health crisis to undermine the public’s rights in order to manage risk and to ‘protect’ the NHS but is all too willing to oversee a massive, ongoing health crisis caused by the chemical pollution of our bodies.

The unvaccinated are being cast as irresponsible or much worse if we listen to the recent reprehensible outbursts from leaders like Macron or Trudeau (concerning a disease that is as risky as the flu for the vast majority of the population) for having genuine concerns about vaccine safety, waning efficacy and the logic behind mass vaccination across all ages and risk groups.

Given that underlying health conditions substantially increase risk where COVID-19 is concerned, it is clear where the real irresponsibility lies – with government inaction for decades in terms of failing to tackle the corporations behind the health-damaging food they produce.

The post The Right to Healthy Food: Comorbidities and COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order

Farmerless farms manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented genetically engineered seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food. Data platforms, private equity firms, e-commerce giants and AI-controlled farming systems.

This is the future that big agritech and agribusiness envisage: a future of ‘data-driven’ and ‘climate-friendly’ agriculture that they say is essential if we are to feed a growing global population.

The transformative vision outlined above which is being promoted by the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation amounts to a power grab. Whether through all aspects of data control (soil quality, consumer preferences, weather, etc), e-commerce monopolies, corporate land ownership, seed biopiracy and patenting, synthetic lab-made food or the eradication of the public sector’s role in ensuring food security and national food sovereignty, the aim is for a relative handful of corporations to gain full control of the entire global food system.

Smallholder peasant farming is to be eradicated as the big-tech giants and agribusiness impose their  ‘disruptive’ technologies.

This vision is symptomatic of a reductionist mindset fixated on a narrow yield-output paradigm that is unable or more likely unwilling to grasp an integrated social-cultural-economic-agronomic systems approach to food and agriculture that accounts for many different factors, including local/regional food security and sovereignty, diverse nutrition production per acre, water table stability and boosting rural development based on thriving local communities.

Instead, what is envisaged will lead to the further trashing of rural economies, communities and cultures. A vision that has scant regard for the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems.

But is any of this necessary or inevitable?

There is no global shortage of food. Even under any plausible future population scenario, there will be no shortage as evidenced by scientist Dr Jonathan Latham in his paper The Myth of a Food Crisis (2020). Furthermore, there are tried and tested approaches to addressing the challenges humanity faces, not least agroecology.

Reshaping agrifood systems

An organic-based, agrifood system could be implemented in Europe and would allow a balanced coexistence between agriculture and the environment. This would reinforce Europe’s autonomy, feed the predicted population in 2050, allow the continent to continue to export cereals to countries which need them for human consumption and substantially reduce water pollution and toxic emissions from agriculture.

That is the message conveyed in the paper Reshaping the European Agro-food System and Closing its Nitrogen Cycle: The potential of combining dietary change, agroecology, and circularity (2020) which appeared in the journal One Earth.

The paper by Gilles Billen et al follows a long line of studies and reports which have concluded that organic agriculture is vital for guaranteeing food security, rural development, better nutrition and sustainability.

For instance, in the 2006 book The Global Development of Organic Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects, Neils Halberg and his colleagues argue that there are still more than 740 million food insecure people (at least 100 million more today), the majority of whom live in the Global South. They say if a conversion to organic farming of approximately 50% of the agricultural area in the Global South were to be carried out, it would result in increased self-sufficiency and decreased net food imports to the region.

In 2007, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that organic models increase cost-effectiveness and contribute to resilience in the face of climatic stress. The FAO concluded that by managing biodiversity in time (rotations) and space (mixed cropping), organic farmers use their labour and environmental factors to intensify production in a sustainable way and that organic agriculture could break the vicious circle of farmer indebtedness for proprietary agricultural inputs.

Of course, organic agriculture and agroecology are not necessarily one and the same. Whereas organic agriculture can still be part of the prevailing globalised food regime dominated by giant agrifood conglomerates, agroecology uses organic practices but is ideally rooted in the principles of localisation, food sovereignty and self-reliance.

The FAO recognises that agroecology contributes to improved food self-reliance, the revitalisation of smallholder agriculture and enhanced employment opportunities. It has argued that organic agriculture could produce enough food on a global per capita basis for the current world population but with reduced environmental impact than conventional agriculture.

In 2012, Deputy Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Petko Draganov stated  that expanding Africa’s shift towards organic farming will have beneficial effects on the continent’s nutritional needs, the environment, farmers’ incomes, markets and employment.

meta analysis conducted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UNCTAD (2008) assessed 114 cases of organic farming in Africa. The two UN agencies concluded that organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long term.

The 2009 report Agriculture at a Crossroads by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. It cites the largest study of ‘sustainable agriculture’ in the Global South, which analysed 286 projects covering 37 million hectares in 57 countries, and found that on average crop yields increased by 79% (the study also included ‘resource conserving’ non-organic conventional approaches).

There are numerous other studies and projects which testify to the efficacy of organic farming, including those from the Rodale Institute, the Oakland Institute, the UN Green Economy Initiative, the Women’s Collective of Tamil NaduNewcastle University and Washington State University. We also need look no further than the results of organic-based farming in Malawi.

In Ethiopia, agroecology has been scaled up across the entire Tigray region, partly due to enlightened political leaders and the commitment of key institutions. But Cuba is the one country in the world that has made the biggest changes in the shortest time in moving from industrial chemical-intensive agriculture to organic farming.

Professor of Agroecology Miguel Altieri notes that, due to the difficulties Cuba experienced as a result of the fall of the USSR, it moved towards organic and agroecological techniques in the 1990s. From 1996 to 2005, per capita food production in Cuba increased by 4.2% yearly during a period when production was stagnant across the wider region.

By 2016, Cuba had 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land and producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables. The most productive urban farms yield up to 20 kg of food per square metre, the highest rate in the world, using no synthetic chemicals. Urban farms supply 50 to 70% or more of all the fresh vegetables consumed in cities such as Havana and Villa Clara.

It has been calculated by Altieri and his colleague Fernando R Funes-Monzote that if all peasant farms and cooperatives adopted diversified agroecological designs, Cuba would be able to produce enough to feed its population, supply food to the tourist industry and even export some food to help generate foreign currency.

Serving a corporate agenda

However, global agribusiness and agritech firms continue to marginalise organic, capture public bodies and push for their chemical-intensive, high-tech approaches. Although organic farming and natural farming methods like agroecology offer genuine solutions for many of the world’s pressing problems (health, environment, employment, rural development, etc), these approaches challenge corporate interests and threaten their bottom line.

In 2014, Corporate Europe Observatory released a critical report on the European Commission over the previous five years. The report concluded that the commission had been a willing servant of a corporate agenda. It had sided with agribusiness on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides. Far from shifting Europe to a more sustainable food and agriculture system, the opposite had happened, as agribusiness and its lobbyists continued to dominate the Brussels scene.

Consumers in Europe reject GM food, but the commission had made various attempts to meet the demands from the biotech sector to allow GMOs into Europe, aided by giant food companies, such as Unilever, and the lobby group FoodDrinkEurope.

The report concluded that the commission had eagerly pursued a corporate agenda in all the areas investigated and pushed for policies in sync with the interests of big business. It had done this in the apparent belief that such interests are synonymous with the interests of society at large.

Little has changed since. In December 2021, Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) noted that big agribusiness and biotech corporations are currently pushing for the European Commission to remove any labelling and safety checks for new genomic techniques. Since the beginning of their lobbying efforts (in 2018), these corporations have spent at least €36 million lobbying the European Union and have had 182 meetings with European commissioners, their cabinets and director generals: more than one meeting a week.

According to FOEE, the European Commission seems more than willing to put the lobby’s demands into a new law that would include weakened safety checks and bypass GMO labelling.

Corporate influence over key national and international bodies is nothing new. From the World Bank’s ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ and the influence of foreign retail on India’s NITI Aayog (the influential policy commission think tank of the Government of India) to the Gates Foundation’s role in opening up African agriculture to global food and agribusiness oligopolies, democratic procedures at sovereign state levels are being bypassed to impose seed monopolies and proprietary inputs on farmers and to incorporate them into a global agrifood chain dominated by powerful corporations.

But there are now also new players on the block. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others are closing in on the global agrifood sector while the likes of Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva and Cargill continue to cement their stranglehold.

The tech giants entry into the sector will increasingly lead to a mutually beneficial integration between the companies that supply products to farmers (pesticides, seeds, fertilisers, tractors, etc) and those that control the flow of data and have access to digital (cloud) infrastructure and food consumers. In  effect, multi-billion dollar agrifood data management markets are being created.

In India, Walmart and Amazon could end up dominating the e-retail sector. These two US companies would also own India’s key consumer and other economic data, making them the country’s digital overlords along with Google and Facebook.

The government is facilitating the dominance of giant corporations, not least through digital or e-commerce platforms. E-commerce companies not only control data about consumption but also control data on production, logistics, who needs what, when they need it, who should produce it, who should move it and when it should be moved.

These platforms have the capacity to shape the entire physical economy. We are seeing the eradication of the marketplace in favour of platforms owned by global conglomerates which will control everything from production to logistics, including agriculture and farming.

The farmer will be told how much production is expected, how much rain is anticipated, what type of soil quality there is, what type of (GM) seeds and proprietary inputs are required and when the produce needs to be ready.

E-commerce platforms will become permanently embedded once artificial intelligence begins to plan and determine all of the above.

In April 2021, the Indian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft, allowing its local partner CropData to leverage a master database of farmers. The MoU seems to be part of the AgriStack policy initiative, which involves the roll out of ‘disruptive’ technologies and digital databases in the agricultural sector.

CropData will be granted access to a government database of 50 million farmers and their land records. As the database is developed, it will include farmers’ personal details, profile of land held, production data and financial details.

In addition to facilitating data harvesting and a data management market, the Indian government is trying to establish a system of ‘conclusive titling’ of all land in the country, so that ownership can be identified and land can then be valued, bought or taken away.

The plan is that, as farmers lose access to land or can be identified as legal owners, predatory global institutional investors will buy up and amalgamate holdings, facilitating the further roll out of high-input, corporate-dependent industrial agriculture.

This is an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, much promoted by the likes of the World Economic Forum, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then, in this case, use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who will find themselves displaced.

By harvesting information – under the benign-sounding policy of data-driven agriculture – private corporations will be better placed to exploit farmers’ situations for their own ends.

Imagine a cartel of data owners, proprietary input suppliers and retail concerns at the commanding heights of the global economy, peddling toxic industrial (and lab-engineered) ‘food’ and the devastating health and environmental impacts associated with it.

As for elected representatives and sovereign state governments, their role will be highly limited to technocratic overseers of these platforms and the artificial intelligence tools that plan and determine all of the above.

But none of this is set in stone or inevitable. The farmers victory in India in getting the corporate-friendly farm laws repealed show what can be achieved, even if this is only viewed as a spanner in the works of a global machine that is relentless.

New world order

And that machine comprises what journalist Ernst Wolff calls the digital-financial complex that is now driving the globalisation-one agriculture agenda. This complex comprises many of the companies mentioned above: Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Apple, Amazon and Meta (Facebook) as well as BlackRock and Vanguard, transnational investment/asset management corporations.

These entities exert control over governments and important institutions like the European Central Bank (ECB) and the US Federal Reserve. Indeed, Wolff states that BlackRock and Vanguard have more financial assets than the ECB and the Fed combined.

To appreciate the power and influence of BlackRock and Vanguard, let us turn to the documentary Monopoly: An Overview of the Great Reset which argues that the stock of the world’s largest corporations are owned by the same institutional investors. This means that ‘competing’ brands, like Coke and Pepsi, are not really competitors, since their stock is owned by the same investment companies, investment funds, insurance companies and banks.

Smaller investors are owned by larger investors. Those are owned by even bigger investors. The visible top of this pyramid shows only two companies: Vanguard and Black Rock.

A 2017 Bloomberg report states that both these companies in the year 2028 together will have investments amounting to 20 trillion dollars. In other words, they will own almost everything worth owning.

The digital-financial complex wants control over all aspects of life. It wants a cashless world, to destroy bodily integrity with a mandatory vaccination agenda linked to emerging digital-biopharmaceutical technologies, to control all personal data and digital money and it requires full control over everything, including food and farming.

If events over the last two years have shown us anything, it is that an unaccountable authoritarian global elite knows the type of world it wants to create, has the ability to coordinate its agenda globally and will use deception and duplicity to achieve it. And in this brave new Orwellian world where capitalist ‘liberal democracy’ has run its course, there will be no place for genuinely independent nation states or individual rights.

The independence of nation states could be further eroded by the digital-financial complex’s ‘financialisation of nature’ and its ‘green profiling’ of countries and companies. If we take the example of India, again, the Indian government has been on a relentless drive to attract inflows of foreign investment into government bonds (creating a lucrative market for global investors). It does not take much imagination to see how investors could destabilise the economy with large movements in or out of these bonds but also how India’s ‘green credentials’ could be factored in to downgrade its international credit rating.

And how could India demonstrate its green credentials and thus its ‘credit worthiness’? Perhaps by allowing herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that the GM sector misleadingly portrays as ‘climate friendly’.

As for concepts such as localisation, food sovereignty, self-reliance and participatory democracy – key tenets of agroecology ­– these are mere inconveniences to be trampled on.

Olivier De Schutter, former UN special Rapporteur on the right to food, delivered his final report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, based on an extensive review of scientific literature. He concluded that by applying agroecological principles to the design of democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and address climate variabilities and poverty challenges.

De Schutter argued that agroecological approaches could address food needs in critical regions and double food production within 10 years. However, he notes there is insufficient backing for organic-based farming which seriously hinders progress.

But it is not just a case of insufficient backing. Global agribusiness and agritech corporations have leveraged themselves into strategic positions and integral to their strategy has been attacks on organic farming as they attempt to cast it as a niche model which cannot feed the world. From the false narrative that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed a growing population to providing lavish research grants and the capture of important policy-making institutions, these firms have secured a thick legitimacy within policy making machinery.

These conglomerates regard organic approaches as a threat, especially agroecology which adheres to a non-industrial, smallholder model rooted in local independent enterprises and communities based on the principle of localisation. When people like De Schutter assert the need for a “democratically controlled” agroecology, this runs counter to the reality of large agribusiness firms, their proprietary products and their globalisation agenda based on long supply chains, market dependency, dispossession and the incorporation of farms and farmers into their agrifood regime. And as we can see, ‘democracy’ has no place in the world of the digital-financial complex.

The 2015 Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology argues for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on truly agroecological food production. It says that agroecology should not be co-opted to become a tool of the industrial food production model; it should be the essential alternative to it.

The declaration stated that agroecology is political and requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

According to Pat Mooney of the ETC Group, this involves developing healthy and equitable agroecological production systems, building short (community-based) supply chains and restructuring and democratising governance systems that could take 25 years to accomplish: in effect a ‘long food movement’.

We are currently living through epoch-defining changes and the struggle for the future of food and agriculture is integral to the wider struggle over the future direction of humanity. There is a pressing need to transition towards a notion of food sovereignty based on agroecological principles and the local ownership and stewardship of common resources.

The post Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order first appeared on Dissident Voice.

That Old Green Stamps Book’s Back in Style, Digital Form

The amount of amnesia, and outright smoke and mirrors and juking the people, for and by and with the corporation at the helm, it is almost a death sentence trying to be a creative writer — a bloody novelist, no less — in this world of mass hysteria, a thinner door creaked open for legit novelists, and, well, all the world is a stage — podcasts, TikTok creations, blogs, e-zines, and on and on and on, as that Amazon Vanity Press is the new normal for those who want to get “published.”

This vaccine card, below, is not really a joke, hence, the Omega Variant, and the SARS-CoV2 Endemic, and the new and beautiful new gain of function viruses coming to a local county/country soon.

See the source image

Yet, how many times does it take to repeat — Zinc, Vitamin C, E, and other highly needed anti-oxidants and other amazing natural products, synthesized, yes, like Thiamine, TTFD being the higher potency, and more, as in open windows, piped in breezes and a product called SaNoTize, the nitric oxide nasal spray, that should be in everyone’s lunchbox.

Yet, we have Fauci the Faustian Mafioso, and the concomitant of scientism lovers, all those germ theory scared cats, running the show. Any news about other disease pandemics, or global threats to humankind, well, nope, not on the playbill.

You think of forced chemical jabs, you think of forced travel restrictions, forced nasal tests, forced urine tests, blood tests, hair tests, corneal scans, fingerprints, and the like, until you go back and see how human beings have been passported into various forms of hell by the overlords of empire, resource theft, war, financial loansharking, and more.

Then, all that Big Brother/Big Nanny Gestapo in our lives, yet, yet . . . diets. All those full-spectrum empty calories, all those dyes, synthetic brews, added salts, sugars and fats, all those preservatives and enhancers and flavor poppers. That, of course, is LEGAL, accepted, taken for granted by the Capitalists, and Fauci’s job is all about Why there are so many chronic illnesses, so many gut and brain diseases, so many allergies, so many ticks, tremors, jerks, pacing, foggy brains, nervous blurts. He’s failed us, but he is a hero of the Capitalists. Nope.

So, where are the parallels to the Big Pharma Giveaway-Grand Vaccine Theft-Perennial Gouging-Endless Non-cures in other arenas of this sick society?

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Well, it is the brain, but it all starts in the gut. You know that, the Madmen sell that, and the MDs and scientists have tested that. But simple rules and regulations — brakes on more disease pandemics — not possible in the disease management/disease profit industrial complex.

As a nutritional psychiatrist, faculty member at Harvard Medical School and author of “This Is Your Brain on Food,” I study how our gut bacteria can trigger metabolic processes and brain inflammation that impact memory. Existing studies point to the idea that we may be able to reduce the possibility of dementia by avoiding foods that can compromise our gut bacteria and weaken our memory and focus.

Well, this is on NBC, no less, in between the newsfeeds on NFL wins and losses, new Omni Variant, money thrown at this or that undeserving sociopath-coach-athlete-movie star, all the flooding and fires and bus-plane-train crashes. All those stories of passengers on planes going drunken berserk, and well, there are still dog trick stories in between 20 or 30 refugees drowning in the Channel and all the anti-China news (sic) shit.

Fried Foods, Added Sugars, High Glycemic Load Carbohydrates, Alcohol, Nitrates. She’s a Harvard (big effing deal) Med School nutritional psychiatrist. All those potatoes, those hot dogs, those beers, those frosted flakes, those fried clams and shrimps, darn, adding to depression, bipolar disorders, dementias, and constant brain fog and lethargy and then, well, obesity, all of that, could be reversed if we, well, reversed the social contract that capitalism has in place for the profiteers, the making money any way you can philosophy.

Choice, that’s what they will say. We have choices to grab an apple or a McDonalds deep-friend fritter. Choices, right? As the advertising is a constant overt and subliminal and habituating frame for us, from cradle to grave.

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Now, we know about strokes, diabetes and cardio vascular disease. We know that that triumvirate is the real Monster on the Block. Here, good scientific reading, not on Fauci’s or Trump’s or Biden’s of CNN’s or FOX’s reading list:

Abstract

Atherosclerosis is considered a chronic inflammatory disease and an intervention targeting the inflammatory process could be a new therapeutic strategy for preventing atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases (CVD). We hypothesized that the intestine, which is considered the biggest immune organ in the human body, could be a therapeutic target for preventing CVD. We demonstrated that oral administration of anti-CD3 antibody or an active form of vitamin D3 reduced atherosclerosis in mice via induction of regulatory T cells and tolerogenic dendritic cells in the gut-associated lymphoid tissues. Similar to regulatory immune responses achieved by oral tolerance, our method had systemic effects that ultimately contributed towards atherosclerosis reduction. Recently, we have been interested in the gut microbiota, which have been reported as highly associated with intestinal immunity and systemic metabolic disorders, including obesity and diabetes. Notably, the guts of obese individuals are predominantly colonized by Firmicutes over Bacteroidetes. The association between atherosclerosis and microbiota has been attracting increased attention, and gut microbiota have been shown to participate in the metabolism of a proatherogenic compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) and aggravate CVD. Our investigation of the relationship between susceptibility to CVD and the gut microbiota revealed a characteristic flora type. Here, we discuss the evidence for the relationship between the gut microbiota and cardiometabolic diseases, and consider the gut microbiota as new potential therapeutic targets for treating CVD. (Intestinal Immunity and Gut Microbiota as Therapeutic Targets for Preventing Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Diseases)

And it’s that simple, that complicated — gut-brain science, and naturopathy:

The case has been made that the microbiome constitutes an endocrine organ in itself due to its ability to produce a wide range of compounds that regulate distant cells, organs, and systems. These compounds include neurotransmitters and short-chain fatty acids, in addition to regulators of cortisol, ghrelin, leptin, secondary bile acids, and others. Further, the microbiome can make changes in its composition that are adaptive for the host – changes that can take place within a single day of altering the macronutrient content of the diet. It will revert back to its original composition within 2days of ending the trial diet. There are numerous examples of the microbiota remodeling itself in order to utilize dietary constituents for the benefit of the host . (SIBO as an Adaptation- A Proposed Role for Hydrogen Sulfide)

Then, we have to wonder where those Fauci Types are in the realm of inflammatory diseases, all the pathogens and toxins from industrial and internal combustion processes, all those additives and pesticides and fungicides and the like in baby’s food and mamma’s milk? What’s up with all that brain power on all those patents Fauci has his fingers wrapped around (3,500)? How is that concern for public health, how is that the definition of a servant of the people? Here, RFK, Jr. and Dr. David Martin: Watch. Or, watch this: The REAL Anthony Fauci with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Read Chandler Marrs, PhD., over at Hormones Matter, a place for which I have published lightly: Paul Haeder.

Going back a few years — FOUR! Falling into the Planned Parenthood Gardasil Snake Pit. And, then, Chandler’s came out a week ago — Piled Higher and Deeper: Vaccine Industry Shills

The post That Old Green Stamps Book’s Back in Style, Digital Form first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet? 

The UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team helped to push the public towards accepting the COVID narrative, restrictions and lockdowns. It is now working on ‘nudging’ people towards further possible restrictions or at least big changes in their behaviour in the name of ‘climate emergency’. From frequent news stories and advertisements to soap opera storylines and government announcements, the message about impending climate catastrophe is almost relentless.

Part of the messaging includes blaming the public’s consumption habits for a perceived ‘climate emergency’. At the same time, young people are being told that we only have a decade or so (depending on who is saying it) to ‘save the planet’.

Setting the agenda are powerful corporations that helped degrade much of the environment in the first place. But ordinary people, not the multi-billionaires pushing this agenda, will pay the price for this as living more frugally seems to be part of the programme (‘own nothing and be happy’). Could we at some future point see ‘climate emergency’ lockdowns, not to ‘save the NHS’ but to ‘save the planet’?

A tendency to focus on individual behaviour and not ‘the system’ exists.

But let us not forget this is a system that deliberately sought to eradicate a culture of self-reliance that prevailed among the working class in the 19th century (self-education, recycling products, a culture of thrift, etc) via advertising and a formal school education that ensured conformity and set in motion a lifetime of wage labour and dependency on the products manufactured by an environmentally destructive capitalism.

A system that has its roots in inflicting massive violence across the globe to exert control over land and resources elsewhere.

In his 2018 book The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequalities and its solutions, Jason Hickel describes the processes involved in Europe’s wealth accumulation over a 150-year period of colonialism that resulted in tens of millions of deaths.

By using other countries’ land, Britain effectively doubled the size of arable land in its control. This made it more practical to then reassign the rural population at home (by stripping people of their means of production) to industrial labour. This too was underpinned by massive violence (burning villages, destroying houses, razing crops).

Hickel argues that none of this was inevitable but was rooted in the fear of being left behind by other countries because of Europe’s relative lack of land resources to produce commodities.

This is worth bearing in mind as we currently witness a fundamental shift in our relationship to the state resulting from authoritarian COVID-related policies and the rapidly emerging corporate-led green agenda. We should never underestimate the ruthlessness involved in the quest for preserving wealth and power and the propensity for wrecking lives and nature to achieve this.

Commodification of nature

Current green agenda ‘solutions’ are based on a notion of ‘stakeholder’ capitalism or private-public partnerships whereby vested interests are accorded greater weight, with governments and public money merely facilitating the priorities of private capital.

A key component of this strategy involves the ‘financialisation of nature’ and the production of new ‘green’ markets to deal with capitalism’s crisis of over accumulation and weak consumer demand caused by decades of neoliberal policies and the declining purchasing power of working people. The banking sector is especially set to make a killing via ‘green profiling’ and ‘green bonds’.

According to Friends of the Earth (FoE), corporations and states will use the financialisation of nature discourse to weaken laws and regulations designed to protect the environment with the aim of facilitating the goals of extractive industries, while allowing mega-infrastructure projects in protected areas and other contested places.

Global corporations will be able to ‘offset’ (greenwash) their activities by, for example, protecting or planting a forest elsewhere (on indigenous people’s land) or perhaps even investing in (imposing) industrial agriculture which grows herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that are misleadingly portrayed as ‘climate friendly’.

FoE states:

Offsetting schemes allow companies to exceed legally defined limits of destruction at a particular location, or destroy protected habitat, on the promise of compensation elsewhere; and allow banks to finance such destruction on the same premise.

This agenda could result in the weakening of current environmental protection legislation or its eradication in some regions under the pretext of compensating for the effects elsewhere. How ecoservice ‘assets’ (for example, a forest that performs a service to the ecosystem by acting as a carbon sink) are to be evaluated in a monetary sense is very likely to be done on terms that are highly favourable to the corporations involved, meaning that environmental protection will play second fiddle to corporate and finance sector return-on-investment interests.

As FoE argues, business wants this system to be implemented on its terms, which means the bottom line will be more important than stringent rules that prohibit environmental destruction.

Saving capitalism

The envisaged commodification of nature will ensure massive profit-seeking opportunities through the opening up of new markets and the creation of fresh investment instruments.

Capitalism needs to keep expanding into or creating new markets to ensure the accumulation of capital to offset the tendency for the general rate of profit to fall (according to writer Ted Reese, it has trended downwards from an estimated 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s). The system suffers from a rising overaccumulation (surplus) of capital.

Reese notes that, although wages and corporate taxes have been slashed, the exploitability of labour continued to become increasingly insufficient to meet the demands of capital accumulation. By late 2019, the world economy was suffocating under a mountain of debt. Many companies could not generate enough profit and falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cashflows and highly leveraged balance sheets were prevalent. In effect, economic growth was already grinding to a halt prior to the massive stock market crash in February 2020.

In the form of COVID ‘relief’, there has been a multi-trillion bailout for capitalism as well as the driving of smaller enterprises to bankruptcy. Or they have being swallowed up by global interests. Either way, the likes of Amazon and other predatory global corporations have been the winners.

New ‘green’ Ponzi trading schemes to offset carbon emissions and commodify ‘ecoservices’ along with electric vehicles and an ‘energy transition’ represent a further restructuring of the capitalist economy, resulting in a shift away from a consumer oriented demand-led system.

It essentially leaves those responsible for environmental degradation at the wheel, imposing their will and their narrative on the rest of us.

Global agribusiness

Between 2000 and 2009, Indonesia supplied more than half of the global palm oil market at an annual expense of some 340,000 hectares of Indonesian countryside. Consider too that Brazil and Indonesia have spent over 100 times more in subsidies to industries that cause deforestation than they received in international conservation aid from the UN to prevent it.

These two countries gave over $40bn in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuels sectors between 2009 and 2012, some 126 times more than the $346m they received to preserve their rain forests.

India is the world’s leading importer of palm oil, accounting for around 15% of the global supply. It imports over two-­thirds of its palm oil from Indonesia.

Until the mid-1990s, India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils. Under pressure from the World Trade Organization (WTO), import tariffs were reduced, leading to an influx of cheap (subsidised) edible oil imports that domestic farmers could not compete with. This was a deliberate policy that effectively devastated the home-grown edible oils sector and served the interests of palm oil growers and US grain and agriculture commodity company Cargill, which helped write international trade rules to secure access to the Indian market on its terms.

Indonesia leads the world in global palm oil production, but palm oil plantations have too often replaced tropical forests, leading to the killing of endangered species and the uprooting of local communities as well as contributing to the release of potential environment-damaging gases. Indonesia emits more of these gases than any country besides China and the US, largely due to the production of palm oil.

The issue of palm oil is one example from the many that could be provided to highlight how the drive to facilitate corporate need and profit trumps any notion of environmental protection or addressing any ‘climate emergency’. Whether it is in Indonesia, Latin America or elsewhere, transnational agribusiness – and the system of globalised industrial commodity crop agriculture it promotes – fuels much of the destruction we see today.

Even if the mass production of lab-created food, under the guise of ‘saving the planet’ and ‘sustainability’, becomes logistically possible (which despite all the hype is not at this stage), it may still need biomass and huge amounts of energy. Whose land will be used to grow these biomass commodities and which food crops will they replace? And will it involve that now-famous Gates’ euphemism ‘land mobility’ (farmers losing their land)?

Microsoft is already mapping Indian farmers’ lands and capturing agriculture datasets such as crop yields, weather data, farmers’ personal details, profile of land held (cadastral maps, farm size, land titles, local climatic and geographical conditions), production details (crops grown, production history, input history, quality of output, machinery in possession) and financial details (input costs, average return, credit history).

Is this an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who find themselves ‘land mobile’? This is a major concern among farmers and civil society in India.

Back in 2017, agribusiness giant Monsanto was judged to have engaged in practices that impinged on the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health. Judges at the ‘Monsanto Tribunal’, held in The Hague, concluded that if ecocide were to be formally recognised as a crime in international criminal law, Monsanto could be found guilty.

The tribunal called for the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law. However, it was also careful to note that an existing set of legal rules serves to protect investors’ rights in the framework of the WTO and in bilateral investment treaties and in clauses in free trade agreements. These investor trade rights provisions undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human rights and the environment and represent a disturbing shift in power.

The tribunal denounced the severe disparity between the rights of multinational corporations and their obligations.

While the Monsanto Tribunal judged that company to be guilty of human rights violations, including crimes against the environment, in a sense we also witnessed global capitalism on trial.

Global conglomerates can only operate as they do because of a framework designed to allow them to capture or co-opt governments and regulatory bodies and to use the WTO and bilateral trade deals to lever influence. As Jason Hickel notes in his book (previously referred to), old-style colonialism may have gone but governments in the Global North and its corporations have found new ways to assert dominance via leveraging aid, market access and ‘philanthropic’ interventions to force lower income countries to do what they want.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ and its ongoing commitment to an unjust model of globalisation is an example of this and a recipe for further plunder and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few.

Brazil and Indonesia have subsidised private corporations to effectively destroy the environment through their practices. Canada and the UK are working with the GMO biotech sector to facilitate its needs. And India is facilitating the destruction of its agrarian base according to World Bank directives for the benefit of the likes of Corteva and Cargill.

The TRIPS Agreement, written by Monsanto, and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, written by Cargill, was key to a new era of corporate imperialism. It came as little surprise that in 2013 India’s then Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accused US companies of derailing the nation’s oil seeds production programme.

Powerful corporations continue to regard themselves as the owners of people, the planet and the environment and as having the right – enshrined in laws and agreements they wrote – to exploit and devastate for commercial gain.

Partnership or co-option?

It was noticeable during a debate on food and agriculture at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that there was much talk about transforming the food system through partnerships and agreements. Fine-sounding stuff, especially when the role of agroecology and regenerative farming was mentioned.

However, if, for instance, the interests you hope to form partnerships with are coercing countries to eradicate their essential buffer food stocks then bid for such food on the global market with US dollars (as in India) or are lobbying for the enclosure of seeds through patents (as in Africa and elsewhere), then surely this deliberate deepening of dependency should be challenged; otherwise ‘partnership’ really means co-option.

Similarly, the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) that took place during September in New York was little more than an enabler of corporate needs. The UNFSS was founded on a partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum and was disproportionately influenced by corporate actors.

Those granted a pivotal role at the UNFSS support industrial food systems that promote ultra-processed foods, deforestation, industrial livestock production, intensive pesticide use and commodity crop monocultures, all of which cause soil deterioration, water contamination and irreversible impacts on biodiversity and human health. And this will continue as long as the environmental effects can be ‘offset’ or these practices can be twisted on the basis of them somehow being ‘climate-friendly’.

Critics of the UNFSS offer genuine alternatives to the prevailing food system. In doing so, they also provide genuine solutions to climate-related issues and food injustice based on notions of food sovereignty, localisation and a system of food cultivation deriving from agroecological principles and practices. Something which people who organised the climate summit in Glasgow would do well to bear in mind.

Current greenwashed policies are being sold by tugging at the emotional heartstrings of the public. This green agenda, with its lexicon of ‘sustainability’, ‘carbon neutrality’, ‘net-zero’ and doom-laden forecasts, is part of a programme that seeks to restructure capitalism, to create new investment markets and instruments and to return the system to viable levels of profitability.

The post Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet?  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A World Without Hunger

Ang Kiukok (Philippines), Harvest, 2004.

On 1 October, the International Peoples’ Assembly (IPA), a network of over 200 social and political movements, had its public launch. The IPA owes its origin to a meeting held in Brazil in 2015 where movement leaders gathered to talk about the perilous situation facing the world. At this meeting – called the Dilemmas of Humanity – the idea was born to create the IPA and three partner processes: a media network (Peoples Dispatch), a network of political schools (the International Collective of Political Education), and a research institute (Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research). Over the course of the next few months, I will be writing more about the history of the IPA and its general orientation. For now, we welcome its launch.

Each year on 16 October, the United Nations commemorates World Food Day. This year, the IPA, Peoples Dispatch, the International Collective of Political Education, and Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research will conduct a political campaign to end hunger. Leading up to this day, Peoples Dispatch has already produced a series of stories in collaboration with six media platforms that uncover hunger in the world today and people’s resistance to it; meanwhile, the International Collective of Political Education is running a series of seminars called Environmental Crisis and Capitalism that explores elements of unsustainable food production.

There is nothing more obscene than the existence of hunger, the terrible indignity of working hard but being without the means for sustenance. To that end, we have drafted Red Alert no. 12, ‘A World Without Hunger’, to sharpen our thinking about hunger and food and to sharpen our campaigns to end hunger.

In a world of plenty, why does hunger persist?

Hunger is intolerable.

World hunger, which had declined from 2005 to 2014, has begun to rise since then; world hunger is now at 2010 levels. The major exception to this trend has been China, which eradicated extreme poverty in 2020. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s 2021 report, The State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition in the World, notes that ‘nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of almost 320 million people in just one year’. The UN’s World Food Programme projects that the number of those who are hungry could nearly double before the COVID-19 pandemic is contained ‘unless swift action is taken’.

Scientists inform us that there is no shortage of food for the population: in fact, the overall supply of calories per capita has increased across the world. People are hungry not because there are too many of us, but because peasant subsistence producers all over the world are being forced off their land by agribusiness and pushed into city slums, where access to food is dependent on monetary income. As a result, billions of people do not have the means to buy food.

All historical research shows that famines are not primarily caused by a lack of food supply, but by the lack of the means to access food. As the FAO wrote in 2014, ‘current food production and distribution systems are failing to feed the world. While agriculture produces enough food for 12 to 14 billion, some 850 million – or one in eight of the world population – live with chronic hunger’. This failure can be measured, in part, by the fact that one third of all food produced is either lost during processing and transportation or it is wasted. It is not overpopulation that causes hunger as is often argued, but rather inequality and a profit-driven, agribusiness-dominated food system in which the basic material need for food for hundreds of millions of people – at minimum – is sacrificed to quench the hunger for profit of the few.

Quamrul Hassan (Bangladesh), Three Women, 1955.

What is food sovereignty?

In 1996, two necessary phrases, food security and food sovereignty, entered common currency.

The idea of food security, developed out of anti-colonial and socialist struggles and formally established at the FAO’s World Food Conference (1974), is closely linked to the idea of national food self-sufficiency. In 1996, as part of the Rome Declaration, the concept of food security was broadened to bring into focus the importance of economic access to food, and governments committed themselves to guaranteeing food to all people through income and food distribution policies.

In the early 1990s, the idea of food sovereignty was shaped by La Via Campesina, an international network that today includes 200 million peasants from 81 countries, to insist not only that governments deliver food, but also that people be empowered to produce basic foodstuffs. Food sovereignty was defined around the creation of an agricultural and food system that would secure ‘the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems’.

Over a decade later, La Via Campesina, the World March of Women, and various environmental groups held the International Forum for Food Sovereignty in Nyéléni (Mali) in 2007. At the forum, they elaborated six core components of food sovereignty:

  1. To centre the needs of people rather than the needs of capital.
  2. To value food producers, namely by creating policies that value peasants and enrich their livelihoods.
  3. To strengthen food system by ensuring that local, regional, and national networks collaborate with and value those who produce food and those who consume food. This would strengthen the involvement of food producers and consumers in creating and reproducing food systems and ensure that poor quality and unhealthy foods do not overwhelm the attempt to create just food markets.
  4. To localise the control of food production; in other words, to give those who produce food the right to define how to organise the land and resources.
  5. To build knowledge and skills, which insists on taking local knowledge about food production seriously and further developing it scientifically.
  6. To work in harmony with nature by minimising harm to ecosystems through agricultural practices that are not destructive to the natural world.

Asger Jorn (Denmark), Landscape in Finkidong, 1945.

The idea of the ‘local’ requires a sharp assessment of the hierarchies of class, ethnicity, and gender; there is no ‘local community’ or ‘local economy’ that is not torn apart by the exploitation and violence of these hierarchies. Equally, local knowledge must be seen alongside the advances of modern science, whose breakthroughs in the field of agriculture should not be discounted. What unites the platform of food sovereignty is the sharp line it creates to distinguish itself from the capitalist form of food production.

Liberalised trade and speculation in the production and distribution of food create serious distortions. Trade liberalisation not only poses the threat of cheaper imports, which depresses crop prices, but also brings with it more volatile prices through the entry of international prices into domestic markets. Such liberalisation also threatens to change cropping patterns in developing countries to suit the demands of richer states, thus undermining food sovereignty. In 2010, the UN’s former special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, cautioned about the way that hedge funds, pensions funds, and investment banks had come to overpower agriculture with speculation through commodity derivatives. These financial methods, he wrote, were ‘generally unconcerned with agricultural market fundamentals’. Financial speculation in agriculture is one illustration of the disregard that money has for a balanced food production system that could benefit both producers and consumers. It encourages money power to distort the food production system.

Fernando Llort (El Salvador), Alegría eterna (‘Eternal Happiness’), 1976.

The concept of food sovereignty is an argument against this kind of distortion, which is rooted in land grabs by agribusiness corporations. Since the beginning of this century, agribusiness corporations such as Unilever and Monsanto have promoted the great global enclosure of our times, sparking the biggest mass movement of populations in history and, in so doing, destroying the relation between people and land.

Two United Nations resolutions – one to declare the right to water (2010) and the other to affirm peasants’ rights (2018) – will help us shape a new agricultural system that centres the rights of the producers (including access to land) and respect for nature and that treats water as a commons and not as a commodity.

Mohammed Wasia Charinda (Tanzania), Village River, 2007.

How do we create a just food production and distribution system?

Peasant and farmer organisations have developed sufficient knowledge of the failures of the capitalist form of food production. Their punctual demands assert a different form, one that insists on greater democratic participation in the construction and reproduction of food systems, a participation which includes the intervention of governments rather than aid agencies or the private sector. From their many demands, we have distilled the following points:

  1. Give economic power to the people by:
    1. Implementing agrarian reform for peasants and farmers so that they have access to land and resources to farm the land.
    2. Developing appropriate forms of production that encourage – among other things – some form of collective action to take advantage of economies of scale.
    3. Instituting local self-government in rural areas, where peasants wield the political power necessary to shape policies that benefit their lives and that shield the ecosystem.
    4. Strengthening systems of social welfare so that peasants are protected in adverse times (bad weather, poor harvests, etc.).
    5. Building public distribution systems, with particular focus on eliminating hunger.
    6. Ensuring that healthy food is made available to public schools and crèches.
  1. Develop and implement measures to ensure that agriculture is remunerative by:
    1. Preventing the dumping of cheapened foodstuffs from agricultural systems in the Global North that benefit from massive subsidies.
    2. Expanding access of rural producers to affordable bank credit and providing relief from informal lenders.
    3. Creating a policy to ensure floor prices for farm produce.
    4. Developing publicly funded, sustainable irrigation systems, transportation systems, storage facilities, and related infrastructure.
    5. Enhancing the cooperative sector’s food production and encouraging popular participation in food production and distribution systems.
    6. Building the scientific and technical capacity for sustainable and ecological agriculture.
    7. Removing patents on seeds and promoting legal frameworks to protect native seeds from being commodified by agribusinesses.
    8. Providing modern farm inputs at affordable prices.
  1. Design a democratic international trade system by:
    1. Democratising the World Trade Organisation, which would include:
      1. Greater national participation of the Global South countries in shaping the rules for deliberation, greater openness of the process of negotiations (including the publication of reports and negotiation of texts), and greater participation of peasant organisations in the process of rulemaking.
      2. Greater transparency in trade dispute mechanisms. This includes the timely announcement of any disputes and of the form of arbitration as well as the public announcements of judicial settlements.
    2. Decreasing reliance upon powerful Global North platforms for designing policy and settling claims; this includes the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. These bodies are controlled by the Global North, and they operate almost entirely in the interest of the multinational corporations domiciled in the Global North.

    Rabee Baghshani (Iran), Concert, 2016.

    These proposals are echoed in the IPA’s political platform; please make sure to follow their various social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where more information about the activities around the campaign to end hunger will be announced.

    The post A World Without Hunger first appeared on Dissident Voice.