Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Transformation of agriculture from small farms to big industrial conglomerate activity over the last 50 years has certainly ensured that those countries with plenty of wealth are never starved of food. But it has also resulted in significant over production of food with enormous wastage being experienced across the food chain. While food losses in poor countries are attributed to lack of infrastructure and limited access to technology, losses in developed countries are more due to apathy and gluttony in consumption. If to day's environmental problems causing global warming are attributed to big scale burning of fossil fuels by nations richly endowed with wealth, there is the blame game floated by well to do countries pointing out the accusing finger to the poor mans "earthen hearth" that provides some succor to the people here in cooking whatever little food they can lay their hands on! Added to this precious food materials like Corn, Soybean, Palm oil etc are being diverted to make bio-fuels for running automobiles in wealthy countries. The fact that agriculture farms are getting bigger and bigger each year in Europe and the US, edging out millions of small farmers into oblivion is slowly sinking now and the forthcoming gathering of European farmers to protest against such brutal changes in the policy spectrum favoring industrial agriculture is an ominous pointer to what this planet is going to be confronted soon. Here is a take on this new development.

"Behind tractors, several hundred protesters, some of whom have been cycling or walking for weeks in the Good Food March, gathered for a mass brunch outside the European Parliament in Brussels, where a reform of the costly pan-EU farm system is being discussed. From the culinary Slow Food movement to the Friends of the Earth environmental group, eight major organizations set up the march to push demands to drastically revamp policy away from industrial farming. The coalition united under the slogan "EU farm policy must be fundamentally changed" regarding a new seven-year program that kicks in after 2013. Within the 27-nation EU, the protesters charge that farming is geared far too much toward big agribusiness at the exclusion of family farming. The demonstrators carried signs saying "Size does matter" and "No to mega sties," in their calls for small farming initiatives. They claim that large farms and agricultural multinationals are endangering the environment with chemicals and genetically modified organisms, while also increasing pressure on food prices. "We are going around and around, and nobody wants to take responsibility for the current situation and the misery in which the agricultural world is in," said Erwin Schopges, chairman of the Belgian Milk Producers Association, after he had an argument over milk prices with EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos outside EU headquarters. The 50-year-old Common Agricultural Policy has been a cornerstone of EU plans and was instrumental in staving off the threat of hunger early on before it got mired in overproduction and runaway subsidies that distorted the global agricultural markets and gave rise to trans-Atlantic trade conflicts.
"How can the EU citizens continue to accept this agriculture?" said Green farmer Jose Bove, who is vice chairman of the European Parliament's farm committee. The European Commission has made proposals to promote employment and growth in rural areas to make sure the bloc's 16.7 million farmers can continue to keep a leading place in world farming, but Wednesday's protesters want it geared more away from industrial farming and subsidies that help undercut global prices.
"We want fair conditions for farmers, a greener countryside and an end to policies that are harming poor people in developing countries," said Stanka Becheva of Friends of the Earth".

Whether such demonstrations and protests will have any impact on the powerful monopolistic industrial organizations remains to be seen. If the American experience is any indication, small farmers are unlikely to win this unequal battle. Take the case of Genetically Engineered foods which have crept into the American diet virtually unnoticed and unsolicited, dominating the food landscape of that country to day because of a benign government eternally obliged to the GM food lobbyists for their political and financial support, consumer interest taking a back seat. The cursed "subsidy system" that benefits big farmers is perpetuating a situation where small farmers whether in America, Europe, Asia or Africa are continuously being throttled. Unless another revolution takes place to unshackle theses unfortunate victims from this type of "neo slavery", this planet is going to be a poorer place to live for millions of its denizens.


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