Friday, November 18, 2011

Big Agri-quagmire

 Russell at his blog reflexiones finales posted an interesting video. It is regarding the farmer's perspective of what some are seeing in their fields and a little of the dilemma they face with the current availability and methods. The last farmer interviewed quickly gives a simplified insight as to how the markets were manipulated. That tactic is just one of the arsenal being employed globally.  

 The timing of it rather made me smile as yesterday my daughter got into a slightly heated debate with a small group of friends and the librarian about GMO crops and how safe are the chemicals. The librarian's main job is farming.. conventionally.

  Frankly, I doubt much of this will even be glanced at by the general public until their plates are empty and are forced to look around. Hunger has a way to motivate people into making change, but frighteningly the opposite is true as well.  

 Big Pharma is Big Ag. The lovely way these corporations are subdivided is in such a way that one may think there is several Goliaths. Take DuPont as an example..
 E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont), incorporated in 1915, offers a range of products and services for markets, including agriculture and food, building and construction, electronics and communications, general industrial and transportation. The Company consists of 13 businesses, which consists of its segments. DuPont operates in seven segments: Agriculture & Nutrition, Electronics & Communications, Performance Chemicals, Performance Coatings, Performance Materials, Safety & Protection, and Pharmaceuticals. The Company includes certain embryonic businesses, such as Applied BioSciences and non-aligned businesses in Other. As of December 31, 2010, DuPont had operations in more than 90 countries worldwide and about 65% of net sales were made to customers outside the United States. In January 2011, DuPont and its wholly owned subsidiary, DuPont Denmark Holding ApS, entered into an agreement for the acquisition of Danisco A/S (Danisco). In 2010, the Company’s Safety & Protection's business completed the acquisition of MECS, Inc. In July 2011, the Company acquired Innovalight, Inc.
  They are Pioneer brand seeds.. do you see the range that they cover? Like Corporate bindweed, you see 1 plant and don't realize the network unless you dig further. How often do they make the news? Well, when is the last time you realized the same company that creates your fire extinguisher and carpeting also makes the corn in your soda, cereal and ethanol enhanced gas in your tank?
 You'd think they would be rivals with the other companies. Competition is not as profitable as cooperation. The push for yields, the myopic vision of agriculture being run like a factory withhout the realization that it is in essence an ecosystem. The funding of the wave of the future by those with little practice in the field... ahem... Bill Gates. Irony in that often those on the board of directors for agriculture colleges...... are not farmers or even gardeners.
 If you listened.. you heard them say they patented the process of mixing in the tanks. The current approach is modifying genetics to resist more than 1 herbicide. Farmers now are under the gun of overwhelming overhead just to work. 
 There again is the lure, the siren call that is the normal mode of operation for most.. the cheap way out, the easy road, the shortcut. Farmers are in an occupation that is always a gamble. Weather, insects, disease, weeds... and the most fickle beast of them all... the market. The market pricing fluctuations can determine if you keep the farm or are forced to sell. The market prices determine how much or what crop is planted each year. 
 Yet another farmer rolling his eyes at the "buffer" zone. He's referring to cross pollination but it as well applies to the bugs. It is like releasing the helium from a balloon into a room. Contained in theory but not in reality with no way to be sure where or how much escaped.
 In a short amount of time, crop diversity suffered. Control over what selections are available was quickly and expertly taken from our grasp. 
 It is unfolding in front of us, a scenario much like the Irish potato famine. Diversity was the old school crop insurance policy.  

 The rat race in food production has more than one motivator beyond feeding the population.. the weather and the effects of industry. Weather predictions for the future show many variations and until it happens all of it is theory, but a major concern is drought occurring globally on a much more frequent basis.  Increase in the intensity of storms are expected.

 The GMO focus on the future is aimed at mitigating drought situations. I think we have all seen how the effect of a bad wheat harvest in Russia impacts us just at the change in the grocery store prices. How much water is used for producing crops is often overlooked.

 In general, about 70% of the water withdrawn from freshwater sources globally supports agriculture, while about 20% supports industrial activities and 10% is used for municipal supplies. Water withdrawal and consumption are not the same metric and a much greater percentage of the water withdrawn for agriculture is actually consumed as irrigation water while a much smaller percentage of water withdrawn to support industrial and municipal supply is actually consumed and rendered unavailable for other uses. Worldwide, about 93% of the water consumed by humans goes to irrigated agriculture, while about 4% and 3%, respectively, are consumed by industry and municipal uses.

 Change is inevitable. The natural state is one of fluctuation. That which fails to adapt fails to survive. Diversity is the means by which nature ensures survival. Even if the human element was completely removed from the equation... the climate, the environment, the ecology would still continue to change. We are just speeding it up but not wanting it to be changing this rapidly as currently this environment is more suitable for our exisitance. 

 The flaw I see in banking on GMO crops is beyond just the unkown potential health impacts. You can not sustain something indefinately that relies entirely on applications based from limited resources. For as advanced as science may be, it is child's play compared to the scope in which nature typically operates. Corporate ethics is one that wants you to have to need them.... always. The less options you have, the more it benefits them. Cleverly what looks like many different seed companies are actually the same entity or from the same source.

 Like the meat in the store, where our seeds for our gardens come from is just as much of a mystery... even to many conventional farmers. Who grew them? When were they harvested? Were they treated? If you are intending to store the seeds for later use, these are crucial questions.     

 The disconnect is that we don't know anything more about what we grow, how long that strain is offered for sale and it's quality than what is printed on the package.  Unless we save our own seeds and make the effort to support the ethical seed vendors.. the option of choice is nothing more than an advertising illusion.  





  1. Yep one corporation with many names made to look like different companies is common in all fields but I can see how it would be more of an issue when talking about genetic modifications.

    Good post!

  2. As the old farmers retire their farms are being sold to big outfits. Those who get stuck between the bank and the commodities market, are sold out to the big outfits. The entire force of state and federal government has placed themselves in the corner of the big outfits. The rich get richer and the middle class just dies off. Our children will inherit...our debt.

    I don't see any clear path.

  3. It is disconcerting that there is such an overwhelming drive to control the market, get rid of the varieties, and disregard to the need of diversity.. I'd be a lot less bent on the whole issue.

    Most farms are annually trapped between the banks and the markets. They call it the growing season ;) "Old" farmers now a days are significantly older than in generations past. By the time they hand over the reins, the grandchildren are of age. It's hard to build in the commitment to the land when it skips a generation. Not much time for passing on the knowledge.

    Just something I keep noticing around this neck of the woods anyways.