Issue 256: June 2008


 Resurgent Neocolonialism

It seems that the world – globalization – is pressing in on us as never before. Or maybe this is what the native peoples of the Americas have felt like for the past five centuries.All of a sudden, it seems, energy supply and prices (Peak Oil), food supply and prices, speculative profit taking and both short and long term climate change have all converged.

Just as suddenly there appears to be a very widespread public awakening to the precariousness of the global industrial food system with its alarming dependency on familiar and predictable weather conditions and fossil fuels. There is also a rising awareness of the destructive ecological impacts of every aspect of this corporate-industrial food system.

More than 3 million acres of farmland are believed to be under water [in the midwest US and] another 2 million did not even get planted. About 57% of the corn crop is considered to be in good condition. Some of the fields in Iowa have received 36 centimetres (14") of rain in the past two weeks alone.  – G&M, 17,18/6/08

The logical sequel to this awakening has very naturally led to a global interest in local food and food sovereignty – bringing food, and the control of food, down to earth, or back home, so to speak.

There are few signs of hope, however, at the meetings of convergent forces such as the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Bonn, Germany) where Canada played a sinister role of sabotaging any meaningful limitation on research and trials of genetically engineered trees, or at the  High Level Conference on World Food Security, Climate Change and Bio-Energy (the FAO Summit, June 2008) which did little more than call for more ‘improved’ seeds and fertilizer for Africa.

The neo-colonial assault on Africa currently being carried out in the name of philanthropy and feeding the hungry is an obscene attack on the very existence of African societies and cultures. The advance forces of this assault are seeds and fertilizer, and these two words can be found over and over again in every self-serving statement about what will save Africa from starvation, from Monsanto to the FAO.

The rhetoric is that of the old Green Revolution, with one word missing: pesticides, or as we would prefer to identify them, agrotoxins; but of course their use is implied – indeed, structured into – genetically engineered seeds.

Thus when we encounter the word ‘seeds’ in this context, we can be assured that it means G.E. seeds, not the seeds produced through farmer-led plant breeding based on the immense biological diversity still to be found outside the corporate precincts.  We must remember, as well, that G.E. is an unproven experiment in terms of biological consequences (for plants, animals, including the two-legged ones, and fish), though it has proven its merit in terms of corporate control and domination. We also know that the technological hubris associated with genetic engineering has the unfortunate consequences of inducing blindness, deafness and loss of feeling among its proponents, inuring them to the consequences of their investments.

Making Money

Global capital will not, cannot, feed the world. The contradiction between food and profits is far too fundamental. Food is about sustenance. Profit derives from excess – draining the ‘natural resources’ and squeezing the economic system, from the bottom like a tube of toothpaste, to provide unearned wealth for investors. With quarterly reports to ‘the market,’ it is a race to the top of excess profit on the one hand, and a race to the bottom of costs on the other, both requiring the exploitation of the cheapest labour and ‘natural resources’ available anywhere in the world. The costs of resulting pollution and climate change are externalized, i.e., dumped on the public, while the shareholders seem to think they inhabit another world  in their gated communities and private aircraft, apparently convinced that their excesses will not destroy their children’s future.

africa milk


#256: June 2008 TOC
Resurgent Neocolonialism - and the assault on Africa
The Party Line /Lie: US Ag Secretary spouts lies about development, griculture, and genetic engineering
AGRA: Green Revolution Part 2 - a South African commentary
Fertilizer Prices: accessible to the palm oil producers (if they are large and wealthy enough)
From the Horse's Mouth: direct quotes from the Gates Foundation, FAO, et. al.
La Via Campesina call for mobilization against the G-8 in Hokkaido, Japan
Indigenous Food Sovereignty: excerpts from a major report from BC
Food Sovereignty in Gujarat, India: herders lose access to traditional territories, become nomadic
Farming and Climate Change: a letter from a flooded farmer in the US mid-west
Back to Basics: Guano - an old fertilizer finds a new niche
Playing Lobbyist - you too can come up with a line for Monsanto!
Cargill donates $10 million to CARE with a focus on child nutrition and farmer training
Potatoes: not traded as a global commodity but important nonetheless