War on agriculture

Summer is almost here and people are shedding their coats, jackets and long johns for shorts and tee shirts.  Politicians are on the platforms, Conservatives trying to convince the voters that tax cuts for the wealthy are great for the masses and that trickle down economics will benefit the majority of citizens.   Liberals are opposing this economic theory and showing that it has given rise to the large inequality between the rich and poor. The result is that the global 1 percent is controlling 44.8 percent of the world’s wealth.

As I began to write this article one question keeps recurring:  Why do the United States and the some Western countries decide to declare war on every issue they determine to be a problem?  War on Drugs; War on terror; War on immigration; and War on Agriculture.   Some of you might be thinking that you have not heard of the war on Agriculture.  You have not because war was not officially declared.

But a war on agriculture is being waged by the chemical industrial companies. They have redirected the chemicals of war that were used to exterminate people, to agrochemicals to destroy insects and weeds.  These chemicals are killing pollinators and beneficial insects, destroying soil fertility by killing soil organisms and polluting streams and rivers.

Most importantly, these companies are producing genetically modified seeds that are dependent on these agrochemicals. Furthermore, the plants produced by these seeds cannot be reproduced themselves because the seeds they produce are barren.  The result is that the farmer must purchase seeds for each new planting and cannot reproduce these seeds since the companies have patented the seed.  They have converted a free gift from nature to a profit making seed that destroys the free gift.  Genius when it comes to exploitation.

These chemicals and commercial seeds and genetically modified organisms are being marketed to the Caribbean, Africa and other third world countries through the Alliance for a Green Revolution as a solution to their “hunger” problem and low agriculture production yields.  These farmers are advised to disregard their old methods of mixed farming and to concentrate on one or two crops.   Crops that require them to purchase seeds and chemicals every year, leaving farmers with enormous debt, and forcing many of them to lose their farms.

I was shocked to learn that five seed and chemical companies, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and DuPont, dominate our food system.  They have patented the seeds, manufactured the fertilizers to feed the plants, manufacture the herbicides and pesticides that kill the weeds, insects and pollinators.  These companies see every insect in competition with humans for survival and therefore must be exterminated.  To quote Vandana Shiva “The soil becomes a container for chemical fertilizers, plants are defined as factories, and seeds are seen as machines that run on agrochemicals.”

Although Canadians are deeply divided on the safety of genetically modified plants, animals and food products, the government and the commercial producers are pressing ahead with GMO products.  Sylvain Charlebois, dean of management at Dalhousie University and lead author of the study of consumer attitudes about genetic engineering plant based and animal based foods said that despite the division, 90 per cent of all crops grown in Canada are genetically modified, and an estimated 75 to 85 per cent of the food available for sale has at least one GM ingredient.

U.S. based Aqua Bounty Technologies has been selling its GM salmon, which grows twice as fast as standard salmon, in Canada since Health Canada approved its sale in 2016. Several large retailers, including Loblaw and Metro, have said they would not sell the fish at their fresh counters.

In India– Farmers were widely encouraged to plant Monsanto’s GM cotton which has led to devastating results. The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail reports that an estimated 125,000 farmers have committed suicide because of crop failure and massive debt since planting GM seeds.  Farmers were convinced to spend what was often 1,000 times the cost of conventional seed on the “magic seeds” after listening to Monsanto’s promises of increased yields and resistance to pests.

Despite the promises, the crops were often destroyed by bollworms. More disturbing is that the crops required twice as much water as conventional cotton, leading to many crops drying up and dying.  To add insult to injury the seeds must be purchased again every year causing financial ruin to farmers.

As of 2002 the United States, Canada, and Mexico do not require labeling of genetically modified foods.  In Canada, four genetically modified crops are available on the market, including canola, soybeans, grain corn and sugar beets, with several other varieties approved by the government.

Research indicates that conventional small farmers, while using 30 percent of the world’s resources, provide seventy percent of the world’s food.  Regardless, millions of acres of commercial farmlands in the U.S. are planted with genetically modified corn or soybeans.  As usual, the profit motive supersedes all other considerations.

Biochemical analyses confirmed very significant chronic kidney deficiencies, for all treatments and both sexes.  In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5 to 5.5 times higher.  In females, all treatment groups showed a two- to threefold increase in mortality, and deaths were earlier.

Farming has been around for the past 10,000 years and communities have sustained themselves for most of that time.  War against pests is neither necessary nor effective, and public outcry is rising against these largely untested foods and crops.   Claims by Monsanto and others of “super yields” and an end to poverty and famine have proven to be false, and diseases, like cancer, are being linked to the industrial herbicides, and pesticides that are poisoning our foods.

This summer, if you have a small back yard, plant something- pumpkin, squash, cucumbers, beans, or any other seed you can get from the Caribbean.  You will be surprised at the yield from a small area of land.  A friend planted an area 120 square feet last summer and gave away pumpkins, peppers, squash and had vegetables in her refrigerator and freezer until March of this year.

Take one small action to improve your health and reduce the amount of chemicals that you put into your body.  If some people like to eat GMO products, let them eat it.  You don’t need to if you have the space and opportunity to produce organic food.

Vandana Shiva wrote, “It is time to make a paradigm shift from the militarized mind, which sees all species as enemies to be exterminated, to a world view that sees humans as part of an Earth family and that recognizes pollinators and friendly insects as our co-producers in the food web.”

If we do not change our worldview, one day we might be viewed as pests, because we are interfering with their profits and they will declare war on us.


(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of  political developments in the United States.)