Quantcast
Popular

'Exxons of Agriculture' Take Over World Food System

By Paul Brown

The food industry and big agricultural concerns are driving climate change and at the same time threatening to undermine efforts to feed the world's growing population, according to GRAIN, an organization that supports small farmers.

Particularly singled out for criticism are the large chemical fertilizer producers that have gained access to the United Nations talks on climate change. GRAIN accuses them of behaving like the fossil fuel companies did in the 1990s, pushing false information in the hope of delaying real action on climate change.


The evidence is detailed in a book, The Great Climate Robbery: How the food system drives climate change and what we can do about it, published by GRAIN. It is a comprehensive account of the unrelenting and largely successful campaign by big companies to take over the world's food supply and exploit it for profit.

World's food

The writers say small farms have been squeezed into less than one quarter of the world's agricultural lands, but they continue to produce most of the world's food.

Unless small farmers are protected and more land is returned to the kind of sustainable practice employed by small farmers, then there is no hope of feeding the world's population in the future, they say.

On climate change, the book details how the march of industrial agriculture has created a food chain that is now a heavy emitter of greenhouse gases. The rise of palm oil plantations for processed food, the overuse of fertilizers and the long distances produce travels to reach our plates altogether produce about 50 percent of all human greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a bold claim, but not without a remarkable body of evidence. Every chapter has a long list of footnotes citing scientific papers and UN reports.

The book is endorsed by some high-profile campaigners, including Naomi Klein, who said, "It explains why the fight to stop the industrial food juggernaut is the same as the fight for a habitable, just planet."

Another campaigner for small farmers, Dr. Vandana Shiva, said the book shows "that industrial corporate agriculture is a major part of the climate crisis, and small-scale ecological farming is a significant solution. It also alerts us to the false solutions of those who created the problem—the Exxons of agriculture."

Although industrial farming methods produce only 11 to 15 percent of emissions, the book examines the entire food business—from deforestation to convert land to farmland, to transport, food-processing factories, the freezing and retail industries and discarded food waste.

Over the past 50 years, 140 million hectares, the size of almost all the farms in India, has been taken over by four crops grown on large industrial plantations. These are soybean, palm oil, rapeseed and sugar cane.

According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, small farmers produce 80 percent of food in non-industrial countries. Their great advantage, apart from producing more food from a smaller area, is that they supply local markets with fresh rather than processed products, and less is wasted.

Organic matter

The book describes how the expansion of unsustainable agricultural practices over the past century has led to vast quantities of organic matter being lost from soils. This loss is responsible for between 25 percent and 40 percent of the current carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

By restoring small farmers' sustainable practices, this organic matter could be put back into the soil, offsetting up to 30 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, the authors say.

Instead, in order to counter the loss of this carbon from soils, more and more chemical fertilizer is used. Insecticides and herbicides are poured on the land, impoverishing biodiversity.

Cutting food miles and concentrating on fresh produce at local markets, rather than processing food and providing it frozen to supermarkets, would also directly cut emissions.

The book is a call to wrest control from the industrial agricultural giant whose job it is to make profits for shareholders—not to feed the world—and to hand the land back to farmers.

The authors complain that there has been zero political will to challenge the dominant model of industrial food production and distribution. Peasants are getting the blame for cutting down trees when in fact deforestation is being driven by big companies growing industrial crops, they say.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Rice University marine biologist Adrienne Correa takes samples at a reef in Flower Garden Banks. Jesse Cancelmo / Rice University

Hurricane Harvey Runoff Threatens Coral Reefs

Hurricane Harvey's record rains didn't just unleash a torrent of floodwaters into the Gulf of Mexico—this freshwater could be harming coral reefs which require saltwater to live, according to new research.

After Harvey dumped more than 13 trillion gallons of rain over southeast Texas, researchers detected a 10 percent drop in salinity at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located 100 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas.

Keep reading... Show less

Pruitt Wants to Make the EPA Less Accountable to the Public

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks the law by missing deadlines, allowing polluters to violate regulations that protect our health and environment, one way the public holds it accountable is by taking the agency to court. Scott Pruitt and his corporate polluter allies see this as a problem, so Monday, the administrator moved to curtail the agency's practice of settling lawsuits with outside groups, making it easier to skirt the law.

"Pruitt's doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction," John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air program said in reaction. "His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans."

Keep reading... Show less
Oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Julie Dermansky

Nearly 400,000 Gallons of Oil Spews Into Gulf of Mexico, Could Be Largest Spill Since Deepwater Horizon

Last week, a pipe owned by offshore oil and gas operator LLOG Exploration Company, LLC spilled up to 393,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reminding many observers of the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago that spewed approximately 210 million gallons of crude into familiar territory.

Now, a report from Bloomberg suggests that the LLOG spill could be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 BP blowout, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Keep reading... Show less
Shutterstock

Big Food Is Worried About Millennials Avoiding Animal Products

By Nathan Runkle

Hundreds of leaders from fast-food chains, marketing agencies and poultry production companies recently gathered in North Carolina for the 2017 Chicken Marketing Summit to play golf and figure out how to make you eat more animals.

One session focused on marketing chicken to millennials. Richard Kottmeyer, a senior managing partner at Fork to Farm Advisory Services, explained to the crowd that millennials are "lost" and need to be "inspired and coached." His reasoning? Because there are now "58 ways to gender identify on Facebook." Also, because most millennial women take nude selfies, the chicken industry needs to be just as "naked" and transparent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Strange Days: Ex-Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland Under Orange Skies

By Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland hard with full hurricane-like fury on Monday, bringing powerful winds that caused widespread damage and power outages. At least two deaths have been reported from trees falling on cars, and The Irish Times said at least 360,000 ESB Networks customers lost power in Ireland because of the storm.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
PBouman / Shutterstock

EPA Limits Use of Problematic Herbicide Dicamba—But Is That Enough?

By Dan Nosowitz

Dicamba has been in use as a local pesticide for decades, but it's only recently that Monsanto has taken to using it in big, new ways. The past two years have seen the rollout of dicamba-resistant seed for soybean and cotton, as well as a new way to apply it: broad spraying.

But dicamba, it turns out, has a tendency to vaporize and drift with the wind, and it if lands on a farm that hasn't planted Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seed, the pesticide will stunt and kill crops in a very distinctive way, with a telltale cupping and curling of leaves, as seen above. Drift from dicamba has affected millions of acres of crops, prompting multiple states to issue temporary bans on the pesticide. Farmers have been taking sides, either pro-dicamba or anti, and at least one farmer has been killed in a dispute over its use.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Runoff from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Lynn Betts / U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Drinking Water for Millions in Rural America Contaminated With Suspected Carcinogen

Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans in farm country are contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical from fertilizer, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

The contaminant is nitrate, which gets into drinking water sources when chemical fertilizer or manure runs off poorly protected farm fields. Nitrate contaminates drinking water for more than 15 million people in 49 states, but the highest levels are found in small towns surrounded by row-crop agriculture. Major farm states where the most people are at risk include California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

Trump's Approval Rating on Hurricane Response Sinks 20 Points After Puerto Rico

President Trump's approval rating for overseeing the federal government's response to hurricanes fell by 20 points after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS revealed.

Trump's approval rating for responding to hurricanes Harvey and Irma stood at 64 percent in mid-September. Just a month later, the rating dropped to 44 percent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox