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 ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals

Dumpster Debacle Distracts From Serious Spike in Whale Deaths

This week, a video of a failed attempt to put a dead, 4,000-pound whale into a tiny dumpster made the rounds on the internet, garnering chuckles and comparisons to Peter Griffin forklifting and impaling a beached sperm whale on Family Guy.

The juvenile minke whale washed up on Jenness Beach in Rye, New Hampshire on Monday morning, NBC 10 Boston reported. It was found with entanglement wounds, so researchers with the Seacoast Science Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wanted to move the carcass from the beach to a lab for a necropsy to study its death.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Muir Woods, which costs $10 for entry, will have free entry on Sept. 22. m01229 / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Visit Any National Park for Free This Saturday to Celebrate 25th National Public Lands Day

If you're stuck for plans this weekend, we suggest escaping your city or town for the great outdoors.

This Saturday marks the 25th National Public Lands Day, organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
A glacier flows towards East Antarctica. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

Temperatures Possible This Century Could Melt Parts of East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 10+ Feet

A section of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that contains three to four meters (approximately 10 to 13 feet) of potential sea level rise could melt if temperatures rise to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a study published in Nature Wednesday found.

Researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Queensland, and other institutions in New Zealand, Japan and Spain looked at marine sediments to assess the behavior of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin during warmer periods of the Pleistocene and found evidence of melting when temperatures in Antarctica were at least two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for periods of 2,500 years or more.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Oil well in North Dakota. Tim Evanson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pipeline Leaks 63,840 Gallons of Produced Water in North Dakota

A pipeline released 63,840 gallons (1,520 barrels) of produced water that contaminated rangeland in Dunn County, North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported, citing officials with the North Dakota Department of Health.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, and can contain drilling chemicals if fracking was used.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights
Residents stand in a long queue to fill water containers on May 27 in Shimla, India. Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

World Peace Requires Access to Safe Water

International Peace Day is Sept. 21. Mekela Panditharatne, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, submitted the following op-ed to EcoWatch in commemoration.

In drought-ravaged East Africa, the cracks in the plains echo the fault lines splitting tribes.

Across the globe, the devastation of deadly brawls is being exacerbated by tensions over access to water. Water crises, often worsened by governance failures, can portend warning signs for instability and conflict. This year, the World Resources Institute cautioned that water stress is growing globally, "with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040." The effects of such water stress span the gamut from civil unrest to open warfare.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

How Your Personality Type Could Influence Your Food Choices

By Melissa Kravitz

"You are what you eat" may be one of the oldest sayings ever to be repeated around the dinner table, but can you also eat what you are?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A child rides his bicycle in an area affected by the Hurricane Maria passing in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Oct. 5, 2017. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP / Getty Images

Hurricane Maria's Legacy: One Year Later

As Puerto Rico marked one year since Hurricane Maria made landfall yesterday, the Miami Herald this week ran extensive reports in English and Spanish on the island's continuing recovery.

Keep reading... Show less
Science
A foldable, biodegradable battery based on paper and bacteria. Seokheun Choi / Binghamton University, CC BY-ND

Could Paper Power the Next Generation of Devices?

By Seokheun Choi

It seems like every few months there's a new cellphone, laptop or tablet that is so exciting people line up around the block to get their hands on it. While the perpetual introduction of new, slightly more advanced electronics has made businesses like Apple hugely successful, the short shelf life of these electronics is bad for the environment.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!