The first path of food and farming leads to a dead planet: poisons and chemical monocultures spreading. Farmers committing suicide due to debt. Children dying for lack of food. People dying because of chronic diseases exacerbated by the empty, toxic commodities sold as food. And climate havoc wiping out conditions for human life on earth. The second leads to the rejuvenation of the planet through rejuvenation of biodiversity, soils, water; a rejuvenation of small farms. Diverse, healthy, fresh, ecological food for all.
The first path is industrial, and was paved by the Poison Cartel, which was born during the war to create chemicals that can kill people. After the wars they redeployed war chemicals as agrichemicals – pesticides and fertilizers. We were told we can’t have food without poisons.
Explosives that were made by burning fossil fuels at high temperature to fix atmospheric nitrogen were later used to make chemical fertilizers. The slogan was that there would never again be scarcity of food because we can now make ‘Bread from Air’.
There was the exaggerated claim that artificial fertilizers would increase food production and remove all ecological limits that land puts on agriculture. Today the evidence is growing that artificial fertilizers have reduced soil fertility and food production; and contributed to desertification, water scarcity and climate change.
In the 1990s we were told we would starve without GMOs brought to us by the same Poison Cartel. There was an exaggerated claim that GMOs would remove all limits of the environment, grow food in deserts and toxic dumps. Today we have only two GMO applications: herbicide resistance and Bt toxins in crops. The first was claimed to control weeds. It has created super-weeds. Bt crops were supposed to control pests. They have created new pests and super-pests. Bt cotton has pushed thousands of farmers to suicide.
Monsanto calls it ‘Digital Agriculture’ based on Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. It has started to talk about ‘farming without farmers’. This is why the suicide epidemic of Indian farmers and has drawn no response from government. Because they are blindly paving the next phase on the dead-end highway.
Monsanto’s partnership with Atomwise allows making a guess about which molecules will give Monsanto the next possible pesticide. This is not the intelligence for sustainable management of pests, but the narrow bet on the next poison. It is turning life into a digital casino. It is like playing poker on the deck of the Titanic while the ship is sinking.
In 2013 Monsanto acquired world’s largest climate data corporation Climate Corporation for $1 billion. In 2014 it acquired the world’s largest soil data corporation, Solum Inc. Climate Corporation does not bring to farmers the knowledge that the solution to climate change lies below our feet, in the soil. It sells data. Solum Corporation does not work with farmers to understand the rich soil food web: the bacteria, the fungi, the earth worms. It sells data.
But data is not knowledge. It is just another commodity to make the farmer more dependent. The farmer is being told he or she must outsource his or her mind to Monsanto. This is the next step in a dead-end future that ignores the intelligence of seeds, plants, soil organism, our gut bacteria, our farmers, our grandmothers.
All over the world, small farmers and gardeners are already implementing this agriculture: preserving and developing their soils, their seeds, practising agro-ecology. They are feeding their communities with healthy and nutritious food while rejuvenating the planet. They are thus sowing the seeds of food democracy – a food system in the hands of farmers and consumers, devoid of corporate control, poisons, food miles and plastics. A food system that nourishes the planet and all humans.
Contrary to the myth that small farmers should we wiped out because they are unproductive, and we should leave our food future in the hands of the Poison Cartel – with surveillance drones and spyware – small farmers are providing 70% of global food using just 30% of the resources that go into agriculture. Industrial agriculture is using 70% of the resources to create 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions while providing only 30% of our food.
This commodity-based agriculture has caused 75% of the destruction of soils, 75% of the destruction of water resources, and pollution of our lakes, rivers and oceans, 93% of crop diversity has been pushed to extinction through industrial agriculture. Intensive industrial agriculture is also creating a health crisis, by producing nutritionally empty toxic commodities. A billion people are permanently hungry in this system, and more than 2 billion suffer from food related diseases.
Organic farming takes excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, where it doesn’t belong, and through photosynthesis puts it back in the soil, where it does belong. It also increases the water holding capacity of soil, contributing to resilience in times of droughts, floods and other climate extremes.
We cannot address climate change, and its very real consequences, without recognizing the central role of the industrial and globalised food system, which contributes more than 40% to green house gas emissions through deforestation, animals in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), plastics and aluminium packaging, long distance transport and food waste. We cannot solve climate change without small scale, ecological agriculture, based on biodiversity – living seeds and living soils and local food systems. We can solve it without minimal food miles and an absence of plastic packaging.
What we eat, how we grow the food we eat, how we distribute it will determine whether humanity survives or pushes itself and other species to extinction.