Jun 30, 2017

Growing food in the post-truth era

The global food system has been operating in post-truth mode for decades. Having constructed food scarcity as a justification for a second Green Revolution, Big Agriculture now employs its unethical marketing tactics to selling farmers “climate-smart” agriculture in the form of soils, seeds and chemicals.

The cover of Monsanto’s 2016 annual report, A Limitless Perspective, presents a vista of galaxies worthy of a George Lucas production. The brightest star is an A$88 billion merger with German chemical company Bayer, to be finalised this year.

Critics have described this as a “marriage made in hell”. They fear the new mega-corporation will impose even more pesticides and genetically modified seeds on the world’s farmers.

Monsanto’s oft-stated aim is to “consolidate the entire food chain”. That means a corporatised food regime that concentrates knowledge and power in the hands of a few.

This cedes control of food security to profit-making companies. The democratic governance of food and agriculture policy is under threat.

Jun 1, 2017

Book Review : Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were

DEAD ZONE:Where the Wild Things Were
by Philip Lymbery
Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017
Reviewed by Martin Empson

Philip Lymbery’s Dead Zone is a highly readable, if frightening, examination of the impact of industrial agriculture on the environment, and particularly biodiversity. Lymbery’s style is part travel-book, part autobiography and part ecological critique. There’s a lot in it, and this review cannot hope to highlight all of the fascinating content—my copy is covered in pencil markings just from a single read.But I want to try and explore what Lymbery rightly highlights as a major ecological crisis, and add a few additional thoughts.

The first thing to note is the breadth of Lymbery’s coverage. From the impact of palm plantations on elephants in Asia, to the decline of Barn Owls, Nightingales and other birds in the UK, to the dead zones in the Mexican Gulf and the way that the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy has decimated Eastern European farming, this is a bleak picture.

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Healthy soil is the real key to feeding the world

By David R. Montgomery 

Professor of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington 

One of the biggest modern myths about agriculture is that organic farming is inherently sustainable. It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. After all, soil erosion from chemical-free tilled fields undermined the Roman Empire and other ancient societies around the world. Other agricultural myths hinder recognizing the potential to restore degraded soils to feed the world using fewer agrochemicals.

When I embarked on a six-month trip to visit farms around the world to research my forthcoming book, “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” the innovative farmers I met showed me that regenerative farming practices can restore the world’s agricultural soils. In both the developed and developing worlds, these farmers rapidly rebuilt the fertility of their degraded soil, which then allowed them to maintain high yields using far less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.

Their experiences, and the results that I saw on their farms in North and South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ghana and Costa Rica, offer compelling evidence that the key to sustaining highly productive agriculture lies in rebuilding healthy, fertile soil. This journey also led me to question three pillars of conventional wisdom about today’s industrialized agrochemical agriculture: that it feeds the world, is a more efficient way to produce food and will be necessary to feed the future. 

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Solutions to Australia’s rural crisis

By Elena Garcia

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Australia is the most urbanised country on earth. Almost 90% of Australians live in urban areas, while rural Australia, as of 2010–11, had only 134,000 farm businesses employing 307,000 people to manage 52% of Australia — 417.3 million hectares of land, including the 46.3% of Australia that is marginal land.

In rural areas plagues of feral animals destroy land management infrastructure, drive native plants and animals into extinction and strip vegetation from the soil and creek banks, allowing the topsoil to be flushed down the rivers by the increasingly intensive rain events or blown away in dust storms because rain is less frequent.

Meanwhile, a concentrated attack has been launched on land owners by corporations. Aboriginal communities have been moved from their traditional lands into townships on various pretexts, including by cutting the water supply to remote communities, so the mining industry can have free access to their lands.

The abolition of marketing boards and the fair minimum pricing regulations they set has allowed the supermarket corporate duopoly to drive farmers into poverty. The managers of our prime farmland — dairy, fruit and vegetable growers — are pushed out of the industry as farm gate prices remain below costs and food processing industries are moved offshore or run for investor profit rather than farm returns.

Both foreign and domestic corporate interests work with banks to buy up the best agricultural land by whatever dirty trick they can manage, so they can directly export our best produce for premium prices, leaving cheap and toxic imports, produced with polluted water and slave labour, for domestic consumption.

Once they own the land, there is nothing to stop these Big Agriculture corporations from establishing the toxic industrial agriculture that has destroyed American farmland and small farmers.

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Murray Goulburn: Dairy crisis hits new low

By Elena Garcia

Friday, May 12, 2017

Australia’s largest milk processor Murray Goulburn has announced it will close manufacturing plants in three small rural towns: Kiewa and Rochester in northern Victoria and Edith Creek in Tasmania.

Murray Goulburn expects 360 people will lose their jobs. The closures are in areas where there are no other industries.

This will have a huge impact on these three local communities. The 700 residents of Kiewa-Tangambalanga will lose 135 jobs from Murray Goulburn's factory closure.

“It’s devastating to the town,” former Murray Goulburn employee Jack Britten said about the Kiewa closure. Kiewa was built around the butter factory. Most will have to move to find jobs, which will mean shops and local services like schools may close.

Murray Goulburn attributed the closures to a 20.6% slump in milk supplies and a 14.8% drop in revenue.

New book looks at how corporate power is destroying agriculture — and how it can be changed

By Lalitha Chelliah  
Sustainable Agriculture vs Corporate Greed: Small farmers, food security &
big business
By Alan Broughton & Elena Garcia
Resistance Books
104pp, pb
This new book is vital to understand the desperate state of farming in Australia and the world. The foolish thinking behind the way world leaders propose to manage sustainable food production is clearly exposed.
In Sustainable Agriculture vs Corporate Greed, published by Resistance Books, farmers and socialist activists Alan Broughton and Elena Garcia explore the world of survival.
Broughton has enormous experience and knowledge about sustainable farming. He has worked in or studied experiences in Venezuela, Thailand, Tanzania, Uganda, Cuba, South Korea and Italy. He also designed and taught the first organic farming diploma course in Australia.