dorset chiapas solidarity

October 19, 2013

Sustainable Food Systems for Security and Nutrition: The Need for Social Movements

Filed under: Maize — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:05 pm


Sustainable Food Systems for Security and Nutrition: The Need for Social Movements

By Eric Holt Gimenez

Food_first_photo_2In celebrating sustainable food systems, World Food Day is recognizing the need for systemic change to end hunger and malnutrition. Systemic change is urgent because even though for decades the world has produced 1 ½ times enough food for every man, woman and child on the planet, nearly a billion people go hungry while over a billion are malnourished. Ironically, most of the hungry are the very ones producing half the world’s food: peasant women. Similarly, most of the food insecure people in the developed world are food and farm workers—as are many of those suffering from obesity and diet-related disease.

Hunger and malnutrition are not by-products, but an integral part of the global food system. Ensuring environmental sustainability, food security and good nutrition around the world—as the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) asserts—will require a radical transformation in how we grow our food.

Luckily, we have many examples of sustainable food systems in the making. Agroecologically-managed smallholder farms like Latin America’s Campesino a Campesino Movement increase yields, conserve soil, water, and biodiversity and capture carbon to cool the planet. Urban farms from Havana to Bangkok are steadily increasing food production and improving livelihoods. Community-supported Agriculture groups around the world provide fresh, healthy food for members and a living income for local family farmers. Hundreds of municipal Food Policy Councils and Food Hubs are implementing citizen-driven initiatives to keep the food dollar in the community where it can recycle up to five times, thereby creating jobs and kick-starting local economic development. What do all these efforts have in common? They are grounded in sustainable, equitable and dignified livelihoods.

We know what practices make a food system sustainable. Why don’t we enact enabling policies to prioritize them? The simple answer is that the institutions that produce the agreements, laws and regulations shaping our food systems don’t yet have the political will to make sustainable food systems a priority, and they are still a long way from addressing the structural changes needed for food system transformation. Historically, the political will for systems change responds to practice, awareness and the power of strong social movements.

The movements for food sovereignty, food justice, agroecology, climate justice, women’s rights and labor rights are spreading, and their influence on our food system is growing. As the food, fuel, climate and financial crises worsen, these movements are steadily converging—in all their diversity—into a force to be reckoned with.  Their impact is felt in the United Nation’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS)—the “most inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together in a coordinated way to ensure food security and nutrition for all.” La Vía Campesina, the international peasant movement that  defends 2 million small-scale food producers champions Food Sovereignty, the democratization of the world’s food systems in favor of women and the poor.

In the United StatesEuropeAfrica and Latin America, food sovereignty alliances have formed, bringing together producers, environmentalists, consumers and indigenous organizations to forge new policies and institutions for sustainable food systems. The power of its social movements led Kerala, India to implement a statewide transition to organic agriculture to protect the environment, ensure food security and provide a dignified livelihood to its farmers. These developments and many others indicate that the catalyst for sustainable food systems—political action—is already in the making.

Eric Holt-Gimenez is the Executive Director of Food First, and a contributor to the CIP Americas Program



September 30, 2013

The Fourth ‘Reform’ – Gustavo Esteva

Filed under: Corporations, Maize — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:12 pm


The Fourth ‘Reform’

Gustavo Esteva

La Jornada, 30th September, 2013

Maize-small-629x420The “reforms” are not what they purport to be. To hide their character and defeat those who resist, they have mounted propaganda campaigns rather than government actions. While public attention is caught up in the media game, the most serious and damaging of the alleged reforms is creeping forward: the food plunder, the liquidation of our corn and of the culture that allows us to continue to be who we are.

Education, the energy sector and public finances do not reform. They strip the teacher ranks of some of their rights and increase bureaucratic control of education in order to continue dismantling it. They strip the country of part of the oil revenue and of control over its energy resources in order to continue dismantling Pemex. The tax system is adjusted to raise revenues marginally without touching the structural problems of public finances. All this is, of course, at the service of a few.

The anti-peasant policy adopted by the government in the post-war period is arriving at an extreme end. It is the elites’ unshakeable conviction that the country cannot fully modernize while so many campesinos and indigenous remain in the rural areas. They have to be expelled. This foolish policy, which uses the foundation to build the roof, has caused immense damage. One of the most severe is the policy aimed at undermining Mexico’s Corn Culture in all its aspects.

The final blow is currently being prepared, even worse than the one in 1992, when Article 27 was amended to make ejido land [owned and worked communally] available for sale on the open market. The authorities are about to approve permits to grow GM corn on two and a half million hectares. We set aside here the intense debate about the intrinsic harm of this kind of corn. What matters most is the disaster that it will cause. These crops will contaminate at least 5 million in which only native corn adapted to different ecological niches through millennia of selection can thrive. By spreading transgenic corn in these fields, it would not be possible to grow [native] corn there. The transgenic corn will be produced by commercial agriculture and in suitable areas, but it does not have the qualities of native corn adapted to those niches.

By making it impossible to plant corn on these millions of acres, the small farmers would be forced to abandon them. So the reason for the manoeuvre is revealed. It could be to carry out more smoothly the land dispossession that has been tried through concessions [e.g., licenses to mining companies, wind farms, etc.] and that is facing growing resistance.

A few days ago in these pages, Silvia Ribeiro showed the importance of the peasants (La Jornada, 09/21/13). She pointed out that the industrial food chain controls 70 per cent of the land, water and agricultural inputs, but what they produce reaches only 30 per cent of the world population. The remaining 70 per cent is fed with what campesinos produce.

Victor Quintana, meanwhile, showed that current actions try to put corn cultivation under control of multinationals, Monsanto, in particular (La Jornada, 27/09/13). The company faces growing challenges in the United States from a citizen movement increasingly aware of what its operation means. Today, the “Monsanto Protection Act”, underhandedly introduced in March, will probably die in the [U.S.] Senate. Thus the company has intensified its activities in countries such as Mexico, where the authorities are obliging.

Ten years ago, the severity of the damage caused by official policy inspired the campaign Without corn there is no country [Sin maís no hay país] that persists today. It has helped to deepen awareness of the consequences of this policy for the country, which were clearly stated yesterday at celebrations of National Corn Day. Equally, it deepens awareness everywhere of the meaning of the threat posed by genetically modified plants. While the world gradually extends the ban on their use, the Mexican government is determined to promote it.

It makes sense, no doubt, to express radical rejection of provisions presented as “reforms” and that promise the opposite of what they actually cause. But it is not giving enough importance to the case of corn and peasant farmers. Ultimately, although it might be with great difficulty, we could live without oil and without education. But we cannot live without food. If they continue to destroy our ability to produce food, they would have irresponsibly created the worst dependency, that of the stomach, a real threat that is almost accomplished, against which it is essential to react.

Translation by Jane Brundage



September 28, 2013

National Day of Corn (Día del Maíz) and Resistance to Silent Privatization

Filed under: Corporations, Maize — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:25 am


National Day of Corn (Día del Maíz) and Resistance to Silent Privatization

Victor M. Quintana S.

La Jornada, 27th September, 2013

dscf9280Two basic energies for Mexico are in danger: the energy that moves machines (oil and electricity) and the energy that moves people (food). Both are essential public goods that are about to fall into private hands. To privatize oil profits and the electricity industry, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto will have to move its proposed legal reforms through blood and fire. However, there is another privatization already underway, of similar proportions, which is being carried out effectively without any consensus or any reforms: that of corn.

Corn, whose National Day is celebrated this coming Sunday, Sept. 29, for the fifth consecutive year through the initiative of a large number of peasant, indigenous, academic and artistic organizations of all kinds, is the basic factor and organizer of our food system and the rural economy. It is the most important vegetable raw material on the planet and the nutritional staple of Mexican families, especially those with lower incomes. In turn, it forms the core of the rural economy, especially in the centre and south of the country. Around it develops the diversity of plants that grow in the milpa [traditional fields centred on corn]: beans, chilis, pumpkins, huitlacoches [corn fungus], etc. This diverse production, when it occurs, allows proper nutrition and relatively self-sufficient households.

The key to the farmers’ crop productivity is diversity: both the types of plants that live in the milpa, and in the multiplicity of races and varieties of corn adapted to the very different latitudes, altitudes, climates and soils of Mexico.

All this is being threatened by the “pincer” strategy of transnational agrochemical company, Monsanto, its allies and recent federal governments. On the one hand, they are pressing for and tolerating the introduction of genetically modified seeds into our country, such as cotton and peanuts. But the real goal is to impose transgenic corn in the soil where it originated. Under the pretext of increasing corn production, making it more resistant to drought, pests and frost, Monsanto and various associations of producers, including CNC [National Confederation of Campesinos], are pushing for the massive release of transgenic corn, until now prohibited by law.

But besides this tolerance of the silent invasion, the federal government, or federal governments, the research infrastructure of the few institutions that care for and develop Native corn have been dismantled. An exemplary case is that of INIFAP [National Institute for Forestry, Agricultural and Fisheries Research] of the Sierra of Chihuahua. This public research centre has done an excellent job in at least two major areas: developing oat seeds, such as the variety Páramo, that are resistant to drought and climate extremes and which have had great success and are now grown as far away as Russia. But above all, it has carried out a patient, thorough and very valuable collection and preservation of native corn varieties originating in the mountains of Chihuahua.

But the federal government caters to Monsanto and seeks to dismantle INIFAP Sierra de Chihuahua. It has dramatically reduced budgets to the point that it is virtually impossible to undertake research and collecting trips, the positions of staff who retire or change positions disappear, which means the technical-scientific team is reduced to a minimum. However, other centres of the same institute, which are oriented to commercial agriculture or export, receive preferential treatment.

This pincer movement is the government’s strategy to deliver corn to transnationals and make transgenics predominate, thereby letting the enormous diversity of native corn die by starvation or invasion. It is proved that this would have all kinds of serious damage: environmental, productive, economic, social and political. It would make us become even more dependent on foreign imports for our basic food; it would sink the rural economy below the waterline; it would wipe out the biodiversity of our countryside. Homogenizing corn cultivation means that only those who can afford the very expensive Monsanto seeds can produce it. It means ending the diversity of corn, which will lead to famine.

maiz in the marketFortunately, resistance to this emerged long ago and reveals itself (and rebels) most clearly on National Corn Day. They conduct campaigns such as “Without corn there is no country”, groups like Seed of Life, indigenous community ranging from the Mixtec [in the south] to Rarámuris [in the north] and many more. Peasant organizations, core activists, academics, artists have filed their complaint in multiple national and international forums, most recently before the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal. They don’t just protest; they preserve native seeds, they evaluate them, improve them, multiply them. They inform, raise awareness, revive and promote cultural events, because corn is also culture.

This creative, diverse resistance, with its deep cultural roots and a food and agriculture project firmly based in them, is what has so far prevented the federal government from granting permission for the release and massive planting of genetically modified corn, which has defended our corn from privatization attempts. It is a resistance that needs to make itself visible and be widely disseminated. Like the other resistances that flourish today in order to claim a future that takes up the best in our history.

Translation by Reed Brundage



September 21, 2013

Who Will Feed Us?

Filed under: Corporations, Indigenous, Maize — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:55 pm


Who Will Feed Us?

Silvia Ribeiro

La Jornada, 21st September, 2013

20130512_maiz-391x293Given the growing world population, the issue of hunger and food needs is crucial, but it is rife with erroneous assumptions.

Almost all governments and the international community that deals with the issue of food start with the premise that we need the industrial chain and its technologies to feed ourselves, both in the present and to meet future challenges. Farmers and other small food producers are seen as almost folkloric: they exist, but they are marginal, and they don’t play an important role in food. It is also the slogan of the transnationals and scientists who are funded by them: given population growth and climate chaos, without industrial and transgenic seeds, without industrial monocultures, machinery and lots of supplies and pesticides, the world will be even hungrier.

But the hard data show an inverse reality: it is precisely the industrial chain, the multinationals and their technologies,that are exacerbating the crisis and producing more hunger, while the campesino networks and other “small” farmers are those who feed the majority.

Faced with the contradictions between real data and false assumptions based on national and international policies, the ETC Group, which has followed the agricultural and food issue and its corporate manifestations since the 1970s, decided to compile the research over several decades and compare in one document the realities of the industrial food chain and the rural networks. We synthesize the compilation into a series of six posters that compare both realities by posing Twenty Questions and juxtaposing the answers. The first question is, Who feeds us today? It is followed by Who will feed us in 2030? [Available for download Poster: Who Will Feed Us?]

Since 2009, the global food market, from seeds and agriculture to supermarkets, has been the world’s largest market, surpassing energy. Being also an essential item for survival, it is not surprising that the multinationals have acted aggressively to control it. The process didn’t take long: in technology some fifty years, with the so-called “Green Revolution”, and in new regulations to favour market oligopolies, just a couple of decades. From Monsanto to Walmart, a score of multinationals now control most of this lucrative market.

That the multinationals dominate the industrial chain of food production does not mean that they feed the most. Although they control about 70 per cent of the global agricultural resources (land, water, supplies), what they produce reaches only 30 per cent of the world’s population. Most of the food still comes from the hands of rural farmers, indigenous people, fishermen, pickers, neighbourhood and urban gardens and orchards and other small producers. With just 30 per cent of agricultural resources, they feed 70 per cent of humanity.

The industrial chain wastes two-thirds of its food production, destroys soils and ecosystems, causes enormous damage to health and the environment, and for that, 3.4 billion people, half the world’s population, are malnourished: hungry, malnourished or obese. The peasant and small producer network of food suppliers have a minimum level of waste, use and care for an enormous variety of foods that are healthier and have much higher nutritional content, and with low or no environmental impact. Even negative, because they counteract the devastation caused by the chain, as in the case of climate change. This is even taking into account that most of the farmers use some agrochemical.

In order to provide that 30 per cent of food, the industrial chain uses 70-80 per cent of the arable land, 80 per cent of fossil fuels, and 70 per cent of the water destined for agricultural use. It also causes 44-57 per cent of greenhouse gases, deforests 13 million hectares [32 million acres] of forests and destroys 75 million tons of vegetative cover [shrubs, trees] each year.

The peasant network harvests 60-70 per cent of food crops with 20-30 per cent of the arable land, uses less than 20 per cent of fossil fuels and 30 per cent of the water intended for agricultural uses, nourishes and uses the biodiversity and is responsible for most of the 85 per cent of food produced within national borders. It is the chief, and often the only, provider of foodstuffs that reach two billion people suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

To these data are added many others about the output per hectare, jobs, land, water, fisheries, forests, seed and microbial diversity, pollinators, agricultural research, patents and monopolies, animal production and related impact, health and environmental impact, which shows similar and often unknown realities not only for governments, but also for many of us.

The document, entitled “Who will feed us? Industrial Chain versus Peasant Network”, has been compiled from more than a hundred sources, of which the majority come from such United Nations agencies as FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization], UNEP [UN Environmental Program], UNDP [UN Development Programs], UNCTAD [UN Conference on Trade and Development]. The remaining data come from academic or civilian research institutions, which cite reports that are in turn based on hundreds of sources, such as those produced by GRAIN and OXFAM.

*Silvia Ribeiro is a researcher with the ETC Group, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration.

Translated by Jane Brundage




Create a free website or blog at