“Climate-smart” agriculture, another agribusiness hoax

“Climate-smart” agriculture, another agribusiness hoax

By Carmelo Ruiz Marrero

The model of conventional, corporate, industrialized and intensive agriculture in the use of agrochemicals, also known as the green revolution, has been the object of more and more forceful criticism in recent years by scientists, academics, farmers, ecologists, civil society, and movements for social change from all over the world. Proponents and practitioners of ecologically sustainable, scientifically grounded and socially just alternatives, such as agroecology and food sovereignty, are entering territory that was previously monopolized by the corporate giants of agrochemicals and their allies in government ministries and academia. Conventional agriculture, represented in public opinion by corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, is losing public acceptance. It is on the defensive and is losing ground every year as the notion that another agriculture is possible spreads throughout the world.

In 2008 the green revolution model took a decisive blow with the publication of the United Nations Agricultural Assessment. Officially called the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), it was the largest and most thorough assessment of the state of world agriculture ever conducted. Funded by the World Bank and UN agencies, the report was written by over 400 scientists, developed through an unprecedented participatory process in which governments, academia, the business sector, and civil society worked together on equal terms, and subject to two independent peer reviews. IAASTD was co-chaired by Swiss scientist Hans Herren, winner of the 1995 World Food Prize and the 2013 Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood).

The report's findings were devastating for green revolution agriculture. “Modern agriculture, as it is practiced in the world today… is over-exploiting the soil, our basic natural resource, and is unsustainable because it makes intensive use of both energy from fossil fuels and capital, at the same time time that basically does not take into account the external effects of its activity ”, declared Herren. "If we continue with current trends in food production we will deplete our natural resources and endanger the future of our children."

The IAASTD report recommends decentralized, ecologically sustainable and democratically controlled food systems, precisely what organic producers have been recommending and implementing. Regarding GMO technologies aggressively promoted by Monsanto and other agricultural biotech giants, the report expressed skepticism and advised caution around this technology. (one)

Faced with the challenge of IAASTD and more recent scientific reports that validate the feasibility and necessity of agroecological practice, industrial agriculture is under increasing pressure to prove its case and demonstrate its relevance in the face of global financial, energy, food and food crises. water, as is the threat of climate change. Some of its advocates now take a conciliatory stance, claiming that both modes of agricultural production can be harmoniously combined. This argument was made by Jonathan Foley, a professor at the University of Minnesota, in an article published on the cover of National Geographic magazine in May 2014 (2). Foley outlines a plan to feed the world with tech patches, proposing to blend "the best" techniques from organic farms with those from high-tech agribusiness operations. The proposal, which comes with an attractive media presentation, is consistent with conventional ideas that predominate in agricultural policy circles. (3)

Along the same lines, in 2010 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) presented a proposal called “climate-smart agriculture”, which seeks to incorporate some ecological elements into agriculture to address the danger of climate change.

According to FAO:

“Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) aims to improve the capacity of agricultural systems to support food security, and incorporate the need for adaptation and mitigation possibilities into sustainable agricultural development strategies.

CSA proposes more integrated approaches to the strongly interrelated challenges of food security, development and climate change, in order to help countries determine the options that are most beneficial for them and whose comparative advantages need to be weighed. The CSA recognizes that the realization of the options will depend on the context and capacity of each country, as well as its access to more complete information, the harmonization of policies, the coordination of institutional arrangements and the flexibility of incentives and financial mechanisms. The CSA concept is constantly evolving and there is no single approach that can be used. " (4)

In September 2014, FAO founded the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (5). This alliance describes itself as "a voluntary alliance of partners dedicated to addressing the challenges facing food security and agriculture in a changing climate." Its members include:

The Nature Conservancy - A US conservation organization active in more than 30 countries with assets valued at more than $ 6 billion. Its corporate partners include Dow Chemical, Coca Cola, and the giant agribusiness Cargill (6). He incurred much controversy in 1993 when he joined the campaign for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - Based in Switzerland, IUCN is one of the most influential environmental groups in the world. It has an annual budget that exceeds $ 100 million, and over a thousand employees who manage conservation projects around the world. Its partners include the United States government (State Department and USAID), the World Bank, mining company Rio Tinto, oil company Shell, and French food-processing super-company Danone. (7)

Environmental Defense Fund - Leader of neoliberal environmentalism in the US. He also joined the campaign for NAFTA. Its corporate partners include McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. (8)

World Resources Institute (WRI) - Super-elite natural resources think tank based in Washington DC. On its board of directors are former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, and Harriet C. Babbitt, former US ambassador to the Organization of American States. Past directors have included celebrity environmentalist Al Gore, ex-neoliberal Brazil president Fernando H. Cardoso, ex-Costa Rican president José M. Figueres, and executives from Wal-Mart and Citigroup. (9)

World Business Council for Sustainable Development - The world standard bearer for corporate environmentalism since its founding in 1992. Its members include executives from Unilever, Toshiba, Toyota, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Brazilian miner Vale, Pepsico, Syngenta, Monsanto and Dupont. (10)

Ecoagriculture Partners - Group that promotes a “sustainable” form of agriculture that is friendly to corporate interests and with the model of the green revolution. Its partners include the WRI, the World Bank, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Rockefeller Foundation. (eleven)

Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) - Consortium of funders of the green revolution.

Also: The Danone company, and over 20 governments, including the US, UK, Mexico, Costa Rica and France.

Interestingly, there are no agro-toxic pesticide manufacturers on the Alliance membership list, but the fertilizer industry looks very interested in ensuring that “climate-smart” agriculture is adopted as a global standard (12). Represented in the Alliance are the International Fertilizer Industry Association, the Fertilizer Institute - the industry's research and development arm - and Yara and Mosaic, two of the largest fertilizer companies in the world.

As soon as the Alliance announced its existence, Via Campesina issued an open letter questioning its motives (13). We quote from the document:

“As women, men, peasants, small family farmers, migrants, rural workers, indigenous people and youth of La Via Campesina, we denounce Climate-Smart Agriculture… (which) is the continuation of a project started with the Green Revolution in the decade 1940 and continued from the 70s to the 80s with the World Bank's Poverty Reduction projects and the interests of the corporations involved. These projects, like the so-called Green Revolution, decimated peasant economies, particularly in the South, to the extent that many countries, such as Mexico, for example, which were self-sufficient in food production in a couple of decades, became dependent on the North. in order to feed its population.

The consequence of these projects, dictated by the need to expand industrial capital, was the hoarding and integration of producers and traditional agricultural production with industrial agriculture and their diet ... The result has been the loss of security and Food sovereignty, the transformation of countries from net food exporters to importers, not so much because they cannot produce food but because they now produce raw materials to produce industrial food, to manufacture fuels and to manufacture products for sale and speculation in the financial markets worldwide .

Today, several of the same actors in these projects, such as the World Bank, are the forces behind the imposition of climate-smart agriculture as a solution to solve climate change and increase the income of the rural poor with the same failed thesis of that what is needed is to increase your productivity. It is clear that the intention is to implement the Green Revolution market as a solution to climate change, poverty and also as a proposal for sustainable development in rural areas. We identify this as part of a long process of "green" structural adjustment projects required by a struggling economic system and political class, because they have exhausted other venues for their huge financial investment and now see agriculture and farmland as the new. frontier for such speculative investments. "

Haitian community organizer Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of the MPP peasant movement and member of the La Via Campesina International Coordination Committee, pointed out in an interview that climate-smart agriculture is a concept “quite empty, in which everything can enter… La Via Campesina is the same process that began with the green revolution and that continues to develop chemical pesticides, starting from hybrid seeds, today transgenic seeds ”. (14) He added that it is a hoax to say that climate-smart agriculture will solve hunger on the planet and at the same time fight global warming, when in fact it is simply “a 'modified' face of industrial agriculture that it is going to continue monopolizing the land, monopolizing water, energy ... It is a form of recolonization ”.

"We know that the FAO is manipulated by the countries of the North that are defending green capitalism, by the multinationals that have access to the FAO leaders," added Baptiste. “We know that FAO is defending climate-smart agriculture, and we are against this issue. It is a way of using the climate issue to deceive the people and continue to destroy natural resources; because they are the multinationals ... that are manipulating the governments, and the popular sectors cannot influence inside ... what must be changed is not the climate, the capitalist system must be changed. Because global warming is a consequence of the grabbing of natural resources for green capitalism ”.

The global movement for agroecology identifies climate-smart agriculture as part of a worrying trend toward the co-option and accommodation of agroecology to the conventional paradigm of the green revolution. This matter was discussed at the International Agroecology Forum that took place in the African country of Mali in February 2015. We quote below from the Forum's final statement:

"Popular pressure has urged many multilateral institutions, governments, universities and research centers, some NGOs, corporations and other bodies to finally recognize 'agroecology'. However, they have tried to reduce the concept to a mere proposal of technologies to offer some tools that ease the crisis of sustainability of industrial food production without challenging existing power structures. This co-option of agroecology to 'make up' the industrial food system and offer an environmental discourse for the gallery goes by various names, including 'climate-smart agriculture', 'sustainable or ecological intensification', industrial production of monocultures of 'organic food ', etc. For us, this is not agroecology. We reject such labels and we will fight to denounce and stop this insidious appropriation of agroecology. " (fifteen)

As for alternatives and solutions, the forum statement says:

“The real solutions to the crisis of the climate, of malnutrition, etc., do not go through conforming to the industrial model. We must transform it and build our own local food systems that create new urban and rural linkages based on genuinely agroecological food production by peasants, artisanal fishermen, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, urban farmers, etc. We cannot allow agroecology to be a tool of the industrial food production model: we understand it as the essential alternative to that model and as the means of transforming the way in which we produce and consume food into something better for humanity and our Mother Earth. . "

Ruiz Marrero is a Puerto Rican journalist and author. He directs the Biosafety Blog and the Energy and Environment Monitor for Latin America. His most recent book, "The Great Botanical Chess Game," was published by Editorial Tiempo Nuevo in January 2015. His Twitter ID is @carmeloruiz.