Peasant food webs vs. industrial food system

Llisa Elf forestwanderer05 at
Tue Jan 26 14:25:22 GMT 2010

Here's a good report by the ETC group that looks at the differences between peasant food webs and the industrial food system:
I really recommend reading it.


2009’s most important intergovernmental meeting on the climate and food crises has already happened. In October,
as climate negotiators were fighting in Bangkok and as the UN food agencies were jousting over a restructured
response to the food crisis and plans for the World Food Summit, the Food and Agriculture Organizations’s (FAO) Commission on Genetic Resources met quietly in Rome to review the preparedness of the international community
to adapt and develop crops, livestock, aquatic and microbial genetic resources used in food and agriculture to
address climate change. The meeting also considered the political and corporate constraints that could prevent a
major strategic shift to achieve our food security. The Rome Food Summit in November and the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December should pay attention. At stake is the answer to the most important question not being asked in Copenhagen, “Who Will Feed Us?” A Tale of Two Crises: En route to Copenhagen climate change negotiators see agriculture as both a pollutant and an opportunity. It is the source of at least 14% of greenhouse
gas emissions, depends on unsustainable fossil fuels, and is the consumer of 70% of the world’s annual
freshwater supply. Agriculture – including agroforestry – is also an (theoretical) alternative to fossil
energy and a potential source of carbon credits – sequestering the gases that it, and other industries, emit. From the perspective of some food crisis negotiators en route to the Food Summit in Rome, agriculture is a vulnerable industrial manufacture and smallholders (peasants) are a nuisance. Both perspectives are distorted. Policy-makers need to be looking at not what agriculture can do for carbon credits, but at who will feed us and protect our planet at a time of compounding chaos.Climate and hunger? There is a scientific
consensus that climate change is a major threat to world food security.
Although increased temperatures and even CO2 emissions could bring some benefits to temperate zones, even in these areas, the increase in extreme weather events, the likelihood
of pest and disease migrations, and the reality that the warmer winds could blow over inhospitable rock and tundra, is hardly grounds for enthusiasm. There is no doubt, on the other hand, that climate change will be devastating for tropical and subtropical
regions bringing about major crop losses in South and Southeast Asia as well as sub-Saharan Africa. Yield declines of 20% to 40% are anticipated for major food crops in Africa, for example, well before 2050. These regions will also experience even more extreme weather events than temperate zones and will also suffer from pest and disease migrations.
A survey of several countries in the global South shows that, at least by the final decades of the 21st century,
the most important food crops in these countries will be grown in temperatures they have never before experienced – i.e., the hottest days of the 20th century will be the coldest days of the late 21st century.1As though this were not enough, global fish stocks are also collapsing
and many major species may be played out before 2050. Both industrial agriculture and aquaculture are heavily dependent on fossil fuels
that are destined to become too expensive and too scarce before the century’s midpoint.There is also agreement that an entirely unprecedented level of international
cooperation will be needed if humanity is to avoid mass starvation in this rapidly changing world. There is no agreement on either what needs to be done or who needs to do it.A Tale of Two Alternatives? Policy-makers are being told by industry advocates
(quite wrongly) that there are only two choices: We either globalize the Western industrial food chain and embrace a suite of new technologies, or, we cling to the bucolic belief that massively-subsidized and hugely-expensive little organic family farms will suddenly scale up to crank out enough calories to feed the 9.2 billion people expected for dinner in 2050. This is a false dichotomy. Neither option
is grounded in reality.On the Food and Climate Crises85% of the world’s cultivated food is consumed relatively close to where it is grown.


More information about the Diggers350 mailing list