The Global Agri-Feudals
By NAJMA SADEQUE
nothing new about the US goal of maintaining control over
the world’s food and agriculture, or at least that of
It’s been an open secret
since Kissinger’s time who advised that to control a country
you had to control its food supply.
wordsmiths from scientific academia and corporate media,
post-independence democracy has become associated more with
corporatization and centralized global control.
So that today’s
appropriation of the world’s resources and agriculture looks
more like a 21st century feudalism that casts all previous
feudals worldwide in the shade.
It revealed, among other
things, that American diplomats sought funding for biotech
(GM) industry lobbyists to hold talks with politicians and
agricultural officials in "target countries", especially
where GM crops had not taken complete hold.
The US nonprofit consumer protection group Food & Water
Watch (FWW) accused them of "a concerted strategy to promote
agricultural biotechnology overseas, compel countries to
import biotech crops and foods that they do not want".
FWW went through some 260,000 diplomatic cables and zeroed
in on over 900. Their findings led to the most recent report
this month saying:
“The State Department
strategy sought to foist pro-biotech policies on foreign
governments”; that it used a multi-pronged approach, namely,
lobbying foreign governments to weaken biotech rules and
adopt pro-agricultural biotechnology policies and laws;
protecting US GM crops and seed exports and pressurizing
developing countries to adopt biotech crops; and promoting
biotech business interests through strong public relations
campaigns to improve the GM image.
The State Department got
embassies to send visitors, especially journalists to the
US, and organized or sponsored 28 junkets from 17 countries
between 2005 and 2009. Sound familiar? It’s happened in
But low-income African
nations were the most bullied of all. After all, it’s a
mouth-watering $15 billion global GM seed market out there
led by Monsanto, with DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow in
They want to maintain and
expand it, which is becoming increasingly difficult with
more and more countries – some sixty to date -- banning or
putting some restrictions on GM.
The US Organic Consumers Association in a press release
accompanying the report, added, “American taxpayer’s money
should not be spent advancing the goals of a few giant
Some suspect that GMO seed technology, dominated by
Monsanto, especially of corn and soy crops which are almost
entirely from GM seeds, belong to the few areas from which
the US still obtains a trade surplus.
The US has a trade surplus of $30 billion in its
agricultural sector, and in 2013 it is estimated to export
$145 billion in agricultural products. In the process it
will further destroy other countries’ agriculture and
Our troubles began from the time countries, one after the
other, began to declare agriculture an industry –
prematurely and undemocratically in South countries.
Agriculture, once the world’s biggest employer of
cultivators big and small, that always provided everyone,
even the poorest with sustenance and something to do, has
been snatched by corporate, big business and feudal
interests, thereby throwing millions out of work.
Take for example the USA,
with the biggest industrialized agriculture sector in the
world. According to the US research-based Environmental
Working Group report released this month, the US government
paid the heaviest subsidies, from 1995 to 2012, not to
medium-sized or small family farms, but fifty billionaires
or businesses – all from taxpayer money! It didn’t include
crop insurance subsidies for mass production of corn,
soybeans, wheat, cotton and sorghum that many additionally
Forbes magazine found that these subsidies-receiving
billionaires had a collective net worth of $316 billion!
In times of soaring unemployment, food stamps kept about
five million people above the poverty line in America. So it
was shocking that US government lawmakers are now planning
cuts of about $5 billion on the food stamps programme at the
same time that it is generously coddling corporate farming.
Given the attitude of the US government towards their own
poor, other countries shouldn’t be expecting better for
them. Agriculture has been a political and profiteering
issue for a very long time, not a rights and humanitarian
In 2009 the International Assessment of Agricultural
Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD),
completed a three-year project convened by the United
Nations to assess what sort of agriculture would address the
world's food needs, especially during rapid climate change.
The traditional methods, whether they were called organic,
natural, sustainable, -- but which can and have been
improved and made even more productive -- were the only
solution. They had always existed but were deliberately
undermined through disinformation and outright falsehoods.
Since then, the UN-backed views haven’t made as much news as
corporate claims. IAASTD rejected deregulated biotech as a
solution, so much so, that all but 3 of the 61 governments
that participated in the meeting, refused to sign the IAASTD
statement. The US with most to lose, was of course one of
the three that didn’t sign, the other two being Canada, and
Agriculture for food and raw materials is one area that is
key to human survival itself. The needs are basic and
universal, and it wouldn’t matter if there were no modern
industries run on machinery.
There would be other kinds of
progress and civilizations. In fact, the usurpation and
concentration of agriculture in a few hands led by the west
has brought unprecedented and widespread poverty, hunger and
deprivation to the world’s most naturally bountiful
Decades ago when big business failed to infiltrate US
agriculture, they took another route, plying state
agricultural universities with heavy grants in the name of
research. In fact, some of the high-yield and
genetically-modification work were rooted there, and the
outcome should have become public property, not patented by
The universities were
tricked, but having built on their original research and set
up their own laboratories to build on it, the corporations
have more or less dispensed with them.
Hopefully, our own scientists and academia who have been
rooting for Bt cotton and other patented GM crops -- which
will give ownership of our most basic and sovereign resource
to non-citizens -- will look to their consciences and at our
peasants faces, and have a re-think?
The writer is a former journalist and currently director of
The Green Economic Initiative at Shirkat Gah, a rights and