Gates Unhinged: Dystopian Vision for the Future of Food

We are currently seeing an acceleration of the corporate consolidation of the entire global agrifood chain. The high-tech/data conglomerates, including Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, have joined traditional agribusiness giants, such as Corteva, Bayer, Cargill and Syngenta, in a quest to impose a certain type of agriculture and food production on the world.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also involved (documented in the recent report ‘Gates to a Global Empire‘ by Navdanya International), whether through buying up huge tracts of farmland, promoting a much-heralded (but failed) ‘green revolution’ for Africa, pushing biosynthetic food and new genetic engineering technologies or more generally facilitating the aims of the mega agrifood corporations.

Of course, those involved in this portray what they are doing as some kind of humanitarian endeavour – saving the planet with ‘climate-friendly solutions’, helping farmers or feeding the world. This is how many of them probably do genuinely regard their role inside their corporate echo chamber. But what they are really doing is repackaging the dispossessive strategies of imperialism as ‘feeding the world’.

FAILED GREEN REVOLUTION

Since the Green Revolution, US agribusiness and financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have sought to hook farmers and nation states on corporate seeds and proprietary inputs as well as loans to construct the type of agri infrastructure that chemical-intensive farming requires.

Monsanto-Bayer and other agribusiness concerns have since the 1990s been attempting to further consolidate their grip on global agriculture and farmers’ corporate dependency with the rollout of genetically engineered seeds, commonly known as GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

In her latest report, ‘Reclaim the Seed’, Vandana Shiva says:

In the 1980s, the chemical corporations started to look at genetic engineering and patenting of seed as new sources of super profits. They took farmers varieties from the public gene banks, tinkered with the seed through conventional breeding or genetic engineering, and took patents.”

Shiva talks about the Green Revolution and seed colonialism and the pirating of farmers seeds and knowledge. She says that 768,576 accessions of seeds were taken from farmers in Mexico alone:

…taking the farmers seeds that embodies their creativity and knowledge of breeding. The ‘civilising mission’ of Seed Colonisation is the declaration that farmers are ‘primitive’ and the varieties they have bred are ‘primitive’, ‘inferior’, ‘low yielding’ and have to be ‘substituted’ and ‘replaced’ with superior seeds from a superior race of breeders, so called ‘modern varieties’ and ‘improved varieties’ bred for chemicals.”

It is now clear that the Green Revolution has been a failure in terms of its devastating environmental impacts, the undermining of highly productive traditional low-input agriculture and its sound ecological footing, the displacement of rural populations and the adverse impacts on village communities, nutrition, health and regional food security.

Aside from various studies that have reported on the health impacts of chemical-dependent crops (Dr Rosemary Mason’s many reports on this can be accessed on the academia.edu website), ‘New Histories of the Green Revolution’ (2019) debunks the claim that the Green Revolution boosted productivity; ‘The Violence of the Green Revolution’ (1991) details (among other things) the impact on rural communities; Bhaskar Save’s open letter to Indian officials in 2006 discusses the ecological devastation of the Green Revolution and in a 2019 paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology and Agricultural Sciences, Parvez et al note that native wheat varieties in India have higher nutrition content than the Green Revolution varieties (many such crop varieties were side-lined in favour of corporate seeds that were of lower nutritional value).

These are just a brief selection of peer-reviewed and ‘grey’ literature which detail the adverse impacts of the Green Revolution.

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