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Since the global crisis of the pandemic broke out, the debate about man's relationship with nature, and the catastrophic effect that our globalized civilization has been exerting on the environment, has expanded and deepened.
Numerous works and articles have been published in recent times that expose the way in which the advance of man over nature and animal production in large-scale confinement, cause or favor the appearance of epidemics and pandemics (see Rob Wallace, David Harvey, Mike Davis, Silvia Ribeiro, John Vidal among others), and it is even proposed that these could be the causes of the atrocious pandemic that we are suffering.
There is a very majority agreement among the world population and in the scientific sphere (in this almost unanimous) about the need to move as humanity towards a healthier relationship with nature, and the need to make changes in the way of producing our products. food to avoid future and next civilizing catastrophes. From practically all sectors, be they from the left, liberals or alternative ideologies, there is talk of sustainability and sustainable production. Humanity, to avoid a civilizing catastrophe, must urgently move towards the construction of a harmonious relationship with nature. In this debate, one of the models that have been at the center of reflection has been agroecology. It is, in short, a food production system that seeks to harmoniously integrate the production process with the ecological environment, valuing all the natural and biological elements involved in it. A production system that, instead of being invasive of the natural environment, is integrated into it.
The agroecological model has been promoted for decades, with very important experiences in various countries (see FAO's World Agroecological Zones "ZAE" program). In our country, in fact, shortly before the outbreak of the pandemic, the creation of a "National Directorate of Agroecology" was announced. However, the reality is that the world productive system and the productive system of our country are enormously far from the agroecological model. On the contrary, if the last four or five decades are analyzed, it is revealed that the productive model that has been promoted has been, instead of being friendlier, increasingly destructive to the environment, resulting in the loss of large ecological niches due to land clearing, fires, contributing to global warming due to the use of fossil fuels and the raising of ruminant livestock and causing various catastrophes, including, perhaps, the one we are suffering with the current pandemic.
Humanity, to avoid a civilizing catastrophe, must urgently move towards the construction of a harmonious relationship with nature. It is, in summary, a food production system that seeks to harmoniously integrate the production process with the ecological environment.
The "Green New Deal" and the logic of capital
This question should then be asked; Is the expansion of agroecology possible when food production is subject to the rules of the capitalist market and food is considered a commodity rather than a social good? Can agroecology expand if food continues to be a commodity governed by the logic of the capitalist system?
There are sectors of the population, leaders and governors who propose the realization of a "social pact" so that capitalism becomes "green" or "sustainable"; this is expressed in the so-called “Green New Deal”. The defenders of this strategy express the need to promote or implement a series of environmental regulations and rely, among other things, on the idea that the agroecological production model can be more profitable than the conventional model with which it is currently produced. . In other words, in theory, an environmental benefit and an economic benefit would be achieved at the same time. It is true that the conventional model, being destructive of nature, would be, indeed, less profitable in the long term than any other model that is more environmentally friendly, since if the necessary environment to produce is destroyed then it can no longer be produce and therefore no profitability is generated. However, the reality is that the requirements of agroecological production are opposed to the requirements of capital; These are two models that are in opposition, in constant tension. The only way for agroecology to be adopted globally as a production model (that is, the only way to establish a truly sustainable production system, in harmony with nature), is by making food production no longer determined by the logic of the capitalist market; that is, abolishing the mercantile essence of food and instituting it as a social good, and instituting food production as a service for society (in harmony with nature), instead of continuing to develop it as a lucrative activity. It is not a matter of finding the conditions for agroecological production to be profitable, but of producing based on the needs of humanity and the planet. The health of humanity and nature cannot continue to be subject to profitability and the needs of capital.
Is the expansion of agroecology possible when food production is subject to the rules of the capitalist market and food is considered a commodity rather than a social good?
The local scene
In our country, the production of only 4 crops (soybeans, corn, wheat, sunflower), occupies, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of the Nation for the 2018/2019 season, about 29.2 million hectares. , which represents approximately 72% of the total arable area of the country (which is about 40 million hectares). 12 million hectares were planted in this campaign. soybean ("first"), 9 million hectares. of corn, 6.3 million hectares. of wheat, and 1.9 million hectares of sunflower, plus 5 million hectares of "second-rate" soybeans (that is, planted in the same area after the harvest of another crop, mainly wheat). 70% of soybean and corn production (79 million tons -between grains and their derivatives such as pellets or oil- in the 2018/2019 season), was exported to be used mostly as food in the production of meat, generally in large-scale confinement (swine, poultry, coil production). In other words, a large part of the arable area of our country (it would reach 60% adding soybeans and corn), is destined to the production of an input (animal feed) of the productive system that is the cause of the periodic appearance of global epidemics and, perhaps , which is responsible for the current pandemic. Some defenders of that idea of "green capitalism" or of a local Green New Deal, propose to reconvert soybean and corn production to the agroecological model, something that, ultimately, would end up being completely contradictory if that soybean and that corn are later destined to the massive production of meat in confinement. Regarding wheat and sunflower (8.2 million hectares, or 20% of the total cultivated area), they are largely used for human consumption (flours, oils). However, its current production model is based on the adoption of a technological package that is very far from the agroecological model (high dependence on the use of agrochemicals and diesel fuel combustion machinery and genetic and varietal uniformity).
Thus, the enormous arable area of our country is cultivated under a model that is far removed from the requirements of agroecology (that is, from the requirements of environmental care). One of the pillars of agroecology is the genetic diversity of crops, but reality shows us that more than 70% of the arable land in the country is used systematically (with some eventual period of rotation), for only 4 crops. And to top it all, most of what is harvested is ultimately destined for large-scale production of meat in confinement, a destructive activity dangerous for global health.
If we then take our country as a case (one of the main food producers in the world), we will realize that, in order to reconvert our agricultural matrix to the agroecological model, we should carry out a true productive revolution, and also an economic one, since great part of the economy of our country is sustained, effectively, in the production of these 4 crops. Would it be possible to achieve this radical transformation without breaking with the capitalist production system, no matter how many modifications and regulations are implemented and no matter how much "Green New Deal" is tried?
In order to reconvert our agricultural matrix to the agroecological model, we should carry out a true productive revolution, and also an economic one
We are therefore trapped in a trap from which it is not possible to escape within the capitalist system. Attempts to expand agroecology without attacking the root of the problem (the fact that food production is an activity that pursues profit instead of pursuing the social good, health and care of nature), will collide head-on with this reality: capital requirements are contrary to ecology. The creation of national agroecology directorates or the establishment of a “Green new deal” that promote friendlier ways of production but that in turn seek to reconcile the interests of capital, will be completely ineffective actions to achieve the colossal objective that is required. the establishment of a national (and global) system of food production integrated into nature and protecting global health. This, in turn, would require a profound change not only in the mode of production but also in the land tenure and use regime, its socialization and democratization of its use and protection.
The current crisis we are experiencing shows us that the only alternative to avoid a civilizational catastrophe in the medium (or short) term is to urgently begin to build a global food production system integrated into nature and directed towards social good. This necessarily implies a profound transition plan that must be developed democratically and from below, with the protagonism of peasant groups and associations, the rural population and organized society, which have historically fought in defense of the rights of communities and care from the earth. Furthermore, we must put this challenge into practice in a deteriorated, fragile world-system that is undergoing a process of global warming with unpredictable consequences. It is not about the adoption of small progressive changes that lead us little by little to achieve a "friendlier" system with the environment; For at least a century we have not exactly been “friendly” with the environment. The challenge is immense, and it involves immense and radical changes. It is a true ecological revolution that requires, among other things, a fundamental condition, the overcoming of capitalism and the construction of an alternative, democratic global model, focused on caring for the planet and the development of an egalitarian civilization that coexists with harmonious way with nature.
The only alternative to avoid a civilizational catastrophe in the medium (or short) term is to urgently begin to build a global food production system integrated into nature and aimed at social good. This necessarily implies a profound transition plan that must be developed democratically and from below, with the leading role of peasant groups and associations, the rural population and organized society.
Notes of interest
- John Vidal; “Destruction of habitat and loss of biodiversity are creating the perfect conditions for diseases like Covid-19 to emerge” (2020), available at: https://ensia.com/features/covid-19-coronavirus-biodiversity-planetary-health -zoonoses /
- Pablo Rivas; “The dangerous link between ecosystem destruction and infectious diseases” (2020); available at https://www.elsaltodiario.com/biodiversidad/peligroso-vinculo-destruccion-ecosistemas-enfermedades-infecciosas
- Rob Wallace interview; “The responsibility of agribusiness in Covid-19 and other viral diseases” (by Yaak Pabst (2020), available at http://www.biodiversidadla.org/Documentos/La-responsabilidad-de-la-agroindustria-en- the-Covid-19-and-other-viral-diseases
- Roberto Andrés; “Less dystopia, more utopia: Covid-19, agribusiness and the global ecological crisis”, visions of Mike Davis and Robe Wallace, available at: https://www.laizquierdadiario.com/Menos-distopia-mas-utopia- the-Covid-19-agribusiness-and-the-global-ecological-crisis
- Silvia Ribeiro; “Don't blame the bat” (2020); available at: https://amp.pagina12.com.ar/256569-no-le-echen-la-culpa-al-murcielago?__twitter_impression=true
- Tomas Quindt; "Why large farms produce large flu", notes on "Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on infectious disease, agribusiness, and the nature of science" by Rob Wallace (2020). Available at http://www.laizquierdadiario.com/Por-que-las-grandes-granjas-producen-grandes-gripes
- FAO: http://www.fao.org/nr/gaez/es/
- MAGyP statistics: http://datosestimaciones.magyp.gob.ar/
By Santiago Clement
Source: La Izquierda Diario