Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hunger and food

"Feeding the world will involve three politically challenging steps. First, contrary to the romantics, the world needs more commercial agriculture, not less. The Brazilian model of high-productivity large farms could readily be extended to areas where land is underused. Second, and again contrary to the romantics, the world needs more science: the European ban and the consequential African ban on genetically modified (GM) crops are slowing the pace of agricultural productivity growth in the face of accelerating growth in demand. Ending such restrictions could be part of a deal, a mutual de-escalation of folly, that would achieve the third step: in return for Europe's lifting its self-damaging ban on GM products, the United States should lift its self-damaging subsidies supporting domestic biofuel."

I think this is an important paper to read for all those who are accused of having a romantic vision of farming. It is important because it is (a little bit) challenging. It is also important because the basis it rests on are very populist while decrying populism. But all the arguments are easily refutable, starting with the one that states that peasant agriculture is intrinsically "non modern". And the human rights implications of the solutions preached by the author is dismal... But I agree that farming needs to get modernized, and that we need more science, not less, and that biofuels in the US is a bad joke.

1 comment:

Karin said...

But all the GM stuff is patented and importers are exploiting market structures to sell at high prices. A (large-ish) farmer told me he went to buy from a wholesaler in Cyprus at less than half the price he pays in Lebanon. The manufactuer (Novartis) told the Cypriot wholesaler to stop selling to Lebanese and now he buys at retailers in Cyprus, that still works out cheaper. But what about those that can't afford to fly to go shopping? The same guy was complaining that agricultural uni departments in Lebanon are not really working on finding new varieties suitable for Lebanon. What's your take on this?