In the harvest of 1999, 60% of Canada’s canola crop, 90% of Argentina’s soybean crop, 50% of the US’ soybean crop,and 33% of the US’ corn crop was genetically engineered. Industrial agriculture is damaging the basis for future production. We’ve got soil erosion, soil compaction, salinisation, water logging, destruction of beneficial biodiversity, loss of natural enemies of pest… and all that is occurring in an alarming rate.
Three things needed to come together to make the Green Revolution work. One was the development of specific high yield and often dwarf varieties of wheat, rice and corn that were derived by special outcrossing and hybridization techniques that Norman Borlaug perfected, working in Mexico and South-Western United States. Secondly there was a tremendous investment of funds from the Rockefeller foundation and the World Bank to assist poor countries to develop broader food base based on these resources. And third, there was tremendous availability, input and requirement for pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation which combined reinforced the value to a merchant commerce of supporting this type of agriculture.
The Ford and Rockefeller foundations in the ’50s were concerned that if the issue of hunger in the third world wasn’t addressed, than poor people in those countries would be ripe for communist subversion. The Green Revolution, which is really the introduction of chemical agriculture under forced circumstances, in India acted as an antidote to social change and reinforced the patterns of inequality. The smaller peasants lost their land because they couldn’t afford to keep up with the credit payments linked to the Green Revolution, the usage of water skyrocketed which left huge land regions basically desertified, the agricultural diversity has been wiped out, and yes the production of rice and wheat has increased but that was not an absolute increase in food.
Faced with a choice of crop failures and resulting worldwide starvation, the use of pesticide and herbicides seems inevitable. Pesticides came out of the defense industry. The first modern synthetic chemical pesticides were derived from nerve gases developed by the Germans in World War II. They were made by simple changes in the molecules and instead of having their greatest toxicity for human beings they could have their greatest toxicity for insects.
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