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By Miguel Angel Núñez
Since five decades ago, the development of industrial society made us trust that agribusiness agriculture, created with the technology of the green revolution, would help us overcome the various agri-food and nutritional problems. Today the hunger continues, more than 2,500 million human beings in the world cannot feed themselves and not even meet the minimum nutritional requirements.
Transgenic Agriculture against Agroecological Resistance.
There was another October 16, World Food Day. The hunger continues, more than 2,500 million human beings in the world cannot feed themselves and not even meet the minimum nutritional requirements. In Venezuela, 48.2% of households only earn 78% of the minimum wage and 16.7% of households receive the regulated wage, costing us the basic agro-industrial basket 166.8% more than what we can receive from the salary in mention.
The hopes in our Venezuelan society have not been fulfilled, since five decades ago, the development of industrial society made us trust that agribusiness agriculture, gestated, with the technology of the green revolution, would help us overcome the different agri-food problems and nutritional. For our countries, this has not been the case. While it is true that the green revolution increased yields per unit area and solved severe famines, it is also true that it continues to cause us health problems, social organization of production and problems of loss of biodiversity due to the increase and excessive use of insecticide and herbicide production, which has caused the impressive genetic erosion of the planet's biodiversity, especially in the last fifty years, which has reached critical levels since, according to GRAIN (1999) in (1), it is currently losing more than 100 species of vegetables per day in the world.
The Distribution of Food in the World.
In addition, large-scale agriculture, that of large inputs, accumulated different surpluses of food production, concentrating power, accumulating food wealth subject to an unequal distribution of food in the world, which to some extent has also caused us to cause more hunger. We can affirm that food has been produced to face the threat of population growth, but if we analyze the availability of this food and its distribution per inhabitant on the planet, it is observed that the latter is well below production world. (See Fig. # 1).
Source: Velez (2002)
It is not a problem of a technological nature that predominates in solving the world's food problems, it is and still are political and economic problems of food distribution and the means of production. That is why we continue to affirm that the different agro-food power centers of the north that we will point out later, continue to give reasons to maintain their hegemony, domination and control over the financing patterns, food distribution and the new agricultural scientific and technological models , not allowing an authentic process of self-determination and agri-food sovereignty to be generated that each people needs and demands.
The Owners of Transgenic Agriculture?
Our food domination is still being imposed by a good group of transnational corporations of drugs, chemical fertilizers, fertilizers, transgenic and hybridized seeds and other inputs. Among others we have: La Singenta, Bayer and Basf, Agrobiotech, Downchemical, Limagrain, AstraZeneca. The Monsanto Dupont, Norvatis, Adventis. The last five corporations mentioned control 60% of the pesticide market, 23% of the commercial seed market and 100% of the transgenic seed market. These corporations have increased the consumption and sale of herbicides in the last forty years by 1200%, according to data from FAO-Agroest / Pc (1994). This is one of the causes of the loss of biodiversity that we pointed out earlier.
Are GMO Foods the Solution to Hunger?
The transgenic transnationals have been generating new strategic alliances. To control research and the different productive sectors of living beings, it is sought to deepen the differentiation and diversification of the basic sciences of biology and genetic engineering. Progress is being made in research and development of new medicines, drugs, and genetically modified or transgenic foods. These foods or products combine genes of animal and vegetable origin and vice versa, all with the aim of improving their yields, resistance to pests, adverse effects on the climate and resistance to pesticides.
This new invention of agricultural scientific technological domination takes up the eternal challenges of agri-food sovereignty and now with transgenic foods, planetary famines will definitely be solved. Here, we affirm the opposite.
GMOs present us with critical, different and new scientific risks. For example the various alterations, combinations of genes and the introduction of a gene into a biophysical environment are unpredictable. The behavior or evolutionary process of the genes cannot be guaranteed once they are released from their natural congenes. Likewise, what could be the interaction and influences of a gene in other organisms is a chance; these among others; They are serious threats that the transgenic agroindustry poses to the health of individuals. As Velez (2002) points out, (1) the problem is that the mistake cannot be reversed, since transgenesis is an irreversible process. Errors with an agrochemical can be corrected by taking it off the market, but with a transgenic virus that mutates into a virulent pathogen, it cannot be returned.
Transgenic Agriculture and Global Pollution
By the year 2000, 98% of the area planted with genetically modified seeds worldwide was monopolized; United States, Canada and Argentina, these countries add approximately an area of 43 Million Hectares. Curiously, in that same year, the different problems of environmental contamination produced by the planting of transgenic crops began to be more firmly demonstrated. In Japan and South Korea, they detect corn (starlink) contaminated with transgenic traces from the United States. The same in Argentina, where Monsato's corn was destroyed due to finding transgenic residues. Soils in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom were contaminated by the cultivation of rapeseed, its seed coming from the Anglo-Swedish transnational AstraZeneca.
At the trial, this company alleged that the contamination had occurred in Canada due to pollen from different varieties of rapeseed. In Denmark and the United Kingdom they have been detected in different varieties of maize with genetic contamination illegally distributed. In the same United Kingdom, corn tortillas contaminated with traces of GA21 were found in Safeway and Asda supermarkets. An unusual and serious case is the Mexican case of Oxaca and Puebla, the original centers of Corn and that despite, in 1998, a moratorium had been set for the non-commercialization of transgenic products, scientists found wild corn contaminated by genetically modified material. In the food aid in Bolivia, the well named PL Program showed mixtures of corn / soy and wheat / soy that had to be collected due to the contamination in question.
Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Venezuela have demonstrated with laboratory tests, different crops and foods from mixtures of corn and soybean meal, whole grains, foods for pregnant women and for children contaminated by genetic traces. It is interesting to note that this contamination could seem accidental, but as Dr. López Villar (2) of the International Organization Friends of the Earth has shown, although it is true that biotechnology companies and countries that promote biotechnology, such as States Together, they are to blame for their lack of control of these products and for their lack of respect for the regulatory frameworks on food safety and environmental protection worldwide. It may be a real strategy for the biotech industry to legalize genetic contamination.
The Different Risks of Transgenic Pollution.
What can we conclude from the different environmental contaminations and the potential risks that transgenic crops are generating for us? It is highlighted that the expansion of transgenic crops is a new threat to agrobiodiversity and genetic diversity. Transgenic crops manufacture them with herbicide resistant genes presenting a potential risk of transferring these genes to wild varieties or semi-domesticated relatives creating superweeds. As previously mentioned, horizontal transfer and recombination of genes between different species to create new pathogenic strains of bacteria and more harmful viruses will surely cause insect pests to rapidly develop resistance to crops containing genetically introduced toxins.
From the point of view of human health, it is unfortunately not possible to predict what effects on human and animal health the transgenic crops will have since it cannot be predicted what will happen to the manipulated genes once they enter a new food chain , until it reaches the human.
We summarize transgenic crops from different points of view, they cannot guarantee agri-food sovereignty, on the contrary, it is lost because it threatens the health of peoples, the environment and food security based on the diversity of products that we find in tropical countries. , forcing us to condition our international commercial relations as we will see later.
The World Trade Organization and GMOs.
The new transgenic biorevolution of so many volumes of food will strengthen the structure of food accumulation by strengthening the unequal distribution of food that created the great green revolution. Now the problem is that the hungry countries are going to be forced to accept GM foods as food aid. Faced with this new international blackmail, world opinion has moved, especially the inhabitants of the old European continent and the brave African continent, in not accepting transgenic food aid. Proof of this was evidenced in the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, when a group of African countries led by Zambia, Tanzania, Niger, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia told the world We will not accept transgenic food aid.
The courageous position of these African countries continues to spread on the black continent and begins to be valued in the other continents of the world. For example, on the eve of the weeks of the celebration of Food Day, the Sixth Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Santiago de Chile, ordered the immediate suspension of the commercialization and the importation of all transgenic foods with raw materials that are not are duly labeled by competent bodies. The consortium of Southern Agricultural Societies, which brings together hundreds of small producers from different southern countries, requested a ban on the sale of transgenic products in Chile. This way of creating different foci of social and political resistance to transgenic crops and foods in different parts of the world, has made the transnational corporations of transgenic biotechnology mentioned above begin to lose commercial value of the shares of transgenic products in markets of capitals.
The Dow Jones has been presenting accounting declines in double digits and no recovery and new gains are foreseen in the biotech-transgenic line.
This bitter financial stock market crash of the transgenic corporations, heralds new corporate strategies to immediately place their genetically modified products in southern countries. The strategy is simple, to require the World Trade Organization to use its mechanisms of imposition and domination through its technological regulations, commercial prices and the different intellectual property treaties. Thus, the supply, production, distribution, commercialization and consumption of genetically modified foods and products will potentially be regulated and controlled by the precepts of the WTO, on pain that countries that do not comply with such provisions and commercial exchange will be sanctioned or Tried by international tribunals for contempt of WTO regulators. This was very clear in Johannesburg.
Thus, the Transgenics Transnationals will not need local, regional and national jurisprudence since the WTO regulations constitute supranational mechanisms to exercise their actions and protect their domination and exploitation of our natural resources, as it is and today is our immeasurable source of genes, of high biodiversity, typical of the latitudes of our tropical countries.
Small Agricultural Producers.
Another of the structural causes of the hunger that we suffer in our countries is the complete and total abandonment that small farmers in the countryside have been subjected to. For example, in Venezuela with so many financial and natural resources, in the last forty-three years of Venezuelan democratic life, several programs were generated for small and medium-sized farmers in the countryside, for example: the Community Development Program in the sixties; the Integral Program for Agricultural Development (PRIDA) financed by the IDB in the 1970s; the efforts of the National Agrarian Institute, through the Projects of Integral Development of Agrarian Reform Areas (PIRA) and in the Projects of Rural Areas of Integral Rural Development such as the ARDI of the eighties, the Integrated Rural Development Program financed by the Agricultural Development Fund IFAD at the beginning of the nineties and at the end of this decade the CIARA Foundation Extension Program financed by the World Bank.
All these programs and projects could not provide answers to the different social, technical-productive conditions that our small and medium producers presented. Its planning was done vertically, hierarchically and influenced by international financial organizations, without taking into account the limitations and potential of the rural environment. The processes of these programs and projects were suffocating in the government bureaucracy, in their administrative and supervisory inefficiencies, generating and consolidating the different chains of institutional, union, academic and managerial corruption that we still maintain. For example; It is not justified that the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, the National Institute of Lands and the Rural Development Institute a year after being created have not agreed to start, present and moderately direct policies aimed at enhancing the activities of our small and medium-sized Venezuelan producers.
In addition, the incompetence of this last ministry and institutions is once again demonstrated by having handed over to some national corporations such as Agroisleña, distributors of supplies and Monsanto products, the financing of the planting of main flags, the collection, pricing, marketing and crop distribution. In other words, Monsanto freely monitors Venezuela's food production.
These new governing authorities of what to do in Venezuelan agriculture do not want to recognize, much less understand, what is imposed, in all these decades, on small producers. It is that the solutions to the technical-technological problems, technical assistance, financing, distribution and food prices of small agricultural producers, have always had their answers in the solutions that large agricultural producers have proposed and assumed. The small producer is imposed by a reality alien to his own social and productive reality. Confusing these two very dissimilar realities has provided us with dire consequences for the social and productive stability of small producers.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development and Agriculture.
If something was also very clear, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, it is that these two farms; that of the large volumes of transgenic inputs and products and the agriculture of small producers are two different and confronting agriculture. In that event, 5,600 participants from the different movements of small farmers from the countryside, the landless, the agroecological, the Pelum movement from Africa, among others; they dictated the guideline to a father of the great green revolution in Asia such as Dr. Dr. MS Swaminathan, renowned geneticist, who together with Dr. Pedro Sánchez Prize for Food Sciences, in the plenary of sustainable agriculture, bravely They recognized the differences between the two farms that we have referred to.
Both researchers demanded that for the improvement of local economies it is necessary to take into account as local and regional policy the conditions and the different processes that small agriculture offers us, resisting the threats of transgenic agriculture. Dr. Swaminathan criticized the lack of priorities in terms of research and development that smallholder agriculture needs to address, which is not a priority for subsidized large-input agriculture. This agriculture is oriented towards the production of large volumes of products compared to the volume of production of the particular agricultural systems of small producers. Different spaces to consider. Likewise, I reproach the subsidy policies as supporters of the large agro-industrial chains and the severe ecological consequences that the transgenic mono-crop is leaving us in the malnutrition of the soils.
The two great world trends in agricultural processes are clearly evident. Transgenic agriculture is located in a reconditioning of some means of production to perpetuate its different forms of domination, contrary to small agriculture, which is born from it, agroecological science as the new scientific paradigm of the new agriculture that we need. This science rescues the traditional values of production and integrates them with the advances of applied agricultural science to improve the different production processes while preserving our environment. Agroecology frees us from the means of production that have been considered eternal in productive systems. Agroecology is the new science that unifies socio-economic and technical perspectives with the design, management and evolution of the productive system and its existing social and cultural base.
Evaluations by different institutions and researchers show that global agroecological practices advance qualitatively and quantitatively. In research carried out by the University of Essex in 52 poor countries, results from 208 projects were systematized where they ensure that 9.2 Million Farmers have adopted agroecological practices, covering a total of 29.8 Million Hectares in Africa, Asia and Latin America. For 4.42 million producers who work four hectares, the average food production per hectare, per family is; in the order of 1.7 tons of cereal and root foods, which represents an increase of 73.1%. It was found that 146,000 small producers work 542,000 hectares of tubers and roots registered an increase of 150% in their yields. It is pointed out in this work that producers working with dimensions of 90 hectares achieved an increase in their yields of 46% in their production.
Other significant figures are released, for example: 2% of agriculture in Costa Rica is agroecological, in Brazil and Argentina 10 and 9 million hectares are agroecologically managed, in the pampas country 8.6 million producers work in the conversion processes towards sustainable agriculture, in Central America 200,000 producers practice agroecology, in Cuba all agriculture is sustainable. In India 6 million producers adopt agroecological practices and in Africa 21 countries resist transgenic food aid with agroecological work. According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements in the world there are almost 20 Million Hectares with agro-ecological management that require certification of their crops. In the old continent, 3,516,685 hectares support 130,267 green product companies.
The figures presented motivate us to raise a series of reflections that we must assess and analyze in their proper dimension.
However, for the many considerations presented, one of the main reflections, we place it in that if these industrialized northern countries, the demand grows for organic products that mostly come from the southern countries and a green agriculture and industry is being formed competitive, which could be the new motives of our national agricultural leadership that limit the political will of the local and regional governments in not promoting viable alternatives of agro-ecological production in our local markets.
It is important to make it clear that because the northern countries are now striving to consume organic food, it does not mean that we are assuming it too.
We are convinced that the food production of a people is inherent to the agri-food sovereignty of a nation. This involves understanding the true reasons for the self-determination of the peoples. In particular, striving as a society to overcome the problems of hunger and poverty. Then we must comply with what is stated in the explicit policies that have to be defined for this purpose. The ambiguity of the political discourse that has characterized the highest authorities of the Venezuelan government, especially since President Chávez, in essence, will hardly guide the timely, concrete and just actions that we have to arrange to overcome the different problems of hunger and its social consequences. It is very clear and precise. We cannot promote, much less establish transgenic agriculture because it simply threatens the agri-food sovereignty of the peoples.
60% of the products that circulate in the green markets of the North come from the countries of the South. From small producers who come from different libertarian struggles for land tenure; for the non-privatization of life and water; for the reappropriation of the rights that nature has given us; for the preservation of the different productive systems; for the safety of our vital spaces, for the rescue and recovery of our native seeds; for maintaining a solidarity and exchange economy; for defending and valuing local techniques and knowledge; for the preservation of rights in the different productive knowledge; for continuing to highlight our cultural and identity values; for reducing and eliminating the risks to our health and that of our children and young people. Struggles that do not stop, that advance with substantial achievements and that orbit in the new forms of social organization of production that are gestating, on the basis of the many agroecological practices that have been consolidated and that resist and oppose the movement of the transgenic force and violence. It is from there that we consider the conditions of our agri-food sovereignty are emerging, which must necessarily be enlivened with a deep knowledge of our different local and agroecological realities, which, especially are expressed in countries governed by different tropical conditions, where the reason of a territorial social and ecological balance is inherent in the different agri-food strategies that our small producers have been practicing and formulating.
A Proposal under Construction for Venezuela.
For the Agroecological Venezuela that we dream of one day enjoying, we consider that the following actions should be undertaken to continue advancing in the timid national agroecological proposals. In our proposals for struggles we must:
1) Manage original processes of participation of farmers and producers.
2) Share and support rural agroecological training programs and sustainable tropical agriculture and seek support to develop research on biodiversity.
3) Support, apply and innovate the transfer and extension of ecologically sustainable technologies in marginal and degraded agroecosystems to be recoverable: soils, waters and others.
4) Sow the maximum number of crops to establish local food security and to recover and protect one's own seeds. With this, we will be setting up local seed banks and promoting seed exchanges.
5) Through the management and preservation of biodiversity "harvesting water" and using it efficiently, stabilizing deforestation levels.
6) Cover the essential needs of farmers by strengthening local markets
7) Reduce rural migration by raising educational levels.
8) Improve the income levels of farmers and the levels of information where the risks of transgenic crops and their consequences are explained to them.
9) Significantly reduce poverty, it must be redefined according to the cultural and biophysical conditions of the areas.
10) Promote the dissemination of agroecological technological innovations through participatory programs and methods.
11) Systematize and disseminate the achievements, results and economic benefits of agroecological techniques.
12) Contribute to developing Sustainable Rural Development and Agroecological policies, aimed at sustaining the territorial social and ecological balance.
Combining these and other actions with the different revolutionary struggles must become the fundamental bases for the conformation of a process under construction, which will truly lead us towards the authentic agri-food sovereignty that our peoples demand of us today. Only a comprehensive, complementary and interrelated vision of agroecological policies guarantee the active participation of producers based on the gestation and consolidation of their own production process, which in essence is and will be inherent to the libertarian process that is built in the Venezuelan and Latin American countryside. other continents, as they are demonstrating well.
(1) Velez G. Transgenic Organisms. In Protection and Control of Genetic Resources. MAELA 2002.
(2) López V. J. Genetic Contamination Friends of the Earth. Holland August 2002.