Friday, April 02, 2010

"We Made a Devil's Bargain": Fmr. President Clinton Apologizes for Trade Policies that Destroyed Haitian Rice Farming

"We Made a Devil's Bargain": Fmr. President Clinton Apologizes for Trade Policies that Destroyed Haitian Rice Farming

... I wish I had this on hand when Gurdhev Khush was talking about how making rice cheap was a good thing. A fellow Ph. D. candidate pointed out that we could have asked Dr. Khush how the approximately 300 cultivars of rice that he bred contributed to the cheapening of rice, exactly? I wonder if Dr. Khush would have a plausible answer.

My understanding of history is that the cheapening of commodities has long been a colonial strategy. Many small-scale and potentially environmentally-friendly economies are agriculturally-based. Farmers need to ask high prices for their products. Low prices, including the low prices caused by competition with international food aid, drive the farmer out of business (and into poverty). If anybody knows about that, especially regarding the history of this economic strategy as used by the British Empire and the Americans, maybe you could post a reply here and fill us all in.

At Dr. Khush's lecture, I was extremely & viscerally disappointed to hear one of our own McGill professors pipe up with the tired complaint regarding people who worry about diminished biodiversity. I want to emphasize that this professor is a good man, and kind to his students. But this professor exclaimed that, by adding genes to rice, they are increasing biodiversity. I hope that he was actually & insincerely pulling Dr. Khush's leg a little, and intentionally revealing him to be a puppet of corporate-capitalist interests. Oh, but I'm afraid the McGill prof's comment was meant sincerely, judging by the silent but agreeable head-nodding going on when he said it. That was quite sobering. I am worried about diminished biodiversity because there used to be perhaps hundreds of thousands of varieties of rice grown in India, for example, and now there are a mere handful.

So, by all means, leave a reply if you understand how World Bank's structural adjustment agreements (and even perhaps loans from the good people at Grameen Bank?) demand the use of particular transgenic rice cultivars, with their attendant fertilizer & pesticide regimes.

& Dr. Khush seemed quite insistent on the necessity for adequate testing before the release of transgenic cultivars. I thought that was nice, but really, here in Canada we have had what's called Substantial Equivalence, which meant that any medical testing at all was unnecessary, for a while. Maybe the new laws regulate with more care. If you know anything about that, please feel free to post a reply. (While you're at it, check out Bill C-474).

I'm copying and pasting the following article from a PAN email. I am certain the economic concerns, and the environmental grievances of the activists and farmers, are legitimate: "On April 12, more than 1,000 farmers joined activists from across Asia at the main gate of the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, Philippines, calling for dissolution of the Institute. Inside, IRRI was celebrating 50 years promoting Green Revolution technologies in the region. The international activists are linked in the Year of Rice Action campaign, including Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific and the Asian Peasant Coalition. The campaign, which culminated with the march on IRRI, has worked to raise awareness of the plight of small-scale, rural rice farmers whose livelihoods have been threatened by the imposition of industrial agriculture. The group points out that although the Philippines, as IRRI's hosting country, has access to the technology that the Institute has developed, the country remains the world's largest rice importer.
Despite its public mandate to protect the world's rice germplasm, IRRI is currently revising its intellectual property policy to favor agrochemical companies in order to make the material in its collection more profitable. "Pesticide poisonings (estimated at 25 million occurrences involving agricultural workers per year), environmental and health calamities, soil degradation and major pest outbreaks, such as brown plant hopper infestations, continue to haunt farming communities across Asia because of the increasing use of fertilizers and pesticides that IRRI's modern rice varieties require," said Clare Westwood of PAN Asia and the Pacific. "With IRRI's 50th anniversary, we farmers continue to ask why we remain poor in spite of the supposed beneficial technology that IRRI is promoting? Why have we been forced to use costly pesticides and fertilizers that have led to the high cost of production? Why can farmers no longer exchange seeds?" stated
Wilfredo Marbella, convener of RESIST! Agrochemical TNCs during an "Asian Peoples' Tribunal" which was held in Quizon city to try IRRI. "A world without IRRI is a world free of monopoly over rice varieties and deaths and diseases caused by agrochemicals they promote," the alliance declared."

Let's watch "Nero's Guests":

1 comment:

Timothy said...