Monday, August 24, 2009

Citizen Letter: Questioning The Green Revolution

[He is known as a shill for Monsanto, but it's worth the effort and gives one practice. A similar letter went to my Congressional delegation. It's an effort.]

[By the way, I am calling a "nerd alert" on myself.]

Tom Vilsack, Secretary

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20250

Dear Mr. Secretary,

While I applaud your recent trip to Africa and commitment to help African agriculture, there are some concerns I have regarding the “Green Revolution” model, and some of these questions also pertain to the state of agriculture here at home. In particular, I am concerned about AGRA’s emphasis on biotechnology and so-called “agribusiness,” the large corporations such as Monsanto that are seeking to expand their market control over agricultural products.

The main question of this letter is this: why has the United States not accepted the findings of the report on the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development? I assume you know about this report, if you have not read it yourself. The report, entitled Agriculture At A Crossroads, has been accepted by fifty governments but not by us. It is a four-year study commissioned by the World Bank and the United Nations.

The report raises numerous questions based on research data about any global approach that proliferates the industrial farming model. Large-scale industrial farming is not as efficient in producing food, when we examine total yield. Genetically modified seeds appear to require extensive use of fertilizer, requiring more inputs marketed by large corporations at prices that burden small farms – this, Mr. Secretary, is a phenomenon we are also witnessing in the United States, as farms are concentrated into fewer and larger holdings, and families are driven off the farm.

The “Green Revolution” enhanced crop production, but at an unsustainable expense. Its techniques favored the interests of large corporations at the expense of the environment, biodiversity, and traditional knowledge (for instance, classical breeding for resilience rather than engineered crops that require more chemical fertilizer).

What happens as we spread an agriculture that is dependent on foreign inputs, like chemical products and patented seeds? Are we to create a system that favors wealthier farmers (corporate-owned farms, perhaps) and drives smaller traditional producers into debt or out of business? Are we to create a system that ties food prices and distribution even more tightly to petroleum prices?

We would really improve our approach to farming at home and abroad by pushing land reform and education in effective traditional techniques, perhaps some debt forgiveness or land grants, to encourage a diverse and robust culture of small, productive food producers. Monsanto is a strong company that will find ways to make money; we don’t need to help them, we need to help small farmers.

That goes for New Mexico as well as Kenya.

Most Sincerely,

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I live in the state where many people say the Green Revolution began - Minnesota, where Professor Norman Borlaug taught and developed many of the ideas around the movement. He's pretty untouchable around here, even though there is more and more evidence that the work he's promoting is causing a hell of a lot of environmental and social/cultural damage.

The last paragraph of your letter is the right approach, hitting the point that we need a lot of small, diverse looking farms across the nation. And that the Monsantos of the world don't need our help.

Maybe someday the Green Revolution will end.