Country Reflex - A Poem for America

Friday, 29 January 2010

Time for a Global Agri-Industrial Agreement?

Perhaps one of the biggest issues of the day is our obsession with food.
Love it or hate it, cook it or cairy oot it ;)
We need food. It's a big deal.
Personally I love it. Food is good. But I do get a bit fucked off with the various 'camps' and their 'superior' diets and great insights into what we can, could, should and don't eat.
We have problems with obesity in our society because we eat too much of the wrong shit and do fuck all exercise.
Of course, the reasons why this should be the case is a whole other topic. And one that deserves considerable attention on its own merit.
The point here is that our obsessions and hang-ups about food follow from the situation we see literally unfolding before us. It clearly bothers us individually, and as a society.
It is so very obviously a western luxury, our journey to the frontier of ill health - because you're worth it!
We get fat on junk food, shitting away the planets resources while millions of people have a low nutrition diet simply because they are too poor, too displaced geographically or too damn ill or hungry to care.
People eat what they can, and many have to eat what they are 'given' through the ever benevolent transfer of aid, or debt, to our developing cousins.
And one issue, one matter keeps coming back time after time: the fact that one of the single most nutritious sources of food on our planet is still subject to a control system that was ostensibly designed to prevent production of narcotics!
Now, if we consider the massive increase in drug production and consumption globally, vast areas of lawless and/or disputed territory under poppy or coca fields, packs of criminal gangs roaming the streets with broadswords and MAC10s then we ask a simple but pertinent question:
Why the massive waste of resources that only serves to enforce even greater wasting of resources - from the destruction of Colombian water supplies through unregulated cocaine production, to the crappy amounts of money Afghan farmers receive for their opium gum, to the incredible situation that sees a genuine 'super food' more or less banned from global scale agricultural production.
Industrial hemp, or cannabis sativa, is perhaps the most impressive renewable resource on earth. Especially as a food source.
How can we possibly justify controls that prevent such a nutritious food source from being grown in all the worlds great agricultural regions? These places need not be the poorest, but they undoubtedly are.
I like to think of a world where people are free to produce the food, fibre and fuel they need locally, with a market - probably a global market - for the surpluses.
In many respects, this would be something approaching 'fair'.
At the centre of what I have called a 'Global Agri-Industrial Agreement' would be the production and distribution of hemp, its byproducts, derivatives, food stuffs etc.
My only difficulty with this 'vision' is what type of world will make it happen?
What will the conditions be like for the people living in agricultural regions who we are likely to rely on even more than we currently do?
Will it be 'business as usual' i.e. the extraction of every ounce of value through low wages and deeper, more entrenched poverty and social division - as currently dictated to developing countries by the IMF and World Bank?
Or, will it be fair, and on equal terms, quid pro quo?
Will technology transfer and environmental enhancements also be attached to an equitable pricing system under such an agreement that adequately reflects the social cost of production and biodiversity protection (i.e. an end to deforestation) with wages commensurate with the social goods produced.
The main 'social' good emanating from the Global Agri-Industrial Agreement would be the long term mitigation of climate change.
But like everything, it depends on how it is done.
Let me give you an example. As I am writing this, news has come through that Bill Gates is to spend $10billion on a child immunization program for the 'developing' world, that will 'save' the lives of 7 million children.
Mr Gates, with all due respect, $10billion could provide the clean water and sanitation for those without, thus eliminating much of the disease your program hopes to treat.
£10billion could help provide a sustainable and renewable source of nutritious food for the same 7 million children, and then some.
Apparently we are only capable of fixing problems through a process of replacement with bigger problems, or 'solutions' that benefit 'business as usual'.
Is there no end to our ignorance?
Apparently not.

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