Peter Rosset: «Any country can feed its people».
La Vanguardia. Saturday, 16th April 2005. La Contra. Page 76.
World expert in food and agriculture.
Peter Rosset. Photo: Inma Sáinz De Baranda.
I am 49. I was born in New York and live in Oaxaca, where I manage the Centro de
Estudios para el Campo Mexicano. I have a degree in Agroecology. I cannot see any political party making the right suggestions to overcome the most serious problems, the opposite of the civilian population. I am an agnostic. I have published World hunger: twelve myths.
To overcome the problem of world hunger it is necessary to change the present food system.
– Does it fail at the base?
– Yes, and the main obstacle is a number of false, confusing myths on the true causes of
– We must start by telling the truth.
Yes. The first myth is that there is not enough food in the world to feed us all, and the
actual fact is that we produce twice as much.
– Is distribution the problem?
– Yes, and the main problem of the world farmers is overproduction: the great surplus
brings the prices down.
– Second myth…
– Nature is responsible for world hunger. For example, when there is draught in Africa, with
the resulting famine, people think that it is an act of God.
– Isn’t it so?
– No. In all the famine cases, the countries which suffered it have not stopped producing and
exporting to Europe and the USA, this means that some part of the country has a high yield, which the area concerned cannot buy. Therefore, this is rather a social organization problem.
– Third myth…
– Too many mouths to be fed. In Europe and the USA for a long time population growth was very
slight. The industrial revolution produced a great population explosion which finally levelled up. It was thought that the southern countries would not follow the same pattern, but on the contrary they would follow a geometric progression. But all the southern continents are making even.
– Fourth myth: food vs. environment.
– It is believed that if we are to feed the hungry we shall have to accept production technologies which are harmful to the environment. They have told the tale that pesticides are necessary to produce more. In the USA they apply ten times more poisons to farming than 40 years ago, and we are losing twice as many crops because pests have become immune to products, while their natural controls, other animals eating insects, have been eliminated.
– Are GMOs following the same trend?
– Yes. They say that thanks to them production will be increased. The GMOs integrate the pesticides within the plant. We are repeating the same pattern as with pesticides.
– Fifth myth…
– The miracle of the green revolution, based on monoculture, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and hybrid seed varieties, which was exported to the Third World in order to increase their production and put an end to famine.
– They say the problem is that the green revolution did not reach Africa.
– That’s what they say, but let us have a look at what happened in Latin America and Asia. Certainly, production increased, but so did famine. Only the wealthy farmers could afford to buy the modified seeds and pesticides. Small farmers were displaced and went to increase the hunger statistics, and, on the long run, this system ruined the production capacity of the land because of the intensive use of chemicals.
– Sixth myth: large properties are more advantageous than small ones.
– Again, the answer is just the opposite: evidence shows that in every country, north or south, smaller farms produce from two to ten times more per hectare than large farms. Large farms work on monoculture, which fails to make the best use of the land. Small farmers cultivate seed vegetables combined with fruit trees, porks, hens, a cow…
– Will free market eradicate hunger?
– If we leave food in the hands of the market, the only ones to eat well will be the wealthy. In the world map of food flow, the movement goes from the famished countries to those with a greater purchasing power. It has been over forty years now that the prices of farming products show a negative trend. Only when the governments step into the markets of farming product can it be granted that there is a minimum support price for farmers and food available to everybody.
– The market tends towards monopoly.
– It has been demonstrated that if antitrust laws are not applied, farmers will receive lower and lower prices, while consumers will be paying ever higher ones. The only thing which goes up are the benefits of the of the large intermediary companies.
– What a mess! We couldn’t do it worse!
– Another myth is the one which says that rich countries take advantage of hunger in the poor countries. Today, factories are located in Third World countries, which makes all of us poorer.
– Give me an example.
– The Free Trade Treaty caused a number of factories in the USA to close down and to settle in Mexico, where they created 300.000 work places. The Mexican market was flooded with cheap products and great commercial areas from the States, which caused a great number of small shops to break down and to lose one million and a half work places. The end result is 1.200.000 work places lost in Mexico and 300.000 in the USA.
– What do you suggest?
– Food sovereignty. We know that smaller scale production is more efficient. Every country –and every country in the world has enough land and water to do so– should grow the basic products to feed its population.
Mr. Rosset, with his book «World hunger: twelve myths», has the ability to make you
feel clever, because he makes difficult concepts simple and clear. His analysis of the policies which stop people to be able to be fed all over the world shows the need for change.
He starts by taking to pieces false beliefs, first of all the one which says that there is not enough food for everybody: «The fist cause of death and disease is hunger, the remedy is food. The remedy is there». No country in the world is hopeless. Even those which we consider excessively overpopulated, have the necessary resources so that their population may free itself from hunger… What is it then? It is important to know.