Manifesto On The Future Of Seeds (4)

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The goal of ever-increasing yields of individual commodities is at the cost of reduction of overall output and erosion of biodiversity. Industrial agriculture is driven by short-term managerial concerns and profit margins to the detriment of consideration of public good such as long-term sustainability of soil, ecosystems, and farming communities. This market driven approach is often reflected at the government level.

In many cases governments, rather than acting in the interest of public good, further distort market prices by granting subsidies aimed at giving a competitive advantage to their domestic companies, thereby artificially reducing prices. Artificially low prices are pushing both biodiversity and small farmers to extinction.

It is obvious and generally accepted that such industrial agriculture and commodity market policies lead to the further depletion of our already limited natural resources, increase energy and toxic inputs at the expense of labor and lead to rural despair and hunger in the world. This despite the fact that more agricultural products are produced than needed to feed all 6.5 billion citizens of this planet – and, if wisely spread, enough to feed the additional 2.5 billion people expected to swell the global population within the next 40-50 years.

The ineffectiveness of the current model of food production is evident from the fact that while more than one billion people are hungry and suffer from malnutrition due to being underfed, another two billion suffer malnutrition due to being overfed with unhealthy food. For the first time the number of children suffering from obesity is about to outnumber those children suffering from hunger. This “mechanistic utopia” reduces living systems to machines, maximizes output and thrives for “the best” of all crops and varieties.

The ill-judged force behind this so-called utopia is the attempt to adapt environmental conditions to the production system – rather than adapting production to different eco- systems and cultural traditions. Such attempts have a devastating effect on the environment and natural resources as well as on the rural communities that are subjected to them. The “Green Revolution”, which was probably the single most forceful boost of caloric yields per hectare in recent history, is a prime example of what can go wrong with the apparent success of such linear and productionistic improvements.

Today it shows that the nutritional impact, especially on rural populations and the poor in those regions which were to benefit most from the “Green Revolution”, has in fact been largely negative.

I b. Genetic engineering

Starting in the mid 1990s, the first genetically engineered seeds were commercialized. Genetic engineering is a technology to transfer the DNA sequences for individual traits by means that cannot occur naturally. The risks involved in this technology for human health and the environment are unpredictable, especially as regards the long term effects they have on biodiversity. As they reproduce and outcross to wild relatives, it is impossible to recall them once released into the environment.

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