The soils of war

In this Briefing, we look at how the US’s agricultural reconstruction work in Afghanistan and Iraq not only gives easy entry to US agribusiness and pushes neoliberal policies, something that has always been a primary function of US development assistance, but is also an intrinsic part of the US military campaign in these countries and the surrounding regions. Seen together with the growing clout that the US and its corporate allies exercise over donor agencies and global bodies – such as the World Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres, which influence the food and farm policies adopted by the recipient countries – this is an alarming development. These are not unique cases born from unusual circumstances, but constitute a likely template for US activities overseas, as it continues to expand its “war on terror” and pursue US corporate interests.

In this Briefing, we look at how the US’s agricultural reconstruction work in Afghanistan and Iraq not only gives easy entry to US agribusiness and pushes neoliberal policies, something that has always been a primary function of US development assistance, but is also an intrinsic part of the US military campaign in these countries and the surrounding regions. Seen together with the growing clout that the US and its corporate allies exercise over donor agencies and global bodies – such as the World Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres, which influence the food and farm policies adopted by the recipient countries – this is an alarming development. These are not unique cases born from unusual circumstances, but constitute a likely template for US activities overseas, as it continues to expand its “war on terror” and pursue US corporate interests.

Laws for killing off independent agriculture

From 23 to 27 February 2009, members of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety met in Mexico to discuss the issue of “responsibility and compensation for damages” for transgenics. In opposition, the Network in Defence of Maize organised the Forum for the Life of the People of the Maize over the same period. The document that follows is the speech made to this forum by Camila Montecinos. Although her analysis refers specifically to the situation in Mexico, it actually gives insight into the scope of a global strategy aimed at eradicating independent food production, and criminalising the possession, custody and free exchange of native, ancestral seeds – which have been fundamental to the strategy of the peasantry for more than 8,000 years.

From 23 to 27 February 2009, members of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety met in Mexico to discuss the issue of “responsibility and compensation for damages” for transgenics. In opposition, the Network in Defence of Maize organised the Forum for the Life of the People of the Maize over the same period. The document that follows is the speech made to this forum by Camila Montecinos. Although her analysis refers specifically to the situation in Mexico, it actually gives insight into the scope of a global strategy aimed at eradicating independent food production, and criminalising the possession, custody and free exchange of native, ancestral seeds – which have been fundamental to the strategy of the peasantry for more than 8,000 years.

Fighting GMO contamination around the world

Ever since GMOs were first introduced in the mid-1990s, farmers’ groups and NGOs have warned that they would contaminate other crops. This has happened, just as predicted. In this article we look at how communities in different parts of the world that have experienced contamination are developing strategies to fight against it.

Ever since GMOs were first introduced in the mid-1990s, farmers’ groups and NGOs have warned that they would contaminate other crops. This has happened, just as predicted. In this article we look at how communities in different parts of the world that have experienced contamination are developing strategies to fight against it.

Rice land grabs undermine food sovereignty in Africa

Mali, like several other countries in West Africa, recently went from being a net rice exporter to being a major importer. Now the government has embarked on a multimillion-dollar national rice initiative that is supposed to restore self-sufficiency by helping the country’s farmers to produce more.

Mali, like several other countries in West Africa, recently went from being a net rice exporter to being a major importer. Now the government has embarked on a multimillion-dollar national rice initiative that is supposed to restore self-sufficiency by helping the country’s farmers to produce more.

The new weapons of genetic engineering

Over the last few years biotech laboratories and industry have developed two new techniques – artificial minichromosomes and transformed organelles – which, the industry claims, will allow it to overcome the problems it has faced until now with GMOs, especially their low efficiency and genetic contamination. But basic biology and maths indicate that, contrary to what the industry claims, the new technology will not prevent genetic contamination in plants. In fact, as the two technologies converge, the frightening possibility arises that contamination will reach a new level of toxicity, and occur not only within organisms of the same species but also between species as different from each other as plants and bacteria, or plants and fungi.

Over the last few years biotech laboratories and industry have developed two new techniques – artificial minichromosomes and transformed organelles – which, the industry claims, will allow it to overcome the problems it has faced until now with GMOs, especially their low efficiency and genetic contamination. But basic biology and maths indicate that, contrary to what the industry claims, the new technology will not prevent genetic contamination in plants. In fact, as the two technologies converge, the frightening possibility arises that contamination will reach a new level of toxicity, and occur not only within organisms of the same species but also between species as different from each other as plants and bacteria, or plants and fungi.

The food crisis in Guadeloupe

In 2008 many developing countries were severely affected by the food crisis, which led to sharp increases in the price of many staple foods. People and organisations examined the situation in their own countries and questioned the policies adopted by their governments. In this article an activist from the small island of Guadeloupe, situated in the Caribbean but integrated into France, explains how the crisis has affected her country.

In 2008 many developing countries were severely affected by the food crisis, which led to sharp increases in the price of many staple foods. People and organisations examined the situation in their own countries and questioned the policies adopted by their governments. In this article an activist from the small island of Guadeloupe, situated in the Caribbean but integrated into France, explains how the crisis has affected her country.

Twelve years of GM soya in Argentina - a disaster for people and the environment

Genetically modified soya was introduced into Argentina in 1996 without any kind of debate either in Congress or among the public. Since then, its cultivation has spread across the country like wildfire. Today more than half of the country’s arable land is planted with soya. No other country in the world has devoted such a large area to a single GM crop. Argentina provides a unique opportunity to investigate the consequences for a country of intensive GMO cultivation.

Genetically modified soya was introduced into Argentina in 1996 without any kind of debate either in Congress or among the public. Since then, its cultivation has spread across the country like wildfire. Today more than half of the country’s arable land is planted with soya. No other country in the world has devoted such a large area to a single GM crop. Argentina provides a unique opportunity to investigate the consequences for a country of intensive GMO cultivation.

Nerica: a 'wonder' rice?

A cross between African and Asian rice – dubbed New Rice for Africa (Nerica) – is being hailed as a “miracle crop” that can bring Africa its long-promised Green Revolution in rice. A powerful coalition of governments, research institutes, private seed companies and donors are leading a major effort to spread varieties of Nerica seeds to all of the continent’s rice fields. They claim that Nerica can boost yields and make Africa self-sufficient in rice production. But is Nerica living up to the hype?

A cross between African and Asian rice – dubbed New Rice for Africa (Nerica) – is being hailed as a “miracle crop” that can bring Africa its long-promised Green Revolution in rice. A powerful coalition of governments, research institutes, private seed companies and donors are leading a major effort to spread varieties of Nerica seeds to all of the continent’s rice fields. They claim that Nerica can boost yields and make Africa self-sufficient in rice production. But is Nerica living up to the hype?

Grabbing land for food

In a report published in October 2008, GRAIN describes how a host of nations – China, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others – have been scouring the globe in search of arable land to buy or to lease for the production of crops for food or biofuels. What attracts attention is not just the amount of land involved – some of the deals involve more than a million acres – but the logic underlying the transactions. For this is not land that is being primarily acquired to produce crops to sell on the world market or to feed the local population. These crops are to be sent back to the nation that has acquired the land. Using its economic clout, the investing nation is taking over land – and, with it, the soil fertility and the water that are needed to cultivate crops – so that its people back home can have food to eat and fuel to put into their cars.

In a report published in October 2008, GRAIN describes how a host of nations – China, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others – have been scouring the globe in search of arable land to buy or to lease for the production of crops for food or biofuels. What attracts attention is not just the amount of land involved – some of the deals involve more than a million acres – but the logic underlying the transactions. For this is not land that is being primarily acquired to produce crops to sell on the world market or to feed the local population. These crops are to be sent back to the nation that has acquired the land. Using its economic clout, the investing nation is taking over land – and, with it, the soil fertility and the water that are needed to cultivate crops – so that its people back home can have food to eat and fuel to put into their cars.

Valentina Hemmeler Maïga

Valentina Hemmeler Maïga works for the peasant farmers’ association in Switzerland, Uniterre, which is a member of La Via Campesina. She is responsible for Uniterre’s food sovereignty campaign.

Valentina Hemmeler Maïga works for the peasant farmers’ association in Switzerland, Uniterre, which is a member of La Via Campesina. She is responsible for Uniterre’s food sovereignty campaign.