The WTO and food

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Dec 8 11:27:54 MST 1999


The famous journalist Ambrose Bierce once defined a corporation as "that
inglorious device for obtaining individual profit without individual
responsibility." In another era they were called "the robber barons."
Today, the ADMs, the Cargills, the Chiquitas, the ConAgras, the IBPs, the
Smithfield Foods, the Tysons and others have become the merchants of greed.

These merchants of greed see the World Trade Organization as a wholly owner
subsidiary, raw agricultural commodities as the coin of the realm, food as
an international weapon, a means by which they can enrich themselves while
the poor go hungry, family farmers as "excess human resources," farm and
food workers and peasants as the slaves they rent, politicians, regulatory
agencies and academics as corporate instruments to be bought, borrowed and
brown nosed, and finally these merchants of greed believe, in the immortal
words of ADM ("Supermarkup to the World"),"the competitor is our friend and
the consumer is our enemy."

My good friend former U.S. Senator Fred Harris, is fond of saying that
corporations can't be made responsible because they have no soul to save
nor butt to kick, but they can be made accountable. That is our task here
today, to make these merchants of greed accountable.

Food next to life itself is our greatest common denominator, literally
history's staff of life. We cannot, we must not relinquish its vital role
in our lives --- its control --- to the merchants of greed. We cannot
accept when it comes to agriculture and our food supply what University of
Missouri economist John Ikerd describes as the four pillars of the
industrial paradigm --- specialization, simplification, routinization and
mechanization. Rather as family farmers, workers and environmentalists our
belief is in what Virginia farmer Joel Salatin has described as nature's
four pillars --- diversification, complexity, flexibility and biology.

We here today must recognize that eating has become a political act. What
we eat, where we eat, why we eat tells us whether we want McDomination or
community sustainable agriculture, whether we want untested genetically
engineered foods or whether we want healthy, nutritious naturally grown
food, whether we want family farmers to receive a fair price for what they
produce or whether we want to see the merchants of greed get richer and

Former Yale University chaplain William Sloan Coffin once observed "it is
one thing to say with the prophet Amos `let justice roll down like mighty
waters,' and quite another to work out the irrigation system."

Well, we are here today because we believe just as Thomas Jefferson did,
just as the agrarian populists of a century ago and just as the prairie
populists and peasants of the world of today believe, you can not have
political democracy without economic democracy. So we are here in Seattle
to fashion that irrigation system and just like the mighty waters of the
nearby Columbia river, let the mighty waters of democracy roll down. Yes,
Woody Guthrie told us right, "roll along Columbia, roll along."

---  Remarks by A.V. Krebs, Director, Corporate Agribusiness Research
Project, WTO Food & Ag Day Rally, Seattle, Washington, December 2, 1999

Louis Proyect

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