[Marxism] [SUSPICIOUS MESSAGE] From Uniformity To Diversity in agriculture

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jun 3 06:43:35 MDT 2016

Today’s food and farming systems have succeeded in supplying large 
volumes of foods to global markets, but are generating negative outcomes 
on multiple fronts: widespread degradation of land, water and 
ecosystems; high GHG emissions; biodiversity losses; persistent hunger 
and micro-nutrient deficiencies alongside the rapid rise of obesity and 
diet-related diseases; and livelihood stresses for farmers around the 
world. Many of these problems are linked specifically to ‘industrial 
agriculture’: the input-intensive crop monocultures and industrial-scale 
feedlots that now dominate farming landscapes. The uniformity at the 
heart of these systems, and their reliance on chemical fertilizers, 
pesticides and preventive use of antibiotics, leads systematically to 
negative outcomes and vulnerabilities.

Industrial agriculture and the ‘industrial food systems’ that have 
developed around it are locked in place by a series of vicious cycles. 
For example, the way food systems are currently structured allows value 
to accrue to a limited number of actors, reinforcing their economic and 
political power, and thus their ability to influence the governance of 
food systems.

Tweaking practices can improve some of the specific outcomes of 
industrial agriculture, but will not provide long-term solutions to the 
multiple problems it generates. What is required is a fundamentally 
different model of agriculture based on diversifying farms and farming 
landscapes, replacing chemical inputs, optimizing biodiversity and 
stimulating interactions between different species, as part of holistic 
strategies to build long-term fertility, healthy agro-ecosystems and 
secure livelihoods, i.e. ‘diversified agroecological systems’.

There is growing evidence that these systems keep carbon in the ground, 
support biodiversity, rebuild soil fertility and sustain yields over 
time, providing a basis for secure farm livelihoods.

Data shows that these systems can compete with industrial agriculture in 
terms of total outputs, performing particularly strongly under 
environmental stress, and delivering production increases in the places 
where additional food is desperately needed. Diversified agroecological 
systems can also pave the way for diverse diets and improved health. 
Change is already happening. Industrial food systems are being 
challenged on multiple fronts, from new forms of cooperation and 
knowledge-creation to the development of new market relationships that 
bypass conventional retail circuits.

Political incentives must be shifted in order for these alternatives to 
emerge beyond the margins. A series of modest steps can collectively 
shift the centre of gravity in food systems.


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