Fossil fuels

Food or garbage? The disease machine

Food or garbage? The disease machine

According to the World Health Organization, 68 percent of the causes of death in the world are due to non-communicable diseases. The main diseases of this type, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cancer of the digestive system and associated organs, are related to the consumption of industrial food. Industrial agricultural production and the use of pesticides that it implies (herbicides, pesticides and other biocides) is also the cause of the most frequent diseases of rural workers, their families and inhabitants of towns near industrial planting areas, including chronic kidney failure, poisoning and poisoning by chemicals and chemical residues in water, skin diseases, respiratory diseases and various types of cancer.

According to a 2016 report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food), of the world's 7 billion people, 795 million suffer from hunger, 1.9 billion are obese and 2 billion suffer from nutritional deficiencies (lack of vitamins , minerals and other nutrients). Although the report clarifies that in some cases the numbers overlap, it still means that about 60 percent of the planet is hungry or undernourished.

An absurd and unacceptable figure, which refers to global injustice, even more so due to the fact that obesity, which was once a symbol of wealth, is now an epidemic among the poor. We are invaded with food that has lost important percentages of food content due to refining and processing, vegetables that due to industrial planting have decreased their nutritional content due to the dilution effect, which implies that the nutrients are diluted with a greater volume of harvest on the same surface ( here); of foods with more and more pesticide residues and that contain many other chemicals, such as preservatives, flavorings, texturizers, colorants and other additives. Substances that, as happened with the so-called trans fats that a few decades ago were presented as healthy and are now known to be highly harmful, are gradually being revealed to have negative impacts on health.

Contrary to the myth generated by industry and its allies - which many people believe due to lack of information - we do not have to tolerate this situation: the industrial system is not necessary to feed ourselves, neither now nor in the future. Currently it only reaches the equivalent of 30 percent of the world's population, although it uses more than 70 percent of the land, water and fuels used in agriculture (See ETC Group here).

The myth is based on the large production volumes per hectare of industrially produced grains. But even in large quantities, the industrial food chain wastes 33 to 40 percent of what it produces. According to the FAO, 223 kilograms of food are wasted per person per year, equivalent to 1.4 billion hectares of land, 28 percent of the planet's agricultural land. To the waste in the field is added that of processing, packaging, transportation, sale in supermarkets and, finally, the food that is thrown away in homes, especially urban ones and the global north.

This process of industrialization, standardization and chemicalization of agriculture is only a few decades old. Its main impulse was the so-called Green Revolution - the use of hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and machinery - promoted by the Rockefeller Foundation in the United States, starting with the hybridization of corn in Mexico and rice in the Philippines, through the centers which would later become the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). This paradigm has its maximum expression in transgenics.

It was not only a technological change, it was the key tool to move from decentralized and diverse fields, based fundamentally on peasant and family work, public agronomic research and without patents, small, medium and national companies, to an immense global industrial market - since 2009 the largest global market - dominated by transnational companies that devastate soils and rivers, contaminate seeds and transport food around the planet out of season, for which chemicals and fossil fuels are essential.

The aggression is not only for the control of markets and the imposition of technologies, against the health of people and nature. All diversity and local accents annoy industrialization, so it is also a continuous attack on collective and community being and doing, on the identities that local and diverse seeds and foods entail, on the act deeply rooted in the history of humanity of what and how to eat.

Despite this, it is still the peasants, shepherds and artisanal fishermen, urban gardens, which feed the majority of the world's population. Defending them and affirming the diversity, production and local peasant and agro-ecological food is also defending the health and life of everyone and everything.

By Silvia Ribeiro
ETC Group Researcher

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