Vanguardia. Saturday, 16th April 2005. La Contra. Page 76.
World expert in food and agriculture.
Peter Rosset. Photo: Inma Sáinz De Baranda.
I am 49. I was
born in New York and live in Oaxaca, where I manage the Centro de
Estudios para el Campo Mexicano. I have a degree in Agroecology. I
cannot see any political party making the right suggestions to overcome
the most serious problems, the opposite of the civilian population. I
am an agnostic. I have published World hunger: twelve myths.
To overcome the problem
of world hunger it is necessary to change the present food system.
– Does it fail
at the base?
– Yes, and the main
obstacle is a number of false, confusing myths on the true causes of
– We must start
by telling the truth.
Yes. The first myth is
that there is not enough food in the world to feed us all, and the
actual fact is that we produce twice as much.
distribution the problem?
– Yes, and the main
problem of the world farmers is overproduction: the great surplus
brings the prices down.
– Second myth…
– Nature is responsible
for world hunger. For example, when there is draught in Africa, with
the resulting famine, people think that it is an act of God.
– Isn’t it so?
– No. In all the famine
cases, the countries which suffered it have not stopped producing and
exporting to Europe and the USA, this means that some part of the
country has a high yield, which the area concerned cannot buy.
Therefore, this is rather a social organization problem.
– Third myth…
– Too many mouths to be
fed. In Europe and the USA for a long time population growth was very
slight. The industrial revolution produced a great population explosion
which finally levelled up. It was thought that the southern countries
would not follow the same pattern, but on the contrary they would
follow a geometric progression. But all the southern continents are
– Fourth myth:
food vs. environment.
– It is believed that if
we are to feed the hungry we shall have to accept production
technologies which are harmful to the environment. They have told the
tale that pesticides are necessary to produce more. In the USA they
apply ten times more poisons to farming than 40 years ago, and we are
losing twice as many crops because pests have become immune to
products, while their natural controls, other animals eating insects,
have been eliminated.
– Are GMOs
following the same trend?
– Yes. They say that
thanks to them production will be increased. The GMOs integrate the
pesticides within the plant. We are repeating the same pattern as with
– Fifth myth…
– The miracle of the
green revolution, based on monoculture, pesticides, chemical
fertilizers, and hybrid seed varieties, which was exported to the Third
World in order to increase their production and put an end to famine.
– They say the
problem is that the green revolution did not reach Africa.
– That’s what they say,
but let us have a look at what happened in Latin America and Asia.
Certainly, production increased, but so did famine. Only the wealthy
farmers could afford to buy the modified seeds and pesticides. Small
farmers were displaced and went to increase the hunger statistics, and,
on the long run, this system ruined the production capacity of the land
because of the intensive use of chemicals.
– Sixth myth:
large properties are more advantageous than small ones.
– Again, the answer is
just the opposite: evidence shows that in every country, north or
south, smaller farms produce from two to ten times more per hectare
than large farms. Large farms work on monoculture, which fails to make
the best use of the land. Small farmers cultivate seed vegetables
combined with fruit trees, porks, hens, a cow…
– Will free
market eradicate hunger?
– If we leave food in
the hands of the market, the only ones to eat well will be the wealthy.
In the world map of food flow, the movement goes from the famished
countries to those with a greater purchasing power. It has been over
forty years now that the prices of farming products show a negative
trend. Only when the governments step into the markets of farming
product can it be granted that there is a minimum support price for
farmers and food available to everybody.
– The market
tends towards monopoly.
– It has been
demonstrated that if antitrust laws are not applied, farmers will
receive lower and lower prices, while consumers will be paying ever
higher ones. The only thing which goes up are the benefits of the of
the large intermediary companies.
– What a mess!
We couldn’t do it worse!
– Another myth is the
one which says that rich countries take advantage of hunger in the poor
countries. Today, factories are located in Third World countries, which
makes all of us poorer.
– Give me an
– The Free Trade Treaty
caused a number of factories in the USA to close down and to settle in
Mexico, where they created 300.000 work places. The Mexican market was
flooded with cheap products and great commercial areas from the States,
which caused a great number of small shops to break down and to lose
one million and a half work places. The end result is 1.200.000 work
places lost in Mexico and 300.000 in the USA.
– What do you
– Food sovereignty. We
know that smaller scale production is more efficient. Every country –
and every country in the world has enough land and water to do so –
should grow the basic products to feed its population.
It is worth while.
Mr. Rosset, with his book «World hunger: twelve myths», has the ability to make you feel clever, because he makes difficult concepts simple and clear. His analysis of the policies which stop people to be able to be fed all over the world shows the need for change.
He starts by
taking to pieces false beliefs, first of all the one which says that
there is not enough food for everybody: «The fist cause of death and
disease is hunger, the remedy is food. The remedy is there». No country
in the world is hopeless. Even those which we consider excessively
overpopulated, have the necessary resources so that their population
may free itself from hunger… What is it then? It is important to know.