Old Macdonald had a farm, ee eye ee eye oh…and on that farm he had a pig.
This Old Macdonald guy was a modest fella who knew what he was up to. One of each farm animal. You can milk the cow, make some cheese and cream and whey and then just sit around chilling with your other farm dwellers, making friends with the duck and eating the eggs that the chicken so kindly produced. Man, back in the day Old Macdonald had it goin’ on. I remember flicking through this narrative rhyme and thinking “When I grow up, I want to be just like Old Mac, so I can have the biggest family of furry friends”.
So whatever happened to this idyllic image of farming?
Now the typical farm uses intensive practices which require a much different attitude; worlds apart from this neat, bucolic method outlined in the oversimplified childhood story. It seems while we were all looking the other way the agricultural industry has spiralled out of control.
Monoculture can be seen in the majority of American farms. This is a well practiced concept which involves concentrating all of your energy, as a farmer, on growing one specific kind of crop only, on a huge scale. Kind of putting all of your eggs, or grains rather, in one basket. The scary part is, to do this usually requires some kind of chemical intervention, which ultimately puts the consumer at risk, as well as the natural environment. An in depth breakdown of this practice is provided here.
If we were to think of the agricultural industry and the practices of large scale companies or independent farms as being situated on a sliding scale of sustainability; farms which prioritise sustainability and safe practice would be on the far left side of this spectrum. Mega agrochemical users who prioritise profit over all else (including our lived environment and the creatures homed by it) are way over to the right. Head down to your local farmers market to see how the far left operate in real life. Stalls of locally grown fruit, veg, artisan cheese, wine, cakes and breads. Here in Dunedin, the farmers market is a weekend event. It unites a large chunk of our city who enjoy strolling the stalls coffee in hand, with bags full of fresh produce.
No doubt, you’ve heard of the powerful agricultural, ‘biotech bully’; Monsanto. This company is at the forefront of agrochemical use and they are one of the most powerful corporations in the world, sitting at the untouchable far right of this sliding sustainability scale. Their latest invention; spraying corn, alfalfa, sorghum and many more crops with RoundUp and then distributing them, business as usual. They have created RoundUp resistant crops which allow farmers to spray with highly toxic weed killer while their crops continue flourishing. Extensive research studies have proven this practice to be highly dangerous to humans, our water supplies and our environment.
There is a hoard of information available online regarding Monsanto and their use of glyphosate (one of the active ingredients in RoundUp) and the hundreds of other chemicals used by Monsanto on an immense scale. Labelling themselves as ‘Sustainable Agriculture Leaders’ highlights how full of sh*t they are and what little care they take for those who consume their products.
Last month, an environmental group petitioned Argentina’s Supreme Court, seeking a temporary ban on glyphosate use after an Argentine scientist and local activists reported a high incidence of birth defects and cancers in people living near crop-spraying areas. Scientists there also linked genetic malformations in amphibians to glysophate. In addition, last year in Sweden, a scientific team found that exposure is a risk factor for people developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
There are countless stories of Monsanto’s immoral practices and their attempts to become the oligarchy of agriculture. Vanity Fair published an expose of Monsanto which exposes Monsanto as the embodiment of the classic schoolyard bully. Neil Young recently made a short film about the intimidation tactics Monsanto use against independent farmers who continue their traditional, chemical free, sustainable farming practices.
“Monsanto is one of the largest pharmaceutical and agricultural companies who produce a wide range of genetically modified foods and seeds, drugs and pesticides and herbicides. This multibillion dollar company has branches in 100 different countries and is the main producer of genetically modified crops and seeds in the world.” See more at:SOR.com. Monsanto hide behind lawyers, corrupt politicians, CEO’s and unlimited financial funds. There is a global grass-roots movement to strip them of power and boycott their products, but Monsanto continue to produce GMO filled crops which are poisoning habitats and people worldwide.
The sheer size of Monsanto is overwhelming. How do we, the ‘little people’ avoid toxic corn, soy, cotton and grains? Well, here is a list of known brands who readily associate with and rely on Monsanto crops. If Monsanto are as powerful and corrupt as evidence has shown, we must assume that the true scale of their infiltration of consumables is much wider than this relatively small list of associated brands.
José Graziano da Silva the director general of the Food andAgriculture Organisation says “Nothing comes closer to sustainable food production than family farming. The preservation of natural resources is rooted in their productive logic; and the highly diversified nature of their agricultural activities gives them a central role in promoting the sustainability of our food systems and ensuring food security.” Basically, if we want to be on the safe side (while encouraging local businesses) we should be supporting and buying from small, local agricultural independents. It costs a little more financially, but hey, I would rather spend an extra $3 a pop for organic, locally grown produce than spend my hard earned pennies lining the pockets of unethical, corrupt agrochemical giants.
Feature image: Belongs to EC, creator of this blog
Shot with 35mm film