John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-394-3790
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Globalization

Farming in the United States experienced sweeping changes in the Twentieth Century.  Where in 1900 over 40% of the workforce in the United States was employed in agriculture, only 100 years later less than 2% were.  While these numbers in part reflect the shift from an agrarian society to an industrial society, they also reflect fundamental changes in agricultural practices and the growing movement towards globalization and commoditization.

Perhaps more significant than the decrease in farm employment are statistics about farm production.  During this same period, individual farms transitioned from producing somewhat over five seperate commodities per farm to barely over one commodity per farm.

Thus, today we see mile after mile of wheat fields, or corn fields, or soy bean fields.  We see cattle ranches or pig farms or chicken operations.  But, it is getting unusual to see a diversified farm with multiple enterprises in operation.  It is not unusual that farm owners are unable to produce the food consumed by their own family!

Farm productivity has increased.

Farm income has decreased.

Consumers have arguably benefited from lower prices at the grocery, although there are good grounds to believe that it is more the result hidden subsidies prices are low than it is increased productivity.

Florida oranges are sold in California.  California oranges are sold in New York.  Mexican vegetables are sold in Washington State, Australian wine in Oregon, Argentinian fruit in Nevada.  Wheat and corn from the heartland of the United States is shipped to the orient.

The overgrazed ground producing cheap cashmere sweaters in Mongolia is lifted into dust storms and carried across the Pacific Ocean where it settles on the Rocky Mountains, accelerating snow melt and contributing to water shortages across the southwestern United States.   Children in southern California contract asthma attrubutal to tons of shoreline air pollution from the tens of thousands of diesel engines on trucks and ships at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The fertile soils of Oregon's Willamette Valley produce turf seed for lawns and golf courses in Las Vegas, Christmas trees shipped to Hawaii, and landscape plants used to decorate the yards of acres of concrete and asphault subdivisions covering the fertile soils of Fresno, California (where agriculture is being eclipsed by the so called service industry - education, healthcare government and professional services).

In the words of Vandana Shiva, "Trade liberalisation and the globalisation of agriculture is supposed to increase the production of food and improve the economic situation of farmers across the world. However, in country after country the process is leading to a decline in food production and productivity, a decline in conditions for farmers and a decline in food security for consumers. Globalisation is deepening food insecurity the world over."

This is what the globalization of agriculture has brought us.  For example, in 1992 Mexico imported 20% of its food.  By 1996 (a mere two years after the implementation of NAFTA) Mexico was importing 43% of its food and by 1997 one out of every two peasants were not getting enough to eat.

The globalization of agriculture has resulted in less food being produced around the world, less diverse food being grown, less food reaching the poor and hungry and less food security (in the sense of access to safe and nutritious food) even in developed nations.

Genetically modified food finds its way into groceries in the United States without notice to the consumers.  Beef tainted with BSE, meats and vegetables contaminated with e. coli, water contaminated with phosphates, nitrates, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, hormones, the list goes on and on.

The gobalization of agriculture represents the very antithesis of sustainability.  It is driven by short sighted greed based on corporate profits and the exploitation of both natural and human resources, and it rests on a myopic need to preserve culture, as it has been defined in the past half a century without thought to our biological survival.



 
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