Whose Food Footprint?
Inside the network of NGOs and intergovernmental agencies addressing food insecurity, disease, and environmental crises, the ‘c’-word–and it isn’t ‘cancer’–is rarely, if ever, publicly uttered.
Last year a trio of us attempted to say the word plainly, if only in passing, in a broad history of food crises we submitted to an OIE bulletin. But the piece was bowdlerized in its editing and all references to capitalism and critiques thereof excised.
More recently, in a more informal venue, my politic comments on the capitalist origins of epizootic outbreaks were repeatedly deleted from what was until then an ecumenical One Health Facebook page.
It is in this context we wrote a paper, now just published in Human Geography, explicitly connecting capitalism, agriculture and the environment. HG is put out by a non-profit foundation in an effort to skirt academic profiteering by multinational media conglomerates. It is at this point one of the few journals willing and able to publish such a piece.
Our aim here is to offer the One Health and conservation communities, and anyone else for that matter, an uncensored critique of the unspoken, and yet omnipresent, economic model now framing international disease control and food security.
Specifically, we explore agribusiness’ contention highly capitalized monocropping is the only food regime with the production efficiencies needed to both protect the environment and feed a growing global population. We conclude the proposition is the latest evolution in declensionist greenwashing. It is an attempt to provide cover for neoliberal landgrabbing now underway in some of the world’s poorest countries.
We address the narrative’s appeal to political expediency, its narrow view of production and economies of scale, and its marketing of agribusiness’ magnanimity despite historical evidence to the contrary.
Along the way we enlarge upon key omissions in the argument, notably its treatment of capitalism as a veritable force of nature, its self-serving ‘humanitarianism’, and the socioeconomic, health and environmental costs that have already accrued from such a food regimen.
Finally, we describe alternate paradigms for feeding the planet. Communal projects in conservation agriculture, some already feeding millions, embody living refutations of the agribusiness program.
With Human Geography‘s permission we’ve made a PDF of the paper available here.
Wallace RG and RA Kock (2012) Whose food footprint? Capitalism, agriculture and the environment. Human Geography. 5(1):63-83.