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This Issue: What are we eating?
What are we eating? A simple question which opens up a labyrinth of
devilishly complex issues about production and distribution, access to
land, control of water, prices, health and safety, migrant labour, and
For millions of people, the answer is brutally simple: not enough to
survive. UNICEF estimates that 300 million children go to bed hungry
each night, and that more than 8,000 children under the age of five die
of malnutrition every day. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) estimates that 12% of the world’s population is chronically
How is this possible in a world where there is an enormous surplus of food, where farmers are paid not to grow food?
A short answer is that food production and distribution are driven by
the need to make profits, rather than by human needs. The international
system of corporate-dominated food production and sales that is
misleadingly referred to as the “market” exists to maximize corporate
profits. Everything follows from that. The ‘market’ responds to ‘demand’
(though that ‘demand’ is often artificially created by marketing
campaigns). Bottom line: if people are hungry because they have no money
to buy food, they don’t create a ‘demand’ for food, and the “market”
doesn’t produce or allocate food for them.
This is not a new development. During the Irish famine of the 1840s,
when one million people died of starvation, rich landowners were
exporting food from Ireland. Why? Because foreign buyers could afford to
pay, whereas the Irish peasants had no money with which to buy food.
The Ethiopian famine of the 1980s was a similar story: the country was
producing enough grain to feed everyone, and indeed continued to export
food during the height of the famine.
In the past few decades, the increasing corporatization of the food system has been bringing about enormous changes.
In North America, traditional family farms are a threatened species.
Large industrial farms expand, while smaller farms sell out to the big
operations or, if they are close to cities, to real estate speculators
and builders. Large or small, nearly all farmers are heavily in debt and
trapped on a treadmill of borrowing against next year’s earnings to buy
this year’s seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, all controlled and sold
by huge agribusiness corporations.
In Africa, land that has been farmed by local farmers for countless
generations is being taken over by foreign mega-operations, many of them
Chinese. In India, international agro-chemical monopolies have been
pushing GMOs and new crop varieties, resulting in a series of rural
disasters, whose consequences include a horrific wave of farmer
Another worry for anyone who consumes food – that is, everyone – is
the safety of the foods that we consume. We are all guinea pigs in a
massive, unprecedented, and uncontrolled experiment on human health and
the earth’s ecosystems. What happens when our bodies, our lakes and
rivers, our soil, and our air are saturated with an ever-increasing
broth of chemicals, antibiotics, and genetically modified lifeforms?
If there is good news in all this, it is the fact that so many people
are coming together to resist in various ways, large and small. This
issue of Other Voices highlights a few. Many more stories and resources
can be found via the Connexions website.
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The Food page in the Connexions Subject Index offers a varied menu of
articles, books, videos, and groups. This is only the beginning: there
are dozens of other pages related to food and agriculture in the subject
index, including topics such as organic agriculture, local food,
fisheries, nutrition, and many more. Browse the food page in the subject
GMOs, Global Agribusiness and the Destruction of Choice
Localisation and traditional methods of food production, says
Colin Todhunter, have given way to globalised supply chains dominated by
transnational companies policies and actions which have resulted in the
destruction of habitat and livelihoods and the imposition of
corporate-controlled, chemical-intensive (monocrop) agriculture that
weds farmers and regions to a wholly exploitative system of neoliberal
globalization. Whether it involves the undermining or destruction of
what were once largely self-sufficient agrarian economies in Africa or
the devastating impacts of soy cultivation in Argentina or palm oil
production in Indonesia, the role of transnational agribusiness has been
devastating. Read more
Keywords: Industrial Agriculture - Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
The Centrality of Seed: Building Agricultural Resilience Through Plant Breeding
Five of the global issues most frequently debated today are the
decline of biodiversity in general and of agrobiodiversity in
particular, climate change, hunger and malnutrition, poverty and water.
Seed is central to all five issues. The way in which seed is produced
has been arguably their major cause. But it can also be the solution to
all these issues. Read more
Keywords: Plant Breeding - Seeds
Where the world’s appetite for fish matters most
Illegal over-fishing by Chinese and other foreign vessels is
severely affecting the economy and food security of West African
nations. As well as being a vital source of food, West Africa's fertile
fishing zones provide seven million Africans with jobs. Plundered
unchecked for decades, its dangerously exhausted stocks face new
pressures. Read more
Keywords: Fishing - Overfishing
Resistance to Antibiotics: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The growing resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials due
to their overuse and misuse both in humans and animals has become an
alarming global threat to public health, food safety and security,
causing the deaths of 700,000 people each year. The FAO warns that in
the coming decades, the use of antimicrobials in animal production and
health will likely rise as a result of economic expansion, a growing
global population, and higher demand for animal-sourced foods. Indeed,
their use in livestock is expected to double within 20 years. Read more
Keywords: Antibiotic Resistance - Ecosystems/Health of
Two Decades of Monsanto's Illegal Actions, Frauds and Crimes in India
Over the two decades since Monsanto entered India, it has violated
laws, deceived Indian farmers by making unscientific and fraudulent
claims, extracted super profits through illegal royalty collection by
violating India’s patent and intellectual property laws, pushed farmers
into debt, and, as a consequence of the debt trap, to suicide. Read more
Keywords: Cotton - Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
One Palestinian Man’s Mission to Make Urban Agriculture More Sustainable
Said Salim Abu Naser, a proponent of sustainable agriculture
living and working in Gaza City, Palestine, along the Mediterranean
Coast, has created a 200-square-meter (2,000-square-foot) micro-farm
using a hydroponic system and homemade organic pest-control solutions
consisting of garlic, pepper, soap and more. Watch the video here
Keywords: Palestine - Urban Agriculture
Website of the Week
The website of Dr. Vandana Shiva, documenting her work, in
collaboration with local communities, in protecting the diversity and
integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and promoting
organic farming and fair trade. Find it here
Keywords: Biodiversity - Organic Agriculture/Food
Book of the Week
An Illustrated Guide to Growing Food on Your Balcony
By Lara Lucretia Mrosovsky
This is a booklet for people in the city who grow or want to grow
plants in container. The information is meant to be basic enough for
beginners and informative enough to be a handy reference for even an
The author writes: “Growing your own food is its own reward. But
this booklet, and the gardening work and teaching that I do, is
motivated by a bigger vision. To me, urban gardens matter because I see
them as a small piece of a larger puzzle – the complicated, many-layered
puzzle of building alternatives to the globalized, industrial food
system.” Read more
Keywords: Gardens/Gardening - Urban Agriculture
Video of the Week
Only one bear in a hundred bites, but they don't come in order
By Bob Bossin
This video by Bob Bossin highlights the risk of a
catastrophic fire at the terminus of the proposed Kinder Morgan
pipeline. The proposed pipeline, which Elizabeth May has characterized
as “total stupidity,” would carry tar-sands oil from Northern Alberta to
the Port of Vancouver. Watch it here
Keywords: Oil Spills - Oil & Gas/Environmental Issues
Tomato pickers win higher pay. Can other workers use their strategy
Tactics like protests outside Wendy's, repeated in cities
across the country, have helped make the Coalition of Immokalee Workers
one of the most successful worker organizations in the country. By
applying pressure to corporations at the top of the supply chain, the
big retailers and fast-food chains that buy tomatoes, the CIW has helped
tens of thousands of mostly Hispanic immigrant workers who pick the
bulk of the nation’s winter tomato crop. Read more
Keywords: Farmworkers - Seasonal Labour
A common treasury for all: Gerrard Winstanley’s vision of utopia
Gerrard Winstanley was the ideological force behind the Diggers,
a left-wing movement during the English Revolution. The Diggers
believed in the abolition of private property and said that the earth
should be a common treasury for all. Read more
Keywords: Common Property - Levellers
From the Archives
Via Campesina Declaration on Food Sovereignty 1996
"Food sovereignty" is a term coined by members of Via Campesina
in 1996. In their 1996 declaration, Via Campesina asserted that the
people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the
mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution, rather than
the corporations and market institutions they believe have come to
dominate the global food system. The declaration asserts that food is a
basic human right, and that this right can only be realized in a system
where food sovereignty is guaranteed. Read more
Keywords: Food Sovereignty - Land Rights
January 22, 1905
Bloody Sunday in Russia
A massacre of workers by the Czar’s soldiers leads to the
outbreak of revolution. A peaceful demonstration of St. Petersburg
workers, led by a priest, assembles at the Winter Palace, hoping to
present a petition to Czar Nicholas II. They are singing hymns, dressed
in their best clothes, and carrying portraits of the Czar to show their
faith that the ‘Little Father’ will help them. Their trust in the Czar
is repaid with bullets: without warning, troops fire into the terrified
crowd; more than a thousand are killed. The next day, 125,000 workers go
on strike protesting the massacre: the strikes spread like wildfire,
and suddenly revolution is on the agenda. For the next two months,
Russia is engulfed in a revolutionary upheaval that threatens to
overthrow the regime, but ultimately falls short.
January 25 - 30, 2001
The first World Social Forum
The first World Social Forum brings together 12,000 people in
Porto Alegre, Brazil. It defines itself as “an opened space – plural,
diverse, non-governmental and non-partisan – that stimulates the
decentralized debate, reflection, proposals building, experiences
exchange and alliances among movements and organizations engaged in
concrete actions towards a more solidarity based, democratic and fair
world....a permanent space and process to build alternatives to
January 25, 2011
Revolt in Egypt
A popular uprising begins in Egypt, with tens of thousands of
protesters gathering in cities across the country, including in Cairo’s
Tahrir Square, to protest against the repressive regime of Hosni
Mubarak. The continuing protests force Mubarak to resign on February 11.
January 27, 1945
Liberation of Auschwitz
The Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Monowitz are liberated by the Soviet Red Army.
January 30, 1649
Head of state beheaded
King Charles I of England is beheaded after being convicted of treason. The monarchy is then abolished, but restored in 1660.
January 25, 2018
Secure Web Browsing and Anonymity with Tor Browser
Celebrate Data Privacy Day with a hands-on workshop with
Toronto-based developer for the Tor Project, Sukhbir Singh. Mr Singh has
been a software developer in the applications and community team of the
Tor Project since 2012.
Come learn just how easy it is to use the internet privately!
Whether you've never heard of Tor, or have only heard bad things about
it, or are a long-time user of the best privacy tool out there, come out
and learn from a seasoned Tor developer in a hassle-free, community
Bring your device(s) for a hands-on experience! This event is part of TPL's Digital Privacy project.
January 27, 2018
Montreal: Rally Against NAFTA
Join the Montreal chapter of the Council of Canadians on January 27 at noon to rally against NAFTA during the negotiations.
January 31, 2018
Community Organizing - how to connect with others and gain support for your cause
In person outreach and engaging the public in a 'one on one'
or public speaking fashion can easily feel overwhelming, even for the
most extroverted of us. So how can you ease the stress, anxiety, and
initial barriers to actually getting people to talk to you? Come learn
some tips, tricks, and best practices to getting cold glances to melt
and strangers to hear you out.
In this workshop we will be covering some of the basic and most common scenarios and how to best navigate each one.
February 1, 2018
The Crises in the Gulf and Palestine
The recent decision by President Donald Trump to relocate the
US embassy to Jerusalem amidst international condemnation has made the
US the only country in the world to officially recognize Israel’s
illegal, unilateral annexation of that city. At the same time,
intensifying bloody repression in the Arab Gulf has included a horrific
US-Saudi assault on Yemen, the encirclement of Qatar and Iran, and the
consolidation of an absolutist regime in Saudi Arabia headed by Prince
Salman. As a result, the need to assess the strategic dilemmas facing
international solidarity activists, including the movement for Boycott,
Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel, has become even more pressing.
February 9 – 11, 2018
2018 Social and Environmental Justice Symposium
OPIRG Guelph’s Social and Environmental Justice Symposium is a
convergence of academic and community research, activism, and art
focused on social and environmental justice issues. We are aiming to
make research more accessible to all and to foster deeper relationships
and idea sharing between academics and community activism..
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This issue was edited by Ulli Diemer.
812A Bloor Street West, Suite 201
Toronto ON M6G 1L9 Canada
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