Industrial Food system In light of Cop 28 and the ecological alternativeFarida Akhter || Friday 01 December 2023 ||
The UNFCCC COP28 conference, starting on November 30 in Dubai, UAE, has garnered little to no attention from the media in Bangladesh. Despite this lack of attention, the conference will bring together over 70,000 delegates from 197 countries, including Bangladesh, to address key issues such as climate financing, loss and damage fund, and food systems transformation. The conference aims to address the failure of previous efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to the industrialized nations' lack of commitment to reducing their share of emissions, particularly in the reduction of fossil fuel use. The conference is presided over by the UAE State Oil Company Chief Executive Sultan al-Jaber, and there are concerns about human rights violations, including unlawful state surveillance of attendees. Corporate takeover of global concerns is a highly contested issue in global policy forums. It is getting increasingly apparent that corporations and government officials attempt to block decisions and divert attention from realistic concrete solutions and derail debates to false corporate-driven solutions. Civil society representatives often end up challenging empty promises of industrialized nations. Climatic disaster is a huge concern and there are meaningful steps taken by communities. Often organizations working with communities at the grass root provide evidence of real solutions, but they are hardly able to reach the ears and minds of policymakers. So we may anticipate the outcome of COP28 based on past experience.
Climate Change and Food Production
Disastrous change of climate has a significant impact on food production, as it is responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The recent IPCC report, known as the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) confirms that fossil-fuel based industrial civilization’s refusal to take urgent actions on climate disaster is alarming. The emission of greenhouse gases are unequivocally responsible for the observed warming of the Earth's climate. Global surface temperature has risen significantly, with the past four decades being the warmest since pre-industrial times. The report emphasizes that continued global warming will lead to more frequent and severe climate-related risks and impacts, affecting ecosystems, societies, and economies. Widespread disruptions to ecosystems, leading to shifts in species distribution, loss of biodiversity, and altered ecosystem services are posing serious threats to all forms of life. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, floods, and storms, have increased due to climate change posing These events posing significant risks to agro-ecology, human well-being and infrastructure .
The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) and the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) provide substantial insights into the impacts of climate change on food systems. Climate change poses a significant threat to global food security by affecting crop yields, livestock productivity, and fisheries. Changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events contribute to disruptions in food production. Climate change impacts the livelihoods of those dependent on agriculture and fisheries, particularly in vulnerable regions, such as Bangladesh. Changes in temperature and precipitation can lead to shifts in the suitability of certain crops and impact the viability of traditional livelihoods. The conversion of forests to agricultural land contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the overall carbon sink capacity of ecosystems. Therefore, the report implicitly and explicitly emphasizes the need for sustainable land use practices to mitigate climate change and preserve biodiversity. Changes in precipitation patterns and increased evaporation may result in water scarcity, affecting irrigation and reducing the availability of water. Climate change can also seriously exacerbate food loss and waste through its impact on supply chains, an area that policy makers often ignore. Extreme weather events, such as storms and floods, can disrupt transportation and storage, leading to increased post-harvest losses .
All such disastrous consequences negatively affect water, soil and food systems, decreasing the availability of food, fodder and food sources for all life forms. For countries like Bangladesh the efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals become almost impossible. Currently, approximately half of the world's population faces severe water scarcity for at least part of the year due to a combination of climate and anthropogenic factors. The IPCC report emphasizes the need for effective solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change could only be achieved according to official vocabulary, through ‘climate-resilient development and comprehensive measures’ to address the disasters in the food and agriculture sectors. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN states that approximately 735 million people are hungry and in need of food and nutrition.
Corporate Take Over
The is ironic. While UN organizations and most of the member states acknowledge the challenges of food security, climate change, and biodiversity loss, livelihood disaster, environmental migration and violence in the context of increasingly depleting natural and biological resources end erosion of local knowledge in the era of climate disasters it does not mention farmers' food systems and agroecology as a solution. Perhaps these are the best available solutions instead of the corporate grabbing of climate disaster as the another profitable sector investment and profiteering. Instead, FAO, in collaboration with CGIAR, IFAD, and the Rockefeller Foundation, is showcasing various initiatives of corporate agrifood systems as a solution to the climate crisis and achieving the 1.5 degrees warming goal and zero hunger (SDG 2).
International organizations in sync with the corporate world want food systems to be transformed into industrial food production to achieve net-zero emissions, restore nature, and boost resilience. These organizations do not see what kind of food production systems contribute to one-third of the global GHG emissions. It is indeed the industrial agriculture and industrial food production. Industrial agriculture is causing more GHG emissions due to their dependence on monocultures, and excessive use of agrochemicals including harmful pesticides and herbicides. Industrial agriculture and mechanizations are fossil fuel dependent and disrupt natural and biological cycles of various elements of life and regeneration processes; it destroys the natural biological blocks and disarticulate the relations and flows of nature and kills Earth. Modern industrial farming spraying operations of poisons and chemicals are acts of ecocide. There is a significant change in land use from crop production for human consumption to growing ‘crops’ as feed for livestock and even biofuel. Water is polluted and has been overused due to the change in food production. Water is increasingly used, wasted and dumped as pollutants in agricultural fields, rivers and oceans. Clearly, the food systems transformation must stop these extractive practices at the outset.
Over 1,500 corporations, including fossil fuel companies like BP and Shell, retail giants like Amazon and Walmart, and industrial food corporations such as Cargill, Nestle, and JBS, have pledged to achieve "net-zero" emissions by utilizing nature-based solutions, particularly at COP26 and COP27. The concept of nature-based solutions is appealing because it portrays nature as diverse, healthy, versatile, and resilient. However, as Friends of the Earth documents reveal, these supposed solutions aim to integrate the carbon storage capacity of nature into corporate profit chains and transform nature and carbon into financial assets. These corporations conceal the fact that more than half of the world's agricultural soil's organic matter has been lost due to decades of industrial farming practices, resulting in depleted soil carbon. Consequently, agribusiness corporations are now seeking new subsidies and income opportunities through soil carbon farming programs. This has become a new source of profit for these corporations. Soil depletion leads to significant carbon emissions, and nature-based solutions promote soil carbon farming, which requires technological interventions.
It has also got a new name such as ‘climate-smart farming’, that supposedly increases the amount of carbon stored in their farms. According to Friends of the Earth, the change in practices is used to verify the creation of carbon offset credits which are sold to corporations or governments, through ‘soil carbon markets’. Though the buyers are still emitting greenhouse gasses, they claim to ‘offset’ these emissions by paying others to sequester more carbon, in line with their ‘net zero’ emissions goals. Demand for offsets is increasing, with 82 countries and 44% of the world’s 2000 largest companies having made ‘net zero’ commitments.
But soil carbon offsets increase the entrenchment of unsustainable corporate-controlled seeds and agrochemicals like herbicides. So these are against the interest of the farmers who use farmer-saved seeds. These are also used for extracting data, particularly through the use of machines like combine harvester, which have sensors to detect the specific shades of patented crops. They constitute a new regime of corporate technological imposition through patented and profit-oriented devices and techniques such as artificially grown lab food, gene editing, carbon capture, carbon credits and above all the financialization of nature. But the real agenda behind these false solutions is the total consolidation of the industrial food system through a digitally controlled agricultural supply chain, lab-made foods, and the financialization of the last natural frontiers through biodiversity and ecosystem services financial credits. In essence it is the final blow to farming and replacing agriculture and food production without farmers. Industry is taking over farming without the Earth.
The environmental and ecological movements around the globe obviously resist such transformation. If the new alliance of corporations and the state is left unchecked, they will continue to exacerbate the crises by bolstering inequality and corporate power. “Net-zero” and “carbon capture” are two weapons advocated by multinationals and billionaires that are increasingly becoming the site of peoples’ resistance around the world.
The real solutions
Defending the localized, agrarian, farm and community based food systems is urgently necessary to move away from industrial food production. It is apparent that emphasis on CO2 emissions instead of GHG emissions is problematic as it allows corporations to profit from new technologies, seeds, and machinery. Farmers movements such as Nayakrishi Andolon are globally addressing climate-induced food production challenges by demonstrating the resilience and productivity of biodiversity-based farming practices that care for the soil, seeds, water, and natural cycles and ecosystems.
Innovative, creative and historically and locally grounded science and knowledge practices is what we need now to face the biocidal industrial civilization and replace that with joyful lifestyles worthy of human beings. This is possible by integrating the frontier of science and innovation to confirm and affirm life and not elimination. Coping with climate disasters using diverse seeds and adapting to change in climatic conditions are well proved necessary grounds upon which we may build up national strategy, since it works. Nayakrishi Andolon, the biodiversity-based innovative farming practice, has already demonstrated that there are alternatives.
Published: New Age: 3 December, 2023. 'Industrial Food system In light of Cop 28 and the ecological alternative'