Last month’s column was given the title of the column from the issue before (Reflections On Money). The title should have been “Soil Regeneration.” If you passed on reading it because you thought you already read it, please check it out. If you can no longer find an old issue, you can find it at vashonloop.com > Columns > Road To Resilience > Soil Regeneration.
Most of us agree that the fossil fuel industry has got to go. We know that we have to stop putting CO2 in the air, even as the oil industry is still scrambling to find yet more reserves. But there is another behemoth in our midst that is almost as detrimental to the atmosphere and much more so in terms of the degradation of life on Earth, from microbe to soil to plants to our very bodies. I’m talking about our corporate food system.
All the elements of food production, seeds, fertilizer, weed and pest control, land, managing raw product, processing, and distribution have been commoditized for profit and are under the control of a handful of global corporations. Right now, only three companies control the entire seed market for the world, and the largest of those companies is Bayer/Monsanto. The actual farmers that produce crops receive as little as one percent of the profit, after paying these large companies for their seed, fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides. Often these companies advance the inputs at the beginning of the season, charging the farmers for interest as well. When the farmers are ready to sell their products, there is often only one buyer allowed and that buyer sets the selling price.
This system is especially severe for meat growers who are little more than glorified factory workers, although, factory workers are not liable for unexpected costs due to disease, weather or breakdown. Adding more insult to injury, the concentrated animal production system they must use is an abomination of animal cruelty, wasted resources, unnatural and sickening feed requiring massive inputs of antibiotics, and mountains of methane-producing manure.
If that isn’t bad enough, the corporate food system, which holds all of us hostage as well, is killing and eroding soil, polluting our rivers with toxins and excess nutrients, dramatically worsening the health of every living being, and is the second largest contributor of carbon emissions behind the energy industry (i.e., fossil fuels).
Chemical toxins and fertilizers kill the microbiota that literally are healthy soil. A dead soil, which is now only a mineral medium to hold chemicals and plants, is utterly dependent on chemicals to support plant life. It has lost its ability to hold water so most of the water that reaches it runs off, taking the soil, chemical toxins, and nutrients with it.
Those chemicals are now present in all of our bodies. In the 1960s, only four percent of Americans had chronic diseases. As of 2015, forty-six percent of young people have chronic diseases. The worst incidence is in agricultural communities. Our expected lifespan is beginning to slip. A good argument could be made that we are literally killing ourselves off by participating in this food system.
The icing on the cake is that this dead soil oxidizes the remaining organic matter and thus becomes a net carbon emitter. So we have the deadly feedback loop: warming air, drier soil, more water usage, poorer production, starvation. Fun, huh? At least it is saving us a lot of money and providing quality products. Well, no—it isn’t. The only people that are making out with this system are a small group of billionaires at the top of these parasite companies. In addition to the toxins and worsening environment, they are also bringing you more plastics than you ever imagined you would need: cellophane on the outside, polyethylene on the inside. Amongst these companies are names you will recognize: Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Tyson, Nestle, Kraft, Pepsico. You might think twice about buying anything from these people. If you want to read further, I recommend this link: https://econexus.info/publication/agropoly-handful-corporations-control-world-food-production
It doesn’t have to be this way. Already, more than half the food in the world is still produced by small family farms that grow their own seed and operate independently (mostly, that is) of the corporate parasites. As I explained in “Regenerative Agriculture,” healthy soil is not only our ticket out of the corporate madness, it is also our best hope of reversing the carbon buildup in the atmosphere. It not only eliminates a third of our carbon emissions, it has the potential of sequestering even more, while producing healthy sustainable food, wildlife diversity, and returning the profits of food growing to the people that deserve it: the growers. An added benefit is that it is best done at the local scale, eliminating the gargantuan investments that disqualify the small operators.
Let’s continue to lower our dependence on fossil fuels so that we can get off of them entirely, but, at the same time, it is imperative that we take the food system back from the parasites and begin to rebuild living soil that will take CO2 out of our atmosphere.