|Biotechnology and the Future of World Agriculture (GRAIN, 1991)|
|Agriculture in crisis|
'A farmer is one who is asked to feed the world.... in exchange for enough money to starve his family.' (Johny Hart) (1)
The report of the World Commission on Environment and Development put it all in one volume. Published in 1987, and better known as the Brundtland report, Our Common Future (2) analyses some of the more structural causes of underdevelopment and environmental degradation. There are more hungry people in the world today than ever before in human history and their number is growing; so is the total number of people inhabiting our globe. The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, both in North-South terms and within countries. With repayments of debt, which now top the $1 trillion mark, and a further deterioration in terms of trade, the Third World poor are actually - in net terms - pouring money into the industrialized North at a rate of $50 billion a year or more. (3) This negative flow of resources is perverse and defies all economic logic - it is development assistance in reverse. To make a bad situation worse, developing countries are being increasingly excluded from international trade. While the Third World held 28% of global trade in 1980, this share had dropped to 19% in 1986,4 and has remained at about that level since.
Developing countries are mired within the debt crisis, trade barriers, falling commodity prices, population growth and environmental degradation. They have few alternatives to exporting more cash crops at ever decreasing prices, despite the consequences for the environment and their people. The ones who lose out the most are, as always, the poor.