The other day I was looking at the list of organizations that were part of Californians for SAFE Food, the coalition that opposed Proposition 2 in California (the proposition passed last November). The group was accused of being a front group for the ag industry. And, in fact, many of the organizations were agricultural/agribusiness groups. However, I was struck by the number of social justice groups that were also part of the coalition. These groups included the California Congress of the NAACP, the Congress of California Seniors, the National Latino Congress and the California Conference Board of the Amalgamated Transit Union. What does this mean?
To me, this means that social justice groups believe that big ag and their interests are allied.
I used to think this was understandable. But now I think that’s sad, sad, sad.
I think these groups believe that if big ag’s costs rise, then food prices will automatically increase. That was one of the arguments made against Proposition 2. Proposition 2 will not go into effect until 2015, so there is plenty of time to innovate and comply in a cost effective manner. Second of all, if prices do rise, they are not rising simply to cover new costs but to also maintain profit margins. Because profit, not social welfare, is what motivates these guys.
Last week, I read an interview with a poverty activist who argued that people who are into community/local food and p-patches are middle-class naïve yuppies. Local food and individual farming is not the way to feed the world’s poor. You must have mass production. You must have big agribusiness. But I would argue that local growing and self-sustenance is what has maintained societies and the poor for millennia. It’s when land began to be consolidated into corporate ownership and people began leaving the land and entering urban areas, that we all became dependent on corporate behemoths for our food supply. How much poverty is in Haiti as a result of farm land being covered in reservoirs or turned over to big agribusiness?
I think that the choice between people and the environment/animals are false choices. But this is what big agribusiness does, just like the pharmaceutical industry. “Do you put people first or the environment? It’s one or the other.”
Anytime a corporation presents that option, I am suspicious and I believe that many social justice groups have fallen for this. They are ignoring the big picture and giving big agribusiness false credibility by joining their causes.