Dateline: 28 June 2008
Updated: 26 April 2013
As the price of gas and diesel fuel soars ever higher, there is a lot of discussion about the huge profits being made by big oil companies. People are angry with the oil companies. People are angry with government. They are angry with oilman politicians like George Bush and Dick Cheney. There is a lot of anger going around.
Well, of course there’s a lot of anger. After all, the traditional American expectation of perpetual prosperity is gradually turning into an economic nightmare. But, unlike a bad dream, this is reality, and a harsh reality at that.
Personally I am far more concerned with the huge profits currently being made by big agricultural industries (BigAg) than I am with BigOil. Food is an absolute necessity for every human on earth. Oil is not.
Food production and distribution is, of course, intertwined with fossil fuels, but not inextricably, Believe it or not, civilization can (and will) survive without an overabundance of crude oil. We have around six thousand years of pre-oil human history to prove that. People are resourceful. They can adapt to such changes. At least some can.
But food is another story. There are currently millions of people in the world facing significant hardship, malnutrition, and even starvation over this matter of food. Why? Because they and their countries are dependent on BigAg’s food, the cost of which is rising at alarming rates. And all the while, the BigAg corporations are making record profits.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that industrialized farming and food production is all about feeding the world. That is a serious misconception. The large global corporations that manage the vast majority of food production and the flow of food to markets are not humanitarian agencies. These behemoth corporations exist for the sole purpose of making money. Everyone needs food and the Industrial Providers do not give it away.
Cargill, a major player in the global food oligopoly realized a $2,340,000,000 profit in 2007. That was a 36% increase over the previous year. Cargill has its tentacles on many links of the food chain but receives its greatest portion of profit from commodity trading. In the first 3 months of this year Cargill reaped 86% higher profits over 2007 from its global trading in agricultural commodities. It’s hard to lose money in commodity trading when you have almost monopolistic control over a huge portion of the world’s food supply.
Record profits were also raked in by another BigAg corporation, which also happens to be the second largest grain trader in the world. US based ADM had 2,200,000,000 in profits in 2007, up 67% from 2006. This year’s profits are even higher.
BigAg’s game plan has been to consolidate their control over global food markets by destroying the centuries-old indigenous agricultural systems of every nation, and to make those nations dependents of BigAg. They have done this in recent years through NAFTA, the WTO, and World Bank collusions. To an alarming degree, this takeover of global production and distribution has been successful.
The BigAg corporations have usurped the food sovereignty and security of Mexico, as I wrote about in this essay. They have done it in Haiti, the Philippines, Western Africa, South America, and elsewhere. Through devious manipulations over many years, a cartel of corporations has gained global food control.
Now, as people in these nations can hardly afford to buy food from the Industrial Providers, the food corporations are bringing in their greatest profits. But it isn’t just people in developing nations that are hurting. People in this country are also finding it increasingly difficult to afford food. You already know that.
People the world over are clamoring for governments to help them deal with the food crisis. What will governments do? In many instances, they, and numerous sincere humanitarian agencies, will buy food from the Industrial Providers to give to needy people. But that’s only a temporary expedient, not a lasting solution.
My whole point here (aside from ranting) is to point out that the so-called “green revolution” of industrial farming that so many people look upon with praise and admiration has not been all about feeding the world, as some claim. That’s hogwash.
The “green revolution” which created an agricultural system dependent on big machinery, high debt, pesticides, genetic chicanery, synthetic fertilizers, and massive amounts of fossil fuel, is about the corporate food oligopoly getting maximum control and making maximum profits.
And global food shortages, whether real or manipulated (I’m not entirely sure which it is—probably a combination of both), are being utilized by BigAg to increase their profits. It’s all about BigMoney.
In response to the current world food crisis, some people are calling for a new “green revolution.” Their definition of which is more industrialization, more control by the industrial providers, more dangerous dependency on the cunning Food Masters. This is foolishness to the point of even more extreme dangerousness.
In the final analysis, industrialized agriculture has no viable solution to the problems of world food security. That’s because industrialized agriculture is, itself, the most significant part of the problem. True solutions are not found in predatory and destructive paradigms. Lasting solutions can only be found by going outside the industrial box.
I plan to have more to say about “feeding the world” in an upcoming essay.
Note: America’s second largest oil company, Chevron, took in 18.7 billion dollars in profits in 2007. The company will make even more this year. I realize that far surpasses the profits of BigAg. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that BigAg makes it’s BigBucks through morally corrupt business practices, and wields far too much power and influence in the world