Within the framework of the G20 summit that unfolds in Buenos Aires, host Argentina seeks to showcase the country as the “world’s breadbasket and supermarket.” The official narrative reflects the interests of a growing and robust international agribusiness that caters to an unprecedented and unparalleled process of accumulation and hegemonic concentration of power, which dominates the production of food and biomass throughout the productive chain.
What it leaves out, however, are the critical voices from academics and independent social media that denounce the unsustainable impacts of this global model of industrial production of food. Agribusiness, far from feeding the world, is mainly producing animal food and “biofuels” with serious impact on water resources and the degradation of soils. A week before the G20 summit which will give mainly tribune to big business interests in agriculture, a seminar which took place in the Universidad de Buenos Aires which analyzed the regional Agricultural Models and Agri-food System in light of the effects of this intensive agriculture on health and the environment.
The urgent situation of the “Fumigated Towns” was presented at the seminar, and included the effects of pesticide rains that fall daily on the cities of Argentina on human health, which are studied by doctors who shared their research on the situation. A number of presentations reported on the contents and impacts of agrotoxins present in the majority of the vegetables and fruits consumed by Argentines daily.
A population that eats poorly every day due to food devoid of nutrients is a very different reality from the wholesome image portrayed of fields with extensive cattle ranching and natural grains swaying in the wind. The effects of ultra-processed food, soda and other sugary drinks, and a plethora of added fats and salts, are destroying the diet of Argentines and are wreaking serious havoc on the population’s health, which holds one of the top positions in the world in per capita consumption of these goods.
Human rights have been seriously weakened in favor of liberalizing processes that grant a lot of power to large farming consortia. Environmental activists and indigenous leaders fighting for land and water are criminalized and repressed. The investigation on the death of activist Santiago Maldonado has been closed recently. The investigation on the shooting of young Mapuche Rafael Nahuel has not made substantial progress in a year.
Additionally, large infrastructure projects open up new areas of opportunities for international capital, especially from the United States, China, and the European Union. The last two in particular are having very strong interests in securing a flow of raw materials from the region.
All the major producers of genetically modified seeds, agrotoxins, and fertilizers, as well as large land buyers have branches in Argentina, where they promote a productive system based on monocultures, especially soybean and corn. With the planting process in full swing this month, the current year’s primary crop is again genetically modified soybean, with over 55% of the area sown.
As recent publications show, without a paradigmatic change in agricultural production models, water pollution, soil degradation and climate change cannot be stopped. If we want to satisfy the growing demand for food of the world´s population without destroying the planet, what is needed is a shift to ecologic and agroecologic models of production. There is a lot of solid cientific knowledge and practical experience available, silenced so far by the powerful lobby of big agrarian enterprises, but resistence from consumers and citizens and small farmers from all over the world is growing together with the conscience that a change of agrarian model is desperately needed. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that is message will reach the heads of state gathering in Buenos Aires this week-end dominated by topics of trade war between the United States and China and growing concerns over security in the context of the growing tension between Russia and Ukraine.