For the better part of the past century Western pop culture has systematically denigrated and devalued what should be the most honored profession of all. Those who labor with the land, day-in and day-out, to deliver the food that we eat have assumed a social status too often similar to the dirt of the soil they till. No one stops to ask a simple question: What do we do when we have killed off all our farmers?
Some of the more naïve city-dwellers would retort with little reflection, “But we have industrialized food production; we don’t need manual farm labor today.”
Indeed, the numbers are impressive.
Let’s take my homeland, the United States of America. In 1950, a time of general prosperity and strong economic growth, the total US population was 151,132,000 and the farm population was 25,058,000 making farmers just over 12% of the total labor force. There were 5,388,000 farms with an average size of about 87 hectares. Forty years later, in 1990, the year the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended, the USA had a total population of 261,423,000 of which the farm population numbered just under three million, 2,987,552, making farmers a mere 2.6% of the total labor force. The number of farms had shrunk to only 2,143,150, a loss of 60%, but because of industrial concentration, average size was 187 hectares.
Rockefeller’s Agribusiness Revolution
What we are told, those of us whose relation to meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables ends at the supermarket, is that this is a great progress, the liberation of almost 23 million farm workers to get city jobs and live a better life.
It isn’t that simple.
We are not told the true effects on food quality that has been created by the mechanization and industrialization of food production in America since the Harvard Business School, on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, began what they termed “agribusiness,” the conversion of our food supply into a pure for-profit vertically integrated business modelled on the Rockefeller oil cartel.
The raising of hogs, dairy cows, beef cattle, chicken all became industrialized gradually after the 1950’s in the USA. The baby chicks were confined to spaces so tiny they could barely stand. To make them get fat faster, the owners would pump them full of antibiotics and feed them a diet of GMO corn and soya meal. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are for use on livestock and poultry, not humans. The majority are given to animals mixed in their food or water to speed growth. After all, time is money.
The traditional family farmer, of the sort my late grandfather was in North Dakota prior to the First World War, was driven largely from the land by USDA Government policy, policy that favored industrialization regardless of the quality of food nutrient that resulted. Tractors became computerized, mammoth machines driven by GPS. One such tractor could work remotely and do the work of many farmers of old.
The result was financially fabulous….for the industry owners—ADM, Cargill, Monsanto, for the packagers like Kraft Foods, Kelloggs, Nestle, Unilever, Toepfer, Maggi. The American Rockefeller-Harvard “agribusiness” business model was globalized, beginning with the GATT negotiations of the Uruguay Round of trade liberalization in the late 1980s where the EU dropped much of its traditional protection of domestic farmers in favor of free trade in agriculture products.
During the late 1980’s as the Uruguay Round of GATT trade negotiations was about to give US agribusiness giants what they wanted—freedom to rape the EU and other protected agriculture markets with their highly efficient products, to destroy millions of EU farmers who had farmed with a passion for generations, I went to Brussels to make a background interview as a journalist with a high-level EU Commission bureaucrat responsible for agriculture. He was an apparently well-educated, multi-lingual bureaucrat, Danish-born as he noted. He argued in defense of free trade by declaring, “Why should I pay taxes from Denmark so that Bavarian farmers on their tiny plots of land can remain in business?”
The answer, which I kept to myself then, was simply because the traditional family farmer is uniquely suited to mediate with nature and us to produce food that is healthy for humans and animals to eat. No machine can replace the personal dedication or passion that I have seen again and again in every farmer I have met who truly cares about his livestock or crops.
Now the very same very rich and very loveless people, I call them the American Oligarchs, are systematically doing everything to destroy the human food quality. Clearly in my view, they are doing so with a goal of mass population reduction. There is no other reason the Rockefeller Foundation would spend hundreds of millions of (tax exempt) dollars to create GMO techniques, to support Monsanto and other chemical giants like DuPont, clearly knowing they are slowly poisoning the population to an early death.
This has been demonstrated in independent tests regarding the toxic effects on animals and even human cells in an embryo. Now, independent even of GMO crops, new tests show that ordinary pesticide chemicals sprayed by farm workers or farmers on crops cause neurological damage—depression, Parkinsons’ and even suicide—to the farmers or farm workers using the deadly chemicals.
The US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in their landmark Agricultural Health Study studied a group of 89,000 farmers and other pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina. The mammoth study concluded that, “use of two pesticide classes, fumigants and organochlorine insecticides, and seven individual pesticides—the fumigants aluminum phosphide and ethylene dibromide; the phenoxy herbicide (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy)acetic acid (2,4,5-T); the organochlorine insecticide dieldrin; and the organophosphate insecticides diazinon, malathion, and parathion—were all positively associated with depression in each case group.”
The study showed that farmers with the highest number of lifetime exposure days to pesticides were 50 percent more likely to later have a depression diagnosis.
The research linked long-term use of pesticides to higher rates of depression and suicide. Evidence also suggests that pesticide poisoning – a heavy dose in a short amount of time – doubles the risk of depression.
After suppressing the effects among farm families for years about the resulting depression and related neurological symptoms, farmers and their families have begun speaking out. Lorann Stallones, an epidemiologist and psychology professor at Colorado State University says, “There’s been a shift – partly because there’s more people talking about being mentally incapacitated.”
Epidemiologist Freya Kamel and her colleagues reported that among 19,000 studied, “those who used two classes of pesticides and seven individual pesticides were more likely to have been diagnosed with depression. Those who used organochlorine insecticides were up to 90 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with depression than those who hadn’t used them. For fumigants, the increased risk was up to 80 percent.”
In France, farmers who used herbicides were nearly twice as likely to have been treated for depression as those who didn’t use herbicides, according to a study published in 2013. The study of 567 French farmers found that the risk was even greater when the herbicide applicators had been doing it for more than 19 years.
In short, we are destroying the nutritional value of the food we eat and slowly destroying the remaining farmers responsible for cultivating that. It is a recipe for the ultimate extinction of life on the planet as we know it. No, that is not an exaggeration.
I firmly believe that honest, nature-conscious organic farmers ought to receive significant tax breaks to encourage other farmers to leave the grotesque agribusiness model behind and return to growing or raising honest food again as they did only a few short decades ago. And severely high taxation ought to be imposed on farmers who use proven toxic chemicals like Roundup by Monsanto or the neonicotinoids like Bayer AG’s Confidor, Gaucho or Advocate, or Poncho, or Syngenta’s Actara, Platinum or Cruiser to name just the most sold.
Right now our regulators in the EU and USA do everything to discourage that, something actually quite stupid, unless, of course, some loveless, power-addicted oligarchs sitting atop their mountain, looking contemptuously down on us normal folk, have decided that’s just what they desire. If so, it’s up to us to stop looking up to those on the mountain and look at what we ourselves have accepted as normal, that is slowly killing us and the farmers who feed us. Maybe the time has come to change that unhealthy situation.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.