This column was adapted from one of Elbert van Donkersgoed's
weekly radio chats, called Corner Post, which are aired
weekly on CFCO Radio in Chatham and CKNX Radio in Wingham,
Ontario. Elbert is the Strategic Policy Advisor of
the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, which is
working hard to create a more satisfying and sustainable
model for farming in the province. If you'd like to
receive a transcript of Elbert's Corner Post address
each week, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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June 9, 2003: "Resistance is futile!" The
phrase has been hardwired into my vocabulary. Watch a Start
Trek episode in which the Borg civilization - no, the Borg
technology is on yet another installment of its one and only
mission: the total assimilation of all existing sentient races,
including their cultural and technical achievements. "Resistance
is futile!" will bolt itself into your vocabulary, too.
There are voices in North American agriculture making the
argument that "resistance is futile" to the industrialization
of farming - of turning plant and animal husbandry over to
technical manipulation. I don't share their pessimism.
First, there are those who will continue to resist assimilation.
Consider the Old Order Mennonites and Amish farming communities.
Their relationship to technology remains fully one of choice.
They have chosen for autonomy of community and dignity of
labor. Even though many of us cannot join them in their rejection
of so many labor-saving devices; they have won both our respect
and a valued place among us.
Second, there are a growing number of farmers who are intentional
about the type and amount of modern technology they adopt.
Consider organic farmers. They have made a conscious choice
to reject technical solutions that detract from farming as
a part of ecological harmony. Organic farmers emphasize biological
cycles, biodiversity, minimal off-farm inputs and the health
& productivity of soil life, plants, animals while respecting
people and community. They have the attention of a growing
number of consumers.
Third, the industrialization of agriculture is dependent
on a growing disconnect between farming as husbandry and food
as culture. Industrial agriculture knows only one mantra:
costs must continue to be cut. It has banked on the belief
that consumers will always choose for the lowest price. They
won't. Already industrial agriculture finds it necessary to
"educate the consumer." As consumers demand more
transparent information and resist prepackaged messages, industrial
agriculture will discover that delivering cut-price commodities
has also cheapened food as a cultural feature. Consider Toronto
and its desire to be "world class." Food is essential
to entertainment, tourism and culture. Why then does Toronto
settle for cheap food?
Fourth, industrial agriculture needs a massive subsidy every
day. Developed world subsidies for modern farming have climbed
to one billion dollars per day, with the largest handout slices
in the United States and the European Union. Look beyond the
official political rhetoric that one billion dollars buys
us family farms and rural communities. Less than 1% of North
Americans are full-time farmers. Farm work has become technology-at-work.
Subsidies keep industrial agriculture's technology bills paid.
Agriculture is husbandry. Resistance to its industrialization
is growing - and should grow.
Details of the European Union's Round Table on research
results relating to co-existence of GM and non-GM crops can
be found at www.europa.eu.int/comm
A summary of the event on Strategies for Coexistence of GMO,
Non-GMO, and Organic Crop Production sponsored by the Initiative
for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) program of
the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, can be found at www.biotech.iastate.edu/IFAFS/coexistence.html#OVERVIEW.
- June 3, 2003: Sharing
- May 28, 2003: Peer
pressure supply management
- May 12, 2003: GMO
in food: The story we are not telling
- May 9, 2003: Walkerton
Inquiry Review: Public policy success equals clean drinking
water for all
- May 5, 2003: The
ethics of biotechnology: Discussion at the stakeholders'
conference goes beyond higher yields
- April 25, 2003: Conference
players agree: Quality, consistency will give edge to local
- April 18, 2003: Complex
land decisions must be based on values, not data
- April 9, 2003: The
emerging managed food chain
- April 3, 2003: Farmer
nominees for the Rural Red Tape Reduction Project
- March 28, 2003: Farm
- March 21, 2003: Myths
- March 7, 2003: Europe
Gets Innovative about Farm Subsidies
- February 21, 2003: Seven
ideas for Strong Rural Communities
- February 7, 2003: An
Action Plan for a Fresh Vision for Agriculture
- January 3, 2003: 2002
ag policy changes to have big impact in 2003
- December 13, 2002: Farmers
know ag’s “multiple-benefits”, but wonder
how to make them profitable
November 5, 2002: Intervening
in farm markets for the public good
- October 25, 2002: Standing
up to commodity agriculture
- September, 2002: Wishes
and dreams for Ontario agriculture
Corner Post can be heard weekly on CFCO Radio, Chatham and
CKNX Radio, Wingham, Ontario. Corner Post is archived on the
website of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario: www.christianfarmers.org.
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Post, send email to email@example.com
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