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By Mario Mejía
Certification is the police mechanism of the economic vision of clean agriculture. Discarding ethics and adopting the rate of profit as the basis for building a relationship between producer and consumer, there was no other way than the authoritarian, police and unsupportive market.
Certification is the police mechanism of the economic vision of clean agriculture. Discarding ethics and adopting the profit rate as the basis for building a relationship between producer and consumer, there was no other path than the authoritarian, police and unsupportive market, where a whole legion of parasites mediates: experts, consultants, advisers, dignitaries of organizations, inspectors, exporters ... true owners of the movement, which, as a rule, have not been nor will be producers in the agricultural field
The construction of an agricultural system producing healthy food based on economic and ecological considerations has been favored: the discourse of sustainability, the meeting point of the three circles. It is essential to remember the existence of values, principles and social proposals of a higher category than the economic and the ecological, in particular moral, ethical, historical, philosophical, political, religious and spiritual elements; of course, without exhausting the list, we provide some examples: truth, goodness and beauty, the trilogy of Mokiti Okada, formulator of messianic agriculture; justice, as noted by Nitiren's agricultural proposal; love and forgiveness, as proposed by Jesus; compassion, if we follow Buddha; the virtues of personal enlightenment, in the style of Lao Tzu: austerity, industriousness, humility, loyalty; freedom in relation to peace, democracy, the exercise of one's own culture, the right to be… Can a social system of lasting solidarity be built between the producer of healthy food and the consumer committed only to economic and ecological arguments?
The economic vision
The April 21, 2004 issue of the Semillas Magazine provides interesting considerations; Let's look at Angela Gómez and Laercio Meirelles.
Angela titles her article with the following question: Organic agriculture, an action of resistance or another mechanism of submission? After something like twenty years of work by rural development NGOs in the area of Riosucio, Caldas, Colombia, and in particular in the peasant and indigenous coffee growing area, the author concludes: "Within the (popular) organizations the processes to develop agroecological production systems taking into account productive, sociocultural and economic elements, lose weight and significance when greater emphasis is placed on the economic advantages represented in the price premium ". And the author tells us that organic coffee growers stop consuming their own coffee, preferring conventional brands, so as not to miss out on a tiny fraction of the premium. It is the culture of the organic product for export, supported by a parasitic legion of inspectors, certifiers and regulations.
The option of being ecological in our own way, autonomously, in the face of the imposition of the foreign rule is excluded. After certain clean technologies are fulfilled, it does not matter whether the coffee comes from the latifundiary or monoculture business system. And the author wonders if the ecological peasant is a subject of his agriculture, or an industrial object, within a system in which the certifiers control him, without granting him the least participation in either the structure or the operation of the same.
Laercio Meirelles, from the Ipé Ecological Center, Red Ecovida, Brazil, appealing to his fifteen years of experience in the production and commercialization of organic products, declares "contrary to the legal requirement of certification for the commercialization of organic products" arguing, on the one hand, the unbearable costs of certification (this parasitic system is already developing certification chains for different production processes of the same product); On the other hand, and this is the worst, the certifiers assume themselves above the organizations of family farmers, conditioning and imposing themselves on them, denying the existence of credibility options in the popular base. But certification also bureaucratizes the production and marketing process. For Meirelles, the alternative to certification is a system in which "credibility is generated from the seriousness given to the word of the farming family, and is socially legitimized, cumulatively, in the different organizational instances that this family integrates" . For Meirelles, organic agriculture is based mainly on an ethical process, rather than economic and even before ecological. And he regrets that "what at first was an initiative of the farmers themselves to differentiate the fruit of their work, with a brand that identifies them, ended up becoming an intricate mechanism that involves laws, standardizations, accreditations, inspections, contracts, certificates, stamps and strong commercial interests. " And finally, the price premium elitizes consumption, keeps the healthy product away from the poor, to which any person is entitled.
Too often, and almost as a general rule, grassroots projects, supported by international cooperation funds, make the ecological seal an immediate objective, of course transferring a substantial part of those funds to the certifiers, and, having achieved this, they take possession of the field of exports or local chain markets: a paradox in which poor sectors close their consciences against their class interests, to further improve the quality of life of foreign consumers and local elites. But it is more: international cooperation imposes its political vision, transforming popular sectors into servile agents of industrial cultures.
But not everything is negative. Alongside the fundamentally economic vision of clean agriculture, other procedures are tested, independent of certification, such as: in the field of exports, fair trade, in the style of Max Havelaar since 1997, unfortunately sometimes vitiated by the control of exporters; the development of product lines for local popular consumption, an example of which is ACOC's Madremonte coffee - Healthy Coffee, in Riofrío, Valle, Colombia; the creation of direct relationships between poor producers and consumers in the popular neighborhood, as is the case with the Ecological Campesino Schools of the Eje Cafetero; the citizen surplus market (first, family consumption) in the city of Cali, by the group of Organic Producers of Guacarí Valle, Colombia; the approach to peasant associations with an organic tendency of government programs of food assistance to vulnerable population sectors; and of course, a considerable number of rural producers who refer to the practice of organic agriculture out of conviction, or excluded from the agriculture of the green revolution due to the high cost of inputs and the danger of pesticides.
The PDPMM Programa de Desarrollo y Paz del Magdalena Medio, led by the internationally decorated Jesuit Father Francisco de Roux, is the largest rural project in Colombia, and has also embraced elements of organic agriculture. As corresponds to a billions of pesos project contributed by the World Bank and the European Community, the dominant criterion is economic, and the orientation towards the agricultural base is carried out by a team of technicians. One of the conclusive concerns of the gigantic project is the fact that the rise in the popular level of income leads to orgiastic consumption.
One of the characteristics observed in organic agriculture for export in Colombia through business is that the product belittles the local market, as is the case of palm oil and bananas from a well-known Caribbean firm.
The economic vision of organic agriculture is leading to inconceivable situations. From July 5 to 7, 2004, the First World Conference on Organic Seed was held in Rome, with the participation of FAO and the International Seed Federation. And (who would believe it!) Was convened by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM); of course, to deepen the control over organic seeds, submit them to certification and transfer them to the business of transnationals. They come to take everything, even the sacred. Soon in a single transnational we will observe three twinned divisions: that of agrochemicals, that of transgenics and that of organic: alcabo, "business are business"; in the absence of morals and ethics, only money counts.
The authoritarian view
Certification is the police mechanism of the economic vision of clean agriculture. Discarding ethics and adopting the profit rate as the basis for building a relationship between producer and consumer, there was no other path than the authoritarian, police and unsupportive market, where a whole legion of parasites mediates: experts, consultants, advisers, dignitaries of organizations, inspectors, exporters ... true owners of the movement, which, as a rule, have not been and will not be producers in the agricultural field.
Certification is a European invention that begins with regulation 2092, of June 1991, of the Council of the European Union. IFOAM was no stranger to this, which, founded in 1972, currently has the volunteer service of around seven hundred organizations from 101 countries. Once the policy of importing healthy food, with a premium, to the enriched countries of Western Europe has been decided, the regulatory path to prevent cheating is imposed, and its compliance is entrusted to the certifiers: the power for the certifiers as control bodies, of dominance over the producer. Established with resolution 2092 the conditions of the buyer, the importer, the dominator of the trade, then come the local conditions for the producer, where the exporter takes the lion's share.
As an example, the Colombian case
In the Colombian case, resolution 074 of 2002 governs, on which we will make some comments.
a) In the first place, its exclusively authoritarian character, ignoring any rudiments of democratic procedure, even if it were on the part of organizations of the organic movement, no longer of the national order but not even of the Latin American order; second, the conception of the organic producer's trade as the subject of a pre-existing procedure, of a predetermined technology, and not of a creative, dynamic, changing, collective, autonomous process, under regional conditions; Thus, organic agriculture is not created by the producer but is conditioned by the norm and its guardians, the certifiers.
b) In its second article, resolution 074 creates two classes of producers: by inclusion, the legal ones, those recognized by the certification, those capable of paying for the requirement, the entrepreneurs, the rich, the exporters; and by exclusion, the poor, the small, the incapable of payment, precisely the most promising sector for the construction of a society that realizes the right to healthy food for all: one more brick in the building of a blatantly unjust society, where the State refuses to support non-certified farmers (1). All the power for the certifying entities, commercial service entities, for profit, lacking the creative capacity to resolve the questions and make the decisions to which resolution 074 gives them attribution.
c) Article 12 establishes the totalitarian dictatorial measure of registration: the producer has to enroll in a certification program, from which date the first requirement begins to run: the conversion period. The prior consent and satisfaction of the certifying entity is established in Chapter VI, where it was only necessary for the producer's breathing to be submitted to the authorization of the certifier, and where, of course, the existence of more than twenty-five schools and agricultural paradigms is unknown. alternatives, in addition to the permanent creative capacity of the farmer. In Annex I, of the twenty-seven additives to the soil, 15 are referred to consultation with the certifier.
d) Article 6 excludes living transgenic organisms from use in organic agriculture. And although paragraph 2 of article 15 gives priority to native seeds, that article and 18 on animal husbandry feet do not exclude patented seeds and breeds, as is the case with scientific seeds and the entire modern avian industry. Thus, organic agriculture is mocked as an alternative to the privatization of life. But it is more: the Colombian State, an ally of the biotechnology transnationals, passes the burden of proof to the farmer (Article 39), who remains with the mission of demanding a "declaration" from the suppliers of seeds or inputs that these are not transgenic.
But the matter does not end here
We note the contrast of this authoritarian vision of organic agriculture with the treatment of "wide sleeves" and of support that is given to agriculture of agrochemicals and transgenics. Of course, in the aforementioned resolution there is not the slightest reference to social justice as the guiding element of rural production: it is the same to certify a "gamonal" or large-estate caudillo as an organization of poor peasants. At the end of the day it's just about technologies.
But this authoritarian issue does not end here. Resolution 0148 of 2004 of the Ministry of Agriculture of Colombia, creates finally! the ecological seal and does so by invoking article 78 of the 1991 constitution, which orders the State in its first paragraph to provide the means for the proper information to the consumer and to monitor quality: of course, no measures have been taken with respect to transgenic foods or foods produced with agrochemicals; The system corresponding to the other two paragraphs of Article 78 has not been built either: that of the responsibility of industrialists and transnationals for their "wonderful" products; and that of the participation of consumer organizations in state regulations.
This resolution seizes a claw of civil work of more than twenty years declaring in its second article that the seal is the property of the Nation, deposited in the Ministry, which in turn, gives it in administration to the certifiers (articles 6 and 7). All the power for certifiers. And of course, the totalitarian measure of registration to finally access! to the seal. If you are critical of the government, will you agree? And of course the novelty of the definition of organic food (Art. 3, lit. d): "any natural or processed product, which ingested provides the human body with the nutrients and energy necessary for the development of biological processes." A legal pearl that excludes animals, that conditions the food to be ingested, and that includes anything, even chickens treated with hormones. And finally, the dreamed stamp (as if the stamp sold alone) regulated down to the most suffocating printing detail in Article 10, forgets something essential: the little word Colombia, a nation represented on the stamp by the colors of the flag, which are the same from Russia, Venezuela and Ecuador. Let's pray for the Ministry. Let us remind the diligent Ministry that there are also articles 63, 64, 65, 72, 79, 80, 81 of the 1991 Constitution, which are badly treated, especially 64, which deals with access to land; 79, which deals with the right to a healthy environment; 72, which orders that the cultural assets (such as peasant seeds, for example) that make up the national identity are inalienable, unattachable and imprescriptible.
The Clean Agriculture Corporation
Starting in 2004, the large "cacaos" 2 in Colombia have been added to organic agriculture. Which does not necessarily mean power for organic farmers. Quite the opposite. It is the capture of the movement by the civil owners of political power. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (it is not a sarcasm of mine, but that is its name) has created the Colombian Corporation for Clean Agriculture. It is the same Ministry that has privileged chemical agriculture for the last seventy years, for example, eliminating tariffs on agrochemicals and supporting the entire academic assembly of the green revolution, and that it promotes in alliance with Monsanto, the king of transgenics. It is the same, too, that bases the country's food security on imported food, including transgenic foods. The Ministry will absorb the bureaucratic costs of the corporation, which are in charge of the Sectoral Policy and Technological Development and Health Protection offices. Although it is said that the Corporation will operate "without bureaucracy", it is obvious that the offices mentioned will not work at night and on holidays for the noble cause. It is also evident that the Corporation was created to compete for the resources that international cooperation allocates to the civil environmental movement and, through these resources, undermine the popular power created by the rural development NGOs.
Of course, it is given that the Corporation will monopolize the resources of the State administered by any of its apparatuses at all levels: national, departmental, municipal and decentralized. The characters that appear as pioneers of the recent Corporation are: Mrs. Lina Moreno de Uribe, wife of the President of the Republic; Mr. Hernán Echavarría Olózaga, former minister and paradigm of the business community that elects presidents; Mr. Jorge Cárdenas Gutiérrez, former manager of the National Federation of Coffee Growers, the most powerful entity in the country, under whose long tenure not only was the Colombian coffee system ruined, but the organic movement was persecuted with all acrimony; Mr. Mariano Ospina Hernández, of the respective presidential clan.
It is not about the devil making hosts: it is a clear expression of the exercise of power over something that offers economic perspectives and that is creating alternative civil power: a question of domination, authority, control, surveillance, management, separation of categories : the good ones, the legal ones on the right side. What are you looking for? Provide healthy food for the entire population, or money, power and domination?
And whose side are science and technology going to be on organic farming? Of course, on the side of industrial vision. As proof, the draft Colombian technical standard NTC 5167 of March 2004, clearly elaborated by operators of chemical laboratories; in the absence of even a superficial knowledge of the essence of alternative agriculture, they assume that "products used as fertilizers or fertilizers and soil amendments" invariably obey the N, P, K, Ca, etc. vision. Even going over some alternative schools, they accept fertilizers from urban garbage and sewage sludge, provided they do not contain some pathogens: the primitive and linear idea of the WHO: a world without pathogens is the ideal; denial of pathogens instead of management, limits, procedures, contexts, antagonists.
The resolution of the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) of October 1995 refers to the technical control of agricultural inputs. As is to be expected, the norm refers only to commercial and industrial activities, and its criterion with regard to research is confessional to the scientific method; so the norm has nothing to do with rural cultures, fortunately. But we have already resolved these issues at the level of popular organic agriculture: preparation of inputs on the farm itself, with local resources, by raising the cultural level of the farmer.
… And more of the dominating vision
Not even organizations at the international level of organic agriculture do not escape the dominant vision. Since 2003 IFOAM has made the decision to participate in world agricultural policy, running the risk of legitimizing the interests of higher-level organizations such as FAO and the International Seed Federation. For its part, the Agroecological Movement of Latin America and the Caribbean (MAELA) has made efforts to establish itself, through technical regulations (there is no lack of homage to technique), as an authority on organic agriculture, and, consequently, aspires to endorse or acknowledge its affiliates. This is already something: a substitute or alternative, through a private agroecological seal, in front of the certification; but in any case with control procedures, beginning with the, apparently, indispensable registration, from which hopefully the system of inspectors is not derived but, on the contrary, the credibility of the word of the family, of the rural organization local, of the local consensus. In any case, MAELA must be paid for its rejection of the international certification system at its IV Assembly.
A demarcation is necessary between practitioners of organic agriculture and the dominant instances of rural activity, which have adopted the path of transgenics, namely: the World Bank and its agents (for example, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT ) in Colombia), State organizations, and especially FAO, who in its Report on the State of Food and Agriculture in the World, presents biotechnology as a solution to the needs of the poor (Biotechnology, meeting the needs of the poor?). Fortunately within such institutions there are dissidents, who must be learned to identify for our work. FAO has become in favor of the dominators: the 2001 International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources legitimizes biotechnology, privileges the World Bank CGIAR system (CIAT, its representative in Colombia) and welcomes reservations from countries in favor of intellectual property on forms of life, although he still does not dare to erase the already battered "farmer's rights".
Certification is not a guarantee that the product is organic, for reasons such as the following:
- Because it allows the use of non-living transgenics; for example, transgenic raw materials for the manufacture of animal feed.
- Because it allows the breeding of patented, privatized seeds and breeds, against the principle of non-appropriation of life.
- Because it leaves aside other ethical, moral, historical, cultural, philosophical, political, spiritual, religious principles, accepting, for example, that employees and workers of organic production remain with less quality of life than the animals used.
- Because it bureaucratizes and elitizes healthy food.
- Because it legitimizes the export of food from impoverished countries and from undernourished producer groups, in favor of wealthy elites and enriched countries.
- Because it reduces the production system to a norm imposed by affluent countries, making it impossible to develop autonomous forms, that is, in accordance with the geographical, cultural and biodiverse conditions of the producing regions.
The European regulations on organic seed will surely be copied by the Colombian authorities and entrusted to the certifiers, as if Colombia were Switzerland. What has been happening in Europe with regard to seed standards is pathological; a nightmare of regulations, of which there are provisions such as the following: the 1998 EC Council standard 98/95, which modifies 16 directives on seeds; which considers "commercialization" even gifts between farmers; and that fortunately requires the labeling of transgenics. And regulation 1452 of 2003 on vegetative propagation, which calls for the preparation of seed catalogs, which admits chemical treatments, which refers to the use of the internet so that farmers are informed (special detail for the poor of the third world), and which authorizes charging for registering as a seed user. What alley have we gotten into? Camila Montecinos asked in 2000 in the Biodiversity Magazine.
What to do?
Of course, in the first place the debate, the critical attitude, the self-criticism, the reflection, the study, the reading ... advancing in the clarification of the idea, in the differentiation of interests.
çAlso in organic agriculture, the fundamental thing is cultural, intellectual and spiritual growth, incorporating into the process moral, ethical, historical, political, philosophical, religious elements ... If not, it is not worth it. It is necessary to define if economic and ecological approaches are enough to build an alternative movement in agriculture. It is necessary to differentiate between export agriculture, commercial agriculture (even if it has a premium), for the benefit of national elites and high-income foreign consumers, compared to agriculture that allows realizing the right of access to healthy food for all at prices currents. It is necessary to be clear about the concept of food security for all through a system of sovereignty and autonomy.
- The supply to the consumer of surplus food first, the food of the producer's family in the popular or neighborhood "markets" is confronted with the idea of sowing to sell or sowing only what is sold. Taking that principle to the national scale, self-sufficiency is first than export.
- In the case of foreign trade, prefer alternative forms, without certification, such as the so-called "fair trade", regardless of the control of exporting firms, and the direct relationship between organic farmers' organizations with communities and foreign consumer organizations through mechanisms credibility.
- In front of the institutional stamps, the own stamps, those of free creation of each group or each family.
- Faced with the authoritarianism of the rulers, popular power, self-management, affirmation of identity, civil resistance to regulations, autonomous creation of what is ours, our conditions, at our pace, within our limitations. Differentiate popular agriculture from that of "cocoas".
- Learn to differentiate cultures: the popular (peasant, Afro-descendant, indigenous) versus the dominant (academic, technological, gringo, European). They are not the same. And neither can we make a hodgepodge of elements out of all of them.
- Cultural growth to produce and preserve our own seeds, our own inputs: free ourselves from the stores and the captive offers of transnationals and State agencies.
- Reject certification; create alternatives, but fundamentally establish the word of the farming family and the village consensus or the peasant organization as a primary source of credibility.
- Refrain from consuming certified products, similar to the rejection of industries that offer "junk" or "frankestein" food, or that constitute dominant oligopolies of seed and food.
- Critical attitude towards international organizations of organic agriculture, especially towards IFOAM, due to the political games of their managers.
Despite the premiums, in Western Europe for organic agriculture they barely reach, depending on the country, from 0.1% to a maximum of 8% or 10% (as are the maximum percentages in the cases of Switzerland and Austria, respectively). Here's an indicator that premiums and subsidies are not the heart of the matter. An IFOAM report from July 2004 mentions that in Great Britain the Soil Association (an entity created by Albert Howard, an English paradigm of agriculture called primarily "organic") is barely going to certify the first products taking into account ethical aspects; for the case, treatment of employees, participation in civic programs and, in general, social aspects. It is the Doves Farm company that, according to the specialized magazine Organic and Natural Business, aims to impress its consumers: ethics as a business or, in other words, being ethical also pays dividends.
1 This is the case, for example, of the Ministry of Economic Development and Environment of the Government of Sucre, Colombia, in response to a request for support for the Second Regional Fair of Seeds and Traditional Foods of the indigenous Zenú ethnic group.
2 N. del E .: name given in Colombia to very wealthy entrepreneurs.
This article has been taken from: Journal of Biodiversity, sustento y cultures Nº 43
For the full article, contact [email protected]
 Counter-meeting held as an opposition to the Roundtable on Sustainable Soy convened by WWF, the Maggi Group of Brazil and others. The meeting took place in Såo Miguel do Iguaçu from March 14 to 17, 2005