banner-archive

Editorial

And now ‘Smart Agriculture’

The left is so marginalised these days that they have only one agenda before them—how to win elections—or lose them. In absence of election they are practically jobless. They have nothing to agitate for other than demanding fair and peaceful elections while periodically raising hue and cry against ever deteriorating law and order situation. But even in electoral politics they are increasingly becoming irrelevant, both regionally and nationally because people are tired of hearing their over-used, if not worn-out, cliches. In the yester years when their presence in electoral arena was negligible, they enjoyed respect in society, as a growing positive force to reckon with because of their mass appeal for radical change. They used to derive power and confidence from political will to change for the better, not vote mechanism, despite their insignificant numerical strength in legislatures and parliament. Change they talk about even today but it is all about change in government. And a change in government means how effectively to loot the exchequer overshadowing their predecessors. The so-called working class parties have very little to offer to workers these days. As they cannot fight continued labour-bashing, they just accept what is happening on labour front as fait accompli. Their labour wing is too bureaucratised to face the challenge in the changed context. And their isolation from peasant masses is so complete that even their die-hard supporters don’t believe in what they are saying in so many voices—empowerment of the powerless in rural India.

Not that multinationals have dozens of schemes and slogans to keep labour force docile. And yet they have failed to evolve effective counter-slogans to resist predatory growth—rather growth for growth’s sake. The corporates are now throwing new slogans for agriculture which were not on the horizon even a few years ago. Like ‘Smart Cities’, they are now talking about ‘Smart Agriculture’, more precisely ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’—which is basically an industrial agricultural model aimed at destroying whatever remains of traditional agriculture. And the Left has no counter-argument to fight it. Their specious plea is to arrest climate change what is essential is to switch over to ‘Smart Fertilisers’ and crops genetically modified for heat tolerance. A quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are said to be attributable to agriculture. It includes all types of farming—from ‘conventional’ agriculture to organic agriculture, from industrial monoculture to small-scale multiple farms. In other words farmers are now blamed for their responsibility—or lack of it—for erratic weather.

And global agri-business giants take advantage of these conflations to greenwash their image. They are actually preparing grounds for developing industrial agriculture in the name of fighting climate change with ‘Smart Response’. This design is a calculated ploy to exclude existing agricultural practices. But without ‘norms or criteria of exclusion, this concept is quite simply dangerous’.

The idea of ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ made headlines during the recent Paris Climate negotiations. Transnationals like Monsanto are really working overtime to totally change agricultural practices in the name of fighting global warming. Even Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has joined their bandwagon as they say greenhouse gas emissions related to agriculture, forestry and fisheries represent 10 to 12 gigatons equivalent carbon di-oxide or 24 percent of global emissions.

The Left continues to stick to old feudal era slogans to mobilise peasant masses and fails miserably. They demand subsidised fertilisers without realising how fertiliser manufacturers act as enemies of the climate at a global level. As per estimates of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, for every 100 kilos of nitrogen fertiliser applied to the ground, one kilo turns up in the atmosphere in the form of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than carbon di-oxide.

Industrial farming is coming in a big way under the grand banner of fighting global warming and arresting greenhouses gases. Agri-business wants it, the World Bank wants it and even FAO is in its favour. For all practical purposes industrial farming is going to win the day in absence of resistance from any quarters, inviting catastrophe for millions of small farmers who alone could provide guarantee for food security and sustainable development with equitable justice.

New issues are cropping up and a totally new approach is necessary to confront them. At no point of time the communist left really gave any serious thoughts on peasant issues related to ecology and environment. They think NGOs that are being promoted and funded by multinationals, including agri-business giants, will do the job while they will issue sermons on electoral politics round the year.

Under the pretext of fighting extreme climate events like floods and droughts, unseasonal rains and prolonged dry spell, that affect food production, mostly in third world countries the corporate lobbyists are vigorously campaigning for ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ in place of traditional farming practices. Agri-businesses across the world have already launched a cartel of their own—the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture—to push their agenda of industrial agriculture creating market for synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides which in the final analysis, will compound the problem of global warming instead of minimising it.

The world is changing and it is changing very fast in areas that were unconceivable even a decade ago. The chasm between theory and practice has been growing for decades as dramatically revealed by how the left fails to reconcile themselves with modern times.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 32, Feb 14 - 20, 2016