WHO WILL FEED US?
I dedicate this symbolic article Nº 100 to all farmers who work hard to ensure that the society around them has abundant, healthy and good food.
By the title "Who will feed us?” Marjolaine Turcotte, a farmer in Sainte-Famille, Quebec, the French-speaking Belle Province in Canada, started an article in La Presse in June 2016 (http://plus.lapresse.ca/screens/e29d8854-b9bf-4fb3-992f-b6ce15f9c10e%7C_0.html.
The article is all the more interesting because it is written by a woman, farmer, who has chosen to convert her farm to organic farming.
She is in a transitional phase, ie she is not yet certified.
For a period of 2 or 3 years (depending on the country), she will have to comply with the organic farming protocol, she will be frequently checked to ensure that all the points of the specifications are respected, but she will not have yet the right to sell her production under the label of organic farming.
At the end, and only at the end of this transitional period, she will have the right to sell her products as organic, and to derive the long-awaited economic benefits.
This is probably the most difficult phase for a farmer, since he has to learn to produce differently, to respect technical choices that he still does not dominate and who can play tricks on him, face risks of loss of production without having the right to use the means to which he was accustomed in conventional agriculture, but without having the right to derive a commercial counterpart. This transition phase can be difficult to cross, to the point that some people think of giving up, despite the help often available. (http://lexpansion.lexpress.fr/actualite-economique/le-blues-financier-des-agriculteurs-bio-si-ca-ne-se-debloque-pas-j-arrete_1880300.html ).
Marjolaine Turcotte's remarks are especially interesting for non-farmers to understand a little better what farming life is, a little better why pesticides are used, a little better than nothing is never all black or all white, even about pesticides, a little better than food production is complex, difficult, costly, tiring, and often poorly paid.
Because what she expresses in this beautifully written article, is true for many farmers, in organic farming or not, although the time aspect is even more difficult in organic farming.
I choose, as almost always, to reproduce the full text, although I don't share all the points of view expressed.
"WHO WILL FEED US?"
Following the release of a video announcing an uncertain future for the use of Monsanto's flagship herbicide, Roundup (glyphosate), I was feeling some discomfort.
Part of me could only be pleased to see that this product, classified as a "probable carcinogen" and banned by the European Union, will no longer be applied everywhere, as it is now, especially in GMO crops. On the other hand, the farmer in me could only sympathize with the drama that this news could represent for a large majority of agricultural producers.
Roundup is a very effective tool to control weeds at low cost. If I insist on the cost, it's because our farm is in transition to organic farming. Glyphosate is therefore a tool that we will no longer use. And this spring, we are facing an impressive amount of very invasive weeds (quackgrass, dandelion, sorrel, clover...).
We rolled our sleeves up, pulled out our pitchforks, boilers, shovels, tarpaulins, sickles, and we spent hours there. And sweat. And hours. And elbow grease. And still more hours...
We did it with all our heart, but a part of me could not help thinking: it would be so much easier to do a Roundup.
Because, you know, time is expensive. The time we have taken to tear weeds away is the one to spend as a lover. This is the one to share with friends. It's the family. It is the one for oneself, to run, to tinker, to read, to walk with the dog. It is that of day, evening, weekend. This is the one to relax a bit too. How much is that worth, that time? I didn't count. Neither the number of hours nor what they are worth.
What I do know, however, is that when I sell my vegetables, I am told that they are expensive. I was asked, in a public market, if they were made of gold, my carrots. In customer satisfaction surveys, people say it's expensive ...
So I ask the question. All these people applauding the ban on glyphosate (or on any other pesticide) would they accept to pay more for vegetables produced without the help of these "time-saver" products? Would they be willing to come to tear weeds away in our fields? To extend and retrieve insect nets, day after day? To assume with farmers the losses caused by pests and diseases? Probably not…
A COLLECTIVE REFLECTION
If we want to eliminate these products from agriculture, it's the whole society that will have to follow and change. We are giving without counting to research to find a cure for cancer, but we refuse to pay for food free from carcinogens. We consider food as any commodity, whereas it is the fuel we supply to our bodies.
When growers like us will have given up, left their pitchforks, spades, nets and shovels, who will be left to feed us? Multinational food companies, which also have participations in pharmaceutical companies? Will we be fed by the same companies that will provide us with drugs (at high prices) and for which we have funded the research ourselves?
I have no solutions to propose, unfortunately. But I think that a good collective reflection remains to be done ... "
You know, as I have already written several times, that I am not a sympathizer of the organic as an ideology, especially because I don't agree with the substance: everything that is natural is not good, and organic farming is using toxic and polluting products, much worse than their equivalents of synthesis.
But I have great respect for organic farmers, who have to produce and live with fewer resources than farmers in integrated or conventional production. They have the same problems, but don't have the same solutions. Sales prices are supposed to offset, but this is not always the case.
Where I fully share her opinion, it is in the importance, and urgency, of a deep and exhaustive reflection on the functioning of the distribution of goods, especially food, in our so-called "advanced" societies.
Is it normal and acceptable for the consumer to pay between 5 and 10 times the price paid to the grower?
Is it normal and acceptable that the grower delivers his products often without knowing the selling price?
Is it normal and acceptable that the grower frequently receives a settlement lower than its cost price?
Is it normal and acceptable that agriculture, the basis of any economy, since it is the production of food and raw materials, is so sick that rich countries must subsidize it, and in poor countries, farmers are among the poorest?
Something is going wrong on our planet, and it's not pollution or health.
They are, above all, political choices that put those who don't express themselves out to the last level because they work too hard and are often resigned in front of the power of Nature and in front of their own helplessness against the Administration, the press and the society.
We live in a world of big mouths and liars, in which the one who wins is the one who screams the strongest, in which are glorified and rewarded the game, the sham and the blows of mouth, but in which are penalized the work, the honesty, the ethics, the respect, the discretion.