Economic Slavery: Food, Fertilizers and Pharmaceuticals
By Nkrumah Lucien (written Aug-2007)
As we reflect on Emancipation, it is important for us not to get distracted from the institutions and methods which continue to inhibit our true liberation. This article will deal with three aspects of our Economic Dependence which is so well supported by various structures and institution within and outside of this nation and countries such as ours.
Fertilizers, Exports and seeds
Our agriculture industry is and has been historically based on a mono-crop economy focused on the harvesting of agricultural produce demanded by the Europe and the United States (E & U.S -so called "First World") changing from one period to the next (eg tobacco, cotton, coffee, sugar and bananas in the Caribbean) based on the priorities of E & U.S. This has been associated with many poor farming practices which pose dangers to the environment and therefore to man, causing problems such as pollution of waterways, destruction of coral reefs and erosion through farming in inappropriate areas. Such farming is heavily dependent on imported fertilizers and is based on principles which are in the long term detrimental to the soil and even farmer yields. The approach ignores the age old principle that it is the total health of the system which is beneficial and self sustaining as opposed to ignoring the system and tying the plants to a persistent dependence on fertilizers for its welfare and the application of toxic chemicals to contain the incidence of pests .This is the first part of our dependence. We depend on Europe as the sole market for our produce and also depend on the E & U.S for large amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and now seeds (possibly the most significant of all). We depend on E & U.S for dangerous chemicals (some of which are banned in the E & U.S) which we now add to the food chain in greater and greater concentrations.
The exportation of hybrid seeds has become a strategy of the "First World" to create further dependence among countries of Africa, the Caribbean and Asia (ACA), "Third World" so called. This has been particularly successful in India as highlighted many times by Dr. Vandana Shiva ( http://www.zmag.org/bios/homepage.cfm?authorID=90). Hundreds of farmers in India commit suicide annually due to the stress of debts acquired through the purchase of hybrid seeds. The International Financial Institutions of the World Bank and the IMF have been instrumental in the spread of such seeds as part of Structural Adjustment Programmes attached to loans granted to ACA. Such seeds are genetically produced and therefore produce plants which themselves do not produce seeds for propagation of new plants, creating a perpetual dependence on the countries that provide these seeds. This was also attempted as close to home as Jamaica and based on the accounts of some local farmers they have already been introduced to St. Lucia. Such seeds are also sold in our garden stores. The producers of these seeds, thanks to the WTO, are under no obligation to clarify that such seeds are hybrid on the packets. The same situation exists with genetically modified foods which surely have reached our shores either as inputs to other products or as products themselves and of which the full impacts are not yet even known. Many international scientists have raised alarm about this but the Multi-national companies and governments who profit from this in E & U.S have greater access to media coverage. However, one's interested can read the document from the International Science Panel called "The Case for a GM-free Sustainable World" at the following link http://www.indsp.org/ . I would encourage our media personnel to remain informed on such issues to do the justice to the people they serve and to help us secure ourselves healthwise and otherwise from the unscrupulous greed of some in the world.
Food and Chronic disease
Because of the amount of land used for our mono-crop export industry , the absence of mix-cropping among many farmers as well as our acquired preference for things foreign, we import an unnecessarily high amount of food and of questionable quality and nutritious value. The power of the U.S media on our diet is significant and is the main determinant of the composition of this huge import Bill. In our post-slavery society when there is an opportunity to return to the high dietary principles which had been part of our history both in Asia and Africa and even among the indigenous people of the Western hemisphere we squander it to pursue the highly refined foods of the U.S. From a diet rich in vegetables and unprocessed carbohydrates and sufficient protein we have moved into a diet consisting of less vegetables and an increasing amount of refined starches and more additive-rich processed food. Furthermore, apart from merely importing these processed foods we have imported a number of fast food franchises to make this health threatening food available at the ease of convenience. We now practice a diet which is responsible for the biggest chunk of our individual and national health-care cost, chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Last year for World Food Day Dr. Fitzroy Henry, Director of Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (PAHO/WHO) addressed a small audience at the National Insurance Corporation's Conference Room on this very issue stating Statistics which verify the claim made above. Again, a search on Google for Dr. Fitzroy Henry yields at least three well researched documents on the poor state of our import dependence and consequently our health.
The final part of our three-part dependence is that of pharmaceuticals. An attitude towards health which involved proper diet and proper detoxifying using local herbs has shifted to a focus on highly processed pharmaceuticals directed at chasing diseases which we need not have in the first place. Additionally, this approach fails many times to deal with the root causes of the health conditions, found many times in poor nutrition and lifestyle practices and instead to amputations, surgery and hysterectomies. The International Financial Organizations again steps in with the available"financial assistance" to reduce the incidence of such chronic illnesses whereby we are directed to multinationals to purchase from. What is more is that given that illness has become so commonplace, poor health practices are prided and any attempt to are for one's health consciously is jeered at and branded Health fanaticism or one is termed a health freak. Consequently, we are pulled in multiple directions by food, fertilizers and pharmaceuticals and our problems remain.
It is important that we accept responsibility for this situation as we fail to create agendas for ourselves through being pro-active and perceptive of our situation and the solutions within our own societies and history. It is also significant to note that in each case the demand for such products "food, fertilizers and pharmaceuticals" is driven by coercion whether through media, structural adjustment programmes or "Aid".
Fertilizers, pharmaceuticals as well as food in some cases, while not marketed and sold to persons of their country of origin in the E & U.S is sent to the ACA and is many times sub-standard. Fertilizers banned in some parts of E and U.S is still in wide use in the ACA. Likewise, pharmaceuticals sent into the third world have been found later to have dangerous side effects and are later recalled or in other cases simply abandoned without giving timely notice to the countries to which they are sent. There is a need for greater research into our herbs so that we do not land on the late train as countries in Europe and Asia rediscover the treasures of natural medicine and holistic treatment which were discarded less than a hundred years ago in favour of pharmaceuticals which is motivated largely by the profit motive which in many instances can overtake genuine human interest. An 1998 article titled "Herbal medicine takes root in Germany" by Pam Harrison makes mention that " The cost of about 40% of the herbal remedies currently prescribed by German physicians are covered by the health care system" . The following statement by Dr. Joerg Gruenwald Berlin's Institute for Phytopharmaceuticals of makes even stronger support for the potential for herbal medicine use. Dr. Gruenwald said in an interview, "I'd say close to 80% of German physicians regularly employ plant medications," With the will we can pursue greater independence even that regard.
There is a well woven net which connects all three of these aspects of our dependence. While such discussion may have no place in the celebration of "Emancipation" of our ancestors by their oppressors, it remains relevant as we chart connection between those and our current exploiters which traverses, geneaology, geography, demography and ethnicity. This system steeped in greed and arrogance is supported and complemented by information colonization(history and news and other forms of mis-education), politics, religion, and various other structures within and outside of our societies. Therefore let us reflect on this as we regard the removal by our ancestors of this one obstacle to liberation of Imperialism(Physical slavery) and further to all illusions which obstruct our liberation in its truest sense.