Global Agribusiness Versus Sustainable Agriculture and Local Food Systems

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Pieper, Virginia
Master of Arts in Earth Literacy
Humans have evolved from being mobile hunters and gatherers to stable agricultural societies that further evolved into urban societies distanced from the production of its food supply. Our food system has changed as societies have formed bureaucracies in the social and political organization of communities. The Green Revolution with its myths has played a vital role in building global agribusiness that 1s our current food system. Transnational/multinational corporations are gaining control of markets through horizontal and vertical integration. Horizontal integration such as company mergers 1s consolidating food processing and retailing sectors. These same companies are now venturing into, and controlling a higher percentage of, worldwide food production, an example of vertical integration. This vertical integration is shifting control of food production out of the hands of small family farmers into the hands of multinational corporations, thus increasing reliance on imports and biotechnology in global markets. These multifaceted, rapidly changing aspects of our current industrial agriculture are briefly discussed in order to frame the alternate model, sustainable agriculture that is embedded in an agrarian mindset. Sustainable agriculture has been called the “Quiet Revolution” and identifies three principles to be practiced in agriculture. The three principles balance methods that are ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible. Nature is used without harm, and farmers gain improved self-reliance, a key feature of sustainable agriculture. We begin to “reculturize” agriculture when we reclaim and foster an agrarian mindset. The first step 1s changing how we think about food. When we know why we are persuaded to eat the way we do, we as eaters or consumers regain control over how we eat. We do have options for improving our food system. These options will, in turn, shift control of our food back to consumers and will reestablish human relationships between consumers and farmers.