Sustainable Propaganda

This has to be one of the most brazen falsified statements about sustainable agriculture that has ever passed my primary auditory cortex.

Reggie Dowell states in this Monsanto-produced piece of propaganda, "In approximately 1920, we produced our first billion bushel corn crop in the United States. We planted 100 million acres to do that. Last year we planted eighty-two million acres and produced 13billion bushel of corn. That's pretty sustainable"

No, I'm sorry Mr. Dowell, that is not necessarily sustainable. It may be impressive. It may be interesting, but just because a crop yielded a 13-fold increase in a 12% area decrease over the course of 90 years does not necessarily make the endeavor "sustainable."

It's as if to suggest that people don't progress over time. How much of that progress was made simply by having stronger lines of communication (telephones), automated irrigation (modernization) and an explosion of machinery (oil)? There's not enough data in this argument to claim that any of what the video claims could be considered "sustainable."

<iframe title="YouTube video player" width="420" height="320" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/l3HPdG350Ww" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

In fact since this discussion is about corn, we can only assume that we are talking about overtaxing the land with a mono-crop. There is literally no way farmers can sustain 13 billion bushels on 82 million acres without the petrochemical industry. And that industry is sinking. Think about how industrial farming is done: planting, spraying and harvesting, all done by machine.

In a backhanded way, Mr Dowell explains that fifty years ago it took, "too many people to produce the food." This is the period in which "most people consider the most sustainable" of times. But even then, sustainability wasn't the driving force of production: profitability was - and continues to be so today in large farming operations. Let's not sugar-coat it.

That's not to say a farmer shouldn't be profitable; certainly he should. But the difference is the level of profitability against his exploitation of resources.

We are outsourcing all our work to oil and companies, yet still find it in our minds to complain that there are no jobs for Americans. Either people are complacent in a narcissistic fog, or they're truly disconnected to their natural environment. Either way, it feels sorely like a Vonnegut nightmare.

Today most Americans need guidebooks in effort to navigate the grocery store landscape. We don't need companies blurring terms of practice any more than they already have. Sustainability, by definition, means that the practice can continue naturally and fluidly.

Monsanto claims they are sustainable. If Monsanto is so sustainable, why aren't they on the Top 1000 Global Companies Powered by SmartView Force Rankings?

The position of environmentalists and food independents like myself isn't so much against GMOs because they're necessarily a bad idea. It's  more because they don't work over the long run. With company patents that literally foreclose small farms, there is too much power given to these big companies. If GMOs really will provide what biotech companies say they will, there wouldn't be a patent. It's that simple.

Photo credit: Still from the video produced by MonsantoCo.