Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reframing the Debate

I've had more than a few experiences that show that it's pretty difficult to get people to 'think outside the box'. I used to enjoy trying when I taught high school, but it seems to me that the students were more receptive than many of the adults I run across.

In response to my post "Ugliness", a discussion on another forum resulted. It began with the question, "Does this person understand it costs money to produce food". My response: "Of course I know it takes money to produce food in high-input Saskatchewan agriculture; I come from a conventional farm background. But if you think about it, it doesn't take money to produce food. It takes land, seeds, and water. Under capitalism, you need money for these things, but in many other systems, you don't - water, for example, often falls from the sky, and seeds come from plants, not Monsanto. The idea of buying and selling land is also historically recent. Until someone takes them from you and charges you for them, you don't have to pay money for these things. In other words, there is room to question the system that usually goes unquestioned, and I think it is necessary that we do so."

Well, that sure didn't work. The followup question was, "Who pays for the land, equipment and labour required to produce food?"

If I wanted to accept the questioner's premise that we have to deal with the system we're in, I could respond that there are many options, such as communit-based financing, machinery coops, community land trusts, or government funding such as with the Land Bank. But I was trying to reframe the question.

I once gave a twenty-minute presentation based on the idea that land should be decommodified, just to have someone ask at the end why I thought farming should be different from any other business. I was so flabbergasted that I started my response with "You seem to have missed the entire point of my presentation." I try not to give into the temptation to be plainspoken, but occasionally succumb. However, I have nothing on Coline Serreau.

A Globe and Mail food reporter interviewed her on her film about food production, Local Solutions for a Global Myth. Some excerpts:

 The experts and activists you interview say the big problem with agriculture today is that it focuses on making profit, not food. Is there a way to make both?  

To make both? What do you mean? We have to get out of this system, and profit is not the aim. Ever. It should never be the aim. Period. Profit has nothing to do with happiness. So if food is linked to profit, food is going to be bad.  

Do you think farmers can be convinced to grow food without profit though? 

It’s not without profits. They will have to make an honest, good living. It’s the whole system that has to be changed. It’s not about the farmers. If you make organic food, you’re not allowed to use the seeds that are produced by the right people [i.e. seeds that are not officially registered]. The whole system, it’s messed up, you know? So the people, they cannot make profit and do good things at the same time. You have 15 per cent of the big farmers who make all the big profit, but the others are ruined. Have you heard of agricultures? Have you heard of agricultures that have been ruined? Do you know it’s, like, millions of people affected? Why do you ask me those questions? I think you are – are you not aware?  

I think it’s a legitimate question. Because how would you be able to …
I wouldn’t be able. It’s the system. If you stop giving money to the people who put crap in the food, they won’t be able to put crap any more. They put it in because they get money from it, because they want to give money to the multinationals who produce the crap. It’s very well explained in the movie.

I wish I were French.

No comments:

Post a Comment