Food for the Few: Neoliberal Globalism and Biotechnology in Latin America

By Gerardo Otero | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Latin American Agriculture, Food, and
Biotechnology: Temperate Dietary Pattern
Adoption and Unsustainability

GERARDO OTERO AND GABRIELA PECHLANER

The main proposition addressed in this chapter is that, with the globalization of capitalism, national agricultures in Latin America have increasingly conformed to temperate-climate food consumption and production patterns. Because the Green Revolution has been effectively transferred, at least to the regions with irrigated agriculture, Latin America has become technologically dependent. Adopting dietary patterns of temperate countries and technological dependency entails undesirable social and environmental implications. Socially, farm structures tend to become quite polarized, with fewer and larger farmers surviving, and the rest rendered bankrupt or productively redundant. Environmentally, modern technologies have taken agriculture to an unsustainable point: soil erosion, land and water contamination, and decreased genetic diversity are just a few of the problems that bring into question the sustainability of this production model. Furthermore, the diet based on meat and dairy products has become dangerous to people's health, for it is clearly associated with increased incidence of heart disease and various cancers.

On the positive side, it should be said that these problems, which first emerged in the United States (see Chap. 1, this volume), have prompted the attempt to explore alternative agricultural practices. A number of studies have found that alternative agricultural practices, which enhance the biological interactions of the environment and keep chemical inputs at a minimum, are not only friendly to the environment but can also be economically profitable (Altieri 2001; National Research Council 1989). This “movement” toward an alternative agriculture is still a minority trend in the United States, but there is some indication that it is growing. Certified organic agriculture, for example, more than doubled between 1992 and 1997, and shows continued strong market signals (Greene 2001, 19).

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