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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Recent decades have seen tremendous changes in Latin America's agricultural sector, resulting from a broad program of liberalization instigated under pressure from the United States, the IMF, and the World Bank. Tariffs have been lifted, agricultural markets have been opened and privatized, land reform policies have been restricted or eliminated, and the perspective has shifted radically toward exportation rather than toward the goal of feeding local citizens. Examining the impact of these transformations, the contributors to Food for the Few: Neoliberal Globalism and Biotechnology in Latin America paint a somber portrait, describing local peasant farmers who have been made responsible for protecting impossibly vast areas of biodiversity, or are forced to specialize in one genetically modified crop, or who become low-wage workers within a capitalized farm complex. Using dozens of examples such as these, the deleterious consequences are surveyed from the perspectives of experts in diverse fields, including anthropology, economics, geography, political science, and sociology. From Kathy McAfee's "Exporting Crop Biotechnology: The Myth of Molecular Miracles," to Liz Fitting's "Importing Corn, Exporting Labor: The Neoliberal Corn Regime, GMOs, and the Erosion of Mexican Biodiversity," Food for the Few balances disturbing findings with hopeful assessments of emerging grassroots alternatives. Surveying not only the Latin American conditions that led to bankruptcy for countless farmers but also the North's practices, such as the heavy subsidies implemented to protect North American farmers, these essays represent a comprehensive, keenly informed response to a pivotal global crisis.

Excerpt

Gerardo Otero

Latin America's agriculture has been one of the economic sectors most negatively affected by the neoliberal reform set off in the 1980s. in most countries, a broad program of agricultural liberalization was launched under pressure from the United States and suprastate organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Economic liberalization generally included the unilateral lifting of protectionist policies, the opening of agricultural markets by lowering or eliminating tariffs and quotas, the privatization and/or dismantling of government corporations for rural credit, infrastructure, commercialization, and technical assistance, the end or even reversal of land reform policies, and the radicalization or reorientation of food policies focused on the internal market toward an export-based agricultural economy. These extensive reforms had profound, often negative, consequences for the agricultural sectors of Latin American countries and for a high proportion of agricultural producers. Impacts have been compounded by the fact that reforms in Latin America were not accompanied by a corresponding liberalization of agricultural trade and production in advanced capitalist countries, which continue to heavily subsidize and protect their farm sectors with billions of dollars, thus placing Latin American producers at a competitive disadvantage. “Neoliberal globalism” is what we call the ideology driving this set of reforms, both to describe their content and to highlight the fact that such policies can be changed with a different outlook.

The biotechnology revolution of the 1990s, which has inundated the countryside of some countries and supermarkets around the world with transgenic crops and other new products, was superimposed on the reforms brought about under the impetus of neoliberal globalism. From their beginnings at the laboratory stage in the 1980s, agricultural . . .

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