SG2 Held A Lively Dis­cus­sion On The Or­ganic Food

The Global Digest (English) - - Contents - By Staff Cor­re­spon­dent

Mem­bers of SG2/Café Global Chat held a meet­ing in In­sadong, 2011, which in­cluded cit­i­zens from around the globe. The in­vited speaker was Ky­oto Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor, Dr. Shuji Hisano, an agri­cul­ture and po­lit­i­cal econ­o­mist who fo­cuses on food in the con­text of glob­al­iza­tion and lo­cal­iza­tion. Some­times this com­bi­na­tion is called ‘glo­cal.’

The dis­cus­sion opened with a din­ner and gen­eral con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the 20 at­ten­dees. Af­ter din­ner, Dr. Hisano gave a brief dis­cus­sion of his work and then fielded ques­tions from the group. The top­ics ranged from hunger in the world to ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms (GMOs) to the ne­ces­si­ties of or­ganic farm­ing as a lo­cal phe­nom­e­non. Dr. Hisano re­ported that plant­ings of GMOs are wide­spread and that there are four or five ma­jor biotech crops: corn, soy­bean, cot­ton and canola. The US, Brazil and Canada have large in­vest­ments and ar­eas of cul­ti­va­tion of the ‘tech­nol­ogy.’ In the U.S., biotech­nol­ogy is heav­ily used in agri­cul­ture, where ap­prox­i­mately 95% of soy­beans, and 90% of corn, are ge­net­i­cally al­tered. He ar­gued that biotech­nol­ogy is ef­fi­cient only for big farm­ers. For small farm­ers, such as in In­dia, in many cases, GMOs have been dev­as­tat­ing to vil­lagers. Among a small num­ber of com­pa­nies, like the biotech gi­ant, Mon­santo, a large per­cent­age of the world’s ge­netic ma­te­rial in seed form, is con­trolled.

Var­i­ous trade pacts in­flu­ence agri­cul­ture on the global level as well. U.S. al­lies, Ja­pan and South Korea, de­pend on US food prod­ucts. How­ever, in­ter­est­ingly enough, soy beans orig­i­nated from Asia; th­ese are called ‘land races.’ To­day, Ja­pan and South Korea have to de­pend on im­ported soy beans from the U.S., a sit­u­a­tion which is lamented by both Ja­panese and South Korean farm­ers be­cause of the loss of food sovereignty and se­cu­rity. Re­cent, sig­nif­i­cant price in­creases have led many to ques­tion food se­cu­rity, both in Asia and around the world. In poor coun­tries, the price in­crease has been dev­as­tat­ing. In Asia, al­though the U.S. has guar­an­teed food, in which, there is no need for East Asia to pro­duce its own food, Dr. Hisano says he has less con­fi­dence in the U.S. vis-a-vis their bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship and con­flict of in­ter­est, be­tween the U.S. and Ja­pan. At the mo­ment, the U.S. is pres­sur­ing Ja­pan to join the Trans-Pa­cific Strate­gic Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (TPP). Once Ja­pan joins the TPP, U.S. food

prod­ucts will flow into Ja­pan, and Ja­panese agri­cul­ture will col­lapse, Dr. Hisano ex­plained. The U.S. needs Ja­pan in the agree­ment be­cause of the clout of the Ja­panese econ­omy as the two coun­tries can heav­ily in­flu­ence the rest of the Pa­cific re­gion.

Over­all, Dr. Hisano’s sug­ges­tion is that East Asian coun­tries should with­hold at least 50% of their own lo­cal foods for sus­te­nance; while an­other op­tion for food sus­te­nance is to avoid wast­ing food. Most of the de­vel­oped coun­tries, the US, UK, Ja­pan waste 30% of foods. It also should be noted that a large part of grain crops are used for cat­tle feed rather than for hu­mans. Con­cern­ing hunger and the use of grain crops and GMOs in the U.S., it is also of con­cern that the coun­try has ap­prox­i­mately 50 mil­lion peo­ple at risk of hunger. With mas­sive plant­ings of GMOs and the world’s largest econ­omy, many ques­tion the sys­tem of dis­tri­bu­tion in the U.S. and thus in the world. Al­though, a large num­ber of sci­en­tists claim that ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops are safe, Dr. Hisano ob­jects on many points from sci­ence to hunger to eco­nom­ics. Con­sid­er­ing agri­cul­ture to­day, Hisano be­lieves, from a sur­vey of the re­search, that or­ganic poli­cies and ad­vanced or­ganic agri­cul­ture which is em­bed­ded in a lo­cal econ­omy, is the way of the fu­ture as cit­i­zens con­tinue to ex­ert pres­sure on the global food sys­tem.

South Korean or­ganic farms are los­ing

Dr. Shuji Hisano, an agri­cul­ture and po­lit­i­cal econ­o­mist, is a Pro­fes­sor from Ky­oto Univer­sity, Ja­pan.

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