In defense of a program of national salvation

Image: Eugenio Barboza
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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

Some priority issues for Brazil

After having written several articles demanding (metaphorically) the presidential candidates, in particular Lula, what program they defend to face the historical crisis that the country has been facing since 2015 and that is getting worse with each passing year, several friends and some not so friendly people have been demanding (or challenging) me to explain what I propose as a program.

Without intending to deal with all the urgent and emerging issues to which the infamous Bolsonaro has reduced us, I will try to raise some concerns that I consider to be a priority for any broader program that may be discussed. In other words, what I have to propose is not everything that we will have to do, but I intend that they are fundamental actions for us to start correcting the country's paths, not only those taken in the last three years, but those started in the 1990s.

From the outset, it must be clear that I see no sense in proposing a return to an idyllic past, where we would have been happy and didn't know it, during the governments of Lula and Dilma. This narrative may give a good electoral result, but it is a flagrant case of “allotment in the sky”. The PT governments, but also those of its predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, set the country on an unsustainable course, regardless of the benefits that both brought to alleviate the suffering of our people.

Promising zero hunger, full employment and increased income, “as we have done before”, is a case of electoral fraud. Conditions are not the same, both in Brazil and in the international economy. Whoever goes to government will have to face the real “damned inheritance”, with the economy and the State apparatus in tatters, among other heavy problems. And it will have to deal with international and national investors suspicious of the seriousness of our decisions and proposals, in addition to a world economy in shock due to the pandemic and the rapidly expanding environmental crisis. Whoever goes to government will have to think about Brazil and the world, taking into account the great environmental, economic and social crisis caused by the capitalist development model.

To begin with, even before discussing the priority issues and ways of tackling them, we need to define something less tangible and material: what major guidelines do we propose to put the country on the path to exiting the most serious crisis that has affected us since our constitution as nation? We will need an enormous effort to rebuild the social fabric, the relationships between people. It will be necessary to heal immense wounds, bring conflicting peoples together and re-establish or establish tolerance and dialogue as practices inherent to social relationships and democracy. It will be necessary to overcome the powerful feeling of hatred for the other, for the different, which has been marking us in all horizons of political, social and cultural opinions.

To face the gigantic task of refounding the country and directing it towards a state of collective well-being, with a sustainable economy oriented towards the production of happiness and contentment, it will be necessary to mobilize the whole of society based on the feeling of solidarity and sharing and not on the basis of competition and selfishness. It is not a delirious dream, but a belief in humanity and the certainty that, without it, we will plunge into barbarism and the spiral of state, group and individual violence in a free-for-all of save yourself who can or save yourself who has more power. However, it is clear that this effort to accommodate differences has concrete limitations: the class interests of both. In the necessary rearrangement of our economic order, a powerful minority will have to hand over the rings, in order not to lose their fingers. And it won't do it willingly, unfortunately. Without hatred but firmly, this is the fight that cannot be avoided.

Rebuilding the economy and promoting development requires rethinking the paths we have been taking. Carrying out this review requires us to come up with a point of view about what the purpose of what we call economics or economic development should be.

The dominant economic thought, known as neoliberalism, proclaims that the market is the best regulator of the economy and that, therefore, the lesser its regulation, the better. The less State to negotiate the different interests of society, the better. The market, without restrictions, will allow productive factors to be articulated in the most rational and efficient way to deliver what society wants, in terms of goods and services.

This theory and practice has served, since the end of the 2755th century and the beginning of the 10st century, to exponentially intensify a world of immense imbalances, both between countries and within each country. It seems unthinkable to many, such is the ideological dominance of the market god, but the market essentially serves to enrich a few million with more wealth than the sum of that in the hands of the immense majority. The world's 10 billionaires have more resources than the vast majority of the planet's inhabitants. The data collected by OXFAM is even more shocking when it compares the wealth of the 10 richest super capitalists in the world (they are not 3,1 companies, they are XNUMX people) with the “wealth”, added, of the poorest XNUMX billion on the planet, almost half of the world's population. The volume of resources in the hands of this tiny minority of those privileged by the market is obscene and challenges common sense: what can they do with so many resources?

If this is the purpose of the “free” market, it tends to run to self-destruction. This will happen, (1) due to the brutality of the exclusion of the immense masses of the poor and miserable, without any expectation of being included even in the standard of living of the pets of this Nababesque class; (2) by the accelerated destruction of the environment and depletion of natural resources caused by market-driven economic growth.

We have been witnessing the shock of reality for two years that overthrows this posture. The Covid-19 pandemic shows several things, from the environmental impact of agribusiness, creating the conditions for the emergence of this and other viruses and bacteria, to the importance of States and multilateral organizations to coordinate national and international efforts to face the crisis , intervening in the functioning of the market god. It was seen how much the dismantling of national public health systems penalized the common citizen in many countries of the world, the most notorious cases being the USA, Europe and Russia and Brazil itself (despite our weakened SUS).

But the most challenging thing for the future is the realization that we are rapidly moving towards the destruction of civilization as we know it and, quite possibly, the destruction of human life on planet Earth. This is not something that could happen in a long time, but that has been going on for more than a century and accelerating as the expansion of capitalism and the dominance of market logic eliminate the limits of planet. We are already looting the last hectares of land, cutting down the last forests, depleting the last marine reserves, depleting the last deposits of many essential minerals.

we are destroying habitats that took millions of years to form and warming the planet in such a way that, if nothing is done too quickly (in the next 10 years) and too radically, the increase in average temperature will exceed the optimistic limit set by the Paris Agreement, or i.e. 1,5 degrees Celsius. On current trends, the average temperature rise by the end of the century (and probably much sooner) will be 6 degrees Celsius and this will make a good part of the planet uninhabitable and the rest of the world a very unpleasant place to live. live, if living is even possible.

It is with these premises that I intend to discuss the points for a national salvation program: we need a solidary society and an economy focused on the well-being of the community and not on the sumptuous expenses of a powerful minority. We need a sustainable economy that does not pollute the environment, conserves non-renewable natural resources, conserves renewable natural resources and recycles as much as possible. We need a society of guaranteed essential consumption for everyone before thinking about superfluous consumption. We need maximum conservation of durable products, eliminating at once the strategy of waste that marks the logic of the capitalist market.

What are the essential needs of a society, those that have to be guaranteed as everyone's right? Certainly not the automobile, the helicopter, the yacht or the private jet. Not the giant house with heated or cooled pool, private spa, carrara marble, alternating with mahogany on planks and other expensive improvements that are or can be, certainly, beautiful and comfortable. All this is desirable, of course, but it is not essential and, above all, it will not be accessible to everyone, since there would be no natural resources for it. This must be the golden rule: the economy must work for the whole and not for the privileged of any kind (including the State bureaucracy).

Human beings need to eat, drink, breathe clean air, live in comfortable, appropriate and safe homes. Need to live in a healthy environment, without pollution of any kind.

This already defines a basic program: guarantee food and nutritional security for all citizens; ensure access to good quality water in sufficient quantity for its different uses; ensure unpolluted air anywhere, countryside or city; ensure adequate clothing for all seasons, regions and activities, ensuring a wide range of offers whenever durable; guarantee suitable residences for each family in environmentally adequate and technically safe constructions; ensure basic sanitation for all, with the environmentally correct disposal of sewage and garbage, with recycling of solid products and composting of organic products; guarantee the energy needed to keep both the economy and society in general functioning, without environmental impacts and in a sustainable manner. Guarantee public and free healthcare for all, with an emphasis on preventive measures.

In addition to these vital physical needs, human beings need: leisure activities, sports and culture that have to be made available in a wide and diversified way. Education should be a widespread public service from the cradle, with children of all ages full-time in kindergartens, schools and universities. Study and learning activities should be balanced with leisure, art and sport, as well as integration with nature. Scientific research must respond to the multiple requirements of this rights guarantee program and not to the logic of capital remuneration. Public research will have a prominent place. The preservation and recovery of the environment will have to be a fundamental priority. Not only must there be a priority for actions aimed at the environment, but in each public policy decision there must be an interaction with the criteria that govern the confrontation of the environmental crisis.

Guarantee quality and free public transport for all citizens, abandoning the myth of individual transport, of the car of the year, even if it is electric; guarantee qualified and correctly remunerated employment for all, with the guarantee of labor rights, ensuring shorter working hours that allow for other activities, leisure, sports and culture.

In order to comply with this program, the new government will need to recover the State's management capacity, which has been undergoing widespread dismantling in all sectors. In particular, it will be necessary to regain executive control over the budget. The reorientation of the economy and social order will require significant financial resources and they will have to come from the layer that has always been privileged in tax matters, the millionaires and billionaires. The tax system should be progressive rather than regressive, with more taxes on income, including financial gains, and less on production and consumption.

The security of citizens must be guaranteed equally, without discrimination of sex, color or sexual orientation. Identity issues should be dealt with in a transversal manner in all the previously listed themes, guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens.

The armed forces must have their role in society redefined according to the new national and international realities.

I will deal with just some of these points and in a differentiated way because I do not have the same mastery over all of them. In selecting the topics to be addressed in this program proposal, I will adopt a criterion of significance for each topic and my ability to address it. The themes will be treated separately, starting with the issue of hunger.

 

The issue of hunger: emergency solutions

The size of the problem is gigantic: more than half of the population starves, eats less than they should or eats with poor nutritional quality. This involves 117 million people, 19,1 million of whom are hungry, 43,4 million eat less than they need and the remaining 54,3 million eat very poorly from a nutritional point of view. Without trying to go too far in this presentation, it should be clear that this is the part of the population that has food and nutritional security problems due to low income. There is still another portion that has no problems buying food, but eats poorly for cultural reasons.

In any case, the result of this huge food safety problem is precarious health and a huge number of illnesses due to the excess of certain products (sugar, salt, saturated fats, chemical additives, transgenics, others) or the lack of other fundamental ones ( fibers, vitamins, mineral salts, calories and proteins). This combination of poor quality food and poverty results, among other things, in the “epidemic” of obesity that even affects many who are undernourished. Obesity also occurs in large proportions among the richest, in this case strictly due to cultural problems, obviously. Diseases derived from the type of diet and lifestyle, such as heart disease and diabetes, affect tens of millions of people and are responsible for health expenses, early retirements and deaths.

Facing the problem of hunger requires emergency (short-term) and strategic actions

(long term). In the emergency plan, the main issue is to quickly make food available in the quality and quantity needed for all those in need on a permanent basis.

As the main reason for this poor diet is the lack of resources (poverty and misery define the degree of gravity of each food situation) it seems to be the obvious solution to do what Lula did in Fome Zero and Bolsa Família or what Congress voted at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020: offer (extraordinary and/or long-term) help in terms of financial resources.

The calculation of how much should be distributed to each family depending on their economic situation is complex and has been terribly poorly done, above all because the cost of healthy eating for each type of citizen (men, women, children, adolescents, adults , elderly, more or less physically active). On the other hand, how much each poor or miserable family has to feed its members is not a trivial calculation. In some regions and categories, the expenses necessary for maintaining the family, in addition to food, are higher than in others. Families with older people tend to spend more on medicines and treatments. Housing expenses can also be very different, as well as transportation expenses. In other words, more advanced research is needed because the aid comes as an income complement and not to meet all the needs of a family, although in Brazil this “complement” is probably greater than the family income. of the miserable and the majority of the poor.

I looked a lot for a study that would indicate the cost of a correct diet from the point of view of nutritional quality and sufficient quantity. The vast majority of articles and theses that I identified worked with the food basket of the minimum wage law of 1937, and with the surveys of costs of this basket made regularly by DIEESE. But this diet, which was planned more than 80 years ago, was no longer adequate even at that time, and today it is completely outside the nutritionist's guidelines.

A Public Health Journal published, in mid-2021, an article by researchers from the Institute of Social Medicine, Department of Epidemiology, UERJ, Eliseu Verly Júnior, Dayan Carvalho Ramos Salles de Oliveira and Rosely Sichieri entitled “Cost of a healthy and culturally acceptable diet in Brazil in 2009 and 2018”.[I] Without intending to exhaust the subject by any means, I must say that the authors have done a high quality and accurate job facing a complex effort of multidimensional analysis.

I will retain from this article, which I recommend reading, only the values ​​of the daily diet desirable for an average Brazilian. It is calculated based on an average of what is consumed in a year and, obviously, it does not mean that people consume all these products in these quantities every day. daily consumption per capita is expressed in gammas and the annual in kilos. With this diet, each individual ingests 1 kilo and 370 grams each day, on average. I also remind you that this is a national average, leveling out major differences in eating habits across the country.

Rice – 161g/day and 60 kg/year

Beans – 150g/day and 70 kg/year

Meat – 16g/day and 60 kg/year (includes poultry, red meat and fish)

Wheat – 112g/day and 41 kg/year (includes wheat derivatives such as bread, pasta, biscuits and cakes)

Dairy – 117,5g/day and 43 kg/year (includes milk, cheese and yogurt)

Fruits – 186g/day and 110 kg/year

Vegetables – 186g/day and 68 kg/year

Tubers – 43g/day and 15,6 kg/year (includes potatoes, cassava, yams, …)

In the diet researched in the mentioned article there are other foods, consumed in smaller quantities (oils, eggs, butter, sugar, oilseeds, beverages, finished products, others). I do not include them in this exhibition because what I want to point out are the major shortcomings from the point of view of product supply and the problems of meeting a heated demand for emergency aid.

Now let's calculate the annual demand for these foods for a subset of the Brazilian population, those over 10 years old. This clipping was adopted in the calculation made in the aforementioned research. Roughly, it will be necessary to remove about 20 million people from the total population. In other words, the subset will contain 187 million people whose annual food demand, in millions of tons, will (ideally) be:

Rice – 10,3

Beans – 13,1

Meat – 11,2

Wheat – 7,7

Dairy products – 8

Fruits – 20

Vegetables – 12,7

Tubers – 3

For the purposes of this article, I will only discuss rice and bean needs among all the foods included in this idealized average national diet. This duo still determines most of the calorie and protein intake in the Brazilian diet, both idealized and effective, the one that is actually consumed. It is true that the role of rice and beans has regularly declined in the real diet of Brazilians and has been replaced by the increasing consumption of processed foods (pasta and sausage is the most common substitute). Switching is a terrible sign from a nutritional standpoint. These processed foods are cheaper and not by chance. They are of much worse quality, with excess calories, fat, sugar, salt and chemical additives and have little fiber, mineral salts and protein value. The exchange of rice and beans for these products has to do with family income and the rising prices of this duo, as well as with questions such as cooking time (the price of cooking gas also weighs in this account) and cultural trends, induced by the advertising.

The annual demand for rice, assuming a nutritionally desirable consumption would, as shown above, be 10 million tons. We remind you that this is white rice, husked and processed. The amount of paddy rice to reach this consumed volume would be 3 million tons.

In our reality of the years 2020/2021, the consumption of rice throughout the country was 10,8 million tons in husk, that is, the consumption of white rice was 6,3 million tons. In summary, for everyone to have adequate consumption in the pattern of a healthy diet, there was a lack of 7 million tons of paddy rice or 4 million tons of white rice. Knowing this makes it easier to understand the existence of more than 100 million hungry or malnourished people in the country. In time, the annual production was more or less in line with the actual consumption indicated above, the exported portion being equivalent to the imported one.

The annual demand for beans, also in line with desirable consumption, would be 13,1 million tons, as indicated above. CONAB information points to bean consumption of 3 million tons in 2020. This indicates a repressed demand of around 10 million tons of beans.

With a deficiency in the consumption of rice and beans of the order of 7 and 10 million tons per year respectively, the question is why this happens in a country presented as a world agricultural power (“agro is tec, agro is pop, agro is everything”). ”, says the advertisement in Globo). In the first place, it is important to note that the production of rice and beans has not stopped falling over the last 30 years, at least. It can be said that it was never enough to guarantee this idealized diet in the article, but it was already much bigger than it is today. There is a double movement that leads to the abandonment of this duo, which has a very appropriate nutritional content: on the one hand, there is a movement to replace these products in the field with commodities for placing on the international market, such as soy, corn and meat, as well as sugar and alcohol, cellulose and orange. The decrease in the production of rice and beans leads to a relative increase in their prices, which favors their substitution.

All of this has to do with the growing inclusion of part of family farmers in the logic of the market and agrochemical production. This sector has traditionally been dedicated to the production of food for the domestic market. When family farming began to be taken care of by the State, under the Fernando Henrique government, the guidance given by the credit and technical assistance services led them to adopt the productive model of agribusiness and apply it on a small scale. The result was a growing indebtedness of family farming with two alternatives: the abandonment of production by selling or renting their properties to larger producers or the conversion of these properties to more profitable productions, such as soy monocultures.

Both options had the same result in replacing food crops with commodities exportable. This profile, both in terms of public policy and results, did not change during the Lula and Dilma governments. It can even be said that it has expanded and intensified, despite the sincere purpose of helping family farming. The 2017 census showed that the effect of popular government policies was a net departure of 400 farming families from rural Brazil. Around 800 families left the countryside and the settlement of 400 others made up only half of this exodus. The result of policies to support the development of family farming was the reduction of this category by 10% of its original number in 1994, when these policies began to be applied.

If we repeat these calculations for the other items of the diet devised by the authors of the cited article, we will have similar results, although perhaps not as expressive. Consumption of maize and cassava has been falling steadily over the last few decades, while consumption of wheat derivatives is increasing, dependent on imports in the order of 50% of demand, on average. There is an increase in the consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products until the middle of the last decade, when they start to fall. These are products for which there would be no need for imports to ensure optimal consumption for everyone, except for dairy products and wheat, but the truth is that Brazilian production is strongly geared towards the international market, which competes with domestic demand. The consumption of vegetables and fruits has risen slightly in recent decades, but it is still far from the recommended level in a healthy diet. The current national production is not able to respond to an increase in demand in the hypothesis of guaranteeing the recommended diet for all.

As can be seen, the problem is greater than the simple distribution of financial aid, extraordinary or permanent. In the short and medium term, we will have to adopt a food import policy in order to guarantee that targeted aid (the amounts of which would have to be rediscussed depending on the cost of these imports) to the poor and miserable can cover the increase in demand. Without this, we will only have an increase in food inflation and the maintenance of a good part of the public of these policies with only partial access to the recommended diet. To avoid speculation with food, the State should organize the purchases and storage of the most sensitive products, guiding distribution throughout the country.

What is the cost of this necessary diet? The mentioned study points to a value in 2018, which I updated, rounding to today, of 14,00 reais per day per person, the national average. This means (still rounding) 420,00 reais per month. This is more than the amount of the current extraordinary aid of 400,00 reais, called BolsaBolso and which is directed towards a family that is supposed to be, on average, of 4 people. Among those classified as miserable, family income per capita is 120,00 reais, that is, the total monthly income of the hypothetical average family is 480,00 reais. Adding this income with the aid we arrive at 980,00 reais, while the cost of food would reach 1260,00 reais (calculated for three diets, two adults and two children). Even assuming that this category of miserable people does not have many other incompressible expenses and that they use almost all of the resources mentioned above to buy food, they would not manage to cover the costs of the diet considered necessary for a healthy diet. It is clear that these values ​​do not take into account the possible increase in demand for these products promoted by the government aid program. This increase would raise food prices due to the low supply of many of them, if not imported.

Facing the complex problem of hunger will imply redefining the value of government aid, organizing the importation, storage and distribution of food and deepening the different situations of the target public in order to be able to calibrate the size of aid for different levels of need. This effort should be coordinated by a commission that follows in the footsteps of the former CONSEA, extinguished by Bolsonaro. Furthermore, it would be fundamental to create an executive agency that would deal with the operation of the set of policies to combat hunger. Government and civil society agents should participate in CONSEA, from NGOs dedicated to the subject to representatives of the food products market, from producers to importers and food distributors. The executive body should have technicians from different ministries in addition to specialists in nutrition, poverty assessment, logistics and imports. The military regime even created a body for this purpose, the National Institute of Food and Nutrition, which came to produce interesting studies and proposals, but which was never operational.

 

The issue of hunger: structural, medium and long-term solutions.

Building food security and sovereignty in Brazil is not limited to what we discussed in the previous article. What has been proposed so far are emergency solutions. Solving the structural issue is something else and involves much more than national food production and its access to the population as a whole, a human right guaranteed in international agreements. There is a complex intersection with agricultural and agrarian, environmental and population, scientific and cultural issues, among others.

I hope it is clear that national food production is not the object of agricultural policies in the country. The objective of agricultural development is, and always has been, to produce profits for agribusiness. In capitalist logic, the market defines which products are most profitable and investment converges to these products. With all its productive strength, Brazil is linked to the international markets of commodities and, for this very reason, its most profitable products, which dominate the national agribusiness agenda, are exported. With the demand for commodities in continuous growth for some decades and with the dollar quotation at record heights at the international level (external factors), and the demand for food in the internal market depressed by poverty (internal factor), what grows in agricultural Brazil is soy and corn (basic for animal feed), chicken and pork (which also consume soy and corn feed) and beef, mainly resulting from outdoor rearing, on native or planted pastures.

Other products in high demand are also mainly aimed at export: sugar, cellulose, orange juice, coffee, among others of lesser weight. On the other hand, products destined for the domestic market end up indirectly affected by exported products, since every bean or rice producer will always ask himself if it is no longer a business to abandon these products for those exported. The agricultural economy is heavily indexed to crop prices. commodities and the dollar conversion rate.

One wonders if this is not something inevitable in a globalized and dollarized economy and the answer is yes and no. Yes, because the natural tendency of the markets would be the free circulation of products and a standardization of consumption patterns in the world. That is, we would produce (and export) what was more expensive and eat what was cheaper (importing, if necessary). The market operates by pushing in this direction, but it does not operate freely. In fact, the most powerful countries from an agricultural point of view have policies to guarantee the food security of their peoples and the sovereignty of their nations, as well as the advantages of their exports. Both the US and the countries of the European bloc, not to mention Russia or China, Japan or India, ensure national food production through public policies (credits, taxes, research, etc.) and the protection of national markets.

Subsidies for US farmers vary from product to product, but on average, for every dollar produced by US agribusiness, the state adds another dollar in different forms of support. As a result, American food imports are always insignificant compared to national production. There are products that could hardly be planted in the American climatic space, such as cashew or Pará nuts. These are imported, but in the American diet as a whole they (and other rarities of the same genre) are irrelevant.

The level of subsidies in the European Union is similar or higher, varying over the years depending on circumstances. The pressure to break down tariff barriers in large rich markets is constant, but for countries that have historically experienced restrictions on access to food (during the XNUMXs in the US and during the war and post-war Europe), ensuring domestic supply it's a golden rule.

What happens in Brazil is that our domestic market is not attractive for agribusiness due to widespread poverty and misery. Only the A class can represent an interesting market and, for this segment, which is quite a minority, there are national producers and/or purchasing power to access imported products. Poverty is of no interest to business. This logic will have to be reversed if we want to guarantee the human right to food in Brazil.

As in other countries, Brazilian agribusiness receives benefits from the State, although this is not aimed at national food production. The productive model adopted by Brazilian agribusiness is, as in the rest of the world, dependent on the use of chemical inputs, machinery and fossil fuels. Fertilizers based on phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen (produced from the use of oil and gas) and pesticides are essential to make the large monocultures cultivated by super tractors, harvesters and airplanes productive. It turns out that these products are in the process of being exhausted all over the world. There are no more deposits of these ores with the scales that made them cheap. Agribusiness production has input costs that are constantly rising, regardless of any other market factors. I.e, commodities or food, produced in the agrochemical and motor-mechanized model, prices have always historically been on an upward trend, with episodic and short downward fluctuations.

Agribusiness prides itself on producing cheaper than any technological alternative in agriculture, but this “cheaper” price has to do with government subsidies and with another important thing, the elimination of the cost of so-called externalities. What are these externalities? Soil, water and air contamination by pesticides or chemical fertilizers, soil erosion carrying sediments into rivers and lakes, destruction of biodiversity, are some of these factors whose costs do not fall on the product or the producer, but have consequences (costs and others) for society as a whole.

The greatest externality is the impact of the agribusiness productive system in terms of the release of greenhouse gases and, therefore, the acceleration of global warming. Agriculture is the economic sector in the world with the greatest environmental impact and the greatest impact on global warming. Even if we consider only the effect caused by established crops and ignore the enormous impact of new deforestation and fires, the weight of agribusiness in the production of greenhouse gases would still be very high. In other words, it will not be enough to enact zero deforestation. It will be a great help (we will discuss this later) for the survival of our children and grandchildren, but it will not be enough. In other words, agribusiness is doomed in the medium and long term (a few decades), both because of the rising costs caused by the dwindling and more expensive supply of chemical inputs and fuel, and because of its negative role in terms of environmental impacts and climate change.

Well, if agribusiness (which is tech, pop and everything) is doomed, how will the world be able to feed itself? There is a productive model already identified and tested that can perfectly replace the agribusiness system with multiple advantages and it is called agroecology. In agroecological systems, especially the most technically advanced, there is no emission of greenhouse gases and, on the contrary, there is absorption of CO2, that is, reduction of one of the most important gases already existing in the atmosphere. These are systems in which, in principle, we will not have soil and biodiversity losses. I say in principle, because in every system there are those that operate with greater or lesser correction and agroecological practices can be applied on different scales, the largest always being those of lesser excellence and this will be explained later.

Studies carried out by American and European universities and the FAO show that agroecological systems can guarantee food for the entire world in sufficient quantity and quality for proper nutrition. They also show that these systems are capable of equivalent or better yields than conventional agrochemical crops. Also in terms of costs, agroecological products are competitive with large-scale agrochemical monoculture systems (although they do not receive subsidies from the latter).

Many will react by asking: “What is it like? Organic products sold in supermarkets cost much more than conventional ones!”. True, but that doesn't mean they have higher production costs. Two things make organic more expensive: marketing costs and the fact that demand outstrips supply. And the big hand of supermarkets too, of course. The cost of commercialization is higher due to the low density factor and the scale of the offer. Organic producers are still few and far between in the rural world. On the other hand, the very nature of the agroecological proposal excludes monoculture and favors polycultures, the more diversified the better.

This means that the collection of products for sale is done in relatively small quantities of each species on each property. Putting all this together in volumes that are compatible with the cost of transport to markets can be a problem, as every organic producer can attest. But this is a problem that can be overcome as adherence to this production system increases and the supply of products in defined rural areas expands.

What is the limitation of agroecological systems? For a long time it was considered that the intensive use of labor was a decisive limiting factor, since in diversified systems the mechanization of many operations is not possible. Over time, it became evident that it is possible to maintain a degree of diversification in the agricultural space that is a little less than ideally desirable, in order to make possible the mechanization of some operations. It is a “trade of”, certainly, because these solutions reduce the degree of diversification of the microenvironment and, therefore, the degree of efficiency of the system.

What limits the size of agroecological systems in the real world, more than the demand for labor greater than that of agrochemical and motor-mechanized systems, is the demand for quality of this labor and the management capacity of the producer when dealing with systems of high complexity. That is why agroecology is considered to be a system that works, essentially, on small scales and through the direct participation of the producer. In other words, agroecology is a productive system more adapted to family farmers, directly participating in production, than to employer enterprises, dependent on salaried labor and large-scale operations. That said, there are many examples of more or less agroecological agribusinesses that are successfully operating in Brazil and in the world. In all the cases I know of, these are not the most performing systems, but compared to conventional agriculture they are an improvement.

This long preamble is to reach the following conclusion: it will be necessary to replace the agrochemical and motor-mechanized system of agribusiness with agroecological systems and among these agroecological systems, those with the best results are those on a small scale and managed by family farmers.

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).

 

Note


[I] Available in: https://www.scielo.br/j/rsp/a/66QBgjYfmTCSyxhycFDzyLP/abstract/?lang=pt

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  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table

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