Food Web or Food Chain?
In a 2009 communiqué entitled “Who Will Feed Us?” the Canadian nonprofit ETC Group (www.etcgroup.org) describes the current model of industrial agriculture as a food ‘chain’ starting with Monsanto and ending with Wal-Mart. Under the auspices of feeding the world’s hungry this industrial chain has consolidated food production and distribution into the hands of a few multinational corporations which view food as a commodity rather than as a human right.
In this model, diversity means inefficiency and monoculture reigns supreme. The ETC Group points out that of the 5,000 varieties of plant species domesticated by indigenous and small farmers, industrial agriculture concentrates on primarily 12 species, including the major genetically engineered crops: soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and alfalfa. Small farmers – many defiantly reclaiming the title of peasants – have domesticated 40 livestock species. Industrial agriculture? Five. The numbers are equally disparate for marine life.
As opposed to the genetic uniformity of industrial agriculture, small farmers breed diverse crops that thrive regionally through selecting seeds from the hardiest producers and saving them for the next growing season. Contrary to popular perception, ETC Group asserts that at least 70% of the world is fed by the small farm food web, including those cropping up in urban areas like the Weaver’s Way Cooperative in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
It is a web that acknowledges producers are also consumers and farmers exist in symbiosis with the communities they feed. Rick Rigutto, the new farm manager at the Weaver’s Way Mt. Airy Farm, speaks to the transformative power of the food web in the short clip included here. Like Vandana Shiva who believes saving indigenous seeds is a revolutionary act, Rick also believes the “loudest action” a person can take is that of gardening and farming to feed oneself and one’s community.
Who will feed us? Who will sustain us and the earth? More and more people are recognizing the answer, rejecting the bonds of the food chain, and taking their places within their local food webs. Through A Patented Life we hope others – you – will begin to do the same.