The importance of biodiversity in agriculture, markets and diets.

  • 10th October 2019
  • by secretary

Article  by GRAIN on the importance of biodiversity in agriculture, markets and diets.
Summary of emerging critiques of biofortified crops:

  • The main underlying problem with biofortified crops is the belief that health can be reduced to a few nutrients. Malnutrition cannot be isolated from poverty and inequality. Since biofortification doesn’t address the root causes of poverty and malnutrition, it risks blindly reinforcing it.
  • The second major problem is the belief that adding nutrients to a few staple crops that are supposedly most accessible to the poor is better than promoting a diet rich in diverse foods. This strategy promotes dangerous farming practices like monocultures and monotonous diets.
  • Biofortified crops are part of a Western and white male-dominated approach to what food and agriculture should look like: capitalist markets serviced by formal (and often corporate sponsored) scientific research.
  • Women and children suffer many forms of discrimination and malnutrition, but they should not be used as pretext for pushing a technological fix that risks deepening social injustices. There is a lack of meaningful and inclusive consultation and dialogue with women prior to these research projects and their evaluation.
  • Biofortified crops are a top-down solution. They are not aimed at strengthening local farming and food systems, but replacing them with supposedly superior crops.
  • 6. While many biofortification programmes are presented as using ordinary breeding techniques, they are a trojan horse for bringing in GMOs. Scientists use a number of biotechnology tools to pack nutrients into staple foods including transgenesis, mutagenesis and genome editing. These serve to create patented GMOs which pose significant threats to food sovereignty.
  • Biofortified beans on sale in Rwanda
     (Photo: Harvestplus)
  • 7. The role of agribusiness and food corporations like PepsiCo, Nestlé, Bayer and DuPont in promoting biofortification is worrisome. These companies are part of an industrial food system based on monocultures that destroy biodiverse farming systems and processed foods that are a major cause of global malnutrition and diet-related disease.

… approaches to address hunger and malnutrition should be based on the five following principles:

  1. Sharing information and education about healthy diets and living, with an emphasis on women and gender equality;
  2. Strengthening women’s leadership in food policy decision-making and food systems research;
  3. Promoting diversity in farming and in diets, not monocultures or single foods. This includes valuing local plants and animals, food cultures, seeds and local knowledge that sustain health and keep communities strong;
  4. Lowering the cost and increasing the availability of fruits and vegetables in part by redirecting subsidies and other public funds currently promoting industrial commodities and processed foods; and
  5. Indigenous greens like “quelites” in Mexico
  6. Resisting the neoliberal takeover of food and agriculture that treats food and crops as commodities and patentable intellectual property to facilitate corporate profits. Addressing the root causes of poverty and hunger requires keeping food and agriculture under public and community control.