Food Sovereignty, Crisis and Greece

If today we all speak about (and experience) the financial crisis in Greece and the impact it has on society, especially the lower classes, the policy memorandum that squeezes labor income and the privatization of public infrastructure, we do not seem to have realized  the role this policy can play within the context of the nutritional dependence of contemporary Greek society. We live in a country where 40% of the dietary needs are met by imports, the agricultural production fabric is either dissolved or is commodity-oriented  and directly dependent on EU subsidies . (ie the creditors of the Greek State). We are standing in front of one  more rural restructuring  leading to an entirely  business-oriented agriculture.
Within 30 years Greece, from having a positive trade balance, now is importing 40% of food consumed …

The local varieties have been displaced from  fields and gardens and  a few improved varieties per species and some hybrids have prevailed almost totally. Until the 50s, 111 local varieties of  soft and 139 of  hard wheat, 99  of barley,  294 of corn  and 39 of oats were cultivated  in Greece . From these not  more than 2-3%  has survived. The above were varieties which had  adapted to regional conditions  for centuries and therefore were highly resistant to diseases and had minor requirements in water or pesticides. Now they have given their place to “improved” varieties needing more water, pesticides, fertilizers.

The principal amount of CAP (Common Agricultural Politics) subsidies favored the major crops (cotton, sugar beets, cereals, industrial tomato, peaches, tobacco). The intensification of crop was at the expense of the natural environment, with depletion of water resources and at the expense of product quality. The production evolved in  a chase for subsidies and  indifference to the facts of the actual relationship between production and consumption. In the plains of Thessaly and other areas, production based on the intensification, monoculture, growth of industrial inputs (mechanization, agrochemicals), increased use of fertilizers and pesticides leading to pollution and depletion of water and soil.

At the same time, imposing quotas in the production of agricultural products led to the import of a series of products. Ones that could be produced in the country, though. Through subsidies farmers turned to specific crops, to reach today the choice to totally abandon production, since they are subsidied regardless of whether they produce or not (of course that will only last until 2013, when any form of subsidy ends). Restructurings and playing with grants resulted in a huge decline in agricultural production in Greece.

Now we import onions from India, lemons and oranges from South Africa, plums and pears from Chile, lentils from Canada, beans from China, chickpeas from Mexico, pistachios from Turkey, okra, beans and  potatoes from Egypt. We reduced the production of beet… to import 200,000 tons of sugar. For cereal import we spend 250,000,000 euro at the same time that 150,000 small-medium farmers have abandoned the production process. The percentage of farmers, in all the economically active population, is declining from 31% in 1981 to 9.5% in 2009.

Farmers are actually the recipients of the prices of agricultural products, decided by the dealers and cartels of the  processing industries. Consumers pay a price 4-6 times higher than the ones the producers charge : for example, oil paid to the producer at 2 euro to reach consumers at 5 euro, the wheat is paid to the producer at 0.14 euro per kilo to reach consumers around 2 euros, cow’s milk paid to producers for 0.40 euros to reach the consumer 1.20 euros.

The nutritional dependence of the country will contribute even more to the economic hardship for parts of society. Therefore, the awareness of parts of society and the anti-capitalist political movement of the criticality of the food sovereignty and control issue acquires an imperative character and is taking  initiatives in relation to their recovery of local communities, outside the context of corporate production, challenging more and more directly the commodity production of food .

The forms of social resistance against the totalitarian control of nutrition and food production from the capital pass through a series of structures that deny the production methods and criteria  put by capitalist economy. Some of these could be:
• Establishment of networks between producers and consumers based on mutuality and trust as far as the quality and prices are concerned. These are small and transparent, easily manageable networks where everybody knows each other and lead to the bypassing of intermediaries.
• Create collectivist structures of agricultural production by farmers themselves and make the effort for the  distribution of their produce to take place outside the corporate circuit, in close collaboration with social networks and movements in the urban centers.
• Seizure of state and church land from movements of unemployed people in an effort of self-management of their productive potential .
• Occupation of land and cultivation of it  inside  the urban centers from neighborhood  movements to strengthen people who are facing serious problems of survival.
• Recovery of agricultural production in semi-mountainous and mountainous areas, with collective farms based on the use of local varieties , native seeds, organic farming and a variety of products.

The text in greek.