Agribusiness Against the Climate

by Silvia Ribeiro*

In the COP26 on climate, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, two countries with serious culpability for climate chaos, announce their new plan for global agriculture and food. Mexico, joined in, thanks to Secretary of Agriculture Villalobos, who is intent on promoting polluting activities in favor of transnational agribusiness.

Called the Agricultural Innovation Mission for the Climate (AIM4C), the plan was announced by Joe Biden on November 2. It has more than 70 partners among big transnational companies like Bayer, Basf, Syngenta, PepsiCo, along with the Croplife global association of agrochemical companies, BIO the global association of biotechnology industry, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the Global Economic Forum (Davos Forum), as well as countries who gave their support such as Mexico and Brazil. The major culprits of climate chaos and environmental, social and economic devastation in agriculture and food see this plan as a juicy business. 

According to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture for the U.S., they already have investments of 4 billion dollars to re-launch the concept of climate-smart agriculture. They now refer to a new wave of digitalization, high technology and agricultural and food distribution robotization, transgenic seeds, animals and microorganisms, production of synthetic meat in laboratories, as well as maintaining the heavy use of agrochemicals, but managed with digital platforms and artificial intelligence.

This battery of new digital technologies, robotics, and biotechnologies aim at consolidating the major entry of the technological titans, like Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Facebook in agribusiness, into agreements with the likes of Cargill, Bayer and John Deer to achieve greater control of the activities of farmers and workers, as well as a panoramic view of territories and resources, from their drones and satellites.

On November 4, the global network Climate Action Network (CAN), that brings together 1,300 organizations, granted this project the Fossil of the Day Award, given to those in the COP that increase climate chaos or prevent it from being confronted. The text that accompanied the ironic prize asks, “Did Joe Biden think that we wouldn’t realize that this is a ploy to recast industrial agriculture and disruptive technologies as climate action? It is quite clearly the opposite, and it goes against any principle of justice, sustainable development or food security. This gift from Biden to COP26 is part of a strategy to exclude farmers from agriculture and replace them with  robots and genetically engineered seeds,  and to increase the profits of technology for his Silicon Valley cronies.”

Sol Ortiz, Sader’s (Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development) envoy to the COP26, defended the interests of Monsanto, Syngenta, and their affiliates for years as the previous executive secretary of the Biosafety Commission. Though she was removed from that post, taking into account her disposition in favor of transnationals and transgenics, as well as for having obstructed the consultation with the indigenous peoples that defend apiculture and the bees against the toxic contamination in the Yucatán Peninsula, Secretary Villalobos reinstated her for the interests of agribusiness and appointed her director of Attention to Climate Change and of the National Strategy for Pollinators (!) within Sader. On her first day of presentations in the COP26, Ortiz assured that Mexico supports said climate-smart agriculture.

Paradoxically, the project AIM4C in which Mexico has embarked without consulting campesinos, tries to make us think that it is headed toward an agrifood system with lower carbon emissions. On the contrary, in addition to maintaining greenhouse gas emissions due to the high use of agrotoxins derived from petroleum, methane and other gases caused by synthetic fertilizers, the digital activities, data capture, cloud-based information storage and processing, besides generating greater dependency of farmers, it demands a monstrous amount of energy. 

For example, the ETC group reports, Bayer- Monsanto presumes to have currently more than 69 billion data points taken from its agricultural applications — the use of which it charges to farmers, despite the fact that it appropriates their information. The company estimates that the sensors on the harvest equipment recover up to 7 Gigabytes of data per hectare. One approximate calculation indicates that for that, in the cornfields of the United States alone, uses 3.3 billion kilowatts/hour (that is, 3.3 terawatts/hour), equivalent to the annual consumption of electricity of a nation like Senegal. And this is just one company — currently all the transnationals of agrotoxins, seeds, fertilizers, and machinery, along with  big tech sell their digital agricultural platforms. (https://tinyurl.com/ynyezvz7).

By all accounts, the Agricultural Innovation Mission (AIM4C) is a new way to exacerbate severe climate chaos and undermine food sovereignty in the process.

*researcher at the ETC Group

This article was published in La Jornada on November 6, 2021. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/11/06/opinion/021a1eco
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.