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Economy

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’agronomie importe plus que les nanotechnologies

by L’agronomie importe plus que les nanotechnologies

Agronomy Matters More Than Biotechnologies

Translated Monday 1 March 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

At the Paris Agricultural Show this year the spotlights are on biotechnologies as the flagship of modernity. But short of a political agenda to set priorities, we’ll be moving towards a system where agricultural production will be geared to a multiplicity of uses depending on the profitability of niches.

At the Paris Agricultural Show this year the spotlights are on biotechnologies as the flagship of modernity. Under the influence of agro-business firms, the show’s organizers lay emphasis on the multiple demand for cereals and oleaginous plants outside the food markets. Besides the production of green gas, the promising outlets in the future are drugs, cosmetics, detergents, textiles, plastics, packaging. There are doubtless rich possibilities in each of these sectors. But short of a political agenda to set priorities, we’ll be moving towards a system where agricultural production will be geared to a multiplicity of uses depending on the profitability of niches.

Allowing the invisible hand of the market to favour only the most profitable crops is the wrong way to set about reforming the EU’s common agricultural policy. At EU level, it is already standard policy to buy basic agricultural products at the cheapest possible prices, and so to give priority to imports from all over the world rather then local farmers’ subsistence crops. This policy spells ruin for our farmers and for the ecosystems of Southern countries that export soya, palm oil and many other crops. In the farmers’, as well as in European consumers’ interests, the post-2013 CAP must look as far ahead as the year 2050.

In forty years’ time oil will be most expensive. Nitrogen fertilizers will be more expensive to produce and phosphate-enriched fertilizers using ore minerals will become rarer. To feed 500 million Europeans, ecosystems will have to be put to intelligent use; herbivorous ruminants and omnivorous animals like the pig will have to be fed on less granivorous food rations. By the mid 21st century, chestnut, walnut and olive trees will be as precious in Europe as they used to be. On condition that we start planting them right now. Agricultural productivity tomorrow will depend more on the diligent use of the right agronomical practices than on intensive technologies.


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