The Movement to Dismantle Industrial Agriculture

Growing Change

Directed by Simon Cunich (2011)

Film Review

Growing Change is an Australian documentary about Latin America’s food sovereignty movement and the deliberate campaign by Venezuela and other left leaning governments to extract themselves from the US-run system of industrial agriculture.

The film begins by quoting from a 2008 study by the UN Environment Programme called Agriculture at a Crossroads: International assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology.

This study concludes that industrial agriculture can’t produce enough food to feed 9 billion people.* Although it cites a number of reasons for this conclusion, the documentary highlights two of the most important: oil depletion (industrial agriculture requires 66 barrels of oil per year to feed one person) and the destruction of topsoil through repeated use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that kill living organisms responsible for soil fertility. In part due to urbanization, the world has lost 25% of their productive farmland over the last 25 years.

Food Sovereignty in Venezuela

Using Venezuela as an example, Growing Change demonstrates how industrial agriculture increases world hunger, with foreign corporations driving peasant farmers off their lands and destroying local farmers’ livelihoods through cheap food imports.

As Venezuela expanded oil production to become the world’s largest oil exporter (in 1950), ruling elites allowed the country’s agricultural system to collapse. Forced to leave their land (either by direct expropriation or inability to compete with cheap food imports), farmers flooded into the slums of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities. Meanwhile with all the oil profits going to ruling elites and their US backers, mass unemployment and poverty left the majority of the population with no money to buy food.

Things came to a head in 1989 with the massive Caracasa uprising, in which the Venezuela army shot 3,000 protesters.

Venezuelan Reforms Led by Grassroots

For me, the chief value of this film was learning that most of the reforms Hugo Chavez implemented were driven – not by Chavez himself – but by well-organized peasant and workers groups. Moreover it was clearly the power of their organizing that brought him to power in 1998.

Between 1998 and 2008, Chavez used oil revenues to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition from 21% to 6%. His land reform program redistributed 6 million acres of vacant land to 250,000 families. Working through community councils and self-governing cooperatives, the new occupants put most of this land into organic production. Chavez also heavily subsidized organic urban farms on vacant city land, free meals at work sites and community centers and a 40% reduction in the cost of imported food for the poorest families..


*World population is predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050.
**Unless they had illegally expropriated the land, landowners were compensated at fair market value for undeveloped land the Chavez government confiscated.

5 thoughts on “The Movement to Dismantle Industrial Agriculture

  1. “For me, the chief value of this film was learning that most of the reforms Hugo Chavez implemented were driven – not by Chavez himself – but by well-organized peasant and workers groups. Moreover it was clearly the power of their organizing that brought him to power in 1998.”

    Power in the hands of the people. So it appears that the only way to feed the masses will be to return the old ways of privately owned farms being supported by while supporting local self-governing communities.

    Sound right and good to me!

    Like

    • It seems to have worked in Venezuela, despite the long transition involved. I suspect much of the recent economic crisis (related to the drop in the price of oil) relates to the fact that Venezuela is still way too dependent on food imports.

      It’s good to know about these strong mass movements, though. It gives me hope that Venezuela can survive their recent electoral setback.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s good for all of us to know this. When people see others moving in a direction that directly responds to the sever issues they are facing, it should give hope to them that there is another way, a better way, if they will just be willing to make a move.

        I will be reblogging this tomorrow.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.