Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Food Crisis in Argentina: The Chronicles of Eating Locally II

Vast increases in production of soy beans is implicated in current political unrest in Argentina, Le Devoir reports this morning. Export taxes placed on Argentine crops in March led to protests by farmers, which were followed by demonstrations in the streets decrying increases in food costs, and then to more protests and retaliatory arrests last week. The New York Times reports today on a tough speech given by President Cristina Kirchner Tuesday in which she said the protests were holding the country in hostage, that the taxes were just and that her government’s agricultural policy was good.

Interestingly, the NYT story doesn’t talk about the dangers of monoculture, which Le Devoir and other sources say lie behind the imbalance between agricultural production for international markets and for local consumption. But it seems that Argentines are pretty sure that’s where much of the problem lies. A slick YouTube video put up by soya producers argues that isn’t the case, and its very existence is a testament to what Argentines (and many agriculture analysts) think. (It's in Spanish but you don't need to know much of the language to get the gist.)

What do you do when the crops produced in your country go elsewhere and the food you buy skyrockets in price because of factors beyond your control? Take to the streets, I guess. But before it comes to that, those of us who can should buy locally as much as possible. This will help maintain the profitability of local agriculture and reduce the temptation for producers of selling out to globalized monoculture.

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