Beginning with statements made years ago on the late George Ann Hugh's The Byte Show, in recent years I've been arguing a hypothesis that I call "GMO geopolitics." The basic idea is that, with growing worldwide focus on the alleged safety and "higher yields" of GMO vs. natural crops, a perfect vehicle would be created for Russia to represent itself as the champion of natural heirloom seeds and non-GMO crops. Much more recently, I pointed out that this seems to be the case. That nation has passed laws, and President Putin has signed them, banning GMOs altogether in that country (and hence, big American and European "agribusiness" cartels like I.G. Farbensanto) until long-term intergenerational studies can be undertaken to evaluate the claims made for GMOs. We know the story: ever since F. William Engdahl's Seeds of Destruction Marie-Monique Robin's The World According to Monsanto, there has been an increasing concentration on the scientific claims made for GMOs, and independent studies of carcinogenic relationships, and even of falling yields against rising costs over time, have been suppressed by the "Big Food" combines.
In Russia's case, my "GMO geopolitics" hypothesis has two edges: (1) that Russia would have to ban GMOs to keep its agriculture - and hence an important part of its national security and sovereignty, out of western agribusiness hands, and (2) that this would enable Russian agriculture to become a supplier on world markets to farmers not wanting to do business with the likes of I.G. Farbensanto. I'm old enough to remember Russia's constant need, under the Soviet Union, to import western grain to make up for shortfalls in its own production. The flip side of this GMO geopolitics is, of course, that the agri-cartels that have such influence over western governments have moved aggressively to spread the reliance on their "product" around the world. IN a certain sense, we could replace the old Cold War "Western bloc" and "Communist bloc" with "non-natural food bloc" and "natural food bloc."
In any case, those shortfalls in Soviet production were back when the Soviet Union still incorporated the "breadbasket of Europe", the Ukraine, in its territories. It has now lost that "breadbasket," but its agriculture is boomingt, as the following story shared by Mr. V.T. suggests. But there's a long-term looming catch here; see if you can spot it:
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why Russia's production is increasing; government subsidies, programs to develop the agricultural potential of Siberia by promoting private individual farms (which, incidentally, look a lot like the 19th century American homestead act), and so on. But one factor stands above them all: Russia still has much more potentially productive land than the USA, which has pretty much developed its potential. Russia is, in a word, simply bigger.
As I said, however, there is a catch, or actually, two catches. Catch number one: Russia's population in the final days of the Soviet Union was stagnating, life expectancy was dropping. The policies that led to this situation have been either reversed, or at least, curtailed. Russian families are being encouraged to have children, complete with tax breaks. If Russia is to develop its agriculture, it needs more people involved with it, and hence these policy changes and the promotion of a kind of homestead act. But catch number two is an equally important one, and Mr. Putin alluded to it in his address to the State Duma and Federation council last December:
In the early 2000s, we were deeply dependent on food imports. The situation has turned around completely. Now we are on the verge of more changes. In just four years from now, we plan to be supplying more food to global markets than we will be importing from abroad. We need to increase exports of meat and high-added value products, as well as to make the country more self-sufficient in beef, milk and vegetable supplies.
I want to stress that development of the agricultural industry is strongly related to commodity production. However, this development must not be at the expense of small farms and their workers. We must support family businesses and farmers. We will develop cooperative agriculture and create conditions for residents of rural areas to increase their income. Every now and then we hear about problems with people’s interests being affected, I am aware of them. Such cases must be taken very seriously.
Nevertheless, I want to say thank you to the agricultural industry workers for the record-breaking harvest of 134 million tonnes. Note that it is more than the record harvest in the Soviet Union. In 1978, the USSR produced 127.4 million tonnes. Now it is common for Russia to exceed 100 million tonnes.
Clearly, such a large harvest has a downside as well. The prices have gone down; there are some storage and transport issues. We have established discount rates on transporting crops by railway until July 1, 2018, to support our producers.
It is necessary to consider extending this measure to the next harvesting seasons as well as to arrange additional deliveries to the Urals, Siberia and the regions far away from ports. We must help those who want and can process crops locally. Added value needs to be increased. Then we can go into the livestock industry with this product. We will certainly discuss these and other problems reported by agricultural workers at the agricultural producers’ forum in March, and will elaborate on additional measures to support the industry. (Boldface emphasis added)
Note, again, that Russia's current production, without the Ukraine, has exceeded Soviet production with the Ukraine. But Russian agriculture now faces some systemic problems alluded to by Mr. Putin, namely, the development of local processing capability, and the development of the infrastructure, read railroads, to support the development of Siberia and those "homesteads". In other words, the infrastructure development is part and parcel of the "GMO geopolitics" that we have seen taking place. And this, of course, explains China's involvement (which, with one billion people to feed, needs that Russian agriculture, which in turn needs those Chinese markets.
And of course, there's another player in the mix here, and that's Japan. Japan, like China, needs a stable food supply, and energy, and both are ready to hand in Russia. None of this will happen overnight, but rather, over the next two or three decades. But if allowed to develop, this "GMO geopolitics" could easily remake the geopolitics of the Far East, and reach out and even engulf India, where farmers have been caught in the GMO vice to the extent that opposition has grown to New Delhi's policies. If India should ever slow down or halt its backing of GMOs, then one can imagine at least one country they might turn to for "heirloom seeds."
See you on the flip side...