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US Senate, Bill Gates Give Planet a Middle Finger for Earth Day

Mother Nature does not work like a market: simply put, the world cannot shift to diets based on grain-fed meat.
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A broad coalition including Bill Gates, Tim Geithner, the US State Department, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the World Bank, and others have a plan to help the world's hungry by working in opposition to the recommendations of scientists worldwide, including the findings of a report commissioned by the World Bank and the UN. Ironically, they chose Earth Day to deliver this flaming bag of poop on Africa's doorstep.

Back in 2008, the World Bank and the UN commissioned IAASTD report issued its findings: Go organic. The report - which stands for the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development - examined how we can best use the most current science to feed our world. The over 400 scientists involved agreed that an agroecological approach (i.e. using ecology to grow food) is the best way to feed the world, provide employment in the agricultural sector, and care for the earth. They specifically rejected biotechnology (i.e. genetically modified organisms) as the solution to global hunger, noting that it was highly incompatible with the needs of smallholder farmers in the developing world and the promises made by the biotech sector for the past three decades are still largely unrealized despite billions in investment in biotech.

The U.S. was one of three countries (along with Canada and Australia) that did not approve the IAASTD report. The U.S. rejection, which occurred under the Bush administration, came as a result to the report's stances against biotechnology and free trade. Following the inauguration of Obama, the U.S. was back to a multilateralism - so we were told. But not on this issue. Hillary Clinton's science advisor, Nina Federoff, is a holdover from the Bush days who believes wholeheartedly that biotech and industrial ag are the way of the future. Obama selected several pro-biotech, pro-industrial ag appointees for key positions in his administration, including Rajiv Shah (formerly of the Gates Foundation) as head of USAID, Roger Beachy (formerly of Monsanto's non-profit arm) as head of the USDA's agency that funds agricultural research, and Islam "Isi" Siddiqui as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the U.S. Trade Representative's office. Say what you want about industrial ag and GMOs, world - we're gonna go this one alone.

The U.S. government (along with the Gates Foundation) is calling for a second Green Revolution. The first Green Revolution relied on toxic chemicals like DDT and traditionally bred hybrid seeds to increase crop yields in the developing world, notably in Mexico and India. In the decades since, we've seen a simultaneous rise in per capita food production and a rise in hunger. If you read the plethora of speeches, op eds, and articles these new Green Revolutionaries churn out, you know that they are calling for a doubling of food production by 2050. (Obviously since massive increases in per capita food production didn't work the first time, we should keep trying.) Here's what you should know about that: Their numbers assume that the rest of the world will transition to a diet more dependent on grain-fed meat.

Simply put, the world cannot shift to diets based on grain-fed meat, and Americans need to reduce our consumption of grain-fed meat too. Mother Nature does not work like a market, operating on supply and demand. When economic markets support producing and consuming more industrially-produced cheap meat, Mother Nature does not take action to account for the increased carbon emissions, water usage, manure pollution, or even human health consequences. For example, a recent study found that people who eat 4 oz of red meat (including pork) daily are 25%-33% more likely to die within the next decade. Our very ability to continue to exist as a species on this planet relies on a decrease in grain-fed meat consumption. Americans, in fact, must shift to a primarily plant-based diets, supplemented by pasture-raised meats in order to address the climate crisis and a host of other issues. Therefore, the goal of doubling food production by 2050 is a false one.

Yet, today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing, discussing plans to deliver biotechnology, fertilizer, and other hallmarks of industrial ag to Africa. USAID head Rajiv Shah went so far as to refer to USAID efforts to expand biotechnology around the world as "sustainable." (This is far from true, as shown by the Union of Concerned Scientists' report Failure to Yield. To date, biotechnology has not increased agricultural yields but it has increased overall pesticide use. Industrial agriculture results in carbon emissions, pollution, and soil degradation, whereas agroecological farming methods ameliorate all of the above.) Simultaneously, Bill Gates and Tim Geithner published an op ed in the Wall Street Journal, announcing $30 million from the Gates Foundation to a fund to boost food production in the developing world. The fund will be supervised by the World Bank, which, despite sponsoring the IAASTD report, seems to be on board with the pro-industrial ag, pro-biotech approach of the United States. It is highly ironic and disturbing that they chose Earth Day to announce these crimes against the earth.