Hi there, back again. I will now make a turn in my blog posting and make it much more focused, regular and in-depth as I am beginning my new long-term project on migration in Europe. In about a week’s time I will be making a first research trip southern Spain, where I will visit the provinces of Cadíz –on the Strait of Gibraltar– and Almería where I will be briefly reuniting with Simca, who is doing some undoubtably great work on an organic farm there, and Lucas with whom I am making plans for collaborations in Spain and beyond. I am also looking forward to cook up a storm with Simca from her organic produce. But first of all the excursion is for seeking out places and people and getting some more direction on this project. This also means I will be writing a lot more in the near future, but also will be shifting focus to developing a project site, which currently sits at thomaselsted.net. Alongside an exhibition I am having in May-June, this site will be the site of investigation of migration across and around the external border of the European Union, with a geographic focus on migrants from North Africa into Spain via the Mediterranean. More on that soon.
Still from We Feed The World (2005)
On the subject, I just watched the really terrific documentary We Feed The World on global vs. local food production and the internal logics of global foodstuffs corporations. The movie can be watched online for free here. It features a vital interview with Jean Ziegler, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and some frank statements by the CEO of Nestlé. Here’s Ziegler:
“The absurdity of the situation in the agricultural markets today is the following: The rich countries, that is, the EU and the United States, give subsidies to their farmers for the production and export of their produce, last year to the tune of 349 billion dollars, [almost] a billion dollars a day. And the consequences of that is dumping, the destruction of agriculture in the southern hemisphere where there’s almost nothing else apart from peasant agriculture. To take an example, the capital of the republic of Senegal in West Africa, is Dakar. This city has the largest agricultural market in West Africa, the Sandagar Market. If you go to Sandagar Market, you can buy European vegetables, European fruit, European potatoes and so on, for a third of the local prices. So to the Senegalese peasant, even if he works himself into the ground for 18 hours a day under the burning sun, he hasn’t got a chance of being able to survive by working his own land.
So what can he do? If he’s still got the energy he risks his life as an illegal immigrant via the Strait of Gibraltar and has to hire himself out somewhere or other in Southern Spain or work as a street sweeper in Paris in inhumane conditions.”
“Free trade has nothing at all to do with freedom, that’s an enormous lie. It’s the freedom of the predatory animal in the jungle when Nestlé, for example, takes on an African farmers’ syndicate. That’s like Mike Tyson going into the ring against an unemployed and undernourished Bengali.
And the corporations, the power of the corporations in today’s world is expressed in a figure published last year by the World Bank: Last year, 52% of the gross world product, that means all the wealth produced in the world in a year, was controlled by 500 global corporations. And these global corporations are run purely with the aim of maximizing profits. The largest food product corporation in the world, with almost 300.000 employees, operating on five continents, and controlling over 8.000 brands, is Nestlé.
Nestlé is currently headed by a likable, suntanned Austrian. But he obeys the internal logic of the corporation, that is, value-free profit maximization. And if he doesn’t every year produce new, astronomical profits for his shareholders, then he’ll be out on his ear. The huge power he has today, over hundreds of millions of people in the world, won’t help him one bit. Profit maximization is the murderous strategy of global corporation hierarchies.”
– Jean Ziegler, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
The suntanned Austrian CEO of Nestlé is named Peter Brabeck. From his office in Switzerland, he says:
“Water is, of course, the most important raw material we have today in the world. It’s a matter of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter.
The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that you as a human being should have a right to water. That is the one, extreme solution.
And the other view says that water is a foodstuff like any other, and like any other it should have a market value. Personally I think it’s better to give foodstuff a value so that we’re all aware that it has its price, and then that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water, and there are many different possibilities there.
I’m still of the opinion that the biggest social responsibility of any CEO is to maintain and ensure the successful and profitable future of his enterprise. For only if we can ensure our continued long-term existence will we be able to actively participate in the solution of the problems that exist in the world.”
“We’ve got to create a positive image of the world for people, and I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be positive about the future. We’ve never had it so good, we’ve never had so much money, we’ve never been so healthy, we’ve never lived as long as we do today. We have everything we want and still we go around as if we were mourning for something.”
Chair of the world’s largest producer–exporter of bottled drinking water, perhaps that’s a hint to what solutions he in having in mind, and his salary of $11 million annually, may help to explain why he’s never had it so good. The reality for the small farmers and hungry people around the globe, those millions of people which he goes on to say depend on his company, is a bit different, and less favourable: As Karl Otrok, the production director in Romania for Pioneer, one of the world’s largest producers of hybrid (GM) seeds for agriculture, says to a traditional Romanian farmer:
“I hope that the people here, the small farmers, will not have enough money to buy our seeds, that you will stay with your good seeds (…) We came here long time ago and we fucked all the West. And now we came to Romania, and we will fuck all the agriculture here.”