An Eco-sustainable World
Planet Agriculture

The Folly of the Commercial Treaties

The Folly of the Commercial Treaties

Many modern Politicians and Economists are inclined to create commercial virtuosities that they expect, according to their words, will increase the GDP and therefore the wealth of a Country.
These commercial treaties (almost always) respond to intere sts of some economic group or other that, through these, sees its sales horizon widen, and with it its profits.
The only ones that do not earn anything are almost always the citizens who, through these commercial treaties, see these imperatives (I would say impositions) dressed up as “liberalization” applied without any choice.
What is more, these commercial treaties always regard two fronts: the one that imposes (Multinational) and the one that succumbs, which more often than not is agriculture.
Up until this point we could always say that in the end it is a question of commercial exchanges and therefore business, but things are not going how the authors of liberalization would have us believe.
We are saying nothing new if we say that for every kilo of goods which are transported we introduce into the environment a share of CO2. But when transport involves agricultural and/or manufactured commodities that are introduced into an area that already produces them, we create a useless emission CO2 notwithstanding the Kyoto protocol, which the European Parliament is one of the most active promoters and defenders of in the world.
This insane rush towards indiscriminate and blind consumerism, to which is added the production of agricultural products from outside the territory, or in forced systems (protected crops and greenhouses), is producing an unprecedented ecological imprint.*
To give an example, the production in a greenhouse of 1 kg of tomatoes releases 3.5 kg of CO2, in comparison to less than 0.05 kg from the same quantity of tomatoes produced in a field, a difference of over 70 times as much. Without counting that the transport of food products (strawberries, apples, tomatoes, asparaguses, courgettes etc.) by air from one part of the planet to another can produce around 1,700 times more emissions of CO2 than transport in a truck for 50 km. Until some decades ago, food travelled short distances in its journey from the producer to the consumer; instead today they cross oceans and continents. The actual estimates show how 98% of fresh Italian agricultural production is transported at a distance that is more than 50 km away from its place of production.
Ecological ImprintThe increase in the mobility of commodities presents its “ecological backpack” with a drastic increase of the emission of CO2, as well as other pollutants. A kilo of kiwis that arrive from New Zealand cross around 18,000 km and emit around 25 kg of CO2; 1 kg of peaches from Argentina crosses over 12,000 km and emits around 16 kg of CO2. At last the concept of food at zero kilometres is starting to gain ground. This underlines how important it is to eat local food which is in season. In addition, it is important to prefer products which have reduced packaging. In fact, another factor which greatly effects the environment is food packaging, which is estimated to count for the equivalent of 225 kg of CO2 pro capita per year, above all for certain products and for bottled alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. Even if we preferred not to consider this serious situation there is another price that must be paid. This price is caused by a domino effect which politics does not seem to want to address:
1. When a commodity coming from a competing country enters another territory, the first effect that is had is the abandonment of the production of that commodity; if we are in the agricultural field, the end result is often the abandonment of the land (this effect is exponential as new commodities are introduced by competing markets);
2. An abandoned land suffers from structural and ecological instabilities that give rise to a series of effects that today go under the name of hydrogeological instability (which is little indicative of its true cause);
3. Finally, but perhaps most worryingly, the abandonment of the land, and of those particular productions, often interrupts a millennial culture and vocationality that not only produced wealth from an economic point of view, but above all safeguarded and guaranteed knowledge. When this knowledge is lost, it is very difficult and complex to restore it (and the Plans for Agricultural Development are of little use, if at all).
The CO2 that is emitted into the world today does not have uncontrollable origins; it derives from the stupidity (together with the disloyalty) of too many powerful people. The Kyoto protocols and the great intergovernmental conferences do not accomplish anything if people do not understand that the Planet and Humanity are not places and factors of exchange, but Entities that must be safeguarded. Finally, I want to cite an extract of an article by the Chilean economist Max Neef (barefoot economy):
“… In addition, we have to bring consumption closer to production. I live in the south of Chile, a fantastic area, where we have all the technology necessary for producing dairy products of the highest quality. A few months ago I was having breakfast in a hotel and when I got a little butter thing I discovered it was from New Zealand. Isn’t that crazy? And why do these things happen? Because economists don’t know how to calculate real costs. To bring butter from 20,000 kilometres to a place where you make the best butter, under the argument that it was cheaper, is a colossal stupidity, because they don’t take into consideration what is the impact on nature of 20,000 kilometres of transport. As if it was nothing. In addition, it’s cheaper because it’s subsidized. So it’s clearly a case in which the prices never tell the truth.”

Guido Bissanti

* The ecological imprint is a statistical index used for measuring what humans require from nature. It compares human consumption of natural resources with the ability of the Earth to regenerate them.

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