Before reading Eating Tomorrow by Timothy A Wise I am not sure why but I expected this to reading to fit with the narrative of industrialized fast food and we would discuss over processed food and food we eat being of the “future” and “tomorrow” in that sense. I obviously quickly realized that would not be the case as the reading focused on sub-saharan Africa and Mexico. Monsanto Is a agrochemical company that in terms of focus for this reading produce hybrid seeds and other agriculture commodities. Since I am facilitating this discussion I looked up Monsanto briefly before reading this and the suggested searches include “What is Monsanto and why is it bad?” “Where is Monsanto banned?” and most telling in my opinion “Why is Monsanto hated?” all from just googling the name. So I clearly went into this reading with some idea of the general consensus on Monsanto and disapproval of their brand that seems pretty prevalent.
In the introduction WIse writes about his research and visiting family farms, agricultural conferences, agrochemical labs and other locations around the world. Immediately I began to sense a disconnect between farmers, government agencies and agrochemical corporations. The government seemed to put on a front as if they were supportive of their rural farmers and peasants, hosting a conference for them but with a wider lens you could see the superior and isolated treatment of the corporations who are after money and not prosperity. The rural peasants were telling government officials exactly what they needed but being corrupted by corporations such as Monsanto these were mostly ignored. Then came the focus on Africa, more specifically Malawi in the reading. Wise was critical of the efforts made to bring Malawi’s agriculture into prosperity, initially government subsidies were working and leading Malawi farmers into successful crops. Eventually this began to plateau due to many reasons, drought, lack of sustainability of new crops, lack of continued support and many others. Then came the downfall, leading to increased lack of food security due to the pressure on production and economic impact. The reading then shifts to Mexico where Maize has been the cornerstone of their agriculture which was periodically compared to Malawi. The influence of Monsanto became just as prominent and overbearing here.
In this reading I began to really take note of the disconnect between the people of Malawi, the government and the big agrochemical corporations. The corruption of the government by corporations such as Monsanto, which wrote the seed policy in Malawi, leads to the family farmers to be left helpless. With heavy pressure and focus on production the “green revolution” and “Malawi Miracle” are only successful on the surface. With increased production but arguably increased food insecurity the introduction of agrochemical products such as synthetic fertilizer and hybrid seeds becomes a source of increased debate.