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Ukraine’s Organic Agriculture And Its Looming War

by Sayeda Kinza Amna

When the President of Sri Lanka banned agrochemicals in May 2020 and launched organic agriculture, he may have partly dreamed of the big profits that the country could (in theory) make by selling organic food to elite export markets in Europe and elsewhere, profiting from growing demand.

That the local food needs could be easily satisfied was axiomatic within the uplifting belief that ancient Lanka was the granary of the Orient. In the same vein, it is axiomatic to some that Lanka was where Ravana had a fleet of helicopters and airplanes at a time when men lived to the age of 149 years, as recently re-asserted by a government doctor.

The Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture, Roman Leshenko recently declared that “for centuries, Ukraine has been known as “the breadbasket of Europe.” This title is entirely accurate, given that Ukraine is home to around a quarter of the world’s super-fertile “chernozem” or “black soil”.

Soil scientists recognize “chernozem” as soil that is essentially nothing but organic manure. The plains of the Steppes had been the land that stayed fallow for millennia, traversed by Nomads who did no agriculture but provided the soil with the droppings of their beasts of burden. The rich humic soil runs meters deep.

Here then is the perfect natural setting for organic agriculture, WITHOUT having to add organic manure to the soil. If one had chernozem one does not have to resort to the stupidity of importing infected material from China to augment the poor soils of land that gets battered by two monsoons every year to carry away soil nutrients (and pollutants) into the sea.

So, ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Western agribusiness attempted to move in a big way to buy up Ukraine’s agricultural land at fire-sale prices, or at least to recruit the landowners into production geared for selling to the elite segments of the EU where the rich believed that their good health depends on eating “organic food”.

This is food which (they wish) is free of the slightest traces of “industrial agriculture”. Their followers in Sri Lanka call it “Toxin-free” food and they would even prefer to drink bottled Perrier water if they can get at it.

But the Russian move to re-take Ukraine has severely undermined the plans of the European “Organic” agribusiness giants.

The elite classes in Europe have successfully banned the sale of genetically modified food that their activists have labeled “Frankenfood”. Supermarket chains that sell organic food (known in the EU as “bio-food”) have funded political activism that has ensured that “GMO” food remains banned.

However, Ukraine and many parts of Eastern Europe are already sources of soya bean sold in the EU as “GMO-free”, although there are no controls on the seeds used in Ukraine. In fact, most Europeans who think that they are “GM-free” do not know how much of GM is in their bodies. Many pharmaceuticals and the Pfizer-Biotech vaccines are based on GM technology and they have filled the coffers of EU countries, especially that of Germany.

The EU has proposed a “Green Deal” in 2019 to turn the EU into a world leader in green financing and sustainable innovation, and “allow EU diplomats to engage in Green-Deal-diplomacy”, while also creating millions of new jobs. To realize this “grand vision” (the EU version of Gotabhaya’s “Saubagye Daekama”) a true tidal wave of new legislation, political strategies, reduction goals, and financing proposals is being planned. Ukraine and Eastern Europe play an important role in this project.

Even the wild bees used for pollination of farmed tomatoes etc., in Western Europe and the UK are imported annually from Eastern Europe! The decline in natural habitats caused by human encroachment has extinguished wild-bee populations in Western Europe.

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However, instead of recognizing this, the EU prefers to blame pesticides for the decline in wild bee populations. While pesticides like neo-nicotinoides do play a role, we see that it is not critical since honey-bee populations in urban and farmland areas have in fact increased, as revealed by a study lead by the University of Oxford!

However, unlike the slam-dunk ban introduced in May 2021 by the Gotabaya government, the EU wants to first halve the amount of chemical pesticides used in agriculture in the coming years. Going green leads to low harvests, and so the Green Deal also proposes to quickly increase the acreage of land cultivated by ecological standards to approximately 30 percent – from 8 percent right now. This will unquestionably introduce more human encroachment into the natural habitats and go counter-current to good ecology.

Greek diplomat Tassos Haniotis, one of the EU Directors General, has pointed out in an internal EC document:

“Because of the limited supply response in arable organic crops (i.e., the number of organics that EU farmers can actually grow) the Green Deal could even lead to a growing amount of imported food”.

In Sri Lanka, with its more abrupt approach, this need for imports has already become a stark reality.

The EU Green deal with its looming threat of smaller harvests will have international repercussions. Haniotis is an agricultural economist and expert in EU-US trade relations. He was head of the EU cabinet itself and now leads one of the twelve directorates that make up the Directorate-General for Agriculture & Rural Development of the EU.

Haniotis warns that the Green measures currently proposed even at a modest pace would leave the ‘strategically important North African market’ without its usual European wheat supplies leading to price increases in North Africa and leading to these countries becoming dependent on imports from Ukraine and Russia.

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However, if Ukraine with its chernozem soils could be retrieved from Putin and made subservient to Western markets, the EU can be supplied with its desired “organic food”, while safeguarding EU’s conventional agriculture for its export market.

That is, the elitist agricultural policy of the EU, in going Green in spite of lower harvests in a world where famine is a reality will limit the world’s capacity to feed itself. The EU itself will become a food importer.

Meanwhile, the poorer countries that cannot afford to meet their incessantly increasing import bills will have to turn even more towards products of industrial agriculture, leading to even higher food prices for the conventional produce that they have been buying.

This problem will be further compounded into an international tragedy if the elitist interest groups of other countries (e. g, Australia) were to also push to expand their organic agriculture and cut down their harvests.

Unfortunately, feeding the rich with “toxin-free food” and starving the poor are considered to be “environmental justice” by those who fight for organic agriculture.

Source: The Island By Chandre Dharmawardana ([email protected])

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