Africa: Our Agricultural System Is Destroying the Earth and Our Health

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analysis

Increasing amounts of bio-diesel are produced from palm oil. Because of its impact, especially on ancient peatlands, it is far from carbon neutral, generating up to 600% more greenhouse emissions than the fossil fuels it replaces. No amount of greenwash can obscure the real destruction of this industry.

Another destructive trend is the impact that removal of the protective coastal mangrove fringes has, in order to develop shrimp and prawn farms.

This highly profitable type of aquaculture has caused massive social and environmental disruption, along with losses of important agriculture and water resources. It is also associated with widespread use of dangerous chemicals and antibiotics to treat disease in these intensive production facilities.

Following the destructive logic of the free market, its profitability has ensured its continued global expansion. The cost paid by consumers does not, and cannot reflect the full long-term environmental impacts of this destructive form of aquaculture.

In South America increasingly vast swathes of the Amazon, along with the dry but ecologically sensitive and important Brazilian Cerrado and the pampas of Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina have been covered by an endless monoculture of chemical resistant, genetically modified soya beans. This almost contiguous soya monoculture is disparagingly called "la republica de la soya", "the soya republic."

These beans are ground into protein cake for chicken, pig and cattle feed while the oil is processed for food, and increasingly for 'biofuel." Diesel made from Brazilian soya oil has a highest carbon footprint of any "biofuel", even more than conventional petrol or diesel, with nearly a 300% greater environmental impact.

Worse, livestock fed on soy and maize, rather than natural pastures, emits more greenhouse gases than naturally raised animals. They are also more prone to disease and less healthy for the people who consume them.

Along with these trends there is an increasing shift toward leasing or selling communal or "state" land to replace areas damaged by short-term, intensive industrial-style farming or lost to expanding urbanisation. This involves contracts between commercial entities and developing nations, particularly in Africa, to a lesser degree on the old Soviet granaries of the Russian steppe.

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