Episode #175
Tim Wise: Today’s Green Revolution In Africa and Iowa

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Dave Chapman interviews Tim Wise, January 2024:

Dave Chapman 0:00
Welcome to the Real Organic Podcast. I’m very pleased today to talk with Tim Wise whom I’ve only very recently met. And he’s done just amazing work. His book that he wrote in 2019 is called Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers and the Battle for the Future of Food. Tim does a lot of policy work, he’s senior advisor at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. And he’s also a senior advisor with the Small Planet Institute, where he directed the Land and Food Rights Program for four years, and he’s a senior research fellow at Tufts University Global Development and Environment Institute. So welcome, Tim.

Tim Wise 0:46
It’s a pleasure to talk to you.

Dave Chapman 0:48
Yeah, this is great. So I do want to dive in almost immediately to your book but I would like to ask first, just one personal question, which is, how did you come to do this work? What was your path to becoming really a champion for small farmers and eaters around the world?

Tim Wise 1:07
Wow, that’s a hard question. I mean, although I can identify the point when developing country agriculture grabbed me, I was studying as an exchange student in Lima, Peru, and traveled a lot in Peru through the Andes, and just seeing these remarkable landscapes and all farmed landscapes by these amazingly noble, dedicated, creative farmers who were in deep poverty. And you come back to the city and a lot of those people from those communities are there on the garbage dump scavenging for…for whatever they can get, because they can’t make a living from the farm.

Tim Wise 1:57
And I just thought, how could this be true? How could people doing such noble important work be so downtrodden and underpaid, undervalued really, for what they do and so that’s a pretty much of a through line for me, it’s about trying to recuperate and identify the value that…that kind of work and, and the land on which it’s worked deserves. To protect and honor and make sure that we’re that we’re growing our food in a way that both sustains the land and sustains the people who are doing the growing.

Dave Chapman 2:45
Yeah. Wonderful. You challenge the the industrial model pretty powerfully in your book. And, you know, I can’t help but notice the battle for the future of food. So you’re seeing this is a battle of forces? A pretty big titanic conflict. Yeah, is it tell tell us about that.

Tim Wise 3:13
Well, everywhere I went to research this book, I mean, I’ve done a lot of work in Mexico and in Latin America, and in the US on US foreign policy, but I got to fellowship for the book, to work on the book. And that got me into southern Africa, got me to India got me to a wider range of countries. But it was striking how one of the similarities everywhere I went, was that small farm, smaller scale farmers, family farmers were being squeezed, and they’re being squeezed by big agribusiness firms. Paid too little for their crops, charged too much for their inputs, forced to buy seeds they didn’t want to buy, threatened if they used exchange or sold their own saved seeds.

Tim Wise 4:05
And government policies were mostly being engineered to help the big, the big agribusiness firms put these guys out of business. And we’d seen in our own heartland, these depopulated towns of a few farmers farming vast tracts of land and making almost nothing off it. It’s like why is that the future we want? So. So I began to see it as a real, as much more of a battle not just between family farmers, and agribusiness, but increasingly all of us who want to see a clean environment and a reduction in the changing, the changes to our climate, which are really threatening to undermine the natural resource base on which we produce all of our food?

Dave Chapman 5:07
Yeah. It seemed to me that you were proposing that not only did the Green Revolution fail on the triple bottom line, but it was actually even failing on the single bottom line of in a free market economy. Is that even the most profitable way to do things?

Tim Wise 5:29
For sure, for sure, I mean, my most recent work, which came, came off of the book research in Africa was on the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. Because everywhere I went, it was like, this huge Gates Foundation funded initiative, they’d gotten a billion dollars in funding. All the governments where I was researching were spending, well, in the case of Malawi, I think it was 60% of their entire agricultural budget to subsidize the purchase of seeds and fertilizers by these small scale farmers, the hybrid seeds and commercial fertilizer, synthetic fertilizers that the Green Revolution was promoting. And yet, the yield increases weren’t very impressive, the poverty wasn’t going down. And food security was getting worse for particularly in rural areas.

Tim Wise 6:27
And so it’s like, why, why are we, you’re failing on your own terms. And in addition, you are depopulating the countryside you are increasing climate change, reducing small farmers resilience to climate change, by putting them in monocrops of hybrid corn that they have to buy every year, only grows with fertilizer, which the farmers can’t afford, if the subsidy doesn’t come in, they can’t afford the fertilizer, they don’t get, I mean just the litany of how maladaptive this model is for the realities of small scale farming in Africa is just too long to go into and yet the money just keeps flowing for it.

Dave Chapman 7:16
Okay, so let’s step back just for a minute Green Revolution. So when I was a young person, this was presented as a good thing as, as America trying to do a good thing for the world. And Norman Borlaug got the Nobel Peace Prize. What were the roots of the Green Revolution? What was its name even coming from? How did this work, was it…

Tim Wise 7:42
There are so many myths around the Green Revolution that it was impressive traveling through Iowa, which is the birthplace of Norman Borlaug, the crop breeder, indefatigable top crop breeder who developed the dwarf wheat variety that became the engine for fertilizer intensive, intensive farming of wheat, notably in India, where, you know, he gets the Nobel Prize for having saved millions of lives. Because they were facing famine, is the way the story is told. It was called the Green Revolution, because at the time in the 50s, and 60s, red revolutions were threatening the powers that be in the capitalist economies. And it was actually someone in the State Department who branded it the Green Revolution, saying we need to offer the rural poor, a, some, some hope within capitalism, that they too can prosper, and that they don’t need a red revolution.

Tim Wise 8:58
So the green revolution is the answer. Green obviously, because you’re growing things but not really intended, the green did not mean environmental, it meant they meant plants. So, it is confusing in the new age of when we we now use green to directly associated with environmental goals, but it never had that intention when it was first coined, the term was first coined. And so it really was a way of intensifying production in developing countries by the massive use of agrochemicals, particularly fertilizer and the use of these improved varieties. Productive varieties of seed.

Tim Wise 9:58
Once again have to be understood in their contexts, They were productive precisely because they were bred to respond to fertilizer. So they call it a technology package. The Green Revolution Technology Package is sort of, you know, if you can get the whole package, it’s improved seeds, fertilizers, agro chemicals to control the new problem you have with weeds in monocrop fields, right, year after year, you’re monocropping these fields and you get weed resistance and you need, you have more of a weed problem. Mechanization, if you can get mechanized harvesting, and planting that helps you a lot India got some of that. Irrigation if you can get irrigation…you can control water, you can produce food, right? I mean, that’s…sort of the, probably the most important input that no one talks about, in…in what what increases in production India experienced in the Green Revolution.

Tim Wise 11:00
But you got to a place… and that was massively funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and international aid in India, the first Green Revolution. Now, in Africa, they don’t get any of those things. They get seeds and fertilizers, and they get a lot of promotion of seeds and fertilizers to try to get the get farmers to stop using their local varieties of corn and other crops to intensify monocultures of corn in east and southern Africa, where corn is the main staple. Sometimes it’s also rice that they’ll intensify. And they just don’t get the results. They are not irrigating, they’re not mechanizing, they’re not…providing the kind of agricultural extension, the technical advice that could help farmers become better farmers. They’re not doing soil analysis. So they take the standard off the shelf fertilizer formulation, and sell it to everybody, whether that’s what that particular land needs or not. And it just doesn’t work very well.

Dave Chapman 12:10
Yeah. Did it, I’m curious, did it work better in India? In other words, were the promises actually delivered on in terms of yes, we’re going to feed a lot more people.

Tim Wise 12:24
Yes, and no. And the no is, I mean, the mythology around this is, it’s truly astonishing. And you got to go back to Norman Borlaug, and either blame him or credit him for that, because he was a PR machine. I mean, he takes his Nobel Prize and founds the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, annual event, they give it to, big promotional thing about every year. Now, you know, the State Department hosts the announcement of who the next World Food Prize winner will be. And it all fed this, this big, you know, we’re feeding the world mantra with our Green Revolution technology in India.

Tim Wise 13:18
Some very interesting histories have come out in the last probably, I guess, it’s 10 years. And it took historians rather than agronomists to uncover some of this stuff, but the realities are so much worse than they’re purported to be. I mean, one is that Borlaug, because he’s Borlaug and a crop breeder sells the key, as the key innovation, his seed, and all of the evidence says, seed technology was not what increased yields to the extent yields increase. It was one of the factors. Fertilizer, massive fertilizer expansion, but only in the zone where they, where they invested it. They couldn’t do it in all of India. So it was in the, in the wheat producing zone, in an area where they also installed irrigation.

Tim Wise 14:16
So people say irrigation, you put irrigation, a lot of fertilizer and you can grow a lot of wheat and corn and rice. So what they did was increased the amount of wheat and corn and rice in India, mainly wheat and rice, and that, but when you when you look at the total food production, it grew slowly, the yields grew slower in the decade after the Green Revolution than they did in the decade before. That’s astonishing, right, with this massive investment. And the explanation for that is that if you look at a larger basket of crops all the money is going to one or two crops, it’s not going to the others.

Tim Wise 15:08
Farmers are being encouraged to push their land off of these other crops like lentils and, and healthy crops that are really important for food security. But all the money they’re being given is for, is for wheat. So you put it all in wheat. And you say, well, I’ll buy my lentils, I’ll buy my, my other foods. And those foods suffered their yields, either didn’t go up or flattened out or even went down.

Tim Wise 15:38
And so I found that exact dynamic in Africa, where, sure, you could get some increases in yields in maize and rice, corn and rice, but cassava, millet, sorghum, ground nuts, traditional crops, just literally in the Alliance for a Green Revolution years since 2006. Many of them have seen yields go down. They’ve also seen land planted, go down. And the other thing they’ve seen, which is, again, one of the true, I think one of the most damning contradictions for the Green Revolution model, is that the entire premise and if you read any of their literature, or listen to any of their talks about it, it’s like sustainable intensification is the goal.

Tim Wise 16:27
That means getting more food from the same land because resources are scarce. And we can’t be continuing to expand the land we plant and the planet can’t stand it and the land isn’t there to be taken, and so on and so forth. You look at what these, all the incentives for corn planting in Africa have done, increase yields, we calculated that over over 14 years yields went up a little over 20% Not a very fast pace of yield growth, given the investment. The amount of land planted maize, planted to corn went up 75%. Because we’re paying you to plant corn, go plant corn, and they take take their land out of millet or they expand on to new lands. And all those incentives end up being pretty perverse.

Dave Chapman 17:24
…Excuse me, when you say that the yields went up 20% for corn, does that mean 20% per acre, per hectare or 20% total for the country?

Tim Wise 17:35
No, production went up significantly. But it was not from productivity, right, production per hectare. Didn’t go up that much. It mainly went up because new land was planted in corn. And again, that’s…that’s the problem. They say they’re trying to solve with this technology. And in fact, they’re making it much, much worse.

Dave Chapman 18:04
So if I’m, if I’m understanding correctly, the Green Revolution was actually the industrial chemical revolution being exported. And that they were saying this, this foundation, and I’m assuming working with our government was saying, we have a better way. And it’s the way of industrial agriculture, heavy use of chemicals. I’m assuming heavy use of pesticides as well. And…and herbicides as well.

Tim Wise 18:37

Dave Chapman 18:37
Right. Okay, so we’re taking Iowa and we’re trying to export it to the world.

Tim Wise 18:43
That was the premise of my book. I was like, knowing, Iowa, I was like, why does anybody think this model, that is so badly serving the people of Iowa, in terms of their environment, in terms of depopulating their communities, in terms of farmers going bankrupt? Why does anybody think this is good? The model that the rest of the world should be following? When they don’t even have the capital to to create anything similar in most of these countries.

Dave Chapman 19:13
So let’s talk about Iowa. You looked at Iowa as well as different countries in Africa. What did you find?

Tim Wise 19:22
I mean, I found a landscape overrun by agribusiness. Just a, I mean…what you see, literally when you go to Iowa is just vast, vast expanses of corn and soybean fields. You know, 1000 acre farm it’s not a large farm in Iowa now. Larger scale farmers have taken over their failing neighbor’s land and the only way anyone makes money is if you’re, with volumes of land and production. It’s all very mechanized and technified. But but you see the occasional ethanol factory, you see, you see windmills now. Because they’ve, they’ve actually gone big on on renewable fuels, which has been a good thing. But you see massive pollution of the waterways that come from all of the runoff. And all of the damage to the traditional, the traditional ways that the ecosystem kept waters clean, water, just, you know, nobody know.

Tim Wise 20:49
But I didn’t really know as much about drainage tiles until I went to Iowa. But drainage tiles are the way that kind of, an ingenious way that farmers in the, when they first settled Iowa, for large scale farming, drained swamp land to make it into some of the richest agricultural land in the world. And it is, or it was until we started eroding all the land, but it was and but those drainage tiles just are a way to let the water seep through into these channels that get run into into streams that flow into rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, and take all the runoff down, through…that entire watershed system all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, which now has, depending on the year a dead zone of hypoxia, that kills all the fish, to overgrowth of algae and from other nutrients from the excess nutrients, an area the size of the state of New Jersey. I mean, we’re talking about just unthinkable environmental impacts, that none of the people in Iowa have to pay for. None of the farmers, none of the agribusinesses, none of the…so it’s all one big externality, as economists like to call them, you know, the impact, a negative impact or a positive impact that’s caused by something you do that you don’t actually pay for or benefit from. Iowa is one big environmental negative environmental externality.

Tim Wise 22:27
And then the other thing you see all over Iowa is hog farms, and pig and chicken farms and egg farms. And that’s the other linchpin of this maladaptive model. Is that, Where’s all that corn and soybean? How, why do we need all this corn and soybeans feed, it’s all feed. Feed and the corn is now an input for the ethanol production. Not the most efficient way to produce ethanol, of course, but very efficient way to get you, to get somebody, to pay for all that extra corn.

Tim Wise 23:04
So you have these, these really destructive, environmentally destructive, confined animal feeding operations that we now call factory farms with, you know, I think, I don’t know what the number is. Now, I think when I closed out my research for the book, Iowa had eight times as many hogs as people in the state and then produced I think 10 times, might be higher than that, 10 times as much feces from their production, and then they have absolutely nothing to do with that. With that, with that waste, so some of it can get sprayed on the fields as if the animals were still on the farm and the manure nourishes the land, but it’s not very clean manure, because it’s because of all of the technical processes that have been used to feed the, to feed the hogs so we’ve heard a lot in recent years about the PFAS problem, the forever chemicals.

Tim Wise 24:12
A lot of those are in, some have ended up in the manure because of what the hogs are fed and you’re spraying something toxic onto your fields that then travels with the manure into the waterways for sure. It’s one of the reasons we have such high levels of PFAS contamination in waterways and they’re now finally there some some legislation. I think Maine, the state of Maine is a leader in trying to regulate how waste, how animal waste can be used in, on farmer’s fields because of the recognition that it’s not just a nutrient anymore. It’s a toxic nutrient.

Dave Chapman 25:05
All right. So Iowa is not sounding good. It’s it sounds like a really, a failed model. This is not something that we would ideally want to be sharing with the world, rather something we should be learning how to change. And yet, this is such a power behind this transition of attempting to export this to India and to Mexico and Africa. Why is it so powerful? Why, why is a failed model so powerful?

Tim Wise 25:40
Well, the really smart people in Iowa, who I talked to along the way, would caution me about calling it a failed model. Failed for who? Failed for whom, right? Who. It’s not a failure for Agribusiness. It’s a massive success story for Agribusiness. There are companies that have gotten and continue to get incredibly rich, off of this model. It’s a myth that it’s so good for farmers, because they’re getting generally low prices for their crops with high input costs. And so farming at very high volumes, large tracts of land and not getting much per acre for their, for their work. Their communities have been hollowed out so it’s not, I call it pretty much a failure for rural communities in Iowa.

Tim Wise 26:41
And for most farmers. But agribusiness, you know, the more production you have, the more herbicides you sell, the more seeds you sell, the more the more tractors you sell. So sales are, more you can produce, the more you can sell. And if you’re over producing these crops, so the crop prices are low. If your Smithfield Foods or Tyson Foods and feed is 60% of your of your operating costs, you get a good discount on those on that 60% of your operating costs, which makes you globally competitive. Frankly, it’s not a small thing that that they get a 10, 15, 20% discount on their feed for some, for an input cost. An operating costs that is…that important. That lets them undersell international competitors opened their way into, force their way into markets, like in Mexico and compete internationally. Which then what does that do? That puts Mexican hog farmers out of business. So it’s, it’s massively successful for agribusiness. And that’s why it prevails as a model that’s being…produced.

Tim Wise 28:10
And I’ll say that, that the, it gets the kind of support it does from the international donor community from people like the Gates Foundation, because it produces a lot of commodity crops. So you can say, if you want to say that commodity crops are food, you could say it produces a lot of food, that doesn’t find its way into the bellies of the hungry very often. And it doesn’t often find its way into any bellies at all, except animals bellies. Which, again, are mostly consumed by the middle class in the developing world. So, but it’s all justified, it all has a very strong justification that these poor farmers in Africa are getting really low yields, and they’re hungry. That’s true. What are you going to do about it? We have these seeds, we have these technologies, we can increase their yields and their, and the production of food and then they’ll be good, they’ll be well fed, and that that’s the part that doesn’t happen.

Dave Chapman 29:28
Okay, okay. There’s so much there. We’ll try and tease some of this apart. Let’s say I’m a small farmer in Africa. Tell me what scale I might be what, what would a small farm be there?

Tim Wise 29:42
I mean, you’d have a hectare of land or less. Two and a half acres of land. And you don’t have irrigation, the quality of the soil is variable, but generally eroded because it’s been, partly because of these programs planted in corn year after year after year, and fed with inadequate quantities of fertilizer to actually sustain it in any way. So that the land has, or the quality of the land, the fertility of the land, has eroded over time. And over…

Dave Chapman 30:24
Over how long a time? How long have I been growing corn? Typical.

Tim Wise 30:28
You know, it’s been a, it’s been a staple in east Africa and southern Africa for a long time now.

Dave Chapman 30:33

Tim Wise 30:34
It’s not native like it is in Mexico, that, we’re not talking about 1000s of years, but we’re talking about since colonization brought in, corn became a, it is, in fact, one of the most efficient ways to use a plot of land to produce carbohydrates.

Tim Wise 30:51
The grains.. and so was useful for the plantation owners and mine owners to have a use, a way to, to produce a lot of carbohydrates to keep their workers alive and working. So we’re talking, you know, these farmers on these lands for decades, they’ve been…

Dave Chapman 31:12

Tim Wise 31:13
They’ve been…

Dave Chapman 31:14
Would I be growing most of the crop for sale, or most of it, to eat, my family?

Tim Wise 31:22
most for, most to consume, because you don’t have enough land and you’re not getting enough production. And so that’s the other tricky thing they get, depending on where you are in Africa. But in Malawi, for example, there’s one rainy season. And so you get one crop, the growing season is, if you had if you had irrigation, you could grow two or three crops a year, but nobody has irrigation. I mean, not nobody, but very few farmers have access to irrigation.

Tim Wise 31:50
Water management is actually one of the great, you know, rainwater management, and rainwater storage and some very good interesting projects going on…because that can dramatically help people weather a drought or get through a lost crop. But, but mostly people don’t have good ways to manage water. And so, so they’re mostly harvesting, eating and living off it for as long as it will last. And they measure. One of the ways they measure food security in Africa is with how many months of provisioning does your harvest give you. And it’s it’s almost never 12, it’s sometimes four. And in a bad harvest year, it can be one month, and then you’re working off farm trying to hustle other ways of getting income that can allow you to buy food.

Dave Chapman 32:57
Okay, so the Green Revolution, the Gates Foundation comes to my region, they offer a program, the government has paid for fertilizer to be given to me. And I’m being given these hybrid seeds. What happens next?

Tim Wise 33:17
You say, Wow, really, the government’s actually going to do something for us poor farmers? We’ll take it. Because they don’t a lot of rural folks don’t, haven’t gotten anything from governments. And you say, Oh, this will grow me more food. I’ll try it. And the fertilizer is usually subsidized depending on where you go, with 75% of the costs. So it’s, it’s expensive in Africa to buy fertilizer, but that makes it plausible at least, the seeds are, again, similar kind of discount. They don’t give you enough to plant on your whole hectare of land. It’s usually about a quarter of a hectare of the land that the subsidy will cover. What you’ll do is take that fertilizer and spread it on all of your land, because you want to see all of your land grow not just a little plot, the quarter acre, quarter hectare plot that the government seeds covered.

Tim Wise 34:24
So fertilizer is under applied based on government’s recommendations, because the other thing you’ll do is you’ll share with your family and friends, the fertilizer, because maybe they didn’t get an allotment. Not everybody gets one. So all of the conditions are what the industry would call suboptimal for success for high yield agriculture. And so the yields aren’t good. And so basic, yeah, people did basic cost benefit accounting on a typical Malawian smallholder family. And they said that they found that without the subsidies, they weren’t getting much of a yield. But let’s assume they could sell that extra yield, the extra amount they produced on the market, they make $74 on the market, selling that corn, the inputs alone cost them $207, without the subsidies, and the subsidies usually didn’t kick in to cover all of that extra cost. So where’s the benefit in this? Yields would have to be at least three times as high. And they’d have to be able to sell it at a decent price on the market. And neither of those is prevailing.

Tim Wise 35:52
So as soon as the subsidies stop, they stop using the seeds. I mean, some keep using the seeds, and some keep trying to buy fertilizer. But when the subsidies run out, and the government’s can’t afford them, I mean, they can’t afford to do this year after year, the whole idea of the Green Revolution was that you stimulate this jump in agricultural productivity, the new income you’re getting from that, those increase yields, pays for your future productivity increases and investments in your land. And so if you’re not getting that initial burst in productivity sufficient to sustain that virtual, I mean sort of upward developmental cycle, the virtuous circle of development that you get more than keep feeding money into the land, keep getting higher productivity, keep feeding money into the land, and suddenly you have, you can buy a little more land and you’re a successful farmer. Very rare that that happens, because of the poor yields and poor markets.

Dave Chapman 37:00
So you’ve looked at the studies in Africa, the Gates Foundation basically took over for the Rockefeller Foundation in terms of being the champions, the philanthropic champions of this. Was the USDA, or USAID or something still involved, so this is also a government program.

Tim Wise 37:21
Yeah, yeah. I mean, the three, Rockefeller Foundation stayed in Ford Foundation backed out, and there’s a lot of interesting historical, archival information about the Ford Foundation, recognizing that this was a really losing proposition in India, that it wasn’t working in India. And yeah, I mean, the archival stuff is, for the for the history buffs out there who really want to, are incensed by the kind of mythology of the Green Revolution. There’s some very, I have some stuff I referenced in the book and and other stuff I’ve written but the you know, that one of the things they found in India was that India had very good agronomists, they were starting to get pretty good yields, even in wheat in some of the crops that Borlaug, and so that when they did a bunch of test plots, they tested Indian wheat varieties against, alongside Borlaug’s wheat varieties.

Tim Wise 38:26
And one of the things that tested them for was what’s going to produce the most given the amount of fertilizer we have access to, and one of the things they found was that their varieties would do better. If you spread the fertilizer more thinly among their varieties. Borlaug’s would do better if you gave it all the fertilizer. In the net aggregate, you could grow a whole lot more food, spreading the fertilizer more widely to Indian varieties. But this was Borlaug project. This was the Borlaug demonstration model, we’re going to grow high yield wheat in India, and they’re going to get all the fertilizer. So just, you know, again, the core myth of the Green Revolution just evaporates. The seeds were the solution and…there was no alternative. It was only this brilliant invention that allowed it to happen.

Dave Chapman 39:24
Tim, I have to ask, and maybe this isn’t something that you can answer, but there’s another kind of green involved in all this and that’s money. And you know, these are the most powerful companies in the world, I would say, who are profiting. If this were to succeed. This is the export of our industrial agriculture to the whole world. Were these companies involved in this actively as participants and do you think that there was anything on the part of the government, in terms of well, you know, what’s good for General Motors is good for the USA, that kind of, that kind of mindset?

Tim Wise 40:08
Absolutely. I mean…the companies were right on board with, you know, I mean, it really, it was a very practical question. How are we going to get all this fertilizer to India? Fertilizer companies, are gonna sell it to India, and there’s gonna be some US ships that help make sure it gets delivered. And so yeah, now the companies are at the table all along the way. Glen Davis Stone, who an anthropologist has a book out that tracks just how far back the company influence over, over agricultural policies in the US goes, and it’s way, way back in fertilizers and seeds and in the core agribusiness industries. And then the US government very much was at the beck and call of this, you know, capitalist development experiment, or development initiative that had the promotion of large scale, powerful multinational corporations at its core. And that remains true today, in well, everywhere. That the US is, is very active, US government is very active and actively involved in promoting the, you know, now we refer to it as public private partnerships, right? Government investments, with leaving lots of space and support for private sector initiatives, which is private investment, which is private profit taking, as well.

Dave Chapman 41:56
So this is the way of the government putting a finger on the scale, and, meaning your tax dollars and my tax dollars being used to not actually make this be a free market enterprise.

Tim Wise 42:12
That is true. And, and you, you see that in a whole lot of ways, in a whole lot of parts of the country. I mean, I don’t think I answered your question about the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and its financing, basically, five main partners of finance that the Gates Foundation (the biggest), but then Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, the UK Aid agency, and the government of Germany are the, so it’s a classic philanthropic and government initiative.

Dave Chapman 42:50
And we can grant the benefit of the doubt and say that the people involved genuinely believe that this is the way to benefit these people, and provide a brighter future for all of us. So you have talked about actually looking at evaluations of this the Green Revolution in Africa. First, what are their goals that they’ve stated? And have they met them?

Tim Wise 43:21
Their goals? I mean, I had an interesting argument with, in a briefing that we did with people at USAID in the Feed the Future program, people who fund and support, continue to support the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, because they, well, I was trying to argue to them that, that I actually appreciated that their goals were so ambitious, that’s a good sign. I don’t criticize you guys for setting high goals. And if you don’t completely meet them, I get that. But their goals were to double yields in 15 years, to double incomes for 30 million small scale farming households in Africa, and to cut food insecurity in half and 20 countries. Nowhere near any of those. I mean, food insecurity increased by 31% in the time period we looked at, not going down by half. So that’s the bottom line, which is like, if this is all about feeding the world you are, you are abjectly failing to do that.

Tim Wise 44:41
But there was no way that poverty didn’t go down and particularly in rural areas, and like I said, yield increases were only visible at relatively low levels in the chosen crops, like rice and maize, but not, but decreasing yields in other crops. So, I created something I called the staple yield index, which was just sort of a basket of crops that are grown widely in some of these countries, you know, and in 14 years there was an 18% increase in yields. That is a pathetically low rate of yield increase for any agricultural investment enterprise and, and one that doesn’t come anywhere near to keeping pace with population growth, which is how you gauge whether we’re, are we getting more food for people? No, we are falling way behind, just the new mouths there are to feed nevermind feeding the ones that are there better.

Dave Chapman 45:50
You said in one of your pieces, that there are a billion people who face genuine hunger in the world, which is, I have to say, as a well fed American, is something I can barely wrap my head around that there are a billion hungry people in the world. Is hunger, the same thing as food insecurity? What does that mean to you?

Tim Wise 46:15
Well, there are a lot of different definitions that have been I mean, in a good way, we used to have a really kind of, I think unsophisticated understanding of how people suffer from a lack of access to enough food. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN now has a much more sophisticated set of measures. They come out with a report every year, it’s called The State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition in the World. And they just came out with their new one in July. They measure a variety of things. They measure what they call the undernourishment, and undernourishment is a very carefully calculated thing for country by country, region by region. Depends on how good the data is, but it’s measuring people who have chronic lack of access to adequate food for a year. So you’re talking about not just episodic food insecurity, but chronic food insecurity. And that’s the number that gets quoted the most as the hunger number. And that’s been hovering around 800 million, for the, and it’s been going up in the last six years after slowly going down worldwide.

Tim Wise 47:42
But that’s not the only measure, they now measure a more a polling based, survey based measure of severe food insecurity, people reporting that they don’t have enough food. And that number is higher than that 800 million. They also include in that moderate food insecurity, so not as severe. And the numbers of suffering moderate or severe food insecurity. You’re talking about 2 billion people in the world that don’t have reliable access to nutritious food, they add another measure, which is, who has the access to or the resources to purchase, a nutritious diet. And that bumps the number up to about 3 million people who don’t have an adequate income to purchase or grow a nutritious diet. So that is trying to get at the obesity problem, right? And, the malnutrition as opposed to under nutrition problem. So it’s a very, it’s a much more sophisticated basket of measures that are used that paints a damning picture. And one of the part of the picture that…that’s the most worrisome is that it’s, it’s all going in the wrong direction.

Dave Chapman 49:08

Tim Wise 49:09
In most countries, and a lot of it in the developing world as a whole in the US as a whole. We’re not doing well here. I mean, that’s the other piece of the Iowa story is you got massive food insecurity in Iowa, where they’re supposedly feeding the world. There’s nothing right about that.

Dave Chapman 49:29
They’re not even successfully feeding Iowa?

Tim Wise 49:33
No, no. I mean, because feeding Iowa means that you have people who are not in poverty, who can afford food, if they’re not growing it, and that’s the people working for Tyson Foods and not making enough money to buy a decent diet.

Dave Chapman 49:53
I have heard the number 70% of people in the world are fed by small farmers? Is that, does that sound like an accurate number?

Tim Wise 50:04
Yeah, there’s a lot of debate about sort of how you go about determining what, right, being fed by means. But what’s, very true is that small, you go to a place like Africa small scale farmers are the overwhelming producers of the food that at least 70, probably 80% of the people eat. Because, a lot because of incomes, right, you’re not out on the market buying imported foods or, you know, Kentucky Fried Chicken, if you don’t have a good income, that’s a luxury good.

Dave Chapman 50:45

Tim Wise 50:46
So you’re buying in local markets and the local markets are being fed by local farmers.

Dave Chapman 50:53
So do you think that when the Green Revolution package comes to town, and the economy is transformed to some degree, and how a lot of the farmland is used is changed? And who is farming it? What’s the impact on the community?

Tim Wise 51:17
Yeah, I’d have a hard time generalizing about that one, because I think it varies a lot. A lot has to do with land rights, like what rights the people who are currently, who were on the land before that have to their land. If they can be dispossessed, they will be dispossessed, because the logic of the Green Revolution calls for larger scale production, and so any farmer that’s more successful will take over the land of the failing farmers next door. It’s happened in the US, and you’ll get this increasing size of farms. And those people who are, you know, what they’d like to tell you is that, oh, well, those people who, who had to sell their farms have jobs working on the big farmer’s farm. It’s a capital intensive model. So if it’s successful, it is not hiring a lot of people. And so that’s who, that’s who swells, the slums of Nairobi. Is people displaced from farms, it’s also who comes across our southern border, from Central America and elsewhere. Because it’s not, it’s not a viable living back home.

Dave Chapman 52:37
Francis Moore Lappé has said that hunger is not caused by lack of food, and you’ve quoted that. Could…you explain that, that seems powerful, but perhaps confusing.

Tim Wise 52:50
Yeah, yeah, it was such a, I mean, you have to you have to really appreciate that she said that 50 years ago. Her Diet for a Small Planet came out and they just did a 50th anniversary edition of it. Which was great to see. And I was glad to see that it got as much attention as it did. Because, you know, she’s, she has her hands up in the air saying, I wrote about this 50 years ago, and why hasn’t anybody done anything about it? Why is nothing changed? It’s not that nothing’s changed, but not much has changed. What she said was, she just did the basic research and said, we produce way more calories than people need in the world than the number of people that exist in the world. So why don’t the people who need the calories get them?

Tim Wise 53:41
And her conclusion was, it’s not a scarcity of food, it’s a scarcity of power. Scarcity of power over food producing resources, like farmers who don’t have access, don’t have the ability, enough land, enough whatever, to grow enough food for them or their communities, and workers who don’t have enough income because they’re not getting paid enough. And so that flips the whole hunger question on its, on its head, because if it’s not about, oh, we just have to produce more food and that will naturally lead to less hunger, the jury is way in on that one. That formula does not work. We are not reducing hunger by producing more commodity corn and soybeans.

Tim Wise 54:36
Iowa is, I mean, Iowa loves to think that it feeds the world. It’s feeding carbs and ethanol plants and cars and maybe some of it leaks out through the soybean exports to China to help support meat consumption by the middle class in China. You know, it’s like it’s very hard to draw a through line to the… honestly, on some level impressive increases in production coming out of a place like Iowa of, theoretically food crops, but it’s very hard to draw through line to how it gets into any hungry person’s stomach. That’s more of what Lappe was really identifying is that more food doesn’t reduce hunger unless there’s the distribution channels and the income supports and the kind of creative ways that some social welfare countries have of reducing income inequality, ensuring that the poorest of the poor still have adequate access to purchase enough food and at least not be hungry.

Dave Chapman 56:09
Yeah, 50 years ago. Sounds very clear. Okay, there’s been a recent development. The USDA has just given $2.8 billion to what they termed climate smart agriculture. And this is going to things like the National Pork Board, I think got $155 million. And that’s just one sliver. I mean, they’re all in there. Speaking of pork, they all have their snouts in there, Syngenta and Cargill, and Bayer Monsanto. And they’ve rather brilliantly, given little slivers to the bipoc community, and actually little slivers to the organic community. I believe as a way of buying silence and as window dressing. But I’m curious, do you think? I mean, I mean, we have to say how wonderful that the USDA is acknowledging climate change is so important, and that we need to address it. And then they’re addressing it by giving a lot of money to the very forces that are creating it. Do you see a silver lining here? Is this a step in the right direction, part of a positive change? Or do you see this as actually taking away the energy that we needed to create real change?

Tim Wise 57:33
Well, that’s a that’s a tough question, you’d probably be in a better position given what you do to answer that than I would about whether the net effect is negative. At the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, where I am now a senior advisor, I mean, we’ve tracked, the organization has tracked, some of that funding and what it’s going toward. And what’s true, and positive, is that, it’s new to recognize that agriculture is a contributor to climate change, and we better do something about it. It’s new to recognize that rural areas in the United States are a huge risk of climate change from bomb cyclones and, you know, run down the list of the disasters we see hitting farmlands. So it breaks through, it’s nice that it breaks through that kind of red state climate denial in in a pretty bold way. It also throws money at what have been good but underfunded environmental programs within the USDA that the organic folks and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Family Farmers Association have fought for that are successful programs, right.

Tim Wise 59:00
I mean, some of the conservation programs have been very successful, but ATP has documented that, that they don’t, USDA hasn’t had the money to meet demand for them. So if this gives them money to meet demand, and more land actually gets stewarded in a better way, that’s a net benefit. But that doesn’t really answer your question about you know, are the people causing the problem actually gonna hijack more of the money to shift the debate certainly see that in in the debates over regenerative agriculture, or even agroecology, right all of the different terms that are used organic, certainly but terms that are used to define or discuss what we should be trying to do.

Tim Wise 1:00:05
And you know, there, there’s some real co-optation going on there to say, Oh, well regenerative is anything that has any positive impact on any part of climate change, even if its contribution to the overall toll of climate change is still negative. You know, I think everybody points to methane digesters on factory farms and methane digesters are a way to keep methane from going up into the air from manure, and it is a one of the three most potent greenhouse gases, that has a tremendous impact and could be much better controlled. So that has a positive impact. But what are they doing with it, they’re using it to create methane pipelines to send methane to places like California. So California can claim renewable energy can meet its renewable, renewable energy goals, in effect, by helping keep factory farms and maybe even contribute to the expansion of factory farms.

Dave Chapman 1:01:21
It doesn’t challenge the model.

Tim Wise 1:01:23
It’s certainly, it’s even worse than just not challenging the model, it deepens the model. You know, when the ethanol plants are saying we’re going to take our, our CO2 emissions, and we’re going to ship them to, to the west, to the Dakotas. Because those, those CO2 emissions are going to be buried forever in, in the deep caverns that are being created that are…open there for storage. So it’s a form of carbon storage, so we’re taking CO2 out of the atmosphere would have gone into the atmosphere, those caverns are for fracking. So if they’re going to use the CO2 emissions as part of the high pressure drilling that’s done to frack more natural gas out of those lands, you know, where is the it’s cynical, to the point of disbelief.

Tim Wise 1:02:30
But those are those are Biden administration projects. They’re getting support from the administration as part of this push. I mean, I do think that, you know, you have to be in the United States and in a place like Iowa, in the Midwest. You have to be you know, I talked to agroecology researchers there who are, you know, understand the terrain they’re working on. And they’re really trying to find ways to shift the debate, open windows, to new ways of doing things and thinking about things in the hope that over time, the tide does turn, because of climate change, because of water pollution, because of so many of these negative externalities. Because of the poor state of farming communities that there could be a shift.

Tim Wise 1:03:39
But you gotta, you gotta take your…your wins, where you get them. Matt Liebman, Iowa State University is, is brilliant talking about this, but he says their strategy is to find small changes that farmers can make, producing disproportionate environmental benefits. And he talks about strip farming, the Strip Program, which you may have heard about. I mean, they’re ingenious about this stuff. They find patches of land on big farms, big industrial farms that, that they show, again, using precision agriculture, which has the advantage that it can identify a small patch of land on a big farm that is not worth farming, because it’s not profitable. It doesn’t produce, it’s too low, it’s too wet. It’s too whatever. They persuade farmers to take that out of circulation and plant prairie grasses there. And the prairie grasses have a disproportionate impact on habitat restoration on water filtration, on reducing runoff. On all kinds of environmental benefits, and I think they won a, I read that they won a like a MacArthur grant to expand it, because they were, because it was so successful, given, in effect, how little you were asking a farmer to do.

Dave Chapman 1:05:04

Tim Wise 1:05:05
And it benefited the farmer, the farmer saw their soil fertility go up and their costs go down. It’s like…

Dave Chapman 1:05:10

Tim Wise 1:05:11
The environmentalists to say, yes, I want to do that.

Dave Chapman 1:05:14
This is a big question. And, you know, Rodale is doing a project with Cargill, you know, to take a block of land organic, and you go, God, that’s great, right? But I have a question, which is that can we possibly solve these issues by persuading mega corporations to do a little bit better? And it’s sort of like saying, we got a buggy whip factory, and they’ve just invented, you know, the model, the Model T. And so our business is threatened. Can we cut labor by 2%? And I think that the problem is, is more profound than that. And I think you think the problem is more profound than that, too. As you say, we’re talking about the battle for the future of food. So, Tim, we’ve talked about a lot of grim stuff here. Let’s talk a little bit about hope. Let’s talk a little bit about some solutions that you see. You just mentioned agroecology. I think most people who listen to this won’t know what that means. That’s something that is well known in many developing countries. It’s a peasant movement, but it’s not very well known here outside of academia. So what does agroecology mean?

Tim Wise 1:06:32
I mean, agroecology means farming with nature, not against it. You’re not trying to overcome nature, you’re trying to, you’re trying to take advantage of and work within the ecological, the ecology within which you’re farming, to maximize its long term productivity and viability.

Dave Chapman 1:06:55
Sounds like real organic.

Tim Wise 1:06:57
It is. It is.

Dave Chapman 1:06:59
My question is…

Tim Wise 1:06:59
I think a lot of things go by, I mean, I think a lot of terms become interchangeable at the sort of high end of practice, right? Like, regenerative, the best regenerative projects are, are truly, you know, in a way they’re, they claim and some of them are even even more positive because they’re regenerating land, right. That’s the whole idea.

Dave Chapman 1:07:23
We got to call it real regenerative now.

Tim Wise 1:07:26
That’s right. I mean, the worst of them, though, is actually where you started, which is climate smart agriculture. Because climate smart agriculture is just a list. There’s no system to it. Agroecology really is a science. You know, organic has standards. Regenerative, real regenerative has measures where they’re regenerating the fertility of the land and an ecosystem. Climate Smart Agriculture is a checklist of things that might do something good for the environment. And for climate change, either adaptation or, or mitigation. And, some are right on the list of like what you want to do. And a lot of them are just ridiculous. You know, you get, it’s climate smart agriculture, if you set aside your land for conservation, but if you only set it aside for five years, and then you plow it back up, all the carbon you’ve sequestered is going straight back up into the air. So it’s like, that’s, that’s meaningless. Unless you do something like you’re saying that goes beyond just the farmers do what they want and what they feel like. And you’ve got to make it, I saw that there was a proposal to make any meaningful set aside like that, or conservation land a 30 year contract, because anything else is…is paying people effectively to do something they can renege on any point, anytime they want to.

Dave Chapman 1:09:07

Tim Wise 1:09:07
That doesn’t give you the benefit. But I mean, your question about where the hope is, I mean, the hope is, hope is all over the world. I’m telling you, like, I saw it everywhere I went, including Iowa. I mean, there’s some amazing stuff like, Matt Liebman’s stuff is incredible in Iowa. I mean, he did this, he has this great farm project, experimental farm project that has been going for, it’s got to be 15 years now more maybe. Where he takes the standard corn-soy rotation of a farm in Iowa, and he and he does things to it to try different treatments in the scientific term, meaning, so different changes. And one of them he just added a third rotation of grasses with alfalfa, for fodder or for…it could be actually for cellulosic ethanol, if there were an industry that would buy it. And that, that change alone, I’m not making these numbers up. They’ve published this in academic journals that decreased fertilizer use on that farm by more than 80%, decreased herbicide use by 97%, eliminated runoff of pollutants and eliminated soil erosion and maintained the profitability of the farm.

Tim Wise 1:10:34
So I say to him, Matt, this is a win win win. It’s like, farmers must be using this all over Iowa and he says, I couldn’t have created a program better designed to impact agribusiness interests in the state of Iowa negatively. Cuz think about it, sell less fertilizer? Koch Industries isn’t going to be happy about that. Sell less herbicides? Monsanto’s not going to do that. Cost of the actual price of corn and soybeans might go up a little bit because you’re producing a little less of it because of the third rotation. Smithfield and Tyson don’t want more expensive feed. ADM doesn’t want more expensive corn for its ethanol plants. Just a, it was kind of a non starter in spite of its, its obvious viability, and it’s a non starter because it’s very hard for any individual farmer to just do it. You need a market for that, those grasses. So he’s like, you know, we used to, Iowa used to have cattle, we had really good cattle. And so one of the goals, or one of the ideas is to try to see about ways of re stimulating cattle. Bring animals back onto the farm instead of taking them off. So, so you get hopeful.

Tim Wise 1:13:45
There it is in Iowa, this hopeful model, all over Africa, I saw farmers practicing what they called agroecology, and was multicrop farming, not monocultures of maize, they identified productive types of local seeds that weren’t hybrid, so they didn’t need to make farmers buy them every year. They didn’t depend on external purchases of fertilizer to grow well. They grew well in multicrops with other food crops and, and they were way more successful then their neighbors at regenerating the land, keeping the fertility up or restoring fertility. There’s a guy named Roland Bunch, a US born agronomist who’s just a campaigner on some of this stuff. And just, he’s got a project, he’s based in Malawi now where he’s, he calls it green manure cover cropping, which was a little bit of a, I find it to be a little bit misleading, because in Africa, what it is, is he’s going to small scale farmers who grow corn, and saying, If you intercrop, with this particular leguminous variety that we’ve identified as being native to your area, and useful to you, you can triple your yields and maize while getting an additional crop at no additional cost to you.

Tim Wise 1:13:45
That’s a win win win and way surpasses the goals that the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa is set for itself of doubling yields, he’s getting triple yields in five years. And you can see, he says he just watched the carbon content of the soil increase as the intercropping and the nitrogen fixation take takes hold. And it’s now operating, he says on five, 5 million farmers in Africa are using that system. So quiet revolutions, right? That don’t get the big money.

Dave Chapman 1:11:54
So why don’t they get the big money? What’s wrong with these philanthropists anyway? I mean, good heavens, if you want to change the world for the positive, and you see these working models that are win win win and you know, in all the people who are losing in Iowa, you left out all of us from the climate, which is 5% of, of the world’s carbon footprint is is is nitrogen fertilizer, chemical fertilizer. So what’s going on? They’re not stupid people.

Tim Wise 1:14:45
Well, I said up before win win win. Win, for whom? Not for the big companies Roland Bunch’s model doesn’t give anyone more money except the farmer. Nobody gets to sell anything. Maybe the harvest will be bigger. So you’ll need more harvesting equipment. You’ll need better roads, because they’ll be producing more and you’ll want to get it to market. You’ll need warehouses to store the new grain, I guess you’re selling some, you could sell some of those things. But they don’t want to see a model that sells that doesn’t sell seeds, doesn’t sell fertilizers and doesn’t sell agrochemicals. Doesn’t sell, probably doesn’t sell tractors. So lose lose lose for them. And who calls the shots? And again, that’s partly ideological, because, you know, all of the evidence that we’ve gathered on the Green Revolution for Africa failing, has had an impact.

Tim Wise 1:15:56
But I can’t say it’s had an impact on the powers that be pulling their money from the Green Revolution project and saying, Oh, my God, this is, what a shock. We thought we were feeding people. And we’re not. We need to change course, I will tell you that the Rockefeller Foundation did change course, there’s actually two interesting changes, which are, you know, you can’t call them huge and meaningful, but the Rockefeller Foundation said, we’re all in on climate change as a foundation. And this project isn’t so consistent with that commitment. So we’re going to shift our money within the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, to funding intercropping of leguminous crops with maize, not maize monocultures, and toward the purchasing of that, in school feeding programs in Africa. Excellent. Excellent. That is not a Green Revolution project, even though it’s within the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

Tim Wise 1:16:58
But the other thing that happened was that last year around this time, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa announced that it was taking the Green Revolution out of its name. That Agra, the acronym for Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, would heretofor just be known by its acronym, Agra, and that we’re distancing themselves from the association with the Green Revolution. Basically, without changing anything about what they do. But interesting, because we just we started this whole conversation talking about the hold that the myth that the Green Revolution has over all of us, all of these societies. And we just punctured that with a lot of this research and campaigning by African groups saying this is not serving our needs, and this is failing. And somehow they woke up and said, Oh, maybe we need to distance ourselves from this. So maybe that you know, is a sign that there starts to be some chinks in the armor of the Green Revolution and potential openings for more effective activities.

Tim Wise 1:18:13
But at the grassroots level, at the farmer level. They’re doing it. They’re doing it. I saw amazing projects everywhere I went that are really you know, farmers unions and you know, farmer associations with nutrition project with, in Malawi, with sort of, initiated by a nutrition program at the local university to increase diet diversity by increasing crop diversity. They found this, identified a really nutritious Vitamin A rich, bright orange variety of native corn that was being grown in the region, replicated it, reproduced it purified it, tested it, yes, very high in available vitamin A, grows well without fertilizer, grows well without intercrop with other crops. I started a whole agroecology program in this community, massive success, like nutritional benefits for the community off the charts. Farmers kind of broken off from their dependence on these subsidies for seeds and fertilizers. They use them or they don’t they don’t need them.

Tim Wise 1:19:34
And, and again, it’s like there’s a low cost resource that, a low cost strategy that a government could adopt and…and scale up and instead, the government of Malawi designs a seed bill that was literally written by a former Monsanto employee that criminalizes, would make it illegal for that community to sell the seeds of its bright orange corn to development agencies who want to buy it. Make it illegal to sell it because it’s not certified by the government. And anything that’s not certified, and I’m not making this up, they were saying you wouldn’t even be able to call it seed. You could only call it grain. And farmers are like, wait a minute, we’ve been growing this for generations, you’re going to tell me it’s not a seed? Farmers actually didn’t. There was a little uproar about all that. And they got some of the worst provisions of that seed bill taken out so they can continue to sell and exchange and develop this. But that’s how bad it is.

Tim Wise 1:20:47
Flip side, though, I’m doing a lot of work in Mexico, where there’s a government that’s committed to, to improving the quality of corn farming in Mexico, quality of the corn, favorite native corn, favoring domestic corn, reducing imports, reducing the use of GMOs of GM corn in in tortillas. In Mexico, they banned the use of GM corn in tortillas. Again, I worked in Mexico for 30 years and, and the pilot projects that were ignored by governments in Mexico for those 30 years are the basis of the massive expansion of agroecological training, transforming a lot of the ways that these programs are…huge agriforestry program, massive agriforestry program. And I know the guy at the National Research Institute, who developed it, who had these three experimental plots around the country and was getting great results. And nobody was paying any attention to him. And suddenly a government comes in that cares, wants to do cost effective things that help poor farmers, and boom, it’s being done on, I forget how many millions of trees they’ve now planted on farmer’s lands, the increased soil fertility, but game changer.

Dave Chapman 1:22:17

Tim Wise 1:22:18
So things can happen.

Dave Chapman 1:22:19
Things can happen. One last question. There’s so much more we could talk about, but one last question. EU has the Farm to Fork initiative, and it’s pretty aspirational. We’re talking about reducing chemical inputs to agriculture in the EU by 50%. increasing their certified organic agriculture land to 25% of their agricultural land. This is, I mean, this is a true revolution. This is a green revolution. So Vilsack has basically declared war on this program. Do you think, do you see this as a hopeful sign? Or do you think that, that they will just be drowned out by the, by the efforts of the USDA?

Tim Wise 1:23:10
No, I mean, one of the good, one of the good pieces of news about global policies like this is, is the US doesn’t have the same influence they used to. The US doesn’t, USAID, USDA doesn’t call the shots anymore. They have enormous influence and the companies obviously have enormous influence too, but it’s, but it’s not the same world in that sense. And you know, you can have an entire state of India that declares that it’s going for zero budget, natural farming, and another state that says we’re going for full-on organic within five years, and it’s like, Oh, okay. You know, there’s not the same level of power and control.

Tim Wise 1:23:58
I do think the, you know, the insidious piece that…comes from, that doesn’t come directly from the government, is the corporate power. And, again, going back to Francis Moore Lappé. And her, you know, she moved on, from focusing on food to focusing on money in politics, and the threats to democracy in the United States and elsewhere. And she did that because she said, I’ve been doing this for 50 years, and nothing’s changing fast enough. And it’s not changing fast enough because our policy, our politics are completely corrupted by money.

Tim Wise 1:24:42
So how do we get the money out of our politics? And how do we get corporate money? How do we get corporations back to a point where they’re not calling the shots on what our society does and doesn’t decide to take seriously and do. And I think that’s…that’s correct. That’s an enormous challenge in a place like the United States, but we are such an outlier in terms of how much we allow corporations, and the rich generally, to control our politics. It’s just not like that in most countries, which isn’t to say they don’t have influence, but it’s to say that it’s not entrenched in the ways that are…high rent politics is entrenched. And in that sense, I don’t know about the EU and its Farm to Fork program and whether they can hold out. I mean, they’ve, they have on a lot of other things, on some of the things, chemicals policies, you know, it’s the reality is that the health outcomes for the United States of its diet are terrible. And we all suffer for that. And more and more information comes out about just how maladaptive our diets are to our society, and how much they harm us. That starts to wake people up to, there’s a lot of opportunities for wake up calls, and it’s got to somehow overcome the power of big corporations to drown it out, or silence it or, or ignore it.

Dave Chapman 1:26:35
Yeah. Tim Wise, thank you for being one of those people riding through calling out the alarm and, and calling out the solutions. I, in the short week that I’ve been reading and listening to you, I’ve learned a lot. So thank you very much.

Tim Wise 1:26:55
It’s my pleasure. Really a pleasure to talk to you.

Dave Chapman 1:26:59
All right.