The Greatest Revolution

Most people throughout the industrial world see cheap and readily available food as simply another modern amenity, such as electricity or running water.  Few understand that agriculture has always been political, because it is tied to human survival.  Even fewer know that the world is currently undergoing one of the greatest agrarian revolutions in history: one in which small farmers, en masse, are being driven out of business and off the land by large farmers and agribusiness, creating widespread political, economic, cultural, and environmental chaos.

The instruments of this revolution include the World Trade Organization (WTO), regional trading agreements such as NAFTA, and the European Union.  These promote international agricultural trade over domestic agricultural equity and stability.  Up until the early 1990’s, almost all governments followed supply-management policies that kept agricultural prices high through price supports, set-asides, and loans.  These policies were never perfect, but they allowed small farms to thrive and helped stabilize rural societies—always an important political goal, especially in developing countries with large and impoverished rural populations.

These policies began to change with globalization.  Large producers and their host countries—namely, the United States and the European Union—began aggressively to promote policies...

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