Sunday, May 14, 2006

Protein imperialists

(I'm lovin' it!)
We happen to live in a world of clear-cut options: If you live in the rich part of the world you can die of obesity. If you live in the poor part of the world you can rejoice that you finance the rich part's over-consumption, and at the same time die of malnutrition or starvation.

Many Danes are happily aware of the fact that Denmark is one of the richest countries in the world. The income per capita (GDP per capita) is some 45.000$. That is a hundred times more than some of the poorest countries.

What the Danes do not know is that very often it is these poor countries that "pay" for the Danish affluence. This happens by means of the so-called protein imperialism. The so-called "highly developed" Danish agriculture feeds its animal stock with fodder imported from the poor countries. There is an enormous global nutrition loss in the proteins having to go through the animals before hitting the inner stomachs of the obese welfare citizens.

The average Dane eats three times as much meat as the average world citizen. The yearly consumption of meat in Denmark per capita is 111 kilos. That is the second highest in the EU.

The big Danish production of pork is made possible by a large import of soya-bean cakes from Argentina. To produce this import of soya beans it takes some 11.000 square km of Argentine land, or what corresponds to a quarter of the total Danish land mass. The consequences for Argentina of the production of such crops to the world market is poverty and malnutrition among its own inhabitants. Land distribution is very unequal in Argentina, and the big farms are specialised in producing cash crops for the world market. And a lot of land lies idle. That leaves too little land to small farmers with a varied production of food to supply local needs for a varied diet.

The website the footprintnetwork has tried to measure these ecological footprints. The result is that the Danes leave a massive ecological footprint in the poor countries.

4 Comments:

Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

“The consequences for Argentina of the production of such crops to the world market is poverty and malnutrition among its own inhabitants. Land distribution is very unequal in Argentina, and the big farms are specialised in producing cash crops for the world market. And a lot of land lies idle. That leaves too little land to small farmers with a varied production of food to supply local needs for a varied diet.”

Dear Cosmo,

I beg to disagree here- and I’m no “neocon” wonk of “ultra-capitalist” sycophant.

But your friends at “Global Footprints” sound like (intellectually dishonest and antiquated) Marxist “Third Worldists” with an unconvincingly thin spread of “eco-friendly” varnish.

Their pompous use of pseudo-scientific “facts” such as a comparative table showing the Reverse GDP per square of arable land divided by the root cause of poverty is quite laughable!

It’s a global market out there, and if the Argentines can’t produce a given agro commodity at a reasonable price, well Danes (and Turks and Zulus) will simply vote with their euros and shop elsewhere.

You can’t blame Argentina’s economic woes on some heartless Scandi “capitalist conspiracy” or on some bitter IMF-imposed financial rescue package.

50 years ago, Argentina was a rich country with a relatively high “First World” GNP per capita, a highly productive agricultural sector and an equitable distribution of income.

Back then, in “capitalist” countries such as South Korea, Portugal and Malaysia, or in socialist nations such as say China or India, 90% of the population lived in poverty.

Good governance and efficient economic policies have little to do with the nature of the political regime…and a lot to do with a country’s culture, the willingness its citizen to work hard, and the rational/productive outlook of its political leader- whatever their ideological persuasion or the color of their skin.

I’m afraid Argentina has failed miserably on all counts and only has itself to blame.

11:37 AM  
Anonymous cosmic duck said...

Dr. Victorino.

I'll partly give you that one. There is some oversimplification in my analysis.

On the other hand I do think you lay too much blame on the Argentinians. If you compare Spain and Argentina, you have two rather homogeneous, Spanish speaking populations with fairly high educational levels. Spain gets inside the EU and thus integrated in global economic structures. Argentina lies isolated in the south seas with only somewhat economically less developed economies to trade with. The country did not diversify its economy. It is partly because of an economic structure derived from colonialism. England built railways into the interior of the country at the end of the 19th hundred and it purchased the produce. Just before the First World War Argentina was among the ten richest countries in the world. But in the 20 th century the global economic game was a different one. Selling beef and grain to the British was not a passport to continuing prosperity, as the Economist remarked in an article on the country's economy. The passport to prosperity seems to be a diversified exports and integration into world markets. Why couldn't Argentina accomplish that?

Apart from the geographical position, the colonial heritage played a role. You cannot create incentives among peasants and day laborers who depend on the great latifundistas for making a living. The distribution of land is very unequal, and in many cases land was hired out, thus developing a feudal structure of landlordism.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous A Dane said...

sooo, what? we should stop buying stuff from Argentina?

I don't see how that is going to help them.

2:28 AM  
Anonymous Cosmic Duck said...

Dane.

Maybe it could help the Danes if there were less industrialised farming. The farmers spread the slurry on the fields. So in the springtime when you want to go into the countryside to rough it a little bit and have a nice time in nature there's the pungent smell of slurry all over.

8:22 AM  

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