Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Report on Occupy the World Food Prize

Intro by Mike Miles

Thanks to our lawsuit against the World Food Prize and the Iowa State Legislature we have gained legal access to the Capitol grounds for our 6th annual Occupy the World Food Prize Resistance Action.
Previously we were banned to a parking lot 100 yards away from the Capitol entrance and when we crossed the street to approach the building we were arrested and charged with trespass. After our rally Frank Cordaro and Mike Miles crossed into the posted "restricted" area and approached the front doors. After multiple warnings from the Iowa State Patrol it became clear that they were told not to arrest us and we invited everyone to join us at the door. Our speculation is that the World Food Prize is worried they, as a private entity using the state's most public building for their propaganda about Industrial Agriculture, may lose access to using the Capitol for their party. Stay tuned and consider joining us next year as we continue the resistance to Corporate Ag's most visible presence.

 OWFP's  Working Committee members Oct 19 Speeches Sharon Donovan and Tom Mathews

"Welcome To Iowa! a sick and unhealthy State"  Sharon Donovan's Rally Speech

      World Food Prize attendees, welcome to Iowa, one of the sickest places on the planet thanks to industrial farming.  Our land and rivers, our lakes and aquifers are full of toxic chemicals. The corporations, Monsanto, Dupont, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF and their poisons have given us dead soil, toxic drinking water, and fish kills. 
      We eat and breath pesticides, Monsanto’s glyphosate, 2,4D, atrazine, and dicamba is spread across the land. Glyphosate is now in our blood and bones.  It is in 80% of our food and falls from the heavens in the rain.  Our children are sick from preventable illnesses.  And still we have thousands who are hungry, just like Nigeria. 
      The greedy corporate biotech industry and the Farm Bureau has as their mantra money,
       Beware of the WFP teachings, their workshops and experts who have sold their souls for profit. Beware the WFP promotion of GMOs, these seeds are deadly. 
      We will continue to fight for the health of the people, we will continue to define ourselves by the best that is in us, not the worst that has been done to us, to our health, to our land, to our planet.
      We fight for sustainable and organic agriculture, and we will persist, we will always take another step, and if that is of no avail, we will take another and yet another step until we prevail and our land once again is alive and our people healthy. 

Thomas Mathews  OWFP Working Committee <> talk at Occupy the World Food Prize Rally

        The WFP has a lot of work to do. They need to stop the destruction of central Iowa farmland by urban sprawl “development”; the WFP needs to put farm families back on the land; and the WFP needs to promote farming that provides food for people, not feed for hogs (and cattle, chickens, and turkeys).
         It has been said that the great distance between what is and what ought to be will drive a good man insane. I will repeat that in a less sexist and hopefully more  persuasive way: the great distance between what is and what ought to be will drive a good person to despair and despondency. Nowhere is that distance to get to where we ought to be greater that it is concerning the WFP.
          I learned a new concept recently: despair without defeat. The despair part is easy. After all, we are plagued with a number of complexes. You all know about the military-industrial complex. They no longer need to worry about getting us into another war they can profit from—the war we have now, The Global War on Terror, should last them for several centuries. Then there’s the agriculture=industrial complex that is giving us cancer, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and polluted water. Finally, there’s the medical-industrial complex that benefits greatly from all the disease and war wounds provided by the other two complexes.
          So undefeated despair is easy for the despair part. As to the WFP, I have already listed three areas where we can despair with hope if we can get them to act.

First, saving Iowa farmland:
          Here’s what my 7th grade geography teacher told our class during the 1961-62 school year at Merrill Junior High School, in Des Moines. He stated, “The richest square mile on Earth is just north of Des Moines.” Our teacher was not talking about gold, or diamonds, or oil. He was talking about rich farmland. Unfortunately, today that richest square mile on Earth may be under a strip mall, a parking lot, or a housing subdivision now. And it’s not only the land just north of Des Moines; all around central Iowa the land is incredibly rich. Furthermore, unlike California’s highly productive Central Valley, which is watered by irrigation, in normal years our Iowa farmland gets plenty of rainfall to produce a crop.
         The news media celebrate this destruction, celebrating every time a new data centers or mall is built. The media are even hoping Amazon will build their second headquarters (HQ2) in Iowa.
         WFP is silent on THE destruction of central Iowa farmland that could feed millions.
         So what to do? Award the WFP to a person or group working to save Iowa farmland.

Put farmers back on the land.
       Around 1950, Iowa farms were typically 80 to 160 acres. It was hard work, but a family could provide for themselves, and still have enough food to sell to city people.
       Since that time, the number of farmers has decreased, while farm size has increased to the point where 1000 acres or more is normal, with farmers both owning and renting land and using environmentally destructive machinery and chemicals to stay in business.
       At the same time, there are thousands of young people who could be running small farms but are working here in Des Moines in office cubicals doing the work of giant finance and insurance corporations.
       Give the WFP to someone who is working to re-establish small, environmentally sound farms in Iowa and restore farming as a healthy way of life.
        The 2017 WFP winner illustrates how far the WFP  has to go. The banker who won this year wants to make African farming like Iowa farming, with fewer farmers, larger farms, more chemicals, and more GMOs. He says farming is NOT a way of life; it is a business.

Grow food for people.
        About a year ago, I special ordered a 25 lb. bag of organic red kidney beans from Campbell’s foods. When I got the order, I was surprised to see that the beans were a product of China. This is ridiculous. Organic beans can be grown very well in Iowa! In fact, my backyard garden here in Des Moines—on a mere 0.014 acre-- produces bountiful yields of tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, and collard greens, without chemicals or artificial fertilizer. These, and dozens of other human food crops, can be produced in Iowa on land that is now used to grow animal feed.
      Give the WFP to someone who is working to promote the use of Iowa land to feed people, not animals.
       Another concept I learned recently is that some institutions exist to obstruct change. Is the WFP that type of organization?
       The call for action I have just outlined would not please agri-business and other corporate interests. So is the WFP here to serve those corporations, or to serve the Earth and its people? Only time will tell.

IV   Occupy & Educate at World Food Prize 2017 by Patrick Bosold <>

         The 2017 edition of the World Food Prize (WFP) was an industrial agribusiness extravaganza held in Des Moines, Iowa, with red-carpet glamor that rivaled a Hollywood celebrity event. Mercedes-Benzes and SUVs brought elegantly dressed dignitaries to the State Capitol building, a public space that was kept private for the awarding of the 2017 World Food Prize. That is currently being contested in court. The Iowa state capitol should be available to all citizens if it is available to any, whether they be lobbyists, the Farm Bureau, a wealthy non-profit like The World Food Prize, or ordinary citizens advocating for a better, healthier approach to food and farming.
           The 2017 WFP was awarded to a Nigerian banker, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, who is also the former Minister of Agriculture for Nigeria and is currently the president of the African Development Bank. He believes that agriculture must be treated like a business. But there are small businesses that contribute to their communities, and there are large businesses and transnational corporations that extract resources from communities and make huge amounts of money by selling what they’ve extracted to the highest bidder anywhere in the world. That’s an important distinction.
        I joined this year’s Occupy World Food Prize protest not only because I wanted to contest corporate control of our food systems. I also wanted to provide Mr. Adesina with proof that you can, in fact, run a farm as a profitable business while regenerating and building the farm’s soil and growing healthy, nutritious food for local and regional consumption, with little or no reliance on expensive fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, patented seeds or the huge and expensive machinery needed for industrialized commodity crop production.
         I wanted to give Dr. Adesina a copy of a recent Practical Farmers of Iowa quarterly magazine, which (as always) provides articles on successful family farming operations around Iowa and the many ways that these farmers have found to restore the land while making their farms profitable and sustainable for the long term. I also wanted to offer Dr. Adesina a complimentary membership in PFI, which I would offer to pay for myself, so he could start getting PFI’s publications regularly along with PFI’s regular e-zine updates. I wanted him to see Iowa farmers’ continuing successes with an agriculture practiced by a diversity of farmers who raise corn and soybeans, hay, livestock of all kinds, and crops ranging from fruits and vegetables to cut flowers, herbs and much more. These farmers, both conventional and organic, run operations of all sizes. They have joined together in PFI because they believe in nature as the model for agriculture, and because they are committed to moving their operations toward sustainability. This is a much different message than the industrial agribusiness narrative promoted by the World Food Prize and the institutions behind it. It is critical for farmers in Africa to have access to this knowledge at this time.
           Not surprisingly, I could not get anywhere close to Dr. Adesina on the day of the WFP award at the State Capitol in Des Moines. Security was ultra-tight, provided by the Iowa State Patrol, local police and what appeared to be the Iowa National Guard.
           The 2017 World Food Prize has come and gone, but the realities that come with it remain with us. If you’ve lived in Iowa for a while or otherwise looked into the realities behind the “Green Revolution” and industrial agribusiness as practiced in Iowa, you know what the real story is: industrialized commodity crop and animal production has massive waste streams. Industrial agribusiness has emptied out the rural countryside, running small-scale family farms off the land and replacing them with huge, high-tech, high-overhead mega-operations that are not farms at all. This has given Iowa a record number of polluted waterways, massive amounts of toxic animal waste that the industry doesn’t know what to do with, and an impoverished countryside. This isn’t what Africa, or Iowa, or China, or anyplace else in the world needs.

        Industrial, corporate-controlled agribusiness may still be with us heading into 2018. Fortunately, advocates for a different approach, one that regenerates and maintains healthy soil, will be with us as well. Organization like PFI and many others are laying the foundations for an agriculture that will last for many generations into the future. The Occupy World Food Prize team will be among those advocates, standing up for the best and most sustainable ways to feed the world.

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