Grass Range, Montana
The more I have been thinking about hormones and bananas — the madder I have been getting. Obviously this country does not export bananas to Europe, but the Clinton Administration decided to take up the cause for Chiquita. Why, instead, didn´t our government move to protect sheep and cattle producers who are being hammered by a flood of imports?
Instead of initiating an anti-dumping suit (like ranchers had to do for themselves through R-Calf) against imported cattle, the government decided that Europeans are not eating enough hormones with their beef. USDA Secretary Dan Glickman trumpets the notion that we are challenging an unfair, unscientific, restriction keeping out American beef. Perhaps we are not supposed to notice that Europe has a surplus of beef and actually subsidizes exports.
The chances that this country will export beef to Europe is slim to nil. Hormones implanted in cattle, may or may not be safe but the European consumers are understandably frightened and wary as a result of the mad cow disease scandal. But if the pharmaceutical companies say that Europeans will eat beef raised with synthetic hormones, Europeans will eat beef raised with synthetic hormones. And apparently, it will be our government that will make sure that they do.
Some may say that the bananas and hormones concern the people over in Europe — it is not our affair. But the issue here is not whether Europeans purchase hormone raised beef or eat Chiquita´s bananas. The issue is one of democracy and self determination. Have the trade treaties superseded the rights of people in Europe to determine what they eat? If so have the trade treaties also superseded the Constitution of the United States? Do the rights of corporations now come before the rights of the American people?
We are beginning now to see clearly the disaster that NAFTA, GATT, and WTO has caused in rural America. In the propaganda blitz building up to the adoption of these “so-called” treaties, agriculture was promised prosperity. Instead we got the disintegration of competitive markets and an economic depression covering all of rural America if not the world. Globalization has proven to be Globaloney. As we see with the trade war with Europe over bananas and hormones, What has been created, with NAFTA, GATT, and WTO are the conditions where multi-national corporations reign supreme. Now, any local, state, or national law — in any country — that any corporation finds inconvenient can and will be disallowed.
I am reminded of the prophetic words of the poet, philosopher, and farmer Wendell Berry when he wrote: “We are now pretty obviously facing the possibility of a world that the supranational corporations, and the governments and educational systems that serve them, will control entirely for their own convenience –: and, incidentally and inescapably, for the inconvenience of all of the rest of us. This world will be a world in which the cultures that preserve nature and rural life will simply be disallowed. It will be, as our experience already suggests, a post-agricultural world. But as we have been warned, as we begin to see, you cannot have a post-agricultural world that is not also post-democratic, post-religious, and post-natural — in other words it will be, as we have understood ourselves post-human.”
–Gilles Stockton, Grass Range, Montana