Hunger is a sacred phenomenon. The third horseman of the Apocalypse from the Apocalypse of John the Theologian. He won countless human lives. For the phenomenon not only of food security, but also of hunger as a socio-political phenomenon Fedor Lukyanov spoke with Alexander Nikulin, director of the RANEPA Agricultural Research Center, at “International Inspection” program.
– Alexander Mikhailovich, how important is the issue of hunger for the socio-political development of humanity?
“This is one of the key issues. As long as humanity exists, it fights against hunger. You started with the transfer of Revelation – the third rider on a black horse. If we continue this sacred theme, theologians would say that the world is in evil. And that as long as its fundamental fatal contradictions can not be overcome, hunger will haunt humanity. Although it seemed that in the 20th century onwards, thanks to the development of science, technology and agricultural productivity, we are beginning to overcome this catastrophe with sufficient confidence.
– Since when did it start to get over? Did something like this happen in the 20th century?
– In short, humanity lived, tightening its belts, mostly – peasant-poor, until the beginning of the 19th century. And hunger was a natural companion for most people. One way or another he was visiting people. But as a result of industrialization and proper rational farming, labor productivity has increased dramatically and, at least in the 20th century, this problem has been solved in the so-called developed countries. The citizens of these countries have never eaten so much and have not generally forgotten the problem of hunger. But we remember that there is social differentiation, both in the colonial countries and in the third world countries, hunger is still a serious problem. About 1/10 of humanity does not eat enough, and in some countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, one actually lives in hunger.
– Is it an unequal distribution problem or a climate problem? Why are they malnourished?
First of all, everything is interconnected. Understand, the rider of Revelation never comes alone. Let me remind you: a rider of discord, after discord comes war, after war comes famine and, finally, epidemics and natural disasters – these are the four riders. And hunger, to one degree or another, accompanies, and sometimes the main thing in all these phenomena.
In these countries there is war, as a rule, political upheavals, social structures are destroyed. In addition, people live in very fragile natural areas: on the edge of the desert, semi-desert. And as a result, all this combination of factors – political conflicts, war, drought, collapse of social structures – leads to a natural disaster.
– You mentioned that until recently, when we talked about food, we mainly had in mind scientific and technological progress, technology, and now we seem to go back to the past, when discussing access or lack of access to food, including as a tool. , as a weapon. And to what extent can this change the global approach, not only now but also in the future?
Indeed, progress has been made and is being made. And I would say that now what is most interesting, revolutionary in terms of science and technology is happening in agriculture. One hundred years ago, it was considered a backward industry – collective farmers were the most backward people and so were farmers. Now biotechnology works wonders. Agriculture is at the peak of its technological power and development. That, they say, is just the beginning.
Amartya Sen, a remarkable Indian, English, American sociologist, thinker, once received the Nobel Prize for his research on the problem of hunger. And one of its key positions is that in principle there is enough food in the world, so that everyone can more or less eat and there is no hunger.
But the food itself is redistributed irrationally. There is a problem of logistics – and not only financial, but also political. Let me give you an example: about a third of food in developed countries is thrown away – if it has reached the end of its life. And that is a colossal fortune. Some – perhaps cynically – say: well, they say, God bless him – and mold the cheese, give it to African countries, who will eat it with pleasure, nothing will happen to their health, otherwise they will die of hunger. . How to redistribute it? Giant bureaucratic and logistical chains and mismanagement – all this food is simply burned, discarded and does not reach the consumer. So far, this disgrace continues on a global scale.
– Is this a market problem? Or the problem of capitalism, with which they fought in their time?
– This is a problem of both the market and the bureaucracy. And, on the one hand, the population has exceeded 8 billion people and they need to be fed – especially in the big cities. In order to deliver various products on time to New York, Moscow, Beijing – uninterruptedly in all their small and large stores – on time, they need giant agribusiness structures that feed the population. But, on the other hand, there are terrible costs here. So, for example, in food ideology it is not just the idea of food security that is being criticized.
What is food security? Every citizen has the right to receive delicious, high quality, healthy food. It must be affordable, physically accessible and, say, environmentally friendly, at least useful. But this is the ideal. In fact, food, food is controlled by states, agricultural companies and people are just subject to the fact that they will bring them and give them something.
There is, for example, the idea – perhaps left-wing, populist – of dietary dominance. It lies in the fact that every small farmer, every household must be involved in the process of understanding what is happening. Food must be controlled from below and, above all, agricultural producers must establish the proper democratic distribution of food. This is the view of left-wing Christian governments in Latin America. But some criticize it, consider it a utopian idea.
– It looks like a utopia. And, most importantly, does this mean that everyone will sit down with their own resources and give nothing to anyone?
Again, there is no definitive answer here. You see, on the one hand, there is a liberal model of food security. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. We will have specialties. What is there in Russia? What is the best cereal? Let it produce grain. Turkey – tomatoes, states – corn, Brazil – soybeans and so on. But here begins the global grimaces, the market distortions that are dangerous from an environmental and logistical point of view. Every surface of the planet is full of all kinds of biodiversity. And now the giant global market is shaping the field of monocultures, killing what is least profitable for that market.
For example, the Midwestern states. In the 1950s they had twenty directions from the most diverse crops: both apples and what they did not grow. But as a result of the world market, they came to the conclusion that it is better to grow only corn there. Now the whole Midwest has become a giant corn belt, there has been a certain streamlining. As a result, there is nothing to do for local city dwellers, unemployment, decline, and so on. Monoculture is also dangerous for Russia. Kuban and the regions of our black earth are fully specialized only in wheat, sunflowers, corn and so on. Brazil – soy only. But there is also the problem of local markets, local spaces, the creation of diversity of small and large forms of production and the diversity of the local market.
– Here arises another problem, which, in fact, we now see. Good. Everyone specializes in one thing. Turkey, for example, in tomatoes. And we eat their tomatoes just fine. And then something political happens and the Turks say: “We will not give you more tomatoes”. That is to say, politically motivated man-made hunger is also a big problem, especially since the world market is now in question.
– Totally right. And now, in general, the liberal model of such a global market is under great attack. It largely collapses. Here we can recall the opinion of the prominent Russian agricultural scientist of the early twentieth century, Alexander Vasilyevich Chayanov. He believed that some circles take place not only political but also agricultural food. The first cycle – when the world spreads to free trade worldwide. And it looks like what we’ve been talking about – giant belts. In Brazil, for example, there is a soybean belt and all this soybeans are shipped to China, where more than half of the world’s pig population is raised. God forbid, there will be some difficulties in these giant logistics flows. Second season – here we use a model that is now on the rise, which is the authoritarian model. Tchayanov also spoke about this – the states, the societies in conditions of such political turmoil will strive for proximity, autonomy, authoritarianism, to be more or less supplied with food within their states. This is what is happening in Russia. I would say that in the last seven years there has been a shift towards food authoritarianism, and under these circumstances, it is generally justified.
– And we have to assume that finally, if we are talking about circles, then now this cycle does not start only with us.
Yes, not only here. This is happening all over the world. Many states and regions are concerned about creating authoritarian systems of their own food security. This is evident in both India and China.
Because Russia can not be defeated. The show of the show “International Inspection” from 3.06.2022
What are the prospects for a military operation in Ukraine? Why is China not a great power? Will Europe be able to ensure its security? The threat of hunger and food security: which countries will be able to get food and what does it depend on? Watch the show “International Review” with Fyodor Lukyanov on the TV channel “Russia-24”.