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The World Bank heavily promotes export-oriented industrial agriculture that use high-yielding seeds together with massive quantities of fertilizer and pesticides despite the fact that this chemical intensive industry often wrecks toxic havoc on the land, causing soil contamination and non-point source water pollution. Small farmers are unable to afford these chemicals and end up selling to the larger producers.

Most of the crops that are favored by international markets like coffee, cut flowers etc. are also useless as nutrition, unlike the more traditional crops for national markets like rice, potatoes and wheat, where leftover stocks could be consumed locally. Often. these policies have contributed to famines, when countries no longer produce enough food for their own subsistence.

 

In India the World Bank joined forces with the U.S. Agency for International Development starting in the 1960s to promote the "green revolution" and import fertilizer, seeds, pesticides and farm machinery.

In 1969, the Terai Seed Corporation was started with a US$13 million World Bank loan. This was followed by two National Seeds Project (NSP) loans.

This program led to the homogenization and corporatization of India's agricultural system. The Bank provided NSP with US$41 million between 1974 and 1978. The projects were intended to develop state institutions and to create a new infrastructure for increasing the production of green revolution seed varieties.

In 1988, the World Bank gave India's seed sector a fourth loan to make it more "market responsive." The US$150 million loan aimed to privatize the seed industry and open India to multinational seed corporations.

Yet a study by the World Resources Institute, published in 1994, showed that the Green Revolution only increased Indian food production by 5.4% while the environmental degradation it has caused has raised serious worries.

Thus although the cultivated area increased by seven percent because of double cropping on irrigated farms, some 8.5 million hectares or six percent of the crop base was lost to waterlogging, salinity or excess alkalinity.

Although the amount of wheat doubled over the period of 20 years, rice production went up 50% and production of commercial crops like sugarcane and cotton went up, this increase in cultivation of these crops came at the expense of crops like chickpeas and millet, crops grown by the poor for themselves. For more information see "Second India Revisited": Population, Poverty and Environmental Stress over Two Decades.

 

Likewise in Guatemala, the Bank also teamed up with the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) and the Inter-American Development Bank in an effort to transform the country's "backward" economy into an efficient agro-export machine, producing one or two main crops for the international market.

Between 1956 and 1980, large-scale agro-export production received 80% of all agricultural credit, as land devoted to cotton increased by 2,140%, to sugar by 406% and to coffee by 56%.

The next export boom came with cattle a few years later. From 1960 to 1978, grazing land increased by 2,125%. This unprecedented period of expansion transformed the lives and land of Guatemalans more than any time since the Spanish conquest.

Though extremely profitable for a few, this agricultural boom is responsible for a tremendous loss in forests since the 1950s, increasing hunger in the countryside and the widespread pesticide contamination of people and the environment.

Along with cotton came "miracle-working" pesticides from the United States. By the 1970s, a Guatemala had earned the dubious distinction of registering the world's highest levels of DDT in mothers' milk and human flesh--185 times higher than limits set by the World Health Organization.

 

 

 

The World Bank's policies are still supporting the agrochemical industry in a major way. Between 1993 to 1995, the Bank approved US$56.9 million worth of contracts for pesticides and agrochemicals.

Six companies are associated with US$3 million or more in Bank-approved agrochemical sales over the three year period between FY 93-95: Rhone Poulenc (France), BASF (Germany), Zeneca (UK), Sumitomo (Japan), FMC Corp. (US), Helm (Germany). Another five were to receive US$1-3 million: Bayer (Germany), Roussel Uclaf (France), Cyanamid (US), Air Lloyd (Germany), and Hoescht (Germany). The company at the top of this list, Rhone Poulenc in France, was the big winner in terms of sales. In FY93-95 it stood to make US$18.6 million, or 33% of the value of all Bank-approved contracts benefiting the G-7 agrochemical industry. In addition, the Bank hired, through its Executive Exchange program, a senior staff member from Rhone Poulenc.

Two of the Pesticide Action Network's "Dirty Dozen" pesticides appear in these contracts: paraquat and DDT. Contracts to French and German companies support the procurement of almost US$120,000 of paraquat for two Bank projects in Nigeria.

Paraquat is a highly toxic chemical that can cause death in moderate concentrations and which is used as an agent of suicide in developing countries. It is banned in nine countries; in the US, it is restricted to use by trained applicators or persons under their direct supervision.DDT is banned for all uses in 49 countries, is severely restricted in 23 others, and has been found to disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system. Again, a French company stood to gain almost US$880,000 from the supply of 250 tons of DDT for use in a Bank-financed health sector project in Madagascar.

For more information see Pesticide Action Network's World Bank Campaign.

 

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