Socialist Worker

New pamphlet on capitalism, food and agriculture

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2749

Capitalism’s drive for profit comes at the expense of people, food and the planet

Capitalism’s drive for profit comes at the expense of people, food and the planet (Pic: Wikicommons/ Dennis Jarvis)


A new report published by the World Health Organisation discusses the potential origins of the Covid-19 virus.

Each points to the same conclusion—that food production, run for profit, has led to the origination of a deadly virus.

The new pamphlet Capitalism and the Politics of Food by Amy Leather argues that Covid-19 is no anomaly. And with current food systems more deadly viruses are likely to cross over to humans.

Industrialised farming places enormous numbers of livestock in small spaces.

These animals are specifically bred to yield the maximum amount of profit.

Often the way they are bred leaves them with weak immune systems, so when a virus hits it spreads and can mutate easily.

The expansion of human spaces into wild animal habitats has also led to increasingly close contact with their diseases.

Capitalism’s drive for profit comes at the expense of people, food and the planet

This means expansion and the industrialisation of global food production is having deadly consequences. Not only does it lead to deadly viruses, it also leads to widespread hunger, ill-health and rising obesity.

Capitalism drives businesses to constantly compete and innovate to ensure that they continue to make profit.

But the pamphlet explains how this drive for profit comes at the expense of both people and planet.

It is possible for the over seven billion people on this planet to have access to the food they need to survive.

In fact Amy says, “There is enough food being produced for everyone in the world to receive 3,000 calories a day.”

Yet millions of people starve every year as millions of tonnes of food goes to waste.

Even the food that we are sold has much of its nutritional value stripped away and replaced with additives and preservatives. The pamphlet also links the global food system to climate change and environmental disaster.

It says the global food system as it stands is leaving deep scars on the planet.

Many of the processes used in food production—such as the use of pesticides, fertilisers and plastic packaging—are all heavily reliant on the fossil fuel industry.

Agriculture on a mass scale has led to the stripping of nutrients from the soil and deforestation.

“Marx and Engels were clear that humans are part of nature, rather than standing above it,” Amy adds.

“For Marxists, human society is inextricably linked to the natural world.

“Humans have always impacted on the environment but this has been completely transformed by capitalism.”

Exploited

In a capitalist system the planet is just another resource to be exploited.

For many, what we eat is deeply personal. This is backed up by how often the ruling class blame poorer people individually if they have unhealthy eating habits.

And others say that making changes to our diets such as going vegan is the best way to cut back on emissions and save the planet.

But the pamphlet is clear that to fundamentally alter a broken food system we must mount a collective response.

Movements in the last few years such as the climate strikes and the Extinction Rebellion protests have identified big business as the greatest contributors to climate change.

For the health of humans and the planet we need a different kind of food system, one that is prized away from the hands of corporations.

Read Capitalism and the Politics of Food.

It argues that to have a food system that really meets our needs we need a socialist system that puts ordinary people in charge of food production.

To order copies of the pamphlet, email [email protected] or phone 020 7840 5601. For downloads go to bit.ly/pamphletfood

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