Coexistence: When the Lexicon Perverts the Concept

To “coexist” implies that there is the existence of two or more entities. Coexistence implies that the existing diversity exists in spite the existence of the others. It also implies that there is no significant negative interaction amongst those existing at the same space-time ambiance. This is the connotation accepted throughout time by those coexisting.

Recently, we witness processes labeled as “coexistence” that claim the possibility of peaceful harmony between opposing ways of being. Take, for instance, agricultural models (see, for example, this biotech industry article promoting a USDA conference on coexistence between GMOs and organic farming titled “We All Can Get Along“). But what coexistence actually implies here is the subjugation of others to the benefit of one.

Traditional farming practices have developed cultural and technical means of adaptation to the environmental and physical conditions existing in the areas where they were applied. These practices were dominated by the broader context of things. Their drive was to nurture and to provide resources to humanity. Their purpose was to continue evolving within the realm of human needs and ways of living. There was no intention of committing grand enrichment (as in grand theft) of those who controlled or practiced it. This way, the resources and the labor applied tothese activities were construed within the realm of need, and not that of greed.

The contemporary connotation of “coexistence” is being used in the sphere of the expiatory propaganda needed by industry to make their processed foods more palatable. They are intended to tame and subdue the public or, better said, the consumer. Animal agriculture is a prime example of this. What the food industry and their apologists want us to believe is that the products they make are equal to those traditionally required, based on the ancient mathematical axiom that says “two quantities equal to a third quantity are equal to each other.” So, why not have them side by side? There are so many reasons to refute it, I summarize just a few.

For instance, the current industrial animal farming, which relies on feedlots of, literally, flocks of hundreds of thousands animals of a handful of breeds per species, requires enormous amounts of chemical inputs to keep theoperations running. Chemicals from insecticides, herbicides and fungicides to antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and hormones are the pivot to contemporary animal production. All of these chemicals find their way into the human food chain with the potential of causing the same effects they cause on animals.

On the other hand, traditional animal farming is based worldwide on a broad diversity of breeds, natural feeds and health care and access to natural resources. These factors rendered a healthy existence for the animals. This is no idealistic view; the animals still received oppressive treatment and they would finally be slaughtered, no way out of that. But the products derived from them were not part of an industrial process that introduced chemicals into our food chain.

Nowadays, what happens in the field is not even near coexistence between the systems described above. It is more similar to an extermination war. The corporate takeover of food production systems starts a continued treadmill with land grabbing, population eviction, replacement or pirating traditional agrobiodiversity, destruction of territorial biophysical attributes and hoarding economic space, amongst others.

This prompted the massive decline in the existence of farmers in the first place; with it, consequent decline in diversity of crops and animal species and breeds. At the moment, this situation is pushing animal farming to a risky condition, as the vulnerability of the animal production system is proportionally higher to its homogeneity. This is obvious in the case of cattle breeds in South America.

In the past, most of the fields and farms were allotted with mixed breeds. Currently, the predominance of a handful of breeds, increasingly owned by a few global corporations is obvious throughout the landscape. The broadly diverse traditional swine, chicken and cattle gene pools are rapidly being homogenized by a handful of high-performance breeds, usually of European descent. Examples include Holstein-Friesian and Jersey cattle; Large White, Duroc and Landrace pigs; Saanen goats; and Rhode Island Red and Leghorn chickens — which have crowded out traditional breeds across the world.

Millions of consumers have access only to these products, as the industrial model takes over the nutritional offer. They also become victims of the serious health risks derived from consuming the products of modern animal farming, like E.coli, salmonella, mad cow disease, excessive antibiotics and obesity.