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Theory of comparative advantage = monoculture

Should have occured to me, but the idea is very clearly expressed here:

Essentially the problem is that the people on the [Davos] panel have internalized the principles of comparative advantage and free trade to the point at which they are more or less incapable of thinking any other way. In a Ricardian world it makes sense for Ohio to overwhelmingly grow corn and soy, since growing corn and soy is what it does best. And because of economies of scale, it makes sense to grow just one type of each, on farms of mind-boggling size. Ohio can then trade all that corn and soy for the food it wants to eat, and everybody is better off.

Except when the Irish potato famine hits, of course.

Except in reality it doesn’t work like that. Monocultures are naturally prone to disastrous outbreaks of disease, which can wipe out an entire crop. The panel at Davos has a favored method of dealing with such things: the development of disease-resistant crop strains, often through high-tech and patentable genetic modification.

Which is a feature, not a bug, if you're a corporatist.

NOTE Big hat tip to Atrios, who seems to have recovered his inner old school-ness recently -- maybe because of all the high-traffic bloggers, he's got the same professional training as the econobloggers, who can see the shit train coming.

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gmoke's picture
Submitted by gmoke on

There are 525 million farms in the world, 85% are less then 5 acres. Farms under 5 acres are about half of all cultivated acreage in the world. At least, that’s what Paul Polak, a man with decades of experience in eradicating poverty in the developing world through International Development Enterprises, says. His book, _Out of Poverty_ is very good.

We need to concentrate on small scale, more diverse, and urban agriculture if we are to survive let alone thrive. It’s eminently possible (and more delicious) but it doesn’t make the large profits for corporations that is the model Davos prefers.

More at /9/15206/95759

Cross posted to reuters.

Submitted by Lex on

And small farms are actually more profitable per acre than large farms (provided that they're well managed of course).

What almost never gets addressed is how the large farmer, not the corporation but the actual farmer, gets terribly squeezed by the industrial model. Once on the hamster wheel it's almost impossible to get off and the only way to make is to continuously bring down the cost/acre because increasing yield has the perverse affect of lowering profit in the commodity market.

The industrial farmer is squeezed at both ends, but the same vertically integrated conglomerates control (or exercise symbiotic monopolies with each other) both ends. Every squeeze of the farmer translates into higher profits for the conglomerates.

The system is only slightly less perverse than Stalin's collectivization scheme and will - in the long run - produce the same effect.