In a few days, the year 2011 will belong to the history books. Here’s what some of the farmers who offer their voices to Truth about Trade & Technology said while 2011 was still happening.
The biggest news involved trade–and the headline of an October column by Chairman Dean Kleckner put it best: “At Last!” (10.20.11)
Following five long years of frustrating inaction, Washington finally approved its free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. “There’s plenty of credit to go around,” wrote Kleckner. He thanked President Obama and bipartisan majorities in Congress for putting the economic good of the country ahead of protectionist special interests. He also tipped his cap to President Bush, whose administration negotiated the agreements.
Leading up to this moment, TATT pushed hard for passage of the trade pacts. “The president’s trade agenda is sinking,” warned Terry Wanzek in March (3.17.11 Past Time…). The next month, Carol Keiser (4.7.11 Exports Matter) expressed her aggravation with the delay: “We have to get serious about exports–and somebody in Washington needs to think creatively about pushing for trade.” In June, John Reifsteck (6.2.11 Conventional Trade Wisdom) tried to remind lawmakers of America’s free-trade legacy: “Once upon a time, the United States worked hard to boost exports by striking trade deals.”
When frustration transformed into success in October, TATT immediately turned its attention to what should come next on the U.S. trade agenda. Obama already has identified the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a top priority. In November, Kleckner (11.23.11 TPP Needs TPA) called for its completion in 2012: “TPP is like a jobs program that doesn’t require the federal government to spend a dime.”
A separate idea involves more bilateral trade agreements–including one with Egypt, as recently proposed by Congressman David Dreier. Back in February, at the start of the “Arab Spring,” Tim Burrack (2.10.11 Feeding Unrest) suggested that trade could improve conditions throughout the Middle East: “The free flow of goods and services across borders won’t alleviate every catastrophe, but it can keep bad situations from growing worse.”
Another bold initiative, called “Transatlantic Zero,” seeks the elimination of tariffs between the United States and the European Union. “The only thing separating us should be an ocean,” wrote Kleckner (12.15.11 Transatlantic Zero…).
Biotechnology scored its own big success in 2011, passing a significant milestone: Farmers have now planted more than 3 billion acres of genetically modified crops.
“How big is 3 billion acres?” asked Richard Dijkstra, a Brazilian farmer and member of TATT’s Global Farmer Network. (11.3.11 Three Billion Acres…) “It’s bigger than the Amazon rainforest. It’s bigger than all of Brazil. It’s big enough to say with absolute certainty that biotechnology is now a thoroughly conventional variety of agriculture.”
That’s a good thing, too. “Without biotechnology, we wouldn’t be able to come anywhere close to supplying the world’s demand for food,” he wrote”
That demand is growing. Right after demographers announced that the world has 7 billion people in it, Gilbert Arap Bor–a Kenyan farmer who was this year’s recipient of the Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award–put this number in perspective (11.17.11 African Farmers Will Help Feed the Billions): “The greatest challenge of our time will be to figure out how we’re going to put food in all of these mouths.” He said that success will require farmers in developing countries to have access to modern agricultural technologies.
Anti-GM activists continue to oppose the world’s hunger fighters. When Greenpeace attacked biotech test plots in Australia, Germany, and the Philippines, Global Farmer Network member Jeff Bidstrup (7.28.11 Greenpeace Declares War…) offered a quip: “You might think that a group called Greenpeace wouldn’t be so warlike.”
In the United States, anti-biotech protestors called for warning labels on all kinds of food. “These plotters would have you believe that they’re just a lovable band of foodies who are taking on big, bad corporations,” observed Ted Sheely (3.31.11 Labeling a Rally…) in March. “In reality, this is a classic case of a special-interest group trying to manipulate the federal government in order to gain a competitive advantage over its rivals.”
When Prince Charles tried to lecture Americans on how to farm, Bill Horan (5.12.11 Royal Skepticism…) delivered a rapid-response reply. “The Prince of Wales turned me into the prince of wails–I wanted to howl in anguish over this man’s bizarre views on agriculture,” wrote Horan. “Who is this guy to lecture anybody on sustainability?”
In May, John Rigolizzo, Jr. (5.19.11 Innovative Greening…) pointed out that gene-transfer can provide unexpected benefits. “Can biotechnology save the American chestnut tree?” he asked. “The early evidence is encouraging–but success will require scientific ingenuity as well as the public’s full acceptance of genetic modification.”
That’s a quick summary of our year–except that no summary of TATT’s 2011 would be complete without mention of our book, which sums up so much of what we’ve done on behalf of trade and technology for over 10 years.
“You might assume that farmers know more about rootworms than bookworms, but that’s not necessarily true,” I wrote in June. “It certainly hasn’t stopped the men and women of Truth about Trade & Technology from publishing ‘The Food Security Reader.’ … If we were a rock band, this would be our album of ‘greatest hits.’”
We look forward to rocking on in 2012.
Mary Boote serves as Executive Director for Truth About Trade & Technology – www.truthabouttrade.org