‘If We Get Rid of the Industrial Food System, We Can Save the World’

04 Temmuz 2022
We have prepared a file where we talk about the factors affecting access to safe food and safe food with NGOs struggling on issues such as sustainable life, access to safe food, non-toxic meals, and ecological agriculture. In the first part, we talked with Buğday Association for Supporting Ecological Living and the Sustainable Living Association about solutions that will save humanity from the climate crisis and malnutrition and make people reach safe food that is ecology and human friendly.

Considering the damages caused by industrial agriculture systems, pesticide use and unconscious consumption to nature, human health, and climate balance, it is a big and daunting question mark how much longer it is possible for humanity to reach food.

‘We Should Switch to Pesticide-Free Agriculture with Holistic and Long-Term Plans’

Gözde Özbey, Communication Officer of the Buğday Association for Supporting Ecological Living, says that the researches reveal the damage caused by the existing food production systems to our world and that food production is unsustainable as such: ‘Farm to Fork (F2F) and Biodiversity strategy documents, which was published by the 2020 European Commission on May 20, World Bee Day, recognized that current food production is unsustainable and have set targets to put biodiversity and public health at the center of the European Food Policy and to reduce pesticide use. With the effort set out in both the F2F and BDS, the overall use of pesticides and the use of highly hazardous pesticides will be reduced by 50% by 2030, replaced by agroecological practices, by 2030 25% of the EU’s farmland will be devoted to organic farming. It is also aimed for pesticides to be banned in EU urban green spaces. In addition to the No Pesticides On My Plate Campaign to ban pesticides within the scope of our Non- No Pesticides On My Plate project, we also presented the ‘Roadmap for No Pesticides On My Plate Project to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which includes our suggestions on how to switch to non-toxic agriculture by 2030.’

‘The World Organic Agriculture Market Is Growing Fast’

Özbey states that the organic agriculture market is growing rapidly in the world, and that agroecological and nature-friendly practices are becoming more widespread day by day along with the demand for non-toxic food and gives examples: ‘Thanks to these techniques and methods, Sweden has managed to reduce the use of pesticides by half compared to previous years. Indonesia, one of the world’s leading rice producers, reduced its pesticide use by 62 percent in six years with support for reducing pesticide use and integrated pest management application based on farmer education in 1986, and increased crop productivity by 10 percent in the same period.’

According to Özbey, the researchers prove that the plant and animal products obtained from organic agriculture in 76 percent of Turkey’s arable land can feed the population of Turkey. Özbey says, ‘The transition to pesticide-free agriculture is possible, but it will take time. But for this, first of all, agricultural policies need to be changed with a holistic and long-term approach to the issue. There is a need for R&D studies and support policies on alternative agricultural techniques, practices, and systems.’

‘Eco-Cooperatives, Agro-Ecotourism Can Offer a Solution’

According to Özbey, who says that the farmer who is forced to use industrial farming methods is crushed under the applied agricultural policies, switching to nature-friendly farming methods can be a solution: ‘Producing the purchased inputs in-house and switching to nature-friendly farming methods such as agroecological, organic and restorative agriculture can be a solution. By-products or waste from one branch of production can be inputs for another. In order to reduce the pressure on the farmer, ways of selling the products directly to the consumer should be sought. This can be achieved by means of ecological producer markets, establishing relations with community supported agricultural groups, marketing using the cargo system and the internet, establishing eco-cooperatives, agro-ecotourism.’

‘If You Don’t Fight for It, You Don’t Have the Right to Miss the Old Days’

Gözde Özbey states that at this point, we, as consumers, do not have the luxury of being passive consumers, and even if we are to be, we do not have the right to miss the old days. Özbey adds, ‘Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slowfood, states that we can no longer be only reproducers or consumers in order to protect our food in the age we live in and says that each of us can become a “reproducer” by establishing production-consumption associations. By turning our attention to our food and the products we need for our daily use, it reminds us that each of us is responsible for the production stages of these products from the source to our shopping bag. The reproducer “produces” solutions to problems that modern people have not encountered before and therefore cannot find a way out of. For this act of derivation, the reproducer must cooperate, put it back together, and try, fail, and try again and again.’

‘Pesticide Use Deepens Problems in Agricultural Production’

One of the areas where the Buğday Association for Supporting Ecological Living struggles is non-poisonous tables. Özbey says,Our tables are poisoned with toxic chemicals that are used to kill weeds and insects in agriculture and that are plundering the market with promises of great efficiency. Pesticides (agricultural poisons) are toxic chemicals used in agricultural production. According to their functions, they are divided into various classes such as insecticide, herbicide, fungicide or according to their chemical structure, such as organochlorine, organophosphate, carbamate. Around 3 million tons of pesticides are used annually in the world. Pesticide use in Turkey is estimated to be 59 thousand tons for 2018. Between 1979 and 2018, pesticide use increased sevenfold in Turkey. It was determined that pesticides used in urban areas mixed with groundwater and 33 of 49 micropollutants detected in water reaching drinking water treatment plants in Turkey were pesticides. These toxic chemicals especially affect pregnant women and children and cause pregnant women to face situations such as premature birth and miscarriage.’

Criticizing the use of pesticides, Özbey states that this substance causes a harmful vicious circle in agricultural production: ‘Contrary to many eco-friendly methods, such as agro-ecology, permaculture, organic etc., the use of pesticides causes weeds and insects that harm agricultural products to develop resistance to pesticides. Against this, more pesticide use is recommended, causing a vicious circle that deepens the damage.’

‘The Effect of Agricultural Activities on Greenhouse Gas Production Reaches 30 Percent’

Gözde Özbey, whom we asked how it would be possible to prevent the climate crisis with food production and consumption and ecological farming techniques, says that there are great uncertainties about which factors should be taken into account in determining the share of the food production consumption chain in global greenhouse gas emissions. Expressing that it is difficult to say what share of pesticide use on the climate crisis is, Özbey says that they know that the share of agricultural activities in greenhouse gas emissions is around 30 percent when additional factors such as fossil fuel use, fertilizer production and agricultural land use are included. Giving examples of food practices that strengthen the climate crisis, Özbey underlines that the abandonment of pesticide use will have a positive impact on the global climate crisis: ‘The contribution of the sulfuryl fluoride compound used in hazelnut production in our country to the global warming problem is 4800 times more than a unit of carbon dioxide molecule. It was only 22 years later, in 2009, that it was realized that sulfuryl fluoride, which was proposed as a reliable alternative to methyl bromide (which is still used in many countries, including the US, and will be gradually reduced and terminated due to the depletion of the ozone layer) is a compound causing the global warming problem. This type of obscurity also applies to other chemical compounds.’

‘For this reason, it is possible that there are factors that are not considered in the calculations to determine the share of several factors in the climate crisis. These uncertainties require taking into account that the damage from the climate crisis may occur sooner or be more severe than previously thought.’

‘Nature-friendly agricultural activities that reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides, on the other hand, make a positive contribution to the solution of the global climate crisis, as they also ensure that a significant amount of carbon is buried in the soil.’

‘Consumers Should Know Their Rights and Organize’

Touching on the responsibilities of consumers, Gözde Özbey emphasizes the importance of being conscious and organized: ‘Consumers must first be aware of their rights and organize. They can do this by participating in non-governmental organizations, by forming food societies or consumer cooperatives. The way to be protected from pesticides is to choose organic certified products. Organic products are available from regulated organic markets or sales points. Another solution is to organize and create reliable, participatory production and consumption models in cooperation with producers and producer organizations. Community supported agriculture is one of them. Thanks to this model, you can support the producers and give them a purchase guarantee by making production within the framework of the principles and rules you have agreed with the producers, and by creating a fair model while observing this.’

‘Industrial Food System Is at The Source of The Problems’

Sustainable Living Association (SUYADER) Chairman of the Board Prof. Dr. Emine Aksoydan begins her speech by emphasizing that every individual living on earth has the right to access sufficient, safe, healthy food easily and sustainably, and that the right to food is one of the first rights that human beings have gained in their historical development. Aksoydan, who uses the definition of food security instead of safe food, defines food security as ‘the state of physical and economic constant access to sufficient, healthy, safe and nutritious food in order to meet the nutritional needs necessary for a healthy life.’

‘Industrial Food System Leads to Both Food and Climate Injustice’

Aksoydan says that agricultural areas constitute one of the largest ecosystems on the planet. Considering the dominant food production system and industrial agriculture system in this ecosystem, Aksoydan states that agriculture and food areas are also dependent on the global market economy. Emphasizing that the industrial food system has caused extremely hard damage to our world, Aksoydan says, ‘In the context of the producer, while food monopolies are getting stronger, many farmers are cut off from production or turn into workers working on their own land with contracted production. While the industrial food system causes the deepening of ecological destruction and climate crisis, it cannot be a solution to hunger or malnutrition, and it also makes the weak links of the chain that does not cause climate change, for example, small producers and poor consumers more vulnerable to economic, social, political, and ecological crises. It creates both a food injustice and a climate injustice.’

‘Agriculture in Turkey Has Become Externally Dependent and Fragile’

Aksoydan also takes a close look at the effects of industrial agriculture in Turkey and says that human focused family farming has declined in Turkey with the decisions taken: ‘The Seed Law adopted in 2006 strengthened the dominance of companies and transnational capital over the production and sale of seeds. This has made the agriculture and livestock activities of the people living in rural areas difficult. In this process, industrial agriculture based on intensive animal husbandry, monoculture and external inputs was encouraged, while human focused family farming, which is resistant to crises and more socially equitable, regressed and made agriculture in Turkey dependent and vulnerable at all levels.’

Aksoydan points out the relationship between the climate crisis and access to safe food:

  1. Food production is affected by drought, extreme heat, floods, reduction in biodiversity caused by the climate crisis; food insecurity decreasing in terms of quality and quantity due to reasons such as the decrease in food production areas, the inability of the product to adapt to this process, the damage of the food produced from the field to the end point, and as a result, people’s access to healthy and nutritious food is being restricted.
  2. The climate crisis threatens all stages of the production and reaching the table of products such as corn, rice, wheat. This threat means that billions of people, whose main food source is these products, are in food insecurity.
  3. The impact of the climate crisis on the decrease in biodiversity gains importance in the seafood dimension as well. Fishing has an important contribution to food production. Seafood is almost the only source of protein for the world population living in coastal areas. Acidification in the marine ecosystem causes an irreversible decrease in these products, and as a result, it deprives many nutrients with high health benefits.
  4. Seasonal shifts caused by the emergence of the climate situation can increase the number of pests, thus chasing food insecurity and increasing the risks of food security.
  5. Increasing temperatures and increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere not only affect food supply and security, but also reduce the quality of accessible food, posing health risks in terms of food safety.
  6. Extreme weather events such as floods and tropical storms threaten the food security of this group by destroying the livelihoods of people who depend on food production.
  7. The decrease in the amount of food produced results in an increase in food prices. As a result, especially the poor’s access to food becomes economically difficult.
  8. The effects of the climate crisis, resulting in inequality in income distribution, are also very evident. Even if enough food is produced at the global level for the entire population, access to food becomes difficult for those living in poor countries such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as a result of economic inequalities.
  9. The fact that 1/3 of the food produced globally is wasted is another key factor that makes access to food difficult.

‘We Should Switch to a Rights-Based Agri-Food System’

Aksoydan expresses the steps to be taken for a sustainable food system with the following words: ‘Nature-friendly production methods that take care of all living things in the ecosystem, facilitating regulations for direct sales without intermediaries in the context of supporting consumers and small producers, cultural values, local values, which prioritize vulnerable groups and fair income distribution. There should be practices that protect identities, ancient sources of information, reduce food waste and waste, and do not complicate access to food in crisis situations. In short, it is necessary to move to a rights-based agri-food system, which means supporting the capacity, possibilities, and abilities of the society to produce its own food/localizing the food system.’

Aksoydan presents agroecological food systems as a good example for sustainable food: ‘Agroecological food systems are the best example of sustainable systems that cover all of these applications and offer effective solutions to both environmental problems and socioeconomic problems such as unemployment and poverty with low budgets. In agroecological food systems, it is a priority for each link of the chain to be ecological. This system contributes both to the reduction of ecological production, distribution, and consumption of climate change and to the climate change. It ensures the resilience and adaptation of production and supply chains against the effects of change. Conservation of diversity is a priority in the agroecological method. Diversity of animals, plants, fungi and bacteria, diversity in land use, farming practices and economic diversity are at the forefront of protective factors to minimize climatic shocks. At the same time, the application of soil conservation methods, eliminating the input of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides provides an exit from carbon-intensive production. With short supply chains, agroecological practices support people’s access to food by protecting the environment, unlike the prevailing agri-food system, which is responsible for almost 30-35% of emissions.’

‘Excessive and Unconscious Consumption Should Be Avoided’

Aksoydan also mentioned the consumption dimension of the subject and here, too, she emphasizes the importance of giving up excessive and unconscious consumption habits: ‘When viewed from the consumption dimension, the first issue to be emphasized is giving up excessive consumption habits. Buying as much as we need as individuals and as a family, avoiding excessive and unconscious consumption means respecting the food right of groups who have difficulty in accessing food and reducing their vulnerability. Nearly half of unnecessary purchased food is wasted. However, it is possible to feed all the hungry in the world with only 1/3 of the food wasted in the world. It is important to have information about where and under what conditions the food to be consumed/purchased is produced and what processes it goes through until it reaches the table; raising consumer awareness on the use of pesticides in production, fair production and income distribution conditions; the length of the supply chain; the ecological footprint of food; seasonal and local production information are the issues that support food safety and security.’

‘For Sustainable Living, We Should Be Reproducers, Not Consumers’

Lastly, Aksoydan explains the meaning of ‘reproducer, not consumer’ underlined by SUYADER and its importance in sustainable life: ‘A reproducer is a person who creates value for society and the planet with their actions. They support socially and ecologically just productions, sets the products, services, and their standards together with the producers as a community, and ensures that the products they buy, and the producers of those products create value for society and the planet. From the perspective of sustainable nutrition, the reproducer is a person who take care of their food, respect it, is aware and responsible for every stage that food goes through from the source to the table, participates in the production, produces solutions to the problems of the producers and establishes a relationship based on trust with the producer. In other words, they strive not to consume the resources of the planet by reducing its ecological footprint while meeting/consuming their needs. The consumer is mostly passive in the shopping relationship and their behavior is determined only by the price and the advertising and marketing activities of the manufacturers. They do not have a decisive role in the production of the products offered to it for consumption, in the production processes, and generally do not question the production process-ecosystem relationship and do not feel responsible in this process.’

Aksoydan says, ‘I think the following five advices of Victor Ananias, the founder of the Wheat Buğday Association for Supporting Ecological Living, for the basic responsibilities of the food producer and consumer/reproducer, express the responsibilities of all people in the most striking way.’ Here are Ananias’ counsels:

  1. I can often remind myself and those around me that all the resources necessary for me to live are a product of nature like me, a result of ecological/natural cycles,
  2. Since I know that the main source of energy, food, water, and other necessities is nature, whole and balance, I save as much as I can while using them, but there is more,
  3. Since I know that money is not a natural resource, but a tool used in the exchange of natural resources, I try to learn the effect of every penny I spend on ecological cycles, I reduce my consuming-damaging effect,
  4. I do not perceive ecological life as a fantasy or an unattainable ideal, but as a sustainable lifestyle that I contribute by doing my best, which is the fundamental right of every individual and our common future,
  5. Since I know that every natural cycle scatter new seeds as it goes from seed to death, it is the secret of the continuity of life, I know that when I share every thought and behavior as a beneficial seed, we will become rich, and I do what is necessary.

* Links shared by SUYADER Chairman of the Board Prof. Dr. Emine Aksoydan:






Illustration: Tolga Demirel