Mainely Tipping Points 40: “The Battle to Save the Polish Countryside”

Mainely Tipping Points 40

“The Battle to Save the Polish Countryside”


Sir Julian Rose inherited Rose of Hardwick House in 1966, when he was 19 years old.  By 1975, at age 28, he began converting the farm to organic production.  In 1984 he moved to the farm full time and began what Wikipedia calls “an intense campaign to promote ecological food and farming in the face of the rapid rise of industrial agriculture.”  He has made numerous broadcasts on national radio and television and has written many articles, all of which call for the support of local and regional food economies rather than global ones. 

In November of 2000, Sir Julian Rose was invited by Jadwiga Lopata to come to Poland and co-direct The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC), which she had founded.  Poland was trying to join the European Union, and Rose and Lopata knew that what Rose calls “the renowned biodiversity” of the Polish countryside soon would be under attack.  Rose has chronicled what ensued in a short article, “The Battle to Save the Polish Countryside,” which is widely available online, including at the Weston A. Price Foundation web site:    

Why should we care about Poland’s agricultural situation?  The answer is simple:  what is happening in Poland is also happening in Maine now and has already happened across large parts of the United States.  If we are aware of this economic pattern, which is so heavily supported by the political arena, we can each take steps to fight it.  What is at stake is nothing less than our freedom, since our freedom to choose clean, nutrient-dense foods that support our bodies, food that is grown by farmers we know, is being replaced by dirty, poisonous, fake foods that are making us sick while they are making the 1 percent richer. 

And we are sick.  Leigh Erin Connealy, MD, who runs a cancer center in California, said in a recent interview with Kevin Gianni in the online Healing Cancer World Summit that today, cancer is the number 1 killer and will strike one in two men and one in three women.  That’s a plague, isn’t it?  Our broken food system is part of what has gone wrong.

Rose wrote that he and Lapata addressed “the Brussels-based committee responsible for negotiating Poland’s agricultural terms of entry into the EU.”  No one on the committee was from Poland, though 22 percent of the Polish population was involved in agriculture, mostly on small farms.  Rose told the committee that in Britain and other EU countries, restructuring agriculture had “involved throwing the best farmers off the land and amalgamating their farms in to large scale monocultural operations designed to supply the predatory supermarket chains.” 

The committee’s chair countered by saying that the EU’s policy objectives involved ensuring “that farmers receive the same salary parity as white collar workers in the cities” and that the only way to accomplish this goal was to restructure and modernize Polish farms so that they could “compete with other countries’ agricultural economies and the global market.”  Thus, said the chairwoman, one million farmers would need to be shifted off the land and into city and service industry jobs that would improve their economic position.

 Rose countered by pointing out that as unemployment was running at 20 percent, he didn’t see how jobs could be provided for “another million farmers dumped on the streets of Warsaw.”  After a long silence, a committee member from Portugal noted that since her country had joined the EU, 60 percent of small farmers had left their land and that the EU didn’t care about small farmers.

 Rose and Lopata began trying to educate the Polish people about what EU restructuring would actually mean for them.  Rose described the changes in Britain to the Polish parliament:  restructuring had meant “the ripping up of 35,000 miles of hedge rows; the loss of 30 percent of native farmland bird species, 98 percent of species-rich hay meadows, thousands of tons of wind-and-water-eroded top-soil, and the loss from the land of about fifteen thousand farmers ever year, accompanied by a rapid decline in the quality of food.” 

I can tell you that in my lifetime, I have witnessed, around Reynolds, Georgia, the loss of the hedge rows and the loss of the quail that once lived in them.  I have seen the topsoil blowing off of the open fields.  And, seen deep fissures in the eroded land.  Worst of all, I have seen and smelled the toxic poisons sprayed onto the fields and the food growing in them.  I have seen the skull and cross bone signs posting those fields and come home smelling of noxious chemicals because I had walked past those fields—weeks after they had been sprayed.  And they want us to eat this food, to put this food into our bodies?

Poland joined the EU in 2004. And, the restructuring began.  Farmers who took the proffered agricultural subsidies and free advice found themselves, as did Rose himself before them, “filling out endless forms, filing maps, and measuring every last inch of your fields, tracks and farmsteads.  It meant applying for `passports’ for your cattle and ear tags for your sheep and pigs, resiting the slurry pit and putting stainless steel and washable tiles on the dairy walls, becoming versed in HAASP hygiene and sanitary rules and applying them where any food processing was to take place, and living under the threat of convictions and fines should one put a finger out of place or be late in supplying some official detail.”  What is being lost is “our independence and our freedom—the slow rural way of life shared by traditional farming communities throughout the world.”

 Behind the EU agricultural policies, writes Rose, were agribusinesses and seed corporations who wanted to “get their hands on “Poland’s relatively unspoiled work force and land resources.”  The newly passed EU regulatory policies helped. 

Among the “most vicious of anti-entrepreneurial weapons,” writes Rose, are the “sanitary and hygiene regulations” which are “enforced by national governments at the behest of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union.”  These “hidden weapons of mass farmer destruction” became the main tool for replacing small farmers with “monocultural money-making agribusiness.”

By 2005, writes Rose, or a mere one year later, “65 percent of regional milk and meat processing factories had been forced to close because they `failed’ (read:  couldn’t afford) to implement the prescribed sanitary standards.  Some 70 percent of small slaughterhouses have also suffered the same fate.  Farmers increasingly have nowhere to go to sell their cattle, sheep, pigs, and milk.”  And, with the destruction of this infrastructure, farmers are forced off the land. 

In Maine, the state government has rescinded a small farmer’s ability to raise and slaughter up to 1,000 chickens and sell them—despite the fact that no one has been made sick.  Small farmers can no longer share slaughtering equipment, a time-honored practice in rural America.   At local farmers’ markets, state government officials have attempted to stop farmers and venders from providing tastes of their foods, unless they can provide hot water for washing hands. 

And, the FDA stopped a local organic farmer from selling fresh-pressed cider at local stores or at the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association’s  (MOFGA) fall fair, even though, again, there had been no reports of illness.  (Oddly, unpasteurized cider can be taken across state lines as long as it is properly labeled, unlike raw milk.) 

Who got the MOFGA fair business?  A large grower who either pasteurizes or treats cider with ultraviolet light and who grows apples with Integrative Pest Management (IPM) practices, which means they pause before they go ahead and spray.

The sanitary and hygiene weapons, writes Rose, are now “scything their way through Romanian family farms, whose extraordinary diversity and peasant farming skills are a ready match for Poland’s.”  Rose predicted in 2008 that Turkey would soon be targeted.

This “global food economy,” writes Rose, is “the instrument of a relatively small number of very wealthy, transnational corporations.”   Rose lists Monsanto, Cargill, and their “fellow seed operatives Dupont, Pioneer, and Syngenta.”  What evolves is the patenting of seeds, so farmers have to buy new seeds each year, and the massive use of toxic agricultural chemicals that are killing the structure of the soil.   

Rose describes how the push to introduce GMO seeds into Poland has been relentless.  Under Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland tried to ban “the import and sale of GMO seeds and plants in Poland” and to ban GM animal feed by 2008.  As of 2010, this battle continues.  Industry harnessed support from agricultural professors and the media.  (Much of the Polish media is foreign owned, and industry makes huge contributions to academia).  And, the EU has stated that blanket banning of GMOs violates free-trade dictates.  

Meanwhile, Smithfield pigs are being raised on Polish soil and being fed Monsanto soy.  These pigs have flooded the market; their cheapness has undercut pigs raised by traditional pork farmers.  Further, with some of the US’s grain crops going to make biofuels, conventional feeds have become expensive.  So, GM soy and corn, once avoided in Europe, are now the “only cheap option available” in Poland.   

Poland still has one and a half million family farms.  These farmers could mount “a full blown peasants’ revolt to recapture the right to grow, eat and trade their superb farmhouse foods, thus freeing themselves from the increasing stranglehold that the bureaucratically perverse sanitary and hygiene regulations have imposed upon them.”

Rose writes, there are those “who are waking up to the stark choices that confront all of us:  capitulate to the forces of `total control’ or wrest back control of life and work to rejuvenate local communities to do the same.”   

Support your local farmers!