One of the things I remember from my childhood as a Greek of the diaspora was traveling to Greece in the summertime and being amazed by how fresh and rich-tasting the fruits and vegetables were. Everything from tomatoes to peaches seemed to burst with flavor which was nowhere to be found in the United States. Similarly, many other products, from ready-made juice to the meat, also seemed to be packed with a flavor that seemed to be missing back in the U.S.
As Greece has opened its doors to the “European common market” however, and as it has implemented the EU’s “Common Agricultural Policy,” more and more imported fruits, vegetables, and meats have made their way into the Greek marketplace, and into the Greek kitchen. Moreover, the “Common Agricultural Policy” altered Greek agriculture itself: by dictating to farmers what to grow, what not to grow, what quantities to produce, how much to export, where to export, what crop and seed varieties to use, even regulations as to the shape and look of items such as bananas, many of Greece’s traditional crop varieties disappeared, being replaced with the same homogenized (and often tasteless) produce found elsewhere in the “developed” world.
In addition, Greek farmers were (and are) often encouraged — and paid — with EU monies to not grow anything at all, while the people of Greece are told that Greece is permanently wedded to the EU because “it doesn’t produce anything” and therefore can’t afford “Grexit.”
In an analysis last year for MintPress News, I examined the destruction of Greek agriculture during the years of EU membership:
Indeed, it is membership in the EU that has led to a sharp decline in the domestic production of numerous staples in Greece. In 1961, twenty years before joining the EU, “impoverished” Greece produced 169,200 tons of figs, 6,374 tons of sesame, 52,000 tons of dry beans, 13,365 tons of chickpeas, and 19,246 tons of quince. In 2011, the respective figures were 9,400 tons of figs, 33 tons of sesame, 22,744 tons of dry beans, 2,200 tons of chickpeas, and 3,432 tons of quince.
In 1981, the year Greece joined the EU, production of fresh vegetables was at 123,298 tons, lemon production was at 216,874 tons, apple production was at 337,091 tons, almond production at 73,181 tons, tobacco production at 130,900 tons, tomato production at 1,884,600 tons, and potato production at 1,056,000 tons.
Thirty years later, the figures for each of these crops had sharply declined: 74,393 tons of fresh vegetables, 70,314 tons of lemons, 255,800 tons of apples, 29,800 tons of almonds, 20,287 tons of tobacco, 1,169,900 tons of tomatoes, and 757,820 tons of potatoes.
A major factor in this decline is the EU’s common agricultural policy, which sets production quotas for each country and each sector of production, and dictates to each country what to produce and which crop varieties to cultivate, what not to produce, where to export, where not to export, how much to export and at what price.
For example, until 2005 Greece’s sugar production sector was profitable and met a large part of domestic demand. In a 2006 deal with the EU, however, Greece agreed to reduce its domestic sugar production and increase imports. In 1980, the year before Greece ascended to the EU, pork meat production met 84 percent of domestic needs, while beef production met 66 percent of domestic demand. Those figures have declined to 38 and 13 percent, respectively.
The decline in beef production has also impacted the dairy sector. The EU’s influence is evident here as well: in 2000, Greece was fined 2.5 billion drachmas (over 7.3 million euros) for exceeding EU-imposed quotas for the production of cow’s milk.
And yet the myth persists: Greece “cannot survive” outside of the eurozone and EU. And while the lack of production—whether imagined or real—is one of the main arguments used by proponents of remaining in the EU, the lies do not stop there.
SYRIZA rounds up Monsanto, brings Roundup to Greece
This brings us to the present. It feels like ancient history right now, but prior to its election in January 2015, the “radical leftist” SYRIZA issued promises left and right, pledging to end the many ills of austerity and to stand up to demands made by the Europeans — and particularly the Germans — towards Greece. Tsipras earned legions of gullible followers with statements such as “Go back Mrs. Merkel.”
SYRIZA, however, was careful not to question Greece’s place in the EU or the eurozone, and sidestepped potential hot potatoes such as the then-proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which among other things would have opened the floodgates for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and companies such as Monsanto to freely enter the European marketplace.
As it turns out, however, despite the fact that TTIP was shot down by the Trump administration, much to the chagrin of globalists and neoliberals the world over, it wasn’t needed after all. In a ministerial decision issued on March 6 and made publicly available Wednesday on the Greek government’s Diavgeia database, Monsanto has been issued a five year license to distribute its infamous herbicide, RoundUp, in Greece.
This follows in the footsteps of the European Commission’s decision in December to renew Monsanto’s license to operate in the EU for five years, in large part due to German pressure.
Notably, Monsanto is currently in the process of completing its merger with German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, a deal which will also require final approval from the EU.
What is RoundUp? It is a herbicide, specifically a weed killer, whose primary ingredient is a chemical called glyphosate. Used by farmers to kill weeds which compete with crops, RoundUp has been accused of being a potent carcinogen. As reported recently by Newsweek, over 300 farmers and other individuals have filed lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging that RoundUp gave them cancer. Experts on both sides have weighed in, some claiming that RoundUp has not been shown to be linked to an increased incidence of cancer, while other scientists have disagreed. For instance, the California Environmental Protection Agency has included glyphosate in its list of potential carcinogens.
In a 2017 analysis, Hellenic Insider contributor Evaggelos Vallianatos, formerly of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), also argued that RoundUp is harmful for the honeybee population.
Even French president Emmanuel Macron, no radical himself, has stated his intent to have glyphosate banned in France within three years.
This is not the place for a proper analysis of RoundUp’s potential effects on human health. Readers are encouraged to do their own research on the topic. What is clear though is that the verdict is far from settled as to the safety of this product. At one time, the EU supposedly prided itself in standing apart from the United States in the realm of food safety, while Greek produce was particularly distinct for its quality and flavor. Now, it is the “radical leftist” SYRIZA itself which is opening the floodgates for Monsanto and Roundup to enter the Greek marketplace, while the Greek people are repeatedly told that the country cannot stand on its own outside the eurozone or the EU.
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