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Cubans starve on diet of lies

By Dennis T. Avery
web posted March 30, 2009

"Cuba's Urban Farming Program a Stunning Success," Associated Press, International Herald Tribune, June 8, 2008

"Cuba Organic Farming Group Wins Alternative Nobel Prize," Organic Consumers Association press release, October 6,1999

 "Cut Off From Global Markets, Cuba Invents a New Agriculture," Donella Meadows, lead author of Limits to Growth, 1997.

"This is the largest conversion from conventional to organic or even semi-organic farming the world has ever seen. . . . The whole world should learn from Cuba," Peter Rosset, Executive Director, Food First, 1993.

The Cubans told the world they had heroically learned to feed themselves without fuel or farm chemicals after their Soviet subsidies collapsed in the early 1990s. They bragged about their  "peasant cooperatives," their biopesticides and organic fertilizers. They heralded their earthworm culture and the predator wasps they unleashed on destructive caterpillars. They boasted about the heroic ox teams they had trained to replace tractors.

Organic activists swooned all over the world.

Now, a senior Ministry of Agriculture official has admitted in the Cuban press that 84 percent of Cuba's current food consumption is imported, according to our agricultural attaché in Havana. The organic success was all a lie—a great, gaudy, Communist-style Big Lie of the type that dictators behind the Iron Curtain routinely used throughout the Cold War to hornswoggle the Free World.

This time the victims of the Big Lie are the Greens in the organic movement who want us to trust our future food supplies to their low-yield "natural farming" The Greens want us to outlaw nitrogen fertilizer, biotechnology and whatever else might save room for the planet's wildlife through higher farm productivity.

But now the Cubans have admitted sneaking rice, wheat, corn and soy oil imports into the country, bought with tourist dollars from European and Canadian visitors—many of whom came to see Cuba's "stunningly successful" farming-of-the-future. As the U.S. embargos have loosened, food imports from the U.S. are also increasing.

The Cuban farming deception was aided by the "useful idiots" in the non-Communist world. The late Donnella Meadows, who wrote the stunningly-foolish book Limits to Growth in 1972, gushed over Cuban farming:  "Suddenly deprived of half its food and most of its agricultural inputs, [Cuba] has not only maintained but increased its food supply in a way that creates jobs and improves the environment."

Right, by importing 84 percent of the food.

Cuba has lots of unused farmland, but Castro's system discouraged rural farmers. They couldn't get their over-quota surplus to the cities for lack of fuel and trucks. Much of Cuba's rural land has now grown up to thorny marabou bushes.

Instead, more than 10,000 Cuban city dwellers have become full-time gardeners. Environmentalist Bill McKibbon wrote in Harpers of an few-acre urban garden in Havana, on a site intended for a hospital. It grows 25 different vegetables, employing 64 people. Most of the beans and carrots have to be delivered to the government for the "ration stores" but the gardeners can make their own deals with the neighbors for the rest. The gardeners only make about 150 pesos per month. Still, there's even less to buy in Cuba than in the old Soviet Union—including almost no meat and little milk. They mainly subsist on rice and beans.

Should America force its people to spend their days' hand-weeding vegetables in a field that should have been a hospital?  Should our food be rationed like Cuba's?  Instead, 3 percent of Americans grow the food, on far less expensive land.

As Blake Hurst concluded in his March, 23 Weekly Standard article, "Dirt Poor in the Workers' Paradise:"  "If you are going to have a sustainable agricultural paradise, it helps to have a nearby neighbor with a million or so industrial farmers." ESR

Dennis T. Avery is an environmental economist, and a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to cgfi@hughes.net.

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