Introduction consequence of the agriculture and economic


In the same year that the Berlin Wall fell
and the first direct election took place in Brazil after 20 years of military
dictatorship, Harriet Friedmann and Philip McMicheal presentedan article with thefood
regime concept. Using a world-historical background, the authors introduced a
new approach to analyse the connections betweenagro-food systems and statepolitics,
and the part of the agricultural sector in the development of global
capitalism. For providing an overall understanding of these intricate relations,Food
Regime Theory is stillbroadly applied toexamine world food trade (Pritchard, 2009). Friedmann&
McMichael (1989)distinguishedtwo
food regimes since 1870, both of them are identified as aperiod of stability in
the relationship between the global political order andfood production and
demand, although each one has its specific features.

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Brazil has become a more relevant piece in
the world food system after the 1970s, decade that marks the end of the second
food regime, as consequence of the agriculture and economic policies adopted by
the country in mid-1960s (Valdes et al., 2016).The country joined others third world statesand adopted the high
input demand and specialized model from the American agriculture(McMichael, 1998). The Brazilian agriculture sector has increased under,asPatel(2013) defined, the long Green Revolution. In 2012 it was the second
largest food exporter country (FAO, 2015).

Nevertheless the Brazilian agribusiness
growth has its collateral effects,great environmental and social impacts.In the
high social inequality of the Brazilian society (OECD, 2016), the difference to access the means offer by agricultural
development programs has aggravated the unfairness in land distribution (Pearse, 1980). The deforested area in Amazon in the 2000s increased 400% when
compared with the  1970s index(Martinelli &
Filoso, 2009).In 2015 the country was the
second largest pesticides buyer in the world (FAO, 2017). Since
2009 ithas been the largest global pesticides consumer per capita, additionally
several pesticides that have already been banned in most developed countries
are still allowed in Brazil (Londres, 2011).

The increasing global awareness over the threats
from the modernisation era has lead, according Beck (1996),to a transition from industrial to risk society, where there is
self-confrontation with the costs of the institutionalized production models. Since
the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent
Spring in 1962, voices opposing the agricultural model and its disastrous
consequences have arisen(Costa et al., 2017). A set of different social movements emerged as a response to the
agro-food system developed during the Second Food Regime, among them the International
Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) was founded in 1972, its
activities are define organic farming standards and regulate certification
services.The institution describes organic agriculture as “a production system
that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on
ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions,
rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture
combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment
and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved”(IFOAM, n.d.)

Since 1980s the agroecological movement has
flourished in Latin America, especially in Brazil.Agroecology is defined as
both a science and a set of alternative agricultural practices thatgoes beyond organic
farmingsystems,forpromotingpolyculturesand agroforestry. After almost 20 years
later, the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), a Brazilian social movement
that struggles for more equity in land ownership, adopted the agroecology into
its praxis and became a significant organic producer(Altieri& Toledo,

Including the perspective of the Food
Regime Theory, this essay firstly draws the development of the Brazilian
agriculture and the formation of MST, and then it describes the arousal of the
organic farming movement in Brazil and the adoption of alternative agricultural
practices by theLandless Rural Workers’ Movement.

and land distribution in Brazil

The performance of the Brazilian economic
sector is strongly based on the agriculture sector, beingits main exported
goods sugar, soybean and meats(FAO, 2015),each of them relatedwith the two previous food regimes, though it
is the second one that had largely influenced the actual country’s economic

The first food regime has as its main
player the British Empire. It is characterized for the colonial system that
lasted until the beginning of the World War I, and the need for new territories
to increase the production of agricultural commodities, providing cheap food
for the growing working class in the industrialized European centers. While in
the second food regime U.S. emerged as principal actor providing food aid after
World War II, as a result of a domestic policy to deal with the surpluses that
were an outcome of the subsidies for the agricultural sector focus on exports (Pritchard, 2009). Being the surplus also a consequence of another characteristic of
this regime, the intensification in the agro-food systems due the
agro-industrialization and the development of Green Revolution technologies(McMichael, 2009).

Before the Industrial Revolution Brazilian
sugar dominated the world trade, but after 1700s the Portugal’s colony lost its
place to the tropicalBritish colonies, that became the main suppliers of this
source of calorie to the wage-earning population in the industrialized countries(Simonsen, 2005).Hence Brazil had not a relevant part in the First Food Regime as England
had ensured the control over a main stimulant commodity that, according Mintz(1985),for enhancing the labour class efficiencycontributed significantly
in the formation of the capitalist economy. In Brazil a significant expansion
of land cover with sugarcane cropsstarted in mid-1970s with the incentive
government program ProÁlcool and
after 2000s, with the biofuel trend, when the sugarcane industry and crop area
increased in a unparalleled rate (Martinelli &
Filoso, 2009). In
2007, Brazil was the world’s leading sugar and ethanol producer and accounted
for around 40% of world sugar trade(OEDC-FAO, 2007).

Another set of impressive figures appeared
when analysing soybean and meat production in the country, in the beginning of
the 1960s the soybean area was less than 1 million hectare, whereas in 2007 the
area reached 20 million ha, comparing the same period the total soyaproduction increased
more than 20000% and the total cattle heads fourfold(Martinelli and
Filoso, 2009). These
numbers show the bequestof the Second Food Regime,after World War II meat
became the centre of the Western diet, being soy a vital input to its mass
production. After theoil crisis in 1973,the process of internationalization of
the intensive meat complex created in U.S., which integrated animal and grain
producers, was intensified through the Latin America countries(Friedmann &
McMichael, 1989).

The Brazilian agriculture showed two significant phases of
growth, one took place in the1970s and the other after the 1990s until now.The
latter period is characterized for macroeconomics reforms based onneoliberal
policiesand an intensiveintegration on the international market,with Brazil
entering the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations and the establishment
of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUL). In the former period, the country was
harvesting the results of adopting the Green Revolutions technologies. The implicit
reasons ofthe success in modernazing the agricultural sector during this timeare
the government subsidies and the authoritarism of the Brazilian state, the
country was ruled by a military dictatorcship from 1964 until 1985(Patel, 2013).

It was during the first years of the totalitary regime that
the current structure of land distribuition in Brazil was shaped, although the
high concentration of land ownership come since the colonial times (Sauer & Leite,
2012).The high-yielding
varieties require irrigation and fertilizers in order to
have a good crop performance,therefore affluent farmers, with easier access to
state financing and high quality lands, obtained greater results than smallholder
farmers. The profits of the successful cultivators led to an increasing demand
for land, forcing out poor peasants from their proprieties, aggravating the
inequality in the land distribution in the country. Between the beginning of
agricultural modernization and the 1980s, the rural migration reached around 25
million Brazilians (Perz, 2000).

In the earlier yearsof there-democratization
process, aroused in Brazil an organizedsocial movement claiming for a fairer
land distribution, Movimento dos
TrabalhadoresRuraisSem Terra or Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST)(Branford &
Rocha, 2003).Its official
foundation was in 1984, when peasants and rural workers from different
Brazilian states decided join forces in their struggle for land, after a series
of independent estates occupations in the end of the 1970s(Karriem, 2009).The pressure created for the movement, occupying non-productive land
throughout the national territory, led different governments to implement
agrarian reforms resulting in almost 1 million families settled over 88 million
hectares(McMichael, 2009).

The MST campaign become broaderin the
1990s, when the movementhad joined forces with the international peasant movementVia Campesina, and started to contest
the agribusiness model that, besides increasing land concentration, overlooks
the impacts on the environment and promotes food export instead of guarantee
domestic food supply. Both confront the WTO, for its biased negotiations, and
the transnational agri-food corporations, for having control over, among other
things, seeds distribution(Karriem, 2009).

McMichael analysed the role of social movements on his formulation ofanpossible
emergence new food regime “This conception pivots on the original notion of a
food regime embodying a historical conjuncture comprising contradictory
principles. Just as the dynamics of the previous regimes centered on tensions
between opposing geo-political principles – colonial/national relations in the
?rst, national/transnational relations in the second, so the corporate food
regime embodies a central contradiction between a ‘world agriculture’ (food
from nowhere) and a place-based form of agro-ecology (food from somewhere). In
addition, this formulation focuses attention on the politics of dispossession
of the world’s small farmers, ?sher-folk and pastoralists, including a
counter-mobilisation in the name of ‘food sovereignty’ against the modernist
narrative that views peasants as residual.”(2009, p. 147).Thesame authoremphasises that the classification of the current agri-food
system and political economy in a third food regime is still being debatedamong
different scholars.

In Brazil, at the same time that MST was
being formed, a crescent wakefulness about the by-products of the agricultural
model created in the Second Food Regime, such as deforestation, soil erosion,
food contaminated with toxicresidues, and the influence of world counterculture
activistsresultin the diffusion of alternative agricultural practices,among
them the organic agriculture and agroecology(Costa et al., 2017). However it was only in themid-1990s, with the beginning of the
neoliberal era in the country, thatMST hadincludedthe ecological factor in its
practices(Borsatto &
Carmo, 2013). The movement found in agroecologyamore sustainable productionsystem
and a way of bringing dignity to the peasants in the land reform settlements(Karriem, 2009).

+ MST in Brazil

The change in the MST political guidelineis
presenting interesting and significant results. The movement was pioneer in
Latin America with the agroecological seeds networkBioNaturthat in 2007
produced 7 tons of organic seed including more than 90 varieties of plants(MST, 2017). In 2015,the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) decided to divulge through
the MERCOSUL countries a success experience of an organic cotton crop in a settlement
from the Northeast region(Brasil, 2015).According to IRGA,Rio Grande
do Sul Rice Institute, a set of MST settlements in the country southern
region is the largest organic rice producer in Latin America in 2017(PROCERGS, n.d.).

The continuous expansion of the organic
sector is a trend worldwide, between 2000 and 2015 the global market for its
products has quadruplicate(Willer,
2017). Brazil follows the same
tendency, the number of organic farms has double in 2016 when compared with 2013(Brasil, 2016). Despite the country has the largest market for organic products in
Latin America, its growth is slow due to the economic and political crisesand
it has only 0.3% the total agricultural area with organic production(Willer,
2017). In the first consumer
research for this market in Brazil, it was verified that in averagejust 15% of
the urban population bought at least one organic product lately(Organis, 2017).

Although associations, cooperatives and
non-government organizations of the Brazilian green movement have been advocating
and practicing alternative agriculture systems since the 1970s, it was only after
Rio-92 that the debated aboutregulation for organic products started at thefederal
level. In 2003 the obligatory conditions to produce and sell organic goods in
the country were established by a national law andsix years later the government
released the Brazilian seal for organic products(Sambuichi et al.,

In order toreduce the costs involved in the
certification process andfavour family farming and smallholder farmersto get in
the organicsector, the Brazilian system adopted three different control
mechanisms to its products: the third part certification based on external
audit, the participatory guarantee system (PGS) and the direct sell (Sambuichi et al., 2017). The PGS was adopted by IFOAM in 2004 and it is built on trust relations
between the producers and consumers, the guarantee is regulated by the
participants farmers(Luttikholt, 2007),
while the direct sell mechanism is specific to family farms that are in a Social
Control Organization (OSC) registered at the Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA). In
this system the organic family farming products have to be trade direct with
the final consumer(Sambuichi et al., 2017).

Along with the beginning of debates about
the organic sector in the country,the government started implementing a series
of different nationwide programs to support the family farming and also
alternative agricultural practices, based on a set of guidelines provided by FAO
together with the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform
(INCRA)(Sambuichi et al.,
2017).Nowadays 75% of the
Brazilian organic producers are smallholder farmers as a result of the combined
benefitsprovide by theNational Program to Strengthen Family Farming (PRONAF), the
National Plan of Agroecology and Organic Production (Planapo) andthe National
Technical Assistance Program and Rural Extension in Family farming and Agrarian
Reform (Pronater)(Brasil, 2016).

Despite the public policies to promote the
organic sector,the rise of this market in Brazil is mainly due to privileged
consumers since its products’ pricesare still much higher than the conventional
ones(Organis, 2017). Nevertheless this is a trend seen globally when it comes to green products.Inherpropositionofa
possible third food regime, Friedmann(2005)suggests that transnational supermarkets companies,grounded on some
of the environmental and health movements’ requests, guide arearrangement on
food supply chainthat foster a differentiation between consumerswhocan pay for
fresh, green and healthy food and the ones who cannot.

In order to increase the access to organic
products and to support the smallholder farmers from the settlements,theMST is creating
different channels to commercialize its production throughout the country,
besides the farmers markets. Itsfocus is reaching the final consumer and
providing organic food for lower prices.The movementhas opened two stores in
two cities,one in São Paulo in 2016 and the other in Belo Horizonte one year
later. In Porto Alegre it is possible to buy food from local settlements using
a smartphone app. Clients can order weekly, on an e-commerce, baskets with
organic food produced by settlers in farms near Curitiba(MST, 2017).

The conversion to agroecology on settlements
is an ongoing process.At the beginning, the MTScentred its agricultural project
on highly productivity, specialized, vertically integrated and collectivized
model. The Cooperative System of Settlers (SCA) was created, but after a while
its cooperatives went into crisis, for depending on transnational corporates to
acquire external inputs and to sell its production.Paradoxically, following the
bases created in Second Food Regime, the movement disseminated in its
settlements a production system that had been the cause of the expropriation of
peasants in an earlier moment.In this circumstance, it was initiated the
discussion of an alternative way of production that goes beyond the economical
aspect and considers also the ecological and social dimensions, where the
peasant and its knowledge are considered essential elements in the engine for production(Borsatto & Carmo, 2013).

Since the 2000s the movement has established
in its education system alternative agricultural practices.There are more than
2000 public schools in the settlementsfollowing MST’s educational model, based on
educator Paulo Freire’s works, which promotes the critical thinking among the
students (Schwendler &
Thompson, 2017). In addition tothe basic instruction,some initiatives were
created focusing on the settlers, such as formation centersprovidingsustainable
farming coursesand theAgroecology Journey, an annual forum to debate and
exchange experiences among the different settlements(Borsatto et al., 2007)

José Lutzemberger was one of the first
voices in Brazil opposingthe agricultural model adopted during the Green
Revolution and its impacts in the country.In the 1970she foundedan
environmental NGO and published the book End
of the future? Brazilian Ecological Manifesto. The Brazilian environmental
activist was instructor of organic farming practices to MST settlers until his
death in 2002.The farmers’ position in the current agro-food system was
described by him to Branford, “The modern farmer is only a tractor-driver or a poison-sprayer.
He is only a tiny cog in an enormous and highly complicated techno-bureaucratic
structure that begins in the oil?elds, goes through the whole chemicalindustry
and the huge agri-business industry—I’d rather call itthe food manipulating,
denaturing and contaminating industry—andends up in the supermarkets.” (2003, p.158).In the same work, Lutzemberger claimed the role of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement in challenging
the conventional agricultural structure, “The MST wasan
emergency movement, set up by desperate rural labourers whohad lost their
livelihoods. Now that they are back on the land andfarming their own plots,
they have begun to realize that they have toquestion the whole basis of modern
farming. It’s encouraging but notenough. The MST needs to be at the forefront
of efforts to forge amuch broader alliance to stand up to destructive modern
farming.” (2003, p. 157).


The awaking forces of social movements,
contesting the legacy of the Second Food Regime,has emerged around the worldas
defined by Beck a ‘kind of self-confrontationof the consequences of modernization'(1996, p. 28) when the threats caused byit could not be more ignored and control.
After adopting the current agricultural model, MST realizedthat it was economic
and environmental unsustainable. Since mid-1990s the movement has widened its
struggle andembracedalso the cause of the agroecology, institutionalising thesustainable
practices in itslands, promoting a more appropriate and independent production
system to its settlements(Altieri &
Toledo, 2011).

The MST fight for land continues since the
disparity in its distribution is still high.According to the last Brazilian
agricultural census in 2006, 43% of the total rural area is occupied for less
than 1% of the total number of farms (IBGE, 2009). Since 2008, after the food crisis, the concentration of land
ownership in the country has been aggravated with the increasing of investments
in farmland for transnational corporate (Wilkinson et al.,
2012). However, the agrarian
reform has decelerated in Brazil since 2000s, when a government decree
prohibits the expropriation of lands that were invaded by the MST(Sauer & Leite,

The conversion of the MST settlements into
agroecological praxis is evolving and it could contribute to turn the green
food accessible to more Brazilians, however this challenge becomes even greater
in the face of the recent political and economic crises. When the main goal is
recover the economy, social and environmental issues become less important, for
instance in 2016 the budget of the National Plan of Agroecology and Organic
Productionwas reduced(Sambuichi et al.,

The Brazil capability
to overcome the crisis and integrate socio economic development with
environmental preservation, by effective implementing the already existing
programs and expanding them,could be an example to other developing countries(Martinelli et al., 2010). In the scenario of climate change, the great
Brazilian biodiversity can have a main role into global food security,
providing agricultural varieties that can be adapted to the new climatic
conditions (Martinelli & Filoso, 2009). Therefore, the sustainable development of the
Brazilian agriculture will not only impact its own society but people all over
the world.