A conversation with Marie-Monique Robin: the only option is optimism

Marie-Monique Robin doesn’t like to stick to comfortable topics. This indefatigable woman, with 25 years of experience as an investigative journalist, has produced an impressive range of hard-hitting books, reports, and documentaries.

The World According to Monsanto is one of her most famous books and documentaries.

We met her during the Eu Farming and Food Forum, which is organized by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), to ask her a few questions.

Data indicate that the use of insecticides, pesticides, and nitrates is very high throughout Europe. We also know that there is the Bayer-Monsanto merger and that all these products are very bad for human health. Is the amount of chemicals that are used today changing at all, and are there countries that are doing things differently?

Sadly, things haven’t changed much. The use of pesticides is, unfortunately, not decreasing at all in Europe or in the rest of the world. This is very worrying, first of all for biodiversity. We know, for example, that herbicides or insecticides are responsible for the disappearance of insects—80% of insects have disappeared in Europe—and also for biodiversity in general. This is very worrying for the health of Europeans. There are many sick people, people with cancer, degenerative diseases, sterility problems, diabetes…all due to these chemicals that contaminate the food chain. It is therefore quite striking to see the difference between, on the one hand, European citizens who are more and more aware of the need to change the way we eat and, on the other hand, policies that are still under pressure from lobbies. We ourselves must continue to press for policies that take measures to protect both citizens and biodiversity.

And in the case of GMOs, what is the situation and what are the developments, in your opinion?

You know, in Europe we don’t have too much GMO cultivation, except in Spain. We import a lot of GMOs sprayed with Roundup and, from North and South America, intensively farmed animals, and this is worrying for the health of the animals and for those of us who eat meat from animals fed with GMOs. At the same time, there is a difference between the consciousness of citizens who gradually eat less meat, and policies that continue to deny all that.

What role can the consumer have?

The consumer is very important because, as I have seen in France, little by little, with all the information we brought (the book, the film, etc.), consumers start to say “we want to control the content of the plate, we want quality animals, organic and local.” They are worried and they are right. So, consumers should continue to encourage the production of local and organic animals.

So there’s hope?

Pessimism must be kept for better days. We don’t have a choice. It’s too late to be pessimistic. The only option is optimism: Hopefully we’ll win!

What do you think about work and movements like Slow Food?

All initiatives and associations that go in the same direction are important. They are very important for raising public awareness. We hope that they’ll multiply and merge, to make sure that organic farming triumphs everywhere.

What are your next projects?

I’d like to make a movie about Roundup, as well as a book. And after that, a new documentary on social and solidarity economies.

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