In a small town in the west of France lives Mrs. Chabriat’s family. Mrs. Chabriat is very careful to ensure that all her family has a balanced diet. This is why today she has prepared runner beans. Runner beans are the fruits of a plant from the Fabaceae family. The term “bean” designates the edible seeds and pods of the plant.
Beans draw the nutrients required to provide a healthy nutritional balance from the soil thanks to their roots. The main root of the runner bean plant can reach a depth of 1 metre if the soil conditions permit.
The ones that Mrs. Chabriat has cooked for her children were grown by Mr. Sanchez, in Chile. The land farmed in Chile is owned by a French pension fund.
These financiers require that Mr Sanchez uses petro-intensive farming practices, free from European environmental concerns.
The roots of Mr. Sanchez’s beans in Chile do not descend to 1 metre deep.
When a plant cannot take root deeply, this points to mineralisation of the soil.
Soil is normally made up of a mineral layer, a layer of humus and plant litter.
The soil in which Mr. Sanchez’s beans grow has lost its layer of humus, replaced by the mineral layer, or on other words: stone.
Beans can grow in stony ground if the elements required for its growth are provided by external means.
In medicine, this process is used to feed people who have become too week to feed themselves. It’s name? drip feeding.
Since Mr. Sanchez’s beans do not have deep enough roots to obtain sufficient nutrients from the soil, they are weak.
Mr Sanchez has to provide them with the lifeline of drip feeding.
Mr Sanchez gives the beans substitute nutrients called NPK fertiliser. It enables the plant’s photosynthesis to be maintained.
NPK fertiliser is made using hydrocarbon extracts. They are made by petro-chemical industrial firms in New Jersey in the USA.
The fertiliser speeds up the plant’s growth, providing higher yields and improving productivity.
Mr Sanchez wants to increase his productivity, since the more beans he produces, the more money he earns.
The more money he earns, the more food he can buy to ensure he has a healthy body.
As a result, to improve his productivity, to earn more money, to buy more food to ensure he has a healthy body, he is sold improved seed called “hybrid” seed, which is more resistant and more productive.
A “hybrid” seed is a variety crossed with another whose characteristics, strengths and weaknesses complement each other. This cross-breeding generates a new seed which is very productive but not very reproductive. This means new seed has to be bought each year.
The hybrid beans grown by Mr. Sanchez are created in an agronomic laboratory in New Jersey, in the USA.
This standardised seed is intrinsically more vulnerable to local characteristics than rustic seed. In Chile, Mr. Sanchez’s plants are infested with pea aphids.
Pea aphids are small insects that measure between 1 and 4 mm. They cause deformation of the plants and fruits, leading to a drop in productivity.
Aphids, like beans and people, can catch diseases and die as a result.
Consequently, Mr Sanchez treats his crop of beans to kill the aphids. In order to do this he uses “pesticides”.
“Pesticides” is a generic term that groups insecticides, fungicides, nematicides, herbicides, rodenticide, parasiticide and, perhaps one day (who knows?) ‘stonicide’?
These words ending in -cide designate toxic products which respectively attack insects, pests, fungus, nematodes, weeds, rodents, slugs and parasitic worms.
The pesticides that Mr Sanchez buys to kill the pea aphids are made by the same petro-chemical industrial firms as the NPK fertiliser and sold by the same agronomic laboratory in New Jersey.
These pesticides do indeed kill the pea aphids, but also all other forms of life in the soil, such as bacteria or worms.
As well as affecting the human beings who come into contact with these products.
Let’s focus on earthworms.
Earthworms, also known as night-crawlers, are burrowing animals. Through creating small underground tunnels, they play a major role in plant life via aeration and micro-drainage of the soil.
The disappearance of earthworms leads to desertification and mineralisation of the soil.
This phenomenon is accentuated when Mr. Sanchez ploughs, believing that it will solve this problem.
Ploughing is a technique involving turning over the earth at a depth of 30 cm to 60 cm before the crops are sown. Mr Sanchez ploughs his field with a hoeing machine pulled by a tractor.
Farm tractors are automotive vehicles weighing from one to three tonnes and which run on fuel petroleum products.
All these inputs start to stack up and each year Mr. Sanchez has to call upon the petro-chemical industrial firms as his soil becomes more impoverished.
As a result, Mr Sanchez reaches his goal: productivity increases, but due to his expenditure, he does not earn more money to buy other food to ensure he has a healthy body.
In the small town in western France, Mrs. Chabriat has enough money to buy the food to ensure she has a healthy body.
Such food includes the runner beans of Mr. Sanchez.
Mme Chabriat buys her runner beans from the supermarket.
A supermarket, also referred to as a “superstore” is a self-service retail outlet that sells food products such as beans.
Mr. Sanchez’s beans are subject to competition. Competition is an economic situation in which equivalent goods compete for sale at the best price.
Such being the case, goods produced by a farmer who is poorly equipped, well equipped or over-equipped do not require the same amount of work.
In other words, economic competition pits a runner, a 2 CV and a Formula 1 racing car against each other in the same race.
Moreover, the Formula 1 racing cars are often souped up to win the race.
The highest step on the podium is inevitably taken by the Formula 1 racing car.
To enable Mrs. Chabriat to buy Mr. Sanchez’s beans, they need to be transported from Chile to France.
This transaction is called importing.
Like Mr. Sanchez, Mr. Jean, who has a farm in Southern France, produces runner beans following petro-intensive farming practices.
In the summer, Mr. Jean transports his production by truck over long distances.
The beans supply purchasing pools. In France, there are 5 of them. These 5 purchasing pools obtain there supplies from all over the world, supplying in turn major superstore brands or simply supermarkets and hypermarkets.
The beans are sold with a mark-up to the purchasing pools, then sold to the supermarkets with a mark-up who in turn sell them with a mark-up to consumers.
The mark-up is the difference between the selling price and the cost of purchase.
Any person can be a consumer if they earn money and spend it in a consumerist society.
The majority of French consumers buy their shopping from supermarkets, except for people referred to as “consumer activists” such as Mr. Ledus.
He is a member of an AMAP (supplied by Mr. Martin, a farmer).
Today, in the basket he supplies are runner beans.
An AMAP is an Association pour le Maintien dune Agriculture Paysanne (the French version of Community Supported Agriculture organisations in Anglo-Saxon countries). It brings together a group of consumers and a local farmer. Each member signs a contract and pays at the start of the season for a part of the production which is delivered periodically at a constant cost.
Mr. Martin is a market gardener and has committed to producing healthy produce.
Mr. Martin grows vegetables on his two hectares of land, including runner beans.
The roots of Mr. Martin’s runner bean plants reach down to a depth of 1 metre in the soil.
Because Mr. Martin uses “inter-cropping” practices, carrots ‘rub shoulders’ with beans and provide elements that help growth. In this case, the crops are said to mutually improve each other.
After harvesting, Mr. Martin puts “crop rotation” into practice.
Crop rotation involves not growing the same variety on the same plot of land from one year to another.
This crop technique helps to maintain the soil’s fertility.
To replenish the soil with the nutrients used by the crops, Mr. Martin has to enrich his land.
As a result, Mr. Martin nourishes the soil rather than the bean.
A soil amendment is the substance used to fertilise the soil.
Mr. Martin diversifies the types of soil amendments he uses. He can use manure supplied by the neighbouring farm, green plant waste or even a leguminous plant that he sows for the winter.
Leguminous plants are those from the fabaceae family, such as peas and beans.
Mr Martin uses leguminous plants as mulch: once cut, the plant is laid on the soil and as it breaks down returns the nutrients it took from the soil.
This technique encourages the development of flora and fauna such as earthworms.
The presence of earthworms means that Mr. Martin does not need to plough.
He can therefore carry out mulch-based direct seeding, in which the seed is planted directly in the soil.
As a result, Mr. Martin does not need to use automotive machinery, since his horse and 3 employees conduct the work of a tractor.
Mr. Martin himself selects the majority of his seed varieties for their nutritive and organoleptic properties.
The organoleptic property of a food refers to what is likely to stimulate the senses: the smell, texture and taste.
It is possible to assess the organoleptic properties of bread, for example, by comparing the ‘best before date’ of a loaf of sourdough bread and an industrially baked French stick.
For the runner beans, Mr. Martin has chosen a variety that is more tasty but more fragile than others. Nonetheless, the beans are not damaged by any aphids, because Mr. Martin maintains hedges and grassy areas which play host to fauna that prey on aphids and other pests that attack beans.
Since nothing goes to waste at Mr. Martin’s farm, the hedge cuttings are shredded and spread over the soil as a cover for the crops. This is known as RCW.
RCW (Ramial Chipped Wood) is the result of shredding small recently cut branches. Ramial wood makes it possible to practically avoid watering because mushrooms that retain water develop. RCW also favours the development of life in the soil, playing a part in biodiversity.
Biodiversity is the natural diversity of living organisms. It can be assessed by weighing up the right balance between ecosystems, species and populations.
Thanks to these good practices, his runner beans have been very productive.
Mr. Martin has therefore transformed his surplus at the local cannery. Transforming this surplus enables him to provide jars of vegetables in the AMAP members’ baskets during the winter, to the delight of Mr. Ledus!
To receive the fruits of nature, Mr. Martin has understood that he has to work hand in hand with it. All the farming techniques he uses are respectful of nature:
RCW keeps the soil fertile.
The addition of manure, compost or green fertiliser boosts plant growth.
Inter-cropping, crop rotation and mulch-based direct seeding as farming techniques.
Integrated pest control protects the crops.
As a result, the help nature and biodiversity give to Mr. Martin for growing beans is totally free. Mr. Martin does not rely on any type of chemical industry and is independent.
Mr. Martin, unlike Mr. Jean, grows a wide variety of crops. Consequently, he ensures his professional activity is sustainable and that he has the resources to keep his body healthy.
The future of consumers lies in one of these 2 approaches. Which will it be?
Plant-based or petro-plant based?