Sir James Goldsmith on Corporate Agriculture

Sir James Goldsmith from an interview in November 1994, on the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT) which created the World Trade Organization:

The idea is to create what is known today as efficient agriculture and to impose it worldwide. Let me just give you one [impact] of GATT on the third world. The idea of GATT is that the efficiency of agriculture throughout the world should …produce the most amount of food for the least cost. But what does that really mean? …What is cost?

When you produce the intensified agriculture and you reduce the number of people on the land, what happens to those people?…They are chased into the towns. They lose their jobs on the land. If they go into the towns, there are no jobs, there is no infrastructure. The social costs of those people, the financial costs of the infrastructure has to be added to the cost of producing food.

On top of that, you are breaking families, you are uprooting them, you are throwing them into the slums. Do you realize that in Brazil, the favelas (slums) did not exist before the Green Revolution of intensifying agriculture.

In the world today there are 3.1 billion people still living in rural communities. If GATT succeeds and we are able to impose modern methods of agriculture worldwide, so as to bring them to the level of Canada or Australia, what will happen? 2.1 billion people will be uprooted from the land and chased into the towns throughout the world. It is the single greatest disaster [in our history] greater than any war.

We have to change priorities. Let’s take agriculture. Instead of just trying to produce the maximum amount for the cheapest direct costs, let us try to take into account the other costs. Our purpose should not be just the one dimensional cost of food. We want the right amount of food, for the right quality for health and the right quality for the environment and employing enough people so as to maintain social stability in the rural areas.

If not, and we chase 2.1 billion people into the slums of the towns, we will create on a scale unheard of mass migration – what we saw in Rwanda with 2 million people will be nothing — so as to satisfy an economic doctrine. … We would be creating 2 billion refuges. We would be creating mass waves of migration which none of us could control. We would be destroying the towns which are already largely destroyed. Look at Mexico, Rio, look at our own towns.

And we are doing this for economic dogma?…What is this nonsense? Everything is based in our modern society on improving an economic index…The result is that we are destroying the stability of our societies, because we are worshiping the wrong god… Economic index.

The economy, like everything else, is a tool which should be submitted to, should be subject to, the true and fundamental requirements of society.

…This is the establishment against the rest of society… I am for business, so long as it does not devour society…[But] we have a conflict of interest. Big business loves having access to an unlimited supply of give away labor…

…You cannot enrich a country by destroying the health of its population. The health of a society cannot be measured by corporate profitability…

…We have allowed the instruments that are supposed to serve us to become our masters.


  1. Now that’s what I’m talking about…. a member of the elite with the guts to tell the public the truth. I realize that Idolatry is a sin, but if anyone comes close to an idol for me it is James Goldsmith. Unfortunately, they’ve done an excellent job burying him and his message, even today it is ignored by all supposed financial experts. The only person I’ve heard refer to the same points is economist Michael Hudson, but he gets almost no air-time except with Bonnie Faulkner of Guns and Butter. I’m quite pleased to see you moving down this path as well, Catherine.

    There is one thing, however, that Goldsmith either did not foresee or either felt too uncomfortable talking about at the time, and that is that the world would experience food supply “problems” as soon as corporate agriculture gained control of the family farm internationally. I find it fascinating that the world was able to feed itself through family farming over centuries, but as soon as 5 corporations took control of the global food supply we are bombarded with propaganda about food shortages and dramatic price increases. Unfortunately, it’s just another manufactured reality.

  2. After having trouble accessing the Youtube video of this interview, I ordered the DVD on line. I watched it several times this week and finally just kept playing selected sections long enough to transcribe the piece above.

    I try not to feel regret over the past. However, watching Goldsmith I felt great, great regret that I had not seen this interview in 1994.

    What an extraordinary man. I have a friend whose son worked for him who tried to tell me about him. Wish I had listened. I even had a Bloomberg machine then.


  3. Sir James Goldsmith ……Very good Statements from him……
    “The economy is a Tool to serve us. It is not a Demi-God to be served by Society.” …..but oops…
    I smell a Rat..…..this Man was named “Attila the Hun with financial Genius”
    Goldsmith went from High-School Dropout to Multi-Billionaire in about 20 Years
    A significant much larger Number of People go from being a High-School Dropout to being a Heroin-Wreck in much lesser Time.
    So how did he do it?
    Like Robert Maxwell he engaged in Share Raids and Asset Stripping, he lived a colorful
    Life and his Deeds never matched his Talking. Even though “Human” and Brilliant in his
    Statements, he might have been brilliant in Double-Dealing too.
    A Homage from Maggie Thatcher is Proof enough for me:
    “Jimmy was a great Man, larger than Life”.
    Anyway : De mortuis nihil nisi bene

  4. I do agree with Juergen concerning Goldsmith.

    In the opposite of ” De mortuis nihil nisi bene ” Voltaire, who’s Deeds were used for His distructive and infortunately successful Purposes, used to say:
    ” The living ownes respect, about the deads has to be sayd the truth “.

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