At COP28 corporate investors, philanthro-capitalists, think tanks, development banks and government officials dismissed farmers’ naturally grown food in favour of transhuman Agri technologies like AI, genetically modified (GM) crops and livestock, fake food, drones and robots. The illusion of providing healthy and convenient food, while supposedly stopping climate catastrophe, has created a dystopia that will enslave us, make us sick and quite possibly starve us.
We conducted an interview with Camila Moreno, a COP 28 attendee whose background is in philosophy and in law with a Master’s, PhD and postdoc on sociology and the new carbon economy, the bioeconomy and the green transition.
Hi so Camilla.
I would really.
Love to ask you first what What’s your name, What’s your work? What’s your experience? And then you’ve just come back from COP 28, and I want to know what your food and Farming Hat thinks about the whole system.
OK, so it’s very nice to be here with you. And for those who don’t know me, my name is Camilla Moreno, I’m from Brazil. My background is in philosophy and in law and then I have Master’s, PhD and and postdoc on sociology and especially looking at the the new carbon economy, the bioeconomy, the green transition. I have been working not only as a researcher but also with a civil society coalitions from the environmental movement in Brazil for the past two decades. I’m part of a large coalition that has been opposing what we call the financialization of nature, which is the upcoming markets for environmental services as carbon biodiversity, water offsets and the like. And in this capacity, I have been participating as an observer in the UNF Triple C process, in all the climate negotiations, the cops, but also the substance that are the technical negotiations that happen every year in June in the city of Bonn in Germany since 2008. So I think this COP in Dubai, it was my 15th COP that I attended to.
So I’m quite familiar with the process of shaping global environmental governance at the UN level and how this trickles down in national policy because this is what I follow in Brazil. How we translate the new regulatory framework and what are the impacts of all those new laws and regulations and taxes and new markets on the ground, on the the the production in the economy side of especially small farmers and and peasant in Brazil?
There wasn’t this the first year that they had for food and farming is quite number one on their agenda. So how is it kind of super speeding up the changes?
Yeah. One important thing to understand is, is that the the whole climate negotiations at multilateral level within parties, no, it moves in in a very slow and in a very unique way. So it’s like a transatlantic, you know, like a Titanic, you know going in some direction. So the whole insertion of food and farming as part of the global actions for mitigation, because this is the key point. You know,
in the agenda has been going on for a while. There was a work programme called CORONA via work programme on agriculture. And all this was in a real slow pace because it was opposed by many countries, many developing countries that we should not, in the context of reducing emissions and reducing the use of fossil fuels actually to bring the developing world and the least developed countries with their agricultural sector as an opportunity to offset what was the industrial side of the problem or the the ones that should be tackled by technology. But in the past five years I would say the whole thing about nature based solution is a new narrative. It started to gain traction and especially since the Glasgow Cup after the post COVID era, the whole agenda on agriculture and especially how they frame it as shifting diets. You know the whole thing about substituting protein from animals, be it meat or milk alternatives or even milk and dairy, but also eggs? It was really becoming a big topic of the agenda because of all the startups and the technological advances and the patents that are involved in actually offering this whole new realm of new generation of products to substitute animal protein. But this year, especially COP presidency, the Sultan of the United Arab Emirates took it as one of his like personal achievements for this COP, the success in approving something related to agriculture. This is is somehow the way that the Gulf states are weaving to the African countries that actually cannot shift emissions from industries because they do not have an industrialised structure of their economies, but only in terms of agriculture. But it if you look at the details, it of course is a big technological package that is meant to be sold to develop to the developing world is like a new green revolution. The FAO is strongly involved in this. This is all packaged within the 1.5 mission. The idea that we need to not only keep the the warming to the maximum of 2°
compared to the compared to the 1850 pre industrial era, but we have this half degree that will help us with ambition.
This half degree difference that is like a constant note that you probably heard in the media, in the specialised like TV shows, talk and and analysis on the media.
You actually need this plus that only technology can give you. So this means speed up the digital transformation in food and farming and combines biotech. For the seeds, it combines a huge package of drones for precision agriculture, the automation of machinery, machinery that is also agricultural machinery that is connected to the new layer of early warning systems for extreme weather events and for for meteorological services in general. Because then you can also sell to farmers, even small farmers in Bangladesh, in Pakistan or in African countries, granular as they say, scale insurance. But this kind of insurance, which of course it’s needed in a in a changing climate, it’s connected to people accepting to shift their agriculture in farming practises to one that is vertical, integrated with high high tech And of course more markets for this emerging finance related to climate. But if I may add something else, for the middle classes, for the classes that are not, and for the public that is not directly connected to food and farming, the way that the agricultural agenda has been inserted, it’s regarding the diets, how to align your diets with climate change.
And in this case we see the IPCC, the working Group 3 which is not more on the physical science base, but it’s the one that is more and more
bringing new subjects to the to the to the table prescribing what would be the correct diets, the climate align diets for global population. So I think this we are actually stepping into a very complicated and prescriptive side of how global environmental governance and global climate governance in in specific is actually working in tandem with some questionable social engineering in terms of what kind of food systems in food and farming systems are reshaping and what are the real interests involved in this kind of transformation.
So can you actually give some examples of what you’re talking about, both in terms of the changes in food and farming? What type of food and farming do they want the farmers to produce, and what type of eating habits do they want the middle class all of us to change to?
Of course, I think first and foremost there is a big push towards
I took some pictures at the World Bank Pavilion where they have like the the, the number one. They had a like a photography prize of the future of agriculture. And the number one photo was like this inside a big container facility with ultraviolet light. You know someone like with the oriental or Eastern features dressed as a scientist. You know, in some stairs just looking like in a lab, this kind of small sprouts that they were cultivating.
So I think there is a push for some kind of food that is called soilless vertical agriculture that does not need sun or even soil to be produced. You know that you can actually transform it as a new industry. This is very important. We are, we have this constant talk about the de industrialization of the western economies as China becomes the factory of the world. But there is at the same time a slow but for sure transformation of food and farming as a new industrial sector. You know that we are being separated from what were the traditional practises of cultivating the soil regarding our cultural patterns of, you know, diet and and ecological management of the diverse ecosystem into a unified globalised sector that can compete in producing the few vegetables that are in in the interest.
But I think also there is a very clear message and this was very strong also in the Food for Climate Pavilion that was going on within the big Expo park where the COP took place. About something I’ve been observing over the past four or five years which is the protein transition they really want to and when I refer today it’s not some conspiracy talk is the class of technocrats that are within UN environmental agencies also at the FAO But also very key people that play within think thanks that internationally feed into ideas for public for public policy shaping worldwide. But also NGOs heavily funded, dedicated to this programmatic shift in, you know, installing in the public conversation but also on in the regulatory framework, be it in Europe, be it in other countries that you know, one major climate action that individual citizens can do, you know is shift in their diets. Because this does not rely on heavy technology as they say it or let’s say change your car or change your appliances or shift your place of living because of, I don’t know, whatever heating or air conditioning stuff. It’s a very basic and worldwide accessible action where all citizens of the world can feel part of the fight of global change. That is shift your diet and this message. Of course that could be, we could actually approve it in the sense that of course
globalised diets that are fully based on industrial protein, poultry and you know, factory farming, nobody wants that. We we understand all the dangers and and all the impacts and how horrible that is.
But the point is that the message going forward is that instead of shifting to a more, you know, approachable way of eating locally produced protein with farms and farmers that are sensible to the ecosystem, to the traditions. You know, you know all the agenda that you have been involved for many, many years. What is being presented to the masses is that OK, we can produce what you want.
That is globalised diets of hamburgers, chicken Nuggets, sausages and the whole McDonald’s like diet that has spread all over the world on the past 20 years. We can produce a simulacrum of the protein. So actually you can use soy mostly, you know, we know GMO soy and we can flavour it with fake flavour of meat, of chicken, you know, now they are producing even kebabs and and cod and shrimp and even salmon out of this this whole plant based paste, whatever that is and selling it as a a a a meat substitute or meat alternative.
And then of course you have the whole generation of milk alternatives that we call fake milk known that are also again with high environmental impact even from soil or from the almond monocultures. But you can fake mayonnaise, you can fake eggs out of a very heavily chemical ultra processed base. Then you have this whole other generation, which are the meat.
That is, you can cultivate the very cut without killing the animal that is I I don’t want to get into the subject here because it goes very far, but this is quite a sci-fi. Also part of the agenda that you can still eat and enjoy meat, but without the animal like you just cultivate the the very cells. But both of those two emblematic examples of the dystopic future for food and farming, I think they are quite illustrative of how when people think that governments go to the COP to decide on reducing fossil fuels and cutting emissions, what is being negotiated and what is being like normalised, this is very important. Normalised in the agenda is actually big shifts. Big transformative shifts that will impact us more and more as we see how this this this behaviour change is being promoted with new taxes imposed on for instance meet this is the case in Brazil we just approved a big tax reform that actually will increase year by year The the tax on the the whole cuts of meat just to generate for the people that are in this in the context of economic depression and and losing buying purchasing power power to access this new this new generation of foods that are aligned to climate aligned to the 1.5° warming scenarios but actually are have been designed by the industry and by the corporate world and it’s it’s not up to citizens to to decide to decide and to define what do they want to eat in the future.
So is the type of farming in these vertical farms, Is it with GM? Is it with patentable
startup products so that the control is with the corporations the whole way through?
Yeah, this it’s a it’s a whole package that is based on biotechnology, extreme biotechnology I would say because as you are producing food without imagine without some, without proper soil and the water and the nutrients that are going to be fed to this. And important to note, they are promoting desalinized, desalinized water
and desalinizing water plants to feed into this new industrial compounds.
They are heavily protected by intellectual property rights. Of course, it has never meant to be some kind of open source, new global Commons kind of food. No, it’s to actually be an opportunity to investment and we see how heavily the international financial system is entering into this new asset class that it’s connected to turning carbon, carbon in a in a global commodity, but also the possibility to actually invest in
regenerative agriculture. So the name is really beautiful, how to regenerate. But actually you are regenerating your profits because
you push, you pull money from pension funds, even from sovereign wealth funds, and you promote that. You know, this is a shift that will inevitably happen in the future. So the first, the first comers, the first ones to invest will actually secure their place in this global shift that is happening. And if you look closely, Tracy, it’s quite sophisticated how they promote it because they come up with social sciences and behaviour sciences surveys and and trials that show that more and more younger people everywhere do not find more farming as appealing as before. You know. So you want if you want to keep young people on, on, on on connected to the soil, connected to the land and living in the rural areas, you have to pull to bring in the whole gamification package to make the work for, to make attractive for the workforce, for the younger workforce. So I saw in this cop as in the cops before in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt past year.
And also in Glasgow, this very odd scenes of portraying the farm of the future as some young boys and girls with VR, which is virtual reality glasses, you know, with a drone joysticks as they use for gaming. Just seeing far away in the field, you know how to just drop, you know, agrochemical pesticides and you kind of make it playful. But it’s a way that you don’t put your hands on the soil anymore.
So it’s a it’s a you bring the digital world as a new layer into the food production and this of course will even if you if you look at the countryside and you see small little people you know operating drones and joysticks. We know that this is not real farming. This is not the kind of seed sovereignty that we we we, I think we both believe that is at the core of regenerating truly ecosystems and and have sovereignty over our foods and and our diets and and our culture.
So it seems to me that this type of new agriculture, all of us, the common sense would say that we need the soil, we like the the land and people to feel that they can farm if they enjoy being with animals and with the soil. So is the whole climate change avail to make us accept that? Oh, we’re scared. We don’t want to burn the planet or drown the planet, so we’ve got this new type of farming. So the environmental movement has
got onto that science that we really are causing too much CO2 and creating the greenhouse effect.
Really. Are we creating this CO2 problem
and to what degree?
Or is it part of Operation Mockingbird, which is just a huge con to get us to move to a new sort of agriculture where the corporations are totally in control and making all of the money and it’s making a very, very insecure food system?
Well your your question is very very broad. I don’t know if I can I can answer properly in the time we have. But let me say something I like it very much. Use the word avail a big veil, because looking from the inside and this year was very clear, it’s not about climate. You know the UNF triple C process that actually started with the establishment of the IPCC back in 1988, that is before the even the fall of the Berlin Wall. But the first meeting was in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, so it was after the dissolution of the USSR. So when the world there was no more like 2 blocks fighting each other,
climate became the big agenda of you know, this is the future of humanity. You know, we have one common enemy, it’s not more Cold War now, it’s global warming. So there is a thermic shock. But over the past three decades and more, the UNF Triple C process has been the main body to actually de facto govern the digital transformation. The big digital transition that we are in the Fast forward mode since the COVID era, it’s all it has all been dragged under the big umbrella of climate. So CO2 and the whole reductionist approach to climate as ACO 2 molecule that we can manage that functions as the thermostat of the planet Earth.
I have been very vocal in criticising how anti ecological that vision it is because it actually denies those are the denials, no the denial of the complexity of ecological interactions, how ecological regulation and ecosystem are essentially place based. So this whole narrative of net zero and offset. You need to forget the soil, to forget the land, to forget where you are based and grounded and anchored on and look to the atmosphere, to look at the air and understand that at the end everything can be negotiated in exchange in a in a in a cost benefit analysis or or or the least expensive.
It’s always the best where countries who have money to pay can buy their offset way, can pay for their sins, buying for instance. I think you mentioned this in the questions you sent to me.
Oh, I buy Zimbabwe’s right to pollute because they have not contributed yet to the global carbon budget. I also think it’s important for us to think of how we use those metaphors, a budget, you know, the accountancy, we bring all the financial system into our archaeological reasoning as it as it is very natural to to just make this transition and we know that nature is not a bank, you know it should not be a bank. So we should think it is a much more enlived way. But again back to the veil. No. So because it’s very hard to speak openly about the big transformation we are going through with the coming of artificial intelligence and then I’m, I’m going to go back to this later on. But the automation of production systems,
the massive unemployment that is coming our way, how more and more humans are becoming obsolete in the kind of technocratic society that we are allowing to be established. You know the the climate becomes this big veil that we are so afraid of the coming apocalypse, you know and how do you say the the, the talks about the end of the world ischatological Bible, Bible called narratives that we are embracing by science that we just give our freedom away and we accept the big surveillance and panopticon and censorship regime that is being imposed in the name of climate because more and more you are just excluded from the conversation if you raise any kind of question. For instance, you mentioned CO2, you know that I I refer the carbon as the carbon matrix as you know how we install like a software in our minds that eradicates all kinds of knowledge that can compete with this way of seeing the world. And in this sense more and more we see how now methane, no methane it’s becoming a big thing because it’s a it’s an another gas out of the periodic table of elements, but it’s directly connected to food and farming because you know methane it’s much more damaging to the to the atmosphere but in in terms of intensity.
But of course it it does not lasts as long as CO2. And of course we have a new satellite, the US satellite that so far is the only one able to correctly measure the methane and of course we have the creation of a methane global market. So it’s all kind of reproducing the same blueprint to sell more acceptable control, a control that is more and more also selling off the very constellations, the very sky we look upon in the name of this forthcoming, you know, end of the world narrative that is very, very depoliticized in in in, in practical terms.
Do you think the the game which we’re witnessing is control of our food and the syphoning of the money from the farmers to the corporations?
Yeah, surely the corporate world. It’s finding it’s like Disneyland Playfield in the sense that countries are obliged now under the Paris Agreement to design the public policies and how they’re going to contribute to the five year cycle of nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement as a condition to get access to what was before called development assistance or development money. So now actually countries are being taught and being assisted and actually getting loans to hire technicians and experts to design their public policies already in the format in the template as business plans. Because if they don’t have the public policy as a business plan that is investable, that can be bankable. They will not find those monies in the World Bank, in IMF but also from the private sector. As more and more we see how the financial system is investing in health and education, farming practises. Because of course they want to receive returns and those returns are not in good words or in good deeds, is actually in terms of of profit. So I think we are entering in the new phase where the United Nations more and more function as a brand is a is a very legitimate brand. You know it has a logo. We all think oh this is the nice place but the the the condition to it continues moving forward because it’s already a 75 year old system is becoming the convening power or the convening place for this deal making matchmaking. How they said pitch hub. Pitch Hub where nation states they offer in a pitch what is nice to invest on them and then the corporate world can decide that oh, I will take you, oh I will invest on you.
So there is no more sovereignty in in the sense because more and more national interests are becoming downsized in the name of the CO2 balance in the atmosphere, whatever that is And the big issues of our times like wars of all the geopolitics of new energy, the big nuclear era that is suffering this renaissance, you know, under the the CO2 narrative. We are not talking about that
as we are not talking about what for me personally, after 15 cops was the big issue of the Dubai COP, which was artificial intelligence for climate action was everywhere. It actually managed to have a dedicated paragraph in the final document, the global stock take, which is the main political document that came out of the COP and was everywhere in the space. We we saw in the main negotiating
space where they have like 12 meeting rooms. There were entire walls covered with digital panels for playing non-stop in looping all the applications of Google AI for sustainability. That actually shows you very clearly that there is a big market for climate products and services that are going to be tapped by artificial intelligence. But it’s not any artificial intelligence.
It’s Google AI, it’s Microsoft and it’s Azure platform. And it’s also Amazon Web Services that are selling, you know, this web, this cloud space for all those transactions of, you know, gases and numbers and mitigations and whatever you call it.
So we’ve got three more minutes. And I have a question that you might want to spend more time on. So when it does end, I’m going to call you back with Zoom.
But could you?
Start in the meetings. Was there very little talk of any actual reduction in the excavation of fossil fuels?
I think there is a very pragmatic approach that we have more than 80% of the global energy matrix is still relies in fossil fuels, be it a coal, gas or oil. The fact that since 2008 that I recall Shell has been working the Shell, the the petrol company about the Shell scenarios for transition. And for the past 1520 years the gas is being framed as the transitional fuel because it’s still a gas. So we can use the same infrastructure in the future for as they plan to capture carbon from the atmosphere and actually use it as a new raw material to industry to produce chemicals, to produce plastics. You know, it’s a whole alchemical view, but I think what was talking a lot in this cup is the planet Fast forward in adopting renewables.
And we know for for many countries this means taking loans to, you know, to to buy those new renewable infrastructures. But also hydrogen, which is a complicated source of energy because, you know, you can produce hydrogen out of nuclear and then out of the hydrogen that you use nuclear to produce, you can produce green ammonia. So actually you can kind of green the whole fertiliser chain for big food and farming, for agriculture, for monoculture, for, you know, big Pharma
using now this green ammonia. So actually continue expanding the monocultural a model, but saying that is now it’s carbon neutral, that you’re using new seeds that are dry resistant or whatever. But I think for me what is most is candles is how strong the pro nuclear lobby is on it. And we have very a lot of young people engaged in this new nuclear hype, saying that now it’s a new generation that does not show the kind of dangers we had in the past.
And it’s, it’s, it’s it’s glamorous, they they made it sexy. They sexified the the nuclear thing and are also promoting as the small modular nuclear reactors as a solution to localise energy. And the UK is is one of the countries that are really OK playing, playing very strong in this. So I think we we we need to deep dive into the contradictions of of this transition that is super in Fast forward mode after Dubai.
I’ll call you back.