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22 May 2009

The Avery Diet: The Hudson Institute’s Misinformation Campaign Against Cuban Agriculture

- Fernando Funes
Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forestry Technicians (ACTAF)

- Miguel A Altieri
President, Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA)

- Peter Rosset
Co-coordinator, Land Research Action Network (

An article written by Dennis Avery, "Cubans Starve on Diet of Lies," was reproduced around the internet in April of this year. [1]

Avery is the director of the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, a notorious Right-wing think tank. The financial
backers of the Hudson Institute include major agribusiness (e.g. Archer Daniels Midland, ConAgra, Cargill), biotech and pesticide manufacturers (e.g. American Cyanamid, Ciba-Geigy, Monsanto, Syngenta). Avery is a veteran of the State Department and the
U.S.D.A. He is a well-known pro-industry pundit, and is an outspoken supporter of genetically-engineered crops, pesticides, food irradiation, industrial farming, and free trade, as well as a long-time critic of organic farming. He famously authored the book
Saving the Planet With Pesticides and Plastic: The Environmental Triumph of High-Yield Farming (2000).

His article begins with the following phrases:

"The Cubans told the world they had heroically learned to feed themselves without fuel or farm chemicals after their Soviet subsidies collapsed in the early 1990s. They bragged about their “peasant cooperatives,” their biopesticides and organic fertilizers. They heralded their earthworm culture and the predator wasps they unleashed on destructive caterpillars. They boasted about the heroic ox teams they had trained to replace tractors. Organic activists all over the world swooned. Now, a senior Ministry of Agriculture official has admitted in the Cuban press that 84 percent of Cuba’s current food consumption is imported, according to our agricultural attaché in Havana. The organic success was all a lie—a great, gaudy, Communist-style Big Lie of the type that dictators behind the Iron Curtain routinely used throughout the Cold War to hornswoggle the Free World."

Despite the notably bombastic and un-scientific language, his claims deserve examination and rebuttal. He does not cite a source for the 84% figure. Nevertheless, it has been widely reported in the media that Megalys Calvo, Vice Minister of the Economy and Planning Ministry, said in February of 2007 that 84% of items "in the basic food basket" at that time were imported. 2 However, we believe these percentages represent only the food that is distributed through regulated government channels by means of a ration card.
Overall data show that Cuba’s food import dependency has been dropping for decades, despite brief upturns due to natural and human-made disasters.

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