Demolishing Complicated Histories: Chemapol, Architecture and Agribusiness II.

Conversation with Pavel Rotter and Zuzana Vlasatá, moderated by Tomáš Uhnák

The administration building of Chemapol, from the archive of Zdenka Marie Nováková

21. 09. 2024 17:00 Petrohradská kolektiv

Length: 01 hours 30 minutes

architecture

Language accessibility: Czech
Free entrance

Discussion following the excursion and architectural guided tour with Helena Huber-Doudová and Zdenka Nováková of the Chemapol Investa building.

“Villages are surrounded by conventional fields, which act as destructive monsters from which there is no escape. The pesticides threaten everything and everyone around.” (Zuzana, ecological farmer, Nový Bydžov, 2024)

The second part of the event Demolishing Complicated Histories is hosted by Petrohradská Kolektiv, whose building is also set for demolition. The conversation between investigative journalist and editor Zuzana Vlasatá, pesticide expert Pavel Rotter, and artist and researcher Tomáš Uhnák will focus on the rise of agribusiness in Czechia and its far-reaching consequences, especially in light of the unfolding climate crisis and the urgent need for more sustainable approaches to farming. The history of Chemapol as a Czechoslovak foreign trade enterprise is closely connected to this issue as it was an important producer of agrochemicals during socialism. After its post-transition collapse, Chemapol was privatized to become part of the business empire Agrofert, currently a leading producer of synthetic fertilizers in Europe.

When talking about rural change, agribusiness and the agroindustry are the definitely unwanted but omnipresent protagonists, representing the endeavor for greater and greater productivity in agriculture and also the concentration of power, land, and resources in the hands of a few corporate players. The biennale foregrounds small farmers’ struggles – their resistance and resilience – but in this event, we will tackle the “elephant in the room”: power players like Agrofert, who also shape and define rural realities.

Zuzana Vlasatá is the deputy editor of Deník Referendum. She also writes for the social-ecological magazine Sedmá generace. Previously, she worked for Hnutí Duha, an environmental movement in the Czech Republic. She co-authored Žlutý baron [The yellow baron] with Jakub Patočka. Published in 2017, the book deals with Agrofert’s monopoly of the Czech rapeseed sector and details how the companycreated a climate of fear for farmers, pressuring oilseed rape growers to rely on fertilizer-intensive methods, which in turn increased Agrofert’s fertilizer sales.

Pavel Rotter is a researcher at the Czech Crop Research Institute and at Mendel University in Brno (Institute of Forest Ecology). He is the author of a meta-analysis of pesticide use in the Czech Republic (published in 2022 by Hnutí Duha – Friends of the Earth Czechia), in which he discusses the long-term risks related to the use of pesticides as well as alternatives such as biopesticides. This issue is especially pressing since the EU Parliament blocked the Pesticide Reduction Law proposed by the European Commission in November 2023, which many see as conservative-led backlash – powered by the lobbying interests of the agrochemical industry – against measures to make farming more sustainable.