Volatility

December 5, 2013

GMO Creep Into the Sweet Corn Supply

Filed under: Dance of Death, Food and Farms — Tags: , — Russ @ 10:29 am

>

Friends of the Earth recently did a sampling of fresh, frozen, and canned sweet corn available at US supermarkets and farmers’ markets, to gauge the presence of GMO sweet corn, a direct Frankenfood, in our food supply.
 
Although some varieties of GM sweet corn have been approved for commercialization in the US for over fifteen years, it wasn’t until the 2011 commercialization of Monsanto’s Seminis Performance Series variety that anyone’s made a real push to infect the food supply with this direct food GMO product. (Most GM corn is field corn, not used directly for human food, but destined for animal feed in factory farms, ethanol, and processed food.) This Monsanto product is a multi-poison “stacked variety”, internally oozing its own Bt poison and resistant to glyphosate. Herbicide tolerant GMOs merely assimilate the herbicide. So when you eat this product it has heavy internal concentrations of two poisons. You can’t wash them off – they’re contained within the cells of the food.
 
This preliminary result was better in the US than in Canada. In the US, 2 of 71 samples tested positive, while a similar study performed by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network found 15 of 43 Canadian samples to be infected. It’s a relatively less bad result in the US, for the moment.
 
But unless consumers are active in telling retailers we won’t buy this poison and will shun a retailer who tries secretly to spike our food with it, the product’s prevalence will gradually creep upward. At the same time, cultivated Frankencorn will contaminate organic and conventional varieties of sweet corn, just as corn has already been contaminated extensively in its geographical center of origin, and one of its primary centers of diversity, Mexico.

 
>

November 27, 2013

Saluting Sofia Gatica

>

I won’t try to do so with any high-falutin’ rhetoric. I’ll just let the facts speak for themselves.
 
Sofia Gatica is a regular Argentine working woman who lives amid the soy plantations. For years her home has been bombarded with Roundup on a regular basis. Her three older children all suffer from illnesses related to this poison. Her fourth died as an infant of kidney failure. These diseases and deaths are common in Argentina’s GMO soy country. This is why Argentina has become ground zero for scientific research on the health effects of glyphosate. Clinical and epidemiological studies have established that glyphosate causes miscarriages, birth defects, cancer, and child mortality. The experience of Gatica’s family is typical. The evidence is so complete that the Cordoba province was moved to pass laws strictly regulating the application of glyphosate. Although there’s been some improvement, these laws are seldom enforced.
 
Her family’s suffering, and her will to ensure that future families won’t have to endure the same tragedies in order to feed the profits of a handful of corporations, is what’s motivated Sofia Gatica to become an activist. She and many others started out lobbying government for reforms, including the Cordoba laws. When they saw how this doesn’t work, they moved on to direct action. Today they’re engaged in the occupation of a site in Malvinas where Monsanto plans to construct a massive seed processing factory. Gatica and others manning this blockade have previously been beaten by the police.
 
Throughout, Gatica has been a cogent spokeswoman for this movement, proving the need for it and its moral authority though her words and what she represents, the nimbus of how her family has been assaulted.
 
This is why Monsanto has targeted her. After the typical smear campaign failed to work, the criminals have moved on to violence. A few days ago Gatica’s life was threatened by a man holding a gun. Two days later, she was beaten up outside her workplace. She’s reported both of these crimes to the police, but no one expects much police action, since they know whose side the police are on. Not that of the people.
 
Gatica went to the hospital to have her injuries treated, but within a few hours she returned to the occupation site to continue sharing direct action with the many farmers, democracy advocates, and regular working people who have had enough of they and their families being poisoned.
 
This kind of violence is nothing new for anyone who questions GMOs in the global South. In 2010 Andres Carrasco, the scientist most publicly involved in the research I linked above, was assaulted by a gang of thugs and had a public presentation broken up. The same kind of violence is rife around the world.
 
While in most parts of the West we’re not yet up against this kind of direct violence (except from the police at demonstrations, of course), the vicious tone of GMO flacks clearly portends violence. The kind of person who launches a vicious personal attack on anyone who even questions the Monsanto imperative certainly will not shrink from violence if he thinks its necessary to enforce his criminal prerogative. The violence in Argentina demonstrates this. There’s a clear continuity from the technical hacks and professional trolls who infest Internet comment threads and the thugs who physically use fists and guns. Abolitionists must think this through and be ready.
 
I salute Sofia Gatica and her comrades for their courage and perseverance under such harsh conditions and against such long odds. A tragedy like she suffered would reduce most Westerners to passivity, and often to apologizing for the corporations attacking them. But she and the millions like her show the best of the human spirit and the human potential. I thank them, and will do my best to support them and conduct the same abolition fight from within the West, however that can be done. 
 

<

November 19, 2013

Why I Became A GMO Abolitionist

>

After years of writing across many topics as a general anti-corporatist, I’ve become a focused GMO abolitionist. Why did I end up here?
 
1. Food production and distribution is the primary economy of humanity. We need to focus ideology and strategy here.
 
2. Conversely, food corporatism is the core battleground for corporatism as a whole, where its war to impose total domination will be won or lost.
 
3. Specifically, the goal of corporatism is to overcome the final limits to capitalism’s accumulation process and therefore the end of its ability to profit. 
 
How can capitalism overcome the limits of the earth? Only by becoming able to wipe out large swaths of its resources and synthetically replace them with its own enclosed proprietary products. This is the reason for the corporate state’s GMO project. If it works the way corporations and governments hope, the core human economy, physically and organizationally, will become a synthetic corporate product under the total control of the technocratic elites. They will be able to manipulate the entirety of its production and distribution mechanisms with precision control, allowing or denying food to any individual, group, or region, every crumb of it a pure profit-generator (on paper), every crumb of it firmly enclosed within the patent regime, this regime ruthlessly enforced by the full might of the police state.
 
Best of all, from the corporatist point of view, since agriculture will be under total technical control, the technicians will be able to wipe the slate clean at will. Is a particular set of GMOs no longer expedient for whatever reason? Discontinue it and replace it with a brand new set.
 
The ongoing fiasco with herbicide tolerant and Bt-expressing varieties becoming unable to cope with the superweeds and superbugs they generate against themselves, and the need to add 2,4-D and dicamba tolerance on top of glyphosate tolerance, and the need to stack six Bt insecticides where one used to suffice, is just an early, very clumsy form of this planned obsolescence.
 
Meanwhile the elites also hope this will eventually allow them to realize the old dream of human domination over nature itself. Although so far GMO contamination of wild plants is happening in an ad hoc, uncontrolled manner, the elites hope someday to strategically inject genetic modification into the environment at large in order to sculpt it the way they desire. This will also further enclose the entire surface of the earth as “property”, since in addition to the legal ownership of land, there will be proprietary control of the flora, as well as the water and air which carry the proprietary genetic material. Indeed, under these circumstances, wherever convenient for the elites this proprietary control will supersede “ownership” rights. “Libertarian” types gripe about government bureaucracies today interfering with the alleged right to enjoy one’s property, but that’s nothing compared to the control Monsanto has in mind, once everything on your land carries its patented genes.
 
How do they plan to do all this? No doubt this whole plan is still mostly hazy and theoretical. But the corporatists think that once today’s level of mechanization becomes impossible (on account of there being insufficient economically extractable fossil fuels), they’ll be able to keep industrial agriculture going through the increasing use of slave labor. This is expected to overcome, for a while at least, the declining ability of fossil fuels, aquifers, synthetic fertilizers, industrially mined phosphorus, and the ravaged soil, to sustain production. In this way the elites hope to gradually wind down the industrial civilization and return to some pre-oil mode of empire, while keeping their power intact, without suffering a non-linear collapse along the way.
 
How are the people to be forced to become such slaves? I’ve already written out my vision of a domination system based on debt indenture, so I don’t need to repeat it here. I mentioned above how the entire food system will be proprietary and based on predatory paper profits. Obviously it won’t be possible for the people to pay the prices the system will demand. On the contrary, neoliberalism is currently in the process of economically liquidating the Western middle class.
 
But at the same time the system continues to ratchet up the propaganda of belief in the reality of money and debt. Basically, the goal is to impoverish everyone but still bolster the people’s belief in a central money system and its concomitant debt regime. Thus the people will, if all goes according to plan, submit to a system where they continue to function, now as destitute laborers, where every day they go deeper into an impossible debt. The system won’t intend to collect these debts, which exist only on paper, measured in money which the elites recognize as worthless. The elites care only about POWER. The debt system will be used psychologically to help enforce the elites’ physical power, and will also provide a management mechanism for the selective use of this physical power, since anyone who is considered a problem in any way can immediately be arrested and dealt with permanently as a criminally culpable debtor. All prisons will become de facto debt prisons, while the death penalty for debt will also return. (It was common at least as late as the 17th century.)
 
That’s corporatism’s end goal. GMOs are intended to serve as the linchpin holding together and enforcing this system.
 
This is insane, of course. It’ll never be possible to sustain industrial agriculture this way. But if things continue the way they’re going, the system will push as far as possible toward this goal, causing inconceivable destruction, suffering, and death along the way, and perhaps rendering humanity’s recovery permanently impossible.
 
4. It’s to try to avert this outcome that I became a GMO abolitionist, and why I think anyone who wants to fight corporatism, capitalism, statism, elitism, tyranny, should also focus on this fight.
 
5. In spite of corporatism’s insane plan, and in spite of various utopian notions, industrial agriculture is unsustainable for the reasons I already mentioned above. Post-oil, the earth still can sustain a population even greater than today’s, but only if humanity switches in an organized way from industrial, corporate agriculture to decentralized, low-external-impact polyculture agroecology, along with food sovereignty as the rational and democratic mode of political and economic organization. If we do this, we can all feed ourselves well. If we don’t, the collapse of industrial ag will result in mass famine.
 
GMOs comprise a doubling down on all the worst aspects of industrial ag, as well as the system’s most vicious attempt to forestall the agroecology/food sovereignty solution.
 
Food sovereignty and agroecology vs. corporate agriculture is the most critical war of ideas humanity has ever undertaken. GMO abolitionism, first to discredit and then to obliterate GMOs totally, is a critically important part of this war.
 
6. As a strategic matter, GMO abolitionism focuses on a clear, non-negotiable operational goal. Organizational, strategic, tactical questions can then be answered according to this goal.
 
I think as a general proposition that part of the problem with “the left” has been its focus on excellent but vague aspirations like “social justice”, “ending inequality”, “fighting capitalism”, etc. These are all noble goals, but they’re not very clear, and don’t answer for themselves questions like, “What to do?” “Where should we be heading?” Thus it’s no wonder that so many people do nothing but keep spinning in place on a hamster wheel, or go off on corrupting, co-opting tangents.
 
But if we commit to a specific operational goal and then measure our activist lives according to what we’re doing toward that goal, we have a much better chance of getting somewhere. I’d recommend this to anyone. The core conflict of our age is humanity vs. corporatism. Since the corporate assault cuts across all pre-existing definitions, identifications, dichotomies, rendering all of these obsolete, where they weren’t scams from the beginning, it follows that all meaningful action must be one form or another of corporate abolitionism. Corporations themselves must be abolished completely.
 
Therefore, we must all, in our own ways, seek such abolitionist goals, wherever these are possible.
 
7. One of the great advantages of fighting food corporatism is that here we can actually build our own alternative right here and now. We can grow our own food, economically and politically support our local farmers, build our own local/regional processing and distribution infrastructure. While where it comes to other sectors it’s often hard to figure out what we can actually DO, here the work is obvious, it’s everywhere around us, and we can achieve great results immediately. Here, far more than in any other sector, we can vigorously build the new within the old, in the process making ourselves politically and economically stronger, more politically self-confident, building our movement as a general fortress of communities, a strong point for all counteroffensives against corporatism.
 
Community Food and Food Sovereignty are the currents which comprise this great affirmative movement. GMO abolitionism is its great and necessary negative corollary.
 
8. Finally, regarding those false dichotomies – left/right, public/private, science/religion, liberal/conservative, socialism/”free market”, protectionism/”free trade”, republican/democrat, many others – concern over our food, corporate domination of our food, and in particular GMOs being forced into our food, is a concern that cuts across all identifications. Therefore these kinds of issues, and GMO abolition in particular, can serve as a potent wedge slicing through lots of calcified dogmatic structures, perhaps breaking them open completely. This is an ideological sweet spot.
 
Since one of the worst problems we face is all sorts of calcified, sclerotic divisions which don’t reflect any sort of reality but serve only the divide-and-conquer purposes of corporatism, anything which helps slice through these divisions is a potent weapon. I think GMO abolitionism can serve as such a wedge.
 
9. All GMOs are probably poisonous, Bt-expressing ones certainly are (by definition), and they’re designed to cause a massive escalation in the use of horrific environmental poisons like glyphosate and 2,4-D.
 
We also face the contamination crisis. GMOs in the environment will continue to contaminate crops and wild relatives, with dire consequences for the future of agriculture and ecosystems. Nothing short of total abolition can prevent the worst.
 
Nothing in humanity’s history has been as insane and evil as this plan, undertaken by the mainstream of modern elites, to undertake the wholesale poisoning of our food, water, soil, and environment. Nothing in history has even come close to the insanity and evil of this.
 
 
So those are the reasons I became a GMO abolitionist.

 
>

November 16, 2013

New Report on GMO Contamination

>

An excellent new report from Testbiotech on the state and prospects of GMO contamination in non-GM crops and wild relatives.
 
The report finds that it’s likely some GM contamination in some places, such as from bentgrass in the US Pacific Northwest, canola in Canada, the US, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere, and cotton in Mexico, has become indelibly entrenched among wild plants.
 
For others, such as corn, rice, and poplar trees, it’s probable that the contamination will become permanent if GMOs keep being pushed into the environment.
 
The modes of contamination are pollen dispersal from field tests and commercial plantings. This is dispersal by wind, insect pollinators, and other means. Seeds can also be carried by wind, floodwaters, birds, eaten by animals and deposited in their droppings. Viable seeds are also part of agricultural transport, which is why feral GM canola infests roadsides, railways, and shipping ports wherever the seed has been transported. Seeds and volunteer plants often linger wherever a GM crop was planted. Meanwhile, wild relatives who have taken up a trait like herbicide tolerance find it easy to encroach on agricultural zones, since they have an advantage over other weeds which lack that trait. This increases the proximity of wild relatives and agricultural crops, which increases the cross-breeding among them.
 
The report finds that as with health risks and food safety, there has been little will among governments to study the rate of contamination or assess the dangers. Just as with the health dangers, it’s been up to independent researchers to scrounge up on their own whatever meager funding they can find to do real research on this. Similarly, the legal safeguards against it are conceptually meager and poorly enforced. It’s not surprising that a government which doesn’t care whether GMOs are safe to eat also doesn’t care that they inevitably contaminate non-GM crops and wild relatives.
 
The report makes a few basic deductions about the rate of GM pollution, among crops and in the wild.
 
*As a rule cultivated crops are less able to survive in the wild and require constant replanting. But crop-wild hybrids may have some advantages, such as insect resistance.
 
*Once the contamination spreads to wild relatives, there’s a much greater chance of its becoming indelible.
 
*Where herbicides are being sprayed, feral herbicide tolerant (HT) crops and crop-wild hybrids which have taken up the HT trait will have an advantage. At the fringe area between cultivation and wild land they may become dominant and then spread beyond. Wind and water drift of glyphosate and other herbicides may aggravate this phenomenon.
 
*In general, invasive species have a lower rate of success among stable ecosystems than among ecosystems in turmoil. Therefore wherever human actions are disrupting ecosystems, including the disruptive effects of climate change, GM-contaminated plants may have a better chance to establish themselves.
 
*Cross-pollinators will spread more rapidly than self-pollinators. The typical length of seed dormancy will help or hinder propagation by the route of stray seeds latent in the soil, or blown by the wind, carried by birds or trucks, etc.
 
*Unlike with most crops, many domesticated grasses like bentgrass, rice, and sorghum are both invasive on their own and remain genetically close to many wild relatives in close proximity. These have a high potential for permanent contamination.
 
*Perennials like trees or alfalfa have a high potential, as they continue to disseminate their contaminated material for many years.
 
*I’ll add that, at least in Monsanto’s dreams (and the courts have done all they can to support these nightmares), the spread of proprietary material confers ownership and control wherever it goes. Therefore it’s an unspoken, perhaps in many cases unconscious, goal of government policy to contaminate as much of agriculture and the environment as possible. This also gives these genes an advantage, wherever the power of the corporate state can exert itself.
 
Contamination of wild relatives is especially hazardous in the crops’ centers of genetic origin, which are the geographic repositories of the biodiversity upon which agriculture depends. These centers of diversity include Mexico for cotton and maize, Andean regions for potatoes, the Mediterranean region for sugar beets and canola, the Middle East for many grains, India for cotton, Southeast Asia for rice and eggplant, China for soybeans and rice.
 
The bulk of the report is a series of regional case studies. Each examines the current knowledge as to the extent of GMO contamination, gives an analysis of how it’s happening, and offers prognostications. The case studies are:
 
Creeping bentgrass in Oregon; cotton in Mexico; maize in Mexico; canola in Canada, the US, Japan, Australia, the EU, and Switzerland; poplar in China; rice in China.
 
I won’t go over all the details here, but encourage you to check it out for yourself. The examples give a broad overview of how contamination occurs, the geographical distances over which it can range, the possible vectors even where no GM crops are being planted, modes of entrenchment amid wild populations, and other aspects of the problem.
 
I’ll only draw special attention to the case of GM canola in the EU, where it was briefly commercialized by Bayer but whose commercialization was revoked in 2007. Bayer was then enjoined to clean up residual contamination within five years. Yet even though the product was commercialized for only a few years and never grown extensively, contaminated plants are lingering persistently in the environment. Thus in 2012 the five-year term had to be extended for another five years.
 
If it’s this hard to clean GMO canola out of Europe, it must be permanently entrenched in Canada and the US, where it’s been grown longer and much more extensively. This example refutes any lies about the system being able to control the spread of GM material and to clean up any contamination which does occur.
 
The report closes with recommendations.
 
 

On the basis of the documented cases and current gaps in knowledge regarding dispersal, interactions
with the environment and long-term ecological behaviour of genetically engineered plants, we recommend
strengthening the precautionary principle and prohibiting releases of genetically engineered
organisms if
 
a. they can persist and invade the environment if they unintentionally escape their containment.
 
b. there are major doubts about whether they can be withdrawn from the environment within a
reasonable period of time if this is urgently required.
 
c. it is already known that they will persist or show invasive behaviour after release into the environment.

 
This report adds to the vast amount of evidence which proves the answers to those ifs.
 
a. They can and will.
 
b. There are.
 
c. It’s known.
 
In truth, by now the precautionary principle has decided once and for all against GMOs. We know that:
 
1. Contamination is inevitable, and will inevitably become indelible.
 
2. No one can predict the long-term results, other than that they’ll diminish biodiversity, which is likely to have only bad, and perhaps disastrous, effects.
 
3. Therefore GMOs can never legitimately be released into the environment. ANY planting of a GMO is a crime, plain and simple.
 
This report provides more evidence for the proposition that humanity cannot co-exist with GMOs, and that GMOs must be totally abolished.

 
>

November 15, 2013

GMO Labeling and Movement Strategy (3 of 6) : The Abolitionist Imperative

>

Parts one and two.
 
We must always be clear in our minds and take every opportunity to emphasize to others that the necessary goal of activism is the abolition of GMOs. Part of the business of this blog, and hopefully soon a more versatile website, is to prove the necessity of abolitionism and to provide intellectual and moral weapons for this fight.
 
Meanwhile, GMO labeling, and other kinds of reform action, are positive steps (as long as they never involve preemption or any other consolidation of top-down power at the expense of the grassroots), but not sufficient, and not the end goal. In themselves, and especially where taken as the sufficient goal, these are forms of “co-existence”, a notion which is physically impossible and politically deceptive and malignant.
 
Demonstrating the undesirability and impossibility of co-existence is part of proving the necessity and desirability of abolitionism. Here I’ll just survey the basics.
 
1. GMOs are physically totalitarian in that they will inevitably contaminate all other crops and wild ancestors of crops. This is already a documented effect with maize, canola, wheatpapaya, and most recently alfalfa, just to name a few. Wherever GMOs are planted in the open air, whether as field trials or commercially, their pollen and seeds will spread in the normal way to cross-breed with other varieties. This happens most rapidly with the pollen of regular cross-pollinators like maize or alfalfa, or with small-seeded self-pollinators like canola, but the process is the same with every crop.
 
This is obviously a direct existential threat to organic agriculture. Organic canola is already largely impossible in Canada. South Australia has banned GM canola cultivation in order to try to preserve its organic export industry. When the USDA fully deregulated GM sugar beets it left some regulations in place in Oregon in an attempt to protect organic growers there. (Here and with alfalfa, the USDA has acknowledged the inevitability of contamination.)
 
It also threatens non-GM conventional agriculture, which the historical record documents is more productive and less expensive than GMO production. That’s why more and more farmers who can are switching back from GMOs to non-GM conventional. But it’s increasingly difficult to make this switch, as even where ostensibly non-GM seeds are available (more on this in a moment), they often turn out to be contaminated.
 
GMOs also contaminate wild relatives of cultivated crops. This not only adds to the growing problem of herbicide-resistant superweeds, but pollutes the genetic well from which all crop biodiversity is drawn.
 
Agriculture has always been dependent on its a broad genetic diversity for crop health and resiliency in the face of pests, disease, drought, soil problems, bad weather, changing environmental conditions. Especially as climate change becomes more of a chronic predicament for an ever greater expanse of the world, agricultural productivity, farmer viability, and food security will depend upon a great diversity of locally/regionally adapted crop varieties, along with frequent genetic replenishments from the well of undomesticated genetics.
 
Farmer breeding, seed saving, the general commons and natural market of agriculture have historically done a fantastic job of ensuring a constant innovation and biological replenishment among crops, and a wide dissemination of these seed innovations, wherever they were agriculturally appropriate. For much of the twentieth century public sector crop breeding continued this tradition, with improving results as modern science joined the commons.
 
But since the 1970s-80s, when breeding came under the control of a handful of corporations, breeding programs (including nominally “public” ones, but which are really harnessed to the corporate agenda as a form of corporate welfare) have been greatly narrowed and incestuously focused on a handful of corporate imperatives – how to breed tolerance to applied poisons (herbicides), and how to get the plant to endemically generate its own poisons (insecticides). This sums up the entire GMO program, including practically all the GMOs which have ever been commercialized or ever will be.
 
The result is that where cultivation has become dominated by GMOs, as with field corn in the US (almost 90% GMO), agriculture has become dangerously limited to a handful of genetic variations, with corresponding vulnerability to pests, diseases, and other threats. This genetic vulnerability is what laid US corn low with Southern leaf blight in the early 70s, and even Monsanto admits it’s what’s causing today’s spreading epidemic of Goss’s wilt.
 
This kind of physical vulnerability is endemic to industrial monocropping, but GMOs comprise a doubling down on this, rendering it an extreme vulnerability. This is typical of how GMOs represent the radical escalation and intensification of every malign aspect of industrial and corporate agriculture.
 
So both economically and physically, through contamination, GMOs automatically seek to narrow existing crop biodiversity to the vanishing point. At the same time they also contaminate the wild progenitors of these crops, thus seeking to forestall the very possibility of genetically reinvigorating agriculture from this wellspring. GMOs don’t just poison the tap, they poison the well.
 
The result of all this is that agriculture becomes weaker, more prone to crop failure, and less able to respond to threats and reinvigorate itself. If a cabal had set out with the conscious intent of triggering mass famine, it could hardly have proceeded with greater deliberation and promise of success than the GMO cartel and its allied governments have proceeded, as they have imposed this planned economy. As things are, humanity has the GM Sword of Damocles dangling above it. 
 
To sum up, co-existence is impossible and abolition is necessary because GMOs inevitably are contaminating all our crops and are forcing us into a suicidally hermetic lack of germplasm diversity.
 
2. GMOs are socioeconomically totalitarian in that, both by conscious design on the part of corporations and governments, and by their inherent tendency toward economic concentration and vertical integration (another way in which GMOs intensify the evils of corporate ag), they radically increase sector monopoly.
 
Monsanto and other biotech rackets set out with the strategy of hijacking public breeding money and buying up existing seed companies, all toward the goal of bringing all commercial seeds under their proprietary enclosure and economic domination. The results speak for themselves.
 
By 2010 Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta together had captured 53% of the global commercial seed market. The top 10, mostly US-based, held 73%. (Even system economics says that a sector where four entities hold 40% or more of the market is not competitive. The seed sector is gripped by a far worse stranglehold.) In 1980 the share of the US soybean crop which was planted with public sector seed was 70%. By 2010 93% of soybean plantings were proprietary GMOs. This extreme inversion is similar for corn and cotton. 
 
From 1996-2009 over 200 independent seed companies were bought and engulfed. Many of these no longer offer non-GM seeds at all. From this dominant position Monsanto enforces its will on farmers and on primary seed growers, who increasingly provide only GM lines and drop all others. The few non-GM varieties still commercially available tend to be weaker (through corporate breeding neglect) and are often contaminated anyway. Monsanto and the others often impose their harsh grower contracts on buyers of any seed from the companies they own, GM or not.
 
In every way, wherever they have power, the GMO corporations are enforcing their proclaimed goal of driving non-GM seeds out of the market and out of existence. Here’s one place where they probably do consciously seek to wipe out biodiversity, since so long as alternative genetics exist at all outside their enclosure, these constitute a threat to their domination.
 
To sum up, GMOs are destroying our market options. They’re enforcing both monopsony, Monsanto’s strong-arming of primary seed growers, and monopoly – its strong-arming of farmers, and of everyone on down the food production distribution chain to the end consumer. As a consumer one shouldn’t think in terms of alleged “choice” at the supermarket, but view it as the GMO-forcing equivalent of a USSR warehouse.
 
3. GMOs are socioeconomically and politically totalitarian in other ways.
 
I’ve written before about the totalitarian aspirations of the intellectual property regime in plant germplasm and seeds. The bureaucratic and legal interpretations of seed patents in both the US and Canada are being driven toward the goal of extending “ownership” through aggressive contamination to all crops and wide swaths of the wild ecosystem. GMOs seek legally to steal ownership of our crops, our control of the wild germplasm commons, and to steal control of our land out from under us.
 
In the form of corporate and government persecution, GMOs cause and are a pretext for the extension of the police state. Many governments have sought to legally outlaw all seed exchange and planting which doesn’t take place within the corporate framework. Policing, both nominally “public” and in terms of government sanction of “private” thuggery, a modern form of privateering, has followed suit. The enforcement of seed patents leads to a new form of the old pattern, raids and depredations from the parasite city to the productive countryside, just like the Bolshevik “food detachments” of the War Communism period.
 
Monsanto’s campaign contributions and lobbying money, and the revolving door between it and myriad agencies of government, have brought system politics under its domination. Along with Wall Street the GMO cartel perches at the summit of power, and its imperatives hold vast dominion over the policy of US and other government. This power is consciously sought, toward the goals of seed sector domination and from there total domination over the food supply, and from there over the entire economy.
 
4. GMO agriculture greatly steps up the use of agricultural poisons. Use of the extremely toxic glyphosate has massive escalated as most GMOs were engineered to tolerate increased application of it. As glyphosate is now failing under the pressure of the superweed counteroffensive, the GMO system is planning to escalate to even more toxic poisons. Such destructive chemicals as 2,4-D and dicamba, which corporations and governments previously promised would be rendered obsolete by Roundup Ready crops, are now going to see their own application escalated exponentially if the cartel and governments have their way. Most GMOs also internally generate their own Bt insecticide. Many varieties generate multiple poisons. Monsanto’s SmartStax maize exudes six poisons from every cell. This poison not only kills anything that touches the crop but seeps into the soil, water, and general environment.
 
GMOs themselves comprise a genetic toxification of our food and bodies, with effects which haven’t yet been determined, in large part because of the systematic refusal of governments and system sources of funding to require or undertake safety and epidemiological studies. But the explosive surge of allergies, autoimmune diseases like asthma and autism, related gastrointestinal diseases like leaky gut, inflammatory bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease, infertility, birth defects, and other health problems since GMO commercialization speak for themselves.
 
No sane person thinks it’s possible to keep up this wholesale poisoning of our air, water, soil, crops, food, bodies. 
 
To sum up, GMOs themselves poison the environment through their genetic pollution, and radically escalate the wholesale poisoning of our crops, soil, water, air, through the basic pesticides of poison-based industrial agriculture. GMOs were developed and forced into the market in the first place in order to force agriculture to use more synthetic poisons.
 
5. Industrial agriculture is unsustainable. It depends completely on cheap fossil fuels, cheap fossil water (from depleting aquifers), and cheaply mined phosphorus. All three of these are finite and unsustainable. Industrial ag has also ravaged the soil, eroding and denuding it. The crops it produces are increasingly weak, denuded of nutritional value, and subject to disease like Goss’s wilt and sudden death syndrome in soy.
 
In any of these ways industrial production is vulnerable to sudden collapses. In the end, for any and all of these reasons, industrial ag is doomed to collapse completely. To continue to commit humanity to dependency upon this doomed system is to doom humanity to mass famine.
 
By intensifying the command economy of industrial agriculture and escalating the domination of corporate ag, the GMO regime intensifies and escalates this systemic vulnerability. Through its structural domination and through conscious policy, the system also seeks to forestall the alternative to industrial/corporate agriculture: Food sovereignty and agroecology.
 
GMOs comprise the system’s terminal doubling down on an inefficient, shoddy, toxic, wasteful, doomed system. If we the people plan to eat in the future, and if we want to redeem our polities and economies, we must break the corporate stranglehold over our food production and distribution. We must abolish all food corporatism. We must abolish GMOs.
 
 
GMOs are totalitarian and physically homicidal. For all the reasons given here, co-existence with them is impossible, and all political proposals which represent any form of “co-existence” as desirable or as the sufficient end goal are pernicious.
 
GMO labeling can’t be sufficient to overcome these forces. Indeed, many versions of the labeling idea – those which emphasize the federal government, those which want to repose continued faith in politicians, those which are willing to temporize with overt calls for preemption (but all proposals for an FDA-based policy are at least implicitly temporizing) – are part of the suicidal “co-existence” mindset.
 
By the same logic, nothing which seeks reform within the system as the end goal will work. With the exception of the GMO cartel itself, the US government is the most aggressive and extreme pro-GMO organization on earth.
 
The real, systematic anti-GMO movement must start by setting abolition as the non-negotiable goal and then, without prejudice, evolve all organizational principles, strategy, and tactics out of this.
 
So what is our position and task where it comes to labeling? We support the right to know as a basic democratic right, and therefore support action on its behalf, always with the explicit caveat opposing all preemption. In becoming active in labeling campaigns, we meet, talk, educate, propagate the abolition idea. We oppose any complacency about co-existence or about labeling being the end goal. This is a fertile ground for what I’ve called POE – Participation, Organization, Education.
 
Democratic participation as such helps build the key parts of the movement mindset – individual self-respect (that one deserves better and has something to contribute toward the fight to get something better) and political self-confidence (that we can vastly multiply our individual capacities by organizing for a political struggle); any campaign which musters democratic will and drive provides the vehicle to build permanent grassroots action organizations; campaigns like this provide excellent forums for general education about GMO facts and issues. We do all these things toward the goals of building the permanent organizations we have to build, and propagating the abolition idea at every opportunity.
 
Any successful labeling campaign will provide not only the opportunity to build permanent grassroots anti-GMO organizations, but will generate another need for them as well. Any policy nominally enacted will still require grassroots oversight and pressure to ensure the policy is enforced in the spirit it was fought for. This oversight and pressure will also be necessary to overcome any tendency toward complacency – “we won the vote! now we can go back to sleep, as it’s in good hands” – a tendency which will certainly be encouraged by professional NGO types within the pro-labeling campaigns. For both these reasons the permanent organizations will need to serve as vigilance and pressure groups, at the same time they broadcast the ideas of abolitionism.
 
To the extent we develop the abolitionist consciousness as individuals, and especially as we form real abolition organizations, we can then enter the reformist campaigns and organizations, doing so in order to help achieve the reform goals while at the same time combating co-existence tendencies and pushing people on toward the further goals.
 
What about those who think GMO labeling is sufficient? The idea is that once enough places require labeling, food manufacturers will reconstitute their products to completely expunge GMO ingredients instead of having to either run two separate processing systems (one non-GM in the places requiring labeling, one GM in the places which don’t require it), or else have to allow the dreaded label on their packaging, which will cause consumers as a group to shun the product as they do in Europe. This sums up what I call the panacea view of labeling.
 
On its face it’s not implausible. Food manufacturers certainly resent having had this whole mess forced upon them, and in theory should be able easily to revert to non-GM conventional suppliers. They get practically no benefit from it. And consumers in Europe and elsewhere do shun GMO products, so that in European supermarkets there’s very few GM products. But is this an accurate expectation for America?
 
The analogy of Europe to the US isn’t a great one. In Europe there was labeling from the start, when GMOs were just entering the food supply. Consumers had a clear choice. Inertia was on the side of non-GM products. Under these circumstances, consumers overwhelmingly chose non-GM and shunned GMOs.
 
But here it would be the other way around. GMOs have largely conquered the supermarket shelves. They’ve insensibly become entrenched in consumer habits. If labels are now applied, this late in the game, this new knowledge will have to resist and overcome consumer inertia rather than support and flow with it. It’s the difference between having what you already thought confirmed, as opposed to having to register a new piece of information which goes against your tendencies, and which, to be acted upon, would require a significant change in your habits.
 
Given all this, it wouldn’t be surprising if labels would not achieve the hoped-for sea change in consumer habits. They might even help normalize GMOs in the consumer mindset. Indeed, I suspect that part of the reason why so many people who hadn’t previously thought about GMOs in their food end up voting No on the ballot initiatives is a kind of labelphobia borne of the intuition that labeling won’t really give them anything but something more to worry about, since they don’t expect to be able to do anything about it.
 
In general, political campaigns against an entrenched system don’t work unless they build upon a well-grounded, coherent, thriving movement culture. Just as with the always vain attempts to field “alternative candidates” in elections without having built an alternative movement first, so GMO labeling initiatives seem to be a form of putting the political cart before the movement horse. (That’s part of why they’ve been so easily dominated by NGO-type “professionals” who can be counted on to sell out the grassroots anywhere a labeling campaign does achieve nominal success.) I think a big part of the reason voters have been willing to believe the flimsy lies of the anti-labeling propaganda is because such lies bolster their existing anxieties, which under the circumstances labeling promises to aggravate, not alleviate.
 
Under the circumstances of an atomized mass society, where individuals have been isolated as “consumers” and have only a dim perception of what citizenship and democracy can be, this isn’t surprising. Where people have only the vaguest notion of what kind of action is in fact possible, on an individual level and especially if we organize for action, this isn’t surprising. We see how what’s necessary isn’t a series of ad hoc, disposable electoral campaigns for labeling, but to build a real movement from the soil up, a movement which shall rebuild community, rebuild bonds between people, conduct a systematic publicity and education campaign about GMOs, reinvigorate and render conscious the mindset of citizenship and democracy, and build belief in coordinated action, and provide the means to organize and carry out such action.
 
All this puts into perspective how the labeling movement, if taken as the goal in itself and launched without the necessary movement-building work, is building on sand. Even if these are passed and enforced, do individual consumers have the mindset to act upon the new information? And to repeat, the panacea view assumes (but seldom discusses) not only passing initiatives or bills, but that these are faithfully enforced. That’s a big If. This leads back to my point that labeling can’t work unless we form permanent vigilance organizations to ensure enforcement.
 
But once the permanent groups are formed, and once the movement is being built, will these be content to fight an endless battle of attrition on consumerist fronts? Both the experience of participatory organizing and the experience of treachery and attrition will, where necessary, teach us both the need and our desire to set our sights much higher. Wherever such pressure groups weren’t abolitionist organizations from day one, they will evolve to become these.
 
All this is part of the analysis and strategy we must develop. Similarly, we’ll develop analysis of the affirmative alternative to GMOs and corporate agriculture - food sovereignty and agroecology – as being the true, just, and practical alternative to industrial ag. But our analysis shall include the fact that for this alternative to ever find the space and traction to reach its full potential, we must first abolish GMOs.
 
Of course, as always I emphasize that we can and should start with the affirmative task today, and all over the world food sovereignty/agroecology is a vibrant and surging movement. My point is that the affirmative can continue to grow only in tandem with its negative corollary, the abolitionist movement.
 
So it is with reform action in the West. It’s achieving good things, has had some successes, also some major setbacks, and predictably is already infested with co-optation trends and complacent attitudes. For it to continue on the democratic vector, and for it to achieve its full potential, it must be reinforced with the supplementary, invigorating abolitionist imperative.
 
Conversely, in quantitative terms abolitionism is still a small manifestation amid the burgeoning but confused Western trend against GMOs. We who bear this true and necessary philosophy must use every opportunity within the reform trend to build ourselves up, propagate the great ideal, and in the end purify the trend, turning it into a fully developed human and democratic anti-corporatist movement, strong and ready to fight and win this war.
 

>

November 13, 2013

There’s No Question About GMO Labeling

>

(Or I should say, the only question is the purely practical one: To what extent should we who oppose GMOs see state-level labeling campaigns as the most effective kind of action at the moment. But there’s also no question here over the long run: Labeling can never be sufficient, but at best only a temporary supplement to total abolitionism.)
 
I don’t see how it’s possible legitimately to oppose the labeling of food which may contain GMOs. It’s part of the basic minimum we deserve if we lived in a decent, rational, democratic society. This is a no-brainer. It’s self-evident. There’s no argument against it.
 
Even if it were true that there’s significant evidence that GMOs were safe (but there is no such evidence; on the contrary there’s significant and growing counter-evidence), and that therefore such labels would allegedly cause consumers to wrongly doubt the safety of GMOs and perhaps shun them, so what?
 
Such an “argument” would still be nothing but carrying water for a handful of corporations who sell a crappy product. GMOs don’t work, they yield less, they require increased use of industrial poisons, they generate resistant weeds and pests, they require greater irrigation, they further the degradation and erosion of the soil, they contaminate organic and non-GM conventional crops and the wild relatives of these crops, in every way they’re inferior to non-GM conventional crops, and in every way they represent a doubling down on all the pathologies of industrial agriculture. They’re a terrible product which socioeconomically harms many, harms the environment, and benefits no one on earth but a handful of corporate gangsters. Everyone else on earth would be better off if GMOs ceased to exist.
 
All that isn’t even counting the health risks to humans and livestock.
 
So even leaving the health dangers out of it, why would anyone want to discourage consumer rejection of GMOs. From ANY point of view other than that of Monsanto’s bottom line, this would be a good outcome. So from any point of view other than Monsanto’s it’s a no-brainer - there must be labeling.
 
The fact that so many groups, and so many individuals, have even the slightest doubt about this, let alone oppose labeling, is a testament to how far the GMO cartel’s direct power has ramified throughout our politics and economy, and to how far the intellectual and moral rot of this “civilization” has progressed.
 
When history marvels over the innumerable ways today’s Good Germans tolerated and supported corporatism’s infinite insanity and evil, these will be among the most profound enigmas: How humanity ever thought it made sense to put our very food in the hands of criminals who had a direct interest in making it scarce and fostering hunger; how anyone ever thought it made sense to base our agriculture on directly poisoning our own food and water; how anyone ever thought it made sense to let nihilistic technicians criminally use our food and agriculture as their plaything, in the process poisoning and contaminating all of agriculture and the wild environment, putting the very future of food itself in grave peril.
 
Amid these immensities, why anyone would ever have opposed even something so mild and self-evidently rational as labeling this dubious class of additives is a relatively minor question. But it’s typical of the insanity and depravity of the whole. 

>

November 12, 2013

McDonalds and Gerber Rejecting Frankenapples

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Dance of Death, Food and Farms — Tags: — Russ @ 3:48 am

>

Twelve years ago Monsanto’s New Leaf GMO potatoes were driven off the market when consumer pressure caused McDonalds and other major buyers to shun the product. They were right to do so, as GMOs are a dubious, more costly, inferior product with no benefits for anyone but the GM corporations. Frankenfoods like GM potatoes meant to be used directly as food are especially hazardous.
 
The GMO industry was concerned enough about the health risks of GMOs that it propagated the lie (and probably convinced itself) that genetically modified material would be destroyed in processing, animal digestion (as GMO feed), cooking, and/or digestion. Today we know that all this was a lie, and that some GM material does infest the gastrointestinal tract and makes it to the bloodstream. The health effects of this can be profound, as many kinds of autoimmune and allergenic disease have surged since the widespread entry of GMOs into our diet. This is in addition to how GMOs and glyphosate are linked to birth defects, reproductive disease, cancer, genetic damage, neurotoxicity, organ damage, and acute toxic reactions. I’ll be writing lots more on the health and safety risks of GMOs and glyphosate.
 
Frankenfoods, GMOs which are directly eaten rather than first being processed like field corn and soy, are perhaps the most dangerous gram for gram since these have the fewest barriers between inception and the bloodstream. These include GM potatoes (Monsanto’s New Leaf was rejected, but Simplot wants to try again), tomatoes (previously commercialized in many places but no longer on the market anywhere), Aquabounty GE salmon which is currently awaiting the FDA’s rubber stamp, and Okenagen Specialty Fruit’s “Arctic Apple”.
 
These direct GM “food” products, all of which would be unlabeled, are especially offensive to consumers and citizens, and cause great ambivalence for industry groups and big buyers. Thus Alaska’s congressional delegation has led the way in Alaska’s labeling policy for salmon, to protect the state’s salmon industry from future contamination from the GM fish. Similarly, USApple and the Northwest Horticultural Council publicly oppose the Arctic Apple.
 
Now Friends of the Earth reports that McDonald’s and Gerber have affirmed their continuing rejection of GMOs in (some of) their products by pledging not to buy the Arctic Apple. Meanwhile FoE’s campaign against GMO salmon campaign continues, with such chains as Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and many others having pledged not to carry the product. If we consumers and citizens keep up the pressure, this will shoot down the product completely. We can do for the Arctic Apple, the FDA Frankensalmon, and any new GM potato the same as we did for New Leaf, the FlavrSavr tomato, and many other Frankenfoods the GMO cartel tried to force upon us.
 
This is more evidence of the potency of consumer rejection, where it’s organized and channeled, to fight GMOs and drive them out of our food. We must look for every opportunity to focus consumer negativity this way, and consider the efficacy of acting as a marketplace pressure group, up to and including boycotts and picketing, as a complement or alternative to labeling campaigns, as the main form of reformist action.

 
>

November 8, 2013

Stacking the Danger: SmartStax, System Failure, and the GMO Arms Race (1 of 2)

>

The European Commission has approved the combined Monsanto/Dow GM corn product “SmartStax” for import in food and feed. As usual the approval followed upon a bogus regulatory process during which no safety testing was done and corporate assurances were accepted as gospel. SmartStax is already approved for cultivation in the US and Canada. Here too there has never been any safety testing. To this day no GMO has EVER been safety tested by a government or at the requirement of a government. (As a result of the 2012 Seralini experiment on NK603 corn, the French government and the EC’s EFSA have now ordered their own tests of this variety. If these are carried out and are done scientifically, these will be the first such “official” safety tests ever.) Needless to say, no corporation ever performs such tests on its own.
 
So far most of the GMOs which have been commercialized have each incorporated a single “event”, the euphemism for a genetic modification. Each GMO has a modification which either renders the plant tolerant to an herbicide (HT, herbicide tolerant, usually glyphosate, most commonly in the commercial form of Monsanto’s Roundup) or which causes it to endemically express its own Bt insecticide. So the two basic types of GMOs do nothing but cause more deployment of agricultural poisons. That’s their only purpose.
 
A “stacked” GMO is one which has multiple modifications. By now most of the corn planted in the US doubles the poisoning, containing both the herbicide tolerant and Bt-expressing traits. Monsanto’s goal is to cram each new GM variety full of an ever greater number of proprietary modifications in order to justify jacking up the seed price ever further. Also, as I’ll get to shortly, the more such traits are forced upon industrial agriculture, the more this agriculture is forced to rely upon them in order to be able to function.
 
SmartStax is the most stacked product yet. It contains eight poisons and poison counterparts. It has six kinds of Bt-expressing genes and two kinds of herbicide tolerance (for glyphosate and glufosinate).
 
What’s the rationale for this product? As was always known and lied about, each herbicide tolerance trait will lead to massively increased use of that herbicide, which will in turn generate weeds resistant to that herbicide. This will lead to not only an escalation of the failing herbicide, but require the deployment of others. The original propaganda line on the Roundup Ready (RR) line of GMOs was that glyphosate was less poisonous than other herbicides, it would render those more toxic herbicides obsolete, and that by requiring just the judicious use of a single herbicide, it would greatly lessen and simplify herbicide use.
 
Today we know that all of these were lies. (And they’re often still repeated to this day.) Under the RR regime the spraying of glyphosate has escalated by orders of magnitude, for example in Argentina exploding from 30 million liters a year to over 330 million. Glyphosate is severely toxic to human health and the environment. It has generated such an aggressive surge of superweeds against itself that the same companies and governments who promised that the Roundup Ready suite would render the toxic herbicides like 2,4-D and dicamba obsolete are now trying to commercialize GMO varieties resistant to these same herbicides.
 
The SmartStax product itself is incarnate proof that the touted simplicity afforded by herbicide tolerant GMOs was a lie. Instead of a simple glyphosate application procedure, SmartStax growers must deploy a complex and expensive choreography of glyphosate and glufosinate. The same is true of all of the varieties in the pipeline which are resistant to multiple herbicides – some combine glyphosate and 2,4-D, others glyphosate and dicamba, etc.
 
Similarly, Bt expression quickly generates Bt-resistant superbugs. That’s led to a veritable arms race, as the cartel churns out an ever-wider array of Bt products, each with a new Bt-expressing gene, trying desperately to keep ahead as Bt-resistant borers and rootworms conquer the existing genes. I recently wrote on how MON810 was routed and driven out of the market by resistant borers in South Africa.
 
Corn borers were the original target of Bt-expressing GMOs, and borer resistance has long been an ongoing crisis for GMOs as such. On the other hand the crisis of rootworm resistance is a pure artifice of the GMO regime itself, since rootworms were not originally any kind of real problem. Under the rational practice of crop rotation, rootworms were a periodic, relatively minor nuisance. But with the advent of GM corn, governments and corporations encouraged farmers to abandon crop rotation and put all their faith in poison. Sure enough, not only did this lead to superweeds and Bt-resistant borers, but it encouraged rootworms.
 
In classic disaster capitalist fashion, Monsanto then introduced rootworm-toxic Bt modifications in 2003, stacking these with the existing anti-borer genes. Many farmers complained that they didn’t need or want this trait, that rootworms still weren’t enough of a problem, and that deploying insecticidal crops against them would merely lead to the same kind of Bt resistant superbug as was already such an affliction with borers. Monsanto was using a fabricated problem and monopoly muscle to force farmers to buy something they neither needed nor wanted in order to get the thing they did now “need”, the anti-borer corn.
 
This was the complaint that forced the US government to launch a pantomime antitrust “investigation” of Monsanto which was predictably terminated at the end of 2011 with no action taken.
 
By now all the worst prognostications have come true. Bt-resistant rootworm is a rapidly expanding systemic problem for US corn production. Just as with herbicide tolerance, so with Bt-expression, the GMO poison regime is an ongoing failure. It can promise nothing and do nothing but engage in an ever more destructive and expensive toxic arms race, and perform ever more poorly. The GMO poison regime is a failure at anything but perpetuating itself and poisoning our food, our bodies, and the earth.
 
As we see again with SmartStax, the system’s only answer is to radically escalate what’s already proven to fail. Just as this product has to require two herbicides, so it needs to generate six different kinds of Bt poison. It must do all this in order to be able to function and produce a crop at all.
 
We must ask those who persist in supporting or tolerating GMOs – how much longer do you think you can keep this up? How many herbicides do you expect to be able to stack before you’ll stabilize the superweed arms race? Three? Four? More? How many Bt genes will you need to stack, and how many internal poisons must the crop exude? Ten? Twenty? More? How is society supposed to keep paying for this utterly failed and worthless system? And how long can this go on before the soil utterly collapses and the crops utterly fail from their own malnourished, structurally weakened state? How long before our bodies fall apart from under our deranged brains?
 
These last questions will be the subject of part two. 
 

>

October 27, 2013

Recycling a Failed and Obsolete GMO for Africa

>

Western corporatism is pushing ahead with its attempt at a second colonization of Africa based on GMO imperialism. Toward this goal Monsanto’s been trotting out an old clunker, MON810 Bt maize. This is a maize variety which produces its own insecticide against the stem borer. It’s the only GMO which was ever approved for cultivation in the EU, where it’s grown primarily in Spain and Portugal. Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Luxemburg, and others have banned it.
 
Today MON810 is being pushed upon Africa in the guise of a “humanitarian” project. The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) program touts itself as seeking to provide African farmers with low-cost drought-resistant maize varieties. But while there are drought-resistant maize varieties, these are all conventionally-bred (and usually bred by the public sector) varieties. There’s no such thing as a drought-resistant GMO. What’s called a “drought-resistant” GM variety is really a public domain variety which corporations have pirated, engineered with the same old herbicide-tolerant (HT) or insecticide-expressing (Bt) trait, patented, and which they now fraudulently call drought-resistant. But the drought resistance is the pre-existing conventional trait and has nothing to do with the genetic engineering.
 
But that’s no matter, since MON810 was never called “drought resistant” over the 15+ years it’s been cultivated in Europe, South Africa, and elsewhere. Until now. WEMA has come under the umbrella of the Bill Gates AGRA project (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), a GMO propaganda front. Monsanto has “donated” MON810 to WEMA royalty-free. WEMA’s main action is now to distribute MON810 seeds, fraudulently calling them drought-resistant, and to advocate for MON810 field testing and commercialization throughout Africa. Field testing is already being done in Uganda and Kenya, while battles for “deregulation” (i.e., switching regulation from the public interest to the corporate interest, and then rendering it more aggressive and onerous on behalf of the corporate imperative) are ongoing in Tanzania and Mozambique.
 
Meanwhile in Egypt Monsanto pirated the local Ajeeb variety, engineered it with the same Bt-expressing gene (Cry1ab) as MON810, and patented the GMO variety as “Ajeeb Yieldgard”. Egyptian government studies have already found this variety to have a significantly different physiological makeup than the original variety, thus disproving yet again the “substantial equivalence” dogma which has always been the justification for not requiring safety testing of GMOs prior to commercialization. They also found that eating this GMO causes changes in organs, body weight, and serum biochemistry in rats.
 
So WEMA’s job is to push this obsolete and unsafe GM variety under the false guise of “drought resistance”, and in that way gain regulatory approval for it so that it can be widely commercialized. Of course Monsanto’s waiving of its usual tax applies only to the tests being run by the charity, not to the subsequent commercialization. Meanwhile the trials include every other aspect of the rigidly constraining patent regime.
 
What does this mean for Africa? We already know, since part of Africa’s already gone through the entire MON810 disaster now being prepared for the rest of it. South Africa was an early adopter of GMO technology, rushing to approve and commercialize MON810 in 1997 before it had even set up a bioregulatory system. The government encoded the usual requirements for “refugia”. This is an idea which could serve a purpose if ever seriously put into practice, but which has never been anything more than empty rhetoric in practice. Governments “require” farmers planting Bt crops to set aside a percentage of their acreage for a non-Bt variety. This is called the “refuge”. By providing a place where some of the target pests (in the case of MON810, the corn borer) can feed and survive without being resistant to the Bt toxin, it’s supposed to ensure that some of the reproducing insects aren’t passing on the resistance trait. This slows down the evolution of Bt resistant superbugs.
 
This refuge requirement, which concedes the inevitability of resistance development, co-existed from the start with denials that resistance would ever develop. So we see one of the many examples of how the GMO cartel engages simultaneously in mutually contradictory lines of propaganda. The refugia themselves have always been propaganda in that they’ve always been set at too small a percentage, regulators never seriously enforced them (which also allows the propaganda to blame superbugs on scofflaw farmers; but obviously corporatized GMO farmers aren’t going to self-enforce such a policy, which is exactly the outcome the system intended), and have happily yielded to every corporate entreaty to diminish the amount of the refuge required, or abandon the requirement completely.
 
Refugia have never been a seriously meant regulatory measure.
 
As if that weren’t bad enough, these meager refuge requirements were based on the assumption, since disproven, that resistance to MON810 in borers was a recessive trait. This resistance has since been proven to be dominant. So whereas South African policy ordered a 5% non-Bt refuge, the refuge would really need to have been greater than 50% in order to have any chance of working. And of course this would’ve had to have been enforced, which even the 5% requirement never was.
 
We can see that MON810 was a grossly inadequate product for South African farming. The results bore this out. Corn borers quickly developed such resistance that Monsanto eventually had to offer compensation packages to farmers who sustained greater than 10% destruction of their crop. Many farmers were suffering over 50% losses. Finally MON810 was withdrawn from the market for the 2013 season.
 
As usual, the government doesn’t react to such proof of the failure of a policy genre, in this case insecticide-expressing GMOs, with a rational rejection of the failed policy. Instead, as usual, South Africa’s only thought is to double down on what’s already proven to fail. Thus MON810 has been replaced by the “stacked” variety MON8903, which contains two Bt toxins. So it can fail twice as decisively, and in the process accelerate the development of this superbug. (Anytime a superweed or superbug evolves resistance to a particular herbicide, insecticide, or antibiotic, there’s an increasing chance that it’ll also develop a more general resistance to whole genres of these poisons. Thus waterhemp, in addition to now being widely glyphosate-resistant, is also demonstrating resistance to 2,4-D before the Agent Orange corn has even been deployed.)
 
MON810 lies on South Africa’s trash heap, but that’s all the more reason Monsanto’s ardent to deploy it throughout the rest of Africa. We already know how the story will play out, since we’ve already been through it once. We also know the usual story of the economic destruction of farmers, with some of them becoming debt slaves and the rest driven off the land and into terminal shantytowns. We’ve been through it many times. We know, too, the usual story of the destruction of the soil and water and surrounding ecosystems. This history, also, has already been played out in many places.
 
There’s no way the advocates of a “New Alliance” for Africa, led by Monsanto, don’t know that the guaranteed result will be human suffering on an immense scale. Therefore, this is the result desired by the cartel, by governments like those of the US and UK, by the corporate media and academia, by useful idiots like Bono, Kofi Annan, and others, and in general by the corporatist establishment.
 

>

October 25, 2013

The Seeds of Ten Thousand Years

>

A Brazilian congressional committee has withdrawn a bill which would have legalized the sale of Terminator seeds. This was in response to a massive grassroots campaign led by over a dozen farmer and civil society groups. The bill would have overturned an 8 year moratorium in Brazil, which is typical of a global moratorium on field testing and commercialization agreed upon at the 2000 conference of the Convention on Biodiversity. The bill looks dead in the congress for the time being, though another version is skulking in the senate.
 
This was the latest time the Terminator technology has reminded us that although it has not yet been commercialized anywhere, it exists and remains an ongoing threat. Every few years such governments as those of the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, seek to subvert or overturn the moratorium.
 
Also called the suicide seed, and in the system jargon a “Genetic Use Restriction Technology” (GURT), the Terminator seed is genetically engineered to produce a crop whose own seeds are sterile. This would lessen the need for rigorous and politically damaging patent enforcement against farmers on Monsanto’s part, as saving seed from the GMO would become biologically impossible.
 
The patents for this technology are jointly owned by the USDA, Monsanto, Syngenta, and other biotech rackets. Thus for this project the US government hasn’t just served as a political waterboy, but is a business partner. (Needless to say all the profits from any commercialization would go to the cartels. The USDA’s “ownership” is a standard part of the propaganda of “public-private partnerships”, much like the IRRI’s patent interest in the Golden Rice scam.)
 
I mentioned how the hope was that Terminator enforcement would be less politically onerous for Monsanto than suing farmers. But the idea of the Terminator has actually proven to be at least as politically inflammatory as persecuting farmers has been. Even many elites are leery of it. According to some accounts, in the late 90s the Rockefeller Foundation asked Monsanto to back off on it, fearing that it would provoke too much of a popular backlash when GMOs were just getting rolling. The cartel would be better off relying on patent enforcement.
 
These political fears are the reason why the moratorium was agreed upon by all the CBD’s signatory governments, and only half-hearted attempts have been made to flout the boycott. This abortive attempt in Brazil was the latest.
 
But why is the Terminator technology so especially offensive and ominous to farmers, citizens, and scientists, such that we the people have put up such a fierce resistance to it and forced this moratorium? There’s two main reasons.
 
1. On a human level, the Terminator is a vicious assault on the right and duty of farmers to improve and diversify crop varieties and save seeds. This has been part of the farmer’s mission for ten thousand years, just as critical for the future of humanity as growing the food is in the present. Seed and crop diversity is also part of culture.
 
The very concept of intellectual property in seeds and plants is, in addition to its many rational and moral absurdities, an insult to farmers. For ten thousand years farmers have needed nothing but their practical interest and their sense of professional ethics to engage in breeding and seed saving, and to freely share this heritage as a public commons. That’s ten thousand years of proof that where it comes to plant breeding, cooperation works. The public domain works. Meanwhile the record of a few decades of patents in seeds and plants is clear that this intellectual property regime does nothing but stifle innovation, quash creativity, cramp all farmer freedom, depress yield, and narrow the range of utilized germplasm diversity to a tiny sliver of the vast potential spectrum of agricultural biodiversity. That’s one piece of proof that agricultural corporatism does not work. It’s proof that extending patents to seeds and plants does not work. So in practice the agricultural IP regime is nothing but a monumental creative bottleneck meant to force all action and thought toward the claustrophobic goal of maximizing corporate profit and power and minimizing every other aspect of the human and agricultural experience. This is the political and economic totalitarianism of GMOs.
 
2. On an agricultural and ecological level, the Terminator is the most extreme manifestation of the general genetic threat of GMOs to crops and the environment. It’s proven that wherever planted in the open air, GMOs will start to contaminate other crops (organic and non-GM conventional), wild ancestors and relatives, and the environment in general. The longer and more widespread the planting, the worse will be the pollution, and the more indelible its likely to become. This is an existential threat to the future of agriculture, because plant breeding and the health of crops and agriculture as a whole depend upon wide biodiversity among cultivated varieties and frequent replenishment of the genetic stock from the well of the crop’s wild progenitors.
 
I mentioned how crop breeding under the corporate regime focuses incestuously upon just a couple of corporate imperatives, and therefore tremendously limits the range of crop biodiversity which is in play at all. But varieties which aren’t planted quickly go extinct, and over the last hundred years tens of thousands of regionally adapted crop varieties, an incalculable wealth of embodied knowledge and resiliency, has been lost to this neglect and deliberate suppression. This is a mass extinction event in itself, and an especially critical part of the general mass extinction which has been ravaging the world. It’s aggravated by the same factors driving other extinction campaigns – poisons, habitat destruction, climate change, industrial pollution.
 
As if that’s not bad enough, once in the field GMOs spread their pollen, and therefore their genetic pollution, to non-GM crops and wild relatives. This further degrades the already-degraded agricultural genome, and pollutes the wild wellspring upon which agriculture depends for its very future.
 
That’s the agricultural and ecological totalitarianism of regular GMOs. This, along with their inherent attempt to seek total political and economic control, is the reason why it’s impossible for humanity to co-exist with GMOs. This is why we must totally abolish them as soon as possible.
 
The Terminator is a radical escalation of both of these malign trends. Instead of relying mostly on the legal fiction of “patents” to enforce its domination, the Terminator would make saving seeds physically impossible.
 
While this would be no loss where it comes to the GMO itself (although we exhort farmers to reject the legitimacy of Monsanto and the GMO cartel and despise the very concept of IP in seeds and plants, we don’t think the answer is to flout the patent and plant GM seeds without paying the Monsanto tax; this would be better than paying it, but the only real solution is the total abolition of GMOs as such), it becomes an immediate existential threat as soon as the Terminator variety starts contaminating other crops and wild relatives.
 
Could the Terminator spread its sterilization modification to organic crops, non-GM conventional crops, and wild progenitors of our crops? Could it cause spontaneous mass seed failure throughout agriculture and in the wild? Although the likelihood of this is unknown, the potential is indisputable. It’s guaranteed that the contamination will take place.
 
That’s even leaving aside whether Monsanto would consciously desire and seek such a goal, thinking that this would be the key to total domination. It has repeatedly declared that this is its goal.
 
The Terminator is just an extreme example of the malevolence and dangers of GMOs in general. As a genre GMOs are weapons of corporate power, enclosure, control, and domination. As a genre they’re pollutants spreading promiscuously throughout our agriculture and environment. 
 
When we consider the embodied human culture of seeds and crops, the ten thousand years of thought, creativity, and hard work which went into breeding these varieties and developing these diverse agricultural practices, we can see how the seed extinction assault is a kind of sublimated genocide. And when we contemplate how neoliberalism, as a conscious and systematic policy, seeks to render billions of small farmers utterly obsolete, utterly dehumanized, and to drive them into the urban concentration camps called shantytowns, we have to consider how physical the genocide intention will eventually become.
 
When we consider how critical crop and wild plant biodiversity are to the health of our agriculture and the ecosystems within which it functions and upon which it depends, we see how our very existence depends upon protecting, redeeming, and expanding this biodiversity. We see how here as well our physical extinction is being contemplated implicitly by those who see humanity as nothing but a resource to be mined and exhausted to satisfy their vile gutter greed and powerlust.
 
Saving seeds, breeding crop varieties, cultivating biodiversity along with food, are among our core human activities. Their practice is part of the human essence. They are therefore human rights, to translate them into the language of modern government. To assault and constrain them is a crime against humanity.
 
And if we have any right to exist at all, we have the right to the biological integrity of the agriculture and ecosystems which comprise the necessary foundation of that existential right. Here too any assault is a crime.
 
In both of these ways to actively support GMOs is to commit this crime against humanity.
 
We must preserve, redeem, and reinvigorate our seed sovereignty, our agriculture, and our Earth. Therefore we must abolish GMOs. The Terminator is, so far, an emblem of evil which is being kept at bay. We must ensure it stays there. But above all we must hold the line everywhere, and then start rolling back the GMO onslaught. It can be done and will be done, as more and more people around the globe join the fight.
 
 

>

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 244 other followers