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July 4, 2014

GMO News Summary July 4th 2014

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*In honor of Independence Day we celebrate the recent successes and ongoing action of the Community Rights movement. This movement to abolish alien corporate power over communities and regions looks to become a key part of the rising anti-corporate movement. This movement shall be at the core of the second stage of the American Revolution. We’re currently undergoing the oppressions and humiliations of the New Stamp Acts and Intolerable Acts being perpetrated by the corporate state. Here’s a salute to one of the promising new movements seeking to break corporate power.
 
*In the latest victory, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled that municipalities have the right to use zoning and land use policy to ban oil and gas drilling. This was only a partial victory within an adverse framework, as the court found that the community has rights which were delegated to it by the state, but reaffirmed the state’s alleged dominion over communities. Therefore it’s not a community rights ruling, and movement work is needed in New York to build the consciousness and resolve among communities to reject the state itself where this becomes necessary. As things are, the court has invited the state legislature to pass a new law overriding fracking bans on any grounds whatsoever. The court’s decision is therefore what I’d call a passive corporatist decision.
 
But nevertheless the ruling does find that even within corporatism there are grounds for communities to limit and reject the corporate prerogative. It’s a step toward the necessary goal of community rejection of all corporate state prerogatives and “authority” and reassertion of the community’s rightful sovereignty.
 
*A new report from the EU’s council of environmental ministers surveys some of the environmental effects of the herbicide tolerant GMO genre. It confirms the fact that HT GMOs do not increase yield over non-GM conventional. It confirms the universal pattern, that the introduction of HT crops may (but doesn’t always) cause a brief initial decline in overall herbicide use, but that this quickly reverses. HT GMOs soon come to require greater herbicide use than non-GM conventional agriculture, and this difference increases over time. The report also further confirms the consensus that GMOs yield more poorly than non-GM conventional and organic crops.
 
The report also finds that HT GMO system is a threat to biodiversity and explores the ways that herbicide tolerance spreads through feral growth of GMOs like Roundup Ready canola and contamination of related wild plants. It discusses the bioweapons arms race as the GMO system causes weeds to evolve greater resistance to an ever-widening spectrum of herbicides. It discusses how herbicide residue weakens the crops themselves.
 
It makes one mistake, frequently citing the alleged benefits of the “chemical no-till” system without mentioning that as superweeds overwhelm HT GMO systems, farmers return not only to supposedly obsolete herbicides but to tillage as well.
 
The report finds that for policy purposes the HT GMO system should be compared with low external input agroecology, whose practices and results are superior in every way. The report concludes that from an environmental perspective “Herbicide tolerant crops are not part of the solution, but are part of the problem”.
 
*The German government (Germany is the EU’s “rapporteur state” for glyphosate) and the EFSA continue to refuse to release to the public the secret toxicity tests which allegedly find glyphosate safe enough that the Allowed Daily Intake should be nearly doubled, as the German government is recommending. This refusal is now flouting a 2013 order from the European Court of Justice that studies relevant to environmental pollutants must be release to the public. The government bureaucracies refuse to give we the people our information on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality”. In other words the corporate bureaucracy doesn’t want the government bureaucracy to publicize how poisonous to human and animal health glyphosate really is. 
 
What does this prove?
 
1. Glyphosate is extremely toxic to humans and animals. If the data didn’t prove this, Monsanto and its flunkey governments would be thrilled to publicize the fact.
 
2. As I’ve always said, government regulators do not serve the people nor are they designed to. They consciously see themselves as serving the corporate “client”, and were designed for this purpose in the first place. What else would common sense expect of a regulator within a pro-corporate government which is aggressively promoting a corporatist economic and political system? It’s quite insane to expect an inherently corporatist regulator to behave in the public interest.
 
3. Since transparency is a bedrock principle and practice of science, it follows that it’s impossible to support GMOs and other agricultural poisons from a scientific point of view. On the contrary, such support, which must include support for the secrecy policy, is radically opposed to science. 
 
*The US and other governments will oppose a UN working group dedicated to enforcing a new treaty which would require transnational corporations to abide by human rights and not commit crimes against humanity. It’s easy to see why the US government, dedicated to supporting corporate crime of aggression everywhere on earth, opposes this.
 
*You can register for a webinar on how the TTIP is being planned as a major weapon in the GMO assault on Europe, and will also be used against rational regulation of GMOs and other poisons in the US.
 
*China’s food quarantine agency is reported to have suspended import licenses for distillers’ grain solubles (a corn product used in CAFO feed) from the US after a series of rejected US shipments due to contamination by an unapproved GM variety.
 
*Boycott Coca-Cola and all its brands for its incorrigible and hypocritical funding of anti-labeling campaigns in California and Washington. In Washington in 2013 Coca-Cola and other food manufacturers were too cowardly to openly espouse their anti-democracy position, but instead illegally and cravenly spent the money secretly, through the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto’s group which coordinates the actions of the manufacturers on its behalf.

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June 14, 2014

EU Set to Gut GMO Regulation and Democracy

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This week the European Council voted to change the process by which EU member states can opt out of authorizing cultivation within their territories of GMO crops authorized by the Commission. The change heavily weights the process in favor of the cartel and bureaucracy and against the people.
 
As things are now, whether or not a GMO which has been authorized for cultivation in the EU (as of this writing, only MON810 maize, though Commission approval for 1507 maize seems imminent) is allowed in a particular member state is a matter of that country’s normal political process. The result of this relatively accountable system is that MON810 has been banned in ten European countries and is widely grown only in Spain.
 
Under the new system, the main power over the opt-out process will be in the hands of a country’s unaccountable bureaucracy, which is far more likely to support the GMO prerogative than a European legislature. It’ll be up to the bureaucracy to take proactive action during the initial application stage and jump through several hoops in order to lay the groundwork for the government to then ban the GMO. If the bureaucracy fails to do this, the government’s hands are tied. The system also sets up a legalistic catch-22 in that member states must agree to accept EFSA rubber-stamping where it comes to human, livestock, and environmental safety, while basing their national bans only on socioeconomic, planning, or cultural concerns. These, of course, are the kinds of concerns which are banned by the WTO, which on the other hand in theory does have to allow the safety exceptions. So the goal is to render all rationales legally invalid one way or another. States must also waive all right to redress in the inevitable event of contamination.
 
Meanwhile, a state which goes through this rigmarole would also be forestalled from voting against EU-wide approval for the GMO. The result of all this is that everything rubber-stamped by the EFSA would automatically glide to EU-wide approval, and any state which wanted to allow any GMO would have license to go ahead. The UK government, hysterical to authorize GM crops and frustrated by both the EU and rejection by Scotland and Wales, has spearheaded this whole campaign.
 
Of course all of this is typical of what happens when a nation surrenders its sovereignty to any kind of alien bureaucracy. I’ve written before about how, from the point of view of the European Commission, the goal of the TTIP is to radically mitigate the extent to which European politics which can still affect the corporate economy.
 
But as we see here the Commission’s doing what it can to work with what it has right now. If this policy goes through it’ll gut the democratic oversight the peoples of Europe now have over whether GMOs are cultivated in their own lands. (Their NIMBYism in importing a huge amount of GM feed from Latin America and elsewhere is a different problem.)
 
I wrote more on this here and here.

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June 6, 2014

GMO News Summary June 6th, 2014

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*An estimated 2 million people worldwide took part in the third March Against Monsanto held on May 24th.
 
*Fruit from Brazil will be likely to have GMO fruit fly maggot carcasses in the fruit, as Brazil has authorized field releases of genetically engineered fruit flies. The GMO bugs like these work is they’re supposed to mate with wild insects and have offspring who die as larvae. That means the fruit or vegetable involved will have the corpses inside. There are plans to do the same with olive flies in Europe, so the GMO maggots will be inside the olives you eat.
 
European imports of such GMO-laced material from Brazil or elsewhere would be illegal, since EU regulations require a special testing and approval process for any GMO to be eaten directly as food, as these maggots will be. But the regulatory evasion seems the least of the problems with this.
 
The Brazilian releases are slated to take place sometime in 2014.
 
*In the same way that the GMO racket has always been long on hype but short on accomplishment, actually producing only poison-based crops, so the nascent synthetic biology sector has already given up the pursuit of the technological miracles it’s been promising and is instead focusing on luxury “fine chemicals” for food and cosmetics. So they’re keeping pace with their older sibling in being worthless for anything that could actually help people. There’s a good chance, though, that they’ll succeed at least as well in harming people.
 
*As the EPA continues on its slow boat toward maybe completing its reassessment of the health and environmental effects of glyphosate in 2015, after postponing it repeatedly over the last several years, Moms Across America broke the blissful see-no-evil speak-no-evil calm with a five-day phone blitz demanding faster action in light of the evidence which continues to pile up of glyphosate’s toxicity and its buildup in human tissues and breast milk. The EPA was forced to meet with the group.
 
In 2013 the EPA continued its pattern going back to the mid-90s of raising the officially “safe” levels of glyphosate residues in response to the ever-higher levels generated by the ever-greater use of this poison which has accompanied the spread of Roundup Ready GMO crops. These bureaucratic escalations never have anything to do with scientific evidence of safety, but are simply automatic, in response to the corporate need. 
 
*EU member states just voted for a proposal which promises to gut Europe’s moderate protections against GMO cultivation. According to this revision of the “subsidiarity” policy, each country would be required to make a special preliminary bureaucratic request of the applicant corporation for each individual application asking that its own territory be excluded from the scope of the application. Only if the applicant refuses will the member state then be allowed to enact its own ban. The technical criteria for such a ban to be valid in the bureaucratic courts would also be tightened. It’s meant to set up a legalistic Catch-22. The member states would relinquish their right to institute bans based on health or environmental rationales, i.e. the only rationales in theory allowed under globalization rules. These rationales would be surrendered completely to the pro-GMO rubber-stamp EFSA. Meanwhile the member states would retain a right, under this policy, to institute bans based on socioeconomic and planning concerns. But these are precisely the kind of policy rationales banned under WTO rules. The policy proposal is meant to take a roundabout route to gut the Precautionary Principle and state regulatory power over GMOs, and further exalt the preemptive power of EFSA assessments. The revolving door EFSA is little more than a Monsanto division.
 
In addition to its structural aims, the policy is meant to be cumbersome to the point of impossibility. Instead of taking cultivation approvals on a case by case basis, a national government is supposed to track down every pending application, assess its approval in a hypothetical way, make a future-oriented decision, and formulate a request. And who is supposed to do this – a bureaucracy which is naturally more likely to support the corporate project than a legislature which is more likely to be responsive to the public good. And then there’s the fact that the government of a day is to be able to tie the hands of its successors in perpetuity. Once again we see the fundamental hostility of the EC to democracy and to politics as such.
 
The policy is being bruited in terms familiar from big business rhetoric – this will “break the logjam”, will “streamline” regulation. It is indeed intended to do exactly what I’ve predicted about this EU federalism since 2010 – first open the floodgates to general EU cultivation approvals, and then gut the state-level bans piecemeal.
 
*That good old European regulation is on display as the EFSA is up to its antics again, this time with Dupont’s 1507 stacked maize variety. The EC is intent on approving 1507 for cultivation in spite of a spate of reports by Testbiotech calling its safety into question, as well as its rejection in European Parliament and European Council votes.
 
*Under pro-GMO European Commission pressure, Bulgaria is refusing to rescind its ban on cultivation of MON810 Bt maize. MON810 is currently the only GMO approved for cultivation in the EU, though as I just mentioned the EC is planning to authorize 1507 stacked maize for 2015.
 
*While pro-GMO propaganda continues to tout a genetically modified “anti-cancer purple tomato”, the conventionally bred non-GMO real thing is already available in supermarkets.
 
Meanwhile the corporate welfare project being carried out by the UK’s John Innes Center seems to be technologically stalled. It’s the same old story as with “golden rice” and other media hoaxes – the GM purple tomato doesn’t work.
 
So far you’d never go wrong if, presented with the idea of some special GMO which isn’t the same old kind of poison plant, you were to assume that a better conventionally bred variety already exists, and that the GM version doesn’t work.
 
*A new coalition, No Patents on Seeds, has filed a challenge with the European Patent Office against what it calls a fraudulent Monsanto patent on a conventionally bred tomato which Monsanto implied was genetically engineered. In Europe GE processes can be patented, but the results of conventional breeding cannot.
 
Monsanto pirated the original seeds, which it then crossed with other tomato varieties, from the international gene bank at Gatersleben, Germany. These kinds of germplasm repositories have a long history of playing this “public private partnership” role: They use public resources to pirate germplasm across the global South and gather the results for the convenience of corporate research.
 
*There’s a call out for Canadian volunteers to participate in a country-wide test for glyphosate residues in the body. This is intended to be a Canadian followup to the Moms Across America bombshell which discovered how much the breast milk of even health-conscious American eaters is laden with this poison.

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May 27, 2014

The Corporate Poison Regime and Regulatory Shamming: The EFSA’s “Public Consultation” on Glyphosate

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GM-Free Cymru has filed a formal complaint over the EFSA’s farcical “public consultation” over whether the EU should renew its approval of glyphosate and raise the allowable level of the poison in water and food, as Germany, the EU’s “rapporteur state” for glyphosate, recently recommended.
 
Although the EFSA is legally required to receive public comments, it flouted this requirement by setting up a tortuous, arcane online submission system which was designed to make it near-impossible to submit substantive comments. Respondents were required to tailor their comments to EFSA specifications including tight space restrictions. The EFSA required commenters to sign a waiver basically disavowing their right to have their comments published at EFSA discretion. This too is designed to evade the law. There are several other parts of GM-Free Cymru’s complaint detailing how the process is openly discouraging to potentially adverse commenters, and how the initial German assessment is corrupt and has had information illegally and unscientifically redacted from public releases. 
 
Most substantively fraudulent, the EFSA declared that it would delete any comments which referred to Roundup. Respondents are allowed to comment only on glyphosate. This is in spite of the fact that in agricultural practice it’ll be Roundup and similar formulations which are actually sprayed, while pure glyphosate is never used anywhere but in the laboratory test.
 
This is a standard scam on the part of poison manufacturers and regulators. The regulatory process, meager and inadequate as it is, deals only with an isolated so-called “active ingredient” such as glyphosate. It never deals with the kind of commercial formulation which will be used in the real world. Therefore it’s a fraud from any scientific or government ethics point of view. “Active ingredient” isn’t a practically meaningful term, since the commercial formulation will contain several bioactive ingredients. Instead this is an ideological term meant to isolate one ingredient in an unworldly ivory tower manner. Under such isolation of a single ingredient which never appears in isolation in reality, it’s easier for corporations and regulators to manufacture the sham semblance of testing and assurances of safety.
 
Meanwhile independent testing and epidemiological evidence has abundantly documented that many such commercial poisons are far more toxic in their real-world form than the “active ingredient” is in laboratory isolation.
 
In the case of glyphosate, the evidence proves that the combination of glyphosate with the surfactant POEA is far more toxic to human health than glyphosate in isolation. This combination, along with several other truly active poisons, is typical of glyphosate’s commercial formulations including Roundup.
 
Regulators are practically robotic in mechanically raising allowable levels of industrial poisons in air, water, soil, crops, food, and human bodies in response to corporate demands. It’s literally the case that the regulator sets the “safe” level of the poison based on how much of the poison the corporations expect to sell. When the corporations project a market expansion and concomitant increase in the environmental presence of the poison, they lobby the regulator to raise the “safe” level commensurately. The regulator invariably complies, since the regulator sees its job as to assist the corporate prerogative, never to hinder it.
 
I’ve described this process before, calling it “regulator triangulation”. By triangulation I mean the regulator pretends to be a public servant but is really trying to represent a corporatist agenda as “public service”.
 
1. The government regulator regards the corporate prerogative as normative. Indeed, as an EFSA memo discussing the EU law which would gradually ban endocrine-disrupting chemicals like Roundup openly says, the regulator ideology is based on an assumed corporate right to maximum profit. Any competing value is generally considered an irritant to be quashed. Under no circumstance will even the most conscientious regulator do anything which would seriously hinder corporate profit and control.
 
2. Given (1), a regulator may or may not try to ameliorate the worst harms and “abuses”. As we see in this case and many others, the EFSA is the kind of bureaucracy which doesn’t even want meager amelioration, but is gung ho on behalf of the full corporate onslaught.
 
3. The regulator then places its imprimatur on the resulting policy. It calls this the result of meticulous deliberation which takes the public interest into account. It declares the product “safe” and promises its own professional vigilance in ensuring the policy is carried out. But in fact only the corporate agenda and how to camouflage it went into the deliberation, “safe” is an Orwellian term which means, “what’s the minimum paper restraint we can politically get away with?”, and there’s seldom even a modest attempt on the regulator’s part to enforce this sham minimum. The US EPA’s “refugia” policy for Bt crops is a good example of a policy which is weak and insufficient in principle and is indifferently enforced in practice, whose only real purpose is as propaganda.
 
By means of this parallax effect the regulator helps direct public attention to a sham depiction of “good government” and “public health” while the real position is a direct, coordinated assault of the corporate state on public health and on every other human value.
 
The EFSA’s campaign to help force more of this viciously toxic poison upon us while making it look “safe” is a typical example. As is the contempt for democracy and accountability it’s demonstrating in the process. But then, the whole “public comment” process is intrinsic to the basic regulation scam.

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May 23, 2014

GMO News Summary May 23rd, 2014

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*Congratulations to the Community Rights movement and the people of Jackson and Josephine counties in Oregon who voted by wide margins to ban cultivation of GMOs. The initiatives also declare seed patents invalid. These defensive measures are part of an affirmative effort to rebuild local food sovereignty.
 
Benton County will vote on a similar measure in November, and several other Oregon counties are in varying stages of preparation to launch their own initiatives.
 
*As the Russian parliament ponders a bill which would effectively ban cultivation of GMOs, the non-profit Genetic Safety Public Association is enlisting researchers and raising funds to perform what it says will be the “first-ever independent international research on GMOs.”
 
*A new meta-analysis further confirms the link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is especially prevalent among farmers and agricultural workers.
 
*European Commission bureaucrats are plotting to evade enforcement of a law passed by the European Parliament which would effectively ban for most uses endocrine disrupting poisons like glyphosate and neonicotinoids. The EFSA and DG SANCO (the EC’s chemicals regulators) have been dragging their feet and missed several legislatively mandated deadlines for presenting plans to enforce the law. Sweden has announced it will file suit in the European Court of Justice to force EC bureaucrats to obey the law.
 
A memo from an EFSA cadre to DG SANCO proposes that the two bureaucracies team up to evade the law by expanding a narrow exemption for uses that create “negligible exposure” for humans into a giant loophole. The mechanism presumably would be the normal one wherein the bureaucracy simply raises the level of exposure which it dogmatically declares to be “safe” or “negligible”. This has been the pattern of US and EU bureaucracies all along – allowed levels of human exposure to any agricultural poison are set not according to any scientific standards based on health evidence, but instead are set at whatever level the corporations desire. The bureaucracy then declares this level to be “safe” in doctrinaire fundamentalist fashion.
 
The memo also delves into EFSA philosophy. It objects to the law in principle on the grounds that the law would restrict what the government bureaucracy sees as a corporate right to profit. It’s easy to see why the EC is so ardent for the TTIP, with its “Investor/State Dispute Settlement” (ISDS) provision, to be concluded and forcibly imposed on Europe. Only this can maximize the ideology and enforcement of a corporate license to seek profit regardless of any and all other values.
 
*New Zealand’s High Court has overruled a ruling by the NZ Environmental Protection Agency that a “genome editing” technique being used by the country’s publicly funded corporate research group Scion does not qualify as genetic engineering and therefore does not need to be regulated as such.
 
This is one win amid a general trend in the US and elsewhere to try to remove new kinds of GMOs from any regulatory oversight at all, meager as this oversight is.

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May 9, 2014

GMO News Summary May 9th, 2014

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*A new review surveys the evidence linking the surge of glyphosate use in recent decades with the surge of cases on non-Hodgkins lymphoma over that same period.
 
*Harrowing accounts of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Origin (CKDu) among agricultural workers. The epidemic is strongly linked to the herbicide Roundup.
 
*Those are just two of the many reasons glyphosate and its commercial formulations like Roundup should be banned.
 
But poisoner governments are trying to head in the opposite direction. Today the EU is contemplating raising the allowable level of glyphosate in Europe’s food and water. The recommendation has nothing to do with the health evidence, which strongly condemns it as an extreme toxin for humans, livestock, and the soil. Rather, such bureaucratic recommendations and regulations are set according to corporate needs. However much Roundup Monsanto wants to sell, however much industrial agriculture wants to spray, and therefore whatever the resultant concentration in human food, water, and bodies, that’s the concentration that bureaucracies like the EFSA and EPA will set. Then these bureaucracies lie on behalf of that level, saying they found it to be “safe”, when in fact they’ve never conducted any safety studies, and systematically ignore all the independent scientific evidence.
 
Food and Water Watch is running a petition against the EFSA’s position.
 
*There’s nothing new about this latest nomination of corporate food lobbyists to the managing board of the EU’s European Food Safety Agency. While all such government bureaucracies are designed to serve corporate interests, the EFSA is especially brazen where it comes to its revolving door character.
 
*As more information is forced out on the UK government’s pro-Monsanto media blitz, we get more details on how the corporate media functions as a de facto Propaganda Ministry. Memos demonstrate how the government complied a list of corporate-friendly media cadres, to whom information and talking points on upcoming government initiatives would be sent. They similarly compiled a blacklist of journalists who had questioned the corporate claims.
 
The memos also describe how government employees were deputized to engage in pro-GMO propaganda work, and how the government asked corporate marketers to advise on this publicly funded propaganda.
 
*France has confirmed its ban on cultivation of MON810 Bt corn. The senate voted for the ban, while country’s high court rejected an appeal from the country’s industrial corn trade group.
 
Under current EU federalism, the EU can approve a GMO product for cultivation, but member states can opt out by passing national bans. MON810 is currently the only GMO approved for cultivation in Europe. Ten member states have de jure or de facto bans in place, while Spain is the only country where it’s widely grown.

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April 18, 2014

GMO News Summary April 18th, 2014

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*Vermont’s Senate voted 26-2 to pass a state GMO labeling policy which will go into effect in July 2016. The bill will have to be voted again in the House (where it’s already passed). The governor has said he’ll sign it.
 
*The Grocery Manufacturers Association’s preemption bill against GMO labeling has been introduced in Congress. I wrote a full analysis here. This federal preemption policy would enlist the FDA to ban the states from enacting any kind of truth-in-labeling laws. Instead the FDA would be given new propaganda tools to continue its fraudulent pretense that it undertakes any “regulation” of GMOs whatsoever.
 
That the FDA does anything at all to assess the safety of GMOs and other agricultural poisons is one of the core lies of the GMO hacks. In truth the FDA has never once performed or required a single test. But it has always implicitly endorsed the lie that it does do such testing. The GMA bill is designed to intensify this campaign of lies.
 
*Testbiotech has released a thorough assessment of how all alleged “study” considered by the EFSA on the GM maize variety 1507 has been controlled by the cartel, either directly or through revolving door personnel posing fraudulently as “independent” researchers. 1507 may be approved in May in spite of the lack of any safety testing at all, as well as its rejection in votes by the European Parliament and European Council.
 
*As I’ve predicted several times before, the EC is moving to constrain and render impracticeable its “subsidiarity” policy (cf. especially p. 6 and 10-11 of the PDF) under which EU member states can institute state-level bans on the cultivation of a GM crop approved at the EU level by the Commission. Currently only the MON810 maize variety is approved for cultivation in the EU. It has been banned by ten countries, and is widely grown only in Spain.
 
But under the proposed policy change, each country would be required to make a special bureaucratic request of the applying corporation for each individual application, a priori, asking that its own territory be excluded from the scope of the application. Only if the applicant refuses will the member state then be allowed to enact its own ban. The technical criteria for such a ban to be valid in the bureaucratic courts would also be tightened. The policy proposal would further erode the Precautionary Principle and further exalt the preemptive power of EFSA assessments. The revolving door EFSA is little more than a Monsanto division.
 
Obviously this is meant to be cumbersome to the point of impossibility. Instead of taking cultivation approvals on a case by case basis, a national government is supposed to track down every pending application, assess its approval in a hypothetical way, make a future-oriented decision, and formulate a request. And who is supposed to do this – a bureaucracy which is naturally more likely to support the corporate project than a legislature which is more likely to be responsive to the public good. And then there’s the fact that the government of a day is to be able to tie the hands of its successors in perpetuity. Once again we see the fundamental hostility of the EC to democracy and to politics as such.
 
*GeneWatch UK is filing Freedom of Information requests, and now a complaint with the Information Commissioner, demanding access to withheld and redacted parts of communications between the government’s Department of the Environment, Farms, and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the GMO cartel’s lobby group the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC). The information already released details coordinated media strategies and how the government keeps the lobby informed about upcoming minister speeches and policy proposals. It’s clear that little will be needed from TTIP “regulatory coherence” to increase the intensity of government/corporate bureaucratic Gleichschaltung in the UK. 
 
*A detailed account of the politics of how over 200 GM field trials were okayed in India earlier this year.
 
*I’m sure we’re all very sorry about the news that parasite commodity traders have “lost” as much $427 million in reduced US maize exports to China, because the US commodification system is incompetent to provide the uncontaminated products the buyer requests. This is a severe indictment of the entrepreneurial abilities of US commodifiers. Now the traders are squabbling with the GMO cartel about why it’s not possible to segregate the particular variety China has been rejecting, Syngenta’s MIR162 line.
 
The answer, of course, is that the commodification system is unsuited to provide versatility and diversity because it’s designed to supply the opposite, an undifferentiated monoculture commodity flow. Even more importantly, this proves contamination by unwelcome GMOs at every point of the growth and supply chain is inevitable. Over the long run segregation is impossible, just as “coexistence” in general is impossible. In some cases like this one, it’s evidently impossible even in the immediate run.

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April 11, 2014

GMO News Summary April 11, 2014

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*Pressure from farmers has caused Forage Genetics International (the Monsanto subsidiary handling this product) to postpone its commercial release of GM alfalfa in Canada, at least for this spring.
 
There’s some controversy over whether there’s a shortage of alfalfa seed, and if so whether this is on account of the harsh winter, or because farmers planted less of a seed crop on account of anxiety over the GM alfalfa struggle. FGI denies there’s a shortage of seeds, but is unclear about the reason for the postponement. Farmers opposed to the release because it will contaminate non-GM alfalfa and harm dairy animals and products are claiming credit for the delay.
 
Proponents of Roundup Ready alfalfa make the odd argument that it’ll be good for the export market, even though there’s far less of an export market for GM alfalfa or for any other GMO than there is for non-GM crops and products. (For example, US corn exports have been permanently depressed since the widespread adoption of GM corn.) They also perpetrate the bizarre circularity that it’ll be good for alfalfa seed crops, though this obviously could apply only to a seed crop of RR alfalfa itself. So this is really saying, “growing GM alfalfa will be good for growing GM alfalfa”. I’m afraid we’ll need a better reason than this, but this is indeed what almost all pro-GM “arguments” boil down to.
 
*As part of its budgeting process for the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), the European Parliament voted resolution demanding much stronger “conflict of interest” rules including a modest two-year “cooling off period” before a corporate agriculture/food cadre can go through the revolving door.
 
But it looks like what they really did was release the money after delaying it for a little while, and merely accompany it with this pious resolution. The EFSA has already rejected any change in its corruption policies.
 
To put that term another way, what we see here and with other corporatist government bureaucracies is not really a conflict of interest, or in other words this concept mistakes the real nature of a bureaucracy like the EFSA.
 
As for the cooling-off time, anyone who thinks this would be unfair to our upstanding revolving door types should explain why corporate non-compete contracts for ex-employees should be considered any less unacceptable.
 
*A pilot study commissioned by Sustainable Pulse and Moms Across America has found extremely high levels of glyphosate in the milk of US mothers and in urine samples from a cross section of volunteers.
 
These levels are higher than allowed European levels, and are higher than the levels found in city water systems and in the urine of European volunteers in a 2013 study. 
 
The participants in the study are people who have taken some steps in recent years to lessen their exposure to glyphosate and other poisons in their diets. We can expect that the poison levels would be even higher among people who haven’t taken any such steps.
 
This isn’t a full scientific study (though it’s more informative about human health than any of the industry conversion tests on GMOs and other poisons which are accepted as sufficient by regulators), but we can expect the hacks to irrelevantly accuse it of being an inadequate study. From day one, and to this day, one of the three main lies about the Seralini study, a fully conclusive scientific study of GMO and Roundup toxicology, is that it was a flawed cancer study, when in fact it never claimed to be a cancer study at all. On the contrary, it called for cancer studies to be designed and done.
 
*The farm minister of Denmark commissioned academic reviewers to assess the effects of glyphosate on livestock. Their review of the published evidence concluded that there may be harmful effects and that more study is needed. I suppose the “more study is needed” line is an improvement over the standard line of governments everywhere that no study is needed, but it’s still hardly a clarion call summoning society to action.
 
The review concluded that the two main ways in which glyphosate harms livestock are:
 
1. Glyphosate devastates the microbiome, the gut flora which are necessary for digestion and digestive system health.
 
2. As part of its intended action, glyphosate is a potent mineral chelator. This is how it kills plants, by preventing them from gaining mineral nutrition by binding up the minerals in an indigestible form. The evidence is that glyphosate also prevents animals from gaining necessary nutrition because their feed, mostly from Roundup Ready GMOs, is loaded with glyphosate residues and chelated minerals which are similarly indigestible to them. This leads to disastrous deficiency disease. It’s probably having a similar malnutritional effect on humans.
 
*The Dutch parliament has passed a law which will ban the sale of glyphosate formulations such as Roundup to “private individuals” for non-commercial use by the end of 2015. An existing restriction has all sorts of loopholes. The piece isn’t clear on whether municipalities will still be using the poison.
 
It’s good to get Roundup out of our neighborhoods, off our sidewalks, out of our parks, and so on. Often analyses of the health harms of glyphosate neglect this neighborhood use.
 
But this kind of ban is still just nibbling at the fringes of the poison problem, since the vast majority of Roundup is used for commercial agriculture, and it’s this use which really drives the poisoning of our soil, air, and water, and which is the main driver of the many ways glyphosate damages our health and makes us sick.
 
Nothing short of a complete ban and abolition of glyphosate will suffice for human health, livestock health, environmental health.
 
*In the latest political statement from Russia’s government on GMOs, prime minister Medvedev told an audience of farmers that Russia doesn’t need to grow or import GMOs, but can feed itself and build a vibrant export sector based on organic agriculture and food.
 
*Superbugs and superweeds are attaining ever faster turnaround times. According to reports of farmers and officials, insect pests are already gorging happily on the brand new Bt brinjal rollout in Bangladesh. This product was only newly commercialized in 2014, the first place on earth for GMO eggplant, and the government’s agricultural research institute first released the seeds to farmers in January. If these reports are confirmed it’ll set a new world record for GMO failure, already a hard-to-match hall of shame.

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April 4, 2014

GMO News Summary April 4th, 2014

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*Russia continues to express its ambivalence toward the Western-dominated GMO regime, as Vladimir Putin said some vague things about the dangers of GMOs and Russia’s need to control them within its own food supply and economy. This is within the context of Russia’s ongoing moves to limit the penetration of the Western-dominated GMO regime. This has included a labeling policy, a plan to set up a state “registration” system, scheduled to be announced in June 2014, and lots of media coverage of how organic and non-GM conventional agriculture can give Russia a food security and export advantage.
 
All this is part of the intensified jousting between Russia and Western corporatism. The showdown in the Ukraine, historically called the “heartland” or “breadbasket of the world” by geopolitical theorists, is a major escalation. The Ukraine conflict has major implications for humanity’s war against GMO corporatism. Cargill, Monsanto, and others have made major investments in the Ukraine. So far this invasion of Western agribusiness has been nominally on a non-GMO basis, although everyone believes there’s widespread illegal GMO plantings. As of summer 2013 a study by the National Association for Genetic Safety conducted in the Belgorod region of Russia right across the border from the Ukraine didn’t detect GMO contamination.
 
The West’s goal in targeting the Ukraine has been the same as its general goal since the end of the Cold War. The goal is to expand the same neoliberal corporatist domination which is destroying southern and western Europe to the former communist countries. Ukraine is meant to be plundered and dominated for the sake of this plunder in itself, and also to further hem in Russia and prevent it from reasserting itself as a rival to Western corporate power. That’s why the US and EU are so ardent to expand NATO membership to the Ukraine. (NATO, as has been made incontrovertibly clear since the end of the Cold War, is primarily an aggressive alliance, not a defensive one. It never contemplated a peace dividend for one second.)
 
In this case globalization-oriented Ukrainian kleptocrats seized power in a coup so they could accept an IMF loan which would be used to rip the country’s economy and polity wide open to the corporate “austerity” regime and the general onslaught of Western corporate aggression.
 
In the case of agriculture this will include a lifting on the Ukraine’s ban on foreign corporations owning farmland. In this way land-grabbing, usually associated most with the new campaign of racist colonialism being perpetrated by the West in Southern countries, will be brought to the Ukraine. The new corporate Gleichschaltung will also further corporatize Ukrainian policy on commodification, GMO seeds and patents, food safety, etc.
 
It’s easy to see why Monsanto and Cargill are bullish on the current situation, in spite of the chaos and tension. Russia rightly sees this US/EU/NATO/IMF campaign as a campaign of Western aggression, not just against the Ukraine but against itself. In addition to all the other geopolitical and economic aspects, we can add the GMO assault. If all goes according to plan, the corporate takeover of the Ukraine will turn the fabled heartland and breadbasket of the world into a GMO plantation, which will directly physically threaten (via contamination, if not in a more direct way) Russia’s own attempt to build a high-quality non-GM export sector.
 
Of course, Russia has only talked about revamping its agriculture along these lines. It’s at least as likely that Russia’s putting up barriers against Monsanto’s onslaught because it wants to participate in constructing a rival GMO cartel. Nor is any kind of export-based commodity agricultural economy sustainable.
 
But Russia’s public statements have at least demonstrated that they understand the threats and opportunities which are possible in this situation, which is more than most Western countries have done. Meanwhile the Ukrainians seem to have no vision for themselves at all, but can only imagine themselves as under the thumb of Russia or of the West. It’s certainly an extremely difficult position to be caught between two power centers.
 
But there’s no question at all that if one has to be temporarily dependent and subordinate, the deal Russia was offering is vastly better for the Ukraine’s 99% than the IMF liquidation and debt enslavement which is already commencing. And it should go without saying that from every point of view – today’s commodity economy as well as what will of necessity be tomorrow’s relocalized economies – Ukraine would be much better off investing in non-GMO and organic agriculture, in the same way many Russian groups and officials are arguing for Russia, than it will be if it turns itself into the next supine, demolished Monsanto victim. 
 
*Following the latest round of cotton crop failures in India (a growing problem since GMO cotton has become predominant), the state of Karnataka has announced it is placing a ban of indefinite length on the sale of Mahyco’s Bt cotton seeds. It will also institute a bailout of affected cotton farmers, just the latest example of where an Indian government has had to effect a spot bailout of cotton farmers. Usually these bailouts are just laundered corporate welfare for Monsanto and the rest of Big Ag, like US crop subsidies.
 
Mahyco is the Indian equivalent of Seminis, a large pre-existing company which Monsanto bought and turned into its subsidiary. The state government is blaming the widespread crop failures, in many cases as much as 50% of the harvest promised by the company, on poor quality seeds. Farmers are saying that many of the cotton plants fail to produce bolls, and that the allegedly insect-resistant cotton is readily attacked by pests.
 
These complaints, along with the fact that GMO cotton requires heavy irrigation (far more than non-GM) but has often been fraudulently sold to farmers in regions without artificial irrigation, have been common throughout the history of India’s disastrous Bt cotton experiment. Mahyco admits that non-target “secondary” insects are afflicting the cotton plants. This is a common and predictable effect of insecticide-expressing GMOs, along with the development of resistance among the target insect.
 
*A new Brazilian study of in vitro brain tissue exposed to Roundup provides more evidence of the mechanism by which glyphosate causes neurological toxicity and oxidative damage. The existence of these effects, among the many other harmful health effects of glyphosate, is not in question, only the precise way in which this poison harms us.
 
*A coalition of farmer and citizen activists and protesters has successfully pressured the new government of Chile to withdraw a proposed corporate seed enclosure law, called the “Monsanto Law”. Such laws, increasingly being deployed around the global South and also in the process of being tightened in Europe, seek to foreclose democratic and farmer control of seeds through strict patenting and registration rules and draconian restrictions on democratic saving, breeding, and planting of seeds which weren’t duly purchased under a corporate contract.
 
The goal is to eradicate all seed and germplasm diversity and decentralization and replace it with a tightly controlled, hierarchical, proprietary monoculture system. As with all of corporate agriculture, the goal is not to produce food or to feed anyone. On the contrary, everything corporate agriculture does is proven to hinder such goals, and is clearly setting up agriculture for collapse and famine in the not-distant future. The goal is always profit, power, control, domination.
 
Agroecology and Food Sovereignty, on the contrary, seek to produce food for human beings. What’s more, they seek to build strong, democratic communities, polities, economies. They seek to restore power to humanity by decentralizing power and putting it to human use.
 
But corporations seek nothing but to centralize power and use it to control, dominate, and destroy humanity. 

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March 31, 2014

European Commission Comment Period on ISDS in the TTIP

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The European Commission’s ISDS “consultation” for the TTIP globalization compact has been posted. ISDS = “investor-to-state dispute settlement”. That’s the NAFTA model whereby corporations directly sue governments over any law/regulation/court decision which allegedly affects their hypothetical profits. TTIP = “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”. Of course it’s not really about one cent’s worth of legitimate trade or investment. It’s only about corporate aggression.
 
This period of public comment, allowed by the EC under duress, as European civil society has been vigorously protesting the looming compact in general and the ISDS provision in particular, is both less and more democratic than a USDA or FDA comment process. On the one hand it’s an imposing, ponderous series of propaganda pieces touting the righteousness and benevolence of the globalization compact, each followed by a text box asking “what is your opinion of that?” This plus some initial questions seem calculated to intimidate a regular citizen. By contrast US comment forms are vastly simpler.
 
On the other hand, a motivated commenter is given far greater scope to refute the lies and condemn the premises in detail. A US comment form tries to induce a shorter, more general statement.
 
The comment period runs till June 21. Although I gather it’s supposed to be only for European citizens, I might post a comment anyway. By their own globalization logic, as well as by the fact that US citizens are necessarily just as affected as Europeans are by anything the EU does with this, we have full right to comment.
 
Many European citizens and democracy groups will comment, but far more important will be the publicity of rejection and resistance. The main goal among European democracy advocates is to pressure their European Parliament representatives, who must ratify the compact, to vote against it. If the EP votes it down, there will be no TTIP. Otherwise only massive civil disobedience could stanch it. Meanwhile I don’t think anyone expects the US congress to reject it.

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