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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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October 23, 2013

Shame-Faced Secrecy

Filed under: Food and Farms, Freedom — Tags: , , — Russ @ 5:58 am

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GMO proponents constantly display their lack of character in everything they say and do. The GMO labeling campaign has provoked many disreputable self-revelations on their part. One of these is their shame-faced secrecy where it comes to this product which, in other contexts, they laud as a wonderful thing.
 
I’ve asked before how GMO technicians and publicists are able to live with themselves if they feel the need to keep their whole endeavor a secret. What’s supposedly their great contribution to humanity, their heroic life’s work, is something they feel the need to hide from public view like some disgraceful vice.
 
This of course proves that everything they claim for their work is a lie, and they know it’s a lie. They know their work is worthless, that it benefits no one but their corporate masters, and is a great bane to humanity. That’s why they feel such shame, fear the light, and so desperately scurry for the darkest nook as if they were cockroaches.
 
They know their work is a disgraceful vice.
 
In this light, it’s funny to see how some of them are so ashamed and so afraid to stand and be counted that they have to double their secrecy. Thus, whereas manufacturers like General Mills, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Nestle openly gave money to obstruct California’s labeling initiative, they suffered so much public backlash that they were too cowardly to do so to obstruct 2013′s Washington campaign.
 
Instead they laundered the money through a front group, the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association (GMA). The GMA has spent $7 million so far fighting democracy in Washington. (Whereas almost all of the Yes on 522 money has come from small in-state donors, literally ALL of the anti-522 money has come from out-of-state corporations and their front groups. Monsanto has spent $4 million, DuPont $3.2 million.) But it refused to obey state law and divulge where its money had come from until the state attorney general filed suit.
 
Only then did we learn which corporations were malign enough to spend this money, but too cowardly to openly do so.
 
They have good reason to fear. The Organic Consumers’ Association and other food freedom groups have organized boycotts of the manufacturers who spent to obstruct democracy in California. This backlash against the manufacturers and retailers, those in closest contact with the consumer and therefore most vulnerable to the consumer’s outrage, will only grow.
 
How’s carrying Monsanto’s water working out for you guys? That question will be asked more and more often, of more and more sectors and groups. Who knows, perhaps some of them will even start to ask themselves.

 
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September 27, 2013

Note on GMO Labeling

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I have no faith in state governments to faithfully enforce meaningful labeling rules. The better way, and the only way, is total abolition of GMOs, and this will only come if the people rise to do it. Meanwhile the movement to achieve state-level labeling is best carried out as a vehicle for building permanent grassroots abolition organizations. These need to start out as vigilance groups, forcing state governments to enforce the policies and publicizing failure to do so. As for the central government, the only way it’ll ever institute a labeling policy will be as a sham whose only teeth will be in pre-empting state labeling policy.
 
All this is why I tell people never to view labeling as a panacea. Those who implicitly call it such are really trying to keep anti-GMO activism fenced in, in typical liberal fashion. Just look at the California campaign, designed by “professionals”, designed as a disposable “election”-type campaign, designed to fail. From that point of view, GMO labeling is supposed to be another version of the “co-existence” scam. That’s why Whole Foods, Gary Hirschfeld, and others are trying to hijack the labeling movement, because they were caught out badly before their customers in 2011. I predict that if the state-level momentum continues to build, perhaps if Initiative 522 in Washington passes, there will be another coalition of industrial organic and the Agriculture Department, this time with Monsanto’s support rather than its veto, to put through a federal-level scam “labeling” policy.
 
But as far as labeling being “increased regulation”, the way some people fret, government regulation has already built industrial agriculture and food in the first place. It’s absurd to suddenly take fright from a minor tweak which is supposed to rein in one of the worst abuses, the criminal secrecy and deception about what’s in our food. In the same way that anyone who shrieks about raw milk but cares nothing about GMOs or subtherapeutic antibiotic use in CAFOs has zero credibility as far as caring about food safety, so anyone who bristles at GMO labeling but doesn’t seem to mind Big Ag subsidies, globalization treaties, patents on plants, corporate “rights”, and so on, has zero credibility as far as caring about government regulation, since industrial agriculture could not exist other than as a planned economy project of big governments.

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September 25, 2013

Scientific Transparency vs. Obscurantism (GMO Labeling)

Filed under: Food and Farms, Freedom, Scientism/Technocracy — Tags: , — Russ @ 4:35 am

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1. Let’s never forget that, whatever else one thinks of GMOs or any other food additive, any dispute over labeling is a pure dispute of transparency vs. obscurantism.
 
2. By definition, rationalists and scientists are in favor of transparency and oppose secrecy and obscurantism. This is a core Enlightenment value. Any true scientist would support GMO labeling on this ground alone.
 
3. If a scientist truly believed that GMOs or any other additive were being unfairly maligned, he’d still support labeling. He’d then see his task as to publicly counter what he considers to be misinformation with what he considers to be the correct information. But the whole debate would be aboveground, fully in the public eye. This would include full public information about where the ingredient in question exists. It would include fully transparent labeling.
 
4. The fact that so many alleged “rationalists” and “scientists” want instead to strangle this debate in the cradle is proof that it’s they who are forced to spread misinformation wherever GMOs cannot prevail through might-makes-right and brute force. It’s they who desperately want to avoid public debate altogether through such devices as obscuring information and denying the public’s right to know what’s in our food.
 
5. Before we even reach the content of their lies, this initial obscurantism in itself proves that these are not scientists, but prostitutes and hacks who despise science, despise the Enlightenment, despise democracy, and despise humanity.
 
6. We must fully reciprocate this contempt, for all anti-scientists, all scienticians, all technocratic types.
 
Here’s the basic position of science on GMOs:
 
Transparency is a core democracy and freedom value. That’s part of why my strategic position starts out supporting labeling as such, however ambivalent I am about the labeling movement as it currently exists. It’s one good litmus test which separates at the outset those who believe in democracy, science, and reason, from those who despise these. I think that should help clarify the whole science vs. anti-science dispute, where unfortunately the anti-GMO movement is mostly pretty lame so far.
 
They tend to whine, “we are NOT anti-science!!!!” in reaction to hack lies, rather than affirmatively assert the truth: The only scientific position is to oppose GMO field testing and commercialization since the precautionary principle demands that the proponents of a dubious technology prove the need for it and the safety of it. GMO proponents have done neither of these. On the contrary, by now sufficient counter-evidence has piled up proving that there’s no need for GMOs, that they don’t work for any of the purposes advertised, and that they are unsafe for human health, animal health, and the environment. Therefore, the only scientific position is to demand the abolition of GMOs. Finally, since transparency is a core value of science, it was always self-evident that the only scientific position is to support full publicity for ALL food additives, including GMOs.
 
Those who support science and reason hold this position. Those who oppose this position oppose science and reason, and are its obscurantist, prostituted enemies.

 
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September 20, 2013

GMO Alfalfa Contaminates Crops and the Environment

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In late August a Washington alfalfa farmer reported to the state agriculture department that his crop, intended for export, had been rejected by the exporter because it was contaminated with genetically engineered (GE) material. The state did its own test and confirmed a “low-level presence” of the pollutant. The shipment was rejected because most big foreign buyers refuse to import GMO pseudo-crops.
 
The farmer bought and planted only conventional seed, but it became contaminated anyway. The culprit is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa, engineered to withstand heavy spraying with the company’s highly toxic herbicide, Roundup. State officials speculated that he might have bought mislabeled seeds. Otherwise the field became contaminated from some environmental vector, with the GE material already loose in the environment. The subsequent state test proved this to be so. (It would’ve been interesting to see what kind of five-alarm recall there would’ve been if the “mislabeled seed” theory had turned out to be plausible. Would it have been comparable to the government-driven hysteria whenever a small farm is alleged to have made anyone sick, or merely to have produced a positive bacteria sample?)
 
This is the second known major contamination incident in the Pacific Northwest in recent months. Last spring an Oregon wheat farmer discovered RR spring wheat growing ferally in one of his fields. Monsanto conducted hundreds of field trials of RR wheat through 2005, but the genetically engineered pseudo-crop was never commercialized because of grassroots resistance from farmers and citizens in the US and Canada. But we see how the genetic pollution persists in ecosystems. Somehow GE material from these trials escaped to the environment and has managed to sustain itself. No one knows how widespread the pollution is, since no one tests for it.
 
The USDA’s confirmation of the wheat contamination led South Korea to temporarily suspend wheat imports from the US, while Japan rejected a shipment and Europe imposed extra-rigorous inspection procedures. The cost to US wheat exports has been immense.
 
The outbreaks in Washington and Oregon are just the latest examples of a long history of major GMO contamination events, going back to the Starlink debacle in 2000, and including the wholesale poisoning of the US rice crop by Bayer’s Liberty Link pharmaceutical rice, which escaped from supposedly secure Arkansas field trials in 2006. This disaster cost US rice growers billions and provoked a lawsuit which Bayer settled for $750 million.
 
We see from these and from hundreds of lesser-known examples (tallied by the USDA’s own Office of the Inspector General in 2005, and a GAO investigation in 2009) how it’s impossible to prevent GMO contamination of conventional and organic crops, and of the environment in general, once GMOs are allowed to be field tested, and certainly once they’re commercialized.
 
The ideological lie which seeks to obscure this fact is called “co-existence”. It claims that GMOs can peacefully co-exist with conventional and organic crops. But this is impossible for many reasons, all of them caused or aggravated by the totalitarian intent of the GMO cartel. I’ll write more on the economic and political goals of Monsanto and the other GMO rackets in subsequent posts. For now I’ll focus on the fact that even if corporations and governments were acting in good faith, it would be impossible for real crops to co-exist with GMOs.
 
The USDA itself, the US government’s primary domestic booster of GMOs, admits that GE alfalfa is guaranteed eventually to contaminate the entire alfalfa crop. This is because alfalfa is a perennial pollinated by bees who range for miles in their quest for nectar. As GE alfalfa spreads, it’ll become more of a sure bet that any alfalfa allowed to go to flower will be visited by bees who already visited GE plants. Already in 2005, at least one organic seed grower was documenting alfalfa seed contamination, either from field trials or illegal plantings. The process is bound to follow that of a previous Oregon disaster, the state’s 2002 field trial of GE bentgrass. Even though the technicians running the experiment tried to destroy the trial grass as planned, GE grass escaped. By now it seems permanently entrenched in the environment. The moment GE alfalfa was commercialized, it wasn’t going to be long before this pollution was documented. Now we have our first confirmation.
 
I said how this would be true even if corporations and governments were acting in good faith. But we know their intentions and goals are malignant, and the history of RR alfalfa commercialization tells an edifying tale about this. GE alfalfa was fiercely resisted by farmers, eaters, scientists, environmentalists, and civil society groups. For years the USDA was thwarted by lawsuits in its attempts to fully unleash the product. Finally it entered 2011 with a new Environmental Impact Statement (largely a sham) and facing the question of whether to fully deregulate GE alfalfa, or just “partially” do so. (Not approving it was an unoption, as Orwell would’ve said. This was even though there’s no need at all for this worthless product, and no natural market for it.) This question had been forced upon USDA by the opposition. It was in this context that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s 2001 “Governor of the Year”, and frequent traveler on Monsanto’s corporate jets) got together with the luminaries of industrial organic – Whole Foods Market, Stonyfield, Organic Valley, and others – to formulate an attempted compromise with Monsanto. The notion was that industrial organic and Monsanto would agree on “partial deregulation” of RR alfalfa (toward total deregulation somewhere down the road, of course), and the USDA would make a sham promise to really truly honestly enforce the partial regulations, including compensation for alfalfa farmers whose crops were destroyed by the inevitable contamination. This would be accompanied by a propaganda campaign which would lie about the contamination potential. They called this “co-existence”.
 
One problem with this scheme was that, as we said, such co-existence is impossible, and the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa on a vast scale was inevitable. We can look at the record of RR canola, which has rendered organic canola effectively impossible in Canada, while organic canola growers are a major driver of the pushback against GMOs in Australia. This is also why farmers are fiercely resisting the pending commercialization of RR alfalfa in Canada. Here the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has already given full approval, through an even less democratic procedure than that of the USDA. Meanwhile a Monsanto front group, the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA), has offered the same kind of sham “co-existence plan” which both Monsanto and the people rejected in the US (I’ll get to that in a minute). CSTA’s plan basically claims that GE material cannot be spread by any natural vector whatsoever, and the plan has no enforcement mechanisms for the scam prescriptions it does make.
 
So why did industrial organic want to make this “compromise”, and why did the USDA want to broker it? Both the USDA and the industrial organic sector have always wanted to bring GMOs under the umbrella of organic certification. Only massive consumer resistance forced the Clinton administration to back down on this when GMOs were first commercialized in the mid 90s. Today, they want to accomplish this through a combination of contamination and propaganda. They hope GE alfalfa deregulation will lead to a broad pollution of the general alfalfa crop, which will render the current meat/dairy certified-organic sector (which must use non-GMO feed) untenable. In this way the USDA and the Whole Foods contingent dream of making “certified organic” safe for GMOs. The intended goal is to be able to call GMOs “USDA organic” and still extract the premium from the “organic” brand. It’ll be difficult for them to do this, but we mustn’t underestimate the power of inertia and apathy. If the message seems overwhelming – “GMOs are safe, are perfectly compatible with the Organic concept, Organic is still good if it’s GMO, and everything is GMO anyway so There Is No Alternative, unless you want to go all the way to really knowing your local farmer or growing your own food, and we’ll do our best to stamp that out.” – many who vaguely oppose GMOs can be expected to surrender.
 
WFM and the others got what was coming to them: The “co-existence” notion was far too subtle for Monsanto, which is increasingly inclined to use main force. In January 2011, just as the “co-existence” plan was being unfolded, the cartel told Obama what it wanted instead. President Monsanto then issued an order to Vilsack to move directly to full deregulation. This left WFM and the rest of industrial organic exposed before their customers as having tried to sell them out. Since then there’s been increasing distrust of the industrial organic sector among the people. That’s why they’ve belatedly scrambled onto the labeling bandwagon. Of course, WFM wants to hijack the movement for its own purposes. While touting this idea as the correct form of anti-GMO activism, and while making pious noises about imposing its own labeling program on its suppliers, WFM will try again with “co-existence”. This time they, DC-based NGOs like the Center for Food Safety, and elements within the central government will try to get the cartel to go along with a sham federal labeling program whose only real teeth will be its pre-emption of state and local policy. The goal will be the same attempt to propagandize their customers while also derailing any real labeling efforts at the state level. That’s one reason why, whatever position we take toward state-level labeling campaigns, we must consistently and strongly oppose ANY central (“federal”) level policy which would pre-empt the people’s action at the state level.
 
Meanwhile, Monsanto wants to see the monoculture of “pure” alfalfa, which may temporarily benefit from a Roundup Ready variety, completely triumph over the far superior practice of growing alfalfa intermingled with grasses like fescue and orchardgrass. Hay made from an alfalfa/grass mix has more bulk and pound for pound is superior to monoculture alfalfa in nutrition and calories. The grass mix also maintains pasture health and provides natural weed suppression. As always, the GMO product provides no improvement over natural, agroecological practices, but on the contrary is meant to force the further intensification of industrial monoculture and all its most destructive practices.
 
And Monsanto, too, is targeting the organic sector. But I suppose it would just as soon see the sector completely destroyed by contamination (like some parts of it, e.g. organic canola in Canada, have been) as see it co-opted for GMOs. Organic farmers need non-GMO alfalfa for animal feed and soil-building. The system wants to either bring GMOs into the certification, or destroy the sector outright. Either of these is possible with GE alfalfa.
 
It’s fortuitous that this latest contamination event occurred in Washington, since Washington is the home of the GMO labeling initiative 522, to be voted in November. Yes on 522 is fighting to force the industrial food purveyors out of the shadows of secrecy and deception and into the sunshine. Corporate food, and the corporate agricultural system as a whole, depend upon secrecy and lying about their practices in order to survive. At all costs, we the people must not know what’s in our food. For our own good, of course. Every statement of the anti-labeling mercenaries reeks of elitism and hatred for democracy and freedom.
 
The idea of labeling campaigns is that once enough states force food manufacturers to tell the truth about what they’re selling, the manufacturers will purge their products of GMOs. This is the minimum strategic goal for the labeling movement, although we must beware of viewing this tenuous hope as a panacea, even and especially when these labeling initiatives and laws start coming into force.
 
Here’s what I think is necessary:
 
1. Transparency is a basic democratic value and human prerogative, so by all means we must take back our information as part of taking back our food. Labeling can be part of this.
 
2. But this action will be effective only at the state and local levels. Short of the corporate rackets themselves, the central US government is the most aggressively pro-GMO organization on Earth. Any central government labeling policy, if they feel forced into enacting one, will be a sham whose only real goal will be to pre-empt real labeling action at the state and local level. Beware of anyone who says a federal government labeling policy is the goal. And we must reject the very notion of central government pre-emption of lower-level governments in general. This is truly anti-federal and anti-democratic.
 
3. The real end goal must be nothing short of total abolition of GMOs. This must be an abolition movement. We must always be clear on this, no matter what proximate action we undertake for tactical reasons.
 
4. We must use labeling efforts as the vehicle for building permanent grassroots organizations which will seek the goal of abolition while also providing education and exercising permanent vigilance where it comes to any labeling policy which is enacted. We must reject the disposable “campaign” model, favored by “professionals”, and designed to fail, as it failed in California.
 
5. Labeling agitation and the building of abolition/vigilance organizations must accompany rather than supplant other kinds of action like campaigns to pressure supermarkets and direct action.
 
6. Meanwhile we need a core organization for the aggregation of facts about GMOs, their analysis within the framework of anti-corporatist philosophy, and the publicity of the facts and the ideas.
 
Taking the longest view and highest vantage on all this, we can see that the phenomena we’ve discussed here today – GMO contamination, the escalation of every kind of poison in farming, the self-inflicted wounds of the commodity export sector, corporatist government politics, industrial organic’s attempted sellout of the people – plus many evils we haven’t mentioned, are all part of the pathology of industrial corporate agriculture. We can see that it’s economically, politically, socially, environmentally destructive, and for our health, it’s death. But there’s a superb alternative.
 
GMO abolition is necessary part of the full embrace of agroecology, AKA organic farming using that term in the original sense as propagated by Albert Howard, Robert Rodale, and other pioneers. Decentralized, low external input (LEI) farming has been proven to outproduce industrial ag, acre for acre, in terms of calories and nutrition. This already proves humanity’s need to reject corporate ag, which has proven itself unable and unwilling to “Feed the World”, to use its own propaganda lie, and embrace agroecology. This need will become more pressing as the era of cheap fossil fuels, the irreplaceable energy basis of industrial ag, comes to an end.
 
The fight is vs. corporate agriculture, in all its economic and political dimensions. The embrace of agroecology’s companion political philosophy, Food Sovereignty, which maximizes political and economic democracy, also reminds us that we are human beings and citizens of a society, and do not wish or need to wait passively to be “fed” by corporations, as the “feed the world” hacks call upon us to do. If the concept of progress is to have any meaning at all, it has to mean the continuing development of democracy, toward our finally dismissing our regents, renouncing the idea that we need “representation”, and taking our politics and economies directly into our own hands. We can and must do this, and we must start by taking back our food. We must do this negatively, rejecting corporate agriculture, resisting the government’s food police, abolishing GMOs. We must do it affirmatively, building the Community Food movement in our localities and regions, fighting for Food Sovereignty for all the peoples of the world.
 
As we mentioned, GE wheat was never commercialized. That’s because farmers and eaters organized to reject it. This proves the strength we have, whenever and wherever we have the will to use it.
 

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May 12, 2012

Cuisine As A Humanism, and GMOs As Its Enemy

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In his Omnivore’s Dilemma Michael Pollan describes how cuisine is the culture of understanding what and how to eat, in order to achieve the highest health.
 

Yet the surfeit of choice that confronts the omnivore brings stresses and anxieties also undreamed of by the cow or koala, for whom the distinction between The Good Things to Eat and the Bad is second nature. And while our senses can help us draw the first rough distinctions between good and bad foods, we humans have to rely on culture to remember and keep it all straight. So we codify the rules of wise eating in an elaborate structure of taboos, rituals, manners, and culinary traditions…a great many of our food rules do make biological sense, and they keep each of us from having to confront the omnivore’s dilemma every time we visit the supermarket or sit down to eat.

That set of rules for preparing food we call a cuisine specifies combinations of foods and flavors that on examination do a great deal to mediate the omnivore’s dilemma. The dangers of eating raw fish, for example, are minimized by consuming it with wasabi, a potent antimicrobial. Similarly, the strong spices characteristic of many cuisines in the tropics, where food is quick to spoil, have antibacterial properties…As Paul Rozin writes, “Cuisines embody some of a culture’s accumulated wisdom about food.” Often when one culture imports another’s food species without importing the associated cuisine, and its embodied wisdom, they make themselves sick….

If nature won’t draw a line around human appetite, then human culture must step in, as indeed it has done, bringing the omnivore’s eating habits under the government of all the various taboos (foremost the one against cannibalism), customs, rituals, table manners, and culinary conventions found in every culture. There is a short and direct path from the omnivore’s dilemma to the astounding number of ethical rules with which people have sought to regulate eating for as long as they have been living in groups.

- The Omnivore’s Dilemma pp. 295-6, 298

 
This idea of health from good eating goes far beyond our physical bodies, to encompass organically our entire human experience. But it all starts with food.
 
GMOs are the radical enemy of this humanist and democratic cuisine.
 
For a stark example, we need only look at the GMO labeling “issue”:
 
1. Governments have tried to evade existing food taboos and prevent the formation of new ones through the expedient of an information blackout. They simply obscure the fact of this alien infiltration of our food. This blackout in itself proves the system’s bad faith and its anti-biological imperative.
 
2. GMO labeling will try to reinforce the taboos which are the cultural manifestation of our biology, the way we use culture to protect and enhance our health.
 
I’ve written many times about how transparency, sunshine, is a core principle of democracy. Full knowledge of public affairs is our public property. This applies to all affairs of every hierarchy. GMO secrecy is a typical example, and the worst example, of elitism’s infinite hatred for democracy and contempt for humanity. This is the imposition upon us, by “our” governments, of history’s ultimate feeding experiment, with all of us as guinea pigs kept in the dark, denied our right or ability to give (or deny) informed consent.
 
GMO labeling is trying to occupy our food supply by bringing it back into the sunshine of an organic information culture. Only when we understand what GMOs are (and how little is known about their dangers, and the fact that the little we do know indicates looming disaster) and where in our food they are can we humanly grapple with them.
 
Of course, we don’t need to figure out a position on them. Human beings rightly, naturally, reject such an obvious biological assault. All we need is to see where the enemy is so we have a clean shot (in this case, a clear path shunning them). The goal is to abolish GMOs completely.
 
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I’ll make a correction in the above quote. This function of human culture which Pollan implicitly sets apart from nature is in fact part of nature. Culture which is in accord with the natural imperative, in this case to find the good things to eat, is part of the holism of nature. It’s organic culture. “Culture” becomes unnatural and anti-natural only where it seeks to divorce us from nature, to place us outside it and in opposition to it. But this is where hierarchy seeks to divide us from our human selves and place us in opposition to ourselves. The way it induces we the 99% to fight among ourselves politically is only one aspect of it.
 
It’s characteristic that capitalism’s instinct was to turn animals into cannibals, via CAFO feed, and characteristic of the ways of nature that the direct and immediate result was mad cow disease. This was veritably, as well as in a rich symbolic sense, a direct challenge to nature and expression of infinite contempt for it. Capitalism is an excrescence upon humanity and upon the earth as a whole. It’s no accident that its quintessential qualities, biologically as well as metaphorically, are cancer and cannibalism.

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April 26, 2012

GMO Labels and Corporate Liberals

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Why Not Label GMOs?, asks this not-untypical editorial. (Studies of the media have found near-unanimous support for GMO commercialization, but a split on mandatory labeling.)
 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already requires food manufacturers to list ingredients, nutrition facts and common allergens. Why make an exception for genetically modified ingredients?

 
It’s obvious, isn’t it? Sunshine is not only a basic principle of democracy, which everyone at least claims to respect. It’s also a bedrock premise of consumerism and the “free market” ideology. So how could anyone legitimately oppose it? I think we’ll find that GMO labeling is a handy litmus test to differentiate real believers in democracy from those who lie about the way they actually hold it in contempt. Without exception, all arguments against mandatory labeling boil down to “the people are too stupid to understand such labels.” Of course, even if that were true it wouldn’t make a difference – if you support democracy you have to support its practice, taking the bad with the good. But in truth the people understand GMO labels perfectly well. Humanity has always rejected GMOs on the perfectly sound, rational ground of the precautionary principle. We don’t know if it’s safe, there’s good reason to believe it’s not safe, we don’t need it in the first place, on the contrary it’s the escalation of a food system already proven to fail according to all its promises, so a rational person would reject it.
 
One place where this issue helps flush out the traitors is among the “food safety” groups. The Center for Food Safety, in spite of some pernicious positions like its support for the Food Control Act, has been strong on GMOs. By contrast the so-called “center for science in the public interest” (CSPI), in direct contradiction of its name, its alleged principles, and its advocacy at every other point, has been implicitly pro-GMO (no doubt only cowardice keeps it from making its support explicit; but it does regurgitate corporate propaganda at its biotech page (several links at the post I just linked)). Its executive director went so far as to personally vouch for the career of Michael Taylor, one of the most notorious corporate thugs and corrupt revolving-door transitors. (“Corrupt” by liberal good-government standards, that is. By that standard the CSPI is similarly corrupt.)
 
The CSPI’s advocacy is all about labeling. This is its default prescription for pretty much everything. That, plus the general default in favor of democratic transparency, ought to mean that if nothing else it should be at the forefront of advocating mandatory GMO labeling. That renders its absolute silence on the issue all the more glaring. (I guess they’re too cowardly to actually oppose labeling, so instead they go silent.)
 
Why would an outfit like the CSPI be such ballbreakers where it comes to labeling every other kind of additive, demanding nutrition labels on fast food, etc., but omit labels for this kind of adulteration? This provides a clue to the real nature of GMO imperialism. For savvy corporate liberals like this group, it’s the difference between wanting some regulation of things like regular additives, which are just details of secondary importance, as opposed to regulations which would compromise the integrity of the structure itself. It makes little big-picture difference whether a particular additive is subject to labeling, or is even banned as a carcinogen. But GMOs as such are not a structural detail. On the contrary, they comprise an attempt to replace the entire existing food structure, and beyond that vast swaths of Gaia’s biological structure, with themselves. Therefore any regulation which would compromise the general freedom of the GMO imperative is taboo. Here corporate liberals join hands with regular conservatives. The CSPI provides an example of where the boundary of regulation-seeking lies. This is a good example of the role of corporate liberal cadres in general, and in turn their role within neoliberalism provides insight into the basic scam of neoliberal tyranny itself.

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January 20, 2011

Wikileaks and Food Imperialism

Filed under: Food and Farms — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 6:27 am

 

This is just going to be a link dump on another of Wikileaks’ services to the world’s people. Among the leaks from the diplomatic cables have been several on food neoliberalism. These include the State department’s commitment to further inflict proprietary GMOs on Africa and Europe, to “punish” governments and economies which continue to resist GMOs, interlinkages of GMOs and the military-industrial complex (specifically the scam “AFRICOM”), the pope’s two faces on GMOs, the subversion of courts in foreing countries on behalf of the likes of McDonald’s, and other stuff.
 
I was going to write a post on it, but I don’t think I’ll get around to it. But I did want to offer the links, so here they are. There’s probably lots of others by now.
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December 15, 2010

What Do Wikileaks and Foreclosuregate Have In Common?

 

Much has been written about Julian Assange’s theory of how aggressive forced transparency can impose a “secrecy tax” on authoritarian conspiracies like the secrecy regime of the US kleptocracy. The ability of a system like this to smoothly function is predicated on its ability to easily disseminate information among the insiders while keeping it secret from outsiders. So the more paranoid the system becomes about its ability to maintain this monopoly, the more it must restrict information flows, police its own members, and devote resources to this maintenance. Like any other illegitimate, parasitic structure, it becomes less and less efficient and resilient as the self-generated resistance to it grows. According to Assange, Wikileaks is dedicated to imposing this secrecy tax upon these criminal organizations. If the tax becomes onerous enough, it can even render the system unable to function.
 
When I thought about this, it struck me how similar it is to other ramifications of the system crime. Everywhere there are signs of the self-imposed crime tax hindering smooth system function. Probably the best example is Foreclosuregate, where the banks’ systematic refusal to comply with the most basic, stone-carved legal procedures for conveying title and constituting MBS trusts has rendered all “ownership” questionable, and has perhaps in fact rendered most mortgages and most or all MBS trusts unsecured loans. In non-recourse states, the mortgagee may in fact not be able to have recourse even to the house itself. Meanwhile if the scofflaw servicer tried to belatedly (and illicitly) convey the note to the trust, the trust would be revealed as having been fraudulent in the first place, the trustees would incur a severe tax liability, and they’d be exposed to lawsuits from the defrauded investors.
 
The same would be true if the originator simply foreclosed on his own:
 

On one hand, the problem is easily cured – the party who is the documented owner of the loan could foreclose (the original lender). The problem with this is that the proceeds of the foreclosed property, including the recoveries intended to reimburse the servicer for advances, would have no mechanism for getting back into the trust.

If the original lender foreclosed, took title and liquidated the loan, accountants would have an issue with how the proceeds could possibly end up back with the trust. The result would be a total loss for the trust for that loan.

The servicer’s attorneys have no desire to go this route – it terrifies them.

 
Every time I read something like this my first gut thought is to doubt there’s anyone in the system who isn’t willing to break any and every rule and law.
 
But then I figure that a massive criminal conspiracy within the system must run up against the same inertial obstacles revolutionaries have often complained about – that existing professional cadres, no matter what the professional intent of their members, are still as a group committed to certain ways of doing things. It’s their professional culture, and even as intentional criminals they must still often feel the need to dot the i and cross the t.
 
And then the system is supposed to be set up to maximize the flow of loot upward and minimize leakage at the lower levels. Having a perverted but still mechanically functional rule of law and process of bureaucracy is supposed to help effect this. This is why the Nazis were always as punctilious as possible about “legality” for their crimes.
 
So perhaps the half-baked kleptocracy, having run its crimes so far out ahead of its “laws”, will be unable to fix this mess even with its own pseudo-legal contraptions, and will sustain a major blow here.
 
Just like its hysterical attempts to put out the Wikileaks fire are already demonstrating the validity of Assange’s ideas. Although I’m not a tech expert, from what I gather it would be impossible to shut down Wikileaks short of “shutting down the Internet itself”, which I take to mean rendering it far more slow and inefficient. We can imagine what that would do for the system’s economic “recovery”. That fits into their intensifying “cyber war” rhetoric. Joe Lieberman and others have also been threatening even their own friends in the MSM like the NYT. Government agencies and contractors are imposing all sorts of restrictions on what computers within their purview can be used for. I had one commenter tell me his company is even trying to restrict what employees can do on their own personal computers at home. And funniest of all was the spectacle of universities warning prospective government employees among their students about how intensely all their prior online activity is likely to be scrutinized by this prospective employer. The vision of these Ivy League Hitler Youth scrambling to try to sanitize their past online lives and even more vigilantly self-police their words and actions going forward gives us a prime piece of Schadenfreude.
 
So it looks like we already are imposing this secrecy tax.
 
[We can see from all this why we don't want any sort of "modernized" mortgage registry, which would simply be easier to "legally" game. It would put up less resistance to organized crime. Its very pseudo-efficiency would offer fewer handholds for citizen action.
 
We're learning everywhere that so-called inefficiency and redundancy really mean resiliency and at least the potential for accountability.
 
In this case, there's nothing wrong with the existing legal procedure. (Not the scofflaw mortgage mill and securitization procedure.) Is this slow when you're trying to convey and securitize millions of loans? Yes - which is a good thing. Slow is Good. And as we should have learned by now, we never needed or wanted such financialization of mortgages in the first place. They should have stayed with the originator, with what worked perfectly well before these crimes were invented.
 
There's no need for shock-doctrine speed and false efficiency, which as we've learned to our sorrow is a false economy.]

December 13, 2010

Wikileaks, Hypocrisy, and Sunshine (2 of 2)

 

As discussed in part 1, the most important thing about Wikileaks is the simple democratic fact that we the people are the rightful owners of all system information. This information is our property and the elites have zero right to monopolize it. Anyone who leaks it or delivers those leaks is simply restituting stolen property to its rightful owners.
 
This can be distinguished from our private information as individuals, which is our individual property. For anyone – government, corporation, private scumbag –  to seize and organize that information without our full consent (contracts of adhesion are not consent) is the same theft, and generally perpetrated by the same elite criminals or their thugs.
 
But system secrets, the secrets of government and big corporations (which are all welfare leeches upon society), are public property. The information belongs to we the people. Therefore by definition a system secret is a theft, unless there’s some truly critical reason why it has to be a secret. As the Wikileaks deliveries prove, this is almost never the case. So far the Wikileaks record has been 100% illegitimately secreted information, stolen property, now restored to its rightful owners. (Since this record is so complete, so unanimous, so definitive, we now have proof, if there were any doubt before, that the press has an affirmative professional obligation to publish all system secrets, based on the presumption that the secret is wrongly classified, and/or is being kept in furtherance of crime.) 
 
But the elites themselves, by having betrayed their citizenship and humanity, reveal themselves to have no such private information either. That’s because in their essence, where they’re not conscious criminal conspirators, they are something far more odious, pure hypocrites. In On Revolution (chapter 2, section 5) Arendt discusses the hypocrite, who “is the actor himself insofar as he wears no mask. He pretends to be the assumed role, and when he enters the game of society he does so without any play-acting whatsoever. In other words, what made the hypocrite so odious was that he claimed not only sincerity but naturalness, and what made him so dangerous outside the social realm whose corruption he represented and enacted was that he instinctively could help himself to every “mask” in the political theater, that he could assume every role among its dramatis personae, but that he would not use this mask, as the rules of the political game demand, as a sounding board for the truth but, on the contrary, as a contraption for deception.”
 
This “mask”, as a public persona, was supposed to help clarify and enhance truth by serving as a buffer between the private person and the public citizen. In this sense it’s related to though not the same as Nietzsche’s concept of the mask, as discussed e.g. in Beyond Good and Evil sections 40, 270, and many other places. As Arendt discusses elsewhere in the chapter, it can be horrible for personal secrets to be dragged into the light. So for the individual to participate as a citizen requires some mediation of the concept of political persona, if only as a boundary between public life and what’s legitimately private.
 
But the greedy, power-seeking political hypocrite abuses and betrays this humane concept. His mask protects nothing, since his private essence is the same as his public crimes; he’s simply a criminal, nothing more or less.
 
All this is bound up with the bizarre obsession and debate over Obama’s state of mind. Obama’s actions as an aggressive neoliberal corporatist and warmonger are crystal clear. So why the obsession with motive? I suppose it’s progress that so many people are now reaching the stage of at least questioning what he really stands for, however absurd it is that this is not obvious to everyone already. It seems like a proxy for figuring out the real nature of the kleptocracy itself. For many people the real nature of the corporations and their goon government is still a paradox. The belief in the goodness of these things (or at least their necessary evil) is dying hard. Can the expanding argument over Obama be a working out of broader psychological issues among the masses, a solving of the conceptual problem, a withdrawal from the brainwashing?
 
The mere possibility of this demonstrates why transparency is so important, why the criminal suppression of information is so destructive, and why the hypocrite is so morally repugnant. If they can keep the crime secret, they can lessen the chance of the victims liberating themselves. And if they can successfully deny the crime in their own minds as well, it never happened. A hypocrite is a walking exemplar of the possibility of destroying truth. He’s willfully oblivious of the truth of his own action, denies this truth, and therefore destroys it in himself.
 

[T]he hypocrite’s crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only the crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.

 
Of course our “leaders” are both criminals and hypocrites, and hypocrites precisely in order to be able to commit their crimes and still live with themselves, since they’re moral cowards as well.
 
Here’s just one choice example, especially bizarre in light of the absolute hatred of Hillary Clinton and all the others for Wikileaks and by extension the Internet itself:
 

Consider, for instance, how the views of the US administration have changed in just a year. On 21 January, secretary of state Hillary Clinton made a landmark speech about internet freedom, in Washington DC, which many people welcomed and most interpreted as a rebuke to China for its alleged cyberattack on Google. “Information has never been so free,” declared Clinton. “Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.”

She went on to relate how, during his visit to China in November 2009, Barack Obama had “defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens to hold their governments accountable, generates new ideas, and encourages creativity.”

 
So this presents the possibility of a nation of hypocrites which commits hideous crimes whose truth is then lost forever. If a mass murderer convinces himself that he’s innocent, did the crime ever take place? Did the victims ever exist? Or were they in fact the criminals? The only existing witness says Yes, if hypocrisy is able to triumph. That’s obscene. That’s why humanity needs total transparency, not as the solution, but as a prerequisite, a basic tool. That’s why letting in the sun is part of our moral imperative. Wikileaks is helping with this mission. 
 
Therefore we have to publicize all elite secrets, nor is there any fear here of violating the persona of individual criminals, since the system criminal is not a citizen or an individual, but a piece of crime incarnate. The level of this crime is exemplified by the secrecy regime – done purely to cover up crime, and simply as an exercise in illegitimate power itself. This secrecy is in fact another assault on our sovereignty as a people. This sovereignty gives us the right, and by now the obligation (now that pseudo-democracy has been proven not to work), to rule ourselves directly. But the elites construct a system which allegedly requires secrecy, monopolize those secrets, and then turn around and claim this need for secrecy rules out direct democracy. But that’s simply a criminal lie, an act of classical usurpation, classical tyranny. The obvious response is to get rid of the artificial, illegitimate system which is claimed to require such secrecy in the first place.
 
We know our property has been stolen and our political heritage usurped. For us to continue to allow the secrets to be kept is to alienate our own sovereignty. We have a citizen imperative here. As citizens we have no choice but to demand total sunlight. We have the right to total transparency, the responsibility to demand it, and no right to shirk this responsibility.
 
Then there’s also the practical fact that the secrets all involve crimes against us, robberies and assaults on our freedom. So also in self-defense we must seek total transparency. We must reciprocate war on their secrets (our public property) as they declared war on our informational private property – surveillance, databases, consumer info compiling and selling, advertiser tracking, drug testing, DNA testing, TSA scanners, polygraphs. When we consider the monumental level of crime, the existential hypocrisy of the criminals, and the special insult of their absolute assault on our human privacy at the same time that they impose a blackout on our informational property as citizens, the French Revolution’s absolute rage for unmasking and its impetus to drag all hypocrisy into the light becomes comprehensible.
 
Wikileaks hasn’t done anything so expansive, but has simply engaged in some targeted restorations of public property. It is in fact trying to support and protect true American interests and values (as opposed to the interests of the criminal elites).
 
Here’s all my Wikileaks posts so far:
http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/transparency-vs-kleptocracy-bp-oil-spills-wikileaks/
 
http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/afghan-sunshine-wikileaks-and-transparency-vs-corporate-tyranny/
 
http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/transparency-wikileaks-and-odious-secrecy/
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