Volatility

February 27, 2015

GMO News Report, February 27th 2015

>

*Farmer demonstrations under the Solidarity banner continue in Poland. In the most recent action, over 6000 farmers marched in Warsaw. Their demands include a continued ban on corporate land-grabbing, the decriminalization of direct farm sales, farmer compensation for economic harm to them caused by globalization, and a ban on GMO sale and cultivation.
.
*Friends of the Earth in cooperation with a coalition of African farmer and civil society groups has released a new report detailing the plan of the US government, the Gates Foundation, and the GMO cartel to recolonize Africa. The immediate goal is to force new markets for GMO seeds, synthetic fertilizer, and pesticides. The report emphasizes the proven record I’ve recently discussed, that GMOs can partially “work” only on large, heavily capitalized industrial plantations and are utterly unviable for small farmers. The longer run goal is obviously the goal already proven by the historical record – to economically liquidate the vast mass of African small farmers and drive them off the land. This longer arc goes with the ongoing land-grabbing onslaught.

.
*A new development in the legal fight which has followed from China’s 2013-2014 rejection of US corn shipments containing the unapproved Syngenta variety MIR 162, AKA Viptera. China finally approved it in December 2014, but not before US corn growers and traders lost billions in revenue. Cargill, ADM, several other companies, and hundreds of farmers have sued Syngenta. The latest suit is trying to put the RICO Act to good use for once, suing Syngenta under the act alleging that it intentionally generated the problem in order to pressure China. The allegations as described in the complaint are broadly true. Everyone knows that it’s impossible to “steward” one part of the commodity grain supply and prevent it from contaminating the rest. Everyone knows “co-existence” is impossible. Cartel representatives are on record saying that the goal is to force farmers and citizens into the mindset that there is no alternative: “The hope of the industry is that over time the market is so flooded [with GMOs] that there’s nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender.” All this is well-known, and Syngenta and the other cartel members always act with these facts in mind. Did they go further and formally concoct a Machiavellian plan? Who knows, though I think everything can be explained by regular corporate inertia, which is criminal enough. Syngenta went ahead sure in the knowledge that even if there were any problems, the overall endeavor would be profitable. As for pressuring China, there was some of this. The USDA used taxpayer money to serve as Syngenta’s lobbyist. Monsanto also exerted effort to clear up the general China situation. But China also extracted some trade concessions from the US prior to approving MIR 162.
.
The racketeering allegation is certainly true, morally and rationally, though I doubt a court will apply the RICO Act that way. Just as every other kind of crime is “legal” when the corporate state does it, so is racketeering. Just look again at the first item here, a joint campaign of the US and UK governments and the GMO cartel to tell the small farmers of Africa to adopt GMOs, with the goal of subjugating and wiping them out. Laws like RICO are to be applied only to those outside the criminally organized system.
.
*One for the comedy files. Professional climate change denier and pro-GMO activist Owen Paterson, who these days focuses mostly on working the “golden rice” con in a particularly overwrought, irrational, emotional way, tweeted a mawkish poem allegedly written by a sufferer from vitamin A deficiency. We see the high level of scientific argumentation being attempted. Further inquiry quickly ascertained that the poem was actually written by a Dow/Syngenta activist who was too stupid not to put her real name on it. As usual it’s someone with zero medical credentials expressing ignorant opinions on human medicine and nutrition. Same goes for climate change denier Paterson, who has no credentials whatsoever but whose alleged authority is held in high regard by the pro-GMO faction.
.
*Hershey has announced that it will be phasing out some GMO ingredients from its milk chocolate and Kisses by the end of 2015. It says it will stop using sugar from GM sugar beets (about half the supply; if a product with sugar doesn’t say 100% cane sugar, then it includes GM sugar) and milk from cows fed Bovine Growth Hormone. These products are already free of corn syrup. Hershey also promises to stop using artificial vanillin, which would strike a blow at one of the most-touted prospective markets for the products of “synthetic biology”. The GMWatch note exaggerates a bit, since Hershey’s doesn’t say the milk will come from cows fed a non-GM diet, and its pledge doesn’t actually promise that there will be no GM-based ingredients at all.
.
*A bill to protect farmers victimized by transgenetic trespass and contamination of their crops from being sued by the corporations which sell the pollutants has passed the New York State Assembly. A similar bill is pending in the Senate. Monsanto and other GMO peddlers routinely sue farmers who never bought or planted patented GM seeds but who become victims of contamination (through pollen drift) or rogue GMOs growing on their land (seeds easily can be sown randomly across the landscape by wind or falling out of trucks). The most famous case is that of Percy Schmeiser in Canada. The data shows that states such as Maine, California, Indiana, and North and South Dakota which have passed such farmer protection laws see farmer persecution lawsuits drop to near zero. (Other abuses these laws often curb include forbidding the corporation from intruding onto the farmer’s land without permission and/or meeting other requirements, and overriding the Monsanto contract which demands that all litigation be held on its home turf in St. Louis.)

>

February 23, 2015

The Indian Cotton Farmer Suicide Epidemic

>

As an individual tragedy drinking pesticide is a horrible way to die.
.

Shankara, respected farmer, loving husband and father, had taken his own life. Less than 24 hours earlier, facing the loss of his land due to debt, he drank a cupful of chemical insecticide.

Unable to pay back the equivalent of two years’ earnings, he was in despair. He could see no way out.

There were still marks in the dust where he had writhed in agony. Other villagers looked on – they knew from experience that any intervention was pointless – as he lay doubled up on the ground, crying out in pain and vomiting.

Moaning, he crawled on to a bench outside his simple home 100 miles from Nagpur in central India. An hour later, he stopped making any noise. Then he stopped breathing. At 5pm on Sunday, the life of Shankara Mandaukar came to an end….

“Pesticides act on the nervous system – first they have convulsions, then the chemicals start eroding the stomach, and bleeding in the stomach begins, then there is aspiration pneumonia – they have difficulty in breathing – then they suffer from cardiac arrest.”

.
The tragic story can be heard in village after village like a folk song too harrowing to be sung. When we add the psychological agony which must go before the desperate decision to die this way, and the traditional shame it leaves behind for the victim’s family, we know we’re seeing an individual in absolute despair.
.
But when this individual is part of an epidemic of hundreds of thousands acting out this same despair over just a few short years, we know we’re no longer dealing just with individual tragedies, but with a malevolent social arrangement, a crime against humanity.
.
By the official record 296,438 Indian farmers, the vast majority of them small cotton farmers, have committed suicide from 1995 through 2013. But precisely because these suicides are the victims of an artificially developed and politically chosen policy, nowhere has Stalin’s dictum seemed more appropriate, that an individual death is a tragedy, while a million deaths is a statistic.
.
To analyze the fact of the worst by far suicide epidemic in history, we must place it in the empirical context from which the rational theory then can be developed. First let’s pin down the facts. In India suicides are recorded by the police, collated by state governments, and reported by the states to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which publishes what the states report. This reporting system was inaugurated in 1995. Through 2013 there have been tallied officially 296,438 farmer suicides. The annual carnage has gone from 11,000 in 1995 to a range of 16,000 to over 17,000 from 2002 to 2011. The official numbers have declined somewhat in 2012 and 2013. This has corresponded to a growing trend among the states to mess with the numbers, redefining many farmers as not farmers and suicides as not suicides, or not “farmer” suicides. From any point of view the number of farmer suicides has always been under-reported, and this practice is escalating, as I’ll get to shortly.
.
By all measures the epidemic has been worst in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, along with Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. Suicide among farmers is far higher than the rate among the general population. At the same time economic pressures are driving vast numbers of farmers and their families off the land. The 2011 census recorded 15 million fewer farmers than in 1991. Averaged out, from 1991 to 2011, 2035 farmers were driven out every day. (From 1981 to 1991 the number of farmers was increasing.)
.
It’s important to stress that the rising suicide rate is concentrated among a shrinking group. The 2011 census found 95.8 million “main cultivators”, those for whom farming is their main work. This is 8% of the population. A cultivator may or may not own the land, so this figure includes tenant farmers and women farmers who are unable to own land. The census also lists 22.8 million marginal cultivators (farming is not their main occupation) and 144.4 million agricultural laborers. Distress, exodus, and suicide are common among these groups as well, for the same reason these are common among officially-defined cultivators.
.
The NCRB uses a different system which grossly under-reports farmer suicides. The police often refrain from listing a farmer suicide as a suicide since they know the state governments want to depress this number. (Also, families often fail to report deaths as suicides out of a sense of shame.) The real chicanery occurs at the state level. The states consistently exclude all suicides which are outside the main cultivator category. Then within this category they exclude anyone who doesn’t have clear title to the land. This excludes suicides among women farmers, tenant farmers, eldest sons who are working land officially owned by their fathers. The rural unemployed are also a separate category. But often this is just the suppression of farmer suicide numbers through the subterfuge of turning dispossessed and liquidated farmers into something other than farmers. But if such people commit suicide their loss of farming livelihood must play a major role, and they should be classed as farmer suicides. Maharashtra and other states have invented other bogus categories to further redefine farmer suicides.
.
The most audacious example of such fraud has been Chhattisgarh state declaring zero farmer suicides since 2011 after admitting to 7500 from 2006-2010, this number itself no doubt a significant underestimate. West Bengal also reported zero in 2012 and 2013. Investigative journalist P. Sainath calculates that if we extrapolate from the previous reported averages then these two states together would add 2518 more farmer suicides a year.
.
To sum up: The official NCRB farmer suicide tally from 1995 to 2013 is 296,438. Compared to nationwide general suicide figures, there is a high concentration of suicides among farmers. The NCRB demonstrates this. What the NCRB doesn’t show is that this high concentration is further highly concentrated among cash croppers, especially cotton growers but also coffee and some other non-food crops. Suicide rates are much lower among growers of wheat, rice, and maize. We can’t stress enough that the farmer suicide rate is not only extremely high in an absolute sense, but is intensively concentrated among a small group of farmers, the great majority of them small cotton farmers. Finally, the NCRB farmer suicide number is grossly under-reported because it excludes many categories of farmers who don’t technically own the land or who have been driven off their land.
.
The Monsanto obscurantists have made lame attempts to obfuscate the farmer suicide numbers by submerging them within the frequently bandied figure of 600 million Indians, 53% of the population, who are said to be dependent upon agriculture. The pro-GMO activists simply proclaim that this number is the number of farmers, and that therefore the farmer suicide numbers are actually low. But as we saw with the census figures there were 95.8 million main cultivators in 2011, 8% of the population, and if we include marginal cultivators and agricultural laborers (which groups don’t appear in the official farmer suicide numbers) we have 263 million, 22% of the population. The rest of the 600 million are in various support occupations or are dependents like children and the elderly. It’s clear how flimsy the Monsanto lie is. The hacks use similar statistical fraud to claim farmer suicides are decreasing. As we’ve seen, they’re abetted in this by Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and some other state governments.
.
Let’s say the issue was the incidence of concussions among football players and future effects on the brain. If you took data on concussions among football players and submerged that in the figures for concussions among participants in all sports, you could then claim your results showed that concussions aren’t a big problem for athletes. But we’re not talking about concussions among athletes in general, we’re talking about concussions among football players. That’s the kind of trick the Monsanto publicists use. They submerge the (already under-reported) suicide data among farmers and submerge farmers among all “agriculture dependent” Indians. And the category “main cultivator” has already submerged small cotton farmers among all farmers. But we’re not talking about a suicide epidemic among agriculture dependent people, and we’re not even talking about an epidemic among farmers in general*. We’re talking about a mass suicide epidemic among small cotton farmers. The official 296,438 figure and the real figure, which must be much higher, are heavily concentrated among this relatively small group.
.
[*Increasing numbers of commodity farmers other than cotton farmers have been committing suicide as well, but the numbers continue to come overwhelmingly from the ranks of small cotton farmers.]
.
We have the irrefutable fact of the numbers. Among its small cotton farmers India is experiencing history’s worst suicide epidemic. What is causing it? To answer this we need to understand the history. Prior to the 1990s Indian cotton farming was based on low-priced desi open-pollinated varieties which were saved and replanted. (If Vandana Shiva’s figures for contrasting seed prices ever sound far-fetched, keep in mind that she’s comparing the original low-priced desi varieties to the most expensive Bt seeds, including the exorbitant tax Monsanto adds on top of the seed price.) Farmers freely exchanged seeds. The cotton was grown for local ginners. It was often intercropped with food crops like pigeon peas. Cotton farmers also grew food for their families and for local/regional sale. Rainfall provided sufficient water. Farmers generally did without pesticides or used a derivative of leaves from the local neem tree for pest control. They didn’t need synthetic fertilizer. In general input costs were low. If a farmer needed a loan, there was a strong institutional rural credit system which lent on reasonable terms. The government supported farming in other ways. Cotton hybridization and cash cropping for export were limited mostly to some coastal regions.
.
This all changed in the mid 1990s when the Indian government collaborated with the IMF in gutting its institutional farmer supports and exposing the agricultural economy to the full savagery of globalization. Cotton farming was radically transformed from an economically sustainable occupation enfolded within a polyculture of locally based food production, to a dangerously expensive and unstable form of cash cropping. Farmers across the cotton belt were overwhelmed with government propaganda urging them to take up cash cropping for commodity export based on hybrid monoculture. They were warned this was the only way they could survive. As I described in my Bt cotton fraud series (parts one, two, three), farmers who heeded this government panic-mongering and relinquished their community farming role to become cogs in the commodity machine found themselves caught on a treadmill of escalating seed, water, fertilizer, and pesticide costs.
.
They couldn’t save or exchange seed from hybrid plants. The 70% of cotton farmers who depend on rainfall quickly found that hybrids don’t work well without artificial irrigation. Costs surged while the government reneged on its supports. Institutional credit branches in rural areas were shut down, to be replaced by usurious moneylenders who are often the same who sell the seeds and pesticides. From 1993 through 2007 thousands of rural banks were shut down. Farmers entered a vicious circle of ever-mounting debt. Hybrid yields did improve significantly for several years, but this couldn’t make up for the crashing price as the US dumped its heavily subsidized cotton on the Indian market. US cotton actually cost less than Indian cotton and India, the world’s third largest producer, became a cotton importer. As Glenn Davis Stone documented, the whole process has been a combination of mechanical, brainless application of industrial inputs with an opaque and confusing seed selection process where farmers had no reliable information and could only choose to believe corporate advertising or else plant what their neighbors were planting. This added up to a general loss of farming skills, which could only intensify an already bewildering and demoralizing psychological experience. Driven to desperation by this impossible situation, small cotton farmers began killing themselves in large numbers as early as 1995, the first year the statistics were compiled.
.
The crisis was exacerbated by the advent of GMO Bt varieties. These were legally approved in 2002 though they’d been illicitly grown commercially since the late 1990s. These aggravate every pathology we surveyed in the previous paragraphs. The seed costs vastly more on account of Monsanto’s extortionate tax on every bag of seed. Bt cotton requires far more water and fertilizer than non-GM hybrids. The promised pesticide dividend depends on the generous and expensive application of irrigation and synthetic fertilizer. Often small farmers were never able to reduce their pesticide use. Where this dividend did manifest, it lasted only a few years until the target bollworms developed resistance and/or secondary pests surged in to fill the void. By now Bt cotton growers often spend more on pesticides than non-GM conventional growers. Meanwhile yields have declined.
.
Almost the entire yield increase of the commodity era came from improvements in non-GM hybrids along with expanded irrigation in some of the richer states. This yield surge had exhausted itself by the 2004-2005 season, at which point Bt cotton had been adopted on only 5.6% of cotton acreage. In subsequent years, as Bt adoption rose to over 90% of the cotton acreage, yield per hectare increased only a small amount, then stagnated and declined.
.
This poor performance by the high-priced, high-maintenance Bt technology has only added to the magnitude of the disaster which has befallen India’s small cotton farmers. Debt, soil destruction, and the top-down policy-driven eradication of less expensive, more sustainable seed alternatives destroyed any alternatives for farmers. Mahyco-Monsanto, often with government help, aggressively drove non-GM varieties out of the market as much as possible. Farmers are trapped. In many regions they simply lack the option of switching from Bt to non-GM hybrids. And although an increasing number of agronomists are advising farmers to go back to the original desi varieties, not only are these varieties also hard to find, but a farmer who is in a debt trap and has destroyed his soil with Bt cotton will find this switch hard to make. (This is a hard dilemma everywhere around the world including in America, even as growing numbers of farmers come to realize that growing food on a direct retail basis for the local/regional market can mean much greater margins and a much better quality of life.)
.
That’s the cause of the cotton farmer suicide epidemic. The farmers are trapped by escalating input costs, falling crop prices, and mounting debt with no way out. Vast numbers of them reach such a point of desperation that suicide seems to be their only option. Hybrid commodification created the crisis, Bt cotton aggravated it.
.
As Sainath put it, “promoting [Bt cotton] in a dry and unirrigated area like Vidarbha was murderous. It was stupid. It was killing.” We can say the same everywhere that Bt cotton has been marketed to farmers dependent on rain. This is 70% of Indian cotton farmers, the farmers which are killing themselves in such vast numbers.
.
The pro-GMO activists themselves implicitly admit all this is true. But they absurdly try to attribute the economic plight of small farmers and the suicide epidemic to “debt” as such, as if debt is some kind of natural affliction which strikes people at random. This is tautological, since farmer debt is practically synonymous with their economic crisis. More important, it pretends the farmer economic crisis has no cause and no history. The farmers were driven into debt by corporate commodity agriculture. The hacks try to suppress this history, but this is really just an attempted semantic misdirection which is substantively identical to saying: The cause of the farmer economic crisis and suicide epidemic is the commodity and poison treadmill, exacerbated by Bt cotton. This has driven Indian small cotton farmers into a terminal debt crisis. In other words, the hacks themselves implicitly confess that their GMO is a main driver of the crisis, and that the cotton farmer suicide epidemic is 100% the result of their commodification of Indian agriculture. But they claim that a shooting victim was killed by the bullet, not by the shooter.
.
A 2014 analysis of a 2012 study that appeared in The Lancet confirms the high concentration of suicides among small cash-crop farmers who are in debt. The Lancet piece establishes the fact of a massive suicide wave among farmers while avoiding drawing that conclusion. It doesn’t deny it but engages in statistical rigmarole similar to that of the deniers. The Globalization and Health analysis applies more rigorous concepts and techniques to draw a clear conclusion. Basically the Lancet piece is a connect-the-dots drawing with a clear outline, but the authors refrain from connecting these dots. They demonstrate that most suicides are rural, and the large majority of these from drinking pesticide, but dodge the conclusion that these disproportionately are cotton farmers and ex-farmers who have been destroyed by commodity agriculture, The G&H piece goes on to connect these dots.
.
Their basic finding is that suicide in India is strongly correlated with being a small farmer growing a cash crop who is in debt. Being a small farmer in itself is positively but not strongly associated with suicide, but the association surges and becomes statistically significant when either of the other two factors is added and is strongest where all three are present. Overall, the G&H analysis found that 74% of the variability in state-level suicide rates is accounted for by these three variables. As we saw above, the rates are under-represented because the Lancet piece relied upon the NCRB data with some minor modifications. That’s part of how that study dodged the finding, by muddling the “farmer” category and illegitimately lumping into tendentious non-farmer categories large numbers of people who are farmers or ex-farmers by any rational measure. But the G&H analysis corrects these errors/obfuscations and finds that the data support the many qualitative studies which find that commodity cotton system has caused a mass suicide epidemic among small cotton farmers.
.
In an equation, Rising Costs + Dumping + Debt = Mass Suicide. Or to put it another way, the politically chosen, willfully aggressive commodity agriculture onslaught = mass suicide.
.
The five main features of the small cotton farmer experience since the mid 1990s have been:
.
1. Increased production costs, which have surged especially since the advent of Bt cotton.
.
2. Yield was temporarily up with hybrid cultivation, but in the Bt years has stagnated and declined.
.
3. US dumping crashed the commodity price.
.
4. Under IMF guidance the government gutted the institutional credit system, which was replaced by loansharking and usury.
.
5. In the same way the government gutted public investment in agriculture.
.
These have combined to ensnare the small cotton farmer in an impossible trap.
.
So we have our thesis, which fits all the evidence and continues to be upheld by all the new evidence. The Indian cotton farmer suicide epidemic is part of the neoliberal “green revolution” commodification onslaught. Governments and corporations want to economically destroy small farmers and their communities, drive the people off the land and into shantytowns, really displaced persons camps, the economic version of internment camps, and replace them with vast industrial plantations controlled by the corporations.
.
As for the masses incarcerated in the slums, as far as the elites and their flacks are concerned they can rot, wither, die. So a mass suicide epidemic, while somewhat politically embarrassing for the elites, is still a good outcome. That’s why the governments and corporations push on with the commodity agriculture onslaught in spite of the roaring evidence, pausing only for ad hoc, meager farmer bailouts when the political pressure becomes too great. There’s no doubt about a policy that consistently drives 2300 farmers a day off the land, and drives 16-18,000 a year to suicide.
.
Millions have been forced to flee the land as economic refugees. Far over 300,000 have been in such despair that they’ve killed themselves. This has been, as the Sanhati Collective called it, “a policy-induced disaster of epic proportions”. Can policy relieve the awesome crisis? So far the only thing governments have done to counteract the disastrous effects of their own aggressive promotion and enshrinement of commodification and Bt cotton has been a series of ad hoc bailouts – Maharashtra state in 2006 and 2007, the central government and Maharashtra again in 2008, Maharashtra again in 2011 and 2012, and Karnataka state in 2014. There’s also been some isolated attempts to rein in the cartel’s worst “abuses”. Thus Andhra Pradesh banned three Mahyco varieties for bad performance in 2005, and Maharashtra in 2012 and Karnataka in 2014 hit Mahyco with further bans. In 2006 the Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission ordered Mahyco-Monsanto to lower the price of a bag of seeds. (The seed peddlers have done all they can to flout this order.) The sum of all this has been perhaps to help level off the cotton farmer suicide rate, but has not lessened it. The lack of will for any kind of real structural reform is exemplified in the Lancet study’s “Interpretation” section, where the only recommendation they can think of is to restrict access to pesticides. It’s hard to believe they’re not joking. How do you sell as much pesticide as you can to farmers while simultaneously restricting their access to pesticides?
.
More fundamentally, this is a typical example of the quack notion of trying to suppress a symptom while seeing no evil, hearing no evil, speaking no evil, as to the cause.
.
The G&H paper, on the other hand, calls for the kinds of reforms that are obviously the bare minimum needed: Land reform, or failing this, government action to stabilize the price of cash crops and relieve indebted farmers. In other words, they call for a return to the classical era of public institutional support for agriculture and farmers. This is the exact program which is anathema to neoliberalism. Since the neoliberal Indian government will never do these things, to point out the need for them is tantamount to calling for the overthrow of neoliberalism, which is in fact what’s necessary. Nothing short of this will suffice for humanity, in agriculture or in any other sector.
.
History’s most horrific outbreak of mass suicide has been caused by the socioeconomic and agronomic pathologies of corporate agriculture. The commodification of cotton farming, and the government/corporate campaign to induce or force the mass of small cotton farmers onto the treadmill of pesticides, high input costs, desperate competition with dumped subsidized cotton, and debt, have comprised a systematic, intentional policy of destroying the small farmers of India as a class. Control of the land is being shifted to Western corporations while the revenues of globalization for “the country” have gone exclusively to urban elites. (Globalization always operates at a loss for the people of any country, including the US. But the income it generates is easily embezzled by elites for their own power and luxury.)
.
The situation has become so dire that even many in the government are blanching. As Vandana Shiva wrote of a 2012 parliamentary committee report:
.

I am not the only one connecting farmers’ suicides to debt and seed monopolies. The Agriculture Committee has made this point. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture…has also stressed the link between Bt. cotton and farmers’ distress. Unlike the researchers who work separated from reality, the Parliamentary Committee has worked over 4 years, interacting with every sector of society – government, industry, scientists and farmers. The All Party Committee visited the epicenter of suicides, Vidarbha in Maharashtra, to interact with farmers and understand the ground reality. This is what they concluded unanimously:

“8.124 During their extensive interactions with farmers in the course of their Study Visits, the Committee has found there have been no significant socio-economic benefits to the farmers because of introduction of Bt. cotton. On the contrary, being a capital intensive agriculture practice, investments of the farmers have increased manifolds thus, exposing them to far greater risks due to massive indebtedness, which a vast majority of them can ill afford. Resultantly, after the euphoria of a few initial years, Bt. cotton cultivation has only added to the miseries of the small and marginal farmers who constitute more than 70% of the tillers in India.”

.
Bt has indeed exacerbated the crisis. India’s small cotton farmers are victims of history’s most monumental criminal fraud. That’s why they’re in such a desperate state, and this is fueling the suicide epidemic. Bt isn’t causing suicide in a special way which isn’t ensconced within cotton commodification. But with its higher production costs and inferior performance it is an added suicide driver. The same will be true if herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton (Monsanto would love to introduce Roundup Ready Flex), maize, or rice is commercialized in India. As the Technical Expert Committee reporting to the supreme court emphasized, the commercialization of HT varieties would only add to the socioeconomic devastation. The TEC stressed how much agricultural laborers depend upon hand weeding for work. But one of the basic purposes of HT GMOs is to serve as a typical “labor-saving”, i.e. job destroying, technology. HT crops would certainly escalate and accelerate the already massive exodus from the land to the displaced persons camps, and would almost certainly escalate the suicide epidemic.
.
I’ll add that HT technology is the same fraud and destroyer for small farmers that Bt is. HT cultivation doesn’t reduce production costs per acre. Rather, it temporarily simplifies farming, renders it more “efficient” and saves some time, so the farmer can expand his acreage. In other words HT crops fuel the classical vicious circle of overproduction and declining crop prices. It’s self-evident that this can only mean disaster for the small farmer, who can’t afford to expand his acreage and will only be clobbered by the further drop in the harvest price. Just as with Bt, HT GMOs are a rich farmer’s technology. And just as with Bt, any HT crop deployment can be effective for only a few years before the weeds develop resistance to the herbicide. In the end even the better-off farmers would have to go back to hand weeding. Small farmers would never see the slightest benefit, only increased costs and an even worse-destroyed soil.
.
So much for the standard Tower of Babel “solution” invariably bruited in the corporate media. For this crisis, as for every other crisis facing humanity and the earth, there can be no solution within the neoliberal framework of corporate rule. Corporate rule must be overthrown and corporations abolished. My piece of this great fight is to fight as a GMO abolitionist, but we need the same abolitionist fighters in every sector.
.
In the agricultural and food sectors we do have one big advantage over the mode of struggle in many other sectors. Short of total abolition, there’s a wide range of action we can take right now to build the new within the old. In the final post of this India series I’ll discuss what’s being done in India on the agroecology and food sovereignty fronts.
.

>

February 22, 2015

The Syriza Cave-In

Filed under: Uncategorized — Russ @ 10:55 am

<

Of course it’s no surprise to me. As I’ve always said of any “alternative” or allegedly “radical” political party, I’ll believe they’re really committed to fighting austerity and corporate rule when they really start DOING IT.
.
Why is this outcome so easy to predict? Let’s leave aside the probability, always high, that the political leaders were lying all along. What’s structurally wrong, as I’ve been saying for years (a few more examples, here, here, here, here), is that people are rushing to cobble together political parties without first building the coherent movement structure which is the only non-sand basis upon which radical political parties can be built.
.
Sure enough, for all its rebellious rhetoric which lasted for a few days, Syriza didn’t know how to psychologically mobilize a critical mass among the people, lacked the will to overcome the sense of cultural inferiority by telling Greece “we are the true Europe, it’s they who have surrendered to the US-dominated corporate order and become US lackeys”, lacked the movement core ready to undergo the blood, sweat, tears, and toil that will be necessary to break free of Euro-domination, and ready to exercise the ruthless resolve that would be necessary against any counter-liberation, pro-austerity reactions. In the quickly-reached end they were a timorous head without a body.
.
The lesson again: Whatever your view of how radical the changes need to be, if you want any real change at all you can’t put the party horse before the movement cart. We first need to build a coherent, committed, aggressive anti-corporate, anti-austerity movement.
.
I’ll be writing more soon on my ideas for building corporate abolitionist movements in every sector, of course with special reference to my specialty, the movement to abolish corporate agriculture, which I believe is the most critical sector and at the same time the one that offers the most opportunities for citizen action from outside the system.

>

They All Revolve Around the Dollar

Filed under: Scientism/Technocracy — Russ @ 1:46 am

<

.
I guarantee, if there was corporate profit in the proposition that the sun revolves around the earth, there would exist a large cadre of impeccably credentialed scientists propagating it. And if there was enough profit involved, geocentrism would be the position of the US government and the cream of academia – Harvard, Stanford, etc.

>

February 21, 2015

The Lunatics Running the Asylum

>

Remember “drapetomania”, the expert-diagnosed mental illness that caused slaves irrationally to want to escape from slavery? Those same experts are now trying to call the desire and fight for real food a mental illness, “orthorexia nervosa”. I like it. Let them keep it up with their superciliousness, insults, and obvious lies. It’ll only further discredit their fraudulent “scientific” corporate establishment. It’ll only further isolate scientism from all political and social grounding, rendering it even more completely dependent on the brute force which will eventually fail. And then where will they turn?
.
Meanwhile so far as I know there’s not yet a diagnosis and term for irrationally taking the word of credentialed experts, even though their corporate mercenary interest is clear and their historical record for being grotesquely wrong in every such case is nearly unbroken. Same for corporate media “journalists” like those who are trying to be boosters for this notion that wanting unpoisoned food is irrational. This must be especially attractive to the NYT-led media, which specializes in trying to “diagnose” dissident individuals and movements and military opposition to US aggression as being forms of mental illness.
.
Is there a diagnosis and term for being OK with poisoning the food, water, air, and soil, and being happy to eat and drink poison this way?

>

February 20, 2015

GMO News Summary February 20th, 2015

<

*Continuing our exposure of the fact that GMOs are a technology for the rich and a disaster for small farmers, a new study out of South Africa finds that Bt maize performs poorly for small farmers because it requires an immense apparatus of expensive irrigation, fertilizer, pesticide, and other inputs, which small farmers cannot afford. This is in addition to the greatly more expensive price of the seeds. Meanwhile the study found that non-GM hybrids as well as open-pollinated varieties performed better for small farmers.
.
I’ve written before about the harrowing experience of South Africa’s small farmers with MON810. Today the multiple Bt toxins of its “stacked” successor MON89034 are also failing.
.
*Food Sovereignty Ghana is suing the country’s agriculture ministry and Biosafety Committee trying to prevent them from approving the commercial release of GM cowpeas and rice in violation of Ghana’s Biosafety Act. Ghana does not yet have a National Biosafety Authority in place as required by the law, nor has it elicited public consultation, nor has it preformed any safety tests. Technicians and bureaucrats systematically lie, saying the field trials and imminent commercial release are being done in accordance with the law. Ghana’s is one of the corrupt governments which have signed up for the Monsanto-led G8 “New Alliance” agricultural colonization plan. Professional liars funded by Monsanto, Syngenta, and the Gates Foundation are attacking the advocates of Food Sovereignty.
.
*In spite of overwhelming public and apple trade group opposition (“public comment” is a pointless farce in terms of actually having any effect on policy; at best it provides a measure of public opinion, as a form of poll, which we can use in our political presentation) the USDA has approved the GM “Arctic Apple”. It’s a worthless and dangerous product, engineered so that apple slices will brown more slowly. So its only purpose is to make old or even rotting apples look fresh.
.
It’s supposed to look fresh while it rots. What shall we call it – something like, “the non-browning rotting apple”, but more pithy. People are calling it the “botox apple”. It was engineered using the hazardous RNA interference (RNAi) technique which even the USDA’S own scientists say needs further study before being allowed in commercialized food products. Like other GMOs including direct foods like this apple, it won’t have to be labeled. Want to feed your children a direct-to-food poison plant which may be rotten, because it’s supposed to brown a little more slowly than real apples? Surely there must be a way to organize a permanent boycott dedicated to bankrupting and destroying this company once and for all, along with any orchard which grows this poison apple. Okanagan Specialty Fruits isn’t Monsanto, after all. (Also, don’t let the name mislead you. This isn’t any kind of pre-existing fruit company, but a biotech startup dependent on this product for its investment/buyout future. It has no fruit varieties of its own, but pirates public domain varieties which it then “engineers”.) As a start, the CFS is collecting signatures for a letter to be sent to food manufacturers, fast food chains, and supermarkets, urging them to reject this disgusting and worthless product.
.
As is invariably true in cases of the hot new GMO, there already exists a non-GM variety which does the same thing (and which is also superior in terms of texture, taste, and storability). So even if “non-browning” apples were worth having, we wouldn’t need GMOs and corporate patents and taxes to have them.
.
*More news on the projected “Factor GMO” long-term toxicity study on a GMO and affiliated pesticide (these unnamed as yet). If the study is performed as advertised, it should be a worthy contribution. But I’d recommend withholding judgement until the whole thing plays out. Some people got prematurely excited when the French regulatory agency ANSES and the European Food Safety Authority announced they’d sponsor legitimate full-length studies, and had to suffer disillusionment.
.
*Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh will have his appeal heard in March. Marsh sued a neighboring contract farm after GM canola material blew over onto his farm, contaminating it and causing him to lose his organic certification. The trial court acknowledged that it’s impossible to prevent such contamination and “co-existence” is impossible, but ruled against Marsh anyway on the grounds that wherever the GMO fist swings, it’s up to others to get their faces out of the way or else take the punch. This is standard government policy. That demonstrates how co-existence is not only physically impossible but politically impossible. GMOs and their hominid propagators seek total domination in both ways. They will never allow a compromise. We can only abolish them completely or surrender unconditionally.
.
*Argentina is the world’s third largest producer of GMOs, after the US and Brazil. India is a distant fourth. The country’s alleged biosafety regulator Conabia was recently selected by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to serve it as a “reference center” giving the UN advice on GMOs. Since Conabia has always maintained draconian secrecy regarding its corporate ties and the procedure through which it has approved over thirty GMOs starting with Roundup Ready soy in 1996, common sense would peg it as a bad bet to provide advice which would have the good of humanity and the earth in mind, as opposed to the power and profit prerogatives of the GMO cartel. Now investigative journalist Dario Ananda has published a report exposing the extent of the secret corruption. Conabia openly includes direct corporate representatives, but also has a staff of alleged “independent researchers.” Ananda found that 27 of the 47 so-called “independent” personnel were actually employees of or otherwise had ties with an array of corporations, industry trade groups, and front groups. These include Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, the ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute, which specializes in formulating bogus regulatory schemes and then peddling them to regulatory bodies; the FAO, WHO, and EFSA have a long history of affinity with the ILSI), sugar commodifier Ledesma, Aacrea (an agribiz trade group), several smaller biotech and sugarcane ethanol companies and trade groups, and an astroturf “environmental” group.
.
Here’s a great line I wish I would’ve thought of, from the environmental group ProEco, talking about a government official who aggressively touts sugarcane ethanol, the growers of which brutally drive peasants and indigenous tribes off their land to clear the way for the plantations – “He found a way to genetically engineer human rights”. That is indeed how the scienticians, technocrats, and elitists in general view freedom and democracy, as something to be abolished in reality while the synthetic propaganda simulacrum replaces them.
.
*GMO Free USA sent samples of Frito-Lay SunChips for laboratory analysis. One test found that 100% of the corn used was GMO. There were DNA sequences from both Bt-expressing and the Roundup Ready transgenes. The other test detected glyphosate residues in a concentration of .14 parts per million, or .14mg/kg. Although this is a low level and far below the bogus tolerance levels set by the likes of the EPA, glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are known to often be more toxic in small doses than in large ones, so this residue level is dangerous. (This debunks the junk science “dose-response” dogma commonly adhered to by corporate-friendly regulators.) It’s also proven, contrary to industry lies, that glyphosate bioaccumulates in the body. So even small doses can contribute to glyphosate’s role in causing reproductive damage, birth defects, cancer, DNA damage, neurological disease, and organ damage. Frito-Lay’s owner Pepsico is a big contributor to fraudulent anti-labeling campaigns, over $8.1 millon to date. We can see why.
.
*This follows upon GMO Free USA’s finding that Kellogg’s Froot Loops also has high levels of GMO DNA fragments and glyphosate residues. Kellogg’s is also a big anti-labeling contributor. And researchers from Boston University purchased in the Philadelphia area honey, syrup, soy sauce, soy milk, and tofu from sources around the world, and sent them to a lab for testing. The tests found high incidences of glyphosate residue. The residues were most common and highest from US sources, and then from other countries where GMO cultivation is allowed.
.
*One of the most repulsive things about pro-GMO activists is that they’re not just bullies, but whiny, cowardly bullies who start blubbering the moment they’re counterattacked. Get a load of this craven liar, who picks a fight on behalf of his fellow crook and then falls to pieces when answered.
.
“You’re mean! You’re intimidating me! Waaaaah! Waaaaah! You’re harassing me. I’m telling!”
.
Not exactly the spirit of ancient Rome, is it?
.

February 17, 2015

By Their Own Standard, Credentialist Pro-GMO Activists Are Ignorant Yahoos

>

The US Right to Know issued a Freedom of Information request to universities where four prominent pro-GMO activists are housed. The four – Kevin Folta at the University of Florida, Alison Eenennaam at UC Davis, Richard Goodman at the U of Nebraska, and Bruce Chassy at the U of Illinois – were selected for being prolific pro-Monsanto publicists, and particularly for their participation at the cartel propaganda site GMO Answers. US Right to Know wants to learn the extent of their direct or indirect funding and payments from biotech corporations and trade groups. Of course they’re stonewalling, since they know the extent of the corruption an honest answer would expose. And anyway they’re professional liars, so transparency and truth just aren’t what they do.
.
Cadres such as these are usually called “scientists”, solely on account of the formal credentials they’ve procured, but they are in fact not scientists at all but corporate propagandists. They do nothing but knowingly tell lies, claim knowledge where they have none, and intentionally or out of stupidity confuse the nature of every issue. All the while they sanctimoniously insist that anyone who lacks formal scientific credentials is unqualified to speak about GMOs. (This of course applies only to critics, skeptics, and dissidents. It doesn’t apply to corporate executives or pro-GMO politicians and media flacks.) The best proof of this, as well as of their hypocrisy when they play the credential card, is that literally none of them, so far as I have seen, stays within the bounds of their own disciplines when pontificating about GMOs. On the contrary, every credentialed pro-GM activist evidently feels free to spew the most ignorant, idiotic opinions on any subject imaginable, no matter how unqualified they are according to their own credentialist standard. Our four subjects of the US Right to Know request are typical examples of this promiscuous amateurism of ignorance. By their own standard they have no standing or right to make the vast majority of their assertions and comments. We must hold them to their own standard and reject out of hand anything any of them says which isn’t firmly within the bounds of their formally credentialed discipline.
.
Kevin Folta’s official credentials are in molecular biology and biology, but he thinks he’s an agronomist. His resume is that of a terminal myopic who obsessively knows one detail, and a malign one at that, but who has the delusion of grandeur that he knows the slightest bit about agronomic systems and the broader ecosystems in which these are enfolded. That’s what you’re prone to get when a molecular biologist thinks he’s an agricultural and ecological expert. If he believes a word of the lies he spews, his lack of agricultural training must play a role in his being so stupid.
.
Like his fellow anti-science hack Pamela Ronald, Folta also poses as a medical doctor and nutritionist even though he has zero credentials in either discipline. He also pontificates constantly on purely political issues like labeling and lies about his university receiving funding from the GMO cartel.
.
Folta claims he’s never been paid by the GMO cartel, but his university has certainly been bought. Check out this list. Res ipsa loquitur.
.
Bruce Chassy is officially trained in chemistry and biochemistry. In other words he’s a poison-peddler whose formal connection to systems-based knowledge is even more tenuous than Folta’s. This hasn’t stopped him from impersonating a doctor and nutritionist who knows something about food safety and human health, nor has it stopped the University of Illinois and the FDA from fraudulently depicting him as such.
.
Chassy is co-founder of the propaganda site Academics Review. Here we find lots of commentary on food safety, human medicine, agriculture, and slamming Jeffrey Smith for his lack of formal STEM credentials. But what praytell is Chassy’s credential which qualifies him to have opinions on any of these topics? The fact is that from the point of view of credentialism, Chassy is identical to Smith. They’re uncredentialed laymen writing about subjects in which they have no formal training. The same is true of Chassy’s collaborator David Tribe (chemistry, biochemistry, applied molecular genetics). The same is true of every pro-GMO activist. I challenge anyone to provide an example of a pro-GMO activist who stays within the bounds of his credentialed discipline.
.
In Chassy’s case there’s no doubt about his being directly paid by Monsanto and other biotech companies. In general he’s been more active as a propagandist than as someone who even pretends to be a scientist. He was also the sole credentialed type who joined several uncredentialed publicists in trying to drum up an Internet lynch mob against Reuters reporter Carey Gillam last year. That says it all about Chassy’s real character and ideology and how much it has to do with “science”.
.
Folta and Chassy are typical in having no formal agricultural training. Most genetic engineers and “scientist” flacks like these (for example carnival barker Neal DeGrasse Tyson, who has also shilled for Monsanto in the most ignorant, moronic way) have zero formal agronomic qualifications. Indeed, when you read a history like First the Seed or Lords of the Harvest you see how often the engineers and publicists not only have zero agricultural training or knowledge but seem proud of the fact. This combination of ignorance and arrogance, always characteristic of credentialed technocrats and elitist professionals in general, must be why GMOs are such shoddy, failure-prone products, and why they’re 100% dedicated to escalating the most counterproductive, destructive, and famine-prone mode of agriculture. It’s simply insane the way society has let such brain-dead psychopaths gain control of our agriculture and foods.
.
Meanwhile the personnel who do have some agriculture-related training are just as prone to go straying far outside their disciplinary lines while still fraudulently claiming to be “scientists”. Richard Goodman’s formal training is a mix of agricultural and non-agricultural – biology, dairy science, immunology.
.
Goodman is most notorious for his suspected role in the illicit retraction of the Seralini study by the now-corrupted journal Food and Chemical Toxiciology. The Seralini study is a real scientific study correcting the fraudulent Monsanto feeding trials which the EFSA accepted on faith when it approved the importation into Europe of Roundup Ready maize in food and feed. It remains one of the few legitimate toxicology studies which have been performed on a GMO (or on Roundup). Through a British media campaign of lies and slander which started even before the study was published, FCT came under intense industry pressure to retract the study. At first it refused. At this point the cartel shifted its pressure on the publication. The pro-GMO activists now accused it of being biased against GMOs. To prove its lack of bias, it was forced to accept Monsanto’s man onto its editorial roster. The truth is, of course, the exact opposite. At first FCT was demonstrating its lack of bias either way, and was serving science. It was then forced to accept Goodman so that it could be subject to Gleichschaltung, attaining the ideologically correct pro-Monsanto bias, from within.
.
FCT’s cowardly action now demonstrates how well this corporate coordination process has worked. You can look at their excuse for the retraction and see that it’s nothing but a retread of the same tired lies which attacked the study from day one. If FCT refused to retract on these grounds in 2012, why did it do so in 2013, just a few months after bringing Goodman on board? Because it was taken over from within, following the injection of a Monsanto cadre. There’s no other explanation.
.
What precisely in Goodman’s formal resume qualifies him to pass any sort of judgement or have any opinion at all about a toxicology study performed upon rats? It’s not an allergy study nor was it performed upon cows.
.
Goodman has been an employee of Monsanto and has consulted for them and other biotech corporations
.
Alison van Eenennaam’s formal training is in agricultural science, animal science, and genetics. Yet Here’s Eenennaam blathering about politics and economics, posing as a constitutional scholar, impersonating an expert on food safety and human medicine, and telling several direct lies, for example that pesticide use goes down with GMO cultivation; that product labeling where it comes to harmful ingredients is typically voluntary; that GMO labeling will drive up food costs, and several others. She also regurgitates the canned lie that genetic engineering is the same as conventional breeding. If she really believes this she’s an incompetent agronomist. But I’d bet she’s consciously lying. We saw the scurrilous character of her “science” in the propaganda broadside she issued on Monsanto’s behalf last autumn. Here’s the best takedown of this hack I’ve seen. Here’s another good refutation.
.
She also endorses the non-credentialed PR flack Jon Entine’s unscientific rhetorical flourishes about her “review”, which demonstrates how she sees her “scientific” work as designed to feed the Monsanto propaganda machine.
.
.
GMO labeling has certainly brought the amateur interlopers out in force. This pro-cartel paper parroting the Monsanto line against GMO labeling includes Eenennaam and Chassy among its authors and Goodman among its “reviewers”, alongside Mark Lynas sporting his phony Cornell pseudo-position, bought for him by the Gates Foundation. Here again we see alleged scientists holding forth on a purely political issue, as well as economics, law, constitutional scholarship, and statistical social science. My, we must be in the presence of the most prodigious polymath geniuses in history. Also the most incorrigible liars*.
.
Regarding the standing of these persons to comment on political controversies, some readers may be thinking that’s anyone’s right no matter who they are. But keep in mind that it’s precisely these cadres who consistently deny that the people have any right to a say on any issue which the corporate propaganda machine can depict as having anything to do with “science”. On the contrary, they insist that an issue like GMO labeling should be out of the hands of democracy and solely within the hands of corporate technocracy. Indeed, to the extent these cadres can be said to have a political ideology beyond straight corporate authoritarianism, this ideology is technocracy, the belief that formally credentialed experts should make all decisions for society, while democracy and politics as such should cease to exist. This is an extreme version of the standard anti-citizenship, anti-democracy, anti-political character of bourgeois ideology. (You won’t find a more perfect example of one of these amateurish hacks describing his own faction than the abstract of this paper. The thing is a short masterpiece of Orwellianism, and of course is packed with lies. The conclusion, of course, is true and condemns these criminals and their whole endeavor.)
.
Here too we reject their authoritarianism, but we should hold them to their own standard. They despise democracy and politics and want to abolish these for everyone else, so we must see them as having forfeited such things for themselves.
.
Of course among pro-GM activists there’s no lack of uncredentialed publicists, from former TV news/tabloid producer Jon Entine to nihilist mercenary Mark Lynas to software thief Bill Gates, not to mention an endless list of corporate executives and PR flacks, politicians, and corporate media stenographers. Why do we never see the credentialists direct these people, who “have no discernable scientific training” in the allegedly damning words the Academics Review site utters about Smith, to depart from the field?
.
I stress that we abolitionists aren’t credentialists. Most of the worthwhile thinkers throughout history weren’t formally trained system drones, whose record in every era for being wrong about pretty much everything is unmatched. We paraphrase Martin Luther King and see the world in terms judging people not by the level of their formal training within the corporate degree conveyor belt but by the content of their ideas and character. These hacks fail on both counts. But these pro-GMO activists, so many of them part of the corporate establishment including holding its bogus credentials, insist shrilly on the importance of credentialism. We shall hold them to their own standard, and so we must with all due rigor call attention every time any of these “scientists” crosses the bounds of his discipline and starts blathering about things which, by his own standard, he has no standing or right to blather.
.
An important point we must always make is that these “scientifically credentialed” personnel always take every opportunity to claim that lack of formal credentials means one is unqualified to talk about GMOs, but meanwhile all of them without exception incessantly stray beyond the bounds of their own formal disciplines to amateurishly comment on other scientific aspects, let alone on socioeconomic effects or political policy like when so-called “scientists” pontificate against labeling, as the targets of this FOIA request all have. Let’s hold these hypocrites to their own standard and point out what uncredentialed, unscientific, ignorant, opinion-spouting layman yahoos they really are in almost everything they say.
.
We critics and skeptics and dissidents from GMOs and poison-based agriculture must stop calling these people “scientists”. No matter what their formal credentials, they act and speak mostly outside the bounds of those disciplines, and they lie and distort even the rare times they do speak within their theoretical discipline. We must see them as and call them what they are – publicists, propagandists, unregistered lobbyists, pro-corporate political activists, charlatans, quacks, impersonators. That’s what they are and that’s all they are.
.
The pro-GMO activists have proclaimed the credentialist standard. Of course we reject their authoritarianism here as we do everywhere else, so it doesn’t apply to us and we don’t apply it in general. But since they proclaimed it, it rightfully applies to themselves, and we shall apply it to them with all due rigor. So OUR standard must be that whenever a credentialed cadre opens his lying yap to exalt Monsanto, we declare the facial inadmissibility of every word except for what is strictly within the bounds of that cadre’s formal discipline. By their own proclaimed standard they have forfeited all right to make any comment beyond these bounds. And this is the standard we must encourage the people to apply to all scientism/technocrat types, where it comes to GMOs and to every other context where technician types lie and pretend to be scientists, but are really nothing but gutter corporate shills. Q.E.D.
.
.
[*For anyone interested, here’s a list of the lies I spotted just skimming the thing: That there’s a lack of evidence for the health dangers of GMOs – there’s actually overwhelming positive and negative evidence of danger (the negative evidence is the fact that governments and corporations refuse to perform legitimate food safety or epidemiological tests, which is implicit proof that they know GMOs are harmful and don’t want to contribute to scientifically proving that fact); that labeling of hazardous ingredients is always voluntary; that labeling will increase food prices; fraudulent Wall Street-type numbers on the “economic benefits” of GMOs; that genetic engineering is even similar to (let alone the same as) conventional breeding; that GMOs aren’t “in the food” and that being a GMO is really an ineffable “process” rather than a physical fact (I think this peculiar proposition deserves a post of its own); that they’ve been “extensively tested” – actually they were never tested at all except for some ad hoc independent studies which all found evidence of health harms; that the FDA evaluates GMOs – in the vast majority of cases the FDA does zero evaluation, and doesn’t even have to be notified when a new GMO is being marketed; that there exists “independent research” and “long-term research” which vindicates GMOs – no studies of either kind exist; it calls industry groups and professional coordination bodies “scientific organizations”; that no compositional differences have been found between GMOs and non-GM equivalents – of course a GMO containing one or more transgenes plus Bt endotoxins and/or cellularly suffused herbicide residues is by definition compositionally different, and studies have found many other examples of genetic and phytochemical difference in every commercialized GMO which has been independently tested for such difference (again, governments and corporations don’t test at all).
.
I think my favorite part is where they say the absence of GMO-based products on the supermarket shelves in countries which have mandatory labeling is in some metaphysical way because of the label itself, rather than as the result of consumers seeing the label and rejecting the product. In the legal/constitutional/political discussion the paper gives some good hints of the corporate totalitarianism these thugs want.]

>

February 15, 2015

“Foreign Aid” is Corporate Welfare

<

To extend my point from the other day’s post on “welfare” for people and corporate welfare, we can say the same about so-called “foreign aid”, for example as laundered through USAID and the Gates Foundation (to give one each of a nominally “public” and nominally “private” example; in reality there’s no difference). The money channeled through these is invariably, except for a few cosmetically spent pennies, dedicated to increasing the penetration, domination, and profitability of Western transnational corporations in the recipient countries. USAID also continues with its original Cold War mission, to disseminate pro-corporate propaganda and actively seek imperialist goals within these countries. To the extent anyone involved even thinks of actual benefit for people (almost no one does), they see it solely in terms of trickle-down.
.
The corporate media frames this corporate welfare as “humanitarian”, and this stirs up the standard partisan conflict between conservatives and liberals, each group believing this lie. Meanwhile the corporations go their merry way.
.
In addition to comprising corporate welfare, this aid is also often in the form of dumping, as with Monsanto’s attempt to capitalize on Haiti’s misery following the 2010 earthquake. In all cases a primary goal is to destroy local economies and any form of economic or political self-determination among the “recipient” peoples.
.
All this is true regardless of whether the “aid” is direct from a government or corporation, or laundered through any kind of NGO or charity. These are front groups. The corporate character of the dumping is the same in every case.
.
As Bill Gates explains in this interview, practically a synthetic compendium of the corporate aid ideology, no one from the system would ever dispense foreign aid unless the point was for all of it to go through corporate tollbooths, set up corporate infrastructure, and help impose corporate enclosure, profit, control, and domination.
.
This is preparatory to my upcoming posts on the “New Alliance” corporate colonization plan for African agriculture and food. USAID’s role in aggrandizing corporate agriculture goes back decades. Along with the International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs), its goal throughout the so-called “green revolution” was to spread capitalist propaganda among Southern governments, agronomists, and farmers, help the corporations penetrate and commodify Southern agriculture, and help plunder the germplasm resources of the South for the benefit of the corporate West.

>

February 13, 2015

GMO News Summary February 13, 2015

>

*In India, the new state government of Maharashtra will allow field trials of GM cotton, maize, rice, brinjal (eggplant), and chickpea. Maharashtra issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC), allowing the central government to approve the trials. In India the states have the right to refuse to allow field trials within their territory. Most states have refused to issue these NOCs, and so field trials are officially disallowed. Delhi University also received approval to trial GM mustard. The rationales given for these field trials are typical scams – that they’re testing “drought resistant” and “nitrogen efficiency” GMOs. Neither of these exists. This comes even as crashing commodity prices at harvest time this year cost Indian cotton and maize farmers vast revenue (Rs 12000 crore), while state farmer supports continue to be eroded. A recent study found that from 1996 to 2013 the government’s Minimum Support Price for a range of industrial crops including maize, cotton, and soybeans has only covered 45-72% of farmer costs. Farming in India becomes increasingly unviable for any but the richest farmers.
.
*Undeterred by the poor agronomic and economic (for the farmers) results of its first season of a demonstration commercial release of four Bt brinjal varieties, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) plans to release five more varieties this year. This project, developed by Mahyco and funded by BARI and USAID (corporate welfare, all profits to go to Monsanto-Mahyco) is going forward in spite of the fact that it has zero rationale, was an economic disaster for many of the farmers who participated in the first season, that the crops performed poorly, thast Mahyco’s own tests found toxic effects, that BARI has gone ahead with these releases without performing the slightest environmental or health assessments, that there exist over 4000 regionally adapted brinjal varieties in Southeast Asia, that Southeast Asia is the world center of brinjal origin and diversity, and that a corporate monoculture program like this threatens this agricultural biodiversity, as all GMOs do.
.
*Polish farmers are using tractors to block roads and picket government offices as they make four demands which they regard as critical to alleviate economic crises in Polish agriculture. The four demands are: Reject foreign land-grabbing of Polish farmland (slated to be legalized in 2016); decriminalize direct retail farm sales (this is one of the surest ways for farmers to get off the commodification treadmill and regain economic self-determination; Poland has draconian rules effectively outlawing it); allow inheritance of lease rights to farmland; ban GMOs.
.
*Farmers and companies have filed more than 360 lawsuits against Syngenta for marketing its Viptera maize before getting import approval from China. As a result, starting in November 2013 China began rejecting US maize shipments which tested positive for Viptera. This cost US growers and commodifiers lost $1-3 billion in revenue through the 2014 season. China rejected a total of over 131 million bushels. The suits have been filed in twenty states, and hundreds more may be coming. A federal judge is currently mulling whether to combine them into a class action. China finally approved Viptera in December.
.
*GMO labeling bills have been introduced in the legislatures of Indiana and Minnesota. The Indiana bill would also ban the use of the term “natural” on products containing GMOs.
.
*A federal judge granted the motion of the Center for Food Safety, Our Family Farms Coalition, and several local farmers to intervene as co-defendants in the industry lawsuit against Jackson County, Oregon. In May 2014 the county voted by a wide margin (66%) to ban GMO cultivation as an economic and contamination assault on the true farmers of the county. They’re now being sued by contract “farmers” who are really cartel proxies.
.
This spring Benton County will vote on a combined community rights, food sovereignty, GMO ban initiative.

>

February 12, 2015

“Welfare”

<

(Someone asked me whether or not there was something philosophically bad about so-called “welfare”, using food stamps as his example. This was my reply.)
.
1. Since all the wealth of government and corporations is stolen from the people who actually do the work in the first place, or is extracted at the socioeconomic and spiritual expense of those who are artificially rendered “unemployed” by a system which separates humanity from its ability to work, anything the people can get back from this system is automatically justified.
.
2. For every penny of “welfare” there’s probably a thousand dollars of corporate welfare, so that right there renders “welfare” for human beings a non-issue anyway, from any practical or moral point of view. Like with so many other problems and issues, we’d have to abolish corporatism first and THEN see if there’s any problems left over with anything that actually benefits human beings.
.
3. The money for this or any other government program doesn’t come from taxes paid by the working class, it comes from money the Fed prints. Taxes are not in fact necessary for a government to pay for things, but are rather a form of social control. (The way things are going now, with the Fed printing trillions to be directly handed over to Wall Street and other corporate sectors, is unproductive, destructive, and unsustainable, but that’s a different issue.)
.
4. The food stamp system is intentionally set up to make it easy to procure junk food and difficult to obtain good food like fresh produce. I’ve worked at a farmers’ market and can attest to how hard it is to set up to accept food stamps. Different states do more or less to help with this. And then of course many food stamp recipients live in food deserts artificially created by the system, where fresh produce is hard to come by. So if some recipients use food stamps to buy junk food, that isn’t just some kind of individual turpitude. The far greater cause is the structural trap they’re in.
.
5. But that outcome is intentional, since food stamps aren’t really meant to feed those who couldn’t otherwise afford to eat. Their main purpose is to be laundered corporate welfare for food manufacturers, just as farmer subsidies are laundered corporate welfare for the input manufacturers and commodifiers. That’s why food stamps are part of the same Farm Bill that enshrines Big Ag subsidies. That food stamps do help people eat is just a side effect from the government’s point of view.
.
6. So although lots of people want to moralize about “welfare”, it’s actually meaningless and amoral to talk about it at all unless it’s placed in its political and socioeconomic context, where we see that it’s (A) utterly trivial compared to the magnitude and malignity of corporate welfare, (B) in many cases actually is laundered corporate welfare, (C) is helping people who have been rendered economically superfluous and unemployable (because the jobs no longer exist) by those same corporations, who control all government policy.
.
I’ll go a step further and say it’s immoral and depraved to have no objection, and especially no moral/emotional objection, to trillions in corporate welfare which helps no one and is purely destructive, but to feel outraged over the few pennies the government still spends which actually can help actual human beings who have been impoverished and economically exiled by the policies of that same government.
.
All my outrage is directed at corporate rule.

>

Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 249 other followers