October 6, 2010

Monsanto, GMOs, and the Food Tyranny Bill


Some bad news for Monsanto. Of course, since it’s the MSM the piece leads off with the travails of the stock price. But then we get down to real issues:

The latest blow came last week, when early returns from this year’s harvest showed that Monsanto’s newest product, SmartStax corn, which contains an unprecedented eight inserted genes, was providing yields no higher than the company’s less expensive corn that contains only three foreign genes.

This is just the latest example of steeply diminishing returns for production from GMOs. This occurs even as the natural resistance to herbicides steeply compounds.

But there is more. Sales of Monsanto’s Roundup, the widely used herbicide, has collapsed this year under an onslaught of low-priced generics made in China. Weeds are growing resistant to Roundup, dampening the future of the entire Roundup Ready crop franchise. And the Justice Department is investigating Monsanto for possible antitrust violations.

While I’d bet Monsanto the corporation will be just fine for the short- to mid-run, the overall GMO project is already a disaster for mankind, socioeconomically and environmentally.
The verdict here on Monsanto is that “they overplayed their hand” and are having to retrench. For example, look at this case study in the Rule of Rackets:

Mr. Begemann [a Monsanto cadre] said that Monsanto used to introduce new seeds at a price that gave farmers two thirds and Monsanto one third of the extra profits that would come from higher yields or lower pest-control costs. But with SmartStax corn and Roundup Ready 2 soybeans, the company’s pricing aimed for a 50-50 split.

The Rule of Rackets is that no one competes or otherwise acts as a textbook “capitalist” for one day longer than he has to. As soon as possible, and as much as possible, he leverages his market power and wealth into a monopoly position which he then aggressively exploits as a rent-seeking parasite.
This monopoly-creep is hard-wired into “capitalism”. No market player will settle for even a 99-1 split unless he absolutely has to. He prefers slave labor, total socialization of all cost and risk, and a 100% extraction. That’s the logic in its entirety. After all, as the apologists for the system never tire of reminding us, “the shareholders” would never settle for less, and they have a “right” to it, doggone it.
But as the piece goes on to describe, the yields of Monsanto’s Frankensoy and Frankencorn are down. They’ve had to backpedal on the price scheme. Farmers are also disgruntled over being forced to buy genes they don’t want to get the ones they do want. That’s part of this alleged antitrust investigation. (A real investigation would be a good thing. With this government, I’ll believe it when real charges are actually filed.)
Monsanto forcing farmers to buy genes they don’t want, because they’re in a position to do so, reminds me of the health racket mandate. True, it’s not yet the government mandating the purchase of something expensive and worthless. But that was also true of “health insurance”. It’s the same logic. And if the mandate holds up in the courts, then once it has the full “constitutional” imprimatur there will be no theoretical limit to how far the corporatist mandate schemes can go. Food activists are already speculating on how future legislative appendages or bureaucratic enforcement of the Food Tyranny bill may mandate the purchase of particular seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and any other kind of “innovation” the rackets can bring to market. Where you have a government which is compliant toward the rackets and tyrannical toward the people, the tendency will be for the criminals to push the assault as far as the people will allow.
The piece refers to how a rival, Dupont’s Pioneer, has been gaining on Monsanto. But if the NYT is aware of the real significance of these numbers, they’re not letting on:

After years of rapidly losing market share in corn seeds to Monsanto, Pioneer says it has gained back 4 percentage points in the last two years, to 34 percent. Monsanto puts its market share at 36 percent in 2009 and says it has remained flat this year. In soybeans, Pioneer puts its share at 31 percent, up 7 percent over the last two years; Monsanto puts its share at 28 percent last year and said it has dropped some this year.

This is the real problem, the expanding oligopoly over our very food supply. We know these companies are malevolent in intent, while their business model is intrinsically harmful to food production and the environment. They consciously seek total monopoly over seeds, and through this monopoly, world domination of the food supply. We’d be hostage not only to their power, but to the toxicity and environmental instability of the Frankenfood “eco”system itself. This is extremely vulnerable and unresilient.
In the same way that CAFOs are going to generate lethal pandemics (it’s only a matter of time), GMOs are going to trigger mass famine once they replace enough conventional production and then catastrophically fail. The true food safety answer in both cases is clear – ban the destructive and vulnerable practice and restore the historical practice. We’ve learned enough during the industrial age that we can maintain high yields without oil, without natural gas (used mostly in synthetic fertilizer), without GMOs, without factory farming, without rentier dominance.
But as I’ve written many times (most recently here and here), help is on the way for Monsanto and the other criminal gangs. The Food Tyranny bills have been designed to suit the greed and powerlust of these rackets. Obama appointee (to the totalitarian position of unelected “Food Czar”) Michael Taylor is a former Monsanto cadre who as a lobbyist helped write these bills, and Obama now wants him to take the lead in enforcing them. That’s just the most brazen example of how Monsanto criminality and tyranny suffuse the whole legislative and executive intent and practice. (And Monsanto’s just one of the rackets involved.) We can imagine what’s intended to happen if/when the Senate passes its companion version to the vicious bill the House passed last year.
These bills have been written literally by Monsanto, and they’re for Monsanto and its fellow oligopolists. That’s why the food bill has to be rejected, and if that doesn’t work, resisted.


  1. “This monopoly-creep is hard-wired into “capitalism”.

    Indeed! And concomitant with that unerring tendency is one where the regulatory agencies are thoroughly corrupted. These are the phenomenon that always lead to the destruction of capitalism. ‘

    This is somewhat contrary to the classic analysis of what causes capitalism to come a cropper, namely the famous “internal contradictions” whereby capitalism exploits its labor force to the point that they can not buy the very goods they produce. Capitalism does that, of course, but the monopoly tendency supersedes it in my view, and, apparently, yours.

    Comment by Edwardo — October 6, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

    • Yes, the internal contradiction seems to be a subordinate feature of the inevitable stagnation of monopoly capitalism. Paul Baran and Paul Sweezey did excellent work on that.

      Comment by Russ — October 6, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

  2. I “went shopping” over there at naked capitalism, and it continually amazes me how much we are STILL NOT WILLING to give up our faith and belief that science and the scientific method are going to magically rescue us.
    THAT is our problem, and it has been building to a head over several hundred years now.
    Predatory capitalism is an outgrowth of our belief in “science”.
    WHEN we stop believing in science… then things will start getting better.
    Until then, all the regulation in the world will not.. SAVE US.

    Comment by debra — October 6, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

    • Science is a tool, and when used as such toward wise goals, a good one.

      Unfortunately nowadays it’s usually the whore of greed and bootlicker of power.

      So you have it backwards. Science can become predatory where hijacked by corporatism, or any other power structure.

      Comment by Russ — October 6, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  3. “Predatory capitalism is an outgrowth of our belief in “science”.

    You’ll have to explain your thinking there, because my immediate response to that is balderdash.

    Comment by Edwardo — October 6, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

    • It took us some..500 years, starting at the emergence of Renaissance thought, for us to shift our belief system from belief in God, and a society structured around some form of sacrality, to belief in science with no sacrality that is immediately apparent to me. (outside of money idolatry…)
      During those 500 years… capitalism emerged, and the feudal structures (which were oriented around LAND possession and transmission) also shifted and disappeared. Man became increasingly DIVORCED from the land.
      PREDATORY capitalism, in my book, is the result of the rampant secularization of our society. Bottoming out our Christian heritage, SECULARIZING IT, to make illico presto.. the rights of man.
      I say on my blogs : I don’t think that man can live without “God”. AT THE VERY LEAST.. TO KEEP HIM IN HIS PLACE.
      NOT as the creator, or even POTENTIAL creator of the universe. Man’s capacity to understand, and think, that the scientific IDEOLOGY has exacerbated has led him to some pretty awful confusions… that UNDERSTANDING is the same thing as doing, and that he WILL UNDERSTAND and CONTROL this universe. Thanks to science.
      That’s where i say.. BALDERDASH.
      And Russ… you may THINK that you do not put science in this all powerful place but, almost all of the “science” articles (vulgarization, to be sure…) that I read over on naked capitalism evidence these BELIEFS I’m talking about. The general idea that LEGITIMATE KNOWLEDGE about our world takes ONE form, and that this form corresponds to what the scientific method has promoted as.. TRUTH, and GOOD.
      So, I will continue to say that we BELIEVE IN SCIENCE.
      And to a very great extent, the climate change CONFLICT is about this belief too…

      Comment by debra — October 7, 2010 @ 2:20 am

      • I KNOW exactly where I put science.


        What does the link selection at Naked Capitalism have to do with me?

        Although, so far as I read the science issue links there, I don’t see evidence that Naked Capitalism’s a surreptitious technocratic site. On the contrary, as a general rule Yves makes moral and humanistic editorial comments more often than pure appeals to rationality and practicality. And I see little evidence of the idolatry of those things.

        Comment by Russ — October 7, 2010 @ 3:55 am

      • Debra,

        I responded to your remarks on science over at NC, it would interesting to hear what you think.

        I think you are making the same mistake in attacking science that many people make in attacking religion. Just replace the word “science” in your rants with the word “religion” and you will know what I mean. To add to Russ’ comments above, these are both just tools that can be used for either good or evil. Who would deny that Christianity played a good and vital role in the American Civil Rights movement? Who would deny that science has played a vital role in lifting the standard of living for much of this world? I have three little children thanks to in vitro fertilization for example.

        But when these tools are used for evil, and they obviously often are, it is very important to recognize that it is not the tool itself that is the problem, it’s the person in power wielding this tool that is evil.

        Comment by kevin de bruxelles — October 7, 2010 @ 6:07 am

      • It appears you’re blaming science for human avarice and magical thinking. Sorry, secularists don’t have a monopoly on that, in fact I’m pretty sure the religionists perfected it first. Not all civilizations believe in your god. Greed has been around longer than 500 years. It’s frankly laughable to try to argue that historical, Christian Europe was somehow less predatory than the mostly secular Europe of today. The only difference between our barbarians and theirs is ours have better tools and better propaganda. Ours are far less violent — they have less need of violence.

        Science is a tool for distinguishing reality from fantasy. Humans are prone to fantasy. Our brains have built-in biases and disordered thought processes, as your comment illustrates. Our only hope as a species is to devote fewer brain cycles to ancient myths and more to the reality in which we live. Which means we’re doomed.

        Comment by reslez — October 7, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  4. When an ideology is all around us… our noses are glued to the page, and that impairs our vision of a LARGER picture.
    I believe…
    You know… the other night I lay in bed thinking…
    Thinking about the Old Testament prophets (who I’m not particularly fond of, if the truth be told…).
    Thinking about how the whole history of the Old Testament is one long series of repetitions.
    Israel gets led out of Egypt, and wanders around the desert for 40 years. Once in Canaan, everybody truly grateful to God for bringing this about. Everybody BEHAVES… for 40,50 years stretches, and then… after a period of the GOOD LIFE, buying and selling, the status quo… Israel stops paying attention to God. And slowly things pick up speed, and START getting out of hand. PREDATORY BUYING AND SELLING begin. Lawlessness is rampant. Morals degenerate…
    Some prophet comes along and says… “God is NOT HAPPY with the way things are panning out. YOU WILL BE PUNISHED, AND YOU WILL SUFFER FOR DISREGARDING HIM”.
    And most of the time, nobody pays attention, until the shit hits the fan. Then… penitence, suffering, a return to God, and… the whole cycle begins again.
    If you choose.. you CAN see our predicament as EXACTLY what went on in the Old Testament.
    (And the Greeks also had THEIR WAY of talking about rampant HUBRIS. THEY knew it too…)
    I CHOOSE to see what’s playing out right now IN THIS LIGHT.
    Because this light has meaning for me, and it is as.. VALID as other interpretations for me.
    End of sermon for today.

    Comment by debra — October 7, 2010 @ 2:31 am

    • You don’t like the Old Testament prophets? And those are the only parts of the Bible I read nowadays.

      Why am I not surprised?

      Comment by Russ — October 7, 2010 @ 3:58 am

      • Why am i not surprised….
        The Protestant reform was a surreptious return to… Judaïsm. All the beautiful Mariolatry got thrown out the window… Women’s condition CONTINUED to regress under Protestantism, and now the whole world is GROANING under camouflaged Protestant ideology WITH NO GOD, to boot.
        The Old Testament God is a wrathful, and VENGEFUL BUGGER (in my opinion…). (But in all fairness… not just a vengeful bugger…)
        On “punishment”. MOST people really don’t understand that EVEN in the Genesis story of the fall of man, God is simply.. ENOUNCING THE CONSEQUENCES OF MAN’S ACTS. And not punishing.
        If/when we take the ship down, there will be no “punishment” for our acts. Punishment and consequences are not in the same ballpark at all.
        There is an old saying that goes.. you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
        No old testament prophet said that, that’s for sure…
        But, my shrink experience tells me that. And.. LIFE in general.
        I HOPE that I’m not demonizing science.(But WHY must we always use substantives to talk ? “Science” doesn’t mean ANYTHING.. without scientists.)
        It is very difficult to NOT DEMONIZE things, you know.
        I am condemning SCIENTISM, or the belief that science will protect us from the consequences of our actions and save us.
        I say to the people who will listen to me that science is NOT A TOOL.
        Language is not a tool either.
        Not the way… the scientific IDEOLOGY would have you believe that language is a tool.
        For example… let’s use THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD and take a little look at domestication.
        Domestication of the dog.
        Domestication of the dog, over several millenia has NOW LED TO… the dog going increasingly further from his origin (as an adopted wolf…). The growing INFANTILISATION of the dog species, with REDUCTION in the dog’s leadership capacities, his ability to WORK WITH US, and NOT SLAVE FOR US, or hold our paws…
        AND.. hold on to your hats. Because the domestication of the dog has influenced OUR BEHAVIOR, and our brains too. We have significantly lost our capacity to identify odors.We have LOST skills through delegating to the dog. And we are INFANTILIZING OURSELVES at the same time we are infantilizing the dog. Pretty amazing, huh ?
        So… THAT’S what I say to the tool idea.
        It is a conveniently.. OBJECTIFYING one. It sticks language and “science” OUTSIDE when they really are INSIDE.
        Objectivation CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH. (And your thinking..)
        My source on the dog : Temple Grandin in “Animals in Translation”.

        Comment by debra — October 7, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

      • Well, there’s one thing we do agree upon, that there’s no such thing as an abstraction like “science”, but only what people do with its findings.

        (When I use the term science I refer to either that or to the scientific method, which is a standard and procedure for thinking and doing.)

        But of course the same is true for religion, but as Kevin says above, you do have faith in that, and it’s the same thing as having faith in scientism.

        The dog domestication example is interesting. It’s an example of using technology as a crutch leading to our own weakening and enervation.

        Comment by Russ — October 7, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

    That is a really tough order.
    It means… loving your neighbor AND yourself.
    A REALLY tough order.
    Everything else I need to live by FOLLOWS from that initial commandment.
    Which means…. that my relationship to the law is really complicated.
    Don’t be so sure you know that I have faith in religion. Not any.. institutionalized religion at this time. I have my own ideas about what/who God is. I haven’t found them in any book yet.
    Being weak is not a bad thing.
    We are revving up for.. another bout of Hitler’s madness. In another form, certainly, but the underlying madness will be identical.
    A while ago I got kicked off a blog for saying (among other irritating things…) that THESE DAYS the (concentration) camp is not in any one LIMITED area. These days.. the camp IS ALL AROUND US. No escaping from THE CAMP we are making the world into…
    And unfortunately, the belief in science has a lot to do with the camp mentality.
    Because the belief in science structures HOW WE THINK, and determines WHAT WE SEE, and HOW WE SEE IT in this world.
    That’s why the camp is everywhere.
    In my opinion.
    Today I spent the afternoon at our local museum in an exhibit about Vaucanson, the grandaddy of mecanisation. Check him out on Wiki.
    I call this… informing myself about the enemy.
    Vaucanson capitalized on (yep, that’s what I said…) Descartes’ mechanistic ideas about the universe, and came up with little automats that were the great great grandaddies of our computers.
    A duck that “ate” and “shit”. (convenient, those quotation marks, eh ??) Among other things. (He made some sophisticated tools, too, and even dabbled as a bureaucrat for the government UNFORTUNATELY.)
    To me it does.
    I tell my loony friends… Vaucanson was a DANGEROUS loony. Other loonies are NOT so dangerous.
    Loony ? “Scientist” ? A question of perspective, now, isn’t it ??

    Comment by debra — October 7, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  6. […] growers? Impose penalties on heirloom seeds, or ban them? What about other agricultural inputs?   (See here for the shaky financial position of Monsanto. Pro-GMO Obama policy, tangibly accelerated right […]

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