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December 31, 2013

Bt Overview

Filed under: Dance of Death, Disaster Capitalism, Food and Farms, Tower of Babel — Tags: , — Russ @ 1:05 am

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One of the two basic types of GMOs is the type which endemically manufactures its own insecticidal poison. (The other type is that which is resistant to one or more herbicidal poisons.) This type is engineered to express a toxin derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Many such poison-generating genes have been commercialized. The latest “stacked” product, Monsanto’s SmartStax maize, generates six Bt poisons. This kind of escalation is necessary as the target insects, corn borers and rootworms, develop resistance to poisons which have been on the market for awhile. The same is true of the surge of herbicide-resistant superweeds, and the collapse of glyphosate as an effective herbicide.
 
This escalation is part of the design of GMOs. Monsanto’s profit and control follow from agriculture’s total dependency upon poisons which continually fail and therefore must continually be escalated. Not only must commodity corn farmers buy an endemically poisonous corn seed, but for it to be reliable, it now needs to produce no fewer than six such poisons.
 
This is why many commentators call these “poison plants”, or “pesticide plants”. It’s getting to the point where it’s not even as if agricultural poisons are applied to food, but rather that we’re supposed to be eating poison which allegedly has some food value. As much as I write about this, I haven’t yet ceased to marvel at the insanity of subordinating the production of our food to the production of poison, or at the evil of anyone who supports or tolerates this.
 
I’ll now be writing a series of posts on the health effects of these poisons we must ingest in order to get some food. I’ll start with Bt toxins. Unless otherwise linked, all the studies and information I mention in this post, along with their original sources, can be found in the 2012 Earth Open Source report “GMO Myths and Truths” and/or the 2013 paper “Don’t Look, Don’t Find”.
 
(Although I’ll be writing about the escalated use of agricultural poisons in future posts, here I’ll mention in passing that it’s Big Lie propaganda when the hacks claim that GMOs reduce pesticide use. If pressed, they try to refer only to sprayed insecticide. (GMOs indisputably cause a massive increase in herbicide use.) This is fraudulent accounting, since of course the insecticide generated by the crops themselves has to be counted as the environmental poison it is. If you count the endemic Bt production, GMOs also increase insecticide use. Then there’s the fact that seeds are increasingly coated with neonicotinoid insecticides and fungicides, which also become endemic in the cells of the poison crop. Finally, on account of accelerating development of insect resistance to these endemic poisons, old-style sprayed insecticides, after a brief period of reduced use need to be resumed as well. This is the pattern everywhere with Bt crops. Sure enough, whereas the use of sprayed insecticide is low in Europe (where few GMOs are cultivated) and continues to decline, this use in the US GMO-occupied zone has started to rise again. So the one and only stat the hacks can pseudo-plausibly cite, reduced sprayed insecticide, is only an ephemeral condition and is a false mode of accounting anyway.)
 
The way Bt poison crops work is that every cell of the plant oozes one or more Bt-derived toxins. When the target insect eats the poisonous cells, the poison busts open the insect’s gut, killing it. There’s also Bt-based sprays which have been used for many years. The alleged safety of these is often argued as sufficient to assert that endemic Bt is also safe. But the alleged safety of Bt sprays is questionable in itself. Sprayed “natural” Bt has been found to cause allergic and autoimmune responses in exposed farm workers. Natural Bt toxin also produces autoimmune responses in laboratory tests with mice. At any rate Bt sprays are less concentrated and quickly break down in the environment. By contrast, genetically engineered endemic Bt poison is far more concentrated and is constantly produced in every cell of the plant. Also, the GE-inserted Bt gene has often been damaged through shoddy engineering and produces a toxin different from the natural one it was based upon. For example, Syngenta’s Bt176 maize, linked with the deaths of cattle in Germany, produced a toxin at least 40% different from its original version. Similarly, the Monsanto’s MON810 maize contains a transgene damaged during insertion which has resulted in its expression of several altered proteins, including at least one known allergen.
 
So there’s no comparison between the two modes of poisoning.
 
One of the basic lies told about Bt poison is that it’s active only amid the alkalinity of the insect digestive tract. But this has been disproven. Here’s just a few of the many studies:
 
*A 2013 study found that Bt toxins were active when suspended in distilled water and were toxic to mammalian cells under these conditions. See below for the toxic effects this study found.
 
*Studies in 1999-2000 which administered Bt toxin to mice intragastrically and intraperitonially found that the toxin binds to the small intestine lining. The study also found evidence of autoimmune response.
 
*A 2013 study found that the toxin binds to the gut wall of salmon. Here it produced local intestinal effects, cell degradation, and an autoimmune response.
 
*It’s also allegedly non-toxic to human cells, but in a 2012 study Bt was found to kill embryonic human kidney cells in vitro at levels of 100ppm.
 
*A 2008 study found that in the presence of Bt toxin dissolved in water, the water flea Daphnia magna (a well-known indicator species) suffered higher mortality, sexual underdevelopment in females, and lower egg production.
 
Another standard lie (also told of genetically engineered DNA material in general) is that the Bt poison will be broken down in processing and/or digestion and can never reach the bloodstream. This too has been disproven. A sample:
 
*A 2013 study found that complete genes can pass from food to human blood.
 
*A 2011 study in Canada found Bt toxin proteins in the bloodstreams of 67% of non-pregnant women, 93% of pregnant women, and 80% of umbilical cord blood. Even protein fragments can cause allergies, autoimmune diseases, and chronic disease.
 
*Studies in 2010 demonstrated that the Bt toxin survives the digestive process both in vitro (in a study simulating human digestion) and in vivo (in a study testing cows who ingested MON810).
 
So we know for a fact that we ingest Bt poison with our food, that it enters our bloodstream, and that it may be active in our digestive tract and elsewhere in our bodies.
 
Here’s just a few of the studies have associated Bt with the following health effects with organ toxicity, digestive system disturbances, allergic responses, autoimmune responses.
 
*A study feeding Bt maize to rats over three generations found cell damage in the liver and kidneys.
 
*A 90-day study with rats and Bt maize found a lower albumin/globulin ratio, indicating a change in liver metabolism.
 
*A 2008 study feeding MON810 maize to weaning mice and old mice found intestinal inflammation, peripheral immune response, and evidence of allergic response.
 
*A 1998 study of rats fed Bt potatoes found ileum swelling, inflammation, and cell degradation.
 
*The 2013 study linked above found that Bt toxins target mammalian (mice) red blood cells, causing damage which is associated with anemia, suppression of bone marrow production, and leukemia. This finding is especially disturbing when we consider that most Bt crops are stacked with an herbicide resistance trait and will be sprayed with glyphosate, which is linked to hairy cell leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The study also found that, contrary to industry claims, Bt toxins can bioaccumulate and become more toxic.
 
*A report found the following correlations between plantings of Bt maize and hospital diagnoses since 1995: Strong correlations with inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis and functional bowel disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation; and a moderate correlation with peritonitis. These epidemiological findings are consistent with laboratory findings that eating Bt poison is linked with gut inflammation and related diseases. As I’ll describe in more detail in a separate post, the linkage of Bt poison and glyphosate to gut inflammation and leaky gut is one of the most potent modes through which these poisons promote disease.  
 
The Canadian study I cited above did not establish where the Bt in the bloodstream was coming from. The researchers speculated that it came from meat and dairy in the diet. They thought it more likely that an animal would eat GMO feed and retain the poison in its own tissues (which even the pro-GMO European Food Safety Administration and UK Food Standards Agency admit happens), and that humans would ingest it from this dietary source, than that Bt toxin would survive food processing.
 
But another possibility is that when we ingest the Bt-expressing genetic material it may transfer to our gut bacteria via the process of horizontal gene transfer (HGT). If so, our gut bacteria may themselves become Bt poison plants, and our digestive tracts may become miniature Bt factories, constantly producing the poison, constantly eroding our gut wall exposing us to a vast array of diseases as well as the toxic effects of the Bt itself. I’ll leave this for the moment but shall be writing more about HGT, the health effects of digestive tract inflammation, and how GMOs and glyphosate cause this, in subsequent posts.
 
All the studies mentioned here were independent studies. We must always keep in mind and inform others that no government has ever required a safety test on ANY GMO, Bt or otherwise. Nor has any corporation performed a real safety test or been required to do so. Wherever an industry study has found evidence of toxicity (and this has happened many times), it was always in spite of the study testing only for non-safety parameters (matters of industry concern like weight gain) and having a design rigged against finding toxicity evidence (the studies are too short and contain bogus data groups meant to generate noise and drown out any signal).
 
Also, no government has ever performed or required an epidemiological study to find out what health effects GMOs have been causing since they’ve been commercialized.
 
In light of this willful official neglect, the difficulty of independent scientists obtaining research funds, the attempts of the cartel to deny research materials to any researcher who won’t agree to cartel control of the study and censorship of the results, and the propaganda machine’s demonization of any scientist who even questions the GMO imperative (which in itself proves that the hacks know they can’t win any scientific or rational debate), it’s impressive how much evidence we’ve amassed which documents the toxicity and allergenicity of GMOs, and provides evidence of their possible carcinogenicity. All the evidence has been compiled by independent scientists working diligently but necessarily in an ad hoc way. Imagine the evidence we’d have if society actually cared about the effects of eating poison and systematically studied it.
 
But then, the kind of society which would want to be conscientious about that probably would never have been so insane as to go the route of poison-based agriculture in the first place. It seems that complacency about studying the poisons’ effects goes along with complacency about poison as such. In that context, it becomes easier to understand public resistance to something so modest as GMO labeling. We have a massive case of the Stockholm Syndrome.
 
Therefore, the first task in building an abolitionist movement is to build the skeleton. For the moment the point’s not to persuade the masses, but to assemble the individuals who do care and do want to fight into a coherent whole. For the time being publicity’s goal is to recruit these cadres, and to get the abolition idea into the public consciousness. Not initially to sway the public, but to make it so that this idea is part of their regular thoughts, an alternative they always remember exists.
 
Then we prepare the organization for the day when large numbers of people, on account of whatever change, do want to pick up this idea and use it.

 
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December 29, 2013

Anti-Monsanto Lawsuits

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A coalition of organic farmers and civil society advocates is trying to continue with the lawsuit route. 2013 was a bad year for anti-Monsanto lawsuits in the federal courts, as an appeals court threw out OSGATA vs. Monsanto and the supreme court unanimously trounced Bowman vs. Monsanto (as I predicted).
 
Now the OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) litigants are trying to appeal their case to the supreme court. It’s hard to see why they’d expect a different result than Bowman got.
 
The cases are different on the merits. Bowman was intentionally growing Roundup Ready soybeans whose seeds he hadn’t legally bought but obtained through a seeming loophole (he got them from a processing mill). It should have been no surprise that all nine corporatist judges, both the activist and passive corporatists, voted to apply Monsanto’s patent prerogative to this alleged loophole.
 
The OSGATA plaintiffs are organic farmers whose crops have been or are in danger of being contaminated by GMOs. Monsanto has a longstanding policy of contaminating the crops of non-GM farmers, thereby damaging or destroying their property, and then suing them for having “stolen” its patents. The most famous such case is the Percy Schmeiser case in Canada, but there have been hundreds of others.
 
It’s an obscene inversion of every basic premise of justice that where it comes to GMOs, policy and the law uphold the right of the trespasser to trespass, the vandal to vandalize, and place the entire burden of prevention and repair (where repair is even possible) on the victim of the trespass and vandalism. But that’s exactly where we are with USDA policy, which is implicitly upheld by the federal courts. (Some states have laws which try to give farmers more protection.) The USDA provides heavily subsidized crop insurance to GMO growers but none to organic farmers. It then flippantly tells organic farmers to buy their own anti-contamination insurance. This is just one piece of proof that the USDA is a dedicated pro-corporate, anti-farmer, anti-public cadre.
 
The OSGATA plaintiffs were asking for a court injunction against Monsanto’s legal persecution of farmers. The appeals court openly admitted that contamination is inevitable, and Monsanto didn’t dispute this. But the court followed the trial judge in accepting Monsanto’s lies to the effect that no such persecution had ever taken place. What’s more, Monsanto issued a vague promise not to file lawsuits in the future in the case of inadvertent contamination. The court also cited this in throwing out the case. But I’ve never understood what the content of this promise is supposed to be, since Monsanto also denied it had ever filed such lawsuits in the first place. It seems to me that Monsanto therefore promised nothing but to continue doing what it’s been doing.
 
I guess the case did provide one piece of progress, in that the court did acknowledge the inevitability of contamination. So while some hacks still try to deny this, we have system acknowledgement of the material fact. What’s still lacking is any kind of morality or justice based upon this fact. What’s also lacking is any sense of crisis as far as how this galloping contamination imperils the future of agriculture itself.
 
(Meanwhile so far as I’ve seen there’s no sign in the US of the victims of trespass and property destruction suing the GMO “farmers” who directly commit the crimes. But in Australia there’s a case going right now, as organic farmer Steve Marsh is suing the GM canola farmer who destroyed his crop and cost him his organic certification.)
 
The courts certainly will never care about how GMOs promise agricultural collapse and mass famine. But the OSGATA plaintiffs still hope that they can interest the supreme court in the justice aspects of the problem. I guess they think that whereas Bowman was an avowed scofflaw, they’re innocent bystanders, and this is why the court will find differently in their case, if it takes their case at all.
 
I doubt the court will take the case. Why should it – the appeals court laid down the law in a way acceptable for Monsanto, which presumably doesn’t want the issue of its persecution of innocent small farmers publicized at the level of a supreme court case. Meanwhile in the Bowman case the court already issued a resounding endorsement of seed patent prerogatives in general. I expect that the system will prefer to maintain Bowman as its basic seed patenting case.
 
But if it does take the case, the result will still be a pro-Monsanto decision. The four corporate judicial activists on the court will always vote to aggrandize the cartel’s prerogatives. And at least some of the passive corporatists will be content to affirm the lower court decision. (To reprise my distinction of these two categories, judicial activist corporatists will vote to expand corporate prerogatives even in direct defiance of the constitution and the law. Passive corporatists accept such notions as corporate “rights”, “intellectual property” and so on, but prefer to expand these prerogatives in conjunction with law, or at least not in direct defiance of it. There are no anti-corporatist judges on the supreme court, or at any upper court level I’m aware of. The 5-4 Citizens United decision is a classic example of this distinction. Five activists voted to expand corporate “speech” in defiance of the law. Four passivists voted to uphold the law, since here the law directly contradicted the corporate prerogative. No one dissented on the grounds that there’s no such thing as a corporate speech “right”. So it was really a 9-0 pro-corporate decision, with the 5-4 split on a narrower technical ground.)
 
Are these anti-GMO lawsuits worth doing at all? If the goal is to actually get good decisions from the federal courts, then probably not. They could be good occasions for public education and recruiting to anti-GMO grassroots organizations. But it seems like there’s been little coordination where it comes to that.
 
I think the same thing applies here which applies in the case of every other kind of within-the-system reformism. The campaign is unlikely to attain much on its own, and at any rate could never be sufficient. Rather, the necessary goal is always the total abolition of GMOs, and the necessary tactics are whatever is necessary to attain the goal. As for reform campaigns, we abolitionists can support them as long as they have no anti-democratic pre-emptive characteristics. (But we must oppose pre-emption of any sort.) But our real activity is to use such occasions to publicize the abolitionist idea and build grassroots abolitionist organizations, toward building a full-scale abolition movement.

 
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December 24, 2013

New Report From Brazil on the Dismal Performance of GMOs; Terminator Stalls Out

Filed under: Corporatism, Dance of Death, Food and Farms, Law, Scientism/Technocracy — Tags: — Russ @ 2:24 pm

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Some good news out of Brazil. Last week I wrote about how pro-GMO forces within the government were trying to achieve an authorization from the Judiciary Commission for the Congress to legalize Terminator seeds. This came after an earlier promise from the Commission that it would not take such action, and after Brazil adhered to the longstanding global moratorium on Terminator seeds under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
 
Today we’re hearing that the Commission narrowly voted down the proposal. This is the equivalent of a bill failing to emerge from committee, and so it won’t be coming before the Congress this time round.
 
Of course, the enemy will certainly try again, probably starting in February 2014 when the next session of Congress convenes.
 
In other Brazil news, the Brazilian Association of Agrarian Reform (Abra) has released a new report summarizing the first ten years of legal cultivation of GMOs in Brazil. (GMOs were first illegally planted in Brazil on a wide scale. Their presence and contamination was then presented to the government as an accomplished fact. Safely in the briar patch, the government then legalized their cultivation.)
 
The report (available only in Portuguese so far) tells the same story as GMOs have woven everywhere else they’ve been commercialized: They require greatly increased application of poisons, and yield less than non-GM conventional crops.
 
Here’s two typical numbers from the report:
 
In the past ten years, pesticide use in Brazil has increased by 190%, while around the world use increased 90%. (This number conflates two widely diverging groups, countries which have commercialized GMOs on a large scale and seen pesticide use skyrocket, and countries which have not and seen poison use level off or decline.)
 
Brazil’s soybean yield has grown only 4% over the last ten years, while it grew 31% from 1992-2003, prior to GMO deployment.
 
These numbers are typical of such studies. For comparison, I’ll cite some trends from the superb 2013 report by a team led by Jack Heinemann which compared yield and poison use in the US (the world’s GMO capital) vs. Europe (which has only sparsely cultivated GMOs) over the same time period.
 
I haven’t yet written up my own comment on this report, but for today I’ll just list some trends from it. The report contains copious numbers documenting all of these.
 
*Herbicide use is increasing in the US since the commercialization of GM corn, soy, cotton.
 
*If we don’t count endemic Bt poison (which of course we should), then insecticide use is slightly down during the GMO era, but very high compared to non-GM Europe. (If we do count the GMOs’ own endemic poison, then insecticide use is way up.)
 
*From 1985-2010 in Western Europe corn yields per hectare have been higher than those of the US. (From 1960-85 US yields were higher.)
 
*From 1985-2010 Western European corn farming has used less pesticide than that of the US.
 
*Wheat yields (comparing the US with Europe) and canola yields (Canada vs. Europe) are increasing at a faster rate in Europe than in the US and Canada respectively. In 1960 US wheat yields and Canadian canola yields were also lower, but the yield gap has increased and is accelerating.
 
*Insecticide use is falling faster in Europe than in the US. Again, this is counting only sprayed poison, not Bt endemic poison.
 
Those are just the main trends documented by the report. The new Brazilian report documents similar trends for that country. The same applies everywhere else GMOs have been deployed.
 
There’s no doubt at all about these two facts. They’ve been thoroughly proven. GMOs cause a large and accelerating increase in the use of agricultural poisons, and they yield less than non-GM conventional crops. The allegations of GMO hacks to the contrary are nothing but Big Lies. 

 
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December 22, 2013

The Stolen Sarpo Mira Potato

Filed under: Corporatism, Food and Farms — Tags: — Russ @ 4:30 am

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Here’s a typical case study in the biopiracy and corporate welfare upon which GMOs depend.
 
The Sarpo Mira potato is a public domain blight-resistant variety which is part of the ongoing breeding project in which farmers are always engaged. It was developed by Ireland’s Sarvari Trust. Britain’s BBSRC, a government body, handed out over 750K pounds of taxpayer money to a corporate laboratory to steal this potato and engineer it with additional traits pirated from other public domain varieties. They’re calling the result some kind of great technological achievement, but in fact the genetic engineering process accomplished nothing which conventional breeding can’t accomplish better and at far less cost. This is assuming the crop works at all and doesn’t suffer from the inherent weaknesses common to GMOs, and isn’t toxic the way GMOs often are.
 
This is standard in GMO development. In almost every case, the cartel rips off an existing public domain variety and modifies it to be resistant to herbicides or to ooze its own pesticide. That’s all GMOs are – perfectly good regular crops pirated and turned into poisons.
 
This is especially true in the case of alleged special trait GMOs like “drought-resistant GMOs”. These too are invariably pre-existing drought-resistant varieties stolen and modified to be poisonous.
 
Meanwhile there’s no special funding for the potato’s real innovators to work on the resistance traits, since in a system dominated by corporations, money goes almost exclusively to projects whose only goal is to further corporate imperatives of profit, enclosure, control, and domination. That’s why the system expends vast amounts of public money to develop a dubious, shoddy product when we could have a better product at far less cost. 
 
This perfectly describes the entire GMO project. GMOs are a crappy product and serve no agricultural or social purpose whatsoever. By every measure non-GM conventional agriculture is superior, and organic agriculture is vastly superior. The only exception to this rule is that GMOs are the weapon by which a handful of corporations and governments seek total domination over food and agriculture, and from there over broad swaths of the economy and politics.

 
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December 19, 2013

Brazil: The Good News and Bad

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1. Brazil’s soy farmers have filed lawsuits against Monsanto seeking over 1.9 Brazilian real (over $1 billion). These suits are seeking to restitute the vast amount Monsanto has stolen from them in the form of its illegal tax on their production. This is the latest in a legal saga which has been going on for five years.
 
As things have been, Monsanto not only sells its Roundup Ready Intacta soybean seeds at an extortionate premium, but also forcibly demands a tax on the harvest at the processing point.
 
The basic timeline:
 
* In 2009, farmers from the core soy-growing province of Rio Grande do Sul filed their original suit.
 
* By June 2012 they had won a series of judgements in the federal and supreme courts over procedure and the jurisdictional extent of any eventual final judgement. These all involved typical legal maneuvering by Monsanto, trying to either get the case thrown out or limit the import of any judgement. But it lost across the board.
 
* In February 2013 the Brazilian supreme court affirmed the prior judgements. The situation is clear – if Monsanto loses at trial, it loses utterly, throughout Brazil, with no further procedural recourse.
 
* July 2013. The farmers’ union Famato, which has been coordinating the action, tried to sell out its constituents by making a deal with Monsanto. This deal, for a “rebate” on Monsanto’s new soybean line Roundup Ready Intacta 2 Pro (RR2P), would have gutted the lawsuit, forced farmers to sign away all their legal and constitutional rights, further subjected them to Monsanto’s indenture and control, and further shackled them to GM soy production, the very thing increasing numbers of farmers hope to escape.
 
* October 2013. A federal court invalidated the “deal” on the grounds that it’s a coercive contract. The court rules that Monsanto may not use its market position in such a predatory way as to force farmers to sign the contract as a condition of buying RR2P. It ruled that such a demand is abusive and may be illegal under consumer law.
 
Now the farmers are resuming their original suit.
 
The basic principles at stake here are:
 
A. The illegitimacy of Monsanto’s tax regime. We must be clear that corporate levies like this are TAXES. Big corporations are government entities.
 
B. Unlike in countries like the US where “intellectual property” doctrine is legally supreme, and unlike the trend around the world toward criminalizing all non-corporate seeds, Brazil has a relatively liberal seed system, which preserves age-old farmer and human rights. What Monsanto has been doing through its tax-extraction regime, and what it has now sought to do through its coercive contracts, is to crush Brazilian seed freedom through economic warfare.
 
C. This is a typical example of a corporation trying to use monopoly power to destroy a constitution, a rule of law, a traditional social system, and the rights of a particular group (farmers) and, by extension, of all people.
 
D. As the court found in October, this is an illegal contract, because it is being forced by an overwhelmingly strong power upon weaker participants who have no other option. Therefore, this is a rare example where a court is upholding the basic moral and legal principle that a contract can be valid only among equals. This is among the traditional basic principles of what a contract can be. To violate this principle renders a so-called “contract” an “unconscionable contract of adhesion”. In US law, such contracts used to prevail during the law-of-the-jungle time called the Lochner period. For much of the twentieth century these coercive contracts were somewhat curtailed (but never completely purged) by the federal courts.
 
But in 2011, in the AT&T vs. Concepcion decision, the US supreme court fully restored the law of the jungle. Today there’s no limit to what regulations the corporations can force upon us, as a condition of our signing “voluntary” contracts which aren’t voluntary at all. (Do you want to have telephone service? Then you have to sign the kind of contract that case involved. Of course you’re free to “choose” not to have a phone at all.)
 
In the Brazilian case we have a rare example of the court calling a spade a spade, and finding that where there’s no real choice, there can be no legitimate contract, no rule of law, only might-makes-right coercion.
 
Of course, this coercion will continue to be the norm for as long as corporations exist.
 
E. Famato’s action provides yet another cautionary tale about how we must never trust existing NGOs, unions, etc. Nothing short of dedicated abolitionist organizations shall suffice.
 
F. One of the most offensive parts of the Monsanto regime was how it would extort its tax from non-GM soy farmers whose product was found to have been contaminated by the GM trait. This contamination is rife and aggressive. We see here a prime example of how co-existence between GMOs and non-GM farming is impossible, how contamination is inevitable, and how Monsanto intentionally and systematically seeks to use this contamination as an aggressive weapon.
 
As with contractual doctrine, so here too we have a rare example where the courts seem to be correctly seeing this contamination as a trespass, and Monsanto’s demands upon the victim as comprising aggression and extortion. But the norm in places like the US and Canada is the opposite – Monsanto can aggressively trespass on your property and contaminate your crops, and then sue you for the contamination, for having “stolen” ITS “property”.
 
The Brazilian legal anomaly notwithstanding, we must take the overall case of Brazilian soy as another piece of proof: GMOs are environmentally and socioeconomically totalitarian. Humanity cannot coexist with them. We must abolish them completely.
 
2. In the second big piece of news from Brazil, the government’s Judicial Commission may imminently authorize legislation to legalize Terminator seeds. This would break a promise the Commission issued in October, at the same time that massive pressure from the people forced the Congress to backpedal on a bill it was proposing.
 
In October I wrote a post detailing the evils and threats of the Terminator technology, so I won’t detail these again here. To sum up, Terminator GMOs are destructive in all the same ways as regular GMOs, but potentially even worse.
 
I’ll add one point here. The Terminator propaganda in Brazil contains a heavy greenwashing element. The gang which has been taking the lead in lobbying for it wants to grow GM trees for various industrial purposes. Since trees are long-lived perennials, the contamination potential from the spread of GM tree pollen is tremendous. For this reason, even otherwise GM-friendly governments are often more leery of legalizing GM trees.
 
In response to this, industry is clamoring for the Terminator technology as something “eco-friendly”, since the sterile trees allegedly won’t be spreading their seeds and pollen.
 
We can reply that, as always with any GMO, there’s no need whatsoever for GM trees to be planted in the first place, or to exist at all. So the truly environmentally sound way to deal with them is to not allow them in the first place.
 
Secondly, these tree plantations will simply destroy and supplant yet more rain forest.
 
Whenever you hear any hack, whether it be from the cartels, or from an industrial farmer group, or from a corporate “environmental” front group like the WWF or TNC, claim that anything about GMOs and industrial agriculture can be environmentally sound, and especially that it’s “climate-friendly”, if you’re ever in any doubt, just remember the basic calculus – soy farming, industrial beef production, tree plantations, ethanol production, and any other aspect of corporate agriculture in South America, means ever more relentless and inexorable destruction of the rain forest.
 
Just one of the many ways in which industrial ag is by far the worst contributor to climate change and the worst destroyer of carbon sinks.
 
3. I’ll close with a brief thought on the link between these two Brazilian threads. Monsanto’s goal is total domination, through total enclosure of the seed supply, and from there control over the entire agricultural and food systems. So far it’s been content to use the “intellectual property” regime to enforce its control of seeds.
 
But if there remain places like Brazil where Monsanto’s not able to enforce full domination through the legal system, it’ll then want to deploy the Terminator technology.
 
Of course, in the long run the GMO cartel will want to replace regular GMOs with the Terminator anyway, since for several reasons the Terminator can be more profitable. But as history has shown, and is showing today through the massive outcry and bottom-up pressure the Brazilian Commission’s proposed action has provoked, the Terminator is so politically inflammatory that the cartel has held back.
 
But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they’ve chosen this particular time and place to seek a breach in the thirteen-year global moratorium on the Terminator. As we see here, if anywhere a legal system does recognize any value other than the corporate prerogative, the corporations will respond with whatever level and form of aggression they can.
 
It’s an example of what I mean when I say that corporations are totalitarian.
 
There can be no coexistence between humanity and GMOs. We must abolish them completely.

 
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December 5, 2013

GMO Creep Into the Sweet Corn Supply

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

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

 
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December 1, 2013

GMO Labeling and Movement Strategy 6 of 6: Labelphobia

Filed under: Freedom, Law, Mainstream Media, Reformism Can't Work — Tags: — Russ @ 2:10 am

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Parts one, two, three, four, five.
 
What can we learn from the campaigns and votes in Washington and California? The course of events was similar in both cases.
 
When the initiative was first being publicized, large majorities said they supported it and would vote Yes. This was true into September. Then, as election day drew near and corporate money flooded the political habitat (almost all of it either directly from the GMO cartel or from big manufacturers laundered through the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)), the polls shifted from Yes toward No. This shift continued until, according to the election results, No won by very slim majorities.
 
According to pre-election polling in Washington, seeing only Yes or No advertising strongly inclined people to support that side, though 8% of those who said they saw only Yes ads were “Undecided” (75% Yes, 17 No, 8 Undecided), while there were no Undecideds among those who saw only No ads (27 to 73).
 
Those who said they saw both kinds of ads (which I expect would be most people; but the info I saw didn’t break down which proportion saw what kind of ads) were split 43-47-10. Those who claimed to have seen no ads at all went 44-27-29. I don’t know what it means to be near election day and not have seen any ads, and how that differs from the people polled before either ad campaign got rolling. Those early polls gave the large Yes majorities. I guess the people polled in October had not seen ads, but were aware that a noisy campaign was going on, even though they hadn’t heard the noise themselves.
 
We can draw a few preliminary conclusions here. Most voters are suggestible, and they’re likely to find either kind of ad by itself convincing. Seeing both kinds (which most people probably did), compared to seeing neither, changes many Undecided to No, while Yes stays the same. In any case, seeing No ads causes greater polarization. A California survey done prior to the vote found that seeing ads against the initiative “was more effective in swaying likely voters.”
 
Evidently 43-44% is the natural baseline for the Yes vote. This is the figure who said “Definitely Yes” in early September, and who said Yes in latter October after having seen Both kinds of ads or None. Then a large minority of Undecided end up voting Yes, but not enough to put it over the top. This is the case where the campaign becomes a maelstrom of competing, clamoring advertisements.
 
So we have this pattern: 1. Early September, far more people had seen no ads. 2. By latter October most people had seen them. 3. For some weeks those having seen both kinds of ads was in balance between those saying they’d vote Yes and those saying No. 4. As the corporate money flooded the scene, the # of people who saw only No ads increased at the expense of those who saw Both or None. (I’d be surprised if there were many who had seen only Yes.)
 
We’re in a situation where corporate money will saturate any critical election. There’s no doubt that under these circumstances, lots of people switch their vote from Yes to No. The money works. But why? This needs an explanation.
 
Let’s look at the publicity, and what people said about their vote. In both campaigns the emphasis was on transparency and the right to know, rather than on the health dangers of GMOs. I’ll interject here that while transparency as a democratic right may appeal to motivated individual citizens, the people don’t care much about it, as evidenced by how they let governments and corporations keep so many secrets in general. Meanwhile, the people do care about the safety of our food. But this kind of issue is a tightrope for us. It’s the kind of thing where people can react to knowledge by organizing and taking action, or by becoming further demoralized and apathetic. Indeed, I’ll now give my thesis: The way labeling campaigns have been run so far, they’ve caused people to react with demoralization rather than the will to take action. That’s why so many people who started out thinking they did want GMO labeling ended up voting against it. They decided that on second thought they’d rather not know. In this post I’ll start explaining why.
 
But first let’s finish up with the polling. In Washington on October 21, those who said they intended to vote No gave the following reasons: “Not Needed” 17%; the fear that it’ll cause food costs to rise 16%; “Poorly Written/Too many Exemptions” 14%; opposition to government regulation 12%; GMOs are safe 7%. (I guess the rest didn’t give a specific reason.)
 
There’s several interesting points here. These are all, in different ways, false reasons. Opposing government regulation (when GMOs are only in the market in the first place on account of the government’s planned economy), while misguided here, expresses an anti-government principle or mood. This anti-government mood could also explain some of the “Not Needed” and “Safe” explanations, although these are odd because even if you think that, what reason is it to vote against the thing? What skin is it off your back? Meanwhile, that it’s “poorly written” and has “too many exemptions” is a canned lie that people were clearly regurgitating after picking it up from the propaganda. It’s hard to believe that anyone came up with that on his own or really cared about it. The only one that’s plausible is the fear over rising food costs, although this lie could’ve been dispelled with a few minutes research. So it’s a lie people were already inclined to believe.
 
In all these cases, except maybe for some of those who feared price hikes, the reason given seems to be standing in for hostility toward something else, for which the labeling initiative is a surrogate.
 
A survey done in California in September prior to the vote found that even the mention of an increase in food prices would “slightly diminish support”. This was prior to the big propaganda surge which hammered away with this lie. This is definitely a touchstone for labelphobia. It musters every kind of inchoate fear. Since these days people are fearful and conservative, they shy from stimulation and don’t want anything to change, since they’re easily convinced that any change will only make things worse. At any rate, they’re disinclined to undertake any change themselves.
 
In all this, we’re talking about atomized individuals whose primary consciousness is that of the passive consumer amid an undifferentiated mass of consumers. It’s clear that to undertake a one-off political campaign, which is prone to muster such elemental anxieties (about poison in our food and the food we’re feeding to our children, about our ever more beleaguered personal financial position, about corporate power over us), which becomes the scene of a media firestorm, where people are asked, as consumers, to do nothing but vote a certain way, again as consumers, and then implicitly to lapse back into their usual passivity, with the only payoff for having had all these fears aroused is to gain even greater knowledge of what there is to fear, but with no greater sense of what to do about any of it – is it any wonder that so many people choose to believe the lies and vote No? As irrational as that is for any individual, perhaps it is more rational for the group, in the short run, which is all an atomized consumer thinks about.
 
At this point I’ll describe the basic problem and the solution, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been reading my posts. It’s not organic politics to expect people to rouse themselves and go against the grain of their mass consciousness in any kind of ad hoc way, let alone in a way which they’ll have strong psychological reasons to resist. In order to get organic change, we first need to build an organic movement. We need to take the time and put in the work to build a movement culture where individuals find themselves as citizens, community members, members of a movement. We need to build a movement where people develop the individual self-respect to know that their action which seeks change will bring them a better world, and where they develop the political self-confidence to know that their collective action will work to bring about this bountiful change.
 
Once we have a movement whose members and sympathizers see the world with the eyes of active citizens of a community, rather than with the eyes of atomized passive consumers among an unfathomable mass, then we’ll have the social foundation from which to launch any kind of political campaign. The campaigns will be organic, they’ll be part of an ongoing social and political context, and they’ll be waged and supported by citizens speaking to potential citizens who can see the living reality of the movement before them, rather than by a motley crew of activists and “professionals” speaking to consumers in an unrooted, disposable campaign context.
 
(If at this point anyone thinks I’m getting this wrong in some way, I invite them to give a better explanation of why so many people change their minds so decisively once they see what they consciously know is corporate propaganda. As I said above, to just say “the money” and go on to whine about Citizens United is still to leave the question unanswered.)
 
People don’t believe the propaganda, but are numbed into passivity by the volume and omnipresence of it. This is part of the job of the corporate media, to instill a sense of hopelessness in the individual, and a false sense that she’s all alone with whatever objections she has, alone with whatever dissent and activism for change she’d like to undertake.
 
This combines with the demoralizing effects of a fiercely contested campaign, full of fear-mongering propaganda and lies about “raising food prices”. The labeling campaign also instills fear about the safety of the food, but doesn’t offer a productive context and course of action for this fear, but implicitly wants to leave you alone with your Yes vote and your new information. Under such circumstances, it’s not surprising that many people voted No, not because they really believed the corporate lies, but because they didn’t want to know if there was really nothing they could do about it. In a case like that, ignorance may seem a talisman – “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”. It’s like someone who would rather not know their spouse is cheating.
 
Labeling advocates point out that there is an individual, consumerist course of action available – change your eating habits, shun GMO products, petition manufacturers to purge them, retailers not to carry them. (Here I’m talking about doing these in an individual consumer context, not as part of a movement context.) According to what I call the panacea view of labeling, this consumer action would likely cause manufacturers to reformulate their products and/or retailers to stop carrying GMO-labeled products. They cite the example of Europe, where products have to be labeled for GMOs, and where only a miniscule amount of such GMO products are on the market, because European consumers shun them.
 
But is this the likely result here in America? What about the opposite possibility – that if labeling is enacted, people will just shrug and not change their buying and eating habits?
 
The oft-supplied analogy with Europe isn’t quite right. In Europe there was labeling from day one, before GMOs were firmly entrenched. People had a clear choice from the start, and they consistently chose non-GM products, which mostly drove GM products out of the market.
 
That’s not the same as it would be in the US. Here GMOs are deeply entrenched. What happens when people learn that the products which are part of their daily habits, which they’re used to, which are in their comfort zone, part of their routine amid the increasing pressure and stress of their lives, are of a certain nature? If they receive full knowledge that these are GMO, they may just shrug and not make any big change. (Besides, it’s not like there’s going to be a big neon “GMO!” label emblazoned across the front of the package. It’ll be understated, and you’ll have to go looking for it. The big neon blaze is the campaign itself, not the eventual label.)
 
Indeed, it might even help normalize GMOs.
 
The part about upsetting habits is part of why I think many consumers don’t want to exercise their right to know. They’re settled in certain habits, have so many other stresses, they already know their food is poisoned and try to exist in a precarious psychological complacency about that. So they’d rather not hear about GMOs on top of everything. This fits the data, that as the No propaganda surges and the noise level of the whole fight escalates, the weakly committed Yeses and the Undecided move toward No.
 
I agree – how’s a label in itself supposed to help change anything? If that’s all there’s going to be, I too might rather not know. And some of the panacea advocates have been clear that they view labeling as nothing more than a kind of “co-existence”, which is impossible.
 
That’s another reason why we need to build a true grassroots movement, why this movement has to be affirmative, and why it has to seek the stark goal of total abolition. If we can offer people the opportunity to fight to abolish GMOs, or to support this abolition movement with money, a vote, etc., and to do so toward affirmative goals like food freedom, food sovereignty, this offers vastly more on a psychological level than labeling by itself, which is more like yet another annoying consumer “choice”. On the other hand, if you’re going to stay within the bounds of passive consumerism anyway, then does a GMO label really give you much of a new choice? Especially if you suspect, in most cases correctly, that the only result will be to discover that all your available choices have GMO labels, so that you really didn’t get more choice anyway, merely more stress.
 
In making this criticism, I’m not denying the basic truth of the pro-labeling argument. I’m pointing out why, where it’s presented as a typical ad hoc consumerist electoral campaign, rather than from within a movement context, it’s ineffective politics.
 
This is my explanation for why the labeling initiatives have been failing, and this is why I think that such unanchored political campaigns, taking place within the usual consumerist/votist context, are likely to continue to fail.
 
We can compare this syndrome to other pathologies of today’s electoralism. It’s true that voting No on GMO labeling isn’t exactly the same as continuing to vote for Democrats or Republicans, since here there’s a clear alternative (“Yes”). But it’s similar in that one goes inertially with what’s the easiest way to conceive the problem without having to do any real work. In this case, voting No goes well with not wanting to self-educate and not wanting to change one’s diet. Here again, labeling campaigns put the (consumerist) political cart before the movement horse. 
 
Another factor is that although when polled Westerners support GMO labeling by invariably huge margins, the actual labeling votes are taking place among corrupted Western masses who are at best morally ambivalent. They fear and dislike what they know is a criminal system, but this system is nevertheless the basis of the crumb they know rather than the abundance they could have if they dared to run the risk of liberating themselves. Here too, we see something similar to the phenomenon where people claim to reject the two corporatist parties but then cave in and vote for one of them. Or where they claim to recognize all  system politicians as being criminals but rate “their own” representative higher.
 
In all these cases, Western voters consistently demonstrate a fearful, conservative temperament. By “fear” I mean in the sense of “fear itself”, inchoate but strong anxiety. By “conservative” I mean, not a specific set of attitudes and policies, but the mentality of cringing with one’s crumb, trying only to hoard and protect it. I think that this temperament will prevail for as long as the people are left to themselves amid the mass consumerist context which corporatism has constructed for them. There will certainly never come any alternative outlook from either of the corporate parties, or from any system NGO, or from any other element of the system. On the contrary, these established entities helped construct the mass consumer context, and their job is to preserve and intensify it. They seek to accelerate the atomization, not to overcome it through a new movement culture and community. They seek to reinforce the passivity, not transcend it through collective action.
 
Consumerism is decadence, and GMO labeling campaigns attempt to wage a battle within this decadence. But since consumerism is inherently passive and not active, since “choice” is a pseudo-ideal that few people really want (their political and economic actions prove it), and since fear-itself induces conservatism in the choices people make, the campaign to label GMOs is bound to be at a disadvantage as soon as it becomes embroiled in a struggle. People naturally support the idea, but not enough so that they don’t abandon it as a kind of “rocking the boat” the moment they’re given a reason to fix their fears upon it.
 
All this is part of why I think there can be no substitute for the patience and hard work required to build a new anti-corporate movement from completely outside the system. Along the way this movement can absorb whatever existing forces are available, so long as they’re compatible with the stark and non-negotiable goal of the abolition of corporations. But its inception and the main thrust of its action must always be toward building a new human world.
 
GMO abolitionism is a critical element of this coming movement. But every kind of anti-corporate, pro-human action must find its place and make its contribution.
 
As for GMO labeling campaigns, they’ll continue. Hopefully they’ll begin to succeed. But the role of activists must be to transform these into steps toward the full abolitionist movement. That’s what this series on GMO labeling, and these notes toward a future movement, have been about.
 

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