December 19, 2013

Brazil: The Good News and Bad


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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  3. […] as GMOs expand beyond the range of the secure Western intellectual property regime. Brazil is troublesome for IP control in seeds, with many farmers allegedly saving and replanting GM soybeans without paying Monsanto’s tax. […]

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