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February 14, 2014

GMO News Report 2/14/14

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*A victory for democracy in Benton County, Oregon. The Benton County Community Rights Coalition, a local group affiliated with the nationwide Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), has won a court ruling enabling it to get its food sovereignty and local rule measure on the ballot for 2014. This bill would ban GMO cultivation in the county and affirms the sovereign right of communities to rule themselves on food issues. It declares itself against the tyrannical prerogative of corporations and alien central governments to force their power upon democratic communities.
 
It therefore directly contradicts the corporate tyranny preemption law the state passed in 2013 in direct response to similar ordinances passed in other counties.
 
In the end none of this will be settled in courtrooms or legislatures, but on the ground in our communities, in our neighborhoods, at our homes, and through our will to unite with all others who are fighting it out on their ground. Courtrooms and legislatures will either eventually ratify what the people enforce, or shall continue to ratify what corporate power can enforce, if the people don’t rise to defend their own lives, freedom, and future.
 
*A similar win for local rule in New Zealand. The country’s Environmental Court has ruled that local councils have a right to place restrictions on GMO cultivation. 
 
A central bureaucrat has already promised to try to suppress the court ruling by autocratic fiat. Again, court rulings like these are great, but in the end we the people will never enjoy any freedom, liberty, or prosperity which we don’t seize and enforce on the ground.
 
*New film “Ten Years of Failure: Farmers Deceived By GM Corn” details the agricultural and socioeconomic disaster of widespread adoption of GM corn in the Philippines. As elsewhere, the crops yield poorly, the herbicides and insecticides fail to work as weeds and pests deliver resistance. Meanwhile seed and poison prices skyrocket. Farmers are driven off the land and into shantytowns. The farmers still on the land are unable to escape from the GMO treadmill because of debt and the unavailability of non-GM seed, which Monsanto systematically drives out of the market.
 
*The European Council has voted against approving the DuPont/Dow stacked maize variety 1507. But the vote didn’t achieve enough of a supermajority to be binding, so in the end the European Commission will dictatorially make the decision. It’s under strong bottom-up pressure to adhere to the Council vote and the earlier, much more lopsided Parliamentary vote.
 
The wild card is Germany’s abstention. If Germany had joined France in voting No, it would’ve been difficult for the Commission would override the Council. But with Germany abstaining, that makes such an autocratic override conceivable.
 
Several pro-GM governments, such as Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands, also abstained, though Britain and Spain (by far the largest cultivator of MON810 in Europe) voted Yes.
 
We can see a clear hierarchy of lessening democracy and intensifying corporate rule: The people oppose GMOs; the Parliament strongly votes against 1507’s cultivation; the Council votes against it by a lesser margin (with several pro-GM governments abstaining; because of political pressure from below?); the Commission and its EFSA certainly want to approve it.
 
If the TTIP is ratified this will impose an even more purely corporatist layer on top of the Commission.
 
There’s the hierarchy of corporate totalitarianism. 1507’s “approval” process is a good case study.
 
*French legislators are proposing a new law to ban all GMO cultivation, in response to the an attempt by the country’s high administrative court to overturn the country’s democratic ban on cultivation of MON810.
 
*The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) has announced it is releasing four types of GMO brinjal (eggplant) seedlings. These are engineered to produce Bt insecticidal toxin. This will make Bangladesh the 29th country to approve GMOs for cultivation.
 
*The latest “biofortified” GM hoax: Flax allegedly engineered to produce higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s the standard drill with these hoaxes (the most famous is “golden rice”). They don’t work, and are unnecessary anyway. In this case, Omega 3 is easily found in a healthy diet. Not to mention all the supplements already on sale.
 
In this case, unlike with golden rice, the flacks can’t even make the false claim that this is meant to help the poor of the Global South. In principle it’s basically just another one of those nutritional supplements I just mentioned, and will be used overwhelmingly for CAFO feed.
 
As usual with these hoaxes (see last week’s “purple tomato” for another example), the goal isn’t necessarily even to commercialize this product. Rather, the idea of it does propaganda work. Again, golden rice is the best-known example. The purpose of these GMO media hoaxes is to distract attention from the fact that in reality GMOs do only two things, both involving poison: They’re engineered to allow one or more herbicides to be sprayed directly on them, and/or they endemically produce one or more endotoxins, usually Bt toxins. In both cases they become literal poison plants, all their cells suffused with endotoxin and or herbicide residue, which then becomes endemic in our food. GMOs literally poison our food.
 
That’s in addition to the health hazards of genetic engineering as such.
 
*A new analysis by Testbiotech finds that DuPont’s 1507 stacked maize, which currently has an application for cultivation within the EU before the European Commission (the Parliament and the Council already voted it down), has widely varying levels of Bt toxic expression in individual plants. This is contrary to its application, which claims a stable level of expression of the Cry1F endotoxin.
 
This is not, however, contrary to the record of other GMOs. Indeed, every GMO which has had the genomes of field-grown crops comparatively assessed has turned out to have wildly varying genomic characteristics. Such unstable GMOs are illegal under European law, but have been allowed for cultivation and/or in imported food and feed anyway. These common GMOs include MON810 maize, MON863 maize, GA21 maize, Bt 176 maize, Bt 11 maize, Liberty Link maize, Roundup Ready 40-3-2 soybeans, and GTSB77 sugar beets. Nowhere but in their regulatory applications do “the” genomic versions of these crops exist. This everyday extreme variation is proof of the instability of transgenic genomes, their propensity for ongoing mutation, and their changeability in response to environmental factors.
 
In every way, we see how the promises that genetic engineering was a precision technology whose effects could be predicted were all lies. The only thing predictable about GMOs is how chaotic their existence and effects are.
 
*Mexican honey contaminated with GM material from GMO soybeans grown nearby. The latest of thousands of examples proving that “co-existence” with GMOs is impossible, and that those who support them are totalitarians who claim a total right to trespass on the land of others and damage and destroy their crops and agricultural products. Speaking of whom…
 
*More on the lawsuit of Australian former organic farmer Steve Marsh against a GMO farmer whose false canola contaminated Marsh’s land where he grew oats and wheat, costing him his organic certification and the revenue from his crop.
 
Marsh chose not to challenge Monsanto’s non-liability contract which it forces farmers who buy its seed to sign. I guess this is because he felt he couldn’t afford the suit and might lose in a corporatist court, even though such a contract is clearly invalid.
 
Instead he sued the individual farmer, which is something which ought to be done more often in contamination cases. This is trespass and destruction of property, plain and simple. But with GMO contamination it’s interesting to see the way pro-corporate types, who often fetishize “property” rights in other contexts, are forced to openly proclaim that a GMO grower has the right to trespass on the property of other farmers and damage or destroy those farmers’ property.
 
The moral fact of this issue is clear, and if we had any such thing as the “rule of law” then the law would be clear as well: Anyone who manufactures, sells, or grows any type of GMO has strict liability for all contamination resulting from that type. This strict liability is necessary because it’s seldom possible to trace the exact source of the contamination, yet everyone knows that contamination is inevitable. Therefore everyone who sells or grows GMOs contributes to the ongoing contamination onslaught.
 
Meanwhile this case is putting Australia’s strong organic standards in a quandary. If Marsh loses his case, there will be strong pressure for the standard to be watered down, in the name of “co-existence”. Which is exactly the line Monsanto, the USDA, and industrial organic have been pushing for several years in the US.
 
As I wrote here:
 
GE alfalfa was fiercely resisted by farmers, eaters, scientists, environmentalists, and civil society groups. For years the USDA was thwarted by lawsuits in its attempts to fully unleash the product. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s 2001 “Governor of the Year”, and frequent traveler on Monsanto’s corporate jets) got together with the luminaries of industrial organic – Whole Foods Market, Stonyfield, Organic Valley, and others – to formulate an attempted compromise with Monsanto. The notion was that industrial organic and Monsanto would agree on “partial deregulation” of RR alfalfa (toward total deregulation somewhere down the road, of course), and the USDA would make a sham promise to really truly honestly enforce the partial regulations, including compensation for alfalfa farmers whose crops were destroyed by the inevitable contamination. This would be accompanied by a propaganda campaign which would lie about the contamination potential. They called this “co-existence”.
 
Why did industrial organic want to make this “compromise”, and why did the USDA want to broker it? Both the USDA and the industrial organic sector have always wanted to bring GMOs under the umbrella of organic certification. Only massive consumer resistance forced the Clinton administration to back down on this when GMOs were first commercialized in the mid 90s. Today, they want to accomplish this through a combination of contamination and propaganda. They hope GE alfalfa deregulation will lead to a broad pollution of the general alfalfa crop, which will render the current meat/dairy certified-organic sector (which must use non-GMO feed) untenable. In this way the USDA and the Whole Foods contingent dream of making ”certified organic” safe for GMOs. The intended goal is to be able to call GMOs “USDA organic” and still extract the premium from the “organic” brand. It’ll be difficult for them to do this, but we mustn’t underestimate the power of inertia and apathy. If the message seems overwhelming – “GMOs are safe, are perfectly compatible with the Organic concept, Organic is still good if it’s GMO, and everything is GMO anyway so There Is No Alternative, unless you want to go all the way to really knowing your local farmer or growing your own food, and we’ll do our best to stamp that out.” – many who vaguely oppose GMOs can be expected to surrender.
 
Meanwhile in Canada the GM alfalfa struggle continues.
 
*To close with some good news, Monsanto’s proposed pesticide seed factory in Malvinas, Argentina has run into further legal barriers as the provincial government has found the company’s environmental review to be inadequate. Monsanto will now start over again. A new review may take two months. (An absurdly short time.)
 
This factory is slated to produce maize seeds infused with multiple insecticides and fungicides and is likely to produce a constant emission of toxic waste in the air and water. It would be a further affliction upon a region already physically devastated by Roundup spraying on the omnipresent soybean plantations, and economically devastated by this same commodified agriculture system. The factory, intended to further concentrate economic power, would be a further self-cannibalization for the country.
 
The only reason it hasn’t already been built is that the citizens of the region have physically blocked the construction, persisting and enduring in the face of police and thug violence. Only this community of resistance and freedom has forced the government to take any semi-real regulatory action at all.
 
This reinforces the lesson of the community rights struggles I led off with. As all the news in between demonstrates, we’re up against a totalitarian assault upon all human values and our right to exist as a people at all. Governments and regulators are part of the assault.
 
In the end, we the people directly shall organize and act to defend and assert our freedom, liberty, and prosperity, or we’ll let ourselves be enslaved and destroyed.

 
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8 Comments

  1. Good article.
    You are right: we’ll only stop this madness by direct action.
    What does that mean?
    Where should we draw the line?
    Methods that can actually stop the imposition of GMOs are either already illegal, or soon to be made so.

    I’m afraid that the problem may not be easily stopped by democracy or direct action. The problem may be related to technological civilization itself. I think it is doubtful that any society that actively works on this technology, or even has it, will be able to repress itself from using it.
    Thus, we may need to uproot the technology, and destroy its very foundations.
    Would you leave a gun in the hands of a sociopathic killer? We can’t leave these tools in the hands of the technocratic elite. The tools should be extirpated, just like smallpox. Oh wait.. the sociopaths actually have kept a few vials of that lying around, haven’t they?

    Comment by publiusmaximus — February 14, 2014 @ 3:27 pm

    • I agree that the main problem here in the West is the current complete dominance of the pro-corporate mindset among the middle class. To the extent they pay attention at all, they don’t like what’s happening in every corporate sector, but at the same time they believe in the commodification/”growth”/”job creation” ideology. Also, their reaction to propaganda and growing fear has been to develop a fundamentally conservative mindset. By that I mean not “conservative” ideology, though of course there’s plenty of that, but a basically timid, cringing, cling-to-one’s-crumb, don’t-rock-the-boat mindset.

      Then there’s the basically bourgeois attitude toward even political activism, that it’s just another part of one’s private lifestyle choices, rather than a core part of being a public citizen, especially when tyranny’s on the prowl. But few today would even find that sentence comprehensible, since almost everyone has assimilated the bourgeois ideology and mindset.

      Even most self-alleged “radicals” have assimilated all this.

      That’s why even in the face of over twenty years of unrestrained corporate aggression with an obviously totalitarian intent (it goes back beyond twenty years, of course, but I’ll start with the radical escalation following the end of the Cold War), and over forty years of a decline in the 99%’s real economic position, no large-scale anti-corporate movement has arisen, nor is there much sign that one’s coming along anytime soon.

      It looks like for the moment the main thing abolitionists can do is publicize the abolitionist idea, to at least make that idea part of the public consciousness.

      Therefore my main idea, for the short- to mid-run, is an organization which is dedicated to clear, disciplined, relentless, aggressive expression of the idea. Then it would try to organize whatever actions it could with the resources and opportunities available. If all goes well, the existence of such an exemplary, dedicated group could lift increasing numbers of people out of the pathological mindset of pointless, unfocused, non-cumulative Internet whining (as is the case as pretty much all blogs and sites), along with the often-denied, but implicitly accepted, surrenderist notion that “there is no alternative”.

      Neoliberalism is a distillation of bourgeois ideology, somewhere in between old-style bourgeois hypocrisy and straight fascism. We can take it as axiomatic that the pendulum of collective morality/ethics shall swing for as long as history endures, and that in addition to how unnatural and anti-human, and therefore unsustainable, the extreme atomization and amorality of the bourgeois era has been, this era will also engender a reaction against itself.

      One of my assumptions is that a vast reservoir of unfocused desire for communion and unhypocritical group morality must be building up. So I also take it for granted that a pro-freedom, anti-corporate movement must do all it can to muster and direct this force. The only question is how to do it.

      The actions are available. Get our minds straight, reject the legitimacy of corporations and their prerogatives, follow something like the CELDF strategy to engage in politics at the community level to build anti-corporate landbases and centers of resistance, carry out campaigns to pressure retailers and manufacturers, build and defend the Community Food economic sector and political movement, systematically grow and distribute heirloom seeds, do things like personally purge GMOs from one’s diet and proselytize on a personal level, build a network of public speakers on all these things, get the ideas into the public consciousness, build the firm, rock-solid, incorruptible movement consciousness, in all these ways steadily undermine and subvert and help to hasten the collapse of what is, after all, for all its seeming might, a tottering structure.

      Why else do you think the proponents of GMOs are so hysterical about such a seemingly pathetic little opposition?

      All these actions are available today if the will exists to do them. And to whatever extent the will does not yet exist, the first task is the ideological and educational campaign to build this will among a critical mass of committed people. That’s why I’m doing my publicity and analysis work, and that’s why I call this the first task.

      More here.

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/an-abolitionist-future/

      Comment by Russ — February 15, 2014 @ 3:02 am

      • Great points. The people also need to take direct action. Those fields of poison should be uprooted and burned.

        Comment by publiusmaximus — February 19, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

      • It would be a great thing if people wanted to do that. Since so far we don’t seem to have any kind of movement framework to provide spiritual, publicity, and legal support, I don’t tell anyone they should do it. But I support those who do.

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/gmo-action-imperatives-lessons-of-the-wetteren-case/

        Comment by Russ — February 19, 2014 @ 5:25 pm

      • Right. I am not advocating it, either (ok, NSA and police state?). I just have concluded that the technological expropriation of our genetic, natural, and spiritual inheritance won’t be stopped without direct action and our literal bodies. That is, words alone won’t convince sociopath narcissists to stop trying to destroy freedom, autonomy, self-sufficiency, and dignity. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool, deluded, or a dupe.

        Comment by publiusmaximus — February 20, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

      • Absolutely. That’s why I keep emphasizing that nothing will work short of people being willing to defend their literal homes and communities against these alien assaults. Unfortunately, we may have a lot of words, and tyrannical and destructive acts of corporatism the words describe, to go before these ideas truly sink into the people’s consciousness.

        Comment by Russ — February 20, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

  2. Oh no! Please could you delete the comment above. I accidentally commented while logged into a work account and might get in trouble.

    Here’s the comment again.

    Russ, I’ve been thinking about the farmers too, many of whom have been trapped in a cycle of buying GM crops and can no longer find an alternative as the conventional seed companies have also been bought up (as described in the farmer to farmer video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEX654gN3c4)

    I know little about farming supply networks so perhaps this is a silly suggestion, but would it be conceivable to build up over time networks that can help to supply non-GM seed and would be immune to corporate takeover? The same organisation could also inform farmers and encourage them to abandom GM seed (it seems that many farmers would like to already).

    Even if this would be possible it wouldn’t solve the problem of contamination though.

    Comment by Sophie — February 19, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

    • Sorry I didn’t see this till now, Sophie, but I deleted it right away when I did.

      It’s possible and necessary to build up those networks. There’s already lots of independent seed companies dedicated to preserving heirloom varieties, breeding and making available the best recent open-pollinated varieties and public domain hybrids, and keeping their stock as uncontaminated by GMOs as possible. There’s also a rising movement of amateur seed-savers and establishers of seed libraries/banks. We need lots more people working on saving, breeding, planting, exchanging regionally adapted varieties. That’s now my main focus as a grower.

      Of course nothing but integrity can be immune to corporate takeover, as we’ve seen with Seminis and hundreds of other seed companies who sold themselves to Monsanto. That’s part of why we need to build a true movement consciousness. So long as everything is a mishmash of hobbyism and good intentions, the kind of esprit de corps which resists blood money will be hard to build, and the money will be hard to resist where one’s on one’s own.

      Thanks for posting the Farmer to Farmer video. I’ve seen it before, and it’s good on monopoly seed pricing, the way the cartel tries to make non-GM seed unavailable, the spread of superweeds, the escalation of pesticide use and prices, and several other problems. I should type out my notes and make a post out of them.

      Comment by Russ — February 19, 2014 @ 5:23 pm


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