*Russia continues to express its ambivalence toward the Western-dominated GMO regime, as Vladimir Putin said some vague things about the dangers of GMOs and Russia’s need to control them within its own food supply and economy. This is within the context of Russia’s ongoing moves to limit the penetration of the Western-dominated GMO regime. This has included a labeling policy, a plan to set up a state “registration” system, scheduled to be announced in June 2014, and lots of media coverage of how organic and non-GM conventional agriculture can give Russia a food security and export advantage.
All this is part of the intensified jousting between Russia and Western corporatism. The showdown in the Ukraine, historically called the “heartland” or “breadbasket of the world” by geopolitical theorists, is a major escalation. The Ukraine conflict has major implications for humanity’s war against GMO corporatism. Cargill, Monsanto, and others have made major investments in the Ukraine. So far this invasion of Western agribusiness has been nominally on a non-GMO basis, although everyone believes there’s widespread illegal GMO plantings. As of summer 2013 a study by the National Association for Genetic Safety conducted in the Belgorod region of Russia right across the border from the Ukraine didn’t detect GMO contamination.
The West’s goal in targeting the Ukraine has been the same as its general goal since the end of the Cold War. The goal is to expand the same neoliberal corporatist domination which is destroying southern and western Europe to the former communist countries. Ukraine is meant to be plundered and dominated for the sake of this plunder in itself, and also to further hem in Russia and prevent it from reasserting itself as a rival to Western corporate power. That’s why the US and EU are so ardent to expand NATO membership to the Ukraine. (NATO, as has been made incontrovertibly clear since the end of the Cold War, is primarily an aggressive alliance, not a defensive one. It never contemplated a peace dividend for one second.)
In this case globalization-oriented Ukrainian kleptocrats seized power in a coup so they could accept an IMF loan which would be used to rip the country’s economy and polity wide open to the corporate “austerity” regime and the general onslaught of Western corporate aggression.
In the case of agriculture this will include a lifting on the Ukraine’s ban on foreign corporations owning farmland. In this way land-grabbing, usually associated most with the new campaign of racist colonialism being perpetrated by the West in Southern countries, will be brought to the Ukraine. The new corporate Gleichschaltung will also further corporatize Ukrainian policy on commodification, GMO seeds and patents, food safety, etc.
It’s easy to see why Monsanto and Cargill are bullish on the current situation, in spite of the chaos and tension. Russia rightly sees this US/EU/NATO/IMF campaign as a campaign of Western aggression, not just against the Ukraine but against itself. In addition to all the other geopolitical and economic aspects, we can add the GMO assault. If all goes according to plan, the corporate takeover of the Ukraine will turn the fabled heartland and breadbasket of the world into a GMO plantation, which will directly physically threaten (via contamination, if not in a more direct way) Russia’s own attempt to build a high-quality non-GM export sector.
Of course, Russia has only talked about revamping its agriculture along these lines. It’s at least as likely that Russia’s putting up barriers against Monsanto’s onslaught because it wants to participate in constructing a rival GMO cartel. Nor is any kind of export-based commodity agricultural economy sustainable.
But Russia’s public statements have at least demonstrated that they understand the threats and opportunities which are possible in this situation, which is more than most Western countries have done. Meanwhile the Ukrainians seem to have no vision for themselves at all, but can only imagine themselves as under the thumb of Russia or of the West. It’s certainly an extremely difficult position to be caught between two power centers.
But there’s no question at all that if one has to be temporarily dependent and subordinate, the deal Russia was offering is vastly better for the Ukraine’s 99% than the IMF liquidation and debt enslavement which is already commencing. And it should go without saying that from every point of view – today’s commodity economy as well as what will of necessity be tomorrow’s relocalized economies – Ukraine would be much better off investing in non-GMO and organic agriculture, in the same way many Russian groups and officials are arguing for Russia, than it will be if it turns itself into the next supine, demolished Monsanto victim.
*Following the latest round of cotton crop failures in India (a growing problem since GMO cotton has become predominant), the state of Karnataka has announced it is placing a ban of indefinite length on the sale of Mahyco’s Bt cotton seeds. It will also institute a bailout of affected cotton farmers, just the latest example of where an Indian government has had to effect a spot bailout of cotton farmers. Usually these bailouts are just laundered corporate welfare for Monsanto and the rest of Big Ag, like US crop subsidies.
Mahyco is the Indian equivalent of Seminis, a large pre-existing company which Monsanto bought and turned into its subsidiary. The state government is blaming the widespread crop failures, in many cases as much as 50% of the harvest promised by the company, on poor quality seeds. Farmers are saying that many of the cotton plants fail to produce bolls, and that the allegedly insect-resistant cotton is readily attacked by pests.
These complaints, along with the fact that GMO cotton requires heavy irrigation (far more than non-GM) but has often been fraudulently sold to farmers in regions without artificial irrigation, have been common throughout the history of India’s disastrous Bt cotton experiment. Mahyco admits that non-target “secondary” insects are afflicting the cotton plants. This is a common and predictable effect of insecticide-expressing GMOs, along with the development of resistance among the target insect.
*A new Brazilian study of in vitro brain tissue exposed to Roundup provides more evidence of the mechanism by which glyphosate causes neurological toxicity and oxidative damage. The existence of these effects, among the many other harmful health effects of glyphosate, is not in question, only the precise way in which this poison harms us.
*A coalition of farmer and citizen activists and protesters has successfully pressured the new government of Chile to withdraw a proposed corporate seed enclosure law, called the “Monsanto Law”. Such laws, increasingly being deployed around the global South and also in the process of being tightened in Europe, seek to foreclose democratic and farmer control of seeds through strict patenting and registration rules and draconian restrictions on democratic saving, breeding, and planting of seeds which weren’t duly purchased under a corporate contract.
The goal is to eradicate all seed and germplasm diversity and decentralization and replace it with a tightly controlled, hierarchical, proprietary monoculture system. As with all of corporate agriculture, the goal is not to produce food or to feed anyone. On the contrary, everything corporate agriculture does is proven to hinder such goals, and is clearly setting up agriculture for collapse and famine in the not-distant future. The goal is always profit, power, control, domination.
Agroecology and Food Sovereignty, on the contrary, seek to produce food for human beings. What’s more, they seek to build strong, democratic communities, polities, economies. They seek to restore power to humanity by decentralizing power and putting it to human use.
But corporations seek nothing but to centralize power and use it to control, dominate, and destroy humanity.