*The farming trial of Bt brinjal (eggplant) in Bangladesh has turned into a fiasco
, with the twenty farmers who received the seedlings lamenting their participation in the government trial. The seeds haven’t yet been released for commercial sale, but instead the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), with much fanfare, provided selected farmers with the seedlings and gave them technical support throughout the trial. The crops are a joint project of Monsanto and BARI. (That means a “public private partnership” where the government does all the intellectual work, the taxpayers pay the costs, and the corporation pockets the profits.)
The result, by all accounts, has been dismal. The crops grew poorly and were attacked by pests. The government claims “only” secondary pests attacked, the farmers say the crop’s endemic Bt poison performed poorly even against the target fruit and shoot borers. Of course even such instantaneous attacks by secondary pests would constitute a significant speeding up of nature’s inexorable counterattack against GMOs. Usually where a Bt crop temporarily functions against the target insect, it takes a few years for secondary pests to fill the vacuum and ravage the crop. Either way, heckuva job BARI! It’s a new world record for GMO failure.
Unfortunately we can’t just laugh at this. That GMOs are a failure for farmers is par for the course. But a far more dire problem is that Southeast Asia is the world’s center of origin and diversity for eggplant. Over thousands of years the farmers of India, Bangladesh, and other countries have developed thousands of eggplant varieties superbly adapted to every regional vagary. But the scorched earth monoculture model of industrial GMOs threatens to contaminate, level, and eradicate this vast genetic diversity. The legal and economic structures of patented seed are designed to wipe out all non-patented seed. The goal of the GMO cartel is to eradicate natural brinjal biodiversity and replace it with a perilously narrow genetic range of patented varieties. When these inevitably fail, as this first release is already failing, the result will be the complete collapse of the crop.
*The EFSA wants to nearly double the allowed daily human intake of glyphosate
, a poison which is known to cause birth defects, reproductive failure, endocrine disruption, DNA damage, organ damage, and cancer. As always, regulator-approved exposure levels are based not on scientific evidence of safety, but simply on how much exposure industrial agriculture is forcing upon workers and eaters.
Also as always, what meager regulator appraisal there’s been has been only on the so-called “active ingredient” glyphosate, and not on the far more toxic commercial formulation Roundup which is used in real life. The adjuvants and surfactants, alleged “inert ingredients” in Roundup and other commercial poisons, by themselves or in synergy with the “active” ingredient are often far more toxic
than the active ingredient itself.
*Mi Zhen-yu, a Chinese general and former coordinator of military science, has published an article in the government newspaper “Science and Technology Abstracts” criticizing China’s increasing dependency on poison-based agriculture
and the health harms which are already manifesting, and the worse effects likely to come. (This newspaper is part of the Chinese equivalent of the corporate media. It’s telling that a government publication prints such a criticism of agricultural poisons.)
He singles out two factors: How China is increasingly shifting from its historical soy cuisine, based on using fermented soy as a condiment, to the use of cheap soybean oil directly in food, and to the Western pattern of using soybean oil in processed food; and the massive application of human-toxic glyphosate to the GMO soybeans China imports. Glyphosate is designed to suffuse the cells of the plant, and it becomes an inextricable, omnipresent part of the tissues of Roundup Ready crops. Studies demonstrate how RR soy contains very high endemic levels
of glyphosate and its breakdown component AMPA, which are not found in soybeans which are grown organically or in non-GMO conventionally grown soy.
Zhen-yu also emphasizes the fact that since glyphosate is a potent mineral chelator, Roundup Ready crops are nutritionally denuded. The transgene enables them to survive the herbicide application, but they’re not unscathed. Symbolically of the effect industrial food has on people, an RR GMO survives but in a weakened, malnourished state. This chelation and subsequent malnutrition, along with glyphosate’s hindering of the EPSPS enzyme which is critical for nutritional assimilation, is how glyphosate kills plants. Roundup Ready GMOs merely have mechanisms which help them grimly endure the toxin.
The article surveys the scientific evidence on Roundup, tallies the declining health of Chinese in recent years concurrent with China’s switch from being a soybean exporter to importer, gives examples of typical government collusion with the poisoners, points out the systematic refusal of governments and corporations to perform ANY safety study on GMOs and their associated poisons, and adds Zhen-yu’s voice to the growing chorus of scientists, public health professionals, farmers, consumers, and citizens calling for real studies to be done on GMOs and their companion poisons like glyphosate.
Of course we already have sufficient scientific evidence to draw a conclusion about poison-based agriculture. The presence or absence of the political will to abolish it will in the end be a measure of political consciousness and moral courage. Science can only supplement this. Meanwhile hack scientism does all it can to help repress morality and ensure that the only politics of agriculture and food are the anti-politics of corporatism.
*The Chinese army has announced a ban
on sourcing of GMO grains and oil, according to a city grain bureau website report.
In considering this and previous moves by Chinese government ministries (see here
, for example), I assume that no one in the Chinese hierarchy really cares about the health or environmental hazards of GMOs, nor that they care about the socioeconomic effects on farmers. Rather, I assume that their main perspective, which is correct from their point of view, is that this is a power struggle with the US corporatist system. GMO propagation is a critical strategic weapon of Western corporatism. The Chinese, and probably the Russians, want to prevent their own agriculture from being subsumed in the Monsanto-dominated Western regime, while they figure out their own agricultural strategy for the era of oil’s decline. This may include trying to build their own rival GMO cartel.
Meanwhile in 2013 the Chinese agricultural ministry went against expectations and approved Monsanto’s Intacta stacked GM soybeans for import from Brazil. This followed a diplomatic dance where the Chinese were saying they wanted non-GM conventional soybeans, and Brazil’s industrial soy trade group was claiming it could fill that order.
While Brazilian production of conventional soybeans has been increasing for years, apparently the country would still struggle to produce enough to supply both Europe and China, and China felt it had no choice but to grudgingly approve Monsanto’s soybeans for importation. Unless this is part of a power struggle among different Chinese ministries. Monsanto has been assiduously lobbying in China, trying to find allies there.
In particular, the order affects the recent decision of the National Biosafety Committee to approve for sale several dozen varieties of Bt maize and cotton.
The ruling was in a case brought by the farmer group Kisan Board Pakistan. The farmers are complaining mostly about the poor quality of the seeds the government has previously approved for sale, the extremely low germination rate the government allows, the often low levels of Bt expression which usually fail to kill the target pest and serve mostly to select quickly for resistance (such lemon Bt seeds have always been a major problem in India as well), and the fact that seed vendors and packaging often fail to inform the farmer that Bt seeds require far more water than conventional seeds and therefore won’t work in rainfed fields. massive consumer fraud on this point has played a big role in the Indian farmer suicide epidemic. The suit also established how the government is incompetent to assess or regulate the health and biodiversity implications of GMO cultivation.
We see how wherever the GMO peddlers can get away with it, they cast all product quality control to the wind. But then, this is congenital to the industrial seed sector. The very first American Seed Trade Association convention in the 1880s was dedicated to the question of how to prevent regulators from requiring seed sellers to warrant any kind of quality standards whatsoever. So it goes to this day…
*Vermont has once again confirmed its reputation as a social pioneer by becoming the first state to pass a real law (without “triggers” which essentially render the thing little more than a propaganda exercise, as in Connecticut and Maine) which will mandate labels on products which may contain GMOs, starting in 2016.
It’s part of Vermont’s honor to thus become the first state threatened with a lawsuit
by the liars, louts, and thugs at Monsanto’s political combat wing, the Grocery Manufacturers Association. It’s a testament to how the pro-GMO thugs have zero right or even argument on their side that their entire position is based on legal technicalities (that state-level labeling allegedly usurps the prerogatives of the federal government; of course this is false both in terms of human sovereignty and in terms of the constitution as well), along with the standard rhetoric that the people are too stupid for democracy – labels will “confuse” the childish consumer. In truth consumers have a vastly better record than any cadre in how they’ve viewed GMOs – with a rational, prudent “show me” attitude, rather than the fundamentalist dogmas of supporters and the conformists and cowards among the “professional classes”.
The law includes setting up a fund to fight the expected lawsuits. The fund can receive public donations. of course in a better, more just world, agribiz and corporate contract growers would be taxed to pay for this self-defense measure on the part of the people.
(The GMA is also pushing for a federal preemption law
, the DARK Act, which would try to quash the state-level democratic movement.)
This is a good step, but it’s still too modest. If the policy is enacted as planned, all it’s going to require is an unobtrusive line below the ingredients list saying something like “This product may contain genetically modified organisms”. It’s not going to have “GMO!” emblazoned across the front of the package in big neon letters. It’s possible the main effect will be to lull the worries of many of the people who became interested in the problem, just as may be the main effect of the toothless Connecticut and Maine laws.
If this is going to have any effect, then the work of the labeling movement has only begun. Once the packages have the obscure labels on them, the job of the movement will be to catalog these and publicize the list in a more