Volatility

October 14, 2016

FDA Temporarily Backs Down on Food Control Campaign

Filed under: Food and Farms, GMO Corporate State, Reformism Can't Work, Sovereignty and Constitution — Tags: — Russell Bangs @ 1:57 pm

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Thanks to large-scale organized pressure from the community food sector, including organizations like the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF), the FDA backed down and has issued a final rule under the so-called “Food Safety Modernization Act” (how’s that for an Orwellian jawbreaker?) which is more reasonable in defining a “retail food establishment” which would be exempt from the most onerous regulations under the Act. Artisan producers didn’t fare as well.
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To recap the history, prior to the FSMA sufficient laws already existed for the USDA and FDA to effectively regulate the big corporate producers, manufacturers, and retailers who are the source of all significant food outbreaks. But the regulators almost never enforce these laws against these corporations, only against the rising community food sector which is challenging corporate agriculture and food.
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Nor will the FSMA be used against these big corporate actors. The purpose of the FSMA is to give the FDA much greater discretionary power to attack community food.
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We see how craven these regulators are where they’d have to take the offensive and are faced with real opposition. (They’re far more comfortable empowering the corporations’ own campaigns and regurgitating corporate lies.) Of course they won’t give up but are now regrouping. But let this partial victory be a lesson in the need to organize and fight. We’ll need to do far, far more.
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To be clear, food production and distribution naturally have a local/regional basis. So it follows that an alien central government like that of the US could never conceivably have any legitimate authority over community food. Conversely, the kind of globalized commodity systems which would theoretically come under the purview of such a centralized government are clearly unnatural, irrational, anti-ecological, and themselves have no legitimate basis. Nor would we expect such systems, which are designed to produce commodities, not food, to deliver anything other than low-quality, poisoned, and immorally distributed food with resultant mass hunger, malnutrition, other dietary diseases, environmental diseases like cancer and birth defects, and every kind of environmental and socioeconomic pathology.
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And that’s exactly what the FDA’s notion of food production brings.
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Of course this still hasn’t put a damper on the idolatry of the FDA among “anti-GMO” types and others involved in food campaigns. Let’s never forget that most of the food NGOs supported Monsanto’s FSMA and even kept prodding the FDA to get on with the assault when it was dragging its feet. That’s the kind of evidence which proves we the people can never trust system NGOs. We need our own organizations, period.
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January 25, 2016

Chipotle

Filed under: Food and Farms, Mainstream Media, Relocalization — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 10:41 am

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As Chipotle was blamed for E. coli outbreaks, the corporate media piled on, blaming the chain’s local produce sourcing. The Schadenfreude was palpable, against both the chain and its customers. Chipotle itself was spooked into a partial disavowal of its own proclaimed philosophy even though the evidence never supported the allegation that local sourcing had anything to do with the outbreak. It seems like Chipotle panicked and rushed to appease the mob.
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Some analysts agreed:
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Ultimately, though, Chipotle will need to step back from its ‘food with integrity’ corporate ethos and become a more traditional fast/casual chain. Foods, including all produce (not just tomatoes), spices, and meats, will need to be centrally sourced and prepared to realize the economies of scale that are necessary to profitably integrate costly periodic food testing…

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There was little room for facts or thought amid the media firestorm. While there is at least a correlation between Chipotle and the E. coli outbreaks, by all accounts it was simply a lie to blame the local sourcing model.
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In December the Centers for Disease Control stated, “The epidemiologic evidence available at this time suggests that a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in several states is a likely source of this outbreak.” This would rule out the locally sourced produce the corporate media gleefully rushed to finger as the culprit. This witch hunt atmosphere provided the background for the New York Times’s recent slander of farmers’ markets. There’s clearly no end to the junk reasoning and innuendo the pro-poison media will propagate as their cancer-causing system comes under increasing scrutiny. And, I feel safe assuming, no retractions from media or “experts”.
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Therefore the CDC itself vouches for the fact that the source had to be part of the chain’s centralized distribution, unless it was a bioterrorist attack using similar pathogens at several locations at once. (I haven’t heard of any special evidence for this latter thesis, though the record of the pro-GM activists is vile enough that we know they’re capable of it. Given their outpourings of hatred for Chipotle since it announced it was going partially non-GMO, the possibility can’t be rejected out of hand. The only thing we know for sure is that locally sourced ingredients weren’t to blame.)
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If Chipotle has been the source of these outbreaks, the vector was central sourcing, the same centralizing scourge of the whole corporate industrial food system. Therefore, far from these events being a reason for Chipotle to retreat from its identity, this is the time for it to reaffirm and strengthen its commitment. Many commentators and analysts agree.
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Fast food is a toxic and unsustainable model across the board, and no one should romanticize Chipotle. Nevertheless, given our dawning situation where in so many ways so many growers, suppliers, processors, and consumers are trying to find their way toward less poisoned, better quality, more relocalized food, Chipotle’s partial efforts on local sourcing and purging some GMO ingredients are steps in the right direction. It’s best to purge fast food and industrial food completely, and once we do this we can wash our hands completely of these kinds of squabbles among the system. In the meantime it’s best to be aware of the lies and give moral support to those who are on the vector.
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While Chipotle may be suffering from weaknesses inherent to the very model of centralization the analyst quoted above touts, we need to stick up for local food and encourage local sourcing on the part of bigger operations. Like I detailed above, the same media lie we see here also strikes much deeper at our farmers’ markets and our generally growing direct retail community food sector. So I’m writing this post not for Chipotle’s sake, but for the sake of the local sourcing model, which the corporate media rightly sees as an enemy of the centralized poison-based agriculture and food system it worships.

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January 17, 2016

There’s Lies, Damned Lies….

Filed under: Food and Farms, Mainstream Media — Tags: — Russell Bangs @ 6:32 am

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…Although this pseudo-scholarly garbage about farmers markets in the New York Times isn’t even slippery statistics, but just a scary headline and empty innuendo. That’s our NYT, shilling for corporate food and agriculture as usual.
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The piece is nothing but a scary headline and innuendo. If you read it closely, you see that the hack who wrote it has found literally zero evidence that a single farmers market transaction ever made anyone sick. Rather, he’s talking about nothing but a statistical correlation between “farmers markets per capita” in a state and the incidence of certain food-borne outbreaks. Assuming this correlation really exists at all, by his own testimony he knows nothing about what this means or what was the source of the foods that caused the outbreaks. Maybe the more filthy the supermarkets and fast food outlets are in a region, the more popular farmers markets become. Or maybe the kinds of people who report food-borne illnesses are more likely to support farmers markets. There’s just two of the possible explanations for the correlation which would mean the outbreaks aren’t from farmers market food at all.
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But the author and the editors very much want to convey the opposite impression to the reader. The fact is that the piece has zero substantive content and zero evidence for what it implies in such an inflammatory. It’s pure innuendo, pure rumor-mongering. There’s a few lame disclaimers buried toward the end assuring that most readers won’t see them, and these are immediately contradicted by yet more guilt-by-association innuendo, at this point reaching the level of slander, about how people shouldn’t assume farmers market produce has no unsafe bacteria and that they should wash farmers market produce better. This is true of course, but there’s no reason to think there’s a significant problem. Like I said the fraud who did the “research” has zero evidence that a single tomato from a farmers market gave a single person a single tummyache. This is a piece of pure academic fraud.
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Meanwhile the piece talks only about whether or not farmers market produce is more or less bacterially safe than industrial food and implies that this is the only reason people shop at farmers markets. Not a word about pesticides and the many other ways in which much farmers market food is usually much safer and healthier than industrial products.
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They don’t call it the corporate media for nothing!
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January 14, 2016

Adapting the Populist Lecture Series for Today’s Food Sovereignty

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Here’s some basic information about 19th century public and farmer education through public lecture programs, as conducted by the Grange and especially the Populist Farmers’ Alliance movement. I’d like to contribute to building a new movement to rebuild community food and agriculture, and abolish corporate agriculture, organized in a way similar to the Populists. We’d have the advantage of trying to build outside the commodity system, rather than being in a race against time to reform it from inside, which is what ultimately undid the Populists.
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For a great book on the history and handbook for true democratic organization, see Lawrence Goodwyn’s The Populist Moment.
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Once upon a time I thought of adapting this idea to what I called the land scandal involving systematic property fraud on the part of the big banks. Did you know that, strictly speaking, most alleged bank-owned residential real estate is arguably not really owned by the banks at all, but rather their claim is an imposture? In 2009-10 many bloggers and commentators thought this fact, if effectively propagated, could become a major political theme. Well, that never happened, and it seems like the whole idea fizzled out. Probably both too “fringey”-seeming, even though legally it’s true, and too abstruse to boot. I ended up moving on from the idea to the more down-to-earth matter of food. Of course there’s plenty of policy mysticism here as well, such as patents, which I’ll soon be discussing in depth. That’s why I’ve long referred to the FIRES sector, adding “Seeds” (i.e. intellectual property in them) to Finance, Insurance, Real Estate. And of course corporate agriculture is more than the physical phenomena of land-grabbing and poison. Under the neoliberal globalization regime it’s also a sham campaign trying to reify fictive numbers – commodity pricing, profit, GDP, trade balance, “growth” in the biotech, agricultural, food, and finance sectors – and induce worship of these, or at least surrender to their domination. One of the greatest evils of corporate rule (the most mystical, bizarre fiction of all is that of the corporate person) is how it has made our literal bread hostage to the insane rule of these pure fictions and superstitions. We intuitively know a few basic principles for the counterattack – all commodification of food and critical natural resources is illegitimate, there can be no patents on life, and a “corporation” cannot own or control land, especially farmland. My background writing about Wall Street will come in handy for all these elements.
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October 1, 2015

Anybody Want to Do Something About Climate Change?

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There is one and only one way to lose weight: Eat better, eat less, and exercise.
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In the same way, there is one and only one way to avert the worst consequences of climate change: Greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, stop destroying carbon sinks, rebuild carbon sinks.
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There is no argument which can be made against this fact, and anyone who tries to say it’s wrong or “complicated” or that there’s some kind of workaround is a criminal liar or an easily duped fool.
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The most direct and necessary way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to abolish industrial agriculture, the worst-emitting sector. This abolition is the one and only way to conserve and rebuild sinks.
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Just the emissions from nitrogen-based synthetic fertilizer alone outweigh the emissions from any other sector. This doesn’t include the oil and gas used to manufacture pesticides, the fuel burned by the tractors, trucks, ships, and planes deployed by the globalized agriculture and food sectors, or the energy burned in food processing and dissipated through waste. Humanity must abolish industrial agriculture. The alternative, vastly superior in every human and ecological way, is agroecology. This is a fully developed and demonstrated science and set of practices, ready for full scale deployment across the entire arable world.
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The worldwide destruction of grasslands, forests, and carbon-rich soil is a direct, intentional, unequivocal campaign of industrial agriculture. So is their replacement by denuded dirt which does nothing but hold the crop roots in place while they’re subjected to an ever escalating dosage of fertilizer and poisons. This destroy-and-poison treadmill is the fundamental business model for agribusiness and a paradigmatic exercise in the subjugation of the Earth by the most malign strain of man.
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Given this confluence of sociopathic profiteering and the depths of evil, it’s no surprise that climate scams have proliferated like no weed would dare to dream. Medieval-style “offsets” which were always self-evidently a fraud, “cap-and-trade”, carbon taxes, waiting for the EPA to directly regulate GHGs, waiting for “the market” to transform to “green energy”, every kind of techno-gimmick, propaganda fronts which want to maximize fancy talk about GHGs while suppressing all action and even the ideas of action. All PR campaigns of government, corporations, the UN, and the corporate-environmentalist front groups are of this character. This is most obviously manifested with the fronts for “climate smart agriculture”, a contradiction in terms where it means anything short of the abolition of industrial agriculture.
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At the most vile extremes of disaster capitalism, we have campaigns like chemical no-till agriculture, “clean coal”, fracked gas as a “bridge fuel”, and geoengineering. These not only do nothing to mitigate climate change but actively worsen it while wreaking even worse ecological devastation. With fracking they’re literally poisoning our wells along with destroying our communities and farmland. With geoengineering the homicidal psychosis breaks all bounds of calculability and moral comprehension. Even the most rabid Nazis were relatively tame compared to the level of malign insanity which would be required to even contemplate such a catastrophic action. Only the fantasists of nuclear war are comparable.
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Meanwhile the various kinds of climate change deniers get the most respectful treatment in the corporate media. This includes the old-style direct deniers as well as today’s more common “delayer” version, so-called because they pay lip service while counseling against action for the time being. As with all technocracy advocates, they call upon humanity to renounce political solutions and look to techno-“solutions” which will always be in the future. This is an endemic trait of scientism cultists, who unanimously are climate change deniers in this sense, and often in the more direct sense as well.
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Most of all, the climate change deniers and their friendly media collaborate to pretend that corporate agriculture and its technologies are, in some mystical way, in alignment with climate change science, even though this is directly in contradiction of 100% of the evidence, and even though it’s empirically documented that pro-GMO activists are climate change deniers and vice versa, while actual climate change activists also oppose corporate agriculture.
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What has to be done about climate change? The same thing which needs to be done about every other crisis of the age. It requires enough people to relinquish the status quo-conforming consciousness in whatever form, burn their boats and embrace a revolutionary consciousness. Enough people, first to build a movement outside of, out of synch with, where necessary in opposition to, the status quo. Outside of it, and fired by the will to overcome and transform it. First to build and sustain this movement, to have the patience for the hard work of perhaps many years without flashy public victories, patient to win the smaller, at first more quiet day to day victories of disciplined work toward the necessary future, focusing most of all on building this movement’s own culture and economy while propagating the new idea, getting it into the public consciousness. (Although even during this stage there’s great potential for effective political wedge campaigns which can directly advance the movement toward its goals while serving as recruitment drives.)
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And then, if this movement has done its work well, when the time comes where circumstances radically change and vastly more people are abruptly jolted into a new consciousness and become ready for a new idea, the anti-corporate movement of earthly freedom and organic harmony will be ready to receive and organize them. Then great things will become politically not just possible but inevitable. And that’s when humanity will be ready to deal with climate change, along with the other great crises which simultaneously loom.
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Will that be too late? We can’t attain what’s necessary until we embark upon what’s necessary. There’s no other way. These are radical political crises and nothing else. These crises can have only radical political solutions, nothing else. The sooner we begin, the sooner we attain. If only humanity is willing to begin, to fight for a new beginning, it will be soon enough.

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August 6, 2015

There Is No Science of Genetic Engineering

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There’s no such thing as a science of GMOs. There’s an ideology of genetic engineering which is based on debunked junk science. This ideology has nothing to do with the actual practice of genetic engineering, which is a scattershot empirical approach. Engineers basically throw gobs of money and laboratory brute force at a technical problem and hope something sticks. When you finally find a needle in a haystack you base your business model upon it. That’s why genetic engineering is so inefficient, wasteful, and expensive compared with conventional breeding. A genetically engineered variety costs over ten times as much to develop as whatever conventional variety it pirates and builds upon. And then the genetically engineered variety will be inferior to its forebear, being nothing but this forebear with a poison transgene inserted into it along with whatever genome scrambling and mutations it picked up along the way during the GE process.
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Genetic engineering developed its own version of the NPK ideology. Its dogma is: One gene = one trait. This dogma, along with the older one that genetics are the main (or only) factor dictating real life outcomes, enabled technicians to claim that they’d soon be able to precisely analyze, predict, and manipulate the relationship between genetic codes and the way plants, animals, and humans would develop and act in real life. This was their path to funding and influence, and it soon became the path to power for biotech corporations engaging in genetic engineering. One-gene-one-trait became the basis for all the foundation lies of genetic engineering: That it was a precision technology, that its effects could be precisely calibrated, that it would not have unforeseen effects, that food products generated this way would be safe and nutritious. The goal is to achieve total corporate enclosure, control, and domination through GMOs and eugenics.
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Based on these lies governments moved aggressively to approve and commercialize GMOs without performing any safety testing. To this day no government has ever performed a scientific safety trial on any GMO. The US set the standard for this anti-scientific, anti-public health policy under the banner of “substantial equivalence”, the lie that GMO crops are identical to real crops and therefore, by definition, don’t need to be safety tested.
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But all these the basic elements of genetic engineering ideology, so-called genetic engineering “science”, have been debunked.
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1. The foundation dogma of genetic engineering can be summed up as: One gene = one trait. This is also called the sequence hypothesis. DNA is composed of a series of bases, this series is transcribed onto RNA, which then uses this sequential code to arrange amino acids to form a protein. Based on this, and on what Francis Crick called the “central dogma” that this transcription process is the only thing happening (cf. #2), it should follow that since there are c. 100,000 human proteins, there must be c. 100,000 genes in the human genome. How could the same initial DNA “sentence” be transcribed in ways that result in different proteins?
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But in reality the sequence hypothesis turned out to be false. One-gene-one-trait has been completely disproven, most spectacularly by the corporate system’s own Human Genome Project. The expected 100,000 genes in the human code turned out to be just over 20,000. We now know that most genes have multiple effects, and that the range of these effects is very difficult to catalog. Similarly, we know that many phenotype traits, to the extent they have a genetic basis, are the result of several genes collaborating. Similarly, it’s very difficult to identify all the genetic contributors.
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2. Along with the sequence hypothesis, Francis Crick promulgated what he called genetic engineering’s Central Dogma, the faith that there is only a one-way transmission of genetic information, from DNA to RNA to protein. As Crick put it, “Once information gets into protein it cannot get out again.” A connoisseur of hubris might suspect that a proposition dubbed by its own founder the “Central Dogma” would be full of holes, and so it has turned out for Crick’s article of faith. Five times as many proteins as genes is rather wide of the expected one-to-one correspondence, and the reason is that special proteins work to rearrange the DNA base code in myriad ways creating an array of messenger RNA molecules so that one original sequence can be used to produce many proteins, and so that multiple original sequences can be combined in various ways to produce proteins. It turns out that proteins are in fact very active in producing new genetic information, and that lots of information is indeed “getting out” of these proteins.
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Even more fundamentally, DNA itself is not immaculately self-replicated, but rather replication is performed by the organic cell. This includes the action of coordination and repair enzymes, without which DNA replication would contain vastly more numerous errors than it does. So not only do proteins work on RNA, they keep the exalted DNA itself honest. Information gets out of proteins and into the DNA itself.
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So we have the far more intrepid role of proteins in genetic coding than was allowed for by genetic engineering “science”, or as it calls itself in this case, dogma. Then there’s the fact that protein folding is as important as protein coding. Mad Cow Disease is caused by a protein in the brain chemically identical to the normal one, but folded differently. The disease-causing alternative folding is transmitted from one protein molecule (called a prion) to another. Scrapie is another disease caused by self-transmission of prions. As usual, Crick had simply assumed that the genetically-determined amino acid sequence of a protein also dictated how it folded itself. Only some kind of genetic screw-up could cause a misfolding. But subsequent science found the opposite. Contrary to the central dogma, the coded protein still needs the proper assistance of other proteins called “chaperones” to be correctly folded. Conversely, prions containing no nucleic acid can on their own “infect” and cause contiguous proteins to refold themselves in conformity to the prion’s shape, and then become infectious themselves. That’s how Mad Cow spreads. There we have two more examples of how proteins transmit genetic information in defiance of GE’s central dogma.
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These facts don’t just demolish the theoretical pretensions of genetic engineering science. They also give a clear picture of how complex and holistic genetic processes are, and therefore how easily the bull-in-a-china-shop genome havoc wreaked by the genetic engineering process can cause every kind of genetic disruption, mutation, and disease-causing structural malfunction.
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3. Beyond any prior philosophical debates about nature vs. nurture, genetic determinism has long been refuted on purely scientific grounds. Phenotype is affected at least as much by epigenetics and environmental factors as it is by the genetic code, which in many ways sets up a range of possibilities rather than dictates an outcome. In effect, a genetic potentiality is often a switch which must still be turned on (or off) by some external factor: Climate, the parent/mother’s health and diet during pregnancy, or the conditions under which an egg or seed develops, an infant’s diet, infant exposure to agents in the water or air, psychological stresses, environmental stresses on a growing crop, etc. This last turned out to cause serious unforeseen, because not calculable according to the paper-mapped genome, problems for Roundup Ready soybeans. Genetic determinism is a debunked fraud which is kept in the field only by its inherent usefulness for GMO propaganda, the Big Pharma model of medicine, and its implications for a revived eugenics program, which remains the great goal for these technicians.
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So the three basic theories of genetic engineering have been completely disproven. Yet to this day all advocacy of GMOs, and all the alleged “science” supporting GMOs, is based on these same three crackpot falsehoods: That heredity is destiny, that genetic information flow is unidirectional and easily described, and therefore precisely manipulable, and that one gene = one trait. We see how, just as genetic engineering has zero to do with science and is simply technical manipulation, so pro-GMO ideology has zero to do with science, but is rather a fraudulent political ideology based on nothing but Big Lies. For its true believers, it’s a fundamentalist secular religion.
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The takeaway: Genetic engineering is not science, and support for GMOs is anti-scientific, based on fidelity to crackpot lies.
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We can go into further detail.
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4. The myth that genetic engineering is the same as conventional breeding is essential to the propaganda of pro-GM activists. But this is pure snake oil.
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Breeding works with whole genomes among related species only (and no mutation-mongering tissue culture). Risks are rare and predictable, and can occur only in a few scenarios. Genetic engineering is qualitatively different in that the possible range of transgenic insertions is indefinitely greater than the genetic transfer possible in breeding, or in nature. With GE the potential for harmful chaotic effects is vastly greater and completely unpredictable. Every genetically engineered genome which has been independently studied has displayed the complete mess left behind by the “event”. Submissions to regulators detailing the alleged genome of the GMO are mystical fictions which have no relationship to the unpredictably messy reality. More on this below.
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As for natural mutations and unforeseen effects of conventional breeding, which the pro-GMO activists claim means genetic engineering is the same as these processes, where these happen they happen locally. They run up against naturally evolved safeguards against mutation, and such changes would need time and effort to run a gamut of naturally imposed challenges, or the challenges of breeder selection, to become established. GE, on the contrary, aggressively seeks to override these safeguards and leap over these challenges. It seeks to deploy the infected genome in the environment over vast regions as fast as it can. This is such a difference of magnitude, speed, and geographical reach as to comprise a qualitative difference.
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Black Swan author Nassim Taleb recently co-authored a paper on this systemic risk aspect of genetic engineering. GE has zero in common with conventional breeding, physically or ecologically. The lies and denials of pro-GMO activists with regard to this fact demonstrate their general ignorance of evolution and flippant disregard for its implications. The most extreme manifestation of pro-GM evolution denial is this incapacity or refusal to recognize the great difference between adaptation in confrontation with a wide range of natural environmental hurdles over evolutionary time, vs. seeking to leap over all the hurdles in an instant, with the entire process from genetic extraction to insertion to breeding to distribution taking place in a totally artificial, hermetic, alien, non-contextual bubble, and from there to deploy a biological technology developed in this anti-environmental way all at once on a global basis in the real world. Under such circumstances a rational person would expect nothing but disaster.
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No rational person even slightly familiar with ecology, biology, genetics, agronomy, or history could take this seriously for a moment. Any natural allele, mutation, horizontal genetic transfer, etc. must run a long gauntlet of safeguards developed by evolution including the genome’s own repair mechanism, then the greater hurdles of the local environment, must adapt and spread over millions of years. Farmer selection and conventional breeding have followed such a pattern for 10,000 years.
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But the genetic engineering technique which has existed for just a few years now claims to supersede these thousands and millions of years. It claims to be able to leap over the evolutionary genetic hurdles using technology. This is impossible. Therefore GE implicitly seeks to maximize the harmful mutations, latent weaknesses, unfit traits, and hazards.
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Similarly, genetic engineering and the ramified GMO dissemination structure claim to be able to leap over the evolutionary environmental hurdles, as well as the geographic hurdles, using economic brute force. This means it wants to spread the infected, harmful genetic and biological material, and the harms which shall follow from it, as globally as possible as fast as possible.
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To sum up, genetic engineering ideology wants to leap over the entire evolutionary time and action during which all matters of fitness, quality, and toxicity are worked out by nature, or by human thought and labor in conjunction with nature. The hubris and contempt for science on display with these persons is staggering. No, genetic engineering has nothing in common with conventional breeding. GE can only be a debilitating parasite free riding on conventional breeding and destroying its work.
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With GMOs we have a phenomenon where politics and economics meld inextricably with ecology. Ecologists are really the only scientists fully qualified to speak about GMOs. Beyond that this technology is fundamentally a political and economic phenomenon. GMOs as deployed in the real world, rather than in the depraved minds of their idolators, have very little to do with science. This renders it all the more ironic when the pro-GM activists go hysterically braying about how even the most modest questions or criticisms are “anti-science! anti-science!”
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5. I’ll be writing more about “substantial equivalence” as an ideological dogma among regulators. It’s also a core element of GE junk science.
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Substantial equivalence is self-evidently an idiotic lie, since every GMO is, unlike its forebear, a poison plant. It is either suffused with herbicide residue and toxic breakdown products, and/or it produces its own endemic Bt toxins in every cell. This is obviously an extremely significant difference, and the fact that genetic engineering “science” can say with a straight face that in this way Radical Difference = Equivalence, demonstrates how far this body of claims has departed from anything recognizable as legitimate science, rationality, or indeed bare sanity.
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Beyond this self-evident radical difference between a GMO and its isogenic forebear (the true crop which was pirated and had the transgene inserted into its genome), independent study has found that every GMO genome analyzed has significant differences from its ancestor, while the GM crops which grow from these scrambled genes are compositionally different from their non-GM counterparts in many ways. (At that link, cf. “The sham of substantial equivalence” and the next two sections.)
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All the bogus “studies” which claim to provide evidence of the safety of GMOs but which do nothing of the sort, and which often provide evidence for the opposite thesis, are in effect nothing but another version of restating the original fundamentalist dogma, “they’re safe because they’re equivalent, so they don’t need to be tested.” To say something new governments and corporations would actually have to perform non-fraudulent studies, which they resolutely refuse to do.
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It’s worth mentioning that according to substantial equivalence, Mad Cow proteins are identical to the regular protein. Therefore beef containing them would pass regulatory muster by this standard.
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On a philosophical level, the substantial equivalence dogma is part of a general philosophy of faith in sterile, hermetic “being” over real-life processes of becoming. Genetic engineers and their fanboys want to envision, and want regulators and society to envision, an inert crop or food which is “substantially equivalent” to some indeterminate natural variety. The “process”, the actual becoming, is to be seen as ineffable and effectively meaningless and irrelevant. Only a Platonic idea of the static product matters. This junk philosophy is the progenitor of the junk science of “the” genome, whether it be the propaganda idea conjured by the Human Genome Project (“the” human genome; but this can never be more than a synthesis from a sample); or the regulatory submissions which claim to describe “the” genome of a GMO even though it doesn’t describe the real genome of any actual commercial crop, since these vary naturally, and the genetically engineered versions vary far more, often chaotically; or the pseudo-scientific fraud so often run in the criminal courts where the authorities test a defendant’s DNA vs. another piece of DNA and declare them “matched” by the measure of some tendentiously defined genomic range (again a fraudulent synthesis said to represent reality).
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This pseudo-scientific trend among engineers and other scienticians is part of their general hostility to genealogy, history, learning about origins. Scientism, technocracy, like the general bourgeois ideology of which they are part, are anti-history. Then journalism and academia join the regulators in dogmatizing history out of existence. That’s the overarching ideological backdrop where we see such specific greed-based corruptions at work as the corporations lobbying the regulators to consider only the final “product” and not the “process”, never mind that the radically different process results in a substantially very different product. Behind it all is the age old authoritarian hatred of change except for change the “authority” premeditates and sets in motion. Beyond this it yearns to fix things in place once and for all, at least in thought.
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6. The same appetite for control is the source of the quasi-religious doctrine of genetic engineering’s “precision”, really an article of fundamentalist faith. In reality, the insertion process is scattershot and very messy. The most common method of insertion is to literally fire the transgenic material from a gun into a mass of target tissue. (This should remind us of another “precision” lie, that of so-called “smart bombing”, which has always been just as scattershot, dumb, and murderous as the regular kind.) The transgene ends up in a random part of the target genome, often with parts of the gene cassette separated and splattered elsewhere, or else inexplicably duplicated in other parts of the target genome. (The cassette itself is precisely assembled only on paper. The real thing is often a cobbled-together mess.) The violence of the process damages the target genome in unpredictable ways. Insertion always generates mutations. The process is so haphazard that the cassette must include an identification marker, usually an antibiotic resistance marker, so that after the insertion the transgenic material which successfully was inserted can be identified. This means dousing the target cells with a strong antibiotic which kills all the cells except those which incorporated the transgene. This joins subtherapeutic antibiotic abuse in factory farms as one of industrial agriculture’s campaigns to eradicate antibiotics as a medically effective treatment, through the willful, systematic generation of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
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The transgenic material must now be grown into seedlings in tissue culture, which causes more mutations. Then plants are grown, assessed, and selected, first in greenhouse laboratories and then in field trials. This selection is based on testing whether the poison plant “works” (does it tolerate the herbicide and/or express the insecticide in its cells), and beyond that simple eyeballing of which specimens look the best. The great bulk of genomic chaos and mutations, including any harmful or maladaptive traits, especially ones latent and ready to be switched on by any number of environmental factors, are invisible to this selection process.
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In practice all the classic GMOs demonstrate the results of this gross imprecision, such as Monsanto’s flagship Roundup Ready soybeans and MON810 maize. Since all the stacked varieties merely combine the original single-trait varieties, they incorporate and multiply the genetic chaos of GMOs.
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Conceptually, the GE ideologues seem to feel no cognitive dissonance where they contradict their own “genetic engineering = conventional breeding” lie. The same who make that claim will then flip 180 degrees and claim that conventional breeding, as well as evolution itself, are sloppy and messy while their genetic engineering is a “precision” improvement on these. Here we go beyond simple evolution denial and into the realm of creationist religion. More on that in future posts. This is evolution denial, and is also a de jure lie in that it claims genetic engineering is something separate from conventional breeding, when in fact GE is nothing but a perversion of pre-existing breeding, upon which it depends 100% to produce functional germplasm wherein it can then be inserted.
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So if conventional breeding were in fact “sloppy”, genetic engineering would only be exacerbating this chaos. But in truth evolution proceeds in a relatively orderly way, just as you’d expect from a process honed over billions of years, while these sniveling little brats who just discovered a toy a minute ago are the ones who do nothing but make a frightful mess.
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To repeat, here we see the most extreme and far-ranging aspect of the evolution denial of genetic engineering “science”.
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But we should also note that scientism cultists including these engineers tend to have a dual-track, mutually contradictory view of evolution. At the most exalted level they view neo-Darwinism as meaning a flawless process of unflaggingly perfect adaptations, with all biological phenomena encompassed within this perfection and explainable within this perfection framework. But at the same time they also deride evolution as a messy, wasteful process which needs to be improved by their technological activism. Here we see an example of the cult fundamentalist mindset I described in a previous post, with its exalted “principles” and nihilistic disdain for day-to-day truth, even where it comes to direct contradiction of the acclaimed principle. The genetic determinism dogma, however, can be applied at either level, the ivory tower Darwinian or the gutter GE-creationist.
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To finish with the junk science and propaganda lies of “precision”, the new “gene editing” techniques are no more precise than those of GE 1.0. (Cf. the section, “Is GM technology becoming more precise?”) It’s funny how we now have two contrary lines of propaganda running simultaneously: The original genetic engineering techniques were magically precise, and yet they really weren’t precise but the new techniques are so precise, honest and for true this time. Yet studies have already documented that the CRISPR technique causes mutations in human cells.
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7. “Junk DNA” = junk science. When scientists first ascertained that less than 2% of human DNA is formed into genes and didn’t know what if anything the rest of it does, they indulged their standard strong aversion to saying “I don’t know”. As much as any other religious type, scientists feel a strong need to make things up where they don’t know, and so in this case without further ado they branded the non-gene DNA “junk DNA”. There was no scientific evidence for this dismissal, just the felt need for a placeholder concept which pretends to “know something”, where a true scientist would admit ignorance.
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Since then the evidence has proven that the junk DNA dogma was wrong. Indeed, today the likes of the NIH are rushing to opposite dogmas about the infinite potentiality of this DNA. Meanwhile dead-enders continue to defend the junk science.
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The state of the science implies that the genome does far more than just code for proteins, but no one knows the extent of this action. One thing which this science does prove, to add to all the other proofs, is that genetic engineers have no idea what they’re doing.
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8. There are many more examples of the crackpot “science” and lies which comprise the defense of genetic engineering. We can list just a few of these. These and the foregoing have all been disproven and repose on the trash heap of junk science. Nevertheless to this day they make up the “scientific” part of pro-GMO ideology.
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*The whole is just the sum of the biggest parts. Smaller parts, and any kind of holistic network, don’t matter. (The “NPK mentality”, as Albert Howard called it.)
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*The Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) promoter functions only in plants, not in animals.
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*A synthetically modified organism (SMO) is identical to the corresponding GMO.
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*Glyphosate affects only the shikimate enzyme pathway, and this is found only in plants, not animals. In truth it affects mammalian CYP and retinoic acid pathways as well as having a general mineral chelation effect. Meanwhile the shikimate pathway is found in the bacteria of the human microbiome, which is a symbiotic part of our digestion and plays an important role in other human physiological systems. I included this with “genetic engineering” because these lies and junk science are part of the rationalization of the Roundup Ready GMO system.
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*Bt becomes toxic only amid the alkalinity of an insect’s digestive tract, not that of the mammalian. Bt toxins cannot enter the human bloodstream.
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*GE material is destroyed in processing/cooking/the gut. It never enters the bloodstream.
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*There’s only linear (“dose-dependent”) effects. There’s no such thing as non-linear effects.
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Genetic engineering claims to be able precisely to insert selected transgenic DNA into an alien genome, where this DNA will seamlessly command the indigenous resources to produce the desired RNA which will produce the desired proteins, which will then cause the desired phenotype manifestations. Meanwhile all the host organism’s native genetic functions except the specific ones being modified or overriden by the transgene will continue in the same way as before. All this is supposed to happen in a precisely calibrated way.
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As we’ve seen, all this is bunk. Since the parts which weren’t premeditated lies from the start were debunked long ago, by now they’re all nothing but willful lies. Persistence Proves Intent.
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What really happens in genetic engineering? The insertion is a brutish, sloppy process creating a genetic mess. Where “successful”, the transgenic DNA will attain the desired effect. But it also causes incalculable chaotic effects, from unpredictable levels of protein expression to the production of completely new proteins and other metabolites to alternative folding of proteins.
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The disruption and mutations caused by transgene insertion may also affect the indigenous processes of the host genome in chaotic ways. This includes its DNA repair mechanisms, its RNA transcription and splicing, its protein formation, and the many ways its proteins interact with one another.
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The organic chaos which follows from the brutal, mutagenic GE process is seen in the profligate waste of the subsequent GM crop development process. Even after identification of the crop tissue which successfully incorporated the transgene, it’s very difficult for the engineers to grow suitable crops from the transgenic material, it’s so genetically damaged and weakened. Then there’s the ongoing genetic and phenotype unpredictability as the seeds are commercialized and the crops deployed across a great range of climates, environments, and agricultural practices. I’ve written before about how GMOs are a rich man’s technology and require optimal conditions in order to have any decent chance of functioning as advertised, i.e. in a way similar to how they functioned under perfect lab and optimal field trial conditions. Any deviation from this optimum, and you have a crapshoot at best.
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This brings us back to the radical difference between genetic engineering, which is inherently reductionist and controlling, especially in the extremely narrow range of genetics it seeks to have dominate all of agriculture (since all commercial GMO varieties, no matter how varied the back-crossing, which as a rule doesn’t have much variation, come from the same original “event” and continue to inbreed the event’s weaknesses, hazards, and chaos), vs. conventional breeding, which in principle as well as in participatory and organic practice is inherently expansive, manifold, diverse, and resilient.
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All this proves how GMOs don’t make sense in principle. Just as the inherently messy and chaotic transgenic insertion process guarantees that even the reductive poison plants which actually “work” will work only in haphazard, unpredictable ways, so pleiotropy rules out the long-promised-never-delivered GMOs designed to produce better agronomic and product quality traits. If genetic engineering can barely cope with producing transgenic effects which involve just one inserted transgene, imagine trying to solve for multi-gene effects.
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Rendering crops poisonous is not an improvement, but literal poison plants (those which exude a systemic insecticide, those which systemically absorb herbicide, and usually both at the same time) are the only kinds genetic engineering can create.
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Genetic engineering does not produce the results it claims. I stress that this is not just because genetic engineering is a stupid, shoddy practice, though it is that, but because the underlying “science” of genetic engineering is wrong and fraudulent in theory.
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In truth, support for GMOs has nothing to do with science, but rather is political and financial. Technological development is always part of politics and political economy. It’s clear that the real world struggle of pro-GMO activism vs. humanity has nothing to do with science but is purely a political and economic struggle, part of the ongoing assault of predatory corporations upon humanity. Indeed, another reason GMOs make no sense in principle, in this case except from the point of view of corporate power and control, is that their history proves that GMOs cannot be capitalized, developed, produced, distributed other than through big corporations. Indeed GMOs were developed in the first place to intensify corporate control and domination. But corporate control is antithetical to productive, food-based, sustainable agriculture. By definition corporate agriculture, producing commodities and poison instead of food, with food then supposed to “trickle down” as a side effect, is incoherent, irrational, and an abdication. GMOs represent the extreme manifestation of corporate agriculture.
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It’s funny how confused and stupid pro-GM activists, including the credentialed “scientists”, are about this. It’s a good measure of their general ignorance, stupidity, and hysterical emotionality that, facing any criticism of GMOs from any angle – economic, political, agronomic – they immediately start shrieking, “anti-science! anti-science!” It seems they’re so dumb they really can’t tell the difference between a scientific criticism and a socioeconomic criticism. But then, they know that the only thing which gives their otherwise obvious lies any obscurantist cover at all is a fraudulent appeal to the authority of their bogus “Science”, so their desperate propaganda need abets their idiocy. Of course, the science is also 100% against them.
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Unfortunately, a complete ignorance of agriculture and farming is the standard state of pro-GMO activists, and the STEM-credentialed ones most of all. Being such a complete ignoramus actually helps one believe in genetic engineering “science”, since this fends off potential doubts about germplasm quality and diversity, the genetics of produce quality, how weeds and insects react to poisons, and the position of agriculture amid ecosystems and the sustainability of fossil fuel dependent industrial monoculture as such. (As far as the socioeconomics, the pro-GM activists mostly understand that the purpose of GMOs is to drive hundreds of millions of people off their land, and the activists consider this to be a good thing.)
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.To summarize this most recent series of posts on agriculture and science.
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1. There’s no such thing as genetic engineering science.
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2. The dogmas of scientism cannot be applied to agriculture at all.
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If by science we mean a coherent theory which has truth value and relates to the real world, then where it comes to industrial agriculture there’s no science involved at all. The real world practice is just brute force empiricism based on seeking power goals, not on any kind of scientific concept, no more than how much a whip-wielding slave driver theorizes about how people might best live in peace with one another.
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Those who call this or GMOs predominantly a “science” matter are regurgitating a corporate propaganda lie, or else naively abetting this lie. Too many even among GM critics let them get away with this lie. Many even gratuitously place themselves in the defensive position of arguing that there’s merely holes or abuses in the corporate science. There’s even the lament that “our” scientists deserve a hearing as well, and indeed among the few independent scientists who have followed where the evidence leads, the main yearning seems to be to maintain standing among the scientific establishment and win credibility there. But I propose that this is all wrong.
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The fact is that corporate “science” has nothing to do with science at all. Corporations and their operatives do not seek scientific fact and do not find it and do not act upon it. They seek corporate profit and power, they base their work upon it, present their “findings” in service to it, and act from there. They are corporate activists, and GMO proponents are pro-GMO activists. The scientific establishment has abdicated completely where it comes to all agriculture and food matters. (Other matters as well, but I’ll leave analysis to those who focus on those matters.) The only science which exists here is the agroecological science which has been steadily in the building since the mid-twentieth century. This science is fully demonstrated and ready to be deployed, wherever the political will exists to do so.
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We scholars, scientists, and agronomic practitioners of the ecological philosophy have won complete victory in the science fight, and we know that the corporate “science” paradigm is nothing but a structure of lies and force. Only we have science at all. So whatever political guidance we deduce from the situation, and whatever any of us wants to accomplish with agriculture and food, anything from reforms to the necessary abolition and transformation, let’s communicate in a way that stops respecting enemy lies and which respects only truth.
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Across the board, in general and at every point of detail, science affirms and supports agroecology and Food Sovereignty and condemns the failures, poison, and destruction wrought by corporate agriculture.

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August 4, 2015

There Is No Science of Big Agriculture

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There is no valid science underlying Big Agriculture’s practices, just empiricism. While propped up by cheap, plentiful fossil fuels and aquifer water, along with massive government subsidies, Big Ag has been successful at concentrating power and wealth, maximizing poison usage for profit and for poison’s own sake, building a modern commodified agricultural input sector (aka agribusiness), and attaining three desirable (from the corporate point of view) socioeconomic outcomes: dispossessing and disenfranchising vast numbers of people by driving them off the land, rendering this mass available as inexpensive industrial labor, providing cheap calories for this proletariat.
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Although the second is no longer a goal, the first and third (nowadays as cheap calories for cheap consumerism) continue in full force.
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Therefore the empiricism has been successful, but the science is 100% against the basic ideas and practices.
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1. Industrial agriculture is based on a completely false and anti-scientific view of nature. It comprehends nature as a machine with discrete, interchangeable, mass-producible parts. This comes from 19th century agricultural dogma which decreed that all plant growth and health is based on three nutrients: Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K). The dogma holds that only these three important nutrients are necessary and sufficient for plant growth. This led to what organic agriculture pioneer Albert Howard called “the NPK mentality”, which would reduce all natural processes to simple manipulations of a few variables, preferably supplied synthetically and from off the farm. Once you’ve simplified everything that way, and done so in a way which recognizes only a few readily industrialized factors as meaningful, your path is open to organize everything according to the rhythms of industrialization, mechanization, corporate organization, and power and wealth accumulation.
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The NPK mentality was the perfect ideology to complement the rising industrialization of agriculture and its increasing control by big corporations and governments. Who cares that food production and distribution was always naturally locally and regionally based? Since agriculture is nothing but the measured application of three nutrients and some water, it’s best to put it under the control of centralized power hierarchies who can deliver these few inputs most prodigiously and efficiently.
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We find the same crackpot view of nature in Big Ag’s concept of the soil. The NPK ideology considers the soil to be an inert medium, there just to hold the roots in place. This is completely false. On the contrary, the soil comprises a rich ecosystem of microbes, annelids (like earthworms), and other organisms. These engage in an incredibly complex interaction among themselves and with a vast array of soil nutrients, far beyond the big three of industrial dogma, to create the organic basis of plant growth. Plants depend upon this soil ecology for their nutrition, for water (an organically healthy soil retains moisture far better than the sterile soils of monoculture), for the physical integrity of their roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits. Plant health starts from soil health (and of course seed health), and plant resistance to pests and disease depends upon the basic health of the plant and the soil.
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To sum up:
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Ideologically, NPK is the specifically agricultural version of scientific mechanism/reductionism, whose entire record proves its great limitations for real-world explanation and prescription, as well its psychopathy: It started with the dogma that animals are mere machines which feel no pain. From day one this was intended to justify cruelty to people as well as animals.
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Factually, NPK has long since been debunked as junk science. Plants require a far greater array of nutrients than the big three of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. And far from being an inert medium, soil is a critical ecosystem, both for agriculture and for the environment in general.
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Another reductive notion related to the NPK ideology is a distorted version of germ theory which claims that a germ comes along and “causes” a disease. This too is crackpot science. Organic terrain theory has proven the opposite. In most cases, for there to be a significant incidence of a disease, the pathogen must first find the right habitat (the “terrain”) where it can thrive, and then it must find an already weak target. This is the usual scenario where an epidemic breaks out. In agriculture, pest or disease outbreaks are usually from a combination of three factors: A degraded habitat provides the right terrain for a pathogen to proliferate, and unhealthy crops provide a good target for this pathogen. Of course to acknowledge the real science here would deprive industrial agriculture of another pillar of its fraudulent ideology and “science”.
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2. The Poisoner ideology exalts poison for its own sake and sees it as the only way to deal with agricultural pests or any other problem with living things. For corporate and industrial agriculture ideologues, this appetite for poison has calcified into a mental constriction unable even to think in a broader, let alone new, way. Then there’s the veritably religious cult of poison worship among scienticians and the militarist technology and mindset brought to agriculture. The same engineers who worked on poison gas weapons, insecticides and herbicides for the military now brought the technology, the mindset, the terminology to civilian life. It’s not much of a stretch since with poison-based agriculture the practitioners focus not on growing crops by balancing an ecosystem, but on growing them by killing an enemy. Big Ag ideology is a propaganda-driven extension of the history of poison-based agriculture as war technology refurbished for civilian use.
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Genetic engineering and the poisoner ideology are especially narrow, myopic, fraudulent, and destructive manifestations of the reductionist mechanist ideology. These will get their own separate posts.
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A typical example I’ll briefly discuss here is the growing evidence that pesticide synergy, especially the combined effect of the “active ingredient” with so-called “inert ingredients” such as surfactants and adjuvants, is far more toxic than the action of the so-called active ingredient by itself. But one of the standard methodological and regulatory frauds of the corporate science paradigm is to test and regulate only the ivory tower version of the poison which is never deployed in real life, while the far more toxic real-world commercial formulations are never tested by the establishment or regulated. That’s why the system invented the propaganda categories “active ingredient” and “inert ingredient”. These terms have no scientific meaning and do not mean the “inert” ingredients are non-toxic or even less toxic than the “active” component. On the contrary, the whole purpose of the inert ingredients is to render the active ingredient more toxic, and many such as POEA in Roundup are highly toxic in their own right.
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This dogma, that it’s meaningful to study an isolated ingredient and declare this to be sufficient for the combined product which will be deployed in reality, is a typical anti-scientific feature of corporate so-called “science”. The same dynamic applies to the combined effects of many poisons (i.e. multiple “active” ingredients at work); regulators never set upper limits to the combined poisons to be inflicted upon food or water, only each poison by itself. Same for the combined effects of “stacked” multiple-transgene GMOs, and any other synergy. It’s corporate science dogma that a stack or any other combination equals exactly the sum of its parts, nothing more and nothing less. Big Ag corporate science imposes its flat earth dogma across the board. Each individual part is to be considered only by itself and never in conjunction with any other part, no matter how promiscuously these parts are combined in real life.
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3. Big Ag “science” fetishizes industrial monoculture cropping as a kind of orderly, rational system. But much like with fascist mass rallies, in spite of the surface regimentation and “orderliness” monoculture does not mean law and order. On the contrary it means intellectual and agronomic/environmental chaos. Superficially orderly, monoculture is feverish with latent chaos. It’s really a great disorder, the ultimate form of decadence. Monoculture farming wipes out functional, balanced ecosystems and replaces them with a void which then is filled by vermin and disease, which then can only be fought off with an ever-escalating onslaught of poisons. Agriculture can never be removed from ecology. It can exist only as part of an ecological balance, or else it can eradicate this balance and open the void to be filled by pathogens and pests. This is true for all of industrial agriculture. Factory farms comprise the most extreme embodiment, but a monocrop field is the same incubator of biological and environmental pathology. It’s the same on the socioeconomic level, as corporate industrial agriculture wipes out human communities and generates, on one side shantytowns and on the other a small class of super-rich psychopaths and parasites with their pathological support structure. So socially as well monoculture destroys human balance and breeds pathology.
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Contrary to the junk science of Big Ag ideology, real science proves that where it comes to both insects and weeds, greater biodiversity and diversity of organic practice = fewer and more tractable pests. Few gambits in the history of science and technology have so quickly been so thoroughly disproven in principle and practice as have been the two GMO genres, insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. What keeps them in the field is nothing but brute economic and political force and a psychotic religion of poison. But the science has spoken as definitively on this as it ever has on anything – the concept is wrong, the practice doomed.
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Big Ag science’s denial of the evolution of insects and weeds in the face of poison pressure is of course a manifestation of evolution denial as such. We see how readily the ideology disposes of one of the iconic concepts of modern science the moment this concept becomes inconvenient for the corporate propaganda line. Lots more to come on corporate science’s evolution denialism in the GE “science” post.
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Meanwhile the canned lie that GMO cultivation can help sequester carbon through chemical no-till, also more euphemistically called “conservation tillage”, is being completely debunked as the spread of Roundup-resistant weeds increasingly requires the most aggressive tillage to give farmers any hope of keeping their fields partially clear.
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The concept of chemical no-till as carbon sequestration tactic was bogus in principle, since the slathering of Roundup destroys the soil ecosystem which incorporates carbon as humus in the first place. The very term “sequestration” demonstrates the fundamental error of the approach: Nature doesn’t “sequester” anything, but actively incorporates it into a dynamic system. Poison-based agriculture, of which the Roundup Ready system is the ultimate example, automatically destroys the soil ecosystem and leaves sterile dirt which would be incapable of incorporating carbon. That’s why irrigation water has to be fortified with chemical additives to bind it to dirt molecules. That’s the only way to keep the water from running off the site immediately, eroding all the dirt with it. Sure enough, studies found that chemical no-till could at best “sequester” a small amount of carbon in the immediate topsoil where the biomass from the previous crop degrades, but does nothing to build organic matter deeper into the dirt, turning it into real soil. The whole concept of chemical no-till is incorrect. That’s to be expected, as it’s an extension of the absolutely erroneous NPK ideology, which is the source of all the agronomic and ecological pathologies in the first place.
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So monoculture generates, in the short run the void to be filled by pathogens and poison, in the longer run chaos and destruction. It’s the agricultural manifestation of the lawlessness and chaos of corporate rule in general. “The policeman is there to preserve disorder.”
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4. Productionism is the crackpot obsession with “yield” as such, with no concern for how efficiently the calories yielded are used. Only a lunatic would look at how CAFO meat production takes 10 calories of grain* and turns it into for 1 calorie of food for people and call this efficient, rational, or sane. Grain-for-CAFO feed is second only to the GMO regime as an example of how the Big Ag system is set up through government policy and subsidies to promote production for profitable commodification, while food means absolutely nothing in itself**. The agrofuel rathole, as well as the fact that the system wastes up to one third of the food produced, also demonstrate how the yield-based system is not concerned with producing food at all or whether human beings have access to what food is produced. Nothing but profit and power matter, while food is expected to trickle down as an afterthought.
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Here the establishment science directly prostitutes itself by parroting the productionist lies in general (that producing mass calories of field crops has anything to do with food for human beings), as well as through such de jure direct lies as that acre for acre industrial agriculture produces more food than decentralized polyculture agroecology, or that GMOs out-produce either organic production or non-GM conventional. Here the alleged “science” doesn’t even have a false theory, but simply tells direct political lies.
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Each of these concepts/practices is 100% dependent upon cheap fossil fuels, cheap fossil water, cheaply mined phosphorus.
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Each is unsustainable in its own right even given infinite energy.
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Scientism/technocracy ideology exalts sterility, hermetic artificiality, total control, and extreme monocultural conformity as normative, desirable, and as the way nature and scientific truth realistically work. This is the basis of the reductive, mechanist ideology of science which has prevailed since Descartes. But all this is nothing but religious fantasy and falsehood.
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I stress that the whole notion that science is the study of things which can be removed from the general context and studied in hermetic isolation is precisely among the propositions we deny. On the contrary, we insist that science can provide meaningful and worthwhile results only when it’s practiced with an eye to the entire dynamic framework. So it’s in the nature of things that our discussion of science from here on will frequently shift to its interactions with other disciplines and areas of life. While scientific experimentation often artificially isolates certain variables, the findings then must be adapted back to the context of life in order to have validity and meaning. Only this comprehensive discussion can render science anything more than what’s at best sterile scholasticism, and often something far worse.
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Science condemns the industrial agricultural experiment as having failed at everything it ever promised it would do. All it accomplished was to use to use the temporary fossil fuel surplus to produce more gross calories. But it’s been an absolute failure in terms of ending hunger, food’s denuded nutritional value, food toxification, the destruction of the environment including greenhouse gas emissions – the industrial agriculture sector is by far the worst greenhouse gas emitter and worst destroyer of carbon sinks – and the destruction of economies, polities, and communities. Food corporatism and its “Green Revolution” promised to solve all these problems, all of which corporate industrial agriculture generated or exacerbated in the first place. By any scientific standard it’s a proven failure. To wish to continue the experiment is proof that the experimenters were lying about their proclaimed goals all along. Persistence Proves Intent. We know these facts: Corporate rule is purely wasteful and destructive, does nothing for humanity, and accomplishes nothing but to enable a small group of criminals to further concentrate wealth and power and exercise domination. In the end power and domination are their only goals and their only reasons for being.
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*Each of those ten calories requiring many more caloric equivalents of fuel and other inputs, as globalized commodity grain production is extremely inefficient and irrational in itself even before it reaches the factory farm.
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**That’s also how it’s possible for governments, corporations, academia, and media to turn food into poison, or support this poison system, with a clear conscience. In their minds they’ve completely jettisoned any connection of agricultural commodification with food for human beings. It’s very similar to how the Nazi system of assembly line mass murder removed the moral implication from view for most participants. Today, although we don’t (yet) have gas chambers, we do have the hideous assembly line animal cruelty of CAFOs, and the mass dispossession and immiseration of hundreds of millions of people driven off the land and into shantytowns, which are veritable economic concentration camps. The Big Ag system does what it can to render these monumental and ongoing mass crimes invisible to most participants. What little vestige of conscience is left for any of this is met with the “Feed the World” Big Lie, a lie as depraved as that which was posted at the entrance to Auschwitz.
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July 29, 2015

Food Sovereignty

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I paraphrase the Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty as formulated by the global farmer movement Via Campesina:

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1. Food Sovereignty affirms healthy food as a basic human right. This means we have a pre-political right to work the soil and enjoy the food we produce from it. This is because our creative and productive work is an essential part of our humanity, and any attempt to sunder us from control over our work is an elemental crime. Access to our work and ability to do our work is the essence of freedom. This right to food can also be encoded as a formal constitutional right, wherever the people choose to do so.
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2. Food Sovereignty affirms our human right to productively work the land, which means control of the land by those who productively steward it. Access to our work and ability to do our work is the essence of freedom.
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3. Food Sovereignty recognizes the need for productive stewardship of all natural resources. This include the need, responsibility, and obligation to use our natural resources as sustainably and renewably as possible, in harmony with the nature which provides their foundation.
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4. Food Sovereignty affirms that human economies are naturally demand-based, never supply-based. It rejects all top-down command economy measures. It therefore rejects globalization, commodification, corporate welfare, and corporatism as such. Trade must be of food only, never agricultural commodities.
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5. Within the current globalization of food, Food Sovereignty especially rejects the financialization and commodification of food and other natural resources.
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6. Food Sovereignty seeks modes of production and distribution based on natural human cooperation instead of artificial elite-imposed competition and mutual destruction. Food production and distribution, where done democratically and according to the natural rhythms of the economy, can be forces for freedom, happiness, well-being, and social peace instead of sublimated civil war. Food and agricultural policy must never be a “food weapon”, must never be part of economic warfare or civil war. There must be no use of food as politics by other means, war by other means.
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7. Food Sovereignty affirms that political and economic organization must be democratic. Food producers and consumers must take the lead and exercise full control of everything we create and consume. That means everything which exists within the bounds of polity and economy.
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Food Sovereignty is the political complement to agroecology, the great body of true agronomic science, knowledge, technology, and practice. Agroecology is about growing food in harmony with nature, in a way which provides the most wholesome food with the highest amount of calories and nutritional value, builds the soil, uses less water, cleanses the water and air, breeds the best crops, grows the physically strongest crops, improves the genetic robustness of our crops, most effectively discourages weeds and pests, attracts beneficial insects and companion plants, provides wildlife habitat, enhances ecosystems in general, and provides a spiritually fulfilling human environment.
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The essence of Food Sovereignty is the proposition that agroecology and political and economic freedom are mutually reinforcing.
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Positive democracy dispenses with all forms of coercive hierarchy in favor of the cooperative economies and societies which are natural to human beings. This is the culture which would end all tyranny and minimize violence. It’s the most favorable environment for all forms of autonomous and cooperative production, including the agroecology which already is the most productive of all forms of agriculture, and whose productivity advantage shall increase exponentially post-fossil fuels. Conversely, conditions of artificial scarcity and unemployment arise out of and are conducive to anti-democratic ideas and forms. Corporate Rule = Artificial Scarcity. Food Sovereignty/Agroecology/Community Food = Natural and Economic Abundance.
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The Big Lie that industrial agriculture outproduces organic is based on simple accounting fraud. Corporate propagandists isolate one crop, for example corn, and then compare industrial vs. organic monocultures of that crop. But monoculture is antithetical to the organic framework. On the contrary, the right comparison is between the industrial monoculture and the integrated, diversified polycultural farm. When this correct account is tallied, we find that organic outproduces industrial in terms of calories and macronutrients, and vastly outproduces it in terms of vitamins and minerals.
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But this mode of agroecological production – diversified, geared to local conditions, intensively using skilled labor, producing abundance, providing fulfilling work for all – cannot be concentrated into an assembly line. So it’s naturally resistant to hierarchy. It naturally resists power and wealth concentration.
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Therefore agroecology is in the spirit of the original principle of the American Revolution, that concentrated power naturally assaults liberty, and that the responsibility of a citizen is to be vigilant toward power, or better yet not allow it to concentrate in the first place. Organic food production, by its very nature, presents a great hurdle to concentration, and therefore lessens the burden of vigilance. It also does this by providing local/regional food security. By training for self-reliance, it also affirmatively trains us to be the active citizens we need to be.
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What is needful? If you believe industrial agriculture as such is sustainable, then all you need to do is stay the course with the predominantly non-GM conventional industrial system which produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, far more than will ever exist even by the most prodigious population projections. Even in that scenario GMOs are unnecessary and pointless.
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But the fact is that industrial agriculture is not sustainable and, if left to continue on its current trajectory, shall inevitably fail and collapse, bringing unfathomable famine and disease with its failure. Again, since GMOs do nothing but double down on every trend and pathology of industrial agriculture, they can play no role in any constructive transformation. Their one and only purpose is to impose authoritarian regimentation on agriculture and food.
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The agroecological transformation which is already underway is the only possible way forward for humanity’s future need and abundance. Small polyculture farms have always been far more productive than industrial plantations. Organic practices are already demonstrated to be enable humanity to produce food and fertility sufficient to sustain and exceed the world’s need. When industrial practice is no longer able to function as it runs out of the massive infusions of cheap fuel, aquifer water, and mined phosphorus it daily requires, the productivity margin shall become infinite. We know this is true, the science and history prove it. Across the board real science and rationality support the accomplishments and potential of agroecology and Food Sovereignty and condemn corporate agriculture’s failures, toxicity, and destructiveness.
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Agroecology is the only agronomic way forward. Together with Food Sovereignty we find the great way forward for freedom, democracy, and human prosperity. The basis of a healthy economy, polity, and society is the ability of the productive class to procure everything it needs for a decent life. So given any social premise, including even the premises of modern civilization and the middle-class aspiration, agroecology is the most fruitful and healthful basis of agriculture. As always, where it comes to food issues the answer to any problem is along the same vector regardless of whether one’s a reformist or a revolutionary. Either way one must be an anti-corporatist.
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The history of this movement has provided the right model for all social organization. Agroecological knowledge, the greatest achievement of the modern era and the achievement with by far the greatest potential for the future, was built from a combination of science and regionally adapted practical knowledge. Food production and distribution, more than any other endeavor, emphasize the importance of adaptive knowledge and require the mutual support of scientific theory and locally adapted application. Nowhere is this more true than with agriculture, and if we expand from science theory to philosophy in general, here agriculture also provides a template for all human endeavor. We already know it’s true in politics and political economy. Monoculture is death in general.
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The key: agroecological science plus regionally adapted empirical knowledge and practice, toward food production primarily for the region. This can be applied right now, especially across the global South. It requires primarily the political will to reject Western globalization and its depredations. The Via Campesina principles of Food Sovereignty articulate best what’s necessary. This applies also to our critically endangered agricultural genetics, where our salvation lies in participatory plant breeding for regionally adapted agroecology. Centralized seed vaults like Svalbard represent in principle a crackpot “solution” of decadence, even leaving aside any likely corruption.
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Participatory breeders can receive important assistance from formally trained scientific breeders if these latter commit to agroecology and Food Sovereignty. If they fail to do this (they’ve been increasingly corporatized since the 1980s), we can teach ourselves all that’s necessary. Farmers have already empirically selected and bred for thousands of years.
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We’re already doing all of this. Organizations like Campesino a Campesino and the Asian Farmer Field Schools already exist to propagate the most cutting edge agroecological knowledge and techniques to smallholder farmers. This modern knowledge is really a refinement of and supplement to the age old techniques. But unlike fraudulent technologies like GMOs, these conceptual refinements and enhancements which require little in the way of expensive inputs and really do produce great gains in yield and nutritional quality.
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Helped by this knowledge, which Southern farmers can largely propagate among themselves with perhaps some help from the organic movement in the West (and this help being only in the form of non-proprietary knowledge; and of course we in the West have at least as much to learn from the innovators of the South), Southern farmers can provide for themselves and their communities. Southern communities shall attain prosperity and security through their own resources efforts, if the assaults of the corporate West are stopped.
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So the road to a human future is clear enough. Support and join the efforts of Southern farmer unions like these, and the efforts of the hundreds of farmer and citizen groups who have combined to form the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, and the efforts of the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil and elsewhere across Latin America, and the efforts of La Via Campesina, the Peasant Way, and the efforts of those of us in the West who are trying to build such movements here.
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If humanity is to have a future, this great movement must succeed. We must defend ourselves as farmers and citizens, we must preserve our ability to democratically produce and distribute the true crops and real food, and we must build this effort as a movement to ensure the future of humanity.
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In all these ways, therefore, agroecology helps foster and strengthen democracy, just as democracy provides the most constructive environment for agroecology. Food Sovereignty is an essentially democratic philosophy and practice. It’s the most purely human philosophy, and it’s the practice most tending toward our human fulfillment.

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February 28, 2015

The Current State of the TTIP

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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently declared, “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.” He was referring to the iron resolve of the Eurozone cabal to crush any Greek attempt to liberate itself from the economic war of aggression called “austerity”. This ideological proclamation can be applied just as much to the Commission’s resolve to join the US government and the global corporations in a second and parallel economic war waged upon the people. This is the attempt to impose upon the people of America and Europe a corporate dictatorship in the form of a globalization treaty, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the TTIP. A similar attempt is ongoing on the other side of the world with the Transpacific Partnership, the TPP. I focus on the TTIP, but everything I say applies to the TPP as well.
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The US government and the European Commission were hoping to have the TTIP wrapped up and ratified by a year ago, but democratic pressures have forced a big slowdown, as the EC and officials from various member states have sought to get their propaganda in order. Thus the EC felt compelled to hold a bogus “public consultation” (the equivalent of a public comment period) on the most controversial element of the plan, Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), while government officials struggled to present a united front in promising that the TTIP would not lead directly to such outcomes as the privatization of Britain’s health system or the eradication of European truth-in-geographical-branding regulations, a common concern everywhere. It obviously will bring these and far worse outcomes, as some officials admitted before later backpedaling. Meanwhile even high-level pro-TTIP (and pro-CETA, Canada-Europe Trade Agreement, another pact which was supposed to be completed in 2014 but has stalled) officials are now telling the US they think ISDS is overkill. They give legalistic reasons for this change of heart, though the main reason must be that they think it’s political overkill which threatens ratification of the pact itself. That’s why the EC had to take time out for the “consultation” a year ago.
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Indeed, European civil society must ensure that it’s political overkill, enough overkill to kill the pacts. This is their best bet for getting the European Parliament and/or the governments of the 28 EU member states to refuse to ratify these two pacts. Even if ISDS is taken out of the agreement(s) in a de jure sense, we must go ahead and say it’s still in there, since the only thing which will have changed is that instead of explicitly enshrining it upfront like they’d originally planned, they’ll instead seek to institute its equivalent gradually through the permanent and ongoing “regulatory coherence” war plan. This is where all the most inflammatory goals are likely to seek realization, for example the gutting of the precautionary principle.
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In spite of the delay, the negotiations are gradually oozing forward. Early in February US and EC representatives met in Brussels to draft the sector specific Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) provisions of the TTIP. This includes the pact’s goal of gutting all that still exists of food safety, public health, and animal welfare regulation. The draft encodes almost all the demands submitted by industry, including the establishment of a secret US/EC/corporate committee that would have the power to oversee safety regulation prior to government regulatory processes, pact-imposed federal preemption in the US and Europe, an effective ban on any future restrictions on product classes, severe restrictions on customs inspections at the port of entry, the requirement that all regulations be “harmonized” with the WTO and its Codex Alimentarius, and many other draconian clauses. It formally institutes ISDS within these sectors. It pays lip service to government rights to protect human life and animal and plant health, but governments may do this only in ways that are the “least trade restrictive”. How can you enshrine a value like protecting human life but then put a restriction on it – a restriction which strongly implies that corporate profit is a higher value than human life. Obviously this is the same as not valuing human life at all, as indeed these pro-globalization activists and their supporters do not.
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The goal here as with every other part of the TTIP is to gut all public interest and democratic controls. Power and effective decision-making are to be shifted from member states and the EC itself to the pact committees. The same is to happen in the US. In addition to a radical escalation of the existing trend toward federal preemption and usurpation of the power that rightly reposes at lower levels of government and sovereignty, effective power is also to be shifted from the US system in general to the TTIP itself. The real power and control will be wielded by the corporate oligopoly sectors. This is typical of all such globalization policy. The TTIP is explicit in its charter: The goal is to maximize supply-driven “trade” and profits “to the greatest extent possible”. At the SPS committee meetings hundreds demonstrated against this “Trojan Horse Treaty”, which under the fraudulent rubric of “free trade” seeks to establish the closest thing yet to direct corporate dictatorship on a mass scale.
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I’ve written extensively about the rise of corporate domination. In Part Two we’ll review this evolution of government power from the nation-state to the modern bureaucratic state to globalization and corporate rule.

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February 12, 2015

“Welfare”

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(Someone asked me whether or not there was something philosophically bad about so-called “welfare”, using food stamps as his example. This was my reply.)
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1. Since all the wealth of government and corporations is stolen from the people who actually do the work in the first place, or is extracted at the socioeconomic and spiritual expense of those who are artificially rendered “unemployed” by a system which separates humanity from its ability to work, anything the people can get back from this system is automatically justified.
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2. For every penny of “welfare” there’s probably a thousand dollars of corporate welfare, so that right there renders “welfare” for human beings a non-issue anyway, from any practical or moral point of view. Like with so many other problems and issues, we’d have to abolish corporatism first and THEN see if there’s any problems left over with anything that actually benefits human beings.
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3. The money for this or any other government program doesn’t come from taxes paid by the working class, it comes from money the Fed prints. Taxes are not in fact necessary for a government to pay for things, but are rather a form of social control. (The way things are going now, with the Fed printing trillions to be directly handed over to Wall Street and other corporate sectors, is unproductive, destructive, and unsustainable, but that’s a different issue.)
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4. The food stamp system is intentionally set up to make it easy to procure junk food and difficult to obtain good food like fresh produce. I’ve worked at a farmers’ market and can attest to how hard it is to set up to accept food stamps. Different states do more or less to help with this. And then of course many food stamp recipients live in food deserts artificially created by the system, where fresh produce is hard to come by. So if some recipients use food stamps to buy junk food, that isn’t just some kind of individual turpitude. The far greater cause is the structural trap they’re in.
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5. But that outcome is intentional, since food stamps aren’t really meant to feed those who couldn’t otherwise afford to eat. Their main purpose is to be laundered corporate welfare for food manufacturers, just as farmer subsidies are laundered corporate welfare for the input manufacturers and commodifiers. That’s why food stamps are part of the same Farm Bill that enshrines Big Ag subsidies. That food stamps do help people eat is just a side effect from the government’s point of view.
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6. So although lots of people want to moralize about “welfare”, it’s actually meaningless and amoral to talk about it at all unless it’s placed in its political and socioeconomic context, where we see that it’s (A) utterly trivial compared to the magnitude and malignity of corporate welfare, (B) in many cases actually is laundered corporate welfare, (C) is helping people who have been rendered economically superfluous and unemployable (because the jobs no longer exist) by those same corporations, who control all government policy.
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I’ll go a step further and say it’s immoral and depraved to have no objection, and especially no moral/emotional objection, to trillions in corporate welfare which helps no one and is purely destructive, but to feel outraged over the few pennies the government still spends which actually can help actual human beings who have been impoverished and economically exiled by the policies of that same government.
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All my outrage is directed at corporate rule.

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