Volatility

February 21, 2015

The Lunatics Running the Asylum

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Remember “drapetomania”, the expert-diagnosed mental illness that caused slaves irrationally to want to escape from slavery? Those same experts are now trying to call the desire and fight for real food a mental illness, “orthorexia nervosa”. I like it. Let them keep it up with their superciliousness, insults, and obvious lies. It’ll only further discredit their fraudulent “scientific” corporate establishment. It’ll only further isolate scientism from all political and social grounding, rendering it even more completely dependent on the brute force which will eventually fail. And then where will they turn?
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Meanwhile so far as I know there’s not yet a diagnosis and term for irrationally taking the word of credentialed experts, even though their corporate mercenary interest is clear and their historical record for being grotesquely wrong in every such case is nearly unbroken. Same for corporate media “journalists” like those who are trying to be boosters for this notion that wanting unpoisoned food is irrational. This must be especially attractive to the NYT-led media, which specializes in trying to “diagnose” dissident individuals and movements and military opposition to US aggression as being forms of mental illness.
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Is there a diagnosis and term for being OK with poisoning the food, water, air, and soil, and being happy to eat and drink poison this way?

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February 17, 2015

By Their Own Standard, Credentialist Pro-GMO Activists Are Ignorant Yahoos

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The US Right to Know issued a Freedom of Information request to universities where four prominent pro-GMO activists are housed. The four – Kevin Folta at the University of Florida, Alison Eenennaam at UC Davis, Richard Goodman at the U of Nebraska, and Bruce Chassy at the U of Illinois – were selected for being prolific pro-Monsanto publicists, and particularly for their participation at the cartel propaganda site GMO Answers. US Right to Know wants to learn the extent of their direct or indirect funding and payments from biotech corporations and trade groups. Of course they’re stonewalling, since they know the extent of the corruption an honest answer would expose. And anyway they’re professional liars, so transparency and truth just aren’t what they do.
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Cadres such as these are usually called “scientists”, solely on account of the formal credentials they’ve procured, but they are in fact not scientists at all but corporate propagandists. They do nothing but knowingly tell lies, claim knowledge where they have none, and intentionally or out of stupidity confuse the nature of every issue. All the while they sanctimoniously insist that anyone who lacks formal scientific credentials is unqualified to speak about GMOs. (This of course applies only to critics, skeptics, and dissidents. It doesn’t apply to corporate executives or pro-GMO politicians and media flacks.) The best proof of this, as well as of their hypocrisy when they play the credential card, is that literally none of them, so far as I have seen, stays within the bounds of their own disciplines when pontificating about GMOs. On the contrary, every credentialed pro-GM activist evidently feels free to spew the most ignorant, idiotic opinions on any subject imaginable, no matter how unqualified they are according to their own credentialist standard. Our four subjects of the US Right to Know request are typical examples of this promiscuous amateurism of ignorance. By their own standard they have no standing or right to make the vast majority of their assertions and comments. We must hold them to their own standard and reject out of hand anything any of them says which isn’t firmly within the bounds of their formally credentialed discipline.
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Kevin Folta’s official credentials are in molecular biology and biology, but he thinks he’s an agronomist. His resume is that of a terminal myopic who obsessively knows one detail, and a malign one at that, but who has the delusion of grandeur that he knows the slightest bit about agronomic systems and the broader ecosystems in which these are enfolded. That’s what you’re prone to get when a molecular biologist thinks he’s an agricultural and ecological expert. If he believes a word of the lies he spews, his lack of agricultural training must play a role in his being so stupid.
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Like his fellow anti-science hack Pamela Ronald, Folta also poses as a medical doctor and nutritionist even though he has zero credentials in either discipline. He also pontificates constantly on purely political issues like labeling and lies about his university receiving funding from the GMO cartel.
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Folta claims he’s never been paid by the GMO cartel, but his university has certainly been bought. Check out this list. Res ipsa loquitur.
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Bruce Chassy is officially trained in chemistry and biochemistry. In other words he’s a poison-peddler whose formal connection to systems-based knowledge is even more tenuous than Folta’s. This hasn’t stopped him from impersonating a doctor and nutritionist who knows something about food safety and human health, nor has it stopped the University of Illinois and the FDA from fraudulently depicting him as such.
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Chassy is co-founder of the propaganda site Academics Review. Here we find lots of commentary on food safety, human medicine, agriculture, and slamming Jeffrey Smith for his lack of formal STEM credentials. But what praytell is Chassy’s credential which qualifies him to have opinions on any of these topics? The fact is that from the point of view of credentialism, Chassy is identical to Smith. They’re uncredentialed laymen writing about subjects in which they have no formal training. The same is true of Chassy’s collaborator David Tribe (chemistry, biochemistry, applied molecular genetics). The same is true of every pro-GMO activist. I challenge anyone to provide an example of a pro-GMO activist who stays within the bounds of his credentialed discipline.
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In Chassy’s case there’s no doubt about his being directly paid by Monsanto and other biotech companies. In general he’s been more active as a propagandist than as someone who even pretends to be a scientist. He was also the sole credentialed type who joined several uncredentialed publicists in trying to drum up an Internet lynch mob against Reuters reporter Carey Gillam last year. That says it all about Chassy’s real character and ideology and how much it has to do with “science”.
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Folta and Chassy are typical in having no formal agricultural training. Most genetic engineers and “scientist” flacks like these (for example carnival barker Neal DeGrasse Tyson, who has also shilled for Monsanto in the most ignorant, moronic way) have zero formal agronomic qualifications. Indeed, when you read a history like First the Seed or Lords of the Harvest you see how often the engineers and publicists not only have zero agricultural training or knowledge but seem proud of the fact. This combination of ignorance and arrogance, always characteristic of credentialed technocrats and elitist professionals in general, must be why GMOs are such shoddy, failure-prone products, and why they’re 100% dedicated to escalating the most counterproductive, destructive, and famine-prone mode of agriculture. It’s simply insane the way society has let such brain-dead psychopaths gain control of our agriculture and foods.
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Meanwhile the personnel who do have some agriculture-related training are just as prone to go straying far outside their disciplinary lines while still fraudulently claiming to be “scientists”. Richard Goodman’s formal training is a mix of agricultural and non-agricultural – biology, dairy science, immunology.
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Goodman is most notorious for his suspected role in the illicit retraction of the Seralini study by the now-corrupted journal Food and Chemical Toxiciology. The Seralini study is a real scientific study correcting the fraudulent Monsanto feeding trials which the EFSA accepted on faith when it approved the importation into Europe of Roundup Ready maize in food and feed. It remains one of the few legitimate toxicology studies which have been performed on a GMO (or on Roundup). Through a British media campaign of lies and slander which started even before the study was published, FCT came under intense industry pressure to retract the study. At first it refused. At this point the cartel shifted its pressure on the publication. The pro-GMO activists now accused it of being biased against GMOs. To prove its lack of bias, it was forced to accept Monsanto’s man onto its editorial roster. The truth is, of course, the exact opposite. At first FCT was demonstrating its lack of bias either way, and was serving science. It was then forced to accept Goodman so that it could be subject to Gleichschaltung, attaining the ideologically correct pro-Monsanto bias, from within.
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FCT’s cowardly action now demonstrates how well this corporate coordination process has worked. You can look at their excuse for the retraction and see that it’s nothing but a retread of the same tired lies which attacked the study from day one. If FCT refused to retract on these grounds in 2012, why did it do so in 2013, just a few months after bringing Goodman on board? Because it was taken over from within, following the injection of a Monsanto cadre. There’s no other explanation.
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What precisely in Goodman’s formal resume qualifies him to pass any sort of judgement or have any opinion at all about a toxicology study performed upon rats? It’s not an allergy study nor was it performed upon cows.
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Goodman has been an employee of Monsanto and has consulted for them and other biotech corporations
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Alison van Eenennaam’s formal training is in agricultural science, animal science, and genetics. Yet Here’s Eenennaam blathering about politics and economics, posing as a constitutional scholar, impersonating an expert on food safety and human medicine, and telling several direct lies, for example that pesticide use goes down with GMO cultivation; that product labeling where it comes to harmful ingredients is typically voluntary; that GMO labeling will drive up food costs, and several others. She also regurgitates the canned lie that genetic engineering is the same as conventional breeding. If she really believes this she’s an incompetent agronomist. But I’d bet she’s consciously lying. We saw the scurrilous character of her “science” in the propaganda broadside she issued on Monsanto’s behalf last autumn. Here’s the best takedown of this hack I’ve seen. Here’s another good refutation.
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She also endorses the non-credentialed PR flack Jon Entine’s unscientific rhetorical flourishes about her “review”, which demonstrates how she sees her “scientific” work as designed to feed the Monsanto propaganda machine.
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Like Goodman, Eenennaam has been employed by Monsanto, and her university receives funding from Monsanto and a host of Big Ag corporations.
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GMO labeling has certainly brought the amateur interlopers out in force. This pro-cartel paper parroting the Monsanto line against GMO labeling includes Eenennaam and Chassy among its authors and Goodman among its “reviewers”, alongside Mark Lynas sporting his phony Cornell pseudo-position, bought for him by the Gates Foundation. Here again we see alleged scientists holding forth on a purely political issue, as well as economics, law, constitutional scholarship, and statistical social science. My, we must be in the presence of the most prodigious polymath geniuses in history. Also the most incorrigible liars*.
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Regarding the standing of these persons to comment on political controversies, some readers may be thinking that’s anyone’s right no matter who they are. But keep in mind that it’s precisely these cadres who consistently deny that the people have any right to a say on any issue which the corporate propaganda machine can depict as having anything to do with “science”. On the contrary, they insist that an issue like GMO labeling should be out of the hands of democracy and solely within the hands of corporate technocracy. Indeed, to the extent these cadres can be said to have a political ideology beyond straight corporate authoritarianism, this ideology is technocracy, the belief that formally credentialed experts should make all decisions for society, while democracy and politics as such should cease to exist. This is an extreme version of the standard anti-citizenship, anti-democracy, anti-political character of bourgeois ideology. (You won’t find a more perfect example of one of these amateurish hacks describing his own faction than the abstract of this paper. The thing is a short masterpiece of Orwellianism, and of course is packed with lies. The conclusion, of course, is true and condemns these criminals and their whole endeavor.)
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Here too we reject their authoritarianism, but we should hold them to their own standard. They despise democracy and politics and want to abolish these for everyone else, so we must see them as having forfeited such things for themselves.
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Of course among pro-GM activists there’s no lack of uncredentialed publicists, from former TV news/tabloid producer Jon Entine to nihilist mercenary Mark Lynas to software thief Bill Gates, not to mention an endless list of corporate executives and PR flacks, politicians, and corporate media stenographers. Why do we never see the credentialists direct these people, who “have no discernable scientific training” in the allegedly damning words the Academics Review site utters about Smith, to depart from the field?
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I stress that we abolitionists aren’t credentialists. Most of the worthwhile thinkers throughout history weren’t formally trained system drones, whose record in every era for being wrong about pretty much everything is unmatched. We paraphrase Martin Luther King and see the world in terms judging people not by the level of their formal training within the corporate degree conveyor belt but by the content of their ideas and character. These hacks fail on both counts. But these pro-GMO activists, so many of them part of the corporate establishment including holding its bogus credentials, insist shrilly on the importance of credentialism. We shall hold them to their own standard, and so we must with all due rigor call attention every time any of these “scientists” crosses the bounds of his discipline and starts blathering about things which, by his own standard, he has no standing or right to blather.
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An important point we must always make is that these “scientifically credentialed” personnel always take every opportunity to claim that lack of formal credentials means one is unqualified to talk about GMOs, but meanwhile all of them without exception incessantly stray beyond the bounds of their own formal disciplines to amateurishly comment on other scientific aspects, let alone on socioeconomic effects or political policy like when so-called “scientists” pontificate against labeling, as the targets of this FOIA request all have. Let’s hold these hypocrites to their own standard and point out what uncredentialed, unscientific, ignorant, opinion-spouting layman yahoos they really are in almost everything they say.
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We critics and skeptics and dissidents from GMOs and poison-based agriculture must stop calling these people “scientists”. No matter what their formal credentials, they act and speak mostly outside the bounds of those disciplines, and they lie and distort even the rare times they do speak within their theoretical discipline. We must see them as and call them what they are – publicists, propagandists, unregistered lobbyists, pro-corporate political activists, charlatans, quacks, impersonators. That’s what they are and that’s all they are.
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The pro-GMO activists have proclaimed the credentialist standard. Of course we reject their authoritarianism here as we do everywhere else, so it doesn’t apply to us and we don’t apply it in general. But since they proclaimed it, it rightfully applies to themselves, and we shall apply it to them with all due rigor. So OUR standard must be that whenever a credentialed cadre opens his lying yap to exalt Monsanto, we declare the facial inadmissibility of every word except for what is strictly within the bounds of that cadre’s formal discipline. By their own proclaimed standard they have forfeited all right to make any comment beyond these bounds. And this is the standard we must encourage the people to apply to all scientism/technocrat types, where it comes to GMOs and to every other context where technician types lie and pretend to be scientists, but are really nothing but gutter corporate shills. Q.E.D.
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[*For anyone interested, here’s a list of the lies I spotted just skimming the thing: That there’s a lack of evidence for the health dangers of GMOs – there’s actually overwhelming positive and negative evidence of danger (the negative evidence is the fact that governments and corporations refuse to perform legitimate food safety or epidemiological tests, which is implicit proof that they know GMOs are harmful and don’t want to contribute to scientifically proving that fact); that labeling of hazardous ingredients is always voluntary; that labeling will increase food prices; fraudulent Wall Street-type numbers on the “economic benefits” of GMOs; that genetic engineering is even similar to (let alone the same as) conventional breeding; that GMOs aren’t “in the food” and that being a GMO is really an ineffable “process” rather than a physical fact (I think this peculiar proposition deserves a post of its own); that they’ve been “extensively tested” – actually they were never tested at all except for some ad hoc independent studies which all found evidence of health harms; that the FDA evaluates GMOs – in the vast majority of cases the FDA does zero evaluation, and doesn’t even have to be notified when a new GMO is being marketed; that there exists “independent research” and “long-term research” which vindicates GMOs – no studies of either kind exist; it calls industry groups and professional coordination bodies “scientific organizations”; that no compositional differences have been found between GMOs and non-GM equivalents – of course a GMO containing one or more transgenes plus Bt endotoxins and/or cellularly suffused herbicide residues is by definition compositionally different, and studies have found many other examples of genetic and phytochemical difference in every commercialized GMO which has been independently tested for such difference (again, governments and corporations don’t test at all).
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I think my favorite part is where they say the absence of GMO-based products on the supermarket shelves in countries which have mandatory labeling is in some metaphysical way because of the label itself, rather than as the result of consumers seeing the label and rejecting the product. In the legal/constitutional/political discussion the paper gives some good hints of the corporate totalitarianism these thugs want.]

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February 15, 2015

“Foreign Aid” is Corporate Welfare

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To extend my point from the other day’s post on “welfare” for people and corporate welfare, we can say the same about so-called “foreign aid”, for example as laundered through USAID and the Gates Foundation (to give one each of a nominally “public” and nominally “private” example; in reality there’s no difference). The money channeled through these is invariably, except for a few cosmetically spent pennies, dedicated to increasing the penetration, domination, and profitability of Western transnational corporations in the recipient countries. USAID also continues with its original Cold War mission, to disseminate pro-corporate propaganda and actively seek imperialist goals within these countries. To the extent anyone involved even thinks of actual benefit for people (almost no one does), they see it solely in terms of trickle-down.
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The corporate media frames this corporate welfare as “humanitarian”, and this stirs up the standard partisan conflict between conservatives and liberals, each group believing this lie. Meanwhile the corporations go their merry way.
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In addition to comprising corporate welfare, this aid is also often in the form of dumping, as with Monsanto’s attempt to capitalize on Haiti’s misery following the 2010 earthquake. In all cases a primary goal is to destroy local economies and any form of economic or political self-determination among the “recipient” peoples.
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All this is true regardless of whether the “aid” is direct from a government or corporation, or laundered through any kind of NGO or charity. These are front groups. The corporate character of the dumping is the same in every case.
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As Bill Gates explains in this interview, practically a synthetic compendium of the corporate aid ideology, no one from the system would ever dispense foreign aid unless the point was for all of it to go through corporate tollbooths, set up corporate infrastructure, and help impose corporate enclosure, profit, control, and domination.
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This is preparatory to my upcoming posts on the “New Alliance” corporate colonization plan for African agriculture and food. USAID’s role in aggrandizing corporate agriculture goes back decades. Along with the International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs), its goal throughout the so-called “green revolution” was to spread capitalist propaganda among Southern governments, agronomists, and farmers, help the corporations penetrate and commodify Southern agriculture, and help plunder the germplasm resources of the South for the benefit of the corporate West.

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February 11, 2015

The Bt Cotton Fraud Part Three: The Global Record, and What It All Means

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From the history we explored in Parts One and Two we see how Bt cotton has aggravated the poison/debt agronomic treadmill and economic trap which enclose small farmers in hopelessness and misery, to the point that in the end their only avenues of escape are suicide or to flee the land for the terminal shantytown slums. Bt cotton has turned an agricultural crisis into a catastrophe.
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This result was no accident, nor was it unforeseen. On the contrary, it’s simply an escalation of standard “green revolution” phenomena: The replacement of food-based (or in this case textile-based) agriculture with poison- and commodity-based; the enclosure and concentration of agricultural power and profitability on an elitist basis; the forced mass expulsion of the people from the land. The fact that government, corporate, academic, and media elites touted Bt cotton to small farmers knowing it could lead only to their destruction comprises a great crime against humanity.
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Various Indian state governments and some central government officials have made half-hearted attempts to ameliorate the situation. In 2005 the government of Andhra Pradesh state banned three Monsanto-Mahyco varieties for poor performance and sought in vain to force Mahyco to compensate farmers. In 2006 the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) issued an anti-monopoly pricing order against Monsanto-Mahyco, which Mahyco has done all it can to flout. The central government in 2008 as well as the state governments of Maharashtra in 2008, Maharashtra again in 2011 and 2012, and Karnataka in 2014 undertook regional farmer bailouts in response to atrocious Bt performance and crop failures. At various times Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have banned Mahyco seeds for bad performance and fraudulent sales practices. But these ad hoc, piecemeal measures are utterly insufficient.
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Meanwhile, Monsanto’s lie machine has made lame attempts to suppress the facts. Regional crop failures, as in Karnataka in 2014, are attributed to allegedly unforeseen plagues of secondary pests. The farmers themselves are always a popular scapegoat. It’s especially perverse the way Monsanto and the Indian government encourage cash-poor small farmers to to buy the GMO product, lying all the way about the expensive inputs necessary to grow it, and then blame the farmer for not being able to provide these inputs, for example the added pesticides necessary to battle those newly insurgent secondary pests which always follow in Bt’s train. As always with technocrats and elitists in general, if the people lack the resources to get a technology to perform, that doesn’t mean the technology was wrongly deployed by the supplier, but that the people failed the technology.
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Most absurdly, the Monsanto publicists attribute the economic plight of small farmers and the suicide epidemic to “debt”. In the first place, this is tautological, since farmer debt is practically synonymous with their economic crisis. More important, this is just an attempted semantic misdirection which is substantively identical to saying: The cause of the farmer economic crisis and suicide epidemic is the commodification and poison treadmill, exacerbated by Bt cotton. This has driven them into a terminal debt crisis. In other words, the hacks themselves confess that their GMO is a main driver of the crisis, and that the is 100% the result of their commodification of Indian agriculture.
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There’s a summary of the horrific record of the Bt cotton experiment in India. This same record is borne out everywhere around the world Bt cotton has been deployed: It requires far more water, therefore farmers can never depend upon rainfall but need artificial irrigation; it uses more pesticides; it needs more synthetic fertilizer; it costs more to grow. Given the full outlay of expensive inputs, it may temporarily yield well and require less pesticide. This difference lasts only a few years. Small farmers lacking the resources to provide the accessory inputs never enjoy any benefit.
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This pattern has held everywhere, from the richest countries like the US and Australia (both suffered yield declines and subsequent reduced Bt plantings during the drought of 2013) to Latin America. Bt cotton in Argentina has a starkly differing performance record between rich plantation farmers and hardscrabble small farmers.
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The abstract of the study I just linked does such a good job of encapsulating the basic fact that I’ll quote it here.
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Drawing on a socio-technical systems perspective we compare the ways in which novel genetically modified (GM) crop artefacts, related devices and techniques, actors, practices, and institutions have been linked together, or configured, across two distinctive cotton production systems in north east Argentina, one based around large-scale farming and the other based around small-scale family farming. In the former system, new GM seeds, actors, complementary artefacts, agricultural techniques, and technical support, and modified supply markets and regulatory rules have been linked together in ways that mean agricultural biotechnologies perform well. In the latter system, the new GM artefacts were unavailable, whilst conventional seeds disappeared from input markets. Instead, linkages were formed between informal seed multipliers and dealers, copied GM seeds, of unreliable identify and poor quality, unmodified production practices, declining technical support, uncontrolled pest problems, and an absence of regulatory oversight, resulting in a poorly performing technology. In effect, working agricultural biotechnologies are different in the two farming systems; they have different characteristics and capabilities and perform in different ways.

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The Colombian government fined Monsanto for the awful performance of its Bt cotton seeds. It was the same story: for small farmers Bt cotton didn’t perform well against pests, didn’t reduce pesticide use or costs, yielded poorly. Elsewhere in Asia, Chinese production, long afflicted by the secondary mirid bug, is suffering from surging bollworm resistance. Chinese problems with Bt cotton aren’t new. A 2006 Chinese/Cornell study already documented the standard pattern: Seven years of Chinese Bt cotton cultivation had seen a temporary decline in pesticide use and rise in income, then the surge of secondary pests drove farmers back to spraying as much as 20 times a year. Soon they were paying more for pesticides and making less money than non-GM conventional farmers. In Pakistan pesticide use and costs are rising steeply on account of the rampant fraud and the generally dismal performance of the seeds against pests. In Africa’s Burkino Faso, farmer success or failure with Bt cotton has been a function of farmer access to credit on rational terms and the ability of farmers to pay for expensive inputs.
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African cotton farmers, like the small farmers of India, are especially devastated by US dumping of its heavily subsidized cotton. Never forget that the same US government which touts GMOs around the world as a great bet for small farmers is ruthlessly dumping its corporate welfare crops on the heads of those same farmers like hot coals. China and the EU also subsidize cotton.
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Second to the Indian saga, the most famous Bt cotton rollout was the abortive deployment in the Makhathini Flats region of South Africa from the latter 1990s to 2005. In Makhathini, the neoliberal government undertook the same kind of propaganda campaign, promised loans and subsidies, told the same high-flying lies, though these seem to have been directed at the international community and world media at least as much as at Makhathini’s farmers. (Sure enough, the UN’s FAO bit; its 2004 State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report, which swallowed the lies whole, is a favorite citation of corporate and media hacks to this day.) Local leaders were enlisted to attest to the benefits of Bt cotton. Economically beleaguered small farmers responded by adopting the Bt technology, with the same result as in India – increased costs, crop failure, the poison treadmill, the debt trap, ending in being driven off the land. (Some were able to stick around as laborers on land they’d once stewarded.) Most survivors abandoned cotton completely. By the late 1990s over 90% of Makhathini cotton farmers had adopted Bt. By 2004 drought (lack of irrigation), pesticide costs (secondary pests and then target resistance), depressed cotton prices (US dumping), and impossible debt had caused most farmers to abandon cotton completely.
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The worldwide evidence record of the agronomic and environmental performance of Bt cotton has been the same everywhere. It has always led to failure and disaster for small farmers. That Monsanto, governments, academia, and the media continue to hype Bt cotton as appropriate for small farmers must qualify by now as history’s ultimate fraud and hoax. It “works” for no one but the destructive, parasitic elites who profit off it and use it to exert ever greater control over agriculture.
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The Makhathini Flats episode most clearly highlights the basic PR hoax aspect of Bt cotton. Bt cotton was debuted in Makhathini with such fanfare, followed by a few years of hype while performance plummeted and farmers abandoned in droves not only Bt cotton but cotton itself, so that the whole thing had fizzled out by 2005, leaving nothing behind but an ongoing lie. (The uninformed who listen only to government and the corporate media probably think Bt cotton is to this day an ongoing success in South Africa. In fact there’s practically no Bt cotton being grown, and little cotton in general.) Part of Bt’s promise as a hoax product is that it can serve as a Trojan horse for GMOs in general. Often, as in India, GM cotton is the first GMO deployed in a country. Since cotton is perceived as a non-food (but cottonseed oil is widely used in processed foods), Bt cotton tends not to be as inflammatory an issue as GMOs such as corn or soy bound to be incorporated into food, let alone direct Frankenfoods like a GM potato or salmon. GMO-leery farmers and populations have been more readily induced to accept it. So the less controversial GMO is supposed to serve as the camel’s nose in the tent. Once its commercial presence politically normalizes GMOs as such, it’ll be easier to commercialize crops indirectly and directly bound to be food. That’s the Monsanto plan. In India the plan was to commercialize Bt cotton, then use that as the precedent to deploy Bt brinjal (eggplant), GM maize and rice, and other crops. So far this plan has stalled out, in large part because Bt cotton has been such a disaster. In general this strategy hasn’t worked well for the cartel. Even in countries where GM cotton is established, the people remain suspicious of GMOs. “Golden rice” is supposed to serve the same Trojan horse purpose if the bozos trying to develop it can ever get it to work. In the meantime it remains a seemingly permanent propaganda fixture even though it doesn’t really exist in any deployable form. It’s the most pure GMO media hoax.
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In fact, the failure of Bt cotton and the great fraud it incarnates are typical of the Bt and herbicide tolerance (HT) GMOs in general. These are the only two effective types of GMOs. Both are literally poison plants. They’re engineered to produce their own endemic Bt insecticide and/or to tolerate copious slatherings of herbicide, usually Monsanto’s Roundup. The herbicide is taken into the crop itself and suffuses all its cells. Therefore GMOs add two completely new, massive, indelible presences of extreme poison in our food.
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In both cases the poison treadmill and the business strategy of planned obsolescence are fully operational. Except for a few trivial exceptions like the small and declining acreage of MON810 cultivation in Spain, no single-trait Bt maize variety has been effective for years. They’ve been replaced by stacked varieties which produce as many as six Bt toxins. Varieties which produce even more are in the pipeline, as pest resistance escalates and accelerates. Meanwhile the Roundup Ready GMO regime no longer works, as over a dozen RR superweeds rampage across North America, Brazil, and elsewhere. The only solution the system offers is to stack herbicide tolerances. Monsanto originally touted RR GMOs as rendering even more toxic poisons like 2,4-D and dicamba obsolete, while glyphosate (the main ingredient of Roundup, though not the only actively toxic ingredient) would never suffer weed resistance.
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Today Roundup Ready is in ruins, and the cartel and governments are pushing GMOs tolerant of the exact same ultra-toxic 2,4-D and dicamba which those same corporations and governments promised us would be a thing of the past if we just believed them about Roundup Ready. The results with each of these shall, of course, be exactly the same total failure, but with even worse socioeconomic, agronomic, environmental, and health destruction wrought along the way. This is why the Technical Expert Committee appointed by India’s supreme court to advise it on GMOs recommended, among several other important restrictions, that HT GMOs never be commercialized because of how badly they would aggravate the ongoing socioeconomic carnage by wiping out vast numbers of agricultural laborers. (Economically, HT crops are meant to be standard “labor-saving”, job-destroying devices. They’re also designed to save time so the farmer can expand his acreage, thus feeding the classical vicious circle of agricultural overproduction and trying to “make it up on volume”. This of course also adds to the Get Big or Get Out pressure.)
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We can see how both the Bt and the HT genres as such are in the aggregate massive frauds of the exact same character as Bt cotton. Bt cotton just provides the most clear example of how GMOs as such comprise a monumental fraud and crime.
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GMOs are worthless, wasteful, counterproductive, and destructive. They impose a severe constraint and bottleneck on all attempts to innovate and advance in agriculture, farming, and food. They are in fact intended to drive out all small and independent producers and, through attaining total corporate control of agriculture and food, impose such a strangling grip on the throat of humanity that we’ll never break free.
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GMOs must be completely abolished.

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February 7, 2015

The Bt Cotton Fraud

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Humanity’s struggle against corporate agriculture, especially in the form of GMOs, becomes increasingly fierce around the world. One of the most critical and infamous battlegrounds is India. Here, Bt cotton is the locus of the struggle over commodification, the agronomic performance and socioeconomic character of GMOs, and this false crop’s role in history’s greatest suicide epidemic.
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I’ll investigate India’s farmer suicide epidemic in a subsequent post. In this post I want to focus on the fact that Bt cotton is the most clear-cut example of how GMOs and the propaganda campaigns that tout them comprise a massive hoax and fraud on farmers and society. We’ll see why India’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture found in its 2012 report that “After the euphoria of a few initial years, Bt cotton cultivation has only added to the miseries of small and marginal farmers”, and why in 2014 this committee followed up with the finding that government claims of rising cotton farm income are false. Only debt and risks have risen, giving “ample proof to show that the miseries of farmers have compounded since the time they started cultivating Bt cotton”.
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GMOs are a rich man’s technology. This is true of the corporations which control and distribute them, in the process gaining ever tighter control of agriculture and food. It’s also true for the farmers themselves. The only way GMOs may temporarily work as advertised is in the context of high-input industrial agriculture. To work as well as they can, such as that is, GMOs require lavish external inputs and best case scenarios. They need to be heavily supplemented with irrigation, synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, and mechanization. GMO seed sellers are also sellers of agricultural poisons such as herbicides and insecticides. The corporate goal is always to maximize both seed revenue and poison sales. That’s what GMOs are designed to do. They’re very costly to grow, and therefore require either huge cash reserves or that farmers go into debt. Only rich growers who can afford these expensive inputs can have any hope of getting GM crops in the field to perform as advertised so the farmer can turn a profit on these very expensive crops. That’s why GMOs are an abject failure everywhere they’re not propped up with massive government subsidies.
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In spite of these facts, corporations and governments have consistently targeted small farmers for GMO marketing. These farmers, who comprise the great majority of food producers worldwide, lack the resources to get the crop to grow as advertised or to be economically viable with it. Across the global South the pattern has always been the same. Corporations and government launch a propaganda blitz targeting small farmers, promising high returns and threatening with economic extinction those who are slow to adopt the technology. The marketing campaigns promise lower pesticide costs, more effective pesticide coverage, and higher yields and revenues. Governments promise subsidies and generous credit. Lacking independent sources of information, often following local leaders in the pay of the cartel, small farmers buy the GM seeds. The GMO corporations use every tactic, from buying seed companies to imposing contracts on seed growers and sellers to having governments offer temporary subsidies, in order to drive non-GM alternatives out of the market.
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The farmer pays far more for this seed with its added “technology fee” tax. He quickly finds he must increase fertilizer application. Pesticide savings never materialize. He must go into debt to procure the expensive inputs he now needs. His farming dependent on rainfall, he learns too late that the Bt crop needs artificial irrigation to get enough water. Pests and diseases ravage the GMO crop in a way they hadn’t with conventional crops. The harvest is poor. Meanwhile the same corporate system is dumping globalized commodity crops on the market. The harvest price plummets. The farmer is wiped out. He’s driven off his land and into a shantytown. In India, he may kill himself by drinking his own pesticide. Picture this individual tragedy multiplied over hundreds of thousands, millions of small farmers. Picture this great mass economically destroyed, forcibly subject to a mass expulsion from the land, one-way tickets to the terminal slums thrust into their worn hands. These slums have sprawled out from the fringes of the Southern cities in proportion to the intensifying death grip of corporate agriculture, their inmates the cast-off human destruction of this corporate assault.
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This pattern has been unbroken wherever corporate agriculture has gone. Wherever commodification has prevailed, its primary effect has been to destroy community farmers and drive the people off their land. GMOs reinforce and intensify every pathology of corporate industrial agriculture, and are especially evil in how they aggravate this social carnage. Today the goal of corporations and governments in pushing GMOs upon small farmers is to squeeze them for every cent possible, then drive them out. For small farmers and for society as a whole, GMOs are history’s most monumental socioeconomic fraud. That’s why the 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD), the most comprehensive and definitive agricultural survey and analysis ever undertaken, rejected GMOs as unable to play any constructive role in the future of farming and food.
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Bt cotton is the best-documented example of this pattern of fraud, failure, and human destruction. In India a human drama unequaled in history has been playing out, with millions of small farmers being economically attacked by globalized agriculture, and then even more viciously duped by by Monsanto and the Indian government. They’ve been subject to a “ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops”. The story begins in the mid 1990s. Under economic pressure and in thrall to commodification propaganda, small cotton farmers began switching from their traditional diversified polycultural practices, which included intercropping with food and other crops for personal use and local sale, to monoculture based on hybrid varieties and destined for global markets. This first put them on the treadmill of rising input costs, pesticide use, and debt. According to government data, 75% of rural debt in India is from the need to purchase inputs. The seed dealers themselves double as moneylenders at usurious rates, thus repeating the 19th century American tragedy of impoverished sharecroppers and “the man”. The suicide epidemic began because of this vicious circle. In Maharashtra state, ground zero of the epidemic, 2.8 millon of 3.6 million farmers were in debt in 2006.
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Hybrid varieties are highly vulnerable to insect pests, and every year farmers had to invest more borrowed money, time, sweat, and anguish into applying an ever more prodigious and complex mix of poisons. As if their situation wasn’t parlous enough, in 2001 the US radically stepped up the dumping of its own heavily subsidized cotton on the Indian market, causing the price to collapse. For all its cotton production, third in the world, India became a cotton importer on account of the low global price. India’s small cotton farmers were desperate.
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This was the context for the commercialization of Bt cotton. It was first grown illegally in the Gujarat province starting in the late 90s, then launched legally across the whole cotton belt in 2002. The first legal varieties were a joint project of Monsanto and its Indian subsidiary Mahyco. Farmers, trapped on the treadmill paying ever more for pesticides that worked ever more poorly, were desperate for a solution. It’s no surprise that they ardently listened when the massive Mahyco advertising blitz, bolstered with bullish government and media testimonials, promised them a Bt panacea. Bt cotton came from “magic seeds” which would solve all their problems and give them a prolific, profitable crop. It would rout pests once and for all, cost less to grow, yield better, and gross more at harvest time. Bollywood stars toured the countryside exhorting farmers to get on board. The government promised support and lenient credit.
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Small farmers faced this marketing offensive with few independent sources of information. “There are no independent expert agencies in this country”, according to a 2014 panel report to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. There’s practically no one but industry and its government flunkeys to advise farmers. Because of this, the adoption of Bt cotton has had little to do with knowledge and experimentation, but was mostly a social response. In a time of agricultural deskilling and economic uncertainty, farmers fell back on following a leader or following their neighbors. This environment was rich to be manipulated by Monsanto/Mahyco’s propaganda blitz.
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Most Indian cotton farmers heard about Bt cotton through word of mouth, from neighbors who had been tapped by Mahyco to serve as proselytizers, or from advertising coordinated by seed dealers. In Maharashtra 79% of farmers said they’d heard of it from seed dealers. These Mahyco-licensed dealers are often, as I mentioned above, also peddlers of the expensive inputs needed as accessories to Bt crops and loansharks offering the credit needed to buy this expensive apparatus.
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This information problem is aggravated by the fact that Bt seeds have been highly unreliable in germination, Bt expression, and yield. This again is a function of how lavishly expensive external inputs are applied, but is also inherent to the shoddy GMO seed itself. Of course, if small farmers who are unable financially to deploy the whole input apparatus follow the lead of a local bigshot who can afford it, or believe the lies of government and industry, this is a recipe for economic self-destruction.
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Throughout its history the private seed business has always been about marketing, destroying farmer choice through enforcing monopoly, and fiercely resisting attempts to enforce transparency and quality control. Jack Kloppenburg’s First the Seed gives an excellent historical account. Just according to this historical record it was easily predictable that GMO seeds would comprise a shoddy,fraudulent product, and so they have. Bt cotton may provide the best case study of how high maintenance GM crops are, how they require a vast, exorbitantly expensive apparatus of inputs and optimal conditions in order to work as advertised, and therefore how absolutely inappropriate they are for small farmers. GMO agriculture and smallholder agriculture are antithetical and cannot “co-exist”, to use the cartel’s favored propaganda term. Any assertion or advertisement to the contrary is perpetrating a hoax and a fraud. It’s a Nuremburg level crime. As is Monsanto’s aggressive campaign to impose a near-monopoly on cotton seed in India.
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The lies were aggressive and virulent from the start and remain so to this day. “Bollgard protects you! Less spraying, more profit! Bollgard cotton seed: the power to conquer insects!”, blared an early poster. “Our products provide constant and significant benefits to both large- and small-holder growers. In many cases farmers are able to grow higher quality and better-yielding crops.” This is from Monsanto’s “Pledge Report” for 2006, which was the exact time it was rolling out Bollgard II with two Bt toxins in response to the collapse of the original Bollgard on account of bollworm resistance to its single toxin. Clearly the only “constants” are the ever-escalating pesticide treadmill, the ever-rising Tower of Babel as GMOs have to incorporate more and more stacked poisons, and of course Monsanto’s ever-flourishing revenues from this business model of captive markets and planned obsolescence. The other constants are the vicious circles of farmer struggles, debt, misery, exodus from the land and into slums, and suicide. And the lies march on, as the Advertising Standards Council found when it recently flagged Monsanto-Mahyco’s campaign for falsely claiming “Bollgard boosts Indian cotton farmers’ income by over Rs.31,500 crores” (over 315 billion rupees, which is around $5.1 billion as I’m writing this).
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Taking advantage of Indian cotton farmers’ parlous economic circumstance and their lack of information, the propaganda campaigns worked. In spite of the unprecedented high price of the seeds, farmers began planting Bt cotton. By the time they realized the debt and monopoly trap they were in, it was too late.
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The result has been a disaster. In part two we’ll survey the performance of Bt cotton in India.

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December 22, 2014

We Need GMO Abolition, Not Labeling

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It looks like Oregon’s GMO labeling ballot initiative, after being outspent by Monsanto and its front groups $21 million to $9 million, failed by a handful of votes. There’s controversy over some uncounted ballots which should have been counted, but the vote should never have been so close on such a clear principle. So it also went in California and Washington.
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The electorate’s response to the campaigns has followed the same pattern in each case. Early polls show support by huge margins. But once the campaign advertising where the corporations have a big financial advantage start in earnest, support narrows until election day, where the measure fails by a slim margin.
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The corporate media closes ranks, issuing editorials against the measures focusing on one or more of five basic lies. These quotes are typical and come from the Oregon, Washington, and Colorado Ballotpedia pages.
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1. “GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply.” (the American Association for the Advancement of Science, really a corporate propaganda outlet) This is an undiluted, straight lie. No government or corporation has ever performed a single legitimate safety study on a single GMO. But independent studies have found strong evidence of health hazards, as have even the industry’s bogus studies.
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2. “We did not want the playing field to be uneven for Oregon farmers who could face greater regulation and costs than their peers.” (the Dalles Chronicle) On the contrary, industrial commodification and GMOs are destroying farmers. Farmers are trying to dump GMOs. Any agricultural economy which went all in on non-GM and organic would have a big economic advantage in both cost savings and price premiums. And this is just taking the short run into account. In the long run, all of agriculture will have to deindustrialize. People have the choice of doing it the relatively easy way or the really, really hard way.
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3. “…we support having the issue of GMOs addressed at the federal level so rules are uniformly applied.” (the Dalles Chronicle); “Product labeling is a national and global issue, and that is where the requirements should be established.” (the Statesman Journal) This is obviously a simple delaying tactic in order not to have to do anything oneself right now. More importantly, it’s completely wrong factually, and politically a lie. Agriculture and food are naturally and rationally local/regional sectors, and the states are therefore the highest possible legitimate level for any laboratory of democracy involving them. The FDA is institutionally unfit to preside over any substantive labeling policy, and any federal policy which were to be enacted would be a preemptive sham.
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4. “But mandatory labeling almost certainly will raises food costs as well, which will have a disproportionate effect upon those with the least money to spend.” (The Oregonian) This is the industry’s #1 canned lie. Anyone who thinks about it for a minute can see it’s obviously false, since manufacturers change their packaging all the time in far more extravagant ways than just adding a single unobtrusive line of small text, and this never causes them to raise prices. And in fact all the evidence confirms what common sense already knew.
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5. “It’s too early to stigmatize a new science like genetic engineering before we understand all its positives and negatives.” (the Spokesman-Review); “Real information isn’t a purportedly neutral label attached to vague insinuations of peril. The public deserves the whole truth about biotechnology..” (the News Tribune) This is a new low for Kafkaesque depravity. Government and corporations refuse to test the health effects of GMOs and attack the independent studies which are done. In every way they strive to suppress real information and as much as possible ensure that such information doesn’t even exist. Under these circumstances, the least that reason and simple human decency would demand is that, if the system will continue to refuse to seek the truth about GMOs, it at least must tell people where they are in our food. There’s no conceivable argument on this point. There’s just obvious moral and rational truth vs. the most despicable gutter fraud and lies.
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(On that point, I’ll stress again something we must always keep at the forefront of our minds when we consider this subject: The fact that the US government and the GMO cartel refuse to perform full safety studies upon GMOs is proof in itself that they either know or suspect the results would be bad for them. We can take this ongoing systematic evasion and suppression as among the strongest evidence that GMOs are indeed harmful to human health.)
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We see everywhere the media’s basic fraudulence, dishonesty, and hatred of democracy. For example, “Ballot measures generally are the poorest method for making public policy. Particularly when it comes to a technical matter such as food labeling and GMOs, any measure drafted by passionate advocates is going to have unintended consequences.” – the Portland Tribune. GMOs and food labeling are of course not “technical matters”, but political issues. But one of the basic moves of anti-democracy activists is to misrepresent political issues as technical matters which are the proper purview of “experts”. These pro-GMO paid experts, and everyone involved in the activism of pushing GMOs upon humanity, are of course “passionate advocates” themselves, but it’s another standard media lie to fraudulently represent pro-system activists as not being activists at all; only dissidents can be “activists”. This goes well with the media’s genuflection before the central government and authoritarian cultism where it comes to “prestigious scientific bodies” (the Denver Post) and “respected scientists and organizations that have found GMO processes and products safe.” (the Aurora Sentinel) Again, none of these “prestigious bodies” has ever tested a single GMO for safety, and they are all utterly ignorant about the health effects. These newspapers simply tell direct lies when they issue such citations. In truth all of these media publications and “scientific bodies” are by now de facto industry front groups with zero scientific or political legitimacy. They issue their proclamations and policy recommendations based solely on what’s necessary to the corporate profit imperative, never with the slightest concern for public health or safety. They’re all utterly ignorant of GMOs, except regarding the fact that the government and corporations want to boost them. That’s all any credentialed mercenary needs to know.
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It’s clear that although the people overwhelmingly support the idea of GMO labeling in theory, their commitment to it is skin deep. As I wrote last year, as soon as the money starts flying and the propaganda noise starts booming, people are easily thrown off balance. They focus pre-existing feelings of dread on the controversy and recoil from such a picayune thing as labeling, which seems to offer only a greater sense of helplessness.
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A survey done in California in September 2012 prior to the vote found that even the mention of an increase in food prices would “slightly diminish support”. This was prior to the big propaganda surge which hammered away with this lie. This musters every kind of inchoate fear. Since these days people are fearful and conservative, they shy from stimulation and don’t want anything to change, since they’re easily convinced that any change will only make things worse. At any rate, they’re disinclined to undertake any change themselves. It’s clear that to undertake a one-off political campaign, which is prone to muster such elemental anxieties – about poison in our food and the food we’re feeding to our children, about our ever more beleaguered personal financial position, about corporate power over us – and which becomes the scene of a media firestorm, where people are asked, as consumers, to do nothing but vote a certain way and then implicitly to lapse back into their usual passivity, with the only payoff for having had all these fears aroused is to gain even greater knowledge of what there is to fear, but with no greater sense of what to do about any of it – is it any wonder that so many people choose to believe the lies and vote No?
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People don’t really believe the propaganda, but are numbed into passivity by the volume and omnipresence of it. This is part of the job of the corporate media, to instill a sense of hopelessness in the individual, and a false sense that she’s all alone with whatever objections she has, alone with whatever dissent and activism for change she’d like to undertake. The labeling campaign also instills fear about the safety of the food, but doesn’t offer a productive context and course of action for this fear, but implicitly wants to leave you alone with your Yes vote and your new information.
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This is why many consumers don’t want to exercise their right to know. They’re settled in certain habits, have so many other stresses, they already know their food is poisoned and try to exist in a precarious psychological complacency about that. So they’d rather not hear about GMOs on top of everything. This supposition fits the data, that as the No propaganda surges and the noise level of the whole fight escalates, the weakly committed Yeses and the Undecided move toward No. If you’re going to stay within the bounds of passive consumerism, then does a GMO label really give you much of a new choice? Especially if you suspect, in most cases correctly, that the only result will be to discover that all your available choices have GMO labels, so that you really didn’t get more choice anyway, merely more stress.
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I agree – how’s a label in itself supposed to help change anything? If that’s all there’s going to be, I too might rather not know. And some of the panacea advocates have been clear that they view labeling as nothing more than a kind of “co-existence”, which is impossible.
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Labeling advocates point out that there is an individual, consumerist course of action available – change your eating habits, shun GMO products, petition manufacturers to purge them, retailers not to carry them. (Here we’re talking about doing these in an individual consumer context, not as part of a movement context.) According to what I call the panacea view of labeling, this consumer action would likely cause manufacturers to reformulate their products and/or retailers to stop carrying GMO-labeled products. They cite the example of Europe, where products have to be labeled for GMOs, and where only a miniscule amount of such GMO products are on the market, because European consumers shun them.
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But is this the likely result here in America? What about the opposite possibility – that if labeling is enacted, people will just shrug and not change their buying and eating habits?
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The oft-supplied analogy with Europe isn’t quite right. In Europe there was labeling from day one, before GMOs were firmly entrenched. People had a clear choice from the start and they consistently chose non-GM products, which mostly drove GM products out of the market. That’s not the same as it would be in the US. Here GMOs are deeply entrenched. What happens when people learn that the products which are part of their daily habits, which they’re used to, which are in their comfort zone, part of their routine amid the increasing pressure and stress of their lives, are of a certain nature? If they receive full knowledge that these are GMO, they may just shrug and not make any big change. Besides, it’s not like there’s going to be a big neon “GMO!” label emblazoned across the front of the package. It’ll be understated, and you’ll have to go looking for it. The big neon blaze could only be the campaign itself, not the eventual label.
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Indeed, it might even help normalize GMOs.
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Since consumerism is inherently passive and not active, since “choice” is a pseudo-ideal that few people really want (their political and economic actions prove it), and since fear-itself induces conservatism in the choices people make, the campaign to label GMOs is bound to be at a disadvantage as soon as it becomes embroiled in a struggle. People naturally support the idea, but not enough so that they don’t abandon it as a kind of “rocking the boat” the moment they’re given a reason to fix their fears upon it.
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In itself labeling is a meager, insufficient measure. Most importantly, it’s conceptually wrong, as it frames this critical political, socioeconomic, environmental, agronomic, and scientific issue as a matter of consumerist choice. Finally, the labeling idea is ripe to be hijacked by corporate interests or preempted by the central government.
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We can’t expect people to rouse themselves and go against the grain of their mass consciousness in any kind of ad hoc way, let alone in a way which they’ll have strong psychological reasons to resist. In order to get organic change, we first need to build an organic movement. We need to take the time and put in the work to build a movement culture where individuals find themselves as citizens, community members, members of a movement. We need to build a movement where people develop the individual self-respect to know that their action which seeks change will bring them a better world, and where they develop the political self-confidence to know that their collective action will work to bring about this bountiful change.
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Once we have a movement whose members and sympathizers see the world with the eyes of active citizens of a community, rather than with the eyes of atomized passive consumers among an unfathomable mass, then we’ll have the social foundation from which to launch any kind of political campaign. The campaigns will be organic, they’ll be part of an ongoing social and political context, and they’ll be waged and supported by citizens speaking to potential citizens who can see the living reality of the movement before them, rather than just a seemingly disposable campaign and stand-alone ad hoc policy proposal with no context for systemic change or human hope.
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If we want to do what’s necessary and do it right, in the process inspiring people to join a movement or support it (and this is what’s needed, rather than any quick fix electoral solution), we need to build a true movement toward a goal that’s necessary and great. The great goals available to us are the complete abolition of GMOs and breaking the power of corporations over our agriculture and food, in the process putting an end to their onslaught poisoning our food, water, soil, and air. The companion goal is to rebuild our community food economies on the basis of agroecology and food sovereignty, thus combining the best of freedom, health, democracy, and science. There’s no substitute for the patience and hard work required to build this new anti-corporate movement from outside the system. Along the way this movement can absorb whatever existing forces are available, so long as they’re compatible with the stark and non-negotiable goal of the abolition of corporations. But its inception and the main thrust of its action must always be toward building a new human world.
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There’s a reason why labeling initiatives continue to fail while county-level GMO bans have been successful in Maui, Hawaii (the big island), Humboldt County in California, Jackson and Josephine Counties in Oregon and, while towns across America have passed anti-corporate Community Rights statutes, fracking bans, and similar measures. It’s because unlike the consumerist preoccupation with labels, these measures arise from a comprehensive understanding of the corporate onslaught against us all and seek to fight the corporations just as comprehensively. One of the corporate media editorials cited at Ballotpedia called the supporters of Measure 92 “dishonest” because they claimed not to be anti-GMO in general and to care only about the right to know within a consumerist context. Where it comes to this lie, I can only say that I wish it were true and that more labeling advocates had such a consciousness. The labeling campaigns can indeed serve as excellent vehicles for public education, getting people involved in political participation, and organizing toward a full-scale abolition movement. But so far very few participants seem to see it that way. One of my commenters said she printed out copies of one of my abolitionist posts and brought them to a pro-labeling meeting, where the organizers asked her not to distribute them because this wasn’t the message they wanted to emphasize. So far that attitude is prevalent, and it has something to do with the overall pattern of failure for the ad hoc electoral campaign mentality.
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We need to build a true grassroots movement, this movement has to be affirmative, and it has to seek the stark goal of total abolition. If we can offer people the opportunity to fight to abolish GMOs, or to support this abolition movement with money, a vote, etc., and to do so toward affirmative goals like food freedom, food sovereignty, this offers vastly more on a psychological level than labeling by itself, which is more like yet another annoying consumer “choice”.
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In making these criticisms, I’m not disputing the basic truths of the pro-labeling argument. On the contrary, I avow these myself. I’m pointing out why, where labeling is presented as a typical ad hoc consumerist electoral campaign, rather than from within a movement context, the labeling campaigns are ineffective politics.
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At the moment the labeling campaigns comprise the main anti-GMO vehicle, and they can serve as good occasions for participation, organization, education – POE, as I call it. In principle and in action abolitionists should support and join the campaigns. But we insist that labeling is insufficient, is no panacea, and that the fight for labeling is just one step toward building the consciousness toward building what’s great and necessary, a true abolition movement.

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July 19, 2014

The Abdication of Science: The Example of GMO Feeding Trials

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The double standard among “science” studies becomes more insane all the time. Food and Chemical Toxicology, the same journal which unsuccessfully tried to censor and suppress the 2012 Seralini study, has dropped even the slightest pretense to being “scientific” as it continues to publish the most patently bogus corporate “studies”. The latest is a Dupont trial of GM canola which compares it to a “commercial diet”. This is a typical scam of corporate feeding trials. The only valid scientific procedure is to compare a GM variety with the original conventional variety into which the transgene was inserted, only without the transgene. This is called the near-isogenic variety. But corporate trials almost invariably compare the GMO to an undifferentiated “commerical diet” composed of GMOs and feed which had been sprayed with various poisons. The goal is to prevent the trial from detecting any danger from the studied GMO by rendering the “control” diet as toxically similar to it as possible. This trial also engaged in the standard frauds: It was the typical 90 days in length (two years is the scientific standard, an absolute requirement for a real safety study) and compared the study group to irrelevant “historical control groups” which wouldn’t be part of any scientifically designed study. To top it off the authors, employees of Dupont, brazenly lie in declaring they have no conflict of interest.
 
Also tediously familiar, the trial used the same Sprague-Dawley breed of rats which the Seralini study did, and a comparable number of rats. The two main canned lies against the Seralini study are that this type and sample size were somehow illegitimate. But as per proper scientific procedure Seralini merely replicated the way every corporate trial uses this same type and number of rats. He merely extended his study’s length from the intentionally fraudulent 90 days to the scientifically valid 2 years, and measured legitimate health parameters. These measures are generally omitted or suppressed by the corporate trials, which measure only for industry parameters like quickly reaching slaughter weight.
 
It’s also characteristic of such studies that false negatives are a much greater risk than false positives. The fabricated media furore which slandered the Seralini study was in effect accusing it of attaining a false positive. But the number of rats used in ALL the studies which have ever been done, including every corporate trial without exception, is far more likely to generate false negatives. That’s why Seralini’s result was far more significant than those of the trials which allegedly found different results.
 
That’s also why the sample size of 10-12 rats was set as the industry standard, because it was more likely to generate false negatives than a larger sample size. If we could repeat the Seralini/Monsanto study design (as it ought to be called, as Seralini merely improved upon M’s own design) with larger sample sizes, we’d get a reinforcement and expansion of Seralini’s results. All the bogus procedures of 90 day study lengths, feeding the alleged “control” group a “commercial diet”, the gratuitous introduction of “historical control” and “reference” groups, are all meant to obfuscate the result and ensure this false negative. And yet in spite of all that, Monsanto’s own trials often found evidence of organ toxicity.
 
You’ll often see pro-GMO liars citing one or more compendiums of studies which allegedly give GMOs a clean bill of health. But in truth these are nothing but lists of such fraudulent corporate trials, all of which include most or all of the shoddy and fraudulent procedures I just listed. Ironically, in spite of all the attempts to suppress adverse data, many of these trials nevertheless found evidence that GMOs are toxic to human and animal health. The 2012 Seralini study was nothing but a time-extended replication of what was originally a Monsanto feeding trial, with the bogus corporate procedures fixed. The scientific imperative, including the need to serve the public well-being, caused Seralini to conceive and conduct his study. He’s a rare example of a true scientist, the extreme opposite of the mercenary hacks who work for the corporations and the hacks who carry the corporate water as propagandists.  
 
We can see that there’s no longer any such thing as establishment science. On the contrary what’s called “science” today is just a bazaar of ever more brazen lies told by ever more shameless frauds and charlatans. Those who to this day join in the slandering of the Seralini study are anti-science obscurantists, the most vicious enemies science has ever known. Since they attack science in the context of helping totalitarian and homicidal corporations poison our food, water, and soil while seeking total domination through domination of the entire food chain, these scienticians aren’t just frauds and charlatans, but criminal propagandists according to Nuremburg standards.

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July 18, 2014

GMO News Summary July 18th 2014

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*A new analysis of 343 studies comparing crops grown organically to crops grown conventionally finds that the organic foods are greatly superior nutritionally. In particular they have much higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants.
 
This great difference in nutritional profile is probably on account of the differing ways the crops are grown. Crops grown with massive applications of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides are in effect coddled and have to do little work for themselves. So they put their energy into producing higher levels of sugars and starches. Their way of life makes them fat and bloated, and therefore they’re greatly inferior as food.
 
Organic crops, by contrast, have to make an honest living. They have to work to extract real nutrition from real soil and to defend themselves against pests and disease. Of course the knowledge and skills of organic farmers helps them. The result is that organically grown plants produce higher levels of phenols and polyphenols, including the antioxidants so important for preventing heart disease, stroke, and cancer in humans.
 
Of course these organic crops are also not laden with agricultural poisons the way conventional crops are. Organic crops are only 1/4 as likely as conventional to have any pesticide residues at all, and these residue levels are on the average 10-100 times lower. Presumably these very low residues are the result of the general contamination of the environment, for example from the pesticide drift which the USDA wants to make a vastly worse problem.
 
Conventional crops also contained twice the levels of the toxic heavy metal cadmium. 
 
This study, carried out by a team from Newcastle University, analyzed many more studies using many more parameters than that of the tendentious 2012 Stanford paper which whitewashed the poison problem and claimed that the nutritional superiority of organic crops had little meaning for health. This bogus study was the signal for a slew of high-profile corporate media pieces, in Time, the NYT, and elsewhere smearing the idea of organic food. We’ll see what the response is to this new, vastly superior study.
 
*New science establishes how neonicotinoid insecticides, already heavily implicated in the decimation of honeybee populations and other environmental and soil destruction, are decimating birds as well.
 
Industrial seeds, generally GMOs designed to generate crops suffused with insecticidal and herbicidal poisons, are also coated with many other poisons including neonics, which are increasingly necessary to make up for the failure of endemic Bt insecticide. Neonics also suffuse every cell of the crop. The ways this harms human and animal health are unknown and have never been tested.
 
Neonics, like all the rest of these poisons, are necessary elements of poison-based industrial agriculture, which is based upon agronomically unsound and destructive corn-on-corn and other deranged monoculture planting schedules. This is necessary to prop up agriculture as a commodity sector.
 
Meanwhile an agricultural system based on producing food through rational crop rotation and decentralized agroecology practices would be far more productive and healthy and require none of these destructive and expensive poisons and other extraneous inputs.
 
*Another example of the accelerating failure of GMOs in the field, this one from Brazil where resistant caterpillars are badly damaging Bt corn. The piece includes the usual admonition about how non-GM refuges within Bt plantings are supposed to work. But the fact is that even if such refuge policy were enforced (in Brazil it’s not even mandatory, just recommended; in the US it’s officially mandatory but indifferently enforced and widely flouted), the 5-10% refuge generally suggested is far too small to have any effect even in principle. Refuges would need to be 50% or more to conceivably work for long.
 
But the fact is that refuge policy was never intended to work, and was never anything but propaganda meant to reassure skeptical farmers and citizens that regulators had a rational plan. In fact the only rational plan which has ever existed was how to systematically lie on behalf of this worthless, anti-innovative, luddite product, GMOs. The Bt refuge scam is just one example, but look to literally anything else ever said on behalf of GMOs and you’ll see a similar scam. For example my concluding item.
 
*A similar example from Pakistan, where Bt cotton, including Monsanto’s brand-name Bollgard II and Roundup Ready Flex stacked varieties, is increasingly useless against resistant bollworms. Farmers are having to spray expensive pesticides in addition to paying for the expensive seed. This is the kind of financial destruction of small cotton farmers which has produced a massive suicide wave in India.
 
Bt levels are always chaotic and unpredictable even in the highest quality GM seed. (There’s one measure of what a low-quality product GMOs really are.) But the seed distributed in countries like Pakistan seems especially low quality, often producing little or no Bt toxin at all. This apparently includes not just various knockoffs but the Monsanto name brand.
 
We must always keep in mind that just as in other corporate sectors, with seeds as well the big corporations which control them seldom did any actual innovation or production work, but contract out all the work. The corporation only provides the brand name, does the lobbying, controls the patents, reaps all the profit, and exercises control of the entire process. The one thing it doesn’t do is any actual constructive work. So when we ponder GM seeds, especially in the global South, we should always keep in mind that these are often of much lower quality than even the crappy ones sold in the US. This is just one of the many ways GMOs are a scam and a hoax. Also relevant especially to places like India and Pakistan is how any GMO depends upon large-scale artificial irrigation (in itself a huge conveyance of corporate welfare for the Big Ag corporations) to have any chance of performing the way the advertising brochure claims. But most small farmers in these countries lack access to such irrigation. That too affects, for example, Bt cotton’s actual expression of the pesticide.

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July 16, 2014

GMO Labeling, Propaganda and Action

Filed under: Globalization, GMO Hoaxes, Mainstream Media — Tags: — Russ @ 5:37 am

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To put it in terms of the “spheres” media analysis, GMO labeling has become part of the “legitimate controversy”. That’s because the people forced it there, and because elites regard it as manageable. Monsanto would prefer that it remain within the “sphere of deviance”, opinions and advocacy which aren’t even allowed to be discussed or mentioned at all except in the most dismissive, derogatory terms. But the likes of Walmart, Coca-Cola, and other retailers and manufacturers decided back in 2013 to try to manage labeling rather than keep fighting a scorched earth campaign.
 
Thus the labeling idea is a feature of the corporate media, as a legitimately controversial issue. It’s generally depicted in a condescending way as unscientific and as bad policy. The criticism is always implicitly elitist, often explicitly so in saying that the American people are too stupid to understand product labels. These are the same media who generally flatter these same American people as electoral voters and as savvy consumers. How is it that someone who’s qualified to elect a president or to decide that poison-laced industrial food is safe to purchase is somehow not qualified to assess a simple label? It would be one of the mysteries of neoliberalism if we didn’t know the answer, that the system pretends to be democratic in direct proportion to how profitable it expects this semblance of democracy to be, and to how much the people force it to do so. The system generally fears that GMO labeling will harm a critical commodification gambit. (Which is all GMOs really are. As a practical matter they’re nothing but crappy products which perform far worse than all competitors. For media purposes they’re supposed to exist only in hoax form. For consumerist purposes they’re supposed to be invisible; thus the resistance to simple labels.) But it also thinks the idea of labeling, and some sort of sham policy which would try to maintain the idea while forcibly suppressing the substance, can be managed propagandistically. They hope to use a sham, preemptive “voluntary” FDA policy in order to hijack the concept, repair the FDA’s shattered credibility, and forestall more assertive ideas and actions. Thus the goal, from the system’s point of view, is to use the labeling controversy to neutralize GMO activism, and perhaps to help normalize GMOs themselves.
 
Thus the labeling idea is discussed but subtly denigrated in the media. Only the unwashed rubes want it, but what can you do with such a horde? You shouldn’t want it, but perhaps if it’s properly administered by the FDA it can be an acceptable compromise between the wisdom of our betters and the childishness of democracy. In that case you should definitely be satisfied, and only an incorrigible malcontent or someone with the dreaded “agenda” would continue to criticize GMOs.
 
That’s the way the corporate media, many of the system NGOs, the food manufacturing and retail sectors, want to “manufacture consent” as Chomsky would put it. So the goal is to kettle political thought and activism within the concept of preemptive FDA-administered GMO labeling as the only legitimate regulation and advocacy of it as the only legitimate kind of advocacy.
 
Meanwhile even this sham policy would eventually be banned under globalization regimes like the impending TTIP. One of the GMO cartel’s avowed goals for this is to eradicate Europe’s labeling policies. They’ll want to do the same for even the most threadbare FDA policy in the US. So we already know that even if the GMA bill or one of the similar sham bills were passed as a temporary propaganda retrenchment, the cartel will never stop fighting until no labels exist at all. It’s bad faith for anyone to pretend otherwise.
 
GMO labeling is a good step but not sufficient. It’s good only as a step toward the necessary abolition goal. In addition to all the inherent reasons humanity must abolish GMOs, there’s also the fact that the GMO regime is totalitarian and will never be willing to “coexist” with any restraint upon its dominion whatsoever. So it’s also a matter of them or us. I propose that we get rid of them.

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July 15, 2014

Monsanto’s Labeling Preemption Bill is Touted in Congress

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Monsanto’s propaganda show in Congress continues, as a House committee held a farcical hearing where “experts” who are actually paid cadres of the GMO cartel regurgitated the same bald-faced lies as always. (As is typical of GMO hacks, these alleged experts aren’t even credentialed in the subjects they’re pontificating about.)
 
The same old lies include the notion of corporate rule being needed to “feed the world” (it’s a proven fact that corporate agriculture cannot “feed the world” and does not want to), the nutritional content of GMOs (even Monsanto admits GMOs will always be nutritionally inferior), and the escalated pesticide use they require. (It’s been proven everywhere on earth where GMOs have been deployed that they increase pesticide use, which stands to reason since the companies which sell these seeds also sell the poisons that go along with them. How stupid would someone have to be to have any question about whether  under the GMO regime pesticide use is intended to go up or down?). The hacks also regurgitated direct lies about GMOs having been safety tested in the EU and elsewhere. The fact, as everyone involved knows, is that no government ever required and no corporation ever performed a single legitimate safety study upon ANY GMO.
 
The hearing was merely an echo chamber where Monsanto-bought politicians brought in “expert” hacks to regurgitate the same old lies which the politicians could then rebound back at them and into the press.
 
The hearing was about the FDA preemption bill written by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (for all practical purposes a Monsanto adjunct) which would ban state-level GMO labeling and establish a bogus “voluntary” labeling system as the law of the land. For good measure this bill would allow GMOs to be labeled “100% natural”. This is in response to labeling initiatives which would ban such consumer fraud.
 
We see how the Congress is filled with criminal elements. This gangsterism, as can be seen from the sponsors of this farce, is bipartisan.
 
The occasion also provides an example of how official lies propagate through the mainstream media. I’ve written previously on how Monsanto-fabricated and canned lies moved from industry groups to front groups to the “liberal” media to the front page of the NYT. This notorious NYT hack piece, which seeks to regurgitate every Monsanto lie, suppress all the evidence, and slander every critic, has since been taken up by the mainstream media in general as the “official” corporate media statement on GMOs. As we can see with the Huffington Post piece linked above, the NYT propaganda is now assumed by the rest of the MSM to be normative.
 
In fact, the HuffPo’s dogmatic reference merely reveals the writer to be a cog in the hack machine himself, in spite of his otherwise pseudo-rebellious tone. To accept the NYT as normative is to be part of the same propaganda complex which would label GMOs “100% natural” and, eventually, let them be incorporated into the organic certification. The goal here is to firmly set labeling as the limit of acceptable proposals and slander any further reformist or abolitionist ideas. It’s to be considered acceptable to say “right to know”, but not to say “GMOs are unsafe”. Once this standard is set, then the right to know can also be discarded.
 
The NYT propaganda conveyance and many similar scribblings are examples of corporate media Streicherism. According to the standards of the Nuremburg tribunal, to tell “journalistic” lies in furtherance of crimes against humanity is criminally culpable. 
 
The GMO labeling movement must view stopping this preemption bill and stomping to pieces the “idea” that underlies it as a main priority.

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