Volatility

March 2, 2017

The Scourge of Bt Cotton

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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. It failed immediately for the small farmers of India and Africa. More recently it failed for the better-equipped farmers of the South. It soon will fail completely for all cotton farmers everywhere. India’s ongoing sea change against Bt cotton and against commodity cotton in general is only the tip of the iceberg. The consensus is changing. This most typical of GMOs is nearing the end of its time as a marketable product and useful propaganda item.
 
Bt cotton is one of the most notorious examples of how GMOs and the propaganda campaigns that tout them comprise a massive hoax and fraud on farmers and society. 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”. 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”.
 
GMOs are a rich man’s technology. This is true of the corporations which control and distribute them, tightening their control of agriculture and food. It’s true for the farmers themselves. The only way GMOs may work temporarily as advertised is in the context of high-input industrial agriculture. GMOs require lavish external inputs and best case scenarios. They need to be supplemented heavily with irrigation, synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, and mechanization. GMO seed sellers are also sellers of agricultural poisons such as herbicides and insecticides. The corporate goal always is to maximize both seed revenue and poison sales. That’s what GMOs are designed to do. They’re very costly to grow and 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 to perform in the field as advertised so they 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.
 
In spite of these facts, corporations and governments consistently have 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 render it economically viable. 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 to having “unapproved” seeds outlawed, in order to drive non-GM alternatives out of the market.
 
The farmer pays far more for this seed with its added “technology 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. This individual tragedy is multiplied over hundreds of thousands, millions of small farmers. These millions are 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.
 
This pattern has been unbroken wherever corporate agriculture has gone. Wherever commodity cropping 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 especially are 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 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) rejected GMOs as unable to play any constructive role in the future of farming and food.
 
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 under economic assault by globalized agriculture. They’ve been viciously duped 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 farming 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 is caused by this vicious circle. In Maharashtra state, ground zero of the epidemic, 2.8 million of 3.6 million farmers were in debt in 2006.
 
Hybrid varieties are highly vulnerable to insect pests. Each 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.
 
This was the context for the commercialization of Bt cotton. It was first grown illegally in the Gujarat province starting in the late 1990s, 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.
 
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.
 
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 also peddlers of the expensive inputs needed as accessories to Bt crops and loansharks offering the credit needed to buy this expensive apparatus.
 
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. 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.
 
Throughout its history the private seed business has been about nothing but marketing, trivial “product differentiation” which even the National Academy of Sciences derided as “pseudo-varieties” representing no kind of actual improvement, 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 from this historical record it was easily predictable that GMO seeds would comprise a shoddy, fraudulent product. This prediction has been borne out. Bt cotton may be 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 inappropriate they are for small farmers. GMO agriculture and smallholder agriculture are antithetical and cannot “co-exist”, to use the GM 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.
 
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.” That’s from Monsanto’s “Pledge Report” for 2006, which was the exact time it was rolling out Bollgard II with two Bt toxins. This was 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 Monsanto’s revenue 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 $4.725 billion as I’m writing this but was much more at the time).
 
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. The result has been a disaster.
 
We’ll survey in detail the real world performance of Bt cotton in India. This is in contrast to the “studies” of Monsanto flacks like Matin Qaim, much touted in the corporate media. Qaim, who barely set foot outside the Mahyco greenhouses and field test sites during his few visits to India (he’s based in Germany), simply propagates corporate-asserted numbers based on secret data from the corporate trials. There’s no reason to trust these numbers in the first place, and even if they were true they’d be valid only for the ivory tower conditions of the trial sites. Either way these figures have zero validity for real world agriculture of any sort, let alone that practiced by small farmers. Yet this person is the main “scientific” source for the corporate media and pro-GMO activists everywhere. Since we can assume Monsanto provides the best flackery it can, in dismissing Qaim we can dismiss the entire pro-Bt “side of the story” as fraudulent and invalid. Now let’s move on to what reality testifies.
 
*In reality Bt cotton never improved yields. Data compiled by government and trade groups tells a stark story: The great bulk of the yield increase (measured by nationwide average kilograms per hectare) of the commodity cotton era in India occurred from the 2000-01 to the 2004-05 seasons, at which point only 5.6% of cotton acreage was planted to Bt varieties. During the Bt acreage surge from 2005-06 (18% of cotton acreage) to 2008-09 (84%) yield increased only a slight amount, then stagnated and declined. In the ensuing years as Bt acreage crept up above 90%, yields have declined. Overall, yield increased 70% from 2000-01 to 2004-05 when Bt acreage was negligible, and increased only 2% from 2005-06 to 2011-12, with a decline since the 2007-08 peak.
 
This proves that the entire increase was from other causes and had nothing to do with the GMO. The real cotton yield surge came from the switch from traditional polyculture-based cotton farming to hybrid monoculture deploying massive, expensive inputs – irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides. This is only monocultural yield, not food for people or farmer income. “Yield” by itself is a crackpot measure with no inherent meaning. It can have meaning only within some socioeconomic, political, or environmental context.
 
In fact almost the entire yield increase came from improvements in conventional hybrids and expanded irrigation. As for pesticides, Keshav Kranthi of the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) scoffs at the notion that Bt crops can hold their own. On the contrary, he attributes the viability of any kind of hybrid cotton, Bt or conventional, versus a wide range of what from the Bt point of view are secondary pests (Bt cotton’s target pest is the bollworm; secondary pests include whiteflies, jassids/leafhoppers, mealy bugs, mirid bugs, thrips, stink bugs, and many others), to the standard seed treatment with the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. This too is a deadly poison we need to abolish, and jassids increasingly are resistant to it. Therefore, to the extent poisons contribute to yield at all, this non-GM poison is far more important than genetically engineered Bt. The great increase in the years of low Bt acreage and stagnation of the years of Bt domination prove that this GMO offers no yield benefit whatsoever and is actually inferior to conventional cotton hybrids.
 
These numbers, damning as they are, actually exaggerate GMO performance since they’re skewed by the relatively better results from Gujarat state. Gujarat is an outlier in that its agriculture is dominated by fewer, bigger, richer farmers than is typical in other states. Gujarat is far better served by irrigation projects and fertilizer subsidies. Its more capital-rich farmers can better afford the expensive inputs Bt cotton requires. The better Bt cotton production in this state therefore confirms the thesis that GMOs work only for rich growers who can afford lavish outlays for irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides. Take Gujarat out of the equation and Bt’s performance for small farmers across the cotton belt has been dismal and worsening.
 
Besides its overall poor yield, Bt cotton (and Bt crops in general, everywhere on earth) has performed in an extremely variable way. There have been several regional crop failures, most recently in Karnataka in 2014. In general the national and state averages obscure extreme local variability. As a rule, how the GM crop will perform is a crapshoot and will vary from farmer to farmer. Seed quality is often poor and Bt expression in the crop is highly variable. Is this caused by the chaotically modified genetics, by agronomic factors like watering levels or soil quality, by environmental factors like temperature? Who knows? No government or corporation has ever studied this in Bt cotton. Not Monsanto, not the US government, not the Indian government, no one. An independent study of Bt expression in GM maize, however, found great variation depending on climatic conditions. We see how climate chaos driven by the corporate system is intended to maximize the chaos of all aspects of agriculture, right down to the performance of the corporate flagship product.
 
At the farm level, Bt cotton intrinsically yields less than conventional hybrids. Given high inputs it may have better operational yield for the first few years until the bollworms develop resistance. Given the low inputs which comprise the limit for indebted small farmers, Bt always yields much less, along with many acute failures. Yields have always been far less, often by more than half, than what Monsanto’s advertising promised. Poor yields continue to this day. The meager overall numbers conceal a vast number of individual tragedies.
 
For the individual farmer, growing Bt cotton is like “playing Russian roulette in order to get out of poverty”, as Nassim Taleb put it regarding civilization and GMOs as a whole.
 
*Here’s a good place to add a critical point. While the individual small farmer crushed by commodity agriculture is often impoverished, the opposite is true of agriculture as a whole. Here we’re talking about cotton, which isn’t directly a food although the seeds are pressed into oil which is used in processed foods. Nevertheless in any discussion of GMO yields we must always stress the fact that industrial agriculture produces far more than enough food for everyone on earth today, and more than enough even for the highest future population projections. The fact is that there’s zero problem with the quantity of food produced, today or at any time in the future for as long as industrial agriculture persists. (It won’t for much longer. Humanity must transform to agroecology and food sovereignty if we want to continue eating.) Therefore there’s zero need to increase yields in order to “feed the world”. Feed the World is a classical Big Lie. The world currently produces enough food for 10 billion people, yet of the 7 billion here, one billion go hungry (and another 2 billion suffer from dietary diseases such as malnutrition or obesity, often both at the same time). This is caused purely by pathological economic and political systems for maldistributing the cornucopia we have. For example, India has vast food stocks, indeed it allows vast amounts of stockpiled food to rot, yet 250 million go hungry. The problem, today and tomorrow, is 100% from corporate maldistribution, 0% from insufficient production. It’ll be a great leap forward for civilization when we can completely purge the “Feed the World” notion from rational and moral discussion as the criminal Big Lie it is.
 
*Perhaps the core lie Monsanto-Mahyco and the Indian government told cotton farmers is that Bt cotton is suitable for rainfed cultivation. In reality Bt cotton is dependent upon artificial irrigation. In fact Bt cotton requires as much as twice the water needed by conventional hybrids and cannot be effectively grown without expensive artificial irrigation. The vast majority (70%) of India’s farmers depend completely upon rainfall. In Karnataka state where yields collapsed in 2014, most cotton cultivation is rainfed. Gujarat is the exception again, reversing the proportions of irrigated (65%) and rainfed (35%) farms. Here the irrigated area has accounted for 84% of the state’s cotton production, 689 lint kg/ha, while the rainfed area produces only 247 kg/ha. That’s a typical yield difference between Bt cotton grown with irrigation vs. rainfall.
 
To try to sell Bt cotton, or any GMO, to a rain-dependent farmer is criminal fraud. Investigative journalist PJ Sainath went further – “promoting [Bt cotton] in a dry and unirrigated area like Vidarbha [ground zero for the cotton farmer suicide epidemic] was murderous. It was stupid. It was killing.”
 
*Another core lie is that the Bt technology can be a permanent panacea against insect pests. On the contrary, Monsanto knew from the start that pests would develop resistance to any Bt toxin just as they do with any other pesticide. This is elementary knowledge of how evolution works. Monsanto built the planned obsolescence of each GMO variety and its being superceded by ever more complex and expensive “stacked” varieties into its business strategy. They called this marketing plan “expanded trait penetration”. But in the early 2000s Monsanto was promising the opposite, that single trait Bt cotton would maintain its potency versus the bollworm indefinitely.
 
Farmers who believed the lies were quickly disabused. Overall there was never a real decline in pesticide use in Indian cotton farming. Indeed, nationally pesticide use went up 10% during the peak years of Bt expansion. This was despite the increased use of lower-volume, higher-toxicity poisons during these years. In some regions Bt may have used less pesticide than conventional hybrids for the first few years, with a difference range from minuscule to significant. It’s a function of how much water and fertilizer the crop gets. (As always, every possible agronomic benefit of a GMO is dependent upon lavish and expensive artificial inputs. To spend less on pesticides you need to spend more on water and fertilizer.) Any temporary relief also depends upon high-quality trait expression. But many varieties are inconsistent, shoddy, or just fraudulent. There’s never a lasting decline. After four years at most the pesticide use and cost equals out. A few more years and Bt cotton needs more applied pesticides than non-GM conventional cotton. In terms of aggregate poison use and environmental and health hazards all the numbers comprise a false accounting because they don’t account for the Bt endotoxins themselves. But these too are pesticides and must be counted as such.
 
Meanwhile all commodity cotton, even Bt cotton, always needs sprayed and seed-treated pesticide since cotton is attacked by the widest array of insect types. In the case of anti-bollworm Bt cotton, secondary pests quickly move in to fill any temporary void left where the Bt toxin has temporarily killed the target pest. As I mentioned above, according to the CICR’s Kranthi without neonic seed treatments Bt cotton would be routed by whiteflies, jassids, mirids, aphids, thrips, and many others. As Monsanto’s own propaganda often emphasized, Bt adoption has to be put in the context of the failure of earlier pesticides. Since the same companies propagate both kinds of poisons, applied and GMO endemic, it’s obvious that the poison treadmill culminating in stacked Bt poisons is planned obsolescence, a form of disaster capitalism.
 
In some cases the Bt cotton never worked against the target bollworms at all. In every case bollworms developed resistance within a few years. In 2006 Monsanto introduced Bollgard II containing two Bt toxins, the original Cry1AC plus Cry2AB, thus admitting that the original Bollgard no longer worked. Bollworms have since developed resistance to Cry2AB. This is standard for the GMO pesticide treadmill.
 
The result of all this has been that farmers found any reduced-pesticide dividend to be minimal and temporary at best. While pesticide use and cost may have declined by a small amount at first, within a few years these were back to pre-Bt levels. Today Bt cotton farmers have to spend more on pesticides than farmers growing non-GM conventional hybrids. And to correct the false accounting again, the great expense of Bt seeds has to be entered as a pesticide cost, since farmers are purchasing the Bt endotoxins the crops allegedly will produce.
 
This ongoing pesticide disaster of insurgent secondary pests, resistant target pests, and soaring pesticide use and costs has reached new levels of infamy since 2015, as Bollgard II is collapsing in the face of resistant bollworms even as secondary whiteflies decimate the crop in many states. There’s a rising consensus among Indian farmers, agronomists, and even officials that the Bt cotton experiment has been a disaster India needs to purge.
 
*As Monsanto flooded the market with its seeds it pressured seed growers and sellers to stop producing and offering non-GM seeds. Monsanto calls this tactic “seed replacement”. Once enough farmers had adopted Bt cotton and GM seeds had attained a dominant market position Monsanto jacked up the price to astronomical levels. Here too there has been great variation over time and across regions, but distilling from many sources tells us that seed prices soared to 2-10 times as much as the price of non-GM hybrids. Prices have run from 700-2000 rupees per packet. For contrast, the original Desi varieties cost 5-10 rupees a packet. The bulk of this price explosion is Monsanto’s technology tax. By one estimate, by spring 2014 Monsanto had extracted 5000 crore in taxes (50 billion rupees; c. $810 million in contemporary dollars) from Indian cotton farmers. Imagine what this wealth could have accomplished if Indian society had invested in agroecological food production instead of throwing it down a corporate commodification rathole.
 
This extremely high priced seed input and accompanying tax is unique to the GMO varieties and therefore piles a new burden on the backs of already beleaguered farmers.
 
Various Indian state governments and some central government officials have made half-hearted attempts to relieve the crisis. In 2005 the government of Andhra Pradesh 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 have been utterly insufficient. In 2016, even as Karnataka geared up for its second farmer bailout, the Indian central government ordered price caps on cotton seed and the tax Monsanto imposes on the seeds. The government also threatened to revoke the Monsanto’s Bollgard II patent on the grounds that the product is a failure and a fraud.
 
The result of these escalating input costs has been that Bt cotton is considerably more expensive to grow than non-GM hybrids. At the same time cotton prices forcibly have been depressed and kept low by US dumping of heavily subsidized cotton. The result is that even for the best-equipped farms, Bt cotton’s profit margin is razor-thin, worse than for non-GM conventional. For small farmers, it’s a wipeout. It’s near impossible for them to do anything but lose even more and sink deeper into debt each year.
 
As all this has been going on India’s conventional agricultural credit structure, based on nationalized banks and lenient payment terms (obviously the right way for society to handle its food producers if it’s to force them to incur debt at all, which of course it should not), has been gutted by the same globalization process which has driven first monoculture hybrid commodification and then Bt commercialization. As a result farmers have been forced to turn to usurious “microlenders” and the seed and poison dealers themselves who often double as loansharks. This sinks them even deeper in the quicksand.
 
Around the world 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 Asia to Latin America. In Argentina the same pattern of partial but fleeting success for wealthy growers, failure and bankruptcy for small farmers, prevailed. 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.
 
Returning to 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.
 
African cotton farmers, like the small farmers of India, are especially devastated by US dumping of its heavily subsidized cotton. 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.
 
Second to the Indian debacle, the most infamous 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 deployed the same kind of propaganda campaign, promised loans and subsidies, told the same high-flying lies. This propaganda was directed at the international community and world media at least as much as at Makhathini’s farmers. (The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization bit. Its 2004 State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report swallowed the lies whole and has been a favorite citation of corporate and media flacks to this day.) The seed cartel enlisted local leaders to attest to the alleged 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 their 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 varieties. 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.
 
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. The fact that Monsanto, governments, academia, and the media continue to hype Bt cotton as appropriate for small farmers constitutes one of history’s ultimate frauds. It “works” for no one but the destructive, parasitic elites who profit off it and use it to exert ever greater control over agriculture. By Nuremburg standards it’s a crime against humanity.
 
From this history 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.
 
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 a poison and commodity basis; 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. The same is true of all GMO deployment.
 
It’s clear that Bt cotton is a product which, where it works at all, works only for a brief period and only where supplemented by an expensive, cumbersome apparatus of artificial inputs. Like all other GMOs, it’s an extremely high maintenance hothouse flower. Industrial agriculture as such is highly destructive, wasteful, and unsustainable. GMOs represent an escalation of all the worst aspects of corporate industrial agriculture while conferring no benefits. As a whole GMOs are the extreme manifestation of a backward, economically cramping, agronomically destructive, retrograde technology and mindset. Collectively GMOs are a hoax and a fraud, and most of all where touted for small farmers. The goal of marketing GMOs to small farmers is to destroy them economically and drive them off the land so that large-scale corporate industrial plantations can more “efficiently” enclose and monopolize agriculture. In First the Seed Jack Kloppenburg discusses how the corporations faced barriers to the full commodification of farming itself (as opposed to the system of agricultural inputs and processing). Here we see the answer: One of the basic purposes of GMOs is to drive up the costs of farming to the point that it becomes economically impossible for small independent farmers to exist. Bt cotton provides one of the best case studies.
 
In fact, the failure of Bt cotton and the great fraud it incarnates are typical of the insecticidal and herbicide tolerant GMOs in general. These essentially are the only two 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.
 
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 glyphosate resistant superweeds rampage across North America, Brazil, and elsewhere. The only solution the system offers is to stack herbicide tolerances. Monsanto originally touted Roundup Ready 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.
 
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 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 herbicide tolerant GMOs never be commercialized because of how badly they would aggravate the ongoing socioeconomic carnage by wiping out vast numbers of agricultural laborers. Economically, herbicide tolerant 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.
 
We can see how both the insecticidal and herbicide tolerance genres as a whole are 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.
 
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 designed and intended to drive out all small and independent producers and, through attaining total corporate control of agriculture and food, impose such a strangulation grip on the throat of humanity that we’ll never break free.
 
GMOs must be completely abolished.
 
 
 
 
If you agree with the ideas in these posts, propagate them.
 

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February 1, 2017

The Green Revolution and Corporate Agriculture Drive Hunger and Famine

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Philanthropy, corporate style.

Philanthropy, corporate style.

 
 
 
History is repeating itself as Africa, so many times in the past the target of colonial depredation, is today the target of a new dual campaign of aggression. The first prong of this campaign is the new colonialism based on land-grabbing and export commodity agriculture. The goal is to seize control of the land, destroy all food production and replace it with industrial plantations to produce export commodities, and drive all the people off their land and into shantytowns. The second prong is the already turbulent climate chaos which has been driven most by the same industrial agriculture, and which in recent years has been wreaking havoc on African farming and food harvests. Today, after years of widespread drought and collapsed harvests, large parts of sub-Saharan Africa are on the verge of famine. This famine, like all previous modern famines, is completely artificial, completely man-made, caused by corporate agriculture and now by the climate change of which this agricultural sector is the main driver.
 
This latest food crisis follows upon the purely financial food crisis of 2008-2009 which was triggered by rising commodity prices. This was part of the finance sector’s war of speculation and its intentional crashing of the global economy in 2008. In all these ways – financial crisis, land crisis, climate crisis – we have corporate campaigns designed to cause disaster, destruction, and chaos. The corporations then proceed to use the crises they intentionally generate as further opportunities for aggression and profit. This is called disaster capitalism. All corporate sectors practice it, and corporate agriculture is the most aggressive and destructive practitioner of all.
 
In the classic disaster capitalist manner today’s corporate imperialists are using the crisis and the famine they have systematically caused as the pretext to call for the escalation of their campaigns of finance speculation, land-grabbing, and food destruction. They call their plan a “second green revolution for Africa.” Toward this goal they have set up a propaganda and organizational apparatus funded by American and British taxpayers and administered by a coalition led by USAID and the Gates Foundation. They call the plan the “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition” (NAFSN), and the Gates cadre which serves as overall coordinator is called the “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa” (AGRA). The goal of this campaign is to induce and force upon African countries the whole standard globalization package which has already ravaged Latin America and Asia – privatization of tribal land, publicly-funded export and import infrastructure, eradication of all “trade barriers” which are defenses against Western subsidized dumping, corporate-dictated intellectual property policy, tax abatements and removal of all environmental and labor protections, removal of all currency expatriation restrictions, and in general the complete submission of African countries to the domination of Western-based corporations. The NAFSN seeks to impose all this on behalf of Western agribusiness corporations which have signed up with the plan. They pledge pennies to the public dollar of both Western and African taxpayers; they get to extract 100% of the profit and take it back home. The beneficiaries include pesticide and seed sellers Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont, traders Cargill and ADM, synthetic fertilizer manufacturer Yara, food manufacturers Unilever and Diageo. These and more will get special deals via the usual “public-private partnerships” which place all the cost and risk on the public and hand all the profit and control to the corporation.
 
The physical goals of the plan, which are always the real goals, are to seize control of all good farmland, wipe out all food production, drive out the people, divide the land into big corporate industrial plantations growing export crops, and use as much GM seed, synthetic fertilizer, and pesticide as possible. The goal is to be as destructive as possible of the soil’s capacity ever to grow food again, of African ecosystems, and of African communities and economies. Beyond a small collaborator faction which can be maintained as an urban middle class, the goal is to wipe out the African people completely. According to the US/Gates/corporate vision, these people have no purpose existing. There’s not even a plan to exploit them, just to drive them out. They call this the Second Green Revolution.
 
Does this description sound exaggerated? Not to anyone familiar with the record of failure, destruction, and corporate crime wrought by the original Green Revolution.
 
The best introduction to the facts about the Green Revolution and world hunger, and Africa’s alleged need for a second revolution, is the fact that contrary to media depictions, by the 1990s most of the hungry people of the world were not in Africa, which had been represented in Western media for much of the 1980s as the ultimate hunger disaster zone, but in the prime land of the Green Revolution, southern Asia. (Unless otherwise indicated, these numbers are compiled from government and UN sources by Food First in its magisterial World Hunger.)
 
In truth all the numbers which have been touted incessantly for the Green Revolution have been false accounting and lies. The figures claiming that hunger declined during the twenty year period from 1970 to 1990, the heyday of the Green Revolution, are based on the inclusion of figures from China, not a Green Revolution recipient. If China is left out of global figures, then during this period the number of hungry people in the world increased 11%, from 536 million to 597 million, even as food production significantly increased.
 
We can be more specific and focus especially on the two regions most intensely subjected to the Green Revolution. In Latin America during this period per capita food supplies went up 8% while the proportion of the hungry increased 19%. This is an 8% increase in per capita food even as the number of those going hungry leapt significantly. This means that population increase had zero to do with rising hunger, contrary to the claims of the corporate media and Malthusian commentators.
 
In the same way, in South Asia food available per person increased 9% while the hungry increased by 9%. This proves that hunger has nothing to do with the gross amount of food produced and everything to do with its distribution. It proves that any production increase attained by Green Revolution methods is irrelevant since the corporate distribution system which is indelibly conjoined with these production methods acts ruthlessly to make all food less available to people. This proves that corporate agriculture and its Green Revolution automatically and inexorably increase hunger and render increasing numbers vulnerable to famine.
 
And so it has gone. Under the corporate agricultural paradigm, by the latter 1990s there were over 800 million hungry in the world. By 2009 the number exceeded one billion, and continues to rise. This is never under any circumstance because there’s physically not enough food. Without exception hunger is caused by the artificial withholding of food from people to whom it would otherwise be available. Only on account of the artificial constraints, inefficiencies, and rituals of capitalism can food which physically exists, effectively cease to exist, because of the purely arbitrary reason that people lack the money to buy it. The historically proven fact is that as a rule hunger is caused only by inequality and poverty.
 
These are the same people who used to be able to produce more than sufficient food for themselves and their communities when they lived holistically on the land. Their way of life was socioecologically integrated with the Earth. They worked, the Earth produced, the people had food. And this productive balance must be restored if any significant number of people intend to eat in the post-fossil fuel age, since industrial agriculture is 100% dependent upon cheap, plentiful fossil fuels. But the cheapness and plenty are nearing their end, and the industrial paradigm inevitably must collapse.
 
But for now the onslaught continues. With some non-perishable and luxury exceptions, food production and distribution is naturally a local/regional physical and economic system. Corporate agriculture seeks to destroy all food production by forcing all production and distribution into a globalized commodity system. The only way to do this is to force economic structures upon the sector which economically destroy the viability of community food production and, through the enclosure of land, render it physically impossible. This then encloses all food production within the monetized framework and renders that food destroyed and nonexistent from the point of view of people. The “food” now exists only as a globalized commodity which is transported to wherever money is already concentrated. The rich get richer and literally fatter, while an ever rising mass of human beings gets poorer and more hungry. This is the indelible mathematical calculus of corporate agriculture and the Green Revolution, as well as the evil intent of its architects and cadres. It will never and can never have any result but to increase poverty, misery, and hunger.
 
The historical record has long been conclusive that increasing food production cannot reduce hunger because it doesn’t improve access to good land or the money to buy food, and therefore it does not increase access to food. On the contrary, it inexorably makes all these worse, and therefore makes hunger worse. In the same way, the introduction of any agricultural technology into an unjust, unequal system, without a prior social revolution to render that system just and egalitarian, inevitably increases the inequality and poverty and from there the hunger. (Indeed, this is a law of technology as such.)
 
And so we have the incontrovertible record of the Green Revolution and corporate control of food and agriculture. It was based on wheat, rice, and maize seeds specially adapted to high-input monoculture production. The goal was to maximize use of fossil fuels in order to industrialize agriculture and bring it under full capitalist control for maximum profit and power. The campaign did drive up “official” production, measured in commodities, while destroying much community food production and driving much of the rest off the official tally. (This is in order to suppress knowledge of how capable the people are of feeding themselves if they’re left alone and unassaulted.)
 
By official measures food available per capita went up everywhere, and hunger went up everywhere. Corporate agriculture and its Green Revolution act systematically to destroy all production of food which would be available for human beings while applying massive resources to drive up production of agricultural commodities to be exported for luxury use, especially for cheap meat and processed goods for Westerners. This, self-evidently, does not exist as food for the people of these places. On the contrary it represents nothing more or less than the destruction of their ability to produce food and their ability to eat.
 
By 1990 at the latest it was clear that the Green Revolution had no goal of decreasing hunger and helping farmers, but on the contrary was dedicated to economically destroying the farmers and driving them and their people off the land and into the terminal poverty of the shantytowns. Corporate agriculture is dedicated to increasing hunger and bringing famine. This is its systematically attained result, therefore this is its strictly proven intent and goal.
 
Today Africa, so many times ravaged by Western predation, is again under the gun. This time nothing less than the control of its very ability to farm and eat, today and for the future, is at stake. The “Second Green Revolution” already underway in parts of Africa is the greatest crime of our age.
 
The people of Africa are opposing this plan to destroy them. The people are organized into a coalition of hundreds of democracy networks, tribal alliances, and groups representing real farmers and pastoralists. These comprise the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and include the African Center for Biosafety, the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations (CNOP, a member of the worldwide Via Campesina, the Farmer Way), the NGO Federation of Collectives (FECONG), the Coalition for African Genetic Heritage (COPAGEN), the Food Sovereignty Campaign, Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development (COMPAS) Africa, the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management Association (PELUM), the Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), People’s Dialogue, Rural Women’s Assembly, Food Sovereignty Ghana, GMO Free Malawi, and many others.
 
In direct contrast to the failure, destruction, and organized crime which is the proven pattern and intention of corporate industrial agriculture, the true way forward is already operating and achieving great things in Africa and around the world. This is the path of Food Sovereignty and agroecology. This is the way human beings produce abundant food for themselves and their communities without massive, expensive, destructive inputs of fossil fuels and poisons, in harmony with the greater ecology, toward the greatest freedom, democracy, security, and happiness.
 
There’s zero problem where it comes to the sheer amount of food produced. We produce far more than enough food for everyone. This is true globally and it’s true in every region of the world. The only problem anywhere is with the corporate distribution system. Anyone who truly wants to feed people has to want people to be able to feed themselves. We have to change the distribution of the food we have, not struggle to produce “more” within a framework which has already proven it won’t distribute that food to humanity. Anyone who truly wants the world to have food must fight to abolish corporate agriculture, abolish the enslavement of food production to the commodity system, rebuild socially and economically natural food systems (food production and distribution is naturally and logically done on a local/regional basis, and only authoritarian systems can ever twist and contort these into a globalized framework), and build the Food Sovereignty movement. This movement must be based upon the great class of small community farmers who have always been the food producers for humanity and always will be, and upon agroecology, a fully demonstrated science and set of practices ready for full global deployment any time humanity wishes to embrace them. Agroecology is already accomplishing great things in Africa.
 
The goal of corporate industrial agriculture, and the ultimate goal of all globalization, is to seize control of the land and drive the people out. This has always been the ultimate goal of all imperial conquest: To render all land terra nullius, empty space to be subjugated, exploited to the hilt, wrung out like an old rag, left for dead. Today is humanity’s last chance to halt this corporate campaign of total destruction of our agriculture and our environment. We have our great chance to halt it and roll it back. This is what is necessary if we hope to have any agriculture and ecology left going forward beyond the fossil fuel age. The land is still there for us if we wish. We must save it and cherish it.
 
 
 
 
 
 

January 24, 2017

Seeds of Doom vs. Seeds of Rebirth

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“These people think that Africa is a country of animals, that we do not think, that we know nothing, but they are wrong. We are human beings, we know what we want and we will fight on to victory.”
 
– Zimbabwean participant at the 2011 International Conference of Peasants and Farmers vs. Land-Grabbing
 
Tanzania’s new seed control law is the latest victory for Western agribusiness seeking dominion over Africa’s land, seed heritage, and commodity export potential. Conversely, it’s the latest blow to Africa’s fight for self-determination and food security.
 
To gain Western “developmental assistance”, which means Western “investment” toward the goal of transforming a country into a corporate export plantation, the Tanzanian government has enacted “reform” meant to ease corporate control of the land and now will try forcibly to destroy Tanzania’s ancient and socially and ecologically stable system of seed saving and distribution among the small farmers who grow food for their people. All this is to be wiped out and replaced by corporate-controlled export agriculture while all food production disappears from the country and is replaced by mass hunger and misery.
 
This is the most recent development in an ongoing globalization campaign to enforce corporate control of all seeds and all of global agriculture and food. In Africa this campaign has been elaborated into a vast formal project, the so-called New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN). The New Alliance is the corporate strategy for the recolonization of Africa led by Western agribusiness. Its goal is to drive millions of Africans off their land and gain full control of all arable land in order to convert it to export commodity production. African farmers, tribes, consumers, environmental and civil society groups are opposing this, with support from anti-corporate and democracy activists from all over the world.
 
The record of over fifty years of aggressive globalized corporate agriculture based on production for commodity export proves that corporate agriculture equals human hunger. Corporate agriculture generates mass hunger and seeks to perpetuate and maximize hunger. Its goal always is to destroy food production, seize the land for commodity production, and drive the people OUT.
 
The NAFSN is driven by the US and UK governments, paid for by US and UK taxpayers, and functions according to operational goals dictated by corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, Unilever, and others who have signed up for the program as part of various “public-private partnership” scams. The NAFSN operates officially under the auspices of the G8. The program is directly administered by USAID in its usual role as alleged “humanitarian” front group, public sector version, with the Gates Foundation and others serving as the “private”, so-called philanthropic counterpart. The Gates Foundation has set up its “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa” as a key activist and propaganda weapon of the campaign. The corporate beneficiaries have signed “letters of intent” to join this so-called “investment” program. This means they put up pennies to the taxpayer dollar while being slated to extract 100% of the profits. An African fig leaf is provided in the form of the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP). This is the Stockholm Syndrome blueprint African governments developed in the wake of the West’s “structural adjustment” assaults. The NAFSN is a typical vehicle wherein African governments beg for “investment” on the corporations’ terms. The New Alliance is a prime fruition of this radical corporate control of Western investment. Ten African governments have sold out: Ethiopia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Nigeria, and Senegal. (The US remains frustrated by the ambivalence of Kenya, which was supposed to be the crown jewel member by now.)
 
The people of Africa are opposing this plan to destroy them. The people are organized into a coalition of hundreds of democracy networks, tribal alliances, and groups representing real farmers and pastoralists. These comprise the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and include the African Center for Biosafety, the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations (CNOP, a member of the worldwide Via Campesina, the Farmer Way), the NGO Federation of Collectives (FECONG), the Coalition for African Genetic Heritage (COPAGEN), the Food Sovereignty Campaign, Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development (COMPAS) Africa, the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management Association (PELUM), the Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), People’s Dialogue, Rural Women’s Assembly, Food Sovereignty Ghana, GMO Free Malawi, and many others.
 
Here we have a clear black and white division between humanity and a criminal elite. We have the aggressive elite power of the US and other Western governments, corporations, the mainstream media and technocratic establishment, and other elitists including racist liberals and NGOs. The whole project has had zero input or representation from the people of Africa or the West. Even as they mouth platitudes about helping the small farmers of Africa, the roster of participants in the cabal’s conferences reads each time like a technocratic dream guest list – Western politicians, corporate agents, NGO operatives, motley “experts” and engineers. It includes every illegitimate elite which is alien to the Earth and excludes every representative of actual human beings. Those opposing this assault comprise a truly representative lineup of African farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, and the citizenry in general.
 
Even if one didn’t know the issues and facts, just from the order of battle it would be clear who’s right and who’s wrong, who represents human prosperity, security, democracy, and freedom, and who represents the destruction of all of these.
 
The goal of the New Alliance is the corporate Gleichschaltung (coordination) of African agriculture and trade practices and policies for maximum plunder and domination. Its main goals are to drive the people of Africa off their land and into shantytowns, seizing all the arable land for corporate commodity production for export. The goal, as with all agribusiness endeavor, is to wipe out all food production and replace it with commodity production. This is the same program of globalization and commodification which has already devastated much of humanity. African governments are to collaborate in dominating and exploiting the people and the land. The goal of corporate industrial agriculture, and the ultimate goal of all globalization, is to seize control of the land and drive the people out.
 
Here’s the main elements of the plan:
 
*The privatization of land. In Africa vast numbers of people still farm and graze the commons. This makes it difficult for the corporate state to impose dependency upon money and loans of indenture, to set up corporate infrastructure and distribution facilities for pesticides, proprietary GM seeds, synthetic fertilizer, industrial machinery, to impose commodity cash cropping, and to arrange the export of the entire production of the land, leaving the people with nothing. As a prerequisite, corporations which would dominate and exploit these people and their land first need government to enclose and parcel out the land. This has been a priority of the World Bank going back to the 1980s. Obama’s USAID chief Rajiv Shad emphasized that the goal is to accelerate land grabbing. As Via Campesina put it, “These policies aim to allocate title deeds to land in order to facilitate the purchase and sale of landed property. In the end, poor peasants and other rural people lose out to the benefit of those who have the means to purchase land.” Tribesmen and pastoralists who have farmed the land for generations suddenly are told that the land of their ancestors is “legally owned” by a Western speculator or the land-grabbing agent of a foreign government. The NAFSN is designed to escalate this colonial process of stealing the land. The only difference from the old-style conquistadors is that the direct gun and sword have been replaced by the fountain pen, backed by guns, drones, and cruise missiles.
 
*The formation of economic hierarchies to centralize and integrate production, processing, storage, and distribution. All this is to be done according to corporate specifications, toward the goal of forcing most farmers off the land and reducing the rest to indentured servitude and wage slavery within a cash-based commodity export regime. Today the farmers of Africa are smallholders and commons managers producing food for their families and communities. This is ideologically odious to Western technocracy and an obstacle to total corporate domination and exploitation. The goal of the New Alliance is to eradicate this human order and replace it with the corporate-controlled globalized commodity export system.
 
*Use propaganda to induce the beleaguered farmers to adopt commodity cropping themselves, then impose expensive industrial infrastructure on them. The NAFSN reprises the decades-old ploy of offering credit in order to indenture farmers and trap them on the cash-crop debt treadmill. The procedure is always the same everywhere, with only minor modifications. 1. Propaganda – you have no choice but to get on board with commodification, and you better do it fast or you’ll be left behind. 2. Enforce this with Western commodity dumping and general coercion into a cash economy. 3. Offer the necessary product (“improved”, i.e. corporate-controlled seeds, synthetic fertilizer, industrial herbicide and pesticide, machinery, oil) and the debt-mongering loan in order to buy it. 4. In this way destroy most independent farmers completely, turn the rest into indentured sharecroppers or wage slaves.
 
*A severe and rigorously enforced “intellectual property” regime for the benefit of the seed cartel and its patents. The Tanzanian law is the latest example. All intellectual property in seeds has been the result of biopiracy. All crops and landraces were developed by farmers selecting seeds over thousands of years in cooperation with nature, and all existing varieties have been developed by farmers in tandem with modern public sector breeding projects. The private sector has never contributed anything constructive at all. This is just as true in Africa as anywhere else. IP seed regimes are designed to expropriate a vast property interest of the people as a whole, in exactly the same way as land-grabbing.
 
*Selectively open borders for corporate dumping and looting. “Free trade” is the standard Orwellian term for this; a truthful term would be something like corporate command trade, forced markets, forced commodification. This so-called “liberalization” applies where it comes to the government-approved and licensed “formal sector”. Meanwhile traditional markets and actual free trading among the people would be criminalized and repressed, as we see in the case of corporate seed regimes like that being imposed upon Tanzanians.
 
*”Free trade” zones, tax-free zones, laws licensing the total repatriation of profits by Western “investors”. These ravages of Latin America and Asia are set to be reproduced in Africa.
 
We already know the end result of this because we’ve seen it play out over sixty years in Asia, Latin America, and in South Africa which already has a near-fully corporate controlled regime. Seeds and the land are largely enclosed, farmers have been reduced to servitude, profits are ruthlessly extracted and removed from the country.
 
The program of the New Alliance is being called a “Second Green Revolution”, a “Green Revolution in Africa”. We already know the evils of the first Green Revolution. It drove the people off the good agricultural land, forcing them to struggle to grow food for themselves on worse, environmentally more fragile land. Meanwhile all prime agricultural land was enclosed for export production. The land is stolen and locked away. From the people’s point of view it’s as if all the best land literally was destroyed, while all the food they used to produce ceases to exist. This is the driver of all Southern hunger, just as forcing the people who used to support themselves across the land to become crowded into small desolate regions is the cause of so-called “overpopulation”. Thus the Green Revolution drives ever more people off the land and into urban slums and shantytowns. Shantytowns have always been the direct, intended result of this agricultural policy. The goal always is to further separate humanity from the land, assault human food economies, replace these with the global corporate commodity economy from which food is supposed to “trickle down” to those who have money to buy it, forcibly turn community farmers into “job”-seekers, generate population pressures and all the political divide-and-conquer gambits this enables, drive up the proportion of the population which is food insecure, drive down wages. In all these ways the Green Revolution increases desperation and infighting among the destitute masses and aggravates and accelerates the processes of colonialism and corporate rule in general. Today’s onslaught of corporate agriculture is an escalated version of all this.
 
Pro-technocracy, pro-corporate types still believe and propagate the lies of the Green Revolution. But it takes only a look at the historical record and current events to see that corporate agriculture has nothing to do with feeding people and everything to do with starving them for the sake of its profit and domination imperatives. How does it feed an African community to force it to stop feeding itself and start growing cash crops to be turned into cheap meat for Westerners and ethanol for Western cars? How does it feed people to drive them off the land they farm and into shantytowns? How does it feed people to impose artificial scarcity on the abundance their work coaxes from nature?
 
Let’s cut through all the lies. If you want human beings to eat, you want people to provide their own food for themselves, their families, their communities. If you want corporations and governments to crush this normal, natural food system and replace it with the corporate system of scarcity, coercion, domination, extraction, you want only those with money to feed. (As for the Western middle class among whom this attitude is common, the bell is tolling for them as well. If any among them ever wonders what the corporate and technocratic elite has in store for them, they need only look to the farmers of Africa now. In the end they’re slated to be liquidated the same way, even if it takes a little more time. But there’s already no lack of tent cities in America.)
 
The entire modern record of corporate agriculture and food proves that the corporate system does not want to feed the world and cannot do so, by its very nature. It takes a unusual form of stupidity to think that the way to end hunger is to take naturally abundant food and render it artificially scarce, as capitalism must do according to its nature. Just as it takes a special kind of arithmetic to think the way you end hunger is through a system whose primary action is to use ten calories’ worth of grain to produce one calorie of meat. This fact lays bare the entire truth about the corporate system, its goals, and the evil of anyone who supports it while even a single child goes hungry.
 
Corporate neoliberal ideology is a proven lie in every sector. There is no sector, especially food and agriculture, where corporate practice hasn’t brought oligopoly, inequality, deteriorating agronomic results, ever more frequent socioeconomic and environmental disaster, and mass hunger. All the while our prosperity, freedom, democracy, and happiness are destroyed. We know that agroecological production and distribution bring better practical results than the corporate system, we know that only it can sustain the environment, we know that all true innovation in agriculture throughout history has been the result of cooperative action in the public domain, and we know that corporate enclosure like the intellectual property regime has functioned only to smother true innovation. We know that the industrial food system is unsustainable in terms of energy consumption, we know it’s the worst driver of the climate crisis and other environmental crises, we know that even in the West it’s no longer keeping prices down, and we know that at every point it diminishes our freedom, autonomy, and community.
 
In direct contrast to the failure, destruction, and organized crime which is the proven pattern and intention of corporate industrial agriculture, the true way forward is already operating and achieving great things in Africa and around the world. This is the path of Food Sovereignty and agroecology. This is the way human beings produce abundant food for themselves and their communities without massive, expensive, and destructive inputs of fossil fuels and poisons, in harmony with the greater ecology, toward the greatest freedom, democracy, security, and happiness.
 
There’s zero problem with the sheer amount of food produced. We produce far more than enough food for everyone on earth and then some to fill their stomachs. This is true globally and it’s true in every region of the world. The only problem anywhere is with the corporate distribution system. Anyone who truly wants to feed people has to want people to be able to feed themselves. We have to change the distribution of the food we have, not struggle to produce “more” within a framework which has already proven it won’t distribute that food to humanity. Anyone who truly wants the world to have food must fight to abolish corporate agriculture, abolish the enslavement of food production to the commodity system, rebuild socially and economically natural food systems (food production and distribution is naturally and logically done on a local/regional basis, and only authoritarian systems can ever force the contortion of these into a globalized framework), and build the Food Sovereignty movement. This movement must be based upon the great class of small community farmers who have always been the food producers for humanity and always will be, and upon agroecology, a fully demonstrated science and set of practices ready for full global deployment any time humanity wishes to embrace them. Look at what agroecology is already accomplishing in Africa against such economic pressure and corporate and government hostility.
 
Meanwhile anyone like the elites and elitists of corporate domination and technocracy, who claims to want to “feed the world” but wants to do so by doubling down on the proven failure of a “Green Revolution” and corporate industrial agriculture is really a liar and a criminal.
 
The goal of corporate industrial agriculture, and the ultimate goal of all globalization, is to seize control of the land and drive the people out. This has always been the ultimate goal of all imperial conquest: To render all land terra nullius, empty space, to be subjugated, exploited to the hilt, wrung out like an old rag, left for dead. Today is humanity’s last chance to halt this corporate campaign of total destruction of our agriculture and our environment. We have our great chance to halt it and roll it back. This is what is necessary if we hope to have any agriculture and ecology left going forward beyond the fossil fuel age. The land is still there for us if we wish. We must save it and cherish it.

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October 21, 2016

From Superstition to Superstition, Fatalism to Fatalism

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1. Primeval humanity faced the uncanny wilderness. People had to forage and hunt. They were active. They had to live in a constant, complete communion with the world. They probably never “thought about” this. Theirs was the life of supreme faith-in-action.
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2. Humans developed agriculture. Their empirical practice was rudimentary and their intellectual knowledge meager. They became passive, fatalistic. They had to envision and appease the rain gods, the earth gods. They were superstitious.
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3. Gradually farmers learned the crafting of the seeds and soil. Once again they were active. Their empirical practice became complex. Although they lacked scientific knowledge, their empirical practice was sufficient. They had resumed faith-in-action.
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4. In the modern era (modern means the ahistorical era of the fossil fuel drawdown) there have been two contrasting developments.
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4A. Farmers submitted to the complete domination of corporations and big centralized government. This is a return to total passivity, fatalism, superstition, idolatry. Farmers now worship the corporate demon to deliver the magical seed, the magical potions and powders to invigorate the soil and drive away the pest, the temples and founts of the magical irrigation, the fabulous metal monsters and the mystical fluids that fuel them, most of all the magic spell called credit and subsidy which causes all these things to exist in the first place, the failure of the spell causing them all to disappear in a puff of dry dusty wind.
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All depends on the superstitious ritual with entrails called money to propitiate the demon. The demon will excommunicate those who profane the ritual with insufficient faith measured in money, and will smite with fire and brimstone any who attempt to work directly with the Earth without the certification of the demon priesthood. The Book of Revelation calls this demon’s certificate the mark of the beast. (13.17)
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They make a sacrament of poison as the core of the demonic summoning and propitiation.
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The corporate demons’ propagandist uses the term “science” for these cult rituals, and the passive, benighted cult worshippers endlessly and brainlessly chant this mantra. And the vast masses squat inert, minds emptied and mouths open, passively waiting to be “fed” in obedience to the propagandist’s incessantly amplified slogan, “Feed the World”.
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Thus most of Western humanity, and many of the South as well, have returned full circle to the deepest darkness of passivity, fatalism, superstition, idolatry. They sit spellbound and in awe of the great mystery of the colossus upon whose whim their lives hang.
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4B. And in the same time we truly have learned the science of the seed, the soil, the ecology in which they’re nestled and of which they and we are inextricable threads. Agroecology is a fully developed and demonstrated science and set of practices, ready now for full global deployment, the most fully scientific of all sciences according to the self-measure of science itself.
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5. Thus whenever we will we may return to self-determined action, the highest synthesis of faith-in-action with true knowledge. The life of agroecology, the community of Food Sovereignty.
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But we must purge the corporate demons and their summoners, their Poisoner priesthood, once and for all.
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October 10, 2016

By Any Measure, the Corporate Sector Fails to Deliver Seeds

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Here’s yet another piece proving the superior productivity of non-GM conventional agriculture to GM-based, and thus the lack of any agronomic rationale for GM varieties. The article describes the great increase in India’s commodity yields over 60 years of non-GM production.
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Of course it’s all about industrial, poison-based agriculture for commodity export, not agroecology for food production. (Acre for acre the latter is far more productive in terms of calories and especially nutrition, not to mention health and environmental services, than the former.) And of course the establishment insists that normalizing GM deployment will continue to extend the trendline of increase according to this non-food, commodity measure of “productivity”.
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But the #1 takeaway is here: It was all done with public research and public money.
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“Expansion of irrigation coverage too helped in increasing production but it was supported by the development of a number of drought and water-logging resistant varieties of seeds in the country’s public research institutions like ICAR, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and state\central agriculture universities.
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“These institutions, over the years, developed more than 2,000 seed varieties of cereals, including rice, wheat, maize and millet and over 700 varieties of oilseeds, which led to the phenomenal growth in foodgrain production.”
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These are the same public agricultural research entities which the IMF, at the US government’s command, targeted for destruction around the world.
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The record is clear throughout modern history: The private sector is far less productive and efficient than the public sector where it comes to seed research and distribution. This includes the currently dominant “public-private” model. Even the USDA has admitted this for years. See Jack Kloppenburg’s First the Seed for the whole ugly history of corporate seeds.
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May 16, 2016

Poison Sector Concentration: Monsanto May Get Bought

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In my January piece on agrochemical sector concentration I mentioned that Monsanto’s last chance for a merger may be with BASF. Now the business press is percolating with talk of either BASF or Bayer buying Monsanto outright. Both companies have herbicide portfolios not dependent on glyphosate. Bayer also has extensive seed company holdings, while BASF has little in that way.
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All the talk reinforces the perception that Monsanto’s Roundup business is seen as having a highly questionable future and that the only thing which might really interest anyone is the company’s potential to develop GM traits other than those based on glyphosate, along with the germplasm holdings among the seed companies Monsanto owns.
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The specter of “monopoly” always touted in these connections by the corporate media and government is a misdirection ploy. The sector already has monopolies on pesticides and GM seeds, and the handful of companies in an oligopoly sector almost never compete on price, product quality, or anything else which might benefit customers or the public. Rather, they compete for market share through advertising and government lobbying. So a BASF/Monsanto or Dow/DuPont merger is unlikely to make any difference for industrial farmers. Anyone who actually cared about the evils of monopoly would target the sector as the monolithic whole it is, not fret over cosmetic mergers within the sector.
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We can expect that any reconfigured entity will try to make the Monsanto name go away in the same way that Monsanto’s former contractor Blackwater changed its name to “Xe”.
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Whatever cosmetic changes are made including in the name, we must still keep calling it Monsanto.
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The main point of all this is as I analyzed in my longer piece. As pesticides and GMOs continue to fail, and as hypothetical ideas for the sector’s future become more and more scarce, it becomes harder for indoctrination and government subsidies to prop up the sector’s failed products, and the sector is less able to support the number of companies it has. Therefore they face the necessity of consolidating. This is always the sign of a sector’s economic and intellectual calcification.
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May 6, 2016

GMO/Poisoner Summary, May 6th, 2016

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*Dole knew for over a year that its plant had a listeria outbreak and was lethally contaminating its food products. It kept this secret and would have continued to do so if inspectors hadn’t uncovered the poisoning. This is standard corporate practice, and any corporation can always be counted upon to tell any such lie necessary. The entire scientific, regulatory, and media paradigm of modern civilization, completely dependent as it is upon the religious faith that corporations can be trusted to tell the truth about themselves, is a pure lie, and all that follows from this paradigm is nothing but lies.
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The example also proves yet again that the centralized structures of corporate agriculture and food are designed to maximize the incidence and severity of food disease outbreaks. This is in addition to the systematic Poisoner campaign and the systematic campaign to incubate pandemics in shantytowns (generated by corporate agriculture’s mass expulsion of the people from their lands) and CAFOs.
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*Get your Roundup label campaign packs from Global Justice Now. They had their chance to be honest. Now we the people must force them to come clean completely.
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Here’s a real label, stamped directly on the poison, directly by the people.
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*Members of the European Parliament are condemning the European Commission’s “compromise” proposal to re-licence glyphosate for ten years instead of fifteen. No compromise offered on the unlimited poisoning of agricultural zones, public parks, playgrounds, backyards, and so on. By now a ban on park and residential use is the bare minimum among decent human beings, and this is only the first step to be followed shortly by a complete ban on agricultural use.
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*Our upstanding, respectable people aren’t phased by that kind of trivia, but may become upset to learn their fine wines are loaded with the cancer juice. That’s why an ABC news report on California wines loaded with glyphosate residue is being censored by the network. The ABC news page is now “Page Not Found”.
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*Aspiring eugenicists have been trying to synthesize the smallest possible genome, allegedly stripped down to minimum essentials. They sought to strip away all seemingly extraneous sequences leaving only those necessary to the basic self-sustaining functions of the cell. But against all expectations they ended up with a genome one third of whose genes are evidently necessary but whose function can’t be discerned. They’d expected, according to the theory they started out with, a maximum of 5-10% of the genes being of this character. Once again alleged GE “science” is left debunked and confused. My favorite part – the scientific theory didn’t work, “So the team took a different and more labor-intensive tack, replacing the design approach with trial and error.” Just like with the entire genetic engineering endeavor.
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The long run goal is to be able to engineer purely functional (in an economic sense) animals and humans. So they’re experimenting with genetic minimalism – how much “extraneous” stuff can they dispense with and still have a functional organism. Like figuring out the absolute minimum needed to feed slaves to keep them “efficiently” working.
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*Here’s the latest in the long line of studies debunking the Bt “precision” lie, again proving the universal truth of all pesticides from hot pepper to the most virulent synthetic: All indiscriminately harm beneficial insects. This is the intended goal of insecticides, to kill insects as such. The only difference is the degree of potency. Concentrated Bt poison in GMO crops cells is one of the more indiscriminately toxic. We can expect RNAi insecticidal crops to be at lease as imprecise and indiscriminate.
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The study also adds to the already conclusive evidence on how multiple poisons in combination add up to greater lethality than the sum of the individual poisons. But, much like with formulations compared with “pure” primary poisons, synergy effects should be cited only in special circumstances. For everyday combat, it’s best and strongest to emphasize the fact that each of the poisons, including and especially the so-called “active”, primary poison, is lethally toxic to all animals including humans and must be banned. This fact, always coupled with its companion fact that the whole paradigm of pesticide-based agriculture doesn’t work, will be most lethal to the enemy’s endeavor.
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Organizations like Navdanya and seed conservationists like Debal Deb have preserved and continue to grow desi varieties, though they don’t have the stock to immediately supply a large demand. But if they were given a big state order, they could quickly do a seed increase.
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*We just saw an example of the economic suppression of non-GM seeds and genetics. Meanwhile the campaign of biological suppression through GM contamination of true crops continues. Canadian organic alfalfa farmers continue to resist the commercial deployment of Roundup Ready alfalfa, with the fight focusing especially on Prince Edward Island. Alfalfa is an insect-pollinated perennial and is therefore prone to rapid cross-pollination and subsequent contamination. This contamination is a primary intended goal of governments and Monsanto in deploying this false poison-based crop. A proximate goal is to render the existing certification structure for organic meat and dairy impossible by wiping out non-GM hay as a feed. From there the only possibilities are to let GMOs into the organic certification, or else let the organic sector die out completely. Monsanto will be happy either way.
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The Canadian government engages in the standard Orwellian lies, claiming to champion “choice” when the conscious goal is to eradicate all choice. We have decades of data on how seed sector concentration and genetic pollution destroy seed choice. Everyone knows this and it’s not possible to be mistaken about it. Any pro-GMO activist who touts “choice” is a willful liar.
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*Here’s a good two-fer, phony climate change concern and skillful use of the old scapegoat-the-farmer. Of course in reality industrial agriculture as such is by far the worst driver of climate change and cannot be reformed, can only be abolished.
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*Is the Obama administration being so aggressive and obnoxious in its pro-corporate thuggery that it’s going to force Europe, against the desire of the EU government and most of the member state governments, to reject the TTIP globalization pact? There’s increasing reason to think the combination of public protest and tyrannical US/corporate behavior may deep-six the vile thing.
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Here we are over two years past the time the US and EU were expecting to have this thing all wrapped up and enacted (even longer for the CETA, the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement), and it’s still in the arduous negotiation stage precisely because the corporations and the US government are so all-at-once totalitarian about it. That’s even though the “harmonization” (Gleichschaltung) provisions are designed to accomplish all the corporations could ever want, just more gradually.
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I even have some optimism that the whole thing will collapse and not be enacted, precisely because the US is being so openly belligerent and totalitarian about it, to the point even of making the EU governments leery. At any rate US brazenness has rendered the European political environment more and more hostile toward these surrender pacts.
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Rejecting the TTIP will be a great boon for Europe. Unfortunately at best this will only partially help the American people if the US corporate government goes ahead with the TPP.
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The enemy’s also going for all-or-nothing as far as the legitimacy of “science”. These globalization pacts include provisions officially enshrining as law the notion that science is to be defined according to corporate imperatives. We the people either will have to accept the steel bars of the law, “science is what the corporations say it is”, or else completely reject the legitimacy of establishment “science” across the board.
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April 22, 2016

Earth Day: Poisoner News Summary April 22nd, 2016

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*Earth Day. If a god created this world, this ecology, the beauty of it all, the intricacy and logic of it all, it’s inconceivable this god would have wanted humans to trash it, to defile it, to desecrate it. This, I believe, is the incontrovertible a priori for any meaningful theology or philosophy, whatever one’s personal state of faith. The much abused translation “dominion” in Genesis can mean only stewardship, if it has any meaning at all.
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This perception is reinforced by the fail-safe mechanism God created, the way nature imposes a correction wherever, on account of whatever temporary environmental circumstance, a species runs out of control. From any point of view including that of secular biology, Homo sapiens is certainly out of control. The circumstance enabling this has been the temporary availability of cheaply extractable fossil fuels. When we factor in humanity’s moral character, we must also recognize the rogues of the species, those who seek to poison us all, as evil.
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The stewardship model has been proven unanimously, on every level from the religious to the most nuts-and-bolts secular, to create the best life and greatest happiness for all even as it preserves and enhances the ecology at every level from the local to the global.
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This is the only true religion, the only true philosophy, the only true science. This is the one and only Truth. Do we still dream of the Garden of Eden? But this Earth is the one and only Garden of Eden, because it is humanity’s one and only home. Time’s up, and we must choose.
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*Climate scientists admit they’re “censoring their own research”, because the evidence indicates a current status and prognosis far worse than what they’ve generally been willing to report. Even as it is, what’s already been publicized proves that none of the popular “reforms” can have any effect and simply comprise a form of denialism, the form of putting off real action. If scientists told the truth about how bad things really are, even those willing to pay lip service to caring about the climate crisis would tune out the science completely and become de jure deniers.
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This is because even among those who wring their hands over climate change there’s a near-complete unwillingness to face up to the fact that there is one way and only one way to do anything about this crisis: Emit far less GHGs, stop destroying carbon sinks, rebuild carbon sinks.
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That makes the hand-wringers and crocodile-criers climate deniers as well.
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*The Chinese government is about to launch the campaign we’ve been predicting for years, its attempt to propagate its own GMO cartel to compete with that of the West. This will complement its longstanding campaign of land-grabbing in Africa and elsewhere. The goals are to ensure China’s own CAFO feed chain and to open a new front in its challenge to US power. ChemChina’s deal with Syngenta intends to co-opt some top-of-the-line Western technical expertise and start splitting the EU’s interest in this intensifying geopolitical struggle.
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China would be better off bolstering its own agricultural resiliency and that of the allies it’s trying to cultivate by fully deploying agroecology for food production. This would make for far greater food security in times of climate chaos, ecological collapse, and geopolitical conflict. Europe still has the chance to do this if it chooses, but EU elites are dead set on collective suicide, judging by their ardent embrace of the TTIP and CETA and their increasingly aggressive attempts to force GMOs on Europe. Similarly, China’s elites are basically the same as Western elites. They too are incapable of thinking in terms other than globalization and commodity agriculture. Deng Xiaoping said, “Black cat, white cat, as long as it catches mice it’s a good cat.” But any cat operating in the oil-dependent industrial monoculture commodity fields won’t be catching mice much longer, as his nine lives are just about used up. Indeed, even by the conventional economic outlook China looks to be trying to get into the GMO market at its peak, as the product has reached market saturation and stalled out around the world. The Western agrochemical/GMO sector is cannibalizing itself, which is what drove Syngenta into the Chinese orbit in the first place, after the Swiss company at first hoped it could maintain a “neutral” independence. It’s not clear what incentives the Chinese will offer the farmers of the world, and what new lies they’ll tell, in order to continue with the GMO paradigm but get the world to switch from the West to the Orient. One thing we can be sure of, the Chinese product won’t work any better than the Western, nor will it force the use of any less poison.
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*One critical battlefront where Monsanto, and the GMO ideal itself, is facing rejection is among Africans who are rejecting Bt cotton. Africans have seen the havoc wrought in India as well as closer to home in South Africa. They know the product is disastrous for farmers. Burkina Faso’s attempt to flout this fact led quickly to one of the typical outcomes: Even when the GM cotton crop isn’t decimated by pests and yields well on paper, the lint is of subpar length and therefore makes for an inferior product which can be sold only at inferior prices. All this is after paying a premium price for the seed. Therefore the government is now planning to phase out the fraudulent GM seeds and replace them completely with non-GM conventional seeds by 2018. This parallels and goes beyond India’s so far more modest program to encourage the use of native, non-GM cotton seeds.
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*Pakistan has had nothing but travails of its own with Bt cotton, and now must cope with the corrupt politics of GM maize. Here too there’s a scandal driven by the climate change minister’s surreptitious and illegal approval of commercial release of Monsanto’s GM maize without prior field trials. This violates the national biosafety law. Under pressure from farmers and scientists the government is halting the sale of the seeds. Leaving aside its usual, long-debunked lies about GMOs being good for farmers, Monsanto openly says the purpose of GMO commercialization is for commodity globalization, and even more for the propaganda of the commodification idea: “Monsanto official Aamir Mirza said…that the promotion of biotechnology will…send strong signals that the country is welcoming investments in research into cutting-edge technologies. ‘This will improve the agriculture sector’s international competitiveness over the long term,’ he remarked.”
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ALL problems of hunger and malnutrition among the poor have been known at least since the 1970s to be directly caused or greatly aggravated by agricultural commodification. Monsanto and its flunkeys like to tell lies about “feeding the world”, but their conscious, intentional goal and action sums up to GMOs Starve the World
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*Monsanto faces mounting problems collecting its tax in Latin America. Brazil and Argentina don’t have the same draconian intellectual property laws as those of the US. Therefore Monsanto has to rely on the farmer’s contractual agreement to pay the Monsanto Tax. This is readily enough collected at the point of sale when farmers formally purchase Roundup Ready or Intacta soybean seed. But how to force farmers who save and replant GM seed (or are just accused of doing so) to pay the tax, in a place where you can’t so easily sue them? Monsanto’s idea has been to make each farmer produce his tax document when he brings in his soybean harvest to the trader. If the farmer can’t produce proof he paid the tax, Monsanto demands that the trader to collect the tax on Monsanto’s behalf, or else refuse to accept the shipment if the farmer refuses to pay. The shipment is assumed to be GM unless the farmer can prove he used only non-GM seeds, but Monsanto sets the bar for this proof so high as to be near impossible to meet. The tax is then remitted to Monsanto. The trader gets nothing for acting as Monsanto’s collection agency.
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It’s not surprising that most traders have objected to this arrangement (that’s our Monsanto, making friends everywhere it goes), and now the Argentine government, which has already disappointed Monsanto many times in failing to meet the company’s demand to tighten seed patent law, is intervening. The government says it will exercise oversight and must approve of any arrangement where Monsanto or its dragooned agents demand a tax from farmers.
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This unfavorable environment for Monsanto’s patent privilege is a major motivation for the company to commercialize the Terminator gene as quickly as is politically possible.
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*Case study in the corporate science paradigm. Where scientists aren’t sufficiently self-policing, authoritarian regimes will deploy varying levels of coercion to enforce the party line in “science”. We see it with US regulators like the USDA and EPA, and we see it now even more aggressively official with the British government.
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These are all manifestations of the total assault on democracy by the corporations, which are totalitarian organizations recognizing zero right for any value to exist other than their own profit prerogatives. In the case of science, part of the whole mythology as elaborated by Karl Popper is that science is an integral part of the “open society”. This means that science, in order to be socially constructive and true to itself, can be undertaken only under conditions of complete transparency and intellectual freedom. Thus true science and democracy go hand in hand, while any kind of secrecy or censorship of science is automatically an assault on democracy as well. (That’s part of mythology because establishment science has never in fact functioned that way, nor have most of its practitioners ever agreed with democratic values.)
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*Lawsuits are part of a general delaying action. Since as a rule those who file lawsuits would be unwilling to engage in more radical forms of action, it’s good that they at least do this. Lawsuits have the primary effect of delaying the Poisoner progress, as the USDA recently complained about the EPA. They can also be excellent occasions for public education and agitation by abolitionists, and we must use these opportunities far more effectively. But like any other reform action condoned by the establishment, they’re insufficient and are no substitute for the necessary work of building and enacting the abolition movement and the food sovereignty way of life.
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*Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the whole Poisoner campaign is how right out in plain sight governments and corporations are intentionally, systematically destroying antibiotics as an effective medical treatment, and no one cares.
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*Tom Philpott softens under the Bill Nye treatment. No surprise there.
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Monsanto’s record is absolutely perfect throughout its history: It sells as much poison as it can and tells every lie imaginable about it. Philpott knows this perfectly well and yet pretends to find these lies believable. He goes so far as to imply that Monsanto can be an honest broker. Once again the rule is proven, that every system propagandist, including the “reformer” types, has his price for becoming a de jure liar. In the case of Nye, Philpott, and the labeling “leaders” who were willing to endorse the secret Vilsack/GMA conclave, the price may be rhetorical, the “quality” of the lie. But make no mistake, all such persons are, in the final analysis, on the Monsanto side.
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*A new study has found that quinone outside inhibitors, a class of fungicide whose use on vegetables and grains in the US has surged exponentially in recent years, affect mouse neural cells in vitro in ways similar to the neural cell effects found in humans suffering from autism, advanced age, and Alzheimer’s disease.
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Now, it’s important to note, Zylka told me in an interview, that in vitro research like the kind his team conducted for this study is only the first step in determining whether a chemical poses risk to people. The project identified chemicals that can cause harm to brain cells in a lab setting, but it did not establish that they harm human brains as they’re currently used. Nailing that down will involve careful epidemiological studies, Zylka said: Scientists will have to track populations that have been exposed to the chemicals—say, farm workers—to see if they show a heightened propensity for brain disorders, and they’ll have to test people who eat foods with residues of suspect chemicals to see if those chemicals show up in their bodies at significant levels.

That work remains to be done, Zylka said. “What’s most disturbing to me is that we’ve allowed these chemicals to be widely used, widely found on food and in the environment, without knowing more about their potential effects,” he said.

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Contrary to this nonsense, we know for a fact that all agricultural poisons are severely harmful to humans and other animals. In the hundred year history of poison-based agriculture there has never been an exception among the poisons for which evidence has been compiled at all. So by now, for any rational person, the first step is to regard the case as closed and to abolish all agricultural poisons forthwith. The endless whack-a-mole of testing which is mechanically called for by every lukewarm critic of these poisons is nothing but procrastination, at best. That is, where it’s not a willful delaying tactic.
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Our supposition that the call for “more testing” is a scam is reinforced when we consider the fact, known perfectly well by Philpott and Zylka, that the kind of epidemiological studies they call for here are seldom sought or funded, and when they are carried out their results are dismissed out of hand by regulators like the EPA, FDA, and the German BfR and EU’s EFSA as we saw most recently in the case of their whitewash of glyphosate’s proven carcinogenicity. So epidemiological study is, for official regulatory purposes, unscience. Meanwhile testing people who have ingested residues is never done, and the many preliminary studies which would have to be performed, in order to ascertain the presence of pesticide residues in the food supply in the first place, are also evaded by regulators and can be carried out by independent researchers only in the most sporadic, ad hoc way. (Meanwhile the FDA illegally refuses to regulate pesticides as the food additives they self-evidently are.) So this prescription for “more and better testing” describes a scenario which no one within the establishment will ever enact, and no one outside the establishment would ever have the resources to enact.
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Nor should dissidents want to use our scarce resources this way, since as I said we already know that all these poisons cause cancer, birth defects, and neurodisease, along with a host of other harms. We have vastly more than enough evidence already, compiled over the course of a century. We need better use of the sufficient evidence we have, not the insufficient course of procrastination, filling the wasted time with vain calls for “more and better testing”.
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The political dance between “reformers” and the poison manufacturers is made complete with the corporate retort.
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In an emailed statement, a BASF spokeswoman wrote that cell tissue studies like Zylka’s “have not demonstrated relevance compared with results from studies conducted on [live] animals.” She added, “While the study adds to the debate of some scientific questions, it provides no evidence that the chemicals contribute to the development of some diseases of the central nervous system. This publication has no impact on the established safety of pyraclostrobin when used according to label instructions in agricultural settings.” A Bayer spokesman told me that the company’s scientists are looking into the Zylka study and “don’t have any initial feedback to offer right now.” He added that “our products are rigorously tested and their safety and efficacy is our focus.”

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In fact all establishment scientists and commentators on science flip-flop constantly on whether entire classes of research are valid or not. Thus when BASF contemplates this case, they suddenly discover that in vitro research as such is invalid. Yet like the Stalinists who officially rejected quantum mechanics even as they applied it for the Soviet nuclear program, so BASF constantly uses in vitro research itself, especially in the genetic engineering process. Similarly, in vivo lab studies are generally considered the gold standard in science (a notion which has problems of its own, which I’ll leave aside for now), except where these must suddenly be thrown out because they don’t adequately reflect real world conditions or allegedly have faulty methodology even though the methodology is the same as that of prior studies the corporation itself carried out. This suddenly becomes the corporate position when in vivo studies provide evidence adverse to corporate interests. The most infamous example is the scientific establishment’s defamation of the 2012 Seralini study, which was a perfect example of the classic falsificationist scientific method in action. To this day pro-GMO activists will say with a straight face that the Seralini study, nearly identical to prior Monsanto studies in every way except in its longer duration and the parameters it measured, was a bad study while the near-identical Monsanto studies were good.
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Finally, epidemiological studies which actually do measure things under real world conditions are rejected as a class on the opposite grounds, that they’re not well enough controlled, the moment they provide evidence adverse to a corporate campaign. Like we said, this is invariably the case where it comes to agricultural poisons. This is why regulators, on principle, refuse to recognize the existence of epidemiological science.
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As we can see, contrary to its lies about itself “science” has no stable canons of practice or evidence, but is the same game of doing whatever you have to do to get the “evidence” you want and suppress the evidence which is against you as is standard in every other branch of politics. To continue playing the corporate science game is to condemn oneself to a literally endless round of whack-a-mole. The actual science is unequivocal and overwhelming, and confirms what reason and common sense always knew: Poison is poisonous to us, and the campaign of putting it on our food is insane and evil and must be put to an end with all due speed. But as we also see, the lukewarm have a different agenda which is more in line with that of the corporations. Whether it’s that they lack confidence in reason and real science, or whether they actively support corporate capitalism and are willing to tolerate a certain level of intentionally caused cancer (thus the regulatory concept of “tolerances”), or most likely a combination of this cowardice and this evil, they end up in agreement with the corporate poisoners that no level of evidence will ever be enough to convict poisons of being poisons.
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Self-evidently, this is not the way forward.
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February 22, 2016

Indian Agriculture, Crises and Solutions

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India’s Bt cotton debacle continues, as Punjab and Haryana states struggle to find solutions for the disasters afflicting the cotton crop, most recently epidemics of whitefly depredation and leaf curl disease. Whitefly is a so-called “secondary pest” which is not affected by the poisons endemically produced by Bt cotton. How do farmers struggle to deal with whitefly and other secondary pests? Spray, spray, spray everything. In other words, they must do exactly what pro-GMO lies claim is no longer necessary. But then GMOs are designed to increase pesticide use. Only a moron could ever have believed that a pesticide corporation would want to sell a product (GM seed) which renders his primary product (pesticide) obsolete. On the contrary, it was always obvious that the newer product was also meant to increase sales of the older one.
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The two state governments have formed a joint committee to come up with a plan. It sounds like they get the point: “We expect to replace 15-20 per cent of the area under Bt cotton seed with the traditional one this year and in the next few years to take it to 50 per cent. Co-existence of Bt and non-Bt crop would curtail the chance of spread of epidemics like white fly, as the two crops are resistant to different kinds of diseases. Monoculture in agriculture is the cause of widespread diseases in plants. [My emphasis – Russ.] Presently, 95 per cent of the cotton grown in Punjab and Haryana is the Bt variety and this triggered the quick spread of disease.” They’re wrong about co-existence over the long run, but this would be a great step in the right direction. The main hurdle to overcome is availability of high-quality open-pollinated cotton seed. As we’ve seen most recently with sugar beets in America, one goal of corporate agriculture, especially the GM-based paradigm, is to monopolize seed production and drive all other seeds out of the effective marketplace, in part by economically preventing any further work on them and planting of them. Under such a regime of negligence a seed variety may quickly disappear completely.
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But wherever governments are willing to undertake such a paradigm shift in the kind of seed economy they support (don’t hold your breath in the US), they can give a big boost to the traditional seed and its agroecological improvement. Especially where agroecological work on seed is done via participatory plant breeding, this embodies the essence of agroecological food sovereignty practice, the application of science to regional conditions and needs. This is the gold standard for seed, the kind all legitimate farmers dream of. If Haryana and Punjab can boost desi (open-pollinated) seed production to support 50% of the cotton acreage, that’ll be enough for a tipping point which will quickly drive the worthless and expensive Bt seed completely out of the market. We could turn the calculus, “co-existence is impossible”, right side up and make it work for us rather than against us, as it has worked hitherto.

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January 19, 2016

Concentration in the Poison Sector (Dow/DuPont; Syngenta; Monsanto)

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The year 2015 was a year of concentration in the already uncompetitive poison sector. For many years the pesticide and seed markets have become increasingly dominated by a small handful of corporations – Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, and a few others. The GMO phenomenon has greatly accelerated this trend, as the world’s most powerful governments and corporate sectors have boosted biotech worldwide as capitalism’s last great hope to break the bonds of physics and biology. This has profound religious, economic, and paramilitary implications we’ll discuss in depth as we proceed. For today we’ll stick with the proximate phenomenon of sector concentration.
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First came Monsanto’s bid to buy Syngenta, which Syngenta rejected with some disdain. Most onlookers thought it looked like a good fit – Monsanto’s seeds and traits to complement Syngenta’s more diversified pesticide line. But Syngenta evidently was not as interested in Monsanto’s GMO line as conventional wisdom thought it should be. In August Monsanto gave up for the time being after Syngenta had rejected at least three Monsanto bids. As the year wore on Monsanto announced two major rounds of contraction. In October the company announced it would cut 2600 jobs (12% of its work force), buy back stocks (down 30% since February at that time), and undertake a “restructuring” including cutting research and development spending. (Around the same time Syngenta and DuPont announced more modest contractions.) Later that month the company said it would close three R&D centers which focus on genetic engineering and breeding development, cutting another 90 employees. Both GMO and Roundup sales are down compared to the previous year. The new year looks no less bleak as Monsanto announced a third contraction. The company announced deeply depressed Roundup and GM maize sales, larger than expected losses, and will cut another thousand employees. Monsanto’s fundamentals are not looking good.
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In November the Chinese conglomerate ChemChina made its own bid for Syngenta. The company rejected this first bid, but is now said to be in “advanced talks” with ChemChina. Its chairman now says Syngenta is merger-minded, but continues to disparage a potential Monsanto deal. When the music stops Monsanto’s going to be left without a chair! In December Monsanto also announced it would not proceed with projected construction of a seed factory in Iowa. DuPont also cancelled three Iowa projects. The climax was the announcement that Dow and DuPont will merge and then split into three companies including one dedicated to agrochemicals. The proposed agrochemical spinoff would represent $19 billion in combined sales from the two companies. This would make it the largest GMO/pesticide company in the world. The Dow/DuPont deal evidently spurred Syngenta to enter the final round of negotiations with ChemChina, in part because of the increasing unease of Syngenta’s shareholders. The company’s chairman has hinted that he thinks Syngenta could become China’s primary supplier of GM technology and primary Western partner for China’s long-planned attempt to build its own GMO/pesticide conglomerate and assert itself globally in competition with the US-based cartel.
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According to the business papers, the proximate reason for the woes and tensions disturbing the sector has been the prolonged sagging of agricultural commodity prices. The downturn has caused many farmers to cut back on their high-input, highly expensive commodity crop production, and this in turn has been affecting the profits of Monsanto and others for a few years now. This in turn makes them disreputable on Wall Street. It’s great to see agribusiness hurting under the same vicious circle of high input prices, low harvest prices, and the imperative to “Get Big or Get Out” they help force upon farmers. (Roundup Ready crops, for example, were specifically designed to accelerate Get Big or Get Out. They were never seriously claimed to increase yield by the acre. Rather, they were supposed to make it easier to cultivate a greater acreage. The farmer would allegedly “make it up on volume”. Thus they were intended to accelerate farm consolidation.) And this increasing sector consolidation will just squeeze the oligopolists further and render all the economic pathologies worse. The fundamentals look bad.
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As a rule mergers among oligopolists are the sign of a superannuated, calcifying, decadent sector. It means companies are running out of ideas, losing confidence in the sector and in themselves. It’s the most extreme version of buying your ideas, patents, and products rather than being an innovator and entrepreneur who develops these yourself. Dow and DuPont believe they’re reaching dead ends and each needs to buy what the other has. Dow needs Pioneer germplasm*, DuPont needs Dow’s genetic engineering expertise and patents. Everyone recognized how Monsanto was trying to achieve this with its Syngenta bid. But Syngenta seemed not to want any kind of deal at all with them. Evidently Monsanto has nothing it wants, at least not at the price Monsanto offered. Meanwhile a few years ago BASF’s GMO operation was driven out of Europe completely. Those two may end up having to get together.
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[*Dow’s germplasm situation is interesting. If you look at ISAAA data, it looks like prior to the Enlist system Dow’s only solo commercialized GMO line has been some varieties of Widestrike cotton, while their other projects have involved contributing transgenes to joint products with DuPont and Monsanto. If you look at Dow’s seed company holdings, they’re relatively meager compared to those of DuPont and Monsanto. I’ll suppose that for those joint projects Dow had to rely on the other company to contribute not only transgenes of its own but much or all of the genetic framework.**
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Then there’s the curious fact that for several years running Dow’s been surprisingly willing to sit quietly for regulator-imposed delays. First there was the USDA delay while the agency ran a full Environmental Impact Statement. Then came the EPA’s imposition of various restrictions on Enlist commercial plantings in 2015, and most recently EPA’s temporary revocation of Enlist Duo’s registration. It’s almost as if Dow is nervous about its own product for some reason. It’s not displaying much of the aggressiveness we’re used to from the GMO corporations. Do they doubt some fundamental of the product, like perhaps the quality of their own seed genetics? That would be part of the explanation for why Dow was so ardent for this merger.]
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Another force driving the sector toward trying to diversify through consolidation is fear of the political countermovement against agricultural poisons. Monsanto is especially vulnerable, dependent upon Roundup for about 70% of its revenues. Roundup accounts for half its sales, while GMOs dependent upon it make up much of the rest. This is why Syngenta had little interest even in Monsanto’s GMO business. In 2015 the entire world learned for keeps what campaigners, Monsanto, and regulators have long known, that glyphosate causes cancer. With the WHO’s announcement the clock is now ticking, counting down the rest of glyphosate’s legal life. The people will now slowly but surely force the complete banning of glyphosate-based poisons. The bell is tolling for Roundup, Monsanto knows it, and so they must find new products or die. They’re hyping everything in sight, from slapping new ad slogans on old, pointless, narrow-market products to touting the idea of RNA interference GMOs. But if these ever came to market they’s still be the same kind of shoddy insecticidal GMOs which in Bt form are already a failure with a gradually diminishing market.
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The fact is that the structural reason driving the current consolidation is that GMOs are a shoddy product and don’t have much of a market or a future in themselves. On the contrary, there’s a growing consensus inside and outside the sector, including on Wall Street, that the pesticides remain primary, with the GMOs being secondary to these and dependent upon them. Their fundamentals are bad. In other words the finance sector now agrees with what GMO critics have said from the start, that GMOs in the real world are nothing but pesticide plants, poison plants. (As opposed to GMO hype and hoaxes of the pro-GM activists and the corporate media.) Although Wall Street is poor at acknowledging its own pyramid schemes, it knows how to call them out in other sectors. GMOs are a scam.
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None of this is a surprise and confirms what we critics said all along. These are poison companies, their number one activity and goal is to manufacture and sell poison, therefore the primary proximate goal of GMOs must be to sell more poison. It’s actually astonishing that anyone was ever willing to believe such a self-evident absurdity as that the likes of Monsanto or DuPont would ever market a product which would cause them to sell less of their primary products. Yet that’s what the peddlers of the “GMOs lessen pesticide use” lie would have you believe.
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Sure enough: 1. With the deployment of GMOs, pesticide use always increases.
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2. It has to, since these are poison plants and are designed only to sustain poisons being sprayed upon them (in the case of herbicide tolerant GMOs), or to handle only certain “target” pests (Bt products). The rest must still be met with sprays and seed coatings. Bayer and Syngenta didn’t participate in GMO deployment and support the GMO idea in general because they thought they’d sell less neonics.
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3. Both of these GMO genres, the only ones which exist and the only ones in the pipeline, are failures. They can be called “successful” only according to the Failure is Success form of planned obsolescence and the ever-escalating, ever more expensive stacking-and-pesticide treadmill.
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GMOs have a tenuous future. Everyone knows that herbicide tolerant and insecticidal GMOs are running out of room. Once SmartStax, 2,4-D, and dicamba fail, what then? That’s why there’s such a propaganda campaign touting CRISPR, “gene editing”, RNAi. The sector is trying to convince itself, Wall Street, governments, commodifiers, food manufacturers and retailers, and the world at large that there’s a whole new GMO frontier to be opened up. To be sure, elites everywhere want to believe this, since capitalism as such badly needs it. But so far this is all in the realm of fantasy, and there’s no reason to believe it will ever break free of the land of lies, where the “first generation” of GMOs remains to this day.
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The media claims GMOs mean gene editing for agronomic and product quality traits? I’m afraid not. Today’s GMO reality is the collapse of the Roundup Ready system and the sector’s reactionary, luddite answer: To double down on proven failure by regressing to GMOs tolerant of older, even more destructive herbicides. This is the context in which the evolution-denialist system is promulgating the backward, luddite “solution” of corn and soybeans engineered to tolerate the retrograde herbicide 2,4-D, one of the two primary components of the chemical weapon Agent Orange. This is one of the dark age poisons which Monsanto and the US government originally promised would be permanently relegated to the scrap heap by the Roundup Ready system. Dicamba is another such regressive chemical being poised by Monsanto for a comeback.
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There’s the real GMO future as demonstrated by the actions, rather than the media lies, of the corporations and regulators. And this bears out the fact that, contrary to the moronic techno-hype and fundamentalist cultism of GMOs, the real fundamental of corporate agriculture remains the most regressive, stupid, blunt-instrument, flat-earth technology of all, pesticides. The best irony since the IARC finding has been the spectacle of our intrepid futurists, who always tried to hold aloof from the dinosaur pesticide technology while exalting their idolized space-age GMO technology, having to reduce themselves to the level of Roundup shills. This too proves something we always said about them, that for all their high-flown scientism pretensions, they’re really nothing but gutter Monsanto bootlicks. This is the real character of the GMO sector – antiquated, backward, an economic and innovation bottleneck, shoddy, tawdry. This is borne out by one consistent thread which runs through all the sector consolidation events. Monsanto’s contractions, Monsanto’s proposals to Syngenta, the Dow/DuPont merger (see several of the links above) – all involve cutting research and development spending. In other words the sector has reached the point where it thinks more in terms of stock buybacks and scrounging whatever technology and patents it can buy rather than developing anything on its own. To some extent this is inherent to any big corporation and any oligopoly sector. But it’s especially congenital to the agrochemical sector, which was always based on accelerating planned obsolescence toward its inevitable culmination in the complete exhaustion and obsolescence of the entire paradigm.
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The sector faces another problem – GMOs are reaching market saturation. The cartel won’t be able to force a market for them in Africa unless it can either grab the land to turn it into vast industrial plantations to grow CAFO feed for Asia, and/or convince enough smallholder farmers to fall for the same scam Monsanto used on cotton farmers in India. (But Bt cotton has already been tried and rejected in three African countries, and the word is out.) But can the several African governments play the same carnival-barker role the Indian government did? This is the Monsanto/Gates Foundation “New Alliance” plan, with massive corporate welfare to be financed by the taxpayers of the US, UK, and Africa, geared to the complete subjugation of African agriculture to land-grabbing and monoculture production for commodity export.
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Even if the sector can overcome the stiffening political resistance and inherent agronomic resistance (pests and diseases which flourish) to this scheme, how much and how long can the Asian middle class prop up its demand for this forced supply? The agribusiness sector is the most supply-driven of all and is 100% dependent on forcing artificial markets into being, for example convincing people to whom it never occurred before that they want to eat a lot more factory farm meat. Obviously a sector whose entire existence is based, not on real demand, but on puffed up fictive “demand” which can dry up at any time, and which will dry up as the masses lose the capacity for luxury spending, is built on sand. Here again, everyone recognizes the basic bubble, pyramid scheme character of the whole sector. It’s ironic that GMO jargon uses the term “pyramid” for another of its scams.
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China’s stock and real estate bubbles are cruising for a big fall. With any significant Asian recession, the whole Africa plan collapses for lack of even a theoretical market. Or if by then the sector has already forced full-scale commodity monoculture upon Africa and is generating huge amounts of GM maize and soy there, they’ll have to dump it on the rest of the world and further crash those commodity prices.
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Meanwhile, unless the cartel can seize control of the land in India they’ll soon be run out of the country. Anywhere on earth there’s still a large mass of small farmers, corporate agriculture is in a race to grab the land before their products are worn out and cast out. Although the sector’s propaganda continues to flog the long-debunked lie that GMOs can be good for small farmers, in reality only where the land is concentrated into vast commodity plantations can the sector maintain its GM seed sales. Soon this will be true of pesticides as well.
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Meanwhile, as we discussed earlier, the seeds accelerate the obsolescence of the pesticides, which then also renders the GM seed lines obsolete. This has been a campaign of planned obsolescence; the sector wants to force farmers to buy ever higher stacks and deploy an ever more complex multiple-pesticide choreography. But at the same time this accelerates the discrediting of the whole pesticide plant concept at the same time that it renders GMOs and pesticides less and less affordable. Sector oligopolists are in a race against time and resistance, and they’re not getting ahead as fast as they’d hoped. Monsanto originally expected to have attained near-complete monopoly for the sector by sometime in the first decade of the century. Obviously they’re falling well short and very late of that goal. Thus the oligopolists are reaching the point where they have to consolidate among themselves.
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The fact is that both the GMOs and the pesticides are ill-conceived, ultimately self-destructive product types. It’s not just that many of the products, such as most of the GMOs, shoddily constructed. The basic idea underlying all the products – using poison against agricultural weeds and pests, and synthetic inputs including transgenes to meet other agricultural challenges – is bad in principle. The entire agrochemical sector is built on sand. The fundamentals of all these companies and their sector as a whole are bad.
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What’s going on is more profound than the superficial accounts of the business section, focused as it is on stock prices and quarterly “earnings”. The sector is following its destiny in accord with the Poisoner imperative, a structural economic, political, religious, and biological campaign. Although Wall Street and politics are forcing these companies to make certain accommodations with reality, such as recognizing the primacy of pesticides over GMOs on the most reality-based level, nothing has changed for them ideologically. They are committed to the total domination of their program of eugenics via genetic engineering. They’re just in an ever more pressing race against time, as the ecological resistance, expressed biologically, economically, and politically, is becoming stronger by the year.
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Although the companies of the GMO cartel grudgingly recognized their need for high-quality agricultural germplasm such as could be bought through Pioneer, their original disdainful arrogance was no accident, nor has this fundamental ideology changed. Reality may have forced itself upon Monsanto when the company finally bowed to the need to put its transgenes into good crop varieties (and thus it embarked upon its odyssey of buying seed companies – as always, Monsanto never innovates anything, just steals or buys the work others have done), it did so under duress and to this day doesn’t really believe in it. Deep down any techno-cultist, for example a GMO fanboy, thinks the technology he idolizes is the only meaningful reality and has nothing but contempt for everything else. That’s why pro-GMO activists are so ignorant of every branch of science – genetics, biology, ecology, botany, entomology, agronomy, physiology, medical science, you name it – and have such contempt for knowledge as such. They spew the word “Science” but take great pride in knowing nothing about it, its content or how it works. No one becomes a religious zealot of genetic engineering because he has respect for natural or agroecologically bred genetics. He does it because he has fear and loathing for anything which is not under the control of high-technology engineering. To be precise, their idolatry is for the idea of such technological control. The fact that in practice GMOs are such an imprecise, stupidly executed, shoddily performing product doesn’t matter to the cultists, only their shining idea. Which is good for them since by now they have no choice but to be shills, not only for the mythically “hi-tech” products of genetic engineering, but for what until not long ago they themselves sneered at as dinosaur technology, sprayed and slathered pesticides like Roundup.
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The history of genetic engineering displays a level of combined ignorance and arrogance on the part of its practitioners and controllers which is astonishing. Monsanto started out thinking they’d take their Roundup Ready gene and their Bt gene, stick them into any old public domain maize variety, and then just mass produce it for every farmer the world over. Robb Fraley’s notion, which the company tried to follow at first, was that they’d do exactly what Microsoft had done with software, their transgenes being the Windows-type “software”, with the crop and its genetics being the basically stupid, meaningless “hardware”. This is typical of the delusion that on the one hand things like computer software, patents, corporations, money, are real things, while on the other something like agricultural germplasm is mystical “information”. They simply tuned out anyone who tried to tell them agriculture doesn’t work that way. This delusion is endemic to scientism and corporatism and is connected intimately with the monoculture mentality those cults also share, in agriculture as well as every other realm of thought and action.
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But in fact the ecological reality is the only reality, and agroecological ideas are the only ideas that can truly work for agriculture as well as ecology, and for a healthy economy and polity as well. But nothing about Monsanto, Roundup, or GMOs – corporate control, profits, patents, the idea of precision control and manipulation of physical genomes – touches reality at any point, while the poisons can only destroy, never create or sustain. The fundamentals are bad. From the most hermetic, short-run Wall Street preoccupations to the most profound intellectual and ecological arcs, the fundamentals are bad.
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This is the real reason the poison sector’s confrontation with nature, its attempt to subjugate the ecology by force, only drives itself further into no man’s land. Today the GMO cartel feels insecure enough that it must retrench the only way it knows how. Tomorrow it will perish completely.
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**Charles Benbrook’s “Free Pioneer” idea would be good if there was a way to do it. In spite of Breen’s assurances that the new agricultural spinoff won’t cut productive jobs at Pioneer, just “middlemen”, that’s often not the way it works. Pioneer could still be worth something to agriculture, whereas the rest of DuPont, and all of Dow, is worthless and destructive. That in itself usually means the worthwhile, constructive part gets gutted.
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Pioneer is still part of unsustainable commodity agriculture, but it is an important repository of germplasm and breeder expertise, and in theory it could be refurbished for a mission more in line with agroecology, if it could be liberated from the corporate clutch.
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In the meantime, Benbrook is right, the one thing guaranteed is that this merger will further squeeze farmers and reduce their seed choices. Which will be a further opportunity for we who are exhorting GMO farmers to switch to non-GM, and industrial farmers in general to switch to organic.
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Food and Water Watch has a petition to the Justice Department urging them to block the merger.
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Monsanto really is in some serious trouble with its Roundup vulnerability. With glyphosate on the ropes politically, Monsanto could go down quickly if there were a domino effect of bans. If people wanted to get together to focus on getting glyphosate banned everywhere possible, it could become a permanently crippling blow.
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