Volatility

April 4, 2017

“Pesticides’ Lives Matter”, Says the European Government

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“Pesticides are products that matter—to farmers, consumers, and the environment. We need effective competition in this sector so companies are pushed to develop products that are ever safer for people and better for the environment,” says Margrethe Vestager, the EC commissioner in charge of competition policy.

 
That’s the industry’s American Chemical Society quoting the European central government’s competition czar. The European Commission has given its approval to the pending Dow-DuPont merger, contingent on DuPont divesting several holdings including its pesticides R&D division. The reason they give is that they think combining the Dow and DuPont R&D divisions would result in lower quantity and quality of research and development.
 
Pesticides invariably become ever more harmful to people and the environment, but the EC reads from Orwell’s playbook.
 
As we see, the Poisoner ideology and the pesticide mandate of regulators is so normative that antitrust regulators publicly avow that they are motivated by a mandate to ensure maximal research and development of poisons toward maximal usage. Here the regulator is engaging in pro-corporate propaganda, promising the public that agrochemical sector consolidation will result in better, less toxic poisons. This is a premeditated lie, since the inertia of corporate industrial agriculture is exclusively toward ever more toxic poisons in ever greater amounts.
 
This is an example of the corporate-technocratic regulator template in action. As per (1) the corporate project is normative. As per (2) the antitrust regulator makes a show of ordering sham concessions from the corporation. As per (3) the regulator then turns corporate propagandist and assures the public that the government has acted in the public interest, that the corporate project now will proceed in a benevolent way, and that the people therefore should tend to their private concerns and go to sleep.
 
Of course the public rationale here is idiotic. The whole point of consolidation such as the Dow-DuPont combination is that research and development has run out of road and the oligopoly needs to self-cannibalize. 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 seed germplasm, DuPont needs Dow’s pesticide lines and genetic engineering expertise and patents. When the antitrust regulator orders DuPont to divest its pesticide R&D and some pesticide lines, this merely is throwing the company into the briar patch.
 
The real character of the pesticide/GMO sector is that it is 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: 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.
 
Therefore research and development always is a target for down-sizing in a case like this. If continued R&D opportunities existed, that would be an incentive against merging in the first place.
 
Of course the industry’s flack who authored the piece has to tout such a merger as a pro-innovative step. But in truth the only innovation in this case is toward preservation of corporate power. For the agrochemical cartel, wracked by such bad fundamentals, where the sector’s inertia is becoming less powerful, more diffuse and centrifugal, preserving power now means consolidation.
 
 
Meanwhile India’s Competition Commission is making a different public sound. It “is of prima facie opinion” that the merger will hurt competition and announces it will seek public comment and demand more public transparency from Dow and DuPont about their plans.
 
India’s regulators in recent years have shown more willingness to hinder Western corporate projects, especially where it comes to seed prices and corporate taxation on seeds. The “nationalist” Modi government looks somewhat less like the US poodle of previous Indian central governments and more like China and Russia in being leery of Western corporate domination of agriculture and food. I remain skeptical that any of these governments are in any way anti-GMO, the way some elements of the Modi coalition claim to be, but at any rate they seem determined to reduce the global dominion of Western corporations like Monsanto.
 
At least in the case of China, this certainly is because they plan to build their own competing GM/pesticide cartel. Indeed the most pivotal of the ongoing mergers may be that of the state’s ChemChina with Syngenta.
 
But as I say in those pieces, China looks to be getting into the GMO/pesticide market at its peak, and would do much better to convert to agroecology. But of course power-driven insanity is no monopoly of the West, and most of the non-Western world also will insist on doing everything the hardest, most destructive, most self-destructive way possible.
 
 
 

March 11, 2016

GMO News Summary March 11th, 2016

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*The movement to abolish glyphosate once and for all is developing. Over the past week the portents have been especially strong from Europe.
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The magnitude of the crisis becomes ever more apparent as the latest study of glyphosate exposure found that well over 99% of Germans have glyphosate residue in their urine. “The report analysed glyphosate residue in urine and it concluded that 75% of the target group displayed levels that were five times higher than the legal limit of drinking water. A third of the population even showed levels that were between ten and 42 times higher than what is normally permissible.” Children, who are most vulnerable to glyphosate’s genotoxic and endocrine disruption effects, had the highest levels. When we consider that Germany has no cultivation of Roundup Ready crops and therefore significantly less indigenous use of glyphosate than countries like the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, or Australia, we can see how the aggressiveness with which this extreme poison is invading our food, water, and bodies has reached an intolerable level. No political prescription which wants to take the extremely circuitous route to an eventual glyphosate ban is sufficient to the crisis. The monarch butterfly won’t wait either.
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This news added force to a rising momentum against at least the most rote re-approval of glyphosate, which the EU government had expected to see the member states wave through earlier this week. The Commission has proposed that the cancerous poison not only be fully re-approved through 2031 but that its use even be expanded. Meanwhile the EFSA is already in the process of almost doubling the allowed “tolerance” level for human ingestion. This is in spite of the fact that the EU has known since the 1980s that glyphosate causes cancer and birth defects, a decades-long cover-up finally and definitively unmasked by the WHO’s Cancer Agency in 2015. There’s no longer the slightest doubt, factually, morally, or legally (in Nuremburg terms) : Those propagating glyphosate, from the manufacturers and technicians to the regulators to the marketers to the users, are willfully causing cancer on a mass scale.
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This realization and culpability isn’t enough to drive most governments to ban glyphosate, and in most cases they concur with the European Commission that glyphosate and cancer need to be maximized. But under rising pressure from the people, several European state governments are at least balking at the most rote fast-track procedure. The environmental ministers of France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden stated that they would vote No if the re-approval is to be based only on the EFSA’s fraudulent assessment, which was nothing but a regulator rubber stamp on the industry’s own propaganda package, issued by Monsanto’s Glyphosate Task Force. The French environment minster stated that her agency concurs with the WHO’s assessment and rejects that of the EFSA. Even the Netherlands agriculture minister said that they need more information: “If there is no possibility to postpone the vote, then we will vote against the proposal.” Sustainable Pulse reported that Bulgaria, Denmark, Austria, and Belgium were also planning to vote No. Germany was said to be planning to abstain.
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Facing this looming revolt, the EU postponed the vote rather than face possible defeat. Reports are that the vote is rescheduled for the next member state meeting in six weeks. They still need a decision before the end of June, at which time glyphosate’s license expires. Officials and the media are saying expiration would lead to a “legal limbo”, which I think means governments would have to scramble to concoct ad hoc “legalizations” which would in fact be illegal by EU law, in order to allow the poison to continue to be sold and used in defiance of the law. The policeman is there to preserve disorder, and no entity is more lawless than today’s governments and legal systems. Still, if they can’t coerce the vote I’d expect them to just put off the expiration date again. The June date is already an illegitimate extension by the EFSA from the original expiration in December 2015. The Commission is now discussing concessions it could make in order to get the vote it needs, such as proposing a shorter re-approval period than 15 years, or banning formulations containing POEA (as Germany has already done). But as the WHO’s IARC recently reiterated, the evidence is that pure glyphosate itself causes cancer, and not just commercial formulations. PAN Europe greeted the news that the EU had postponed the re-approval vote by calling for a ban not only on the POEA co-formulant but on glyphosate itself.
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The increasingly hostile political climate I recently described continues to build and to force at least cosmetic concessions from the regulators. “Public pressure against glyphosate in countries across Europe has been intense, with nearly 1.5 million people petitioning Andriukaitis for a ban on the substance.” Now EU health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis is saying his agency DG Sante will start to think about someday requiring scientific evidence for its assessments and rejecting the non-science, secret, ghost studies which make up the bedrock of all regulator assessments today.
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Potentially as momentous, the European Chemicals Agency will reassess the human health effects of glyphosate in light of the WHO’s finding. If the ECHA finds that glyphosate is carcinogenic, harmful to the reproductive system, or an endocrine disruptor, according to EU law the chemical will have to be banned. But this assessment isn’t expected to be completed until late in 2017. Greenpeace calls for any reauthorization of glyphosate to be postponed until after this report is released. Whether or not this becomes a true legal and most of all political deadline for glyphosate or whether it’s another EFSA-style whitewash will depend on the grassroots will of the people. The more the motivated people force the facts into the public consciousness and pressure retailers to stop selling glyphosate, food retailers to stop selling food poisoned by it, and towns to stop buying it, the less tenable it will become for regulators to continue telling lies which will only further discredit themselves and destroy their own legitimacy.
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Here’s a tally of some of the campaign accomplishments in Europe so far. Several retailers have pledged to stop selling glyphosate-based products. These include do-it-yourself shops in Germany (Bauhaus, Baumarkt, Hornbach, Obi and Toom), Switzerland (Coop, Migros), Austria (Bauhaus, Bellaflora) and Luxembourg (Cactus, Profi Zentrum). In the Netherlands, major garden centres and DIY shops have stopped selling glyphosate, including Intratuin, Praxis, Groenrijk, Ranzijn and Hornbach. Several cities including Edinburgh (Scotland), Barcelona (Spain), Hamburg (Germany), Rennes (France), Rovereto and Livorno (Italy) have promised to ban or otherwise end the use of glyphosate in public spaces.
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In Europe there’s enough grassroots and public pressure to drive member governments to sometimes take pro-human positions. We see how glyphosate’s progress is tangibly being hindered, and how it will eventually be banned completely. The exact same thing can be done in America.
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*If GM maize cultivation is legalized in Mexico, this will trigger a radical escalation of the already dire contamination of the world’s center of genetic diversity for this critical crop. Farmers, scientists, and civil society groups are fighting in court the government’s plan to legalize this cultivation. With one exception the court rulings have been in accord with the law and against the government, but in 2015 a corrupt judge removed the injunction against the GM plantings. The people appealed and have just won a restoration of the injunction. The legal struggle will continue toward a final trial, but for now the ban remains in place and no GM maize has legally been planted.
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*Here’s the revolving door at its most frenetically swirling and a strong challenge to anyone who still wants to claim that a regulatory agency like the USDA has some kind of adversarial role vis its affiliated corporations, or indeed that there’s any real organizational demarcation between them at all. The evident fact is that there is no difference between corporations and regulatory agencies – no difference in ideology, no difference in a fundamentally sociopathic view of people and the environment, no difference in careerist commitment, no difference in the literal personnel. Regulators and what they themselves call their clients, the industry sectors, comprise one indivisible whole, the corporate state.
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*It seems that after years of being a US poodle the Indian government may be following the lead of its fellow BRICS and looking to shake free of US/Monsanto agricultural domination. The central government is already threatening to reduce the tax it will allow Monsanto to collect on Bollgard II cotton seed, and now it’s making noises about revoking Monsanto’s patents altogether on the grounds that the technology doesn’t work. Of course regulators don’t usually care about that kind of thing, and the Modi government remains pro-GMO (though there’s factions within the coalition which oppose GMO expansion), so the answer may be that the government thinks India’s ready to start building its own GM crop system the way China’s seeking to do. Monsanto-Mahyco cotton has been a bust, and globalization has done nothing but harm to India’s cotton industry in general. So it would seem that a nationalist government would find it easy to cut Monsanto out, as long as it had the pretext to do so within the WTO system, since it doesn’t want to quit that system completely.
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*Sell! “Weakness in ag markets, which are currently over-supplied, is likely to persist for the foreseeable future.” These markets have always been over-supplied. That’s what productionism and commodification, including the crackpot “yield” statistic, are all about. But the end is in sight. The agrochemical cartel’s last big hope is that a mass Asian middle class will rise and adopt Western-style CAFO consumption patterns in order to provide a use for all that grain overproduction. But that’s not going to happen. The glut, the price depression, and the need to dump like crazy will only get more dire. For any thinking flack or troll, this must generate lots of cognitive dissonance, what with their need to continue touting the “Feed the World” lie and to blow up another tech stock bubble around things like “hi-tech agriculture”. Ironically, those putting Monsanto in the Buy category may be right for the short run, if this bubble gets blowing.
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But as this whole state of things demonstrates, the GMO and poison cartel have nothing left but force, lies and hot air. These won’t be enough to stem the reprisal of reality, they won’t be enough to keep down the people, and they won’t be enough to keep down the Earth. In the end a patent certificate and a spray bottle of Roundup will avail them little against the hurricane.

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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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