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 17, 2017

Golden Rice – A Supreme Hoax, Part of A Supreme Crime

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The corporate world is full of hazards for rice. Genetic engineering adds to them.

The corporate world is full of hazards for rice. Genetic engineering adds to them.

 
 
The program to breed a commercially deployable version of “golden rice” continues its perfect record of failure. In the latest screw-up, an attempt to back-cross a GM rice variety with a conventional Indian variety resulted in a crop with reduced yield, stunted growth, and growth abnormalities.
 
The authors of the new study documenting this result blame the effects on transgenic interference with the plant’s growth hormones. Worse, the transgene is fully active not just in the rice grains as “intended”, but in the leaves as well. This resulted in reduced photosynthetic ability.
 
These visible effects had not manifested in the GM variety. Therefore the engineers assumed the transgenic effect was “stable”, and that this stability of transgenic effect could be taken for granted throughout the process of back-crossing the transgene into the Swarma variety, perfecting this Indian version of golden rice, increasing the seed, and commercially deploying it.
 
This is typical of how GMOs are developed. The entire process, from tissue culture to seed increase, focuses only on whether the crop visibly seems to meet commercial standards. That’s the full extent of the quality control and safety testing. It’s the same as how all alleged safety tests in the lab really have been tests of nothing but whether CAFO inmates can reach their slaughter weight being fed grain from the crop. This and similar industrial parameters comprise the sum total of the “safety tests” performed by corporations, accepted by regulators, and touted by regulators and media. The same paradigm applies to agronomic testing. Therefore it’s no surprise that under new conditions, conditions not as controlled as the laboratory greenhouse, GMOs often break out with completely unexpected deficiencies, sicknesses, and crop failures. This is especially true under real world agronomic conditions.
 
Michael Antoniou commented that this latest GMO failure is probably yet another example of the pathology of the GM insertion process. “The GM transformation process as used in the development of GMO crops selects for the insertion of the GM gene into active regions of the genome (areas where plant host genes are switched on and functioning). This bias in the GM gene insertion into active regions therefore maximises the possibility of disrupting the function of one or more host genes, with potentially adverse effects such as poor crop performance or even toxicity.” In order for the GM process to work the transgene must be inserted into the most active part of the recipient genome, and the gene cassette usually includes an epigenetic component called a “promoter” which keeps the transgene turned on to maximum expression mode at all times. Therefore the entire development and deployment process selects for maximum effects of the transgene, both the advertised effects as well as the unheralded ones.
 
Evolution crafted our genomes in an exquisitely nuanced way, including a complex orchestration of notes, volumes, and rests for all genetic elements. Genetic engineering, being a very stupid, imprecise, blunt-force tool, is incapable of any kind of nuance whatsoever, and engineers have always had a fundamental contempt for complex systems which reflects the limitations of their own minds. Their only tool isn’t even a hammer but a caveman’s club. That’s why they loathe evolution and its works and yearn so fervently to subjugate evolution to the brute force simplifications of their concepts and engineering processes. That’s why they’re congenitally incapable of comprehending the fact that nature works, genetic engineering does not. And that’s why they carry their evolution denial to the extreme of wanting to leap over all the evolutionary tests and safeguards of competition, space, and time, to deploy their shoddy, half-baked, failure prone product as completely across the entire planet as possible, and completely to eradicate as much of non-GM agricultural biodiversity and wild biodiversity as possible. It’s a fundamentalist hatred of evolution, of nature, of life itself.
 
The effects of this have always been well known to all. Contrary to the standard lie, genetic engineering has zero in common with conventional breeding and disavows all principles of sound breeding. Unlike conventional breeding, unlike conventional sexual reproduction, this technological evasion of sex generates an artificially hyper-active section of the genome which can generate severe unpredicted effects at any time. (CRISPR “gene editing” is designed to render this genetic chaos far more severe.)
 
The crisis points especially occur wherever there’s a discrete change in circumstances, as in the case of this golden rice back-crossing project. Such crisis points occur often in the real world, amid the general environment, wherever GMOs are commercially deployed. These real world crisis points will become far more common as the climate chaos driven by corporate industrial agriculture becomes more intense. As Antoniou points out, this breeding blunder goes to show that any golden rice variety, if released so that it can cross with non-GM varieties, may cause general rice crop failures and endanger harvests over vast regions. (Rice has moderate cross-pollination, and GM contamination has been rife in China where Bt rice was widely if illicitly released.) And yet certain smug, racist Westerners, even among “GMO critics”, have seen fit to lecture Philipino farmers about how uncivil it was for them to tear up a golden rice field trial in 2013.
 
We must stress that there is nothing at all “unintended” about these effects. The effects of genetic engineering are grossly unpredictable, but this unpredictability is known and embraced ahead of time. “Unpredictable” has nothing conceptually in common with “unintended.” We can compare the typical operations of poison-based agriculture to spinning a roulette wheel where the various colors and numbers indicate various chaotic effects, many of them to be a surprise. Which number will come up is unpredictable, but one spins the wheel with full malice aforethought, full intent to trigger the chaos.
 
Genetic engineers and breeders involved in developing GM crops for commercial release have full knowledge of their inability to predict anything, therefore they intend chaotic results, just as they do with their broader mandate to drive climate change and pump as much synthetic poison into ecosystems as possible. The pro-GMO activists simply lie about all this when they make any claim to “precision” or predictability. No one who wanted stable, predictable results would still be working with genetic engineering. Where it comes to our food, agriculture, and environment, we’re not just spinning the roulette wheel. We’re playing Russian roulette, as Black Swan author Nassim Taleb put it.
 
Therefore I recommend to anyone interested in conceptual and terminological discipline that we discard the whole false notion of “unintended” effects of GMOs, pesticides, climate change, etc. This is factually wrong and morally far too lenient. Chaos is the predictable effect of genetic engineering, therefore the pro-GM activists intend chaos. That’s one of the purposes of this massive uncontrolled human feeding experiment, to log the unpredictable effects of the globally promiscuous deployment of GMOs in the environment and diet. They premeditate the chaos so they can hope someday to understand it, toward vastly more far-reaching eugenic goals. As a US mayor once said following a police riot, in a profound slip, “The policeman is there to preserve disorder.”
 
 
And what if golden rice ever were to overcome the incompetence of its designers and actually “worked” to the point it could be deployed commercially? Like every other technological dodge, and like every other element of corporate agriculture, it would only increase hunger and aggravate the very malnutrition diseases it’s allegedly being designed to treat.
 
This is because golden rice, like all other forms of “improved seed”, is designed for industrial monoculture commodity agriculture in a globalization framework. Therefore in addition to the special contamination problems golden rice presents, it would make the standard contribution to corporate agriculture’s general destruction of soil, environment, farmers and communities, and the standard contribution to increasing hunger and malnutrition.
 
What’s the real market for a commercialized golden rice, beyond some token food aid shipments paid for by taxpayers? I suppose it could become an ingredient in “biofortified” processed foods, similar to enriched and fortified breakfast cereals. But how could it ever actually do the thing it’s allegedly supposed to do, provide vitamin A to impoverished people suffering from deficiency disease? How are the people who need it supposed to pay for it? The reason they suffer the night blindness symptom is that they can’t afford real foods containing vitamin A like green, yellow, and orange vegetables. The reason they have no money to pay for these is the same reason they can’t grow real food themselves: They were driven off their land by the same corporate agriculture now offering this techno-solution in exchange for the same money these people don’t have.
 
It’s clear that “golden rice” has always been a media hoax. After nearly twenty years of hype the thing doesn’t exist in deployable form and there’s no evidence it ever will be worked into such a form. Nor is there any evidence that there’s any system intent truly to deploy it, since it’s very hard to see what the commercial market is. Unless the plan is for Western taxpayers to pay for the whole production and distribution shebang, 100% corporate welfare for Syngenta and the rice commodifiers. It’s true that each individual corporation contemplates the taxpayers as an infinitely deep trough. But how much longer can they all maximize their gorging?
 
Far worse, golden rice is a core part of the overall “Feed the World” hoax. Corporate agriculture causes hunger, drives hunger, maximizes hunger. It can never do otherwise, nor can any element of it do otherwise. Just like every other product of corporate industrial agriculture, golden rice is designed to cause malnutrition, it’s designed to cause hunger. It’s designed to force ever more people into the trap where they have no money, can get no money, and yet need money to get food.

 
Night blindness resulting from vitamin A deficiency has one and only one cause: Corporate agriculture destroys food production, drives people off their land, requires them to use money it denies them the ability to get, and leaves them to sicken and starve. Golden rice, like every other technological solution, every other alleged “silver bullet”, represents no alternative to this hunger-mongering paradigm. On the contrary golden rice, and GMOs as such, represent nothing but the escalation of this destructive system. GMOs stand for nothing but disease, hunger, starvation, famine. They’re designed to make all of these worse. This design is intentional. And in this case the effect is 100% predictable.
 
 
 
If you like these pieces, propagate them! Like heirloom crop varieties, ideas die if they’re not planted far and wide.
 
 
 

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 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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March 18, 2016

GMO News Summary March 18th, 2016

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*Imagine if every American who claimed to believe in property rights, and who claimed to believe that trespassers, vandals, and assailants should be punished, would be serious and actually apply that to real cases like poison drift. Imagine if America really believed in this kind of property right and really thought there was no right to trespass and destroy. Just one of many reasons pesticides could never have gotten started in the first place if this was a rational, moral society.
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*Demand for non-GM conventional maize, soy, and other crops has been growing in recent years. Farmers who can deliver non-contaminated shipments are offered premiums by an increasing number of processors and manufacturers. This demand has been driven almost completely by grassroots political and consumer demand as embodied in the labeling movement and the rising abolition movement. Meanwhile farmers are also being driven away from GMOs by the overall poor and deteriorating performance of increasingly expensive GM crops. The political and consumer trend has been bolstered recently by low commodity prices, which are giving farmers an added incentive to make the switch from GM to non-GM cultivation. They look to the non-GM premium to make up for lost revenues. As a result in 2015 GM plantings in the US were stagnant for soybeans and declined for maize. But figures for both have been above 90% for years, and it’s likely that GMO cultivation has reached market saturation in the US as it has almost everywhere else on Earth. The cultural, scientific, and political movement to abolish GMOs therefore can contemplate the prospect that our main action can be to start driving back the monster, if natural and economic structural limits are already imposing a cordon on the GMO advance.
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*The Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) is dedicated to industrialized commodity cotton production. By no stretch of the imagination is it anti-GMO. Nevertheless it seems free of the religious cultism which is standard among Western regulators and researchers. It looks soberly at GMO technology, assessing it from a “rational” capitalist point of view. (That is, as rational as one can be within the insane framework of commodity agriculture.) Today the CICR is of the opinion that India will lose nothing and be better off if Monsanto were to become the first ever Galtian crybaby to actually follow through on its threat to quit and go home. In this case the tantrum and threat are because the Indian government has once again cut the tax it will allow Monsanto to exact on its seed sales. It’s quite true that India will lose nothing and be better off. But Monsanto probably won’t do us the favor of following through on its hissyfit.
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*A new industry report confirms what Charles Benbrook has been reporting for years, what Brazil’s National Cancer Institute said a year ago, and what we all know is the case, that GMOs greatly increase pesticide use. The report focuses on how GMOs have driven the great leap in glyphosate use in recent decades. The report is unrealistically optimistic about the future prospects for GMOs and glyphosate, however.
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*Thanks to pressure from labeling advocates, the Senate voted very narrowly to reject cloture on the DARK Act. It’ll be back immediately, indeed this was a procedural vote rather than a “final” vote until a new bill comes along. While I agree that the DARK Act must be opposed, this is obviously not sufficient. I note the changed concepts of what’s the basic trend and what’s a positive development: A few years ago the trend was the gradual but progressive growth of the state level labeling movement, and what was good was any progress on this front. Today the trend is an ever more obsessive focus on the pro-Monsanto central government, and what’s good is endlessly fighting off iterations of the hard version of the DARK Act while increasingly swooning over soft-DARK proposals. Axiom: Any version of FDA preemption is philosophically abhorrent and fraudulent as a practical matter, if the goal is really supposed to be a strong labeling policy as a step toward abolition. But where it comes to many labeling advocates, I increasingly doubt either of those is a real goal. Is this war of attrition, this rut, really now the measure of progress? Am I the only one who’s already extremely sick of it?
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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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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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February 12, 2016

GMO News Summary February 12th, 2016

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*José Manuel Silva, president of the Portuguese Medical Association, has called for a global ban on glyphosate: “For glyphosate the conclusion is clear: this herbicide should be banned worldwide.” This is the beginning of what will at first be a trickle of those who will first enter through the breach the WHO opened up and then go beyond to call for this ban. The job of the glyphosate abolition movement is to hammer away and widen this breach, drive the coming sea change in public knowledge and opinion, and bring the trickle to a flood.
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*The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is now talking tough to the EFSA about the agency’s slanders of the IARC’s work. Director Chris Wild is demanding that the EFSA retract the lies it has posted about the IARC’s study and correct several distortions before the cancer research agency will go through with a scheduled meeting with the pro-poison regulator. The lies center on the IARC’s determination to stick with the whole science and nothing but the science in their assessment of the glyphosate cancer evidence. The EFSA and German Bureau of Risk Assessment (BfR), by contrast, refuse to recognize the scientific record (for example, their anti-scientific dogma rejects epidemiological research even though this is the most complete scientific evidence possible), but instead recognize only “secret science”, which by definition is not science at all. The BfR and EFSA consulted only this mythical pseudo-science and, to add insult, berated the IARC for not having consulted the same even though: 1. Secret science doesn’t count as evidence at all; and 2. It’s secret, so the IARC panel wouldn’t have been allowed to see it even if they had wanted to. The EFSA has also told technical lies about the IARC’s methods. EFSA director Bernhard Url continues his months-long pattern of squirming and lying as he tries to do the minimum possible to induce the IARC to go through with the meeting.
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*Monsanto is settling with the SEC for $80 million to cover for a vastly greater amount of accounting fraud regarding the way it logged its Roundup revenues without subtracting the cost of rebates. From 2009-11 Monsanto paid rebates to farmers so they could purchase the additional pesticides they needed to spray when Monsanto’s GM crops failed to work as advertised. The SEC found that Monsanto was failing to log the full cost of these rebates in order to inflate its revenue figures. Monsanto admits no wrongdoing but is paying this small fine, and its CEO will regurgitate some of his bonuses. All this won’t help the company’s reputation on Wall Street, which is already looking askance at them.
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All this is just the mildest slap on the wrist. As I said two weeks ago about the court judgements against Monsanto for its crimes involving PCBs, the penalties aren’t even in the same galaxy with what the company, its executives, its technicians and its salesmen deserve.
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*Is the globalization-assisted Zika virus causing an epidemic of microcephaly? Are the GM mosquitoes themselves causing it? Or is it actually yet another epidemic being caused by a pesticide. The Argentine public health doctors’ group Physicians of the Crop-Sprayed Towns and their Brazilian counterpart Abrasco are reporting that they have evidence linking the epidemic to pyriproxyfen, a poison sprayed to kill mosquito larvae. If true, this means the specter of allegedly mosquito-borne disease, including birth defects, is being used as the pretext to sell and spray a poison which is actually causing the worst epidemic of birth defects. This kind of psychopathy is par for the course for disaster capitalism, and especially for the corporate poison sector.
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*According to records publicly posted by the EPA, the USDA along with state agriculture departments is openly exasperated with the EPA. As the USDA sees it, although the two agencies share a mandate to maximize the production and use of agricultural poisons the EPA has sometimes been slack. The result has been that “EPA added an additional and unnecessary burden to farmers by publishing a portion of an incomplete risk assessment”, which is regulator code for “an additional and unnecessary burden to the corporations.” By all accounts the EPA is just as ardent a poison booster as the USDA, but has sometimes had to delay approvals because of adverse legal decisions. Evidently the USDA believes EPA has been too willing to obey court orders and hasn’t been creative or defiant enough in disobeying them. This gives us an insight into the USDA’s attitude toward the law and society. Indeed in 2010 the USDA allowed planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets in direct defiance of a court order forbidding this.
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Meanwhile the EPA just got hit with another lawsuit. The Center for Biological Diversity will try again to force the EPA to obey the Endangered Species Act, this time with regard to its assessment of Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide. By now EPA’s attitude toward the ESA is clear: Ignore and evade it as much as possible. If a lawsuit forces them to face up to it, make the narrowest deal possible while continuing to evade and ignore at every other point. Force groups like the CBD to keep filing lawsuit after lawsuit over specific acts of flouting, and avoid any general accounting.
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Yet even this systematic lawlessness is still far too law-abiding for the USDA’s taste.
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*Over fifty farmer unions comprising a spectrum from small organic farmers groups to large commodity unions, including many members of the Modi government coalition, are opposing the rumored imminence of the government’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) cultivation approval for GM mustard. The unions object to the secrecy of the process and the fact that there’s no need for the product. They point out how Bt cotton has aggravated the economic crisis and suicide epidemic among small cotton farmers and how it has increased pesticide use. They accuse the government of pushing the project for no reason other than “collusion with the seed and chemical industry”.
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We can expect the same government and corporate propaganda campaign as was undertaken with Bt cotton. Advertising, seed dealers, and secretly paid local farming leaders will tout the product. The goal is to hook farmers on the pesticide and debt treadmill, accelerating the liquidation of small farmers and the consequent concentration of farmland. Perhaps with such better informed and organized farmer opposition this time around, there will be a more effective alternative source of information for farmers than the corporate status quo.
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*Researchers in Burkina Faso are attributing this latest in the long line of Bt cotton blunders to a typical pleiotropic effect, which in the case of the pirated Bollgard II Burkinabe varieties causes the bolls to produce lint whose threads are too short, even when the bolls themselves yield superficially well. This is poor quality cotton which can’t be sold at market price. As always, genetic engineering is sloppy, imprecise, opaque to the engineers who have only the haziest notion of what they’re doing, and the only thing predictable about it is that it will produce chaotically unpredictable effects. As always, any alleged pesticide reduction, even if true for the spraying, is fraudulent accounting since it omits the increasing number of neonic and other seed coatings as well as the Bt toxin itself. Meanwhile spraying reductions are always temporary.
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(This is also a good study in what a meaningless crackpot measure “yield” is in itself. What’s the substantive meaning when one says, “Even though cotton yields are up, the amount machines are able to extract from the picked cotton has diminished. In other words, Bt cotton produces both less cotton lint, and lint of an inferior quality”? That sure sounds to me like Bt cotton yields more poorly by any meaningful measure. And again, even by their measure any increase in gross bolls is dependent on optimal conditions and is purely temporary pending the inevitable debouching of secondary pests and evolution of resistance among the target insect.)
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*Government “intelligence” types including James Clapper are suddenly catching on to what we’ve always known, that genetic engineering is inherently a bioweapons program, in the same way that in its pesticide plant manifestation (pretty much all of it so far) it’s also a chemical warfare program.
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Of course system bureaucrats and flacks are concerned only with how “enemies” and “non-state actors” might obtain and use these weapons, not about the infinitely greater bio- and chemical warfare being waged right now by governments and corporations all around the world. Most of this is under the guise of industrial agriculture, but objectively speaking it’s literal war against all the ecosystems of the Earth and against almost all the people.
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*More on the Oregon state legislative proposal seeking partial reversal of the preemption law enacted in 2013 (on a fast-track “emergency” basis, no less) with the goal of crushing Oregon’s rising food sovereignty, anti-corporate, community rights movement. The bill’s sponsor insists he wants to retain preemption in general but just get rid of one provision, the regulation of seeds, which he thinks is over-broad. Opponents say the sky is falling and that this would “gut” the whole law. The truth sounds like the proposal is pretty meager. If everyone remains so in favor of preemption that those who are really opposed would have to operate by stealth, then how could they get a meaningful law passed anyway? One thing you can always be sure of is that anyone using the canned propaganda term “patchwork” is talking in bad faith.
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Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, told the committee the law was written so broadly that it prohibits any local regulation of plants, including city ordinances regulating overgrown yards, city tree policies, and lawmakers’ own desire to let counties regulate marijuana.

Several area farmers testified about the difficulties a “patchwork of local regulations” would present to those who farm in multiple counties.

Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farmers, countered that there’s been no action on a statewide solution to the conflict between GMO and non-GMO farmers, something that then Gov. Kitzhaber committed to in writing to win legislative support for the legislation in 2013.

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Surprise surprise, while yelling “Stampede!” Kitzhaber promised solutions to problems afterward, but turns out to have been lying about that.
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*Hawaii developments continue: The SHAKA movement is proceeding with its appeal of the federal court ruling slapping down Maui’s democratically voted moratorium on GMO cultivation. The court ruled that this ballot initiative was preempted by state law. The appeals court rejected the corporations’ motion to reject the appeal.
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In response to a similar preemption ruling from the same pro-corporate court striking down Kauai’s 2013 law imposing modest notification requirements for pesticide spraying near schools, hospitals, old age homes and similar places, state legislators have introduced legislation to impose similar notification requirements statewide.
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Hawaii is subject to one of the most concentrated poison attacks on earth. Modest as they are, these legislative attempts are the beginning of the necessary abolition of all poison-based agriculture in Hawaii.

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February 5, 2016

GMO News Summary, February 5th 2016

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*The ChemChina/Syngenta deal is near complete. “ChemChina, as the closely-held company is known, offered $465 a share in cash, according to a statement on Wednesday. The offer, endorsed by Syngenta’s board, is about 20 percent higher than the stock’s last close.” China has long been planning to build its own GMO/pesticide conglomerate and assert itself globally in competition with the US-based cartel. Syngenta’s chairman has suggested that he thinks Syngenta could become China’s primary supplier of GM technology and primary Western partner for China’s project. Bloomberg complacently comments on how China and Syngenta will nevertheless submit to US review and veto power over the deal, because “even though Syngenta isn’t based in the U.S, it does have North American operations that generated $3.6 billion in sales last year” which the US could threaten to hinder and harm in some way if the company doesn’t stay in line. Although Syngenta is more diversified across the pesticide line (which is economically prior to and more important than GM seeds) than Monsanto and therefore relatively better positioned (but over the long run the fundamentals are bad for all of industrial agriculture), Syngenta evidently is being subject to stick-ups by both China and the US.
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This is part of the intensifying Great Game for total control of agriculture and food. The agrochemical conglomerates are at the peak of their power, but their position has never been more precarious. Having been aced out of a Syngenta deal, if Monsanto doesn’t make a deal with BASF or something similar they might be in deep trouble.
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*One of my four featured yahoos who impersonate scientists is still at it. More detail on Bruce Chassy’s ongoing career as a mercenary fraud. In spite of his claims about his scientific credentials, he actually has zero credentials in agriculture, food science, medicine, biology, or genetics. Yet the FDA and the University of Illinois, and of course the media, have joined in perpetrating the fraud that he does have some kind of expertise in these areas.
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*Here’s another example of the pro-GMO activists’ standard attitude toward truth and morality. Critics of poison agriculture are accusing the Genetic Illiteracy Project of publishing personal information and changing headlines and text when reposting their pieces. More amusingly, those complaining of tampering with headlines and text include such pro-GMO activists as Keith Kloor, Anastasia Bodnar of Biofalsified, Helena Bottemiller, and Julie Kelly. Now they’re all whining about “unethical practices”, which is quite rich coming from the likes of Kloor and company. Of course the GIP’s systematic lying on behalf of cancer-causing poisons and corporate domination of agriculture and food doesn’t bother them one bit, since such Nuremburg lies are their trade as well.
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*The Indian central government is admitting in court what farmers and critics have known for over ten years, that Bt cotton is an extremely failure prone product. The admission comes in a court proceeding where the government is defending its imposition of price controls on the shoddy seeds against a challenge from Mahyco-Monsanto. The corporations especially object to the government’s placement of limits on the tax Monsanto collects on cotton seed sales. The government admits that it allowed Monsanto to attain a near-monopoly on cotton seed. (It also actively encouraged this monopoly.) But between the tax and the generally very poor performance of the crop farmers can no longer afford to plant it. This is driving the suicide epidemic among small cotton farmers in India. This price control policy, along with the latest of the many Karnataka bailouts, is just the latest in the long line of central and state government bailouts, price controls, and bans on shoddy seeds.
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*The political struggle continues over that same Indian central government’s imminent approval of Bt mustard for commercial release. The opposition to this and to GM crops in general has included several elements of the Modi government’s coalition such as farmer unions and “nationalist” types. In defiance of prior court decisions and transparency law the government is keeping secret the biosafety dossier from the field trials and any lab testing which has been done, which is proof that the evidence is very bad regarding the GM product’s agronomic behavior and health and safety implications. As far as GM contamination we don’t really need the secret data, as the crop’s lead developer Deepak Pental has freely admitted that “the crossing of the transgenic gene to other non-GM mustard varieties is expected.” It certainly is expected to happen especially broadly and rapidly with brassicas. Indeed contamination is so universally documented and economic policy is so relentless in seeking to normalize ever increasing levels of “adventitious presence”* that we have to call it a primary purpose of the GMO project. Meanwhile public health campaigner Aruna Rodrigues filed a petition with the supreme court for an injunction against the government’s plans to approve herbicide tolerant mustard, cotton, and corn. In 2013 the court-appointed Technical Expert Committee, in addition to advising strong precautions and transparency where it comes to GMOs in general, found that herbicide tolerant GMOs as such would be economically inappropriate for India.
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(It’s hard to tell exactly what kind of GM mustard is being talked about in various contexts, in particular which is the one supposedly about to be approved for commercial release. Most pieces I’ve seen called it Bt mustard, but the last few days they’ve been talking about a product which would be herbicide tolerant as well.)
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[*According to EuropaBio lobbying, TTIP negotiations, and the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association’s proposed GMO labeling standards, where it comes to GM contamination of the general agriculture, commodity stream, and food supply the regulatory threshold for “non-GMO” is supposed to increase mechanically as the contamination becomes more prevalent, in the exact same way that regulators mechanically increase the “tolerance” levels for pesticide residues in food. This is one of several reasons why it’s utopian to think the FDA could ever apply a strong GMO labeling policy: The FDA would mechanically raise the legally allowed level of contamination which would be called “adventitious” as the chronic contamination increased. Therefore the level of GM material in a product which would require it to be labeled “contains genetically engineered ingredients”, and beneath which it would not have to carry a label, would continually, automatically increase. The FDA would also preempt any state law or voluntary body like the Non-GMO Project from imposing a more rigorous standard.]
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*GMO contamination is a systematic policy goal. The USDA and Monsanto will never stop until they are stopped once and for all. Here we have documentary proof that the most far-ranging and aggressive contamination is a core part of the intended goal.
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*This interview with Marc Edwards, a scientist who helped expose the poisoning of the Flint water supply, is a case study in how normal science really works under corporate rule. He speaks to how rare it is for the scientific method, falsification and all, to actually be applied, and what happens when a scientist actually does work that way. Here’s a quote from the piece:
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Q. I keep coming back to these university researchers in Flint who said: “The state has 50 epidemiologists. They say that the water’s safe. So I’m going to focus my energy on something that’s less settled.” How do you decide when the state should be challenged?

A. That’s a great question. We are not skeptical enough about each other’s results. What’s the upside in that? You’re going to make enemies. People might start questioning your results. And that’s going to start slowing down our publication assembly line. Everyone’s invested in just cranking out more crap papers.

So when you start asking questions about people, and you approach them as a scientist, if you feel like you’re talking to an adult and they give you a rational response and are willing to share data and discuss an issue rationally, I’m out of there. I go home.

But when you reach out to them, as I did with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they do not return your phone calls, they do not share data, they do not respond to FOIA [open-records requests], y’know. … In each case I just started asking questions and turning over rocks, and I resolved to myself, The second something slimy doesn’t come out, I’m gonna go home. But every single rock you turn over, something slimy comes out.

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Unfortunately Edwards isn’t yet the kind of public health campaigner we the people need since he still thinks and talks in terms of restoring trust in the system even though he just testified to how the system is depraved beyond redemption. That’s not the first time I’ve seen the same notion coming from a partially dissident scientist, that “restoring trust in the system” as such is somehow supposed to be one of the goals. A true dissident, which by now also means anyone who has scientific integrity, must work to demolish the credibility, legitimacy, and authority of an establishment “science” system which has become completely anti-scientific under corporate directives and in furtherance of corporate rule.
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*Corporate Europe Observatory has released a new report on the corporate attempt in Europe to have the newer kinds of GMOs arbitrarily declared outside the bounds of regulation. This parallels the USDA’s campaign to exempt more and more GMOs from its own purview.
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This would include exemption from labeling requirements for all so-called “second generation” GMOs developed via gene editing and so-called “cisgenesis”* The report specifically highlights how GM apples and potatoes are supposed to be exempted from regulation including labeling. Here’s another reason why it’s impossible to get real labeling from the FDA. The agency whose primary religious dogma is that GMOs are “substantially equivalent” to true crops and which abdicated nearly all regulatory oversight will certainly follow the USDA’s lead in declaring the second generation GMOs not to be GMOs at all for purposes of labeling.
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[*A de jure and de facto fraud. Even where the main transgene is from the same species, the cisgenesis gene cassette includes several elements from other species, such as a viral promoter. And the violent, mutation-inducing insertion and tissue culture procedures are the same as for any other GMO. So nothing’s different. “Cisgenesis” is a scientifically meaningless term, a pure propaganda/marketing hoax.]
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Although we must fight these lawless attempts, we the people should fully reciprocate the mindset that GMOs and their activists are outlaws in the full medieval sense of the term, exactly as they say they want to be.
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This and the earlier point about contamination highlight not only the impossibility of any real FDA labeling, but how the idea of labeling is misguided in principle. Here we have two examples of how a very slow, clumsy, often static labeling policy would try to keep track of a fast-moving, crafty GMO target, and would try to do this within the “co-existence” framework which everyone knows is impossible. Labeling sounded good and maybe even sufficient when the idea was first broached all those years ago. By now we’ve learned enough to know that it’s insufficient and not worth being any kind of significant goal. It’s time to move beyond the concept of labeling as anything more than an organizational tool, and to full abolition as the necessary, fully conscious goal, and adapt all organizational principle, strategy, and tactics to that.
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*The people of California’s Sonoma County are working for a county-level ban on GMO cultivation. They look to join the growing list of counties in California, Oregon, and Hawaii which have passed such bans. These county-level bans have had mixed fortunes in the courts, but in the long run the courts can never be the source of the people’s health and freedom. Only our political will can do that, and if we find this will the “law” will follow.

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January 29, 2016

GMO News Summary, January 29th, 2016

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*The court decision refusing the EPA’s request that it temporarily rescind Enlist Duo’s registration is going to get its own post. For the moment I’ll point out that even if you don’t think the courts are corrupted beyond redemption, here we have proof that the law itself certainly is. If it’s true that the law is so calcified and maladaptive that it can’t react when a toxicity situation arises which is so dire that even the EPA wants to slow down and take another look, then that’s proof of a terminally busted system of law. We have to get it straight, in addition to all its de jure evils, this system does not work.
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*The fighters of Argentina continue to stand tall blocking Monsanto’s poison factory.
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*Here’s more on the attempt to partially repeal Oregon’s preemption law which was passed to crush the groundswell of county-level democracy action. One good paragraph concisely describes why it’s impossible for the state government of Oregon to make assertive agricultural policy which would be just, rational, or practical.
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So currently, although there are seven distinct geographical agricultural sectors in Oregon, each with different agricultural emphases, (for example, apples in Hood River, alfalfa in the Klamath Basin, brassica seed in the Willamette Valley), none of these sectors now have the right, either democratically or through a court of law, to address their own particular agricultural concerns, even regarding weed seeds. Can you see which way the wind is blowing?

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Imagine how much less possible it is for the federal government to be legitimate or rational in asserting itself over hundreds of distinct foodsheds and watersheds? When we ponder those who claim to care about food and agriculture but who still believe in federal power over these, only “better”, it sure looks like their level of knowledge and policy position is similar to Monsanto’s, only from a superficially different angle. What does this mean where it comes to NGOs and GM labeling advocates who want things like a preemptive FDA labeling standard or the “Food Safety Modernization Act”? (How’s that for an Orwellian name?) They’re just as ignorant as Monsanto and often as arrogant, only from a superficially different point of view. That’s one reason I don’t trust them to ever really draw a line in the sand and say “no further.” (For example the party line seems to be, “support preemption only if the FDA policy is at least as strong as Vermont’s”. I don’t believe they’ll hold to that, and since such an FDA policy is impossible anyway, because that’s not what the FDA does or wants to do, what’s the point of saying such a thing, other than to buy time for further triangulation?) Their underlying logic is basically the same as that of the corporations. Also in the clear fact that democracy in itself is no principle for them and has no value to them at all.
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A federal labeling law is the worst possible “solution”, since it’s guaranteed to be a preemptive sham, meant to lead in the wrong direction and waste time and resources we don’t have to waste. As the history proves, preemption never works the way so many people seem to want to hope and believe. The only point of it is to force the lowest standards. Otherwise why would any “stakeholder” want it? Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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*Dueling Monsanto lawsuits, one as plaintiff, two new ones (two more of many) as defendant. Monsanto is suing California trying to prevent the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) from listing glyphosate on the list of carcinogens. This would impose some labeling requirements and restrictions on its use. Monsanto’s complaint is just a bunch of whining with no substance whatsoever. I’ll be writing more about this lawsuit separately.
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Meanwhile the city of Seattle has filed the latest lawsuit trying to force Monsanto to pay for a cleanup of the PCBs still ubiquitous in sediments of the city’s drainage system and the Duwamish River. Monsanto lied for decades about PCBs although it knew of their toxicity at least since 1937. A major reason for the corporate reshuffling Monsanto undertook in order to dump its industrial chemical division Solutia in 2002 was to try to unload its PCB liability. This hasn’t worked so far, though the penalties aren’t even in the same galaxy with what the company, its executives, its technicians and its salesmen deserve. And the Nuremburg-actionable lies continue still to this day. Just as the CEO of Solutia continued to lie for years, so Monsanto lies today:
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“PCBs sold at the time were a lawful and useful product that was then incorporated by third parties into other useful products. If improper disposal or other improper uses allowed for necessary clean up costs, then these other third parties would bear responsibility for these costs.”

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This is a direct Nuremburg lie. Monsanto has known since the 1930s that PCBs as such are extremely toxic. They cause cancer, birth defects, and horrible skin and organ symptoms. Over the 1950s-60s Monsanto accumulated very detailed knowledge and sought systematically to cover it up. See Marie-Monique Robin’s The World According to Monsanto for a detailed history of this and many of Monsanto’s other crimes against humanity. Monsanto adhered to this stonewalling strategy for decades. So it was Monsanto which lied to its customers and encouraged these third parties to incorporate the PCB product without warning them of what it knew about the danger.
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Finally, in California Brenda and James Huerta are suing Monsanto for giving them cancer through chronic long-term exposures to Roundup spraying while they lived on a commercial sod farm in the state’s Riverside County. Here the law is geared to protect the seller and the sprayer. Even if the US and California state governments recognized glyphosate as carcinogenic (as we just mentioned Monsanto is currently suing to prevent the state from recognizing it as such, while the US EPA denies it), it would generally be considered impossible to ascribe a particular case of cancer to the product. And if all else failed, Monsanto would try to claim the sprayer didn’t adhere to the label requirements for application. Farmer scapegoating is standard wherever straight lies and denial don’t work.
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These are reasons why the abolitionist position must be to impose strict liability on all manufacturers, sellers, and users of a poisonous product for all harms which come from it. In a legal sense they’re all part of one big conspiracy to promote cancer, and since it is usually not feasible to identify the “particular” culprit in a given case, all must be held equally responsible. I propose the same standard for pesticide drift effects, for any campaign against 2,4-D and dicamba GMOs. Strict liability first as a philosophical and polemical plank, wherever possible as a demand for legal reform, and always as the Nuremburg standard which must be imposed once we the people take back the power.
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So we have dueling lawsuits. Monsanto sues California for saying glyphosate causes cancer, citizens are suing Monsanto for giving them cancer, Seattle files the latest of many lawsuits because Monsanto systematically sickened and murdered people with PCBs and to this day systematically lies about it. The EPA, FDA, and USDA say Monsanto is a good, honest citizen. Who do you trust about Roundup?
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*More data on glyphosate residues in urine, as monitored over 15 years by Germany’s federal environmental agency. The levels are lower than EFSA “tolerance” limits, which means little. Regulators mechanically raise these legal levels in accord with how much poison the manufacturer expects to sell. In itself this is a strong indicator of the regulators’ poison-maximizing ideology. The procedure has zero scientific content and exists at all only as a political farce, to make it look like the regulator is “protecting” us. Scientifically, like all pesticides glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor which means it causes cancer and birth defects at ultra-low doses, and there is no safe level. The German agency also warned that formulations are far more toxic than glyphosate by itself. In other words, bad as this is, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
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*Here’s one thing that won’t wait for labeling to be gotten right over however many years that would take. If we don’t want to see the monarch butterfly go extinct within our lifetimes, we have to abolish glyphosate NOW. Anything else is just empty talk.
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There’s a new petition to the world’s most pro-Monsanto, pro-Roundup government, calling for better action for the monarch. Seems far-fetched, but it’s possible if there were enough of a groundswell on everything from monarchs to cancer, the system might be forced to sacrifice Roundup as long as it thought it could preserve the rest of the poison regime. But this will require a full-scale social movement toward this goal. (The goal of abolishing glyphosate must be part of the broader goal of abolishing poison-based agriculture, but we can also choose particular campaigns for special focus.) Things like petitions not rooted in a movement grounding will be blown off like the air they are. The prognosis is clear. Unless glyphosate is completely banned, it’ll be the end of the monarch. Americans are going to have to choose once and for all. What’ll it be, the monarch or Monsanto? You can’t have both.
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*Gilles-Eric Seralini has performed another of his thorough and damning analyses of GMO trial data. This time he analyzed the trial data and the subsequent veterinary records from the 1997-2002 dairy cow feeding trial in Germany with silage from Syngenta’s Bt176 maize. This was one of the ominous incidents in GMO history. The animals became badly ill, many died, the records were analyzed by Syngenta and the German government, and farmer Gottfried Glöckner sued the company. Although Syngenta has always denied the GMO had anything to do with the epidemic, it paid off Glöckner and pulled Bt176 from the market. Now Seralini, assisted by Glöckner, has analyzed all the records and concluded that Bt176 “provoked long-term toxic effects on mammals”. There are many anecdotal reports of similar epidemics stemming from diets with a heavy Bt crop proportion, among farm workers in South Africa and livestock in India.
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The action needed is not, however, “more testing” as Seralini calls for. He’s a scientist so of course that’s his first thought. But in fact this new evidence adds to what’s already conclusive proof – Bt-expressing GMOs don’t work and are dangerous to human, animal, and environmental health. They must be abolished, not tested over and over again forever. Every time I see the “more testing” call I wonder how much evidence would finally satisfy people. There’s far more than enough to satisfy anyone without a strong investment in the poison system itself, if that evidence is propagated competently and relentlessly and in the context of the affirmative Food Sovereignty idea. On the other hand, without this work even a hundred times as much evidence would be of little use.
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*Meanwhile the state government of Idaho is acknowledging a pesticide crisis. Here they let potato farmers apply methyl bromide, which of course suffused the soil. The poison then became part of the tissue of a subsequent alfalfa crop whose poisoned hay caused “deformities and sickness” in cattle which fed upon it. “Additionally, test samples of wheat, barley, potatoes, alfalfa, tomato, corn and straw grown on other treated fields also showed some level of bromide.” The state agriculture department told the legislature that the soil needs an emergency cleanup, of course asking for taxpayer money to be provided for the necessary research and work. To the great injury of the poisoning of our food and soil they now add the insult of expecting the people, not the criminals, to pay to clean it up.
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If GMOs tolerant of 2,4-D and dicamba are deployed on a large scale, the result will be this same quarantine of the soil and destruction of vast swaths of crops from the toxic drift. The whole thing, everywhere, sums to one vast moral insult. This insult shall never be made whole until we the people apply all moral force necessary to abolish these poisons.
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.*The Indian state of Karnataka is yet again having to prepare a farmer bailout after yet another Bt cotton disaster. This time the target pest, the pink bollowrm, simply feasted as if the two Bt toxins and neonics weren’t even there. Karnataka will yet again have to decide whether and how to demand the seed companies pay farmer compensation. Karnataka is one of the states most severely devastated by the suicide epidemic among Indian small cotton farmers. The state really ought to launch a transformation program away from commodity production and toward organic production, as fellow state Sikkim is proving can be done on a large scale.
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Another Bt cotton blunder may soon be history, as Burkina Faso’s farmers and seed dealers are abandoning the product. The country’s experience with Bt cotton has paralleled that of other countries, including the crop’s poor performance under anything but optimal conditions. Burkina Faso also experienced low-quality lint production even when the overall boll yield was good. This problem, which has also been seen in India, seems to be related to pleiotropic effects from Monsanto’s breeding its Bt cultivar into the pirated regional Burknabe variety. Here’s the latest proof of how imprecise and unpredictable genetic engineering is. It’s always a crapshoot. Monsanto is implicitly admitting this as it’s now frantically “backcrossing its Bt varieties into a new local cultivar.” But farmers seem to be fed up with the whole Bt cotton concept, as have been all non-rich farmers who ever tried to work with it. It’s a shoddy product, in addition to its health dangers.
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Food sovereignty and civil society campaigners are confident that Burkina Faso’s rejection of Bt cotton will help steel African resolve to resist this and other GMOs. The struggle continues in Kenya as farmer and civil society groups oppose proposals to lift the government’s moratorium on cultivation and importation of GMO products. In recent weeks the government has indicated it will soon approve cultivation of Bt maize, but missed a scheduled press conference. For more on the truth of the corporate-driven food insecurity in Africa which GMOs promise to make much worse, see here.
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*Canadian environmental groups Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society are suing the government to overturn a 2013 ruling which threatens to allow the grow-out of GM salmon under conditions exceeding those allowed by Canadian environmental law.
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*Much ado about the temporary retraction of a paper by Italian researchers documenting transgenic DNA fragments persisting in the tissues of animals fed GM feed. The retraction is on grounds of what the retracting journal calls an “honest error” involving the reuse of some images which had appeared in an earlier paper by the same researchers. The study’s basic findings remain intact. In a sign of how desperate the pro-GMO activists are, they whooped it up as if this technicality constituted some kind of evidence in their favor. The GMWatch piece does a good job detailing the hypocrisy and double standards of the GMO lobby and corporate media. In fact even if this particular study’s substantive finding were in doubt, it would be just be one drop retracted from a lake of evidence. GMWatch adds:
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Several years ago we at GMWatch were reprimanded by a government scientist (who was emphatically not anti-GMO) for our naive belief that we still had to ‘prove’ that GM DNA was detectable in the tissues of animals that ate GM feed. This fact, the scientist pointed out, was “not controversial and we have known it for a long time”. The only controversial aspect was whether such GM DNA had any biological effect on animals that was different from the effects of non-GM DNA.

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I think it’s time for the whole movement to be more confident about what’s been proven beyond any doubt and go from there, rather than imply we’re willing to keep running in place forever needing “more study”, as if we ourselves weren’t 100% confident in the existing evidence. Endless calls for “more data” are a classic sign of the Peter Principle in action.

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