Volatility

February 23, 2015

The Indian Cotton Farmer Suicide Epidemic

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As an individual tragedy drinking pesticide is a horrible way to die.
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Shankara, respected farmer, loving husband and father, had taken his own life. Less than 24 hours earlier, facing the loss of his land due to debt, he drank a cupful of chemical insecticide.

Unable to pay back the equivalent of two years’ earnings, he was in despair. He could see no way out.

There were still marks in the dust where he had writhed in agony. Other villagers looked on – they knew from experience that any intervention was pointless – as he lay doubled up on the ground, crying out in pain and vomiting.

Moaning, he crawled on to a bench outside his simple home 100 miles from Nagpur in central India. An hour later, he stopped making any noise. Then he stopped breathing. At 5pm on Sunday, the life of Shankara Mandaukar came to an end….

“Pesticides act on the nervous system – first they have convulsions, then the chemicals start eroding the stomach, and bleeding in the stomach begins, then there is aspiration pneumonia – they have difficulty in breathing – then they suffer from cardiac arrest.”

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The tragic story can be heard in village after village like a folk song too harrowing to be sung. When we add the psychological agony which must go before the desperate decision to die this way, and the traditional shame it leaves behind for the victim’s family, we know we’re seeing an individual in absolute despair.
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But when this individual is part of an epidemic of hundreds of thousands acting out this same despair over just a few short years, we know we’re no longer dealing just with individual tragedies, but with a malevolent social arrangement, a crime against humanity.
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By the official record 296,438 Indian farmers, the vast majority of them small cotton farmers, have committed suicide from 1995 through 2013. But precisely because these suicides are the victims of an artificially developed and politically chosen policy, nowhere has Stalin’s dictum seemed more appropriate, that an individual death is a tragedy, while a million deaths is a statistic.
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To analyze the fact of the worst by far suicide epidemic in history, we must place it in the empirical context from which the rational theory then can be developed. First let’s pin down the facts. In India suicides are recorded by the police, collated by state governments, and reported by the states to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which publishes what the states report. This reporting system was inaugurated in 1995. Through 2013 there have been tallied officially 296,438 farmer suicides. The annual carnage has gone from 11,000 in 1995 to a range of 16,000 to over 17,000 from 2002 to 2011. The official numbers have declined somewhat in 2012 and 2013. This has corresponded to a growing trend among the states to mess with the numbers, redefining many farmers as not farmers and suicides as not suicides, or not “farmer” suicides. From any point of view the number of farmer suicides has always been under-reported, and this practice is escalating, as I’ll get to shortly.
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By all measures the epidemic has been worst in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, along with Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. Suicide among farmers is far higher than the rate among the general population. At the same time economic pressures are driving vast numbers of farmers and their families off the land. The 2011 census recorded 15 million fewer farmers than in 1991. Averaged out, from 1991 to 2011, 2035 farmers were driven out every day. (From 1981 to 1991 the number of farmers was increasing.)
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It’s important to stress that the rising suicide rate is concentrated among a shrinking group. The 2011 census found 95.8 million “main cultivators”, those for whom farming is their main work. This is 8% of the population. A cultivator may or may not own the land, so this figure includes tenant farmers and women farmers who are unable to own land. The census also lists 22.8 million marginal cultivators (farming is not their main occupation) and 144.4 million agricultural laborers. Distress, exodus, and suicide are common among these groups as well, for the same reason these are common among officially-defined cultivators.
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The NCRB uses a different system which grossly under-reports farmer suicides. The police often refrain from listing a farmer suicide as a suicide since they know the state governments want to depress this number. (Also, families often fail to report deaths as suicides out of a sense of shame.) The real chicanery occurs at the state level. The states consistently exclude all suicides which are outside the main cultivator category. Then within this category they exclude anyone who doesn’t have clear title to the land. This excludes suicides among women farmers, tenant farmers, eldest sons who are working land officially owned by their fathers. The rural unemployed are also a separate category. But often this is just the suppression of farmer suicide numbers through the subterfuge of turning dispossessed and liquidated farmers into something other than farmers. But if such people commit suicide their loss of farming livelihood must play a major role, and they should be classed as farmer suicides. Maharashtra and other states have invented other bogus categories to further redefine farmer suicides.
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The most audacious example of such fraud has been Chhattisgarh state declaring zero farmer suicides since 2011 after admitting to 7500 from 2006-2010, this number itself no doubt a significant underestimate. West Bengal also reported zero in 2012 and 2013. Investigative journalist P. Sainath calculates that if we extrapolate from the previous reported averages then these two states together would add 2518 more farmer suicides a year.
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To sum up: The official NCRB farmer suicide tally from 1995 to 2013 is 296,438. Compared to nationwide general suicide figures, there is a high concentration of suicides among farmers. The NCRB demonstrates this. What the NCRB doesn’t show is that this high concentration is further highly concentrated among cash croppers, especially cotton growers but also coffee and some other non-food crops. Suicide rates are much lower among growers of wheat, rice, and maize. We can’t stress enough that the farmer suicide rate is not only extremely high in an absolute sense, but is intensively concentrated among a small group of farmers, the great majority of them small cotton farmers. Finally, the NCRB farmer suicide number is grossly under-reported because it excludes many categories of farmers who don’t technically own the land or who have been driven off their land.
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The Monsanto obscurantists have made lame attempts to obfuscate the farmer suicide numbers by submerging them within the frequently bandied figure of 600 million Indians, 53% of the population, who are said to be dependent upon agriculture. The pro-GMO activists simply proclaim that this number is the number of farmers, and that therefore the farmer suicide numbers are actually low. But as we saw with the census figures there were 95.8 million main cultivators in 2011, 8% of the population, and if we include marginal cultivators and agricultural laborers (which groups don’t appear in the official farmer suicide numbers) we have 263 million, 22% of the population. The rest of the 600 million are in various support occupations or are dependents like children and the elderly. It’s clear how flimsy the Monsanto lie is. The hacks use similar statistical fraud to claim farmer suicides are decreasing. As we’ve seen, they’re abetted in this by Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and some other state governments.
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Let’s say the issue was the incidence of concussions among football players and future effects on the brain. If you took data on concussions among football players and submerged that in the figures for concussions among participants in all sports, you could then claim your results showed that concussions aren’t a big problem for athletes. But we’re not talking about concussions among athletes in general, we’re talking about concussions among football players. That’s the kind of trick the Monsanto publicists use. They submerge the (already under-reported) suicide data among farmers and submerge farmers among all “agriculture dependent” Indians. And the category “main cultivator” has already submerged small cotton farmers among all farmers. But we’re not talking about a suicide epidemic among agriculture dependent people, and we’re not even talking about an epidemic among farmers in general*. We’re talking about a mass suicide epidemic among small cotton farmers. The official 296,438 figure and the real figure, which must be much higher, are heavily concentrated among this relatively small group.
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[*Increasing numbers of commodity farmers other than cotton farmers have been committing suicide as well, but the numbers continue to come overwhelmingly from the ranks of small cotton farmers.]
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We have the irrefutable fact of the numbers. Among its small cotton farmers India is experiencing history’s worst suicide epidemic. What is causing it? To answer this we need to understand the history. Prior to the 1990s Indian cotton farming was based on low-priced desi open-pollinated varieties which were saved and replanted. (If Vandana Shiva’s figures for contrasting seed prices ever sound far-fetched, keep in mind that she’s comparing the original low-priced desi varieties to the most expensive Bt seeds, including the exorbitant tax Monsanto adds on top of the seed price.) Farmers freely exchanged seeds. The cotton was grown for local ginners. It was often intercropped with food crops like pigeon peas. Cotton farmers also grew food for their families and for local/regional sale. Rainfall provided sufficient water. Farmers generally did without pesticides or used a derivative of leaves from the local neem tree for pest control. They didn’t need synthetic fertilizer. In general input costs were low. If a farmer needed a loan, there was a strong institutional rural credit system which lent on reasonable terms. The government supported farming in other ways. Cotton hybridization and cash cropping for export were limited mostly to some coastal regions.
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This all changed in the mid 1990s when the Indian government collaborated with the IMF in gutting its institutional farmer supports and exposing the agricultural economy to the full savagery of globalization. Cotton farming was radically transformed from an economically sustainable occupation enfolded within a polyculture of locally based food production, to a dangerously expensive and unstable form of cash cropping. Farmers across the cotton belt were overwhelmed with government propaganda urging them to take up cash cropping for commodity export based on hybrid monoculture. They were warned this was the only way they could survive. As I described in my Bt cotton fraud series (parts one, two, three), farmers who heeded this government panic-mongering and relinquished their community farming role to become cogs in the commodity machine found themselves caught on a treadmill of escalating seed, water, fertilizer, and pesticide costs.
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They couldn’t save or exchange seed from hybrid plants. The 70% of cotton farmers who depend on rainfall quickly found that hybrids don’t work well without artificial irrigation. Costs surged while the government reneged on its supports. Institutional credit branches in rural areas were shut down, to be replaced by usurious moneylenders who are often the same who sell the seeds and pesticides. From 1993 through 2007 thousands of rural banks were shut down. Farmers entered a vicious circle of ever-mounting debt. Hybrid yields did improve significantly for several years, but this couldn’t make up for the crashing price as the US dumped its heavily subsidized cotton on the Indian market. US cotton actually cost less than Indian cotton and India, the world’s third largest producer, became a cotton importer. As Glenn Davis Stone documented, the whole process has been a combination of mechanical, brainless application of industrial inputs with an opaque and confusing seed selection process where farmers had no reliable information and could only choose to believe corporate advertising or else plant what their neighbors were planting. This added up to a general loss of farming skills, which could only intensify an already bewildering and demoralizing psychological experience. Driven to desperation by this impossible situation, small cotton farmers began killing themselves in large numbers as early as 1995, the first year the statistics were compiled.
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The crisis was exacerbated by the advent of GMO Bt varieties. These were legally approved in 2002 though they’d been illicitly grown commercially since the late 1990s. These aggravate every pathology we surveyed in the previous paragraphs. The seed costs vastly more on account of Monsanto’s extortionate tax on every bag of seed. Bt cotton requires far more water and fertilizer than non-GM hybrids. The promised pesticide dividend depends on the generous and expensive application of irrigation and synthetic fertilizer. Often small farmers were never able to reduce their pesticide use. Where this dividend did manifest, it lasted only a few years until the target bollworms developed resistance and/or secondary pests surged in to fill the void. By now Bt cotton growers often spend more on pesticides than non-GM conventional growers. Meanwhile yields have declined.
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Almost the entire yield increase of the commodity era came from improvements in non-GM hybrids along with expanded irrigation in some of the richer states. This yield surge had exhausted itself by the 2004-2005 season, at which point Bt cotton had been adopted on only 5.6% of cotton acreage. In subsequent years, as Bt adoption rose to over 90% of the cotton acreage, yield per hectare increased only a small amount, then stagnated and declined.
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This poor performance by the high-priced, high-maintenance Bt technology has only added to the magnitude of the disaster which has befallen India’s small cotton farmers. Debt, soil destruction, and the top-down policy-driven eradication of less expensive, more sustainable seed alternatives destroyed any alternatives for farmers. Mahyco-Monsanto, often with government help, aggressively drove non-GM varieties out of the market as much as possible. Farmers are trapped. In many regions they simply lack the option of switching from Bt to non-GM hybrids. And although an increasing number of agronomists are advising farmers to go back to the original desi varieties, not only are these varieties also hard to find, but a farmer who is in a debt trap and has destroyed his soil with Bt cotton will find this switch hard to make. (This is a hard dilemma everywhere around the world including in America, even as growing numbers of farmers come to realize that growing food on a direct retail basis for the local/regional market can mean much greater margins and a much better quality of life.)
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That’s the cause of the cotton farmer suicide epidemic. The farmers are trapped by escalating input costs, falling crop prices, and mounting debt with no way out. Vast numbers of them reach such a point of desperation that suicide seems to be their only option. Hybrid commodification created the crisis, Bt cotton aggravated it.
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As Sainath put it, “promoting [Bt cotton] in a dry and unirrigated area like Vidarbha was murderous. It was stupid. It was killing.” We can say the same everywhere that Bt cotton has been marketed to farmers dependent on rain. This is 70% of Indian cotton farmers, the farmers which are killing themselves in such vast numbers.
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The pro-GMO activists themselves implicitly admit all this is true. But they absurdly try to attribute the economic plight of small farmers and the suicide epidemic to “debt” as such, as if debt is some kind of natural affliction which strikes people at random. This is tautological, since farmer debt is practically synonymous with their economic crisis. More important, it pretends the farmer economic crisis has no cause and no history. The farmers were driven into debt by corporate commodity agriculture. The hacks try to suppress this history, but this is really just an attempted semantic misdirection which is substantively identical to saying: The cause of the farmer economic crisis and suicide epidemic is the commodity and poison treadmill, exacerbated by Bt cotton. This has driven Indian small cotton farmers into a terminal debt crisis. In other words, the hacks themselves implicitly confess that their GMO is a main driver of the crisis, and that the cotton farmer suicide epidemic is 100% the result of their commodification of Indian agriculture. But they claim that a shooting victim was killed by the bullet, not by the shooter.
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A 2014 analysis of a 2012 study that appeared in The Lancet confirms the high concentration of suicides among small cash-crop farmers who are in debt. The Lancet piece establishes the fact of a massive suicide wave among farmers while avoiding drawing that conclusion. It doesn’t deny it but engages in statistical rigmarole similar to that of the deniers. The Globalization and Health analysis applies more rigorous concepts and techniques to draw a clear conclusion. Basically the Lancet piece is a connect-the-dots drawing with a clear outline, but the authors refrain from connecting these dots. They demonstrate that most suicides are rural, and the large majority of these from drinking pesticide, but dodge the conclusion that these disproportionately are cotton farmers and ex-farmers who have been destroyed by commodity agriculture, The G&H piece goes on to connect these dots.
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Their basic finding is that suicide in India is strongly correlated with being a small farmer growing a cash crop who is in debt. Being a small farmer in itself is positively but not strongly associated with suicide, but the association surges and becomes statistically significant when either of the other two factors is added and is strongest where all three are present. Overall, the G&H analysis found that 74% of the variability in state-level suicide rates is accounted for by these three variables. As we saw above, the rates are under-represented because the Lancet piece relied upon the NCRB data with some minor modifications. That’s part of how that study dodged the finding, by muddling the “farmer” category and illegitimately lumping into tendentious non-farmer categories large numbers of people who are farmers or ex-farmers by any rational measure. But the G&H analysis corrects these errors/obfuscations and finds that the data support the many qualitative studies which find that commodity cotton system has caused a mass suicide epidemic among small cotton farmers.
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In an equation, Rising Costs + Dumping + Debt = Mass Suicide. Or to put it another way, the politically chosen, willfully aggressive commodity agriculture onslaught = mass suicide.
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The five main features of the small cotton farmer experience since the mid 1990s have been:
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1. Increased production costs, which have surged especially since the advent of Bt cotton.
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2. Yield was temporarily up with hybrid cultivation, but in the Bt years has stagnated and declined.
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3. US dumping crashed the commodity price.
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4. Under IMF guidance the government gutted the institutional credit system, which was replaced by loansharking and usury.
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5. In the same way the government gutted public investment in agriculture.
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These have combined to ensnare the small cotton farmer in an impossible trap.
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So we have our thesis, which fits all the evidence and continues to be upheld by all the new evidence. The Indian cotton farmer suicide epidemic is part of the neoliberal “green revolution” commodification onslaught. Governments and corporations want to economically destroy small farmers and their communities, drive the people off the land and into shantytowns, really displaced persons camps, the economic version of internment camps, and replace them with vast industrial plantations controlled by the corporations.
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As for the masses incarcerated in the slums, as far as the elites and their flacks are concerned they can rot, wither, die. So a mass suicide epidemic, while somewhat politically embarrassing for the elites, is still a good outcome. That’s why the governments and corporations push on with the commodity agriculture onslaught in spite of the roaring evidence, pausing only for ad hoc, meager farmer bailouts when the political pressure becomes too great. There’s no doubt about a policy that consistently drives 2300 farmers a day off the land, and drives 16-18,000 a year to suicide.
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Millions have been forced to flee the land as economic refugees. Far over 300,000 have been in such despair that they’ve killed themselves. This has been, as the Sanhati Collective called it, “a policy-induced disaster of epic proportions”. Can policy relieve the awesome crisis? So far the only thing governments have done to counteract the disastrous effects of their own aggressive promotion and enshrinement of commodification and Bt cotton has been a series of ad hoc bailouts – Maharashtra state in 2006 and 2007, the central government and Maharashtra again in 2008, Maharashtra again in 2011 and 2012, and Karnataka state in 2014. There’s also been some isolated attempts to rein in the cartel’s worst “abuses”. Thus Andhra Pradesh banned three Mahyco varieties for bad performance in 2005, and Maharashtra in 2012 and Karnataka in 2014 hit Mahyco with further bans. In 2006 the Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission ordered Mahyco-Monsanto to lower the price of a bag of seeds. (The seed peddlers have done all they can to flout this order.) The sum of all this has been perhaps to help level off the cotton farmer suicide rate, but has not lessened it. The lack of will for any kind of real structural reform is exemplified in the Lancet study’s “Interpretation” section, where the only recommendation they can think of is to restrict access to pesticides. It’s hard to believe they’re not joking. How do you sell as much pesticide as you can to farmers while simultaneously restricting their access to pesticides?
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More fundamentally, this is a typical example of the quack notion of trying to suppress a symptom while seeing no evil, hearing no evil, speaking no evil, as to the cause.
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The G&H paper, on the other hand, calls for the kinds of reforms that are obviously the bare minimum needed: Land reform, or failing this, government action to stabilize the price of cash crops and relieve indebted farmers. In other words, they call for a return to the classical era of public institutional support for agriculture and farmers. This is the exact program which is anathema to neoliberalism. Since the neoliberal Indian government will never do these things, to point out the need for them is tantamount to calling for the overthrow of neoliberalism, which is in fact what’s necessary. Nothing short of this will suffice for humanity, in agriculture or in any other sector.
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History’s most horrific outbreak of mass suicide has been caused by the socioeconomic and agronomic pathologies of corporate agriculture. The commodification of cotton farming, and the government/corporate campaign to induce or force the mass of small cotton farmers onto the treadmill of pesticides, high input costs, desperate competition with dumped subsidized cotton, and debt, have comprised a systematic, intentional policy of destroying the small farmers of India as a class. Control of the land is being shifted to Western corporations while the revenues of globalization for “the country” have gone exclusively to urban elites. (Globalization always operates at a loss for the people of any country, including the US. But the income it generates is easily embezzled by elites for their own power and luxury.)
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The situation has become so dire that even many in the government are blanching. As Vandana Shiva wrote of a 2012 parliamentary committee report:
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I am not the only one connecting farmers’ suicides to debt and seed monopolies. The Agriculture Committee has made this point. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture…has also stressed the link between Bt. cotton and farmers’ distress. Unlike the researchers who work separated from reality, the Parliamentary Committee has worked over 4 years, interacting with every sector of society – government, industry, scientists and farmers. The All Party Committee visited the epicenter of suicides, Vidarbha in Maharashtra, to interact with farmers and understand the ground reality. This is what they concluded unanimously:

“8.124 During their extensive interactions with farmers in the course of their Study Visits, the Committee has found there have been no significant socio-economic benefits to the farmers because of introduction of Bt. cotton. On the contrary, being a capital intensive agriculture practice, investments of the farmers have increased manifolds thus, exposing them to far greater risks due to massive indebtedness, which a vast majority of them can ill afford. Resultantly, after the euphoria of a few initial years, Bt. cotton cultivation has only added to the miseries of the small and marginal farmers who constitute more than 70% of the tillers in India.”

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Bt has indeed exacerbated the crisis. India’s small cotton farmers are victims of history’s most monumental criminal fraud. That’s why they’re in such a desperate state, and this is fueling the suicide epidemic. Bt isn’t causing suicide in a special way which isn’t ensconced within cotton commodification. But with its higher production costs and inferior performance it is an added suicide driver. The same will be true if herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton (Monsanto would love to introduce Roundup Ready Flex), maize, or rice is commercialized in India. As the Technical Expert Committee reporting to the supreme court emphasized, the commercialization of HT varieties would only add to the socioeconomic devastation. The TEC stressed how much agricultural laborers depend upon hand weeding for work. But one of the basic purposes of HT GMOs is to serve as a typical “labor-saving”, i.e. job destroying, technology. HT crops would certainly escalate and accelerate the already massive exodus from the land to the displaced persons camps, and would almost certainly escalate the suicide epidemic.
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I’ll add that HT technology is the same fraud and destroyer for small farmers that Bt is. HT cultivation doesn’t reduce production costs per acre. Rather, it temporarily simplifies farming, renders it more “efficient” and saves some time, so the farmer can expand his acreage. In other words HT crops fuel the classical vicious circle of overproduction and declining crop prices. It’s self-evident that this can only mean disaster for the small farmer, who can’t afford to expand his acreage and will only be clobbered by the further drop in the harvest price. Just as with Bt, HT GMOs are a rich farmer’s technology. And just as with Bt, any HT crop deployment can be effective for only a few years before the weeds develop resistance to the herbicide. In the end even the better-off farmers would have to go back to hand weeding. Small farmers would never see the slightest benefit, only increased costs and an even worse-destroyed soil.
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So much for the standard Tower of Babel “solution” invariably bruited in the corporate media. For this crisis, as for every other crisis facing humanity and the earth, there can be no solution within the neoliberal framework of corporate rule. Corporate rule must be overthrown and corporations abolished. My piece of this great fight is to fight as a GMO abolitionist, but we need the same abolitionist fighters in every sector.
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In the agricultural and food sectors we do have one big advantage over the mode of struggle in many other sectors. Short of total abolition, there’s a wide range of action we can take right now to build the new within the old. In the final post of this India series I’ll discuss what’s being done in India on the agroecology and food sovereignty fronts.
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February 15, 2015

“Foreign Aid” is Corporate Welfare

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

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February 11, 2015

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

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

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

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February 9, 2015

The Bt Cotton Fraud Part Two: Its Performance in the Field

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Part One.
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In Part 2 we’ll survey 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 go-to guy for the corporate media and Monsanto hacks 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.
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1. 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 00-01 to 04-05 when Bt acreage was negligible, and increased only 2% from 05-06 to 2011-12, with a decline since the 2007-08 peak.
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This proves that the entire increase was from other causes and had nothing to do with the GMO. The real yield surge came from the switch from polyculture Desi-based cotton growing to hybrid monoculture deploying massive, expensive inputs – irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides. (That’s only monocultural yield, not food for people or farmer income. As a rule “yield” by itself is a crackpot measure with no meaning except within some socioeconomic, political, or environmental context.) Almost all the yield increase in fact came from improvements in conventional hybrids and expanded irrigation. As for pesticides, Kehsav 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, vs. 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 jassids/leafhoppers, mealy bugs, mirid bugs, thrips, stink bugs, and many others), to the standard seed treatment with the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. Of course this too is a deadly poison we need to abolish (and jassids are increasingly resistant to it), but the point is that 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.
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These numbers, damning as they are, actually exaggerate GMO performance, as 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.
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Besides its poor overall 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/regional variability. As a rule, how the GM crop will perform is a crapshoot and will vary from farmer to farmer. Whether on account of the poor quality of seed or variable Bt expression in the crop (caused by the chaotically modified genetics, by agronomic factors like watering levels or soil quality, by environmental factors like temperature? Who knows? No one has ever studied this. Not Monsanto, not the US government, not the Indian government, no one), whatever the cause, at any given time the meager overall numbers conceal a vast number of individual tragedies.
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At the farm level, Bt 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.
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For the individual farmer, growing Bt cotton is like “playing Russian roulette in order to get out of poverty”, as Nassim Taleb recently put it regarding civilization and GMOs as a whole.
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[There’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 ag persists. (It won’t for much longer, and humanity must transform to decentralized agroecology and food sovereignty if we want to continue eating, but that’s a different matter for another day.) 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 100% caused by pathological economic and political systems for distributing 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.]
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2. Probably the core lie Monsanto-Mahyco and the Indian government told cotton farmers is that Bt cotton is suitable for rainfed cultivation. 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.
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To try to sell Bt cotton, or any GMO, to a rain-dependent farmer is criminal fraud plain and simple. Investigative journalist PJ Sainath went further – “promoting [Bt cotton] in a dry and unirrigated area like Vidarbha [ground zero for the mass farmer suicide epidemic] was murderous. It was stupid. It was killing.”
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3. Another core lie is that the Bt technology can be a permanent panacea vs. insect pests. In fact Monsanto knew from the start the obvious fact from Evolution 101 that pests would develop resistance to any Bt toxin just as they do with any other pesticide. Monsanto built the planned obsolescence of each GMO variety, and its supercession by stacked and then more stacked varieties (they called it “expanded trait penetration”, referring to market penetration), into its business strategy. But in the early 00s Monsanto was promising the opposite, that single trait Bt cotton would maintain its potency vs. the bollworm indefinitely.
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Farmers who believed the lies were quickly disabused. The official data is garbled and contradictory, but the basic outlines are clear. 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 miniscule 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, for example.) 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 needs more applied pesticides than non-GM conventional. Also, in terms of aggregate poison use and environmental and health hazards all the numbers comprise a false accounting because they don’t accoiunt for the Bt endotoxins themselves. But these too are pesticides and must be counted as such in all relevant ways.
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Meanwhile all commodity cotton, even Bt cotton, always needs sprayed and/or 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 the the CICR’s Kranthi without neonic seed treatments Bt cotton would be routed by 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 obviously likely that the poison treadmill culminating in stacked Bt poisons is planned obsolescence, disaster capitalism.
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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 they 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 will allegedly produce.
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As is standard in these superbug cases, Monsanto, government, and the corporate media try to scapegoat the farmers by claiming they didn’t plant sufficient non-Bt “refuges” where non-resistant insects could survive and mate with resistant ones. The refuge concept is a propaganda scam, not a serious policy. Here’s not the place to dissect it, but I wrote more about it here. For the purposes of this post, which emphasizes how Bt cotton is a fraud on small farmers, I’ll point out that the refuge policy, if seriously meant, could be deployed only on large plantations, not on thousands of farms of a few acres each. So there’s another example of how even in principle GMOs could “work” only on vast industrial farms but can never work for small farmers.
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4. Small farmers didn’t count on the fact that GMO cotton requires considerably more synthetic fertilizer than non-GM conventional cotton. Pro-GMO activist CD Mayee (an ISAAA board member and former co-chair of the aptly named Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)) admits that a doubling of the small amount of Indian acreage planted to GMOs (Bt cotton is the only GMO currently being grown commercially in India and makes up c. 5% of overall agricultural acreage) would double the whole country’s fertilizer use. That’s how ravenous Bt cotton is. A university study found that Bt cotton requires 15% more fertilizer than conventional. Bt cotton’s inherent gluttony for synthetic fertilization is aggravated by the way it denudes the soil and destroys soil microbial communities. This soil destruction in turn requires even greater fertilizer application as well as more irrigation, as the soil becomes unable to hold water. Needless to say this combination generates an awful nitrate runoff problem.
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5. 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 the greatest contrast, the original Desi varieties would 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) from Indian cotton farmers. Imagine what this wealth could have accomplished if Indian society had invested it in polyculture food production instead of letting it drain down a corporate commodification rathole.
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This extremely high priced seed input and accompanying tax is unique to the GMO varieties, and is therefore a new burden on already beleaguered farmers.
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6. The result of all 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 have been forcibly depressed and kept low by US dumping of heavily subsidized cotton. The result is that even for the best-equipped farms, Bt’s profit margin is razor-thin, certainly 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.
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7. 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 neoliberal process which has driven first monoculture hybrid commodification and then Bt commercialization. As a result farmers have increasingly 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.
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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 industrial ag while conferring no benefits. As a whole GMOs are the extreme manifestation of a backward, economically cramping, agronomically destructive, retrograde technology and mindset. They’re collectively a hoax and a fraud, and most of all where touted for small farmers. The goal of marketing GMOs to small farmers is in fact to economically destroy them 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.
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In Part Three we’ll survey Bt cotton around the world and confirm that the Indian experience, while extreme, is typical.

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December 26, 2014

GMO News Summary, December 26, 2014

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*Farmers continue to look for ways to switch from GMOs to non-GM agriculture, as herbicide resistant weeds become more intractable and commodity prices slide. It’s sinking in that GMOs are an agricultural and economic bottleneck, a dead end for everyone but the corporations.
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*Another reason is fear and trembling over China’s uncanny GMO import restrictions. China apparently has approved Syngenta’s MIR162 Viptera maize, the product which caused all the fuss starting in 2013. China doesn’t import much maize anyway, and the politico-economic disruptions caused by Syngenta were far greater than any reality-based trade effect. As I figured, the confrontation wasn’t really about this GMO but a negotiating ploy vis the US. China has an economic advantage with its non-GM market and isn’t going to compromise this lightly. In the trade wars the US wages China is trying to use import restrictions to force US concessions. In this case, the quid pro quo is said to be US agreement to ease restrictions on high-tech exports to China. Meanwhile, in the latest manifestation of Chinese ambivalence, lawmakers are working on a GMO labeling law to clarify the existing administrative labeling policy.
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We must always stress that any such logjam is caused by the aggressive seller, not by the reluctant buyer or anyone else. Viptera, like all other GMOs, is a worthless product. Farmers, consumers, eaters, society would be much better off without any GMOs. That Canadian farmers are reluctant to approve Roundup Ready alfalfa (already contaminating US crops and causing the rejection of US hay shipments to China) while US farmers are switching to non-GM crops like sorghum to meet rising Chinese demand are just two pieces of evidence.
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*As if Bt refuges weren’t enough of a scam already, the cartel continues to try to make them even more farcical in practice by claiming (and instituting as regulatory policy) that so-called “natural refuges”, i.e. any adjacent non-Bt crop, and not even the same kind of crop as the Bt variety, should count as sufficient. There’s now a “study” dedicated to this proposition. Yet even it finds the prospect dubious and can only recommend the continued escalation of the Bt treadmill, which of course is the real purpose of all such propaganda.
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*I’ve written before about the escalated health hazards unique to “stacked” GMOs, where the unpredictable effects of genetic engineering as such are multiplied by the unpredictable effects of chaotic interactions among multiple transgenes. Now we have the first study confirming that a stacked GMO has unique compositional and metabolic differences from both the original non-GM version as well as the original single-trait GMOs whose transgenes went into the stack. The study found such significant differences as weakened transgene expression, which will accelerate the evolution of weed and pest resistance; changes in overall gene expression; alterations in two major metabolic pathways; and altered protein levels. These significant changes have unpredictable health implications.
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*The USDA continues to refuse to test produce, processed vegetables, and other processed foods for glyphosate residues in its annual residue tests. The USDA claims it can’t do so because the tests are “extremely expensive…to do on a regular basis.” They mean politically expensive, as the results would be alarming to the public. This is really an admission that the USDA and Monsanto think our food is heavily loaded with toxic Roundup residues and that they don’t want to know the real levels, and certainly don’t want the public to know.
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As for the alleged expense, it’s nothing compared to the government’s Big Ag subsidies, and would merely be another such subsidy. After all, the poison-selling corporations rightfully should be paying for government testing. They certainly can afford it. Which again proves that they live in terror of what the results would show. Otherwise why not pay the pennies involved, if it would give you a clean bill of health? That would be great PR spending.
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*Under pressure from civil society, Monsanto requested that the EU patent office revoke one of its patents, and the agency complied. This was a bogus patent for a publicly-bred fungus-resistant tomato variety the company stole from a German seed bank. Monsanto did no work with the variety but sought and received the patent with a fraudulent application. No Patents on Seeds, the group which challenged the patent, is similarly challenging several other illegally awarded patents. The group also calls upon the European Commission to rein in this rogue agency and for a revision of EU patent law to make its prohibitions on patenting the products of conventional breeding more clear.
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*Following up victories in 2014 for county-level GMO bans in Jackson and Josephine Counties, Benton County in Oregon will vote this May on their own county-level GMO cultivation ban and on measures to build the regional agriculture and food economy.
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*The community rights movement which is fighting GMO agriculture in Oregon is also fighting hard vs. fracking in Pennsylvania, and has been racking up some legal victories. These ballots, laws, and court fights are meant to provide the campaign context for a constitutional renaissance on a pro-community, anti-corporate basis.
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*In Belgium, the Ghent court of appeal has thrown out the “criminal conspiracy” charge against the Wetterin Eleven. These defendants were participants in an action by the Field Liberation Movement against a GM potato field trial. A field trial itself is a political action on the part of the corporate system (and this field trial was illegal), and here we had activism vs. activism. They tore out a portion of the trial plants and replaced them with real potatoes. They were originally charged with forming a criminal organization and found not guilty of the strongest charge but guilty of a lesser count of conspiracy. This appeals decision throws out all such politicized charges and reduces the conviction to the actual crimes involved, trespassing and vandalism. Their sentence was reduced to one month suspended, though heavy fines remain in force.
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The decision is a setback for the prosecutorial trend of trying to criminalize democracy and political participation as such wherever the people seek to resist corporate aggression.

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August 29, 2014

Total Failure: The Fraudulent Promises of the Two Types of GMOs

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Farmers originally embraced the Roundup Ready system, not because they expected it to directly increase crop yields or reduce costs (it doesn’t and never did), but because by greatly simplifying weed management through the one-time application of one herbicide, it freed up time and conceptual space so the farmer could farm more acres.
 
Under conditions of commodity agriculture, farmers are under constant pressure to maximize their acreage and in this way their production. So while herbicide tolerant GMOs never increased yield acre-for-acre, and often have decreased it, they enable the farmer to cover more acres and in this way “make it up on volume”. It’s a version of Taylorism, a speed-up device, and also saves labor costs. Monsanto and the USDA touted these virtues for the farmer, and to this day still claim that the product benefits farmers in this way.
 
All this describes the attraction of the Roundup Ready system for farmers, during the few years that it worked as advertised. But with the rise of glyphosate-resistant superweeds, all these benefits have been lost. All the touted simplicity has been replaced by a regression to an even more costly complexity than farmers faced prior to the advent of herbicide tolerant GMOs.
 
Farmers were promised by Monsanto and the US government that they could schedule their plantings without having to coordinate them with herbicide applications. They could later apply glyphosate whenever they wanted, needing just one application (or in the case of cotton two). But with the evolution-predicted rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds, farmers now find themselves having to revert to the old complex choreography. Increasingly, they need a non-glyphosate pre-emergence application, followed by a post-emergence glyphosate application at exactly the right time to catch Palmer amaranth when it’s small enough to be affected. That’s assuming the P. amaranth isn’t a Roundup Ready superweed, as they increasingly are. If it’s resistant to the herbicide, then it has to be hand-weeding or the hoe, when the weeds are still small enough. Then more applications of glyphosate and other herbicides.
 
Farmers were similarly promised they could forever plant corn-on-corn or corn-on-soy (again, something implicitly demanded by the economics of commodity monocropping), since the Roundup Ready system would make weed management such a snap that you could forever plant Roundup Ready-on-Roundup Ready and never have a problem. In spite of the previous history of weeds developing resistance to triazine and ALS-inhibitor herbicides, as a matter of evolutionary clockwork, Monsanto explicitly promised that glyphosate-resistant weeds would not develop no matter how massively and long they were doused with Roundup. Their technical hacks published “studies” to that effect.
 
Today such rotations accomplish nothing against the superweeds, and weed scientists can only recommend rotations which include wheat or lesser crops like oats and barley. Some recommend that farmers ration their use of glyphosate. This of course is tantamount to rejecting the Roundup Ready GMO system as such, since the only thing which could possibly in theory justify the massively higher cost of RR seeds is the efficacy and simplicity of idiot-proof drenching with Roundup.
 
Meanwhile, not only have GMO farmer/contractors made their own weed management increasingly complex and economically unviable, but they’re inflicting worse weed infestations on their non-GM conventional neighbors.
 
To sum up, the corporate system promised farmers and the public that the Roundup Ready system would simplify weed management and render it less toxic, as glyphosate was allegedly less toxic to human and environmental health than older herbicides. Today “The Party’s Over” as weed scientist Aaron Hager says, and “the ‘simplicity’ of glyphosate as a stand-alone weed management tool will be relegated to the annals of history”. Or as former Dupont cadre Alberto Bianchi puts it, “today we have to fight pests worse than 15 or 20 years ago, but with fewer weapons than we had before”. Desperate weed consultants advise better crop rotations, using greater amounts of more different kinds of herbicides more often, and returning to the antiquated practice of deep tillage. Capping this reactionary program is the ultimate dark age regression, the deployment of GMOs engineered to be resistant to the exact same, far more toxic retrograde herbicides which the corporations and government originally promised us would be rendered permanently obsolete.
 
This proves the malign intent of corporations and governments, that they’re actually trying to repeat this same “mistake”, albeit at a vastly more destructive level. The failure of 2,4-D and dicamba resistant systems is already a proven fact. History proves it. No one who supports it can escape criminal culpability, and must and shall be held criminally responsible for every harm that follows.
 
Farmers have went through the same history with GMO corn engineered to resist rootworm (CRW) predation. Monsanto introduced CRW-resistant corn in 2003 with promises that it would forever relegate soil insecticides, previously the main pesticide used vs. CRW, to the scrap heap. Here the target pest counterattacked more quickly than even the weeds did. The Bt toxin itself was weak vs. rootworms from the start, serving to accelerate the development of resistance. Farmers saw very little insecticide dividend, and had to go back to soil insecticide application so quickly that by 2008 the University of Illinois felt the need to assure farmers that supplementing anti-CRW GMOs with soil insecticide doesn’t “always make sense”. That’s how ubiquitous the field reports of Bt-resistant rootworms already were.
 
Lab confirmation quickly followed. Using specimens collected from ravaged Iowa fields in 2009, a team at Iowa State documented resistance in a 2011 study. Subsequent studies in 2013 and 2014 reinforced the documentation. This latest study, published in the National Academy of Sciences, documented that rootworms which developed resistance to Monsanto’s original Cry3Bb1 trait were also cross-resistant to Syngenta’s Cry3A set of anti-rootworm traits.
 
According to this study, Dow’s Cry34/35Ab1 toxin still worked well vs. rootworms. But that was only for the moment. In 2014 Iowa farmers have reported rootworm damage in fields planted to Bt varieties containing the Cry34/35Ab1 trait. So what was the last trait standing is now staggering.
 
Thus farmers have had to go back to the bad old days of applying soil insecticides, and it’s commonplace among system entomologists to recommend this as part of the remedy farmers need to deploy as the Bt GMO system increasingly fails to live up to its promises.
 
Here too a return to crop rotation is a common recommendation. But if the idea is the pseudo-rotation of corn-on-soy, previously effective vs. rootworm, it’s becoming too late for this as well. As early as 1999 rootworms were discovered which could lay their eggs amid a corn-planting and then endure through a soybean season, awaiting the next corn planting. These “rotation-resistant” rootworms have since then been documented in Illinois and Iowa. They’re a product of the industrial corn/soy monoculture; corn-on-soy is really is no kind of legitimate rotation at all. And there’s many possible ways in which their rotation resistance may have been fostered by elements of the Roundup Ready GMO system itself.
 
Here again, GMO contract growers are not only destroying their own ability to exist, but are making production more difficult for non-GM farmers who must contend with more common and virulent rootworm infestations than occurred prior to Roundup Ready’s corn-on-corn campaign and the advent of the anti-rootworm Bt campaign.
 
The inexorable march of the superweeds and the rising insurrection of the rootworms exemplify the proven complete failure of the two basic genres of GMOs, herbicide tolerance and insecticide expression. Farmers increasingly wish to get off the GMO treadmill and resume conventional agriculture, or even to switch to direct retail and/or organic agriculture. This is definitely the rational choice, as confirmed by every portent.
 
But if farmers want to get off the treadmill, they may find many obstacles. The superiority of non-GM conventional production is well documented. With every new year of greater seed costs, poison costs, and ever expanding and intensifying superweed and superbug development, more and more industrial farmers are interested in getting off the GMO treadmill and resuming conventional production. But for corn and soy, non-GM varieties are often difficult to find. Thanks to the dereliction of the public breeding sector and the widespread enclosure of new varieties which are released to the public only in GMO (i.e. Roundup Ready and/or Bt expressing) form, the varieties which are available are often of lower quality. (This also reveals the fraud involved in cartel studies which allege higher yields for some Bt varieties over conventional. These “studies” never compare a GMO variety with its isogenic non-GM equivalent, but rather what’s likely to be a superior conventionally-bred variety which was then subjected to Bt transgene insertion and made publicly available only in this GMO form, vs. an inferior conventional variety.)
 
The cartel and the US government are responding to the proven complete failure of the very concepts of herbicide tolerant and insecticide-expressing GMOs by striving to double down on them and render vastly worse the failure and the collateral health, environmental, and economic destruction which shall go along with them. This is smoking gun proof that all the blathering in favor of GMOs is nothing but lies, and that for GMO proponents, the consciously, intentionally held one and only goal is to maximize corporate profit and power.

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August 21, 2014

GMOs, Always A Backward Technology, Get More Regressive All the Time

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For all practical purposes, there’s just two kinds of GMOs. There’s those which are resistant to one or more herbicides, and there’s those which produce one or more of their own endemic Bt insecticides. Increasingly, GMO varieties do both of these, for multiple poisons in each case.
 
Weed resistance to herbicides and insect resistance to insecticides went back decades prior to the deployment of GMOs. It was widely predicted by everyone but corporate and government flacks that the incestuous focus on one herbicide, glyphosate, and a handful of Bt toxins, to the overthrow of any rational crop rotation and weed/pest management strategy, would quickly lead to weed and pest resistance which would render GMOs impotent. Within a few years of GMO commercialization these predictions started coming true. By ten years in, weed and pest resistance were accelerating toward disaster. Today the Roundup Ready regime is in ruins, and over much of the world most of the original Bt varieties are worthless against pests. For anyone who’s not an evolution denier, the failure of these two product genres is proven and complete.
 
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready product line, engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, has been the foundation of the GMO regime. US acreage planted to RR varieties in 2011 comprised 94% of soybeans, 72% of maize, and 96% of cotton (Benbrook 2012 p.2). Glyphosate use surged from 15 million pounds of active ingredient in 1996 to 159 million in 2009 (FWW 2013 p.2). According to Charles Benbrook’s 2012 analysis, RR crops caused overall herbicide use to increase over what would have been sprayed on exclusively non-GM conventional crops by a total of 527 million pounds from 1996 to 2011, the great bulk of this being extra glyphosate, with RR soybeans accounting for 70% of the total increase.
 
Glyphosate-based herbicide first went on sale in 1976, but because it wasn’t heavily used there weren’t reports of weeds resistant to it until the latter 90s, as the Roundup Ready system started becoming widely deployed. The first confirmed glyphosate-resistant superweed in the US was rigid ryegrass in California in 1998. Resistant horseweed, destined to become the most common Roundup Ready superweed, was first confirmed in Delaware in 2000. It quickly began a triumphal march across the southern US, while several other glyphosate-resistant weeds emerged, most notably Palmer amaranth and waterhemp. By 2012 Roundup-resistant horseweed was confirmed in 21 states, Palmer amaranth in 17, and waterhemp in 12 (FWW p.3). Today these superweeds are embarked upon a veritable march of conquest, while Roundup Ready crops are being driven back in what’s turning into a total rout. The Stratus Glyphosate Tracking Survey has documented the accelerating phenomenon. In 2013 over 70 million US acres were reported to be afflicted with glyphosate resistant weeds, up from 61.2 million in 2012, 40.7 in 2011, 32.6 in 2010. In 2012 50% of corn, soy, and cotton farmers reported such superweeds in their fields, up from 34% in 2011. 27% reported multiple superweed species, up from 15% in 2011. The numbers have been much higher in the worst-hit states of the South and Midwest.
 
All this has driven the great surge in glyphosate use and increases in the use of other herbicides including 2,4-D (up 3.9 million pounds per year from 2000 to 2009, a 90% increase) to supplement the faltering Roundup (FWW p.7). In 1996 RR cotton growers applied glyphosate an average of once a year at a rate of .63 pounds per acre (Benbrook 2009 p.30). By 2007 they were up to 2.4 applications for an average 1.89 pounds/acre, so the amount applied each time is also increasing. For RR soybean growers the 1996 numbers were 1.1 applications totaling .69 pounds per acre, while by 2006 the were up to 1.7 applications for a total of 1.36 pounds/acre.
 
As I’ll detail in a subsequent post, the failure of herbicide tolerance technology is already costing farmers severely.
 
There’s no longer a debate among honest, rational people. We have complete consensus that herbicide tolerance is a failed product genre which must be discontinued immediately and replaced by integrated weed management programs including rational crop rotation and cover cropping. (That’s still within the framework of industrial agriculture, which has one last chance to give itself some extra time. Of course the real agroecological solution goes far beyond this.)
 
But the corporatist system has no honesty or rationality to work with. The system’s only answer to the collapse of Roundup is the reactionary, luddite answer: To double down on proven failure by regressing to GMOs tolerant of older, even more destructive herbicides. This is the context in which the evolution-denialist system is promulgating the backward, luddite “solution” of corn and soybeans engineered to tolerate the retrograde herbicide 2,4-D, one of the two primary components of the chemical weapon Agent Orange. This is one of the dark age poisons which Monsanto and the US government originally promised would be permanently relegated to the scrap heap by the Roundup Ready system. Dicamba is another such regressive chemical being poised by Monsanto for a comeback.
 
The evolution-denier character of this policy is revealed by the fact that there are already many weeds documented to be resistant to 2,4-D, including the waterhemp which is among the big three rampaging with impunity across the Roundup Ready fields.
 
Agent Orange corn and soy will therefore be greeted by 2,4-D resistant weeds already prepared for them, and as the slathering of 2,4-D escalates, resistance to it will accelerate and spread. It’ll happen like clockwork, because it’s the standard mechanism of evolution, understood by everyone but the corporate liars and scientistic evolution deniers.
 
2,4-D and dicamba-tolerant GMOs, and any other herbicide tolerant GMO product such as Bayer’s isoxaflutole-tolerant soybean approved by the USDA in 2013, will also speed the development of weeds which possess metabolism-based general resistance across many or all herbicide classes.
 
Along the way, the promiscuous deployment of these hitherto restricted-use growth regulator herbicides will vastly escalate the damage they cause to other crops like tomatoes and grapes when they drift. 2,4-D is already notorious for this, causing by far the greatest number of agricultural collateral damage incidents even given its limited use hitherto. That’s why the Save Our Crops Coalition, which for a time lobbied the USDA to refuse approval of Agent Orange GMOs, included several major processors and canners. In 2012 Steve Smith, Agriculture Director of Red Gold, testified before Congress that “the widespread use of dicamba possesses the single most serious threat to the future of the specialty crop industry in the Midwest.”
 
This group dropped its opposition in 2012, claiming to have been reassured by Dow that its “Enlist” 2,4-D formulation won’t be drift-prone. I don’t know if they were really stupid enough to believe this or if they were bought off or intimidated, but regardless it’s an extremely foolish thing to believe. Even if by some miracle Dow were now capping its fifty year history of lies about 2,4-D and related poisons with a true statement for once, that wouldn’t affect the many other 2,4-D formulations on the market. The commercialization of Agent Orange crops will cause as much as a 30-fold increase in 2,4-D application (Benbrook 2012 p.5). According to one study, 2,4-D and dicamba are respectively 400 times and 70 times as likely as glyphosate to drift and damage or destroy other crops. We see again how only the most diehard, hunker-in-the-bunker luddite would want to respond to the proven failure of Roundup Ready, and therefore of herbicide tolerance as such, by doubling down with such a destructive escalation of the failure.
 
Then there’s the public health consequences of such a massive increase of this extreme poison. 2,4-D is an endocrine disruptor and causes birth defects and cancer. It’s been linked to Parkinson’s disease. The manufacture of 2,4-D chronically produces dioxins as a byproduct. How much dioxin produced is a function of the production process. Dow of course claims its own process is clean, but the historical record gives good reason to doubt this. Ad hoc measurements of dioxins in 2,4-D have found levels below WHO and FAO maximums. This begs the question of how valid those maximums are; as a rule regulator allowable maximums have zero to do with science or public health, but are mechanically raised to whatever level the poison companies require. At any rate testing has been sporadic and rare. We really have no idea how much dioxin laces the 2,4-D being used in agriculture, and so we have no idea to what extent GMO agriculture is permanently toxifying the soil with deadly dioxin.
 
Environmentally, the EPA deems 2,4-D “very highly toxic to slightly toxic to freshwater and marine invertebrates”, while the National Marine Fisheries Service considers it a dire threat to endangered and threatened salmon species (FWW p.11).
 
And all this is for the sake of no practical or rational goal, nothing which could ever benefit human beings even the slightest bit, but merely to escalate the poison sector’s campaign of planned obsolescence and disaster capitalism. All for the sake of nothing but corporate profit and power.
 
This is indisputable, since the collapse of glyphosate renders it indisputable that herbicide tolerant GMOs comprise a failed technology. Today it’s impossible to support this technology “by mistake”. It’s only possible to be consciously, willfully, criminally committed to forcing humanity to remain on this ever-accelerating poison treadmill, with ever-increasing agricultural, economic, environmental, and health detriments, all for the sake of nothing but corporate domination. Humanity must fight this regressive luddite campaign which seeks to drag us back to the agricultural dark ages. We must overthrow the corporations which seeks to prevent by force our emergence into the light of the most vanguard agroecological technologies and science.

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July 19, 2014

The Abdication of Science: The Example of GMO Feeding Trials

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

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July 15, 2014

Monsanto’s Labeling Preemption Bill is Touted in Congress

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

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June 27, 2014

GMO News Summary June 27, 2014

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*The 2012 Seralini study, the best scientific work done on a GMO to date and one of the best scientific studies of recent years, has been republished by Environmental Sciences Europe. The new publication includes expanded material, a reply to the media smear campaign against the study, and a commentary on how the original publication was censored by an anti-scientific cabal presided over by a Monsanto commissar.
 
This makes two duly constituted peer review processes the study has passed, while its retraction by Food and Chemical Toxicology was the result of a secret conclave among the editors and could muster only the most bogus rationale. Scientists around the world welcome this vindication.
 
*More proof from Argentina that glyphosate causes cancer. A new report from the health ministry of the Cordoba province documents high rates of tumors and cancer deaths in the agricultural depratments of the province. These areas are dominated by poison-based industrial soy production, with massive applications of glyphosate.
 
The government is doing its usual thing of emphasizing the broadest numbers it can in order to submerge the significant figures for the plantation zones. As Damien Verzenassi, medical doctor and one of the organizers of field studies in villages among the plantations, says, “They keep demanding studies on something that is already proven and do not take urgent measures to protect the population. There is ample evidence that the agricultural model has health consequences, we are talking about a production model that is a huge public health problem”. 
 
*It’s not just in Western countries that surveillance bureaucracies see domestic spying and subversion on behalf of international corporations to be their primary task. In a report recently leaked to the press, India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) attacks domestic anti-GMO critics and activists for being enemies of the commodification economy, and therefore of India. The nature of the allegation itself proves the opposite. Since globalization seeks the global dictatorship of a handful of multinational corporations, almost all of them based in the US and Europe, nothing could be more alien to India and the well-being of the Indian people than this corporate domination. Conversely, nothing is more treasonous than the actions of those who want to hand over domestic economies and polities to these corporations.
 
That’s just as much true in the US as it is in India. Corporations have no home and are the enemies of all of humanity.

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