Volatility

April 17, 2015

GMO News Report April 17th, 2015

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*Putting the AMA and similar Western professional organizations to shame, the Federation of Health Professionals of Argentina (FESPROSA) representing 30,000 doctors and health care workers has issued a statement demanding a ban on glyphosate in light of the WHO’s acknowledgement that it causes cancer. They add that Argentine researchers and doctors have also proven glyphosate causes reproductive problems, birth defects, and neurological disease. They condemn the Argentine government for its complicity in this massive poisoning of the people.
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Argentina is often called the Soy Republic (though Soy Regime would be more accurate), as the complete domination of the national economy by the Roundup Ready soy system is far more advanced here than for GMOs in any other country. But through the same circumstance Argentina has also seen the most comprehensive gathering of evidence documenting the health devastation wrought by Roundup.
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*A federal court is now extending the same hooded-judge in camera secrecy provisions we’re already enduring in cases where the government fraudulently invokes “national security” to corporate invocations of secrecy and “security”. The judges in Monsanto’s SLAPP suit against the people of Maui have accepted corporate submissions as evidence but are making only heavily redacted versions accessible to the defense. This is of course standard procedure in the corporate tribunals convened under globalization pacts like NAFTA, a jurisdiction of direct corporate dictatorship which will be vastly expanded if the TTIP and/or TPP go into effect.
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But as we see, the US federal courts are avoiding the rush. This secrecy regime, which already encompasses the void left behind where the scientific and academic establishment has abdicated even the pretense of integrity and legitimacy, is now being extended even to the basics of courtroom procedure. The courts shall increasingly be nothing but corporate kangaroo courts. This is the only way Monsanto can sustain its lies.
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These must be our principles: 1. Where it’s kept secret, and where they refuse to test at all, we can assume the worst must be true. The corporations and government would certainly trumpet to the skies any bona fide evidence which was good for their position.
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2. We reject all their secretive “studies” out of hand since these are based on secret alleged data which may not even exist at all, and at any rate does not scientifically exist, since only public data can scientifically exist.
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*Brazilian bioregulator CTNBio went ahead as expected and approved commercial cultivation of GM eucalyptus trees. The Campaign to Stop GE Trees denounces the decision as an illegal violation of the Convention on Biodiversity (to which Brazil is a signatory) and the Precautionary Principle. GM eucalyptus, if it is in fact more profitable for industrial foresters as expected on account of its faster growth, will only accelerate Brazilian rainforest destruction escalate the resultant carbon emissions and destruction of biodiversity. Contrary to the lies of pro-GM activists, all previous “efficiency” gains in industrial forestry only led to greater acreage being destroyed and given over to monoculture plantations. Of course GM trees growing for over five years will also spread their contaminated pollen far more widely than GM annual crops, to related trees and to honey production. And we can still expect a revival of 2013’s attempt to use GM eucalyptus as the camel’s nose in the tent for the Terminator gene, which Monsanto must be ardent to deploy in such crops as Brazil’s Intacta soybean.
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*This month the European Commission is expected to release rules for a new regulatory protocol for EFSA approval of GMOs for importation in food and feed. Friends of the Earth is criticizing a leaked draft promising the new importation approval system will be the same kind of sham as the cultivation approval protocol. In both cases, member states are allegedly to have an improved way to opt out of any GMO approvals. But these opt out provisions will actually be more onerous than the status quo, and will explicitly disallow national bans based on criteria the EFSA assesses, namely health and environmental concerns. This means that the pro-GM EFSA shall be officially enshrined as the only legal arbiter of the science of GMO-related health and environmental issues, which also happen to be the only WTO-allowed criteria for enacting what it would otherwise ban as “barriers to trade”. Meanwhile, the criteria which the new EU opt-out protocol will allow, such as socioeconomic and cultural effects, are precisely those banned by the WTO. So the goal here is to effectively outlaw EU member state bans on GMO cultivation or importation through a bureaucratic Catch-22. The new plan makes some noises about “co-existence” and anti-contamination measures, but will have zero enforcement provisions. Nor does anyone seriously think it will be possible to police the intra-European borders vs. the free flow of imported GM products.
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And what do member states have to give in return for this treacherous form of “opt-out”? Nothing but the surrender of their prior power to block Europe-wide approvals in the European Council, and their acquiescence in a general “streamlining” of the EFSA approval system.
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So the EC’s goal is to open the floodgates to EFSA approvals Europe-wide, inundate the continent with imported GM products (and undermine labeling rules), and make it easy for rogue states who want to allow chaotic GMO cultivation to do so, thereby greatly increasing the rate of general European contamination by GMOs.
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Of course all of this is just the prelude to what the GMO cartel and the EC hope to accomplish if the TTIP is enacted.

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April 11, 2015

Yet Another Study Proves GMOs Are Not “Substantially Equivalent” Even Among Themselves, Let Alone To Non-GM Crops

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A new study compared two varieties of Monsanto’s MON810 insecticidal maize under optimal conditions and under two kinds of environmental stress: Cold and wet conditions, and hot and dry. According to the pro-GM activists, in the case of both varieties: 1. The transgene should be equally active. 2. It should express equal levels of the Bt toxin (Cry1AB, vs. corn borers and other lepidopteran larvae). 3. There should be a clear, constant ratio of transgene activity to Bt expression. 4. Environmental stresses should have no effect on 1-3. 5. If there is any effect, it should be the same in both varieties.
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The results were quite different:
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1. Under optimal conditions, transgenic action (gauged by the RT-PCR test) was similar, but the average Bt content (tested by ELISA) was higher in one variety than the other.
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2. Under cold/wet conditions, the Bt content increased in one variety but not the other.
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3. Hot/dry conditions, transgenic expression was significantly lower in one variety, but this did not affect Bt content.
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The researchers concluded that even though transgene expression was similar under “normal” conditions, Bt content is affected also by the genetics of the original maize variety, and will therefore vary chaotically from variety to variety (a given transgene will be bred into often dozens of varieties). Under stress conditions the Bt content is highly unpredictable. Inconsistent Bt expression will help the target insects develop resistance, another refutation of the scam “refuge” policy.
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Based on these results, the crop science group Testbiotech is calling for all authorizations of Bt GMOs to be suspended while a new safety review protocol is drawn up and put into effect, as this study demonstrates how chaotic the real-world transgenic behavior and Bt production of these GMOs is. Researcher Angelika Hilbeck noted that this study, along with several previous studies which also found chaotic variation in Bt expression, refute the entire paradigm of “safety assessment” as deployed by regulators, as this assumes consistent levels of the poison in the product. It also refutes advertising which promises a given level of “active ingredient” in the product. Buying the seeds of a poison plant is, after all, the same thing as buying a gallon of chemical pesticide.
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As is standard with regulators all over the world including in the US, the EU’s EFSA assessments do almost nothing to assess the real-world performance of GMOs. (Much like how only ivory tower glyphosate is subjected to only meager testing, while real-world Roundup is subjected to none, and the bogus testing of Roundup Ready GMOs doesn’t include spraying them with Roundup!) No one has the slightest idea what the real world effects of changing environmental conditions will be on GMO performance, and the subsequent effects on human and animal health, beneficial insects, and soil ecosystems.

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April 10, 2015

GMO News Report April 10th, 2015

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*Unlike comparable organizations in the West, Brazil’s National Cancer Institute (INCA) is capable of connecting simple dots. Even the WHO now acknowledges that glyphosate causes cancer. INCA reiterates this and the many other health afflictions caused by glyphosate and other poisons, and goes on to state the obvious, that it’s herbicide tolerant GMOs which are by far the main driver of this great surge of glyphosate use, and therefore of the cancer caused by it.
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As if in direct contradiction of the Cancer Institute, Brazil’s “regulator” CTNBio issued cultivation approvals for soybeans and corn engineered to be tolerant to another cancer-causing herbicide, 2,4-D, as well as water-guzzling, deforestation-driving GM eucalyptus, whose prolific pollen spread promises to quickly contaminate all related trees across the environment.
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*Chinese citizens are suing the government trying to force it to disclose the secret information it has on Roundup and the process by which it approved Roundup. We see how the Chinese government is at one with those of the US and EU in wanting to help Monsanto and other corporations keep the actual evidence about the effects of chemicals like Roundup secret from the people. The escalating democracy campaign to force disclosure of how much the corporations and governments really know about how deadly these agricultural poisons really are becomes all the more critical as we learn more and more about the health and environmental devastation being wrought by Roundup, including the gathering avalanche of knowledge about how it causes cancer.
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The fact is that by definition there cannot be secret scientific evidence. By definition evidence has to be publicized, so we can assume that the secrecy is in fact a cover-up. We must assume that whatever evidence does exist condemns glyphosate (and GMOs) as harmful to health and the environment, which is the reason why corporations and governments want to keep this evidence secret. Meanwhile the public assurances are nothing but propaganda and lies. No legitimate model of science or democracy can come to any other conclusion.
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*Food and Water Watch filed a pair of petitions with the FDA calling upon the agency to follow the law and regulate GMO salmon as the food containing a new additive it clearly is, rather than as an “animal drug”, the way the FDA has been preferring to do. The food additive review process is, in theory, more rigorous and more strongly applies the precautionary principle.
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*In a court filing forced out of it, Monsanto now admits it bankrolled the legal defense of the contract GMO “farmer” who trespassed upon and contaminated West Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh’s land, causing him to lose his certification and costing him his livelihood. It’s no surprise that Monsanto would see the outcome of this case as important for its future revenue and power, since one of the basic elements of government assistance it depends upon is the “co-existence” lie in general and in particular the de facto legal doctrine that where it comes to transgenic trespass and vandalism, the law is presumptively on the side of the aggressor, while it’s the legal and financial responsibility of the target to avoid being assaulted, or simply to submit to it and plant the herbicide tolerant GMOs himself. So among other things it’s a protection racket. In this case, the 2014 trial decision admitted that “co-existence” is impossible even as it reaffirmed the pro-polluter, pro-trespasser, pro-vandal, pro-aggressor doctrine. Since then the legal dispute has been over the trial judge’s order that March pay the Monsanto contractor’s legal fees. It was in that context that Marsh’s legal team was able to force Monsanto’s divulgence, since legal costs can be awarded only for a principal’s out of pocket expenses.
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*Most of the attention to the EU’s revamped “subsidiarity” policy for GMO approvals has focused on GMO cultivation. Now the Commission is about to release its new rules for approval of imported GMOs in food and feed. The main loophole in the EU’s GMO labeling policy is that meat and dairy from animals which were fed GMOs doesn’t have to be labeled, although many supermarket chains eschew GM feed for their own meat and dairy brands. Member states opposed to GM importations have generally been unable to prevent imported feed from entering their own supply chains, but have instead focused on blocking import approval in the first place. Although the details are unclear right now, both the Commission and civil society campaigners are expecting that the new rules, generally dedicated to “streamlining” regulation (i.e. making it more pro-corporate), will make it harder for member states to block EFSA import approval at the outset. There will be fig-leaf “opt out” provisions, but as a practical matter for a member state to opt out of allowing an imported processed product, which will easily cross the border in any number of ways, will be more difficult than opting out of allowing cultivation of a GMO.
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*In its desperation to claim some kind, any kind of support for the TPP and TTIP globalization assaults, the Obama administration released a set of quotes from the always reliable corporate environmentalist front groups the WWF and the Nature Conservancy, along with some other bogus NGOs, which expressed these groups’ “environmentalist” support for the pacts. Although the cowards are now trying to backpedal by claiming they have not technically endorsed these corporate anti-constitutions, the pieces and submissions are loaded with the sycophancy, lies, and neoliberal propaganda we’d expect from the the WWF and their treacherous like.

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April 9, 2015

Scientism and the Secret “Science” on Roundup

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Three Chinese citizens are suing the government trying to force it to disclose the secret information it has on Roundup and the process by which it approved Roundup. We see how the Chinese government is at one with those of the US and EU in wanting to help Monsanto and other corporations keep the actual evidence about the severely toxic and cancer-causing effects of chemicals like Roundup secret from the people. What’s more, these corporations and governments evidently hold to an entirely new concept and paradigm of “science” under which the alleged scientific evidence is to be kept secret from the people, and research materials themselves made available to researchers only under corporate supervision. Instead, government and media elites are to publicly release whatever information the corporations see fit to publicize, this is to be christened as “science”, and the people are supposed to believe it on faith. This is a significant departure from previous scientific practice and in direct contradiction of the self-image and propaganda of today’s capital-S “Science” (i.e. scientism). Yet evidently the mainstream of the STEM and academic establishment supports this new concept and practice of secret alleged science. Therefore, today’s scientific establishment is nothing more or less than an authoritarian cult.
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The fact is that by definition there cannot be secret scientific evidence. By definition evidence has to be publicized, so we can assume that the secrecy is in fact a cover-up. We must assume that whatever evidence does exist condemns glyphosate (and GMOs) as harmful to health and the environment, which is the reason why corporations and governments want to keep this evidence secret. Meanwhile the public assurances that agricultural poisons are safe, indeed that the system ever tested them for safety at all, are nothing but propaganda and lies, and “our” regulators and media are part of this conscious, willful campaign of deceit. No rational model of science or democracy can come to any other conclusion.

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April 3, 2015

GMO News Report April 3rd, 2015

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*The EPA is unlikely to change its pro-poison course of action on account of the WHO’s recent admission of what everyone has long known, that Roundup/glyphosate causes cancer. But it is being forced to change its official policy by a far more implacable foe, the 32 species of Roundup resistant superweeds triumphally marching across the American heartland. According to Reuters the EPA will be formally requiring farmers to adhere to a stewardship program when they purchase Roundup. This theoretical stewardship will be similar to that the EPA is already imposing on the new Agent Orange corn and soy types being released in 2015.
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This EPA stewardship requirement is likely to be a scam of the same character as the agency’s “refuge” requirements for Bt-expressing crops. The refuges are set at too small a percentage and aren’t enforced, and are therefore widely flouted, even at those inadequate acreages. But the idea of the refuges lets the EPA pretend to have a policy in place to prevent the development of Bt-resistant superbugs, and when these superbugs inevitably evolve, it gives Monsanto and the government a convenient way to scapegoat the farmers for not honoring a policy which was never intended to be honored. Similarly, Monsanto and the corporate media scapegoat farmers for using “too much Roundup”, which is an absurd lie. Farmers have never used a drop more of Roundup than the amount urged upon them by Monsanto and the USDA.
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This ability to scapegoat farmers is one of the reasons superweeds and superbugs are allowed to be acknowledged in the media discourse instead of being directly lied about the way pesticide use (GMOs really increase it) or yields (GMOs yield less than non-GM) are.
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*Field trials are set to begin in Maharashtra state in India, where in 2014 the government broke earlier promises and issued No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for the open-air trials. Monsanto, its Indian partner Mahyco, BASF, and others plan to test types of GM corn, cotton, chickpeas, and rice.
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*Remember the Friedman Unit? Charles Margulis of the Centre for Environmental Health has put together a timeline documenting the similar golden rice unit. He rightly calls it an example of vaporware. I’ve long been calling golden rice a myth and boondoggle and a hoax.
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*Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has filed a petition with the USDA calling upon it to end its harassment of staff researchers who perform science which may or does lead to results contrary to corporate interests and lies. The PEER brief cites the effects of glyphosate and neonicotinoids as areas where honest research is especially subject to persecution. The USDA denies the charge and claims its existing complaint and review procedure is adequate, though the numbers it gives are self-refuting. According to Reuters, “An agency spokesman confirmed that from May 2013 through April 2014 eight complaints were filed. Five of those were deemed worthy of investigation and one was deemed to have merit, the agency spokesman said.”
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Given how hostile the USDA environment is for whistleblowers, and how thankless their task, this is one of those contexts where my default is to assume that someone who files a complaint is telling the truth. So the fact that only one complaint “was deemed to have merit” is strong evidence for PEER’s point, that the USDA’s existing system is a sham. Meanwhile the fact that only eight complaints were filed in the first place is eloquent testimony to a climate of fear and self-censorship, and of the overall self-conformity.
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*As the EU’s new “subsidiarity” policy on GMO approvals and opt-out bans goes into effect, pro-GMO activists continue with their bureaucratic shenanigans. That’s the basic purpose of the policy – to provide a propaganda fig leaf while EFSA approvals are “streamlined” and a legalistic catch-22 is set up against any long-term abolition policy. Meanwhile IFOAM has again denounced “co-existence” as a scam and called for EU member state bans on GM cultivation as the only rational policy. This is of course the truth. Note the huge difference from the US, where even county-level bans are widely considered to be “radical” even among GMO critics. Yes, we American abolitionists have a tough row to hoe.
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*A Monsanto cadre speaking to an audience mostly of agricultural students confessed that Monsanto maintains “an entire department” dedicated to lies and smearing the science which continually piles up against Monsanto’s products. Author Stephanie Hampton of the Benton County Community Rights Coalition calls it Monsanto’s “Discredit Bureau”.
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This incident again confirms that Monsanto continues its pattern of systematically lying about the many severe harms caused by its products. One of the most extreme examples of today’s depravity is the way so many people refuse to believe that corporations like Monsanto or Dow will always lie about the safety of their products, whenever they consider this necessary to hang onto “even one dollar of profit”, as a secret internal memo cried out in the course of Monsanto’s decades-long suppression of data about the hideously toxic effects of PCBs on human beings. Monsanto and its supporters today continue this infinitely vile crime against humanity.

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March 27, 2015

GMO News Report March 27th, 2015

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*Polish farmers continue their protests and vigils, now centered on the “Green City”, a small Occupation-style camp they have set up across the street from the prime minister’s palace. Here, groups of farmers camp in shifts, their presence an ongoing Bonus Army-style protest against the agricultural globalization which is systematically liquidating farmers everywhere, from the US and Europe to Africa and India.
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*Farmers are similarly protesting in India. Thousands convened a Kisan Maha Panchayat (farmer meeting) sit-in where they demanded pro-farmer reforms and the rolling back of pernicious globalization pacts. Meanwhile conflicts over GMOs continue within the Modi government’s political coalition in India. The nationalist Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has again objected to the new wave of field trials in Maharashtra state, and the central government’s political support for these. The Modi government is ideologically neoliberal and wants to drag India into further servitude to the US government and its corporations, while its coalition allies the SJM and RSS seem to be more like our paleoconservatives here in the US. Although some of them (the Indians, not the US version so far as I’ve seen) have pointed out the evidence against GMO safety, their main concern is globalization’s anti-nationalist economic and political effects.
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*Food sovereignty campaigners protested at the corporate conference convened in London by USAID and the Gates Foundation. They condemned the Western plan to recolonize Africa along corporate industrial agriculture lines. The corporate assault seeks to destroy the existing system of millions of community farmers producing food for their families and communities and replace it with industrial plantations growing industrial GMOs for Asian factory farms and Western ethanol. This is meant to force into being a vast new market for Western proprietary seeds as well as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides produced by Western corporations. It’s also meant to force the African people as a whole to stop producing their own food and instead buy imported food controlled by, yes, Western corporations. These millions of people currently living in farming-based communities are to be driven off their land and into shantytowns. In the end they’re supposed to become ill and eventually die off from disease and starvation. That’s the Monsanto/Gates/US administration plan. More about the London conference here.
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*First reports are that for the second time in two tries, the Bangladesh experiment with Bt brinjal (eggplant) is an agronomic failure and economic disaster for many of the participating farmers. The initial reports are that many plants died prematurely, others that had seemed to be growing well suddenly died of disease or of unknown causes, while plants which produced fruit often yielded poorly. Just as in 2014, there are some reports of plants which failed to resist the target pest, the fruit-and-shoot borer. The director of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) shrugged off most of the disaster, quipping “we never said the plants wouldn’t be vulnerable to disease”. BARI has been running the breeding program and the limited commercial experiments. The initial technical development was done by Monsanto-Mahyco, and most funding came from the US public via USAID. So this worthless project, which gravely threatens the genetic basis of the world’s center for brinjal biodiversity, and which can benefit no one but Monsanto, is being paid for by American taxpayers.
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*Some good news for Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh in his legal battles with a neighboring contract farmer, Michael Baxter, whose GMO canola contaminated Marsh’s farm and cost him his organic certification. Marsh is currently appealing the pro-Monsanto trial decision, where the judge essentially ruled that GMO contamination is inevitable and normative, and that if organic farming can’t move its face from where Monsanto wants to swing its fist, then it deserves to be hit. The decision included an order that Marsh pay the polluter’s legal bills. But the appeals court has ruled that Baxter must disclose to the court how much legal assistance he got from trade groups and from any corporation such as Monsanto itself. This is significant since Australian law says that awards of legal expenses can cover only what a litigant spent out of his own pocket. Australian industry groups adopted Baxter as a poster child from the beginning of the original lawsuit, but never publicly disclosed how much money they or Monsanto were paying for his legal defense.
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*The Mexican people continue to rack up victories in court as Acción Colectiva del Maíz announces four court victories in February rejecting Monsanto’s appeals of court decisions upholding Mexico’s moratorium on commercial release of GM maize and the injunction against the government’s abrogating this moratorium. The moratorium is based on defending Mexico’s place as a center of origin and diversity of maize and teosinte germplasm, a critically important place which is under assault from contamination by genetically monocultural GMO maize.
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*Monsanto has announced another farcical settlement of claims by seven groups of Midwestern and Southern US wheat farmers arising from the 2013 Oregon incident where a farmer discovered feral Roundup Ready wheat in his field, sparking a collapse in wheat exports as Asian markets rejected potentially contaminated shipments. According to the company, the settlement is in the form of $350,000 in donations to various agricultural schools. In other words, Monsanto gets to have its standard financial controls over university agriculture departments double as lawsuit settlements. Pretty sweet. This is even better than last November’s settlement with Oregon wheat farmers. There, although most of the money went to pro-GM wheat trade groups, a modest amount went to the farmers themselves. Here it sounds like no farmer is getting a penny. All the money basically goes back to Monsanto itself, in the form of value from lobbying and corruption. This kind of thing is becoming more common with corporate “settlements”.
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*More buffoonery from Patrick Moore. This time he was claiming in a taped interview that glyphosate was safe enough to drink and that “I’d be happy to” drink some if it were offered. When the interviewer, a documentary filmmaker exposing the health and socioeconomic ravages of the industrial soy system in Argentina, produced a glass, Moore flip-flopped, refused to drink it, and stomped out. We must stress that in spite of his generally stupid and undignified demeanor, Moore is one of the most prominent professional climate change deniers and is celebrated by the most respectable figures of the pro-GMO establishment. In particular, “World Food Prize” winner Marc von Montagu and “golden rice” lead developer Ingo Potrykus recently led an effort to endorse Moore’s “contributions to science” on behalf of the GMO establishment, thus rendering official the ideological unity of pro-GMO activism and climate change denial. No GMO supporter objected to the Moore anointment.
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*In 2013 the Maine legislature passed a GMO labeling law which, like Connecticut’s, requires that several other states pass similar laws before it becomes effective. This is called a “trigger”. This immediately proved a problem since Maine’s trigger specified that adjoining New Hampshire would have to be one of the states enacting a similar policy, but a legislative attempt there soon afterward failed. Now a new proposed bill in Maine would upgrade the 2013 law by removing the trigger. If this bill passes Maine would join Vermont as the second state to pass a true labeling law without the self-negating trigger. Obviously a law with a trigger is, at best, a study in ambivalence. Most likely it indicates a government which wants to pretend to be doing something without actually having to do it.

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March 24, 2015

Rounding Up Roundup

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The notion that glyphosate is “safer” than other herbicides is a mainstay even among lukewarm critics of GMOs, and of course the US government has long propagated this slogan, although in order for it to do so the EPA had to change its 1985 finding of “possibly carcincogenic to humans” to “evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans” in 1991. As with all EPA findings since the beginning of the GMO era, this change had zero to do with scientific evidence, but was a purely political decision to accommodate Monsanto. Now lying like this will be a bit more difficult, as the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has upgraded its assessment: Glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
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Actually they’ve known glyphosate is carcinogenic since the 1980s, and as I said even the Reagan EPA felt constrained to call it a “possible human carcinogen”. The EPA then downgraded that to “not a carcinogen”, straight up because Monsanto demanded it. Today we see Monsanto’s hysterical reaction to the previously reliable WHO breaking ranks like this. We’ll see if the WHO sticks by its guns or moves to marginalize its own scientific finding. Of course Monsanto’s already succeeding in getting the corporate media to “report” on “the controversy” rather than on the fact. But at least the fact that the WHO is now admitting this brings Roundup’s cancer-causing nature into the media’s realm of controversy, whereas the cartel, the US government, and the NYT have long collaborated in making glyphosate’s toxicity an un-fact. (Maybe the American Cancer Society will now have to acknowledge the very existence of this cancer agent.) Even many GMO critics have parroted the Monsanto line that glyphosate is “less toxic” than other herbicides. Hopefully this will at least put an end to that self-defeating stupidity.
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Let’s get this point straight: Glyphosate as well as 2,4-D and dicamba are highly toxic. The Big Lie is that glyphosate is not highly toxic, period. That’s what the liars always mean when they call it “less toxic”. So it’s idiotic to even ask “which is worse.” The point is that they’re both well beyond the level of “too toxic to be used at all.”
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As always we must stress that glyphosate is never used in pure form, but is always deployed in commercial forms like Roundup which contain several other toxic ingredients. These real world commercial formulations are far more toxic than ivory tower glyphosate. That’s why it’s a standard scam among regulators to assess only the non-commercial “pure” glyphosate, because they know it’s less toxic. Yet, as the IARC has finally acknowledged, even pure glyphosate is severely toxic and causes cancer.
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Here’s more on Roundup. The latest in the line of studies out of Argentina exposing the health and environmental destruction wrought by Roundup finds a much higher level (44% higher) of genetic damage among children consistently exposed to Roundup and other herbicides. This group also had a high incidence of chronic respiratory, skin, and eye symptoms, while no children from the unexposed group reported any such persistent symptoms.
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I’ve often pointed out how antibiotic abuse on factory farms and in genetic engineering (the widespread use of antibiotic resistance markers in GMO development) is effectively a campaign to eradicate antibiotics as a medically effective treatment, and how this corporate campaign is setting up humanity for lethal pandemics as well as driving the ongoing chronic rise in deaths from illness caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (I’ve also pointed out the fraudulence and stupidity of those who attack small groups of dissidents for allegedly endangering public health even as the ydo nothing to abolish subtherapeutic antibiotic use.) Now we can add a third industrial driver of antibiotic resistance. New science documents that bacteria exposed to such commercial herbicides as glyphosate, 2,4-D, and dicamba are prone to then have changed responses to application of antibiotics, usually showing resistance. So the wholesale slathering of the agricultural landscape and surrounding environs with Roundup, and starting this year GMOs engineered to be tolerant of 2,4-D or dicamba, is perhaps accelerating the evolution of antibiotic resistant strains and subsequent end game for antibiotics as a whole.
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More fun with glyphosate and Roundup: A new study gives further proof that Roundup, as well as glyphosate even in its pure form is acutely toxic to human cells and is an endocrine disruptor through causing the death of cells which produce progesterone. The study tested in vitro exposure to human cells at concentration levels allowed in Australian drinking water. It found that Roundup is more deadly to human cells than pure glyphosate (thus again proving that the real world formulation is more toxic than the “pure” chemical which is the sole purview of regulators), but that both kill cells and cause endocrine disruption through cell death. The study didn’t probe whether these poisons are endocrine disruptors in other ways, but there’s strong evidence for this as well.
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Among the less heralded US government handouts to Monsanto is the longstanding Roundup fumigation program in Colombia, whose proximate goal is to wipe out coca cultivation. This gives a good insight into the real character of the Drug War and any pretensions it has to being about “public health”. On the contrary, it has nothing to do with human health and everything to do with power and corporate welfare. In a case like this the farcical character of the “health” aspect is especially on display, as the spraying program, a veritable chemical warfare campaign (compare the Agent Orange chemical weapons campaign during the Vietnam War), is well documented as causing severe health effects. The Colombian government has supported US paramilitary campaigns within its country because the US pays it off and because they have a shared enemy in legitimate popular movements among the peasantry. But with this WHO report, even some within the Colombian government are starting to wonder if this wholesale program of poisoning the people’s bodies and destroying their crops isn’t, just maybe, politically and ultimately militarily doing more harm than good.
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The fact is there’s no such thing as a demarcation between purely “civilian” poison spraying and chemical warfare. It’s all on a militaristic spectrum, thus the popularity of violent names for agricultural poisons. Monsanto seems to prefer the Wild West theme. Similarly, the agrochemical corporations and the US government effectively see themselves as waging war upon humanity in general and in particular upon small farmers, subsistence farmers, organic farmers, farmers producing food for communities, all farmers and communities not sufficiently coordinated according to the corporate imperative. The goal is to clear the land for mechanized industrial plantations under corporate control. The goal is to force the people off the land and into slums. The campaign is the same as the post-medieval, pre-modern enclosure campaigns of Europe. The only difference is that in the earlier campaign part of the goal was to forcibly generate an urban proletariat, while today the shantytowns are meant to serve as terminal concentration camps for the permanently liquidated and immiserated. I defy anyone to tell me poison-based agriculture isn’t chemical warfare, against people on a more profound level than against bugs and weeds. Roundup has long been the number one weapon of globalization war. It generated the most perfect agro-state yet, Argentina’s “Soy Republic”.
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That Roundup and glyphosate, along with 2,4-D and dicamba, are also severely toxic and destructive to human and ecosystem health renders the chemical warfare concept physically as well as economically true. There are many things preventing us from living in peace and prosperity. Among the most vicious assaults upon us are agricultural poisons like Roundup and GMOs. We must abolish them completely if humanity is to have a future, physically or in any other meaningful sense.
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Today even the usually pro-GMO World Health Organization itself is saying: Roundup is cancer. This is a physical fact, and it’s a political and spiritual fact. We must do what’s necessary.

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March 13, 2015

GMO News Report March 13th 2015

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*The next conclave of the corporate groups plotting to recolonize Africa along GMO lines is being held in London on March 23rd. As ther African Center for Biosafety puts it, “white men meet in London to plot ways of profiting off Africa’s seed system”. The racial balance of power and intended control here is indeed astoundingly lopsided, and the overall racism of the project is quite brazen. No farmers or other democratic participants will be allowed at the meeting, only corporate and government elites. The meeting will discuss a study commissioned by the Gates Foundation. The goal of the study was to develop a strategy for enclosure and control of the African seed system, including identifying where governments should provide corporate welfare and where they should give Western (white) corporations total power and license. African governments are to be rubberstamp flunkeys, and in general Africans will be allowed to participate only as lowly thugs and contractors. As the ACB puts it, “A potential role for farmers in the production or distribution of seed is not even considered. Indeed farmers are viewed only as passive consumers of seed produced elsewhere.” The same is true of the people of Africa as a whole. I’m reminded of what Rudolf Binding wrote about WWI – “In this war both armies lie on the ground, and only the war has its way.” That shall be the predicament of all peoples of the Earth for as long as we allow the corporate war upon us to have its way.
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*A rare case of a GMO corporate welfare program being discontinued: Malaysia’s health ministry has announced it will discontinue its program of using Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes to try to fight dengue fever on the grounds that trial releases in 2010 and 2011 produced meager results greatly disproportionate to the public expense of the program. Brazil’s program has been shelved for the same reason. The idea is to release genetically modified males of the species Aedes aegypti whose offspring from wild females will die prior to reaching maturity. This is supposed to suppress the overall population. But it hasn’t worked in field trials, and Helen Wallace of UK GeneWatch recently publicized a computer model which finds that you’d have to release 2.8 million of the GM males a week to suppress a population of 20,000 mosquitoes. Even the corporate welfare planned economy of GMOs may blanch at such a prospect, though the US government is desperately trying to bail out Oxitec (a British company) by proposing a completely gratuitous field release in the Florida Keys.
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All this information involves the GMO product failing absolutely. Then there’s the likelihood that even if the program temporarily worked to suppress A. aegypti, the only result would be that another species of dengue-carrying mosquito would enter the vacated ecological niche. That effect has followed like clockwork most places Bt crops have been deployed. So the GM mosquito is dubious in ivory tower theory, refuted by computer modeling, and is proven not to work in practice. Any government which would spend one cent on it is engaging in pure embezzlement on behalf of a favored corporation.
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*Good analysis of another scam GMO product, Simplot’s “Innate” potato. As always with these boutique GMOs, its alleged benefits are frivolous, unsubstantiated, or a scam. In this case the potato allegedly reduces the production of a carcinogenic by-product of cooking, acrylamide; but this same carcinogen is vastly more prevalent in all herbicide tolerant GMOs, because it’s a common herbicide additive, and in all crops subjected to industrial irrigation, because it’s added to the water to help keep the dead soil bound together so it won’t blow away. And as always with literally every such GMO alleged to produce any kind of agronomic or product quality trait, there already exist non-GM varieties which embody the trait better, more safely, and far less expensively than the GMO does. As always, the GMO is absolutely worthless, wasteful, and destructive for humanity and benefits no one but a handful of corporations.
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*Climate change denier and top Monsanto shill Patrick Moore has been touring Southeast Asia lobbying and propagandizing for the “golden rice” hoax. In the Philippines he’s met rejection from the people, and slunk out of the country refusing an invitation from the farmer group Masipag to publicly debate them. Even by the extremely low standards of pro-GM activists Moore is one of the more stupid and scabrous of them, and would likely fare very poorly in a debate. Meanwhile Masipag has been publicly describing the kind of productive, nutritious horticulture which is high in vitamin A, has historically provided this nutrient in abundance, and which has been largely destroyed by the industrial agriculture model Moore and golden rice stand for. It’s the likes of Patrick Moore who artificially created the VAD epidemic and are intentionally trying to make it worse with their misdirectional propaganda campaigns. Moore and the others have all this blood on their hands and must be held accountable.
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*The EPA is so spooked by corn rootworm’s surging resistance to the Bt toxins which have been deployed against it that it’s proposing to limit the farmer practice of planting corn year after year with no crop rotation. (It’s actually bureaucratic rigmarole which wouldn’t change anything. It’s the monoculture, stupid.) The ability to plant corn-on-corn was of course the main selling point with which the cartel and the USDA touted Bt corn in the first place, even though everyone knew it would lead only to the target pests developing resistance, along with a host of other problems. Indeed, Monsanto counted on the pests developing resistance as a key part of its planned obsolescence and “expanded trait penetration” marketing strategy. EPA has always chosen to hide its head in the sand, take the path of least resistance, and tout its “refuge” scam as a legitimate anti-resistance strategy. The rootworms have begged to differ.
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Of the three anti-rootworm toxins deployed so far, researchers have confirmed the avalanche of observed evidence that the rootworms are overcoming Monsanto’s Cry3Bb1 toxin and Syngenta’s Cry3A, and in 2014 there were anecdotal reports of resistance developing to Dow’s Cry34/35AB1. Formal research will soon confirm this.
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*Testbiotech has filed a complaint with the EU Ombudsman over the corrupt, publicly-funded GRACE project. GRACE is intended to set new (lax, pro-cartel) standards for GMO safety review and is also a propaganda campaign nominally under EU auspices, but staffed by biotech cadres. The complaint is specifically about how participants propagated a fraudulent account of a feeding trial, and their covering up their conflicts of interest. (There’s really no conflict, of course. They and the EC are 100% pro-GMO.) Filing a complaint with the ombudsman is fine, but far more important is publicizing the facts about GRACE to the people
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*Mexico is ground zero for the Earth’s maize diversity. Everywhere on Earth corporate agriculture is seeking to destroy the agricultural germplasm diversity humanity’s future depends upon, through the imposition of dangerously narrow monocultural genetics to match the monoculture practices of commodity agriculture. Although since NAFTA GMO contamination has been gradually spreading through Mexican maize landraces, a coalition of farmers, civil society activists, scientists has fought hard and so far prevented the official commercial approval of GM maize, which would greatly accelerate the contamination of maize landraces and eventually maize’s wild ancestor teosinte. Today these fighters for this critical cause are calling for donations to help them continue this fight for all of humanity’s future ability to eat.
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*Want to see this maize contamination in action? Following hard upon the European study we discussed last week confirming how readily GM maize contaminates non-GM, a new study out of South Africa documents GM maize contamination among smallholder farmers who mostly save and exchange seeds among themselves. Sampling found fragments of the CaMV promoter in a maize leaf and transgenes from NK603 (Roundup Ready corn) and the MON810 Bt-expressing variety in 5 of 20 seeds tested.
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This also follows upon the recent study which confirmed that locally adapted non-GM maize varieties outperform MON810. This is universally confirmed in every case except for the richest farmers applying the most lavish and expensive inputs under the most optimal conditions: Both organic and non-GM conventional cultivation agronomically outperform GMOs. This is in addition to the genetic scorched earth GMOs are attempting to enforce, which promises to cause the collapse of all major crop varieties which have been taken over by the GMO cartel.
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*Costco joins McDonald’s in issuing a vague announcement that it will phase out meats produced through antibiotic abuse, which means all factory farm meat. They say they’ll start with rotisserie chicken and move on to other meats. It’s really more of an elleged aspiration than a firm policy commitment, with no detailed time frame given. Subtherapeutic antibiotic use in factory farms, along with the use of antibiotic resistance markers in genetic engineering, is by far the most comprehensive, systematic policy seeking to devastate public health by eradicating the effectiveness of this whole genre of medical treatment, antibiotics. Anyone who sincerely cares about public health must seek the abolition of subtherapeutic antibiotic use as Priority Number One. Anyone who claims to be concerned about public health but who doesn’t focus on this, and there are many such people out there these days, is a liar.
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*A Friends of the Earth campaign to get Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts and others to join McDonald’s and Gerber in pledging to shun the “non-browning” GM Botox Apple. This is the kind of pressure campaign that has often gotten real results. It routed Monsanto’s New Leaf potatoes from the marketplace 15 years ago, and has since racked up other victories.
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*Anti-democracy whack-a-mole. In 2013 and 2014 respectively voters in Hawaii and Maui counties passed GMO cultivation bans (grandfathering in existing GM papaya cultivation) while in 2013 the Kauai county council passed modest restrictions and notification requirements for spraying of poisons on the island’s experimental plantations. The cartel sued and the same corrupt federal judge overturned all three ordinances on grounds that only the state has the power to enact such legislation. The cases are being appealed to the federal circuit court. Meanwhile the state legislature has bills in process to restore such power to the counties and/or to ban GMOs cultivation. Neither bill is likely to pass anytime soon, but if they did you can bet the same federal courts would change their tune and find that such powers aren’t state powers after all but reside with the central government. The cartel is already arguing that in its suit against Vermont’s labeling law.
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All this federalist rigmarole proves that in the end we the people will never win justice in the courts or at any legislative level above the local, but that we’ll need to fight for and win our rights as a fact on the ground, politically and in whatever other way necessary. Only from a victorious grassroots reclamation of our political and economic sovereignty can we then dictate our human futures. That’s the truly necessary Reclamation movement.

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March 8, 2015

Notes Toward the Critique of “Peer Review”

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(This started out as a comment and I don’t have time to work it up into a full post right now, but I’ll post it as a note.)
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Peer review is increasingly corrupt. Plenty of good studies have been suppressed or subjected to attempted suppressions by corrupt reviewers. Just this morning I was reading about the example of Ignacio Chapela and David Quist’s findings of GM contamination in Mexican criollo maize landraces and the fact that the corrupting effects of the transgene were expressing chaotically in both the genome and the physical manifestations of the phenotype. In addition to proving how easily and widely GMO contamination proceeds, this was the strongest evidence to date of the fact that genetic engineering is an extremely stupid, messy, chaotic process with highly unpredictable, chaotic results. Conversely it’s among the strongest refutations of the hack lie that GE is some kind of “precision”, “scientific” process. It’s really just very sloppy, brute force empiricism.
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Even though the Mexican government, which no one would ever mistake for being anti-GMO, had confirmed the first peer-reviewed, Nature-published study, under industry pressure Nature cravenly and despicably disavowed it. Then when Ezcurra and team submitted their study (mentioned in the above link) confirming and expanding upon Chapela and Quist’s findings, Nature intentionally sent it to known corrupt pro-GM “reviewers” who rejected it. The funny thing is the pro-GM activists didn’t get their rationale straight among themselves ahead of time, and so one of them rejected it because the result was simply “impossible”. Now THAT’s “scientific”. Of course Monsanto itself had long adhered to the line that what it dubs with the euphemism “adventitious presence” is inevitable, “natural”, and nothing to worry about. Thus a second reviewer rejected the study because the result was “obvious” and therefore pedestrian. How’s that for suppressing a clear fact – declare that it’s so clear that no one should be allowed to point it out any longer. We see the pro-GM activist version of “science” in action.
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Meanwhile plenty of manifestly fraudulent studies have been passed by corrupt reviewers. We still have the ongoing scandal of how the Seralini study was retracted for purely ideological reasons while Monsanto’s and many other studies whose methodology is inferior by every measure are allowed to stand.
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We still see the fetish of “peer review” cropping up often among GMO critics, but this is misguided. Peer review can’t be relied upon any more than any other institution of establishment “science”. In this radically corrupted environment we have to take any alleged piece of science on a case-by-case basis, judging according to its methodology and who paid for it. Just to give one example, by definition a legitimate toxicology or cancer study has to proceed for the duration of the full life cycle of the test subjects. Thus by definition only the Seralini study is even a candidate for incarnating legitimate science since it lasted for the full 2-year life cycle of the rat subjects, while Monsanto’s 90-day “subchronic” studies are by definition illegitimate. (90 days is a typical duration for fraudulent industry “studies”.)

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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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