tagged w/ monoculture
If you assume that Bill Gates is so well informed about all his philanthropic targets that you take his word at face value, you would be in good company, but you might be terribly wrong. Organizations well versed in the agricultural issues facing developing nations are saying his annual letter, released last week, is completely mistaken when it asserts that a lack of support for GMO crop development is responsible, in part, for allowing world hunger to endure. We interviewed Heather Pilatic, Ph.D., co-director of the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), to show us the other, important side of the story.
TakePart: In the introduction to his letter, Bill Gates cites the Green Revolution of the 1960s and '70s, saying scientists created new seed varieties for rice, wheat, and maize, and that this resulted in increased crop yield and a decrease in extreme poverty around the world. Do you agree that this is a model to use moving forward?
Heather Pilatic: The Green Revolution is a story that some people like to tell, but it has little basis in historical fact. Take the Green Revolution’s origins in 1940s Mexico, for instance. It was not really about feeding the world; Mexico was a food exporter at the time. Rather, the aims included stabilizing restive rural populations in our neighbor to the south, and making friends with a government that at the time was selling supplies to the World War II Axis powers and confiscating oil fields held by Standard Oil (a funding source for the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the key architects of the Green Revolution).
We can also learn from India, the Green Revolution’s next stop after Mexico. India embraced the Green Revolution model of chemical-intensive agriculture. Now it is the world’s second biggest rice grower with surplus grain in government warehouses. Yet India has more starving people than sub-Saharan Africa—at more than 200 million, that’s nearly a quarter of its population. History shows that a narrow focus on increasing crop yield through chemical-seed packages reduces neither hunger nor poverty.
So no, we do not agree that the Green Revolution offers a promising model for addressing poverty.
TakePart: Bill Gates is urging that more money be donated to agricultural innovation, including crop GMOs, because "one in seven people will continue living needlessly on the edge of starvation." Of course, this argument worries all of us. Will you explain PANNA's perspective?
Heather Pilatic: We could not agree with Gates more on the first point. Investment in agriculture in the developing world is enormously efficient and more impactful on the ground than investment in just about any other sector. It is also true that more people than ever before are going hungry, needlessly. We have enough food to go around now. We disagree with Gates on two points—one scientific and one political.
First, the science. Most of the rest of the world's experts agree that GMOs are not what the world's poor need to feed themselves. The science simply doesn't bear this claim out. Our staff scientist was a lead author in the most comprehensive analysis of global agriculture ever undertaken, the UN & World Bank's International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (the IAASTD). After four years and with the input of over 400 experts, and reams of evidence, the IAASTD concluded that the developing world's best bet for feeding itself in the 21st century was explicitly not the kind of chemically intensive farming that accompanies GMO seeds. Rather, these experts found that smaller scale, farmer-driven, knowledge-intensive, ecological agriculture is one of the most promising ways forward for the developing world in particular. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has reported that ecological farming can double food production within 10 years. This is the kind of agriculture we should be investing in.
Second, the political—and this cuts two ways. We must finally recognize that hunger is a problem of poverty and access to resources, especially land, not agricultural yield. The solution to world hunger is a political one: stop kicking farmers off their land and dumping product on the world market that puts them out of business; protect farmers’ rights to save and exchange seed; kick the bankers out of food-crop commodities speculation, they're playing roulette with our food system; write fair trade policies; listen to the world's poor, they know what they need...in short, democratize food and farming if you want to address hunger.
Finally, here in the U.S., kick the farm lobby out of Congress and the pesticide industry out of our federal regulatory agencies (EPA & USDA). Together, these two special interests have a chokehold on U.S. farm, aid and trade policy, and dominate our agricultural research agenda in ways that make it possible for a smart man like Bill Gates to believe and prosyletize on behalf of an approach to agriculture that A, the rest of the world knows is defunct; and B, has failed—after 14 years of commercialization and billions of dollars in public research funding—to deliver on a single one of its promises to the public.
More at the linkIf you assume that Bill Gates is so well informed about all his philanthropic targets... more
Bill Gates is one very confused billionaire philanthropist.
He understands global warming is a big problem — indeed, his 2012 Foundation Letter even frets about the grave threat it poses to food security. But he just doesn’t want to do very much now to stop it from happening (see Pro-geoengineering Bill Gates disses efficiency, “cute” solar, deployment — still doesn’t know how he got rich).
He love technofixes like geoengineering and, as we’ll see, genetically modified food. Rather than investing in cost-effective emissions reduction strategies today or in renewable energy technologies that are rapidly moving down the cost curve, he explains that the reason invests so much in nuclear R&D is “The good news about nuclear is that there has hardly been any innovation.” Seriously!
His Letter includes the ominous chart at the top, and he warns of the dire consequences of climate change:
Meanwhile, the threat of climate change is becoming clearer. Preliminary studies show that the rise in global temperature alone could reduce the productivity of the main crops by over 25 percent. Climate change will also increase the number of droughts and floods that can wipe out an entire season of crops. More and more people are raising familiar alarms about whether the world will be able to support itself in the future, as the population heads toward a projected 9.3 billion by 2050.
And yet, as the AP reported this week, the wealthiest of all Americans gets very prickly if you don’t wholeheartedly endorse his techno-fix adaptation-centric approach to dealing with this oncoming disaster:
Bill Gates has a terse response to criticism that the high-tech solutions he advocates for world hunger are too expensive or bad for the environment: Countries can embrace modern seed technology and genetic modification or their citizens will starve….
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent about $2 billion in the past five years to fight poverty and hunger in Africa and Asia, and much of that money has gone toward improving agricultural productivity.Gates doesn’t apologize for his endorsement of modern agriculture or sidestep criticism of genetic modification. He told The Associated Press that he finds it ironic that most people who oppose genetic engineering in plant breeding live in rich nations that he believes are responsible for global climate change that will lead to more starvation and malnutrition for the poor.
Resistance to new technology is “again hurting the people who had nothing to do with climate change happening,” Gates said.
The real irony is that most people who diss efficiency and renewables and aggressive greenhouse gas mitigation, like Gates, live in rich nations that are responsible for global climate change that will lead to more starvation and malnutrition for the poor.
Where is the story that says, “countries to embrace existing technology to reduce emissions or their citizens will starve” or resistance to aggressive low carbon technology deployment is “again hurting the people who had nothing to do with climate change happening”?
This is not a blog on genetic modification, so I’ll just quote the AP story:
Bill Freese, a science policy analyst for the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, said everyone wants to see things get better for hungry people, but genetically modified plants are more likely to make their developers rich than feed the poor. The seed is too expensive and has a high failure rate, he said. Better ways to increase yields would be increasing the fertility of soil by adding organic matter or combining plants growing in the same field to combat pests, he said.
The biggest problem with those alternatives, Freese said, is the same one that Gates cited in high-tech research: A lack of money for development.
But the fact is, as Oxfam and others have made clear, global warming is poised to make food vastly more expensive, which will be devastating to the world’s poor know matter how much money Gates dumps into GM crops — see Oxfam Predicts Climate Change will Help Double Food Prices by 2030: “We Are Turning Abundance into Scarcity”:
More at the linkBill Gates is one very confused billionaire philanthropist.
He understands global... more
A week of Occupy Wall Street Maui events kick off today with the establishment of an encampment near the Monsanto offices in Kihei.
A series of marches, rallies and vigils are planned throughout the week as the group expresses their concerns over herbicide use, production of GMO products, and arguments of impacts on small farmers.
An event flyer makes claims of food supply control, government manipulation and environmental poisons.
Monsanto Hawaii Community Affairs Director, Paul Koehler responded to the planned demonstrations saying that while the company respects everyone's right to voice their opinion, he said, "It's unfortunate that a number of misleading and factually incorrect statements about Monsanto and genetically engineered crops continue to circulate."
Koehler said Monsanto Hawaii is working with the Police Department to ensure safety of all during the planned Occupy events. "Our number one concern," he said, "is for the safety of everyone involved, including that of drivers passing by on the highway, pedestrians, our employees and the demonstrators."
More at the linkA week of Occupy Wall Street Maui events kick off today with the establishment of an... more
You’ve all heard the news: farmers across the country are losing their fields to superweeds so formidable and fast-spreading that they break farm machinery and render millions of acres of farmland useless. These superweeds have evolved as a direct consequence of Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready pesticide-seed package. Now superbugs are emerging, resistant to Monsanto’s transgenic insecticidal crops. Ecologists predicted this ecological disaster 15 years ago.
The big question is, can we possibly learn from this ecological and agronomic disaster? The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Monsanto’s rival, Dow Chemical, apparently cannot.
From bad to worse
Instead of abandoning this losing strategy, Dow is trying to get us running faster on the same old broken pesticide treadmill. Dow and USDA are hoping to quietly approve a new genetically engineered corn seed that basically swaps RoundUp (glyphosate) out and an even worse weedkiller (2,4-D) in. Bad idea.
As with Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready lines, the herbicide with which these seeds are engineered to be used (2,4-D) will surge in use. Dow aims to get 2,4-D-resistant corn to market this year, soy next year and cotton in 2015. These three crops dominate U.S. agriculture, blanketing over 100 million acres of mono-cropped countryside and driving the pesticide market. Only this time, the fallout will be even worse. Here’s why:
2,4-D is a more toxic herbicide, both to humans and to plants. 2,4-D is a reproductive toxicant (associated with lower sperm counts) and its formulations have been linked to cancer (in particular non-Hodgkins lymphoma), disruption of the immune and endocrine (hormone) systems and birth defects. EPA has also expressed a “concern for developmental neurotoxicity resulting from exposure to 2,4-D.”
2,4-D does and will drift off of target crops – both through spray drift and volatilization. The latter enables chemicals to travel with moving air masses for miles. Neither applicator nor innocent bystander can prevent such movement. The spread of 2,4-D across our lands will damage non-target crops and vegetation, devastate adjacent ecosystems and poses a very real threat to rural economies and farmers growing non-2,4-D-resistant crops. Conventional farmers growing their product miles away will suffer severe crop losses, while organic farmers will lose both crops and certification, resulting in business failures, job losses and an economic unraveling of already-stressed rural communities.
2,4-D-resistant “superweeds” will arise and spread just as RoundUp-resistant “superweeds” have taken over farms and countryside in the Midwest and Southeast. Where will this leave struggling farmers? What even more deadly pesticide will the biotech companies resort to next?
Corn is wind-pollinated which means that genetic material from 2,4-D corn will contaminate non-GE corn. You cannot put a GE genie back in the bottle.
Will Dow provide compensation to farmers, their children and rural communities for the harms likely to occur should the company secure approval of its 2, 4-D resistant corn? I rather doubt it. Dow has still refused to assume responsibility for the deaths and devastation arising from the pesticide explosion in Bhopal, India in 1984, so why would the company show any integrity now?
It will take an active, engaged public to get USDA back on track and in the business of serving the public interest.
What about USDA? Can we expect our public agency to carefully scrutinize the likely fallout of approving 2,4-D resistant corn? One problem is that USDA does not really want to know what the public thinks.
More at the linkYou’ve all heard the news: farmers across the country are losing their fields to... more
A court hearing in New York City at the end of this month will determine if a "pre-emptive" lawsuit by a clutch of U.S. and Canadian organic producers against seed and ag chem firm Monsanto will go ahead.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald said she will hear oral arguments Jan. 31 in Manhattan on a motion by St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto to dismiss the suit filed last March 31 by a group of 83 farmers, seed growers and farm organizations.
The suit "seeks court protection for innocent family farmers who may become contaminated by Monsanto seed," according to a release last week from the Colorado-based lead plaintiff, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA).
The suit, the plaintiffs claim, is "to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed."
"Last August we submitted our written rebuttal and it made clear that Monsanto's motion was without merit," OSGATA president Jim Gerritsen, a seed potato grower in northern Maine, said in the release. "Our legal team, from the Public Patent Foundation, is looking forward to orally presenting our position."
Canadian plaintiffs attached to the suit include Ottawa-based Canadian Organic Growers (COG), Quebec advocacy group Union Paysanne, the Manitoba Organic Alliance, the Peace River Organic Producers Association and a number of producers in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
"Monsanto's technology is harmful for organic producers and processors," COG executive director Beth McMahon said in a separate release this week. "To penalize our growers for GMO contamination adds insult to injury, and we won't back down from this fight."
Monsanto's previous suits against farmers for alleged infringement on its patented seed suggest the company "intends to assert its transgenic seed patents against certified organic and nontransgenic seed farmers who come to possess more than 'trace amounts' of Monsanto's transgenic seed, even if it is not their fault," the plaintiffs claimed last year.
Between 1997 and April 2010, the organic producers' suit claims, Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against farmers in at least 27 different states for alleged infringement of its transgenic seed patents and/or breach of its license to those patents.
More at the linkA court hearing in New York City at the end of this month will determine if a... more
Failed "Drought Tolerant" GMO Corn Won't Help Farmers!
The US Department of Agriculture's review of Monsanto's own data shows that years of investment into so-called "drought-tolerant" biotech crops have been nothing more than a risky and very expensive failure. Monsanto's new "drought-tolerant" genetically-modified corn variety MON 87460 does not perform any better than non-GMO varieties.
Ignoring the data, on December 21, 2012, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would allow unlimited planting of MON 87460. The company and the USDA have both admitted the crop will fare only modestly better than current conventional varieties under low- and moderate-level drought conditions. This means that this corn will be useful only for a fraction of corn acres – just 15 percent by USDA estimates.
In addition, in the United States and abroad there are several types of new, drought-tolerant corn, grown through natural breeding techniques that are likely to do as well or better than Monsanto’s corn. Data from U.S. researchers suggest that conventional breeding is producing drought tolerance two to three times faster than genetic engineering.
Only traditional breeding methods, coupled with agricultural methods that promote soil health, have proven capable of increasing stress tolerance and making plants more resilient to reduced water availability.
The danger is, now that MON 87460 has been deregulated, it will inevitably contaminate truly resilient varieties of organic and conventional corn, destroying the rich genetic diversity that the world's farmers have cultivated in the planet's infinitely varied micro-climates.
Please protect biological diversity by taking action to stop Monsanto's failed "drought-resistant" GMO corn.
To learn more about how genetic diversity -- not genetic engineering -- is the key to climate adaptation, watch this video:
Take Action Now! More at the linkFailed "Drought Tolerant" GMO Corn Won't Help Farmers!
The US... more
The largest producer of transgenic seeds in the world is leasing some of the best agricultural lands on the Island with a pattern of questionable legality, while receiving incentives from the Fortuño administration.
When environmentalist Juan Rosario traveled to an Amish religious community in Iowa, to learn to make compost, he was surprised that they had a laboratory and the services of an expert in chemistry. What was a scientist doing in a place where people live far from technology and practice ecological farming with the simplest of methods?
An Amish dressed in their style, with a wide-brimmed black hat, white shirt, and black pants and black jacket, pointed toward a large cornfield on a nearby farm. "The scientist helps us verify that pollen from genetically modified corn does not contaminate our crops," he told Juan Rosario. "It's the same corn that you develop in Salinas."
Puerto Rico, laboratory for corn, sorghum, cotton and transgenic soybeans.
The island is hosting a reality that the government hides and sponsors: the island is an important center for eight companies, seven of them multinationals, that are developing the first generation of genetically modified seeds for distribution to United States and around the world. The strongholds of these corporations extend into public and private farms, especially in the best farmland along the island's southern coast, which in the last century was under the rule of His Majesty sugarcane, exalted by large landowners that sought to take over the land.
Most of these seed developers occupy more than the 500-acre limit that the Constitution of Puerto Rico allows, while receiving hefty government benefits and advantages under the Law to Promote and Develop Agricultural Biotechnology Companies of 2009, tailored to favor them.
Among them is the world's main transgenic seed developer, Monsanto, which leases about 1,500 acres of land between Juana Díaz, Santa Isabel, Isabela and Aguadilla. Of these acres, 500 are public property administered by the Land Authority, and the rest belongs mostly to the Succession Serrallés in several southern towns, confirmed Juan Santiago, the company's chief operating officer in Puerto Rico.
But having more than 500 acres is an apparent violation to the provisions of the Constitution of Puerto Rico, which prevents an agricultural corporation to own more than 500 acres. The purpose of Section 14 of Article VI was to prevent American landlords to come implement a monopoly and squeeze out the smaller local farmer.
Are we facing a new colonization of agriculture? Is it the beginning of a new monopoly? "While Monsanto is leasing those lands, and although many of these lands are private, I believe they may be violating the Constitution because its intention was to prevent a single corporation from having control of more than 500 acres to dominate agriculture," says professor Carlos Ramos, specialist in the field and professor at the at Interamerican University Law School. "If this law no longer makes sense, let's open the debate. The intent of the law is as valid today as in the 1900's. The Justice Secretary is required to enforce the Constitution and must act."
The events of the agricultural history are repeating themselves. As was the case with some sugar corporations over the past century, one of these companies, Monsanto, changes names to access more land than allowed by law, said a source at the Center for Investigative Journalism. So this media outlet went to the corporation registry at State Department to confirm this. Carlos Morales Figueroa, who was the vice president of the company at that time, incorporated Monsanto Caribe LLC in 2004 . Two years later, he incorporated Monsanto AG Products LLC.
What is this scheme about? "It was done to be able to lease more land ... They are both Monsanto. The two entities belong to the parent company," admitted Carlos Morales's successor, Juan Santiago. "I'd have to check the data, but Monsanto AG has not yet been a lease contract." However, a source told this media outlet that the other corporation also rents land in Juana Díaz.
Puerto Rico's Constitution also prohibits any member of an agricultural corporation to have an interest in a corporation of that nature. "That scheme, to create another company under another name makes the situation more dramatic. Now we have to see if the government takes a blind eye to the situation because they believe these people are creating jobs," said Carlos Ramos.
The government itself is putting the best land on a silver platter for the seed producers. A source at the Center for Investigative Journalism said that the Land Authority offers is offering them some 2,518 cuerdas (2,445 acres), about 8% of all publicly owned land in the south of the island. All of them occupy a combined 6,000 acres of public and private land all around the island, according to Juan Carlos Justiniano, who represents the seed producers as chairman of the Association of Agricultural Biotechnology Industry of Puerto Rico.
More at the linkThe largest producer of transgenic seeds in the world is leasing some of the best... more
More than 250 people of different race and culture, including foreigner joins holding placards and banners demanding answers, representing Nepalese farmers in solidarity. Police stopped them from standing in front of the American embassy, which was there initial program.
"The ultimate goal of the protest is to put pressure on the Government of Nepal to
cancel their agreement with USAID and Monsanto Inc. and stop the proposed
hybrid maize pilot project from going ahead", on of the participant said.They also add "The introduction of Monsanto seed products into Nepal will have
disastrous consequences for the people of Nepal. Nepali farmers will
be forced into a relationship of dependancy with Monsanto Company.
Farmers will be worse off economically, soil and land will be
irreversibly damaged with the need for increased use of fertilizers.
thus decreasing chances of future livelihoods in farming and food
production. Nepal's international trade will also suffer.
http://www.demotix.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/large_610x456_scaled/photos/939565.jpgMore than 250 people of different race and culture, including foreigner joins holding... more
NOTE: For more on the terrible human and environmental devastation wreaked by GM soy monocultures, see our Latin America videos: http://www.gmwatch.org/gm-videosb/26-gm-in-latin-america
SOYA WARS CLAIM CASUALTIES IN ARGENTINA
Nick Caistor, LAB
Latin America Bureau, 22 November 2011
*A peasant leader has been killed in Santiago del Estero, apparently by gunmen sent in by a local landowner.
The death in mid-November of Cristian Ferreyra, a member of a peasant farmer organization in the north of Argentina has focused attention on a struggle between small farmers and their families and large landowners anxious to clear their land to plant profitable soy-bean crops for export.
Ferreyra, aged 23, was shot and killed at home in San Antonio, in the province of Santiago del Estero. Another man was seriously wounded in the incident.
Two men alleged to have been hired by a local landowner have been arrested for the shooting, which came after repeated threats against the Santiago del Estero Peasant Movement (MOCASE). His death led to large protest marches in the capital of the province and in Buenos Aires.
'They come in a car with papers for us to sign,' says Gloria, a MOCASE member. 'They say they're the legal owners of the land. But we own it, we live on it, and we farm it.'
And, says Gloria, the pressure does not stop there. 'If we don't sign, the paramilitaries and the police come. They threaten to kill us.'
MOCASE has been campaigning for more than 20 years against the expropriation of land in the dry region of the north of Argentina, and for small-scale farming to be promoted rather than large scale properties usually planted with soya grown for export.
'Many families live in the wooded areas remaining in Santiago del Estero, and they help sustain peasant farming communities. So to authorise clearing of the woods implies, in practice, the eviction of the peasants. It is to be regretted that the provincial government encourages deforestation and the violation of the rights of rural inhabitants,' said Hernán Giardini, head of Greenpeace Argentina.
According to Greenpeace, some 70% of native forests in Argentina have been lost in recent years, as the frontier of land for intensive agriculture has rapidly advanced through the central and northern provinces.
Santiago del Estero, together with neighbouring Salta and Chaco, have lost the greatest amount of forests, which according to data from the Department of National Environmental and Sustainable Development were cleared at the rate of 280,000 hectares per year between 1998 and 2006.
In recent months, Santiago del Estero landowners have stepped up attempts to evict families from land they have farmed for years. The businessmen claim to have legal titles to the properties, and have often hired former policemen and other security staff to remove the peasant farmers.
More than a hundred of these producers have formed the group Santiago Justo y Productivo; according to Argentine press reports, the group claims the violence began with members of MOCASE, who they say destroyed machinery, tore down barbed wire, and attacked their workers.
MOCASE, which is supported by some 8,000 peasant families in the province, has organised resistance to these land grabs and the clearing of forests in the north of the province. MOCASE claims that the big landowners acquired the titles to the land during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983) but that peasant farmers have been farming them for subsistence in the years since then.
Ferreyra was one of those who guarded the land claimed by the peasant farmers, and had been a member of MOCASE for several years.
The provincial governor Gerardo Zamora, of the governing Kirchnerist tendency within Peronism, has set up a 'mesa de diálogos' to try to get both sides to sit down and discuss the problem. So far, without much success.
Argentina's soya production has grown enormously in the past twenty years, increasing by more than 200% since 1995. According to a report by the Worldwatch Institute, a US-based environmental NGO, more than 98% of that production is of GM soya.
MOCASE, however, insists on 'food sovereignty'. It says that priority should be given to making Argentina and its population self-sufficient in food rather than growing crops for export. The local farmers grow cotton and maize, as well as keeping herds of goats and cattle to produce meat, milk and cheeses.
In October 2011 MOCASE and other peasant organizations from nine provinces held the first national congress of the Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indigena (National Indigenous Peasant Movement).
Among other demands, the participants called for an end to land evictions, and stressed that food sustainability should be the government's priority. 'Food should not be treated as a commodity. The land is there to feed the people,' said Cristina Loaiza, a member of MOCASE who attended the Congress.
In a statement, the National Indigenous Peasant Movement (MNCI) declared: 'this violence comes from the agro-business model. The dead, the wounded, the evictions are all from the peasant communities. The State creates the conditions enabling the power of money to impose its logic of destruction and death.'
'These models of production are being questioned, and as Argentine men and women we need to understand that on the one side is life, on the other death. One side signifies work and dignity, the other profits for the few. One side means national food sovereignty, the other, domination by transnational companies.'
http://racismandnationalconsciousnessnews.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/foto8.jpgNOTE: For more on the terrible human and environmental devastation wreaked by GM soy... more
If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against full federal deregulation of all GM crops.
(SALEM, Ore.) - A public hearing is being held in Corvallis, Oregon this Thursday, November 17th to determine if Genetically Modified sugar beets will be deregulated in Oregon.
Meanwhile, the public comment period maybe just a local distraction giving way to full federal deregulation without any representation of organic and conventional crop farmers.
Let us not forget that the U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture held a formal hearing on Genetically Modified (GM) Alfalfa on Jan 20, 2011.
The hearing corresponded with an open 30-day comment period, designed to provide relevant testimony with regard to deregulation of Genetically Modified Alfalfa.
The democratic process neglected to include a single organic or conventional farming representative. Throughout the two hour hearing various legislators publicly humiliated the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsak for even suggesting any compromise through talks with the organic and conventional communities. They all but ordered him to stand down his conversations with anyone but pro-GM enthusiasts (1:43:16).
Representatives left no seed unturned in honor of their allegiance to biotech crops and complete penetration into all foreign and domestic markets. In fact, Minnesota's Representative Collin Peterson referred to organic producers and consumers as "our opponents"(12:29).
Vilsak, even with his ties to Monsanto, was attempting negotiation with "so called Option 3" containing a minimal stop gap as an alternative to absolute contamination of organic and conventional alfalfa. In essence, planting barriers would have been implemented to maintain protective measures for the integrity of all seed varieties. Legislators blatantly mocked him and even pulled rank, saying that the Secretary of Agriculture does not have the authority to do anything but fully deregulate the crop without further ado. (35:38, 1:25:50, 1:29:15, 2:18:47)
It can be noted that Vilsak testified no less than three times that we were in the midst of the 30 day comment period, and in his opinion, the talks among all sides were providing necessary elements worthy of analysis for all agricultural markets concerned. (29:00, 1:44:00, 1:51:54)
The theme of the hearing centered around the economic burden of GM farmers if full deregulation didn’t go forth immediately (1:44:00). It was insisted by every representative that their loyalties were to the biotech community and that full deregulation was unquestionable without consideration for any form of barrier to protect other crops from cross contamination.
In regard to preservation of non GM crops, Texas Representative Michael Conaway begs the question, "how much of this is a definitional issue"? He questions organic standards and even insists that he "suspects that Genetically Engineered seeds will become the new organic". He blatantly suggests that legislative steps be considered to modify the language and thus re-define organic standards so that Genetically Modified crops can freely contaminate without restriction. He insists that it is merely a marketing issue and not an issue of health and safety. Conaway asks if we are just "hung up on the phrase organic, meaning something we grew ourselves in the backyard with whatever?"(2:33:00).
Concern was expressed by a number of speakers that GM crops are being promoted throughout the world as being no different than conventional crops, and if word got out that we established restrictive planting barriers, then it might be assumed that the GM crops were somehow different. That could put a damper on GM producers and their marketing potential. (30:45, 1:58:17, 2:18:47)
It was apparent, by the end of one sided discussion, that full deregulation and contamination remains unquestionable from the perspective of our democratic leaders. In other words, it is most notably a flagrant case of Contamination without Representation.
If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against full federal deregulation of all GM crops. Public comments are being heard on Thursday from 4 PM – 9 PM at LaSells Stewart Center Construction and Engineering Hall 875 Southwest 26th St., Corvallis, Oregon.
Please see the full length video of the U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture forum on GM Alfalfa, Jan 20 2011.
http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1269If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against... more
A fight to maintain consumer choice and farm independence has landed Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen on Utne Reader's list of "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World," published in the November/December edition of the magazine on newsstands now.
Organic seed potato farmer Jim Gerritsen heads a trade association that is suing chemical giant Monsanto. (photo: Charlotte Hedley ) Gerritsen, wife Megan, and their four children run the Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, which produces and sells organic seed potatoes to kitchen gardeners and market farmers in all 50 states. Gerritsen is also president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and it was that role that led to the Utne recognition.
The nonprofit organization created a stir in food and farming communities when, with legal backing from the Public Patent Foundation, it filed a lawsuit in March against the chemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto. OSGATA has since been joined in the lawsuit by 82 other seed businesses, trade organizations and family farmers, which together represent more than 270,000 people.
The lawsuit questions the validity of Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seeds, and seeks protection from patent-infringement lawsuits for the plaintiffs should their crops become contaminated with Monsanto's transgenic crops.
"The viewpoint of Monsanto is that (in such a situation) we have their technology, even though we don't want it and it has zero value in the organic market," Gerritsen said. "We think they should keep their pollution on their side of the fence."
Laws prohibit certified organic crops from containing genetically modified ingredients, and Monsanto's patents prohibit farmers from growing its seeds unless purchased from the company. Yet pollen doesn't heed certification or patent laws, and regularly drifts from transgenic crops to contaminate nearby non-genetically altered ones.
To add insult to injury, Monsanto has a reputation for suing or threatening to sue farmers for patent infringement in cases involving its genetically altered seeds, action reported in numerous media outlets as wide ranging as the Columbia Daily Tribune, CBS News and the New York Times.
Despite this well documented legal tactic, Monsanto spokesperson Thomas Helscher stated in an email: "Monsanto has never sued and has publicly committed to not sue farmers over the inadvertent presence of biotechnology traits in their fields. The company does not and will not pursue legal action against a farmer where patented seed or traits are found in that farmer's field as a result of unintentional means."
"Inadvertent" and "unintentional" are the key words here, but for farmers to prove that Monsanto's transgenic seeds are unwanted invaders in a court of law is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. A 2005 report from the Center for Food Safety, an organic-food and sustainable agriculture advocacy group, contends that Monsanto had at that time filed 90 lawsuits against American farmers. The report also contends that the corporation employed 75 people armed with a budget of $10 million devoted "solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers."
Pre-trial motions are still being filed in the lawsuit brought by OSGATA, with the most recent from Monsanto asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.
Helscher said the motion to dismiss results from the corporation's pledge to not sue farmers "where patented seed or traits are found in that farmer's field as a result of inadvertent means. Accordingly, there is no real controversy between parties and the OSGATA case should be dismissed."
Gerritsen views Monsanto's statements as part of a disinformation campaign designed to prolong the lawsuit.
"What they typically try to do is drag out lawsuits as long as they can, hoping the plaintiffs will run out of funding," Gerritsen said. He is confident OSGATA has the resources necessary to pursue this lawsuit for years, if necessary.
Unlike open pollinated crops such as corn and canola, which have suffered from widespread contamination by genetically modified seeds, potatoes remain relatively safe, Gerritsen said.
Monsanto developed multiple strains of transgenic potatoes in the 1990s under the name New Leaf. However, when major food companies such as McCain, which operates a french fry processing plant in Easton, and McDonald's rejected genetically-modified potatoes, Monsanto was forced to pull its transgenic strains off the market.
Gerritsen said the lawsuit will also seek to clarify what he sees as Monsanto's contradictory stance on its genetically modified seeds.
When arguing against labeling of transgenic food, Monsanto and other biotech companies claim that genetically modified seeds are substantially equivalent to traditional seeds. However, when seeking patents, the same companies claim the insertion of foreign genes creates unique seeds deserving of patent protection.
"Which is it?" Gerritsen asked. "It's one or other, but it can't be both. Is it the same? Or is it different?"
All genetically modified seeds are designed to do something different from the original seed. This can mean the modified seed will produce increased quantities of a particular substance inherent to the plant, manufacture chemicals foreign to the original plant, or withstand heavy applications of herbicides and pesticides manufactured by the same corporation seeking the seed patent.
Citing the revolving door between corporations (including Monsanto) and the government agencies which purport to regulate them, Gerritsen said, "we basically have a dysfunctional government. The Occupy Wall Street concept is to try to give power back to the people."
In the same vein, the lawsuit against Monsanto seeks to restore the power of citizens and farmers to choose food free from genetically modified organisms.A fight to maintain consumer choice and farm independence has landed Maine farmer Jim... more
70% percent or more of our food contains genetically engineered food brought by the bio-tech giant: Monsanto.
GMO is endangering people’s health and our environment at an alarming rate.
Cross-contamination is irreversible and good, organic crops are being jeopardized.
These seeds are incredibly expensive compared to the traditional ones and have been genetically modified to produce their own pesticide, to survive the spraying of the: “Roundup”, a potent herbicide and to self terminate.
This has lead our farmers to buy new GMO seeds each year and depend on Monsanto. As a result of this ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops, 125,000 farmers took their own lives.
These people were driven to debt, to economic distress, homeless and landless.
GMO has and is failing catastrophically.
This company is persecuting, bullying and bringing farms to bankruptcy.
GMO was never adequately tested for safety, actually more and more research shows its dangers to the human/animal health, polluting our crops and our water.
Monsanto did use false advertising; Monsanto poisons the third world and privatizes water. Its employees have passed through the so-called revolving door many times, they rotated between this industry and the public agencies: Clarence Thomas, Gwendolyn S. King, Linda Fisher, Jim Travis, Linda Avery Strachanand, Toby Moffet , Marcia Hale, Donald Bandle, George H. Poste, Michael Kantor and Michael Taylor all bending rules, finding loopholes to assure this company profits.
This technology is only exacerbating hunger, poverty, irreversible contamination and climate change in our world.
Bring down Monsanto’s monopoly on our food and a centralized agriculture.
Bring down Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds.
Bring down the use of harmful pesticides, herbicides and chemicals alike.
Hold this company accountable for its damages to the world.
Organic agriculture, permaculture and biodiversity are the only answer to sustainability, to the preservation of our environment and our health.
We want you, as our government, as a body of representation of the people of the United States to invest billions subsidizing organic, environmental agriculture.
Bring down Monsanto’s poisoning, companies alike and the agrochemical industry once and for all as it is one of the greatest threats to the whole human race.
Please sign and share this petition on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.
Repost this message:
Tell our Government: Bring Down Monsanto’s poisoning. Hold this company accountable for its damages to the world! http://bit.ly/bko2mZ
More at the link70% percent or more of our food contains genetically engineered food brought by the... more
Last week, we wrote about the likelihood that the $300 billion 2012 Farm Bill would take shape weeks before 2012 even begins, in the form of a dashed-off bill swept into the larger "super committee"-driven deficit-cutting process. As this week starts, that troubling prognosis remains.
In fact, last week, several congressional aides told agriculture trade publication Agweek that lawmakers planned to "work through the weekend to try to complete a Farm Bill proposal for the super committee in charge of deficit reduction by November 1." But so far, nothing decisive has been announced.
This might explain why the food and farming advocacy site Food Democracy Now sent out an email this morning with the subject line "24 hours to stop the Secret Farm Bill." The site asked subscribers to call a short list of senators and congressmen and tell them to say "‘No' to the Secret Farm Bill," because "rushing this vital piece of legislation behind closed doors is unfair and undemocratic."
Sustainable food advocates have been struggling to adjust to this new reality. As the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) described it last week:
No hearings, no amendments, no debate. Under this scenario, we may have very little idea about what is in the Farm Bill until after it has passed ... It's hard to overstate how messed up this is. We now have an environment where highly paid lobbyists thrive and citizen's voices, along with real reforms, evaporate.
Oxfam American chimed in with a list of reasons Occupy Wall Street supporters aren't likely to appreciate this rushed Farm Bill:
1. It was negotiated to satisfy high powered industry lobbies that pay lots of money to influence the Ag Committee.
2. It's a giveaway to big industrial farms at the expense of family farmers.
3. It promotes unhealthy, unsustainable farming practices at the expense of sustainable farming.
4. It targets conservation and nutrition programs for cuts disproportionately.
The bill's details remain unclear, but we know it will involve $23 billion in cuts. One Republican senator from Iowa went on record last week saying he believed the committee would cut $15 billion from farm subsidies and $4 billion each from conservation and nutrition. Another House conservative told the press that the cuts would "reduce farm subsidies about 20 percent and cut conservation spending about 10 percent. Nutrition programs, including food stamps, would be cut about 1 percent."
Advocates for sustainable and local food movements have rushed out two bills of their own, to be included in the larger Farm Bill process. The Local and Regional Food Bill would bolster support for family farms, and "expand new farming opportunities and rural jobs, and invest in the local agriculture economy." The Beginning Farmer Bill would help new farmers get access to capital (the lack of which is a well-known roadblock for beginning farmers) using microloans, matched savings accounts, and similar strategies.
Whether these additions have a chance of passing, or are simply symbolic, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, California food, farming, conservation, and environmental groups have been lobbying hard to have some say in the proposed Farm Bill. But the state -- whose agricultural industry is said to produce more than 400 different crops, employ 800,000 people and generate annual revenues of $37.5 billion -- will most likely continue to be left out of the discussion. One reason is that California farms don't produce the bulk of those commodity crops -- like corn, soy, and wheat -- that farm bills tend to concentrate on.
More at the linkLast week, we wrote about the likelihood that the $300 billion 2012 Farm Bill would... more
*Gates plan spends 40% of R&D funding on risky "silver bullet" GM projects with DFID help
As the world population reaches 7 billion GM Freeze says in a new report published today  that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s policy on agricultural development to tackle hunger is "swimming against a tide of informed opinion".
The report reveals the Gates Foundation has allocated over 40% of its committed research expenditure from 2005 to 2011 on projects involving risky “silver bullet” GM technology.
The collaboration between the Gates Foundation and DFID, announced in February 2011, includes a commitment to carry out GM research into altering the photosynthesis of rice to make it more tolerant of drought.  This theoretical switching of rice metabolism has been described as "high risk" by many, including the Royal Society, because of the complex changes required to make it work and the high chance of failure. 
In contrast GM Freeze reveals that the Gates Foundation has only allocated some US$20 million (4% of the total budget of US$521 million) to all soil research despite acknowledging the poor state of some African soils. However the Gates Foundation has pledged nearly US$214 million to research involving GM techniques from 2005 to the present – ten times the budget for soil research.
The group's report says the Gates Foundation and DFID are ignoring the recommendations of key research, including the unprecedented IAASTD report in 2008, endorsed by the UK Government, which recommended agroecological approaches to farming to restore natural resources, such as the soils, biodiversity and water and a switch away from fossil-fuel based artificial fertilisers and pesticides. 
GM Freeze also reveals the Gates Foundation funding of the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA) to distribute artificial fertilisers to small farmers. AGRA plan to deliver 187,000 tons of fertilizer "to small farmers through wholesale and retail networks by December 2012" at a overall cost of US$164 million to the Gates Foundation – eight times their allocated expenditure on soil research.
The Gates Foundation collaborate closely with agri-biotechnology companies including Monsanto, BASF, Du Pont, Dow and the Syngenta Foundation in projects to develop GM seeds and promote fertilisers, pesticides and hybrid seeds to small African farmers through bodies such as African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and projects like Harvest Plus – both also funded by DFID.
Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:
"The Gates Foundation approach to agricultural development is swimming against of tide of informed opinion if it is serious about tackling hunger.
"Instead of promoting proven, low-cost solutions, the Foundation is mimicking discredited high input farming that has cost millions in Northern countries due to pollution, soil erosion and disastrous impacts on biodiversity above and below the soil. DFID is meekly following this lead despite expert analysis showing that in a world with eroded natural resources, climate change and rising demand and costs of energy and fertilisers, a switch to agroecological approaches is urgently needed.
"Offering small and family farmers GM technology will only lock them into expensive and failing intensive farming approaches that benefit big business.
More at the link*Gates plan spends 40% of R&D funding on risky "silver bullet" GM... more
I went to the Occupy Wall Street march last week, as part of the NYC food justice delegation. We carried baskets of farmers’ market vegetables and signs reading “Stop Gambling on Hunger” and “Food Not Bonds.” Food justice advocates came out from around the city—urban farmers, gardeners, youth, professors, union members, and community organizers. The vegetables attracted a lot of attention. Food so often attracts a lot of attention—the New York Times is just one of the outlets to focus in recent days on the makeshift kitchen at Zuccotti Park. What was more surprising were all of the puzzled looks we got from the bloggers, photographers, and other marchers who wanted to talk to us. “What’s the connection here with food?” we were asked many times.
The connection of the protests with food, of course, runs from the local to the global, the specific to the ephemeral. Food justice advocates are connecting with Occupy sites all around the country to donate fresh, healthy, local food or to help find kitchen space. On a broader philosophical level, as Mark Bittman writes in the Times, “Whether we’re talking about food, politics, healthcare, housing, the environment, or banking, the big question remains the same: How do we bring about fundamental change?” But there are also clear and specific reasons that all of us working for a just and fair food system, as the food movement should make the connection between our work and Occupy Wall Street explicit and strong.
In the U.S. today, the richest one percent hold 40 percent of the wealth, while almost one in five Americans is on food stamps. Rampant Wall Street speculation on commodities is driving up food costs, small farmers are being driven off their land, and agribusiness holds monopoly control of our seeds and stores. In this climate, the struggle against massive wealth disparities, unregulated financial institutions, and excessive corporate power is our struggle as well. Two points in the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City address the food system. While barely scratching the surface of the potential connections, the protesters have provided an important opening for the food movement. Will we seize it?
Speculation Drives up Food Costs
At the most obvious level, as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy recently wrote, “Wall Street deregulation has not only made the stock market extremely volatile, it has increased prices and price volatility in agricultural markets.” That is, the relationship between government and Wall Street firms has turned food into commodity like any other, subject to the whims of the market. For decades, only people directly involved in agriculture (e.g., farmers) could freely participate in trade of futures of agricultural commodities (e.g., corn, soy, wheat). Outside speculators were allowed into these markets but with strictly enforced limits to how much they could buy. Futures trading served a practical purpose, giving farmers a guaranteed price for future harvests, and prices stayed relatively stable and reasonable for both buyers and sellers.
But in 2000, a wave of industry-backed deregulation raised and then removed these limits on speculation, which opened commodity markets to a flood of new players—these later included funds controlled by some of the biggest Wall Street firms looking for new investment opportunities after the housing bubble burst. Flooded with new investments unconnected to any direct stake in crop prices, in 2008, the commodity markets exploded, driving up grain prices worldwide. The grain price spikes were catastrophic for millions of people worldwide. Farmers, who sometimes benefit from high grain prices, mostly were no better off, because similarly skyrocketing energy prices also drove up prices of agricultural inputs.
In 2008 and 2009, the UN estimated that an additional 130 million people were driven into hunger by the food price bubble. Spontaneous food riots broke out in dozens of countries where chronic hunger is a reality. Today’s Wall Street protests are not unconnected to those; the effects of food and energy speculation continue in 2011. A study in June by University of Massachusetts Amherst professor Robert Pollin estimates that U.S. gasoline prices are $0.83 higher per gallon due to Wall Street speculation. The CEO of ExxonMobil said he estimates prices are $1.20 to $1.40 higher per gallon. And food commodity prices are as high, or higher, than they were in 2008—while 46 million Americans are now living below the poverty line, struggling with basic expenses like food.
A New Colonialism
Wall Street firms aren’t just gambling on food prices, they have begun speculating on land as well. Alerted to the potential market in agriculture, investors are buying up huge parcels of farmland all over the world, displacing the occupants, and converting subsistence production to cash crops—or, worse, simply leaving the land fallow and waiting for its value to increase. According to international NGO GRAIN, which first reported on this trend in 2008, more than 50 million hectares of land has been transferred from farmers to corporations since 2009. “Land grabs” have affected tens of thousands of people around the world who have been driven off their land–often violently–with little or no compensation, given no say in the process, and left with no recourse. For most of them, land is their livelihood; without it, the future is bleak.
More at the linkI went to the Occupy Wall Street march last week, as part of the NYC food justice... more
Global poverty did not just happen. It began with military conquest, slavery and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land, minerals and forced labor. Today, the problem persists because of unfair debt, trade and tax policies — in other words, wealthy countries taking advantage of poor, developing countries.
Renowned actor and activist, Martin Sheen, narrates , a feature-length documentary directed by award-winning director, Philippe Diaz, which explains how today's financial crisis is a direct consequence of these unchallenged policies that have lasted centuries. Consider that 20% of the planet's population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate. At this rate, to maintain our lifestyle means more and more people will sink below the poverty line.
Filmed in the slums of Africa and the barrios of Latin America, The End of Poverty? features expert insights from: Nobel prize winners in Economics, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz; acclaimed authors Susan George, Eric Toussaint, John Perkins, Chalmers Johnson; university professors William Easterly and Michael Watts; government ministers such as Bolivia's Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and the leaders of social movements in Brazil, Venezuela, Kenya and Tanzania. It is produced by Cinema Libre Studio in collaboration with the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. Can we really end poverty within our current economic system? Think again. http://www.theendofpoverty.com/
More at the linkGlobal poverty did not just happen. It began with military conquest, slavery and... more
There is genetically modified produce in a lot of the processed food you eat, but this is the first time that Monsanto is taking fresh GM produce from the ground straight to your mouth. If it works out, there will be plenty more.
Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, is known for developing engineered crops (i.e. corn and soybeans) that end up in many of the food products found on grocery store aisles, as well as in fibers and animal feed. Up until now, the company's GM crops have only been available in processed foods--in other words, in little bits and pieces. But now Monsanto is making a move into the consumer market with GM sweet corn, which will be found in a supermarket produce bin or farmer's market near you starting this fall.
There is a good chance you've already eaten GM sweet corn: Syngenta--a Monsanto rival--has been selling it for a decade. And Monsanto already sells GM squash developed by Seminis, which the company bought in 2005. So why is Monsanto's sweet corn a big deal? This is the first consumer product actually developed by Monsanto. While previous industry attempts to introduce GM consumer-oriented vegetables in the 1990s failed miserably (see Calgene's Flavr Savr tomatoes), Monsanto may be warming up to the idea. "I think Monsanto is trying to test the waters here," says Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety. If GM sweet corn works out for the agri-giant, we might see even more GM produce on our supermarket shelves.
Monsanto, which already controls 60% of the U.S. corn market, is including traits in the new sweet corn that make it resistant to both Monsanto's Roundup herbicide and to insects (through the inclusion of Bt toxin, a trait that disrupts insect digestive systems and eventually kills them). As we have mentioned before, at least 21 weed species have become resistant to Roundup. And Bt toxin may have negative health effects--a recent study found the toxin in the maternal and fetal blood of pregnant women, though the implications of that aren't known quite yet.
"There's a concern with these GE crops that we eat with minimal processing [like sweet corn]...we're exposed to a lot more of whatever is in it versus a processed corn product," says Freese. This may be one of the rare cases where processed food is better for you than fresh food.
The market for sweet corn is smaller than the market for grain corn, and up until now GM sweet corn sales have been dominated by Syngenta, which also uses Bt toxin in its product. Now that Monsanto is entering the game, there will be even more room for cross-pollination with non-GM corn crops. "Corn is very promiscuous, meaning it's easy for cross-pollination to occur," says Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist at the Pesticide Action Network North America. "Farmers won't be able to access conventional seeds, and they may lose local varieties."
Think that consumers would never buy a Monsanto-branded ear of sweet corn given the company's controversial reputation? Maybe not--but it doesn't matter. A Monsanto representative told the LA Times: "It's up to us to make sure we help tell people about the benefits...given how sweet corn is normally sold--by the ear, in larger bins in produce sections of the market--it's not really something that can be easily branded."
More at the link.There is genetically modified produce in a lot of the processed food you eat, but this... more
According to this article, the reality of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso in West Africa is far removed from the hyperbole. The cost of Bt cotton seed in Burkina Faso has quickly more than tripled in return for no increase in yields – exactly the opposite of the claims used to promote Bt cotton to Burkina Faso's farmers of massive increases in yield. These kinds of wildly misleading promotionals for Bt cotton are already familiar from India - see item 2 - and South Africa: http://gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/12693
EXTRACT: ...in 2003, a pro-GM propaganda campaign was launched. In all media and organised forums on the subject, we heard the fabulous promises of GMOs: four times higher yields, fourfold savings on inputs.
...The increase in the cost of the [Bt cotton] seed, from 1600 FCFA [24 Euros/34 USD] per hectare for conventional seeds last year to 54000 FCFA [82 Euros/115 USD] hectare for GM seeds this year, is not accompanied by increasing yield as was promised.
1.Burkina Faso is a Trojan Horse for GMOs in Africa
Interview with Ousmane Tiendrébéogo, Secretary General of the National Union of Agropastoral Workers (Syntapa)
by Combat Monsanto
Journal of Alternatives, June 28 2011
Article in French: http://bit.ly/qSTmiR
[Unofficial English translation by Claire Robinson of GMWatch]
Ousmane Tiendrébéogo, Secretary General of the National Union of Workers of the Agro-Pastoral (Syntapa), and Burkina Faso cotton farmers' union activist for GMO-free Burkina Faso, has been in France for the past two weeks at the invitation of the Artisans of the Monde-Rhone Alps. Combat Monsanto took the opportunity to meet him and to examine the record of GMOs in Burkina Faso. The findings are alarming!
Combat Monsanto: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and Syntapa?
Ousmane Tiendrébéogo: I am a peasant cotton farmer in Burkina Faso and Secretary General of Syntapa. Syntapa was started in 2003, based on the observation that the National Union of Cotton Producers of Burkina Faso (UNPCB), the only organization bringing together producers, merely applied the policies of the government and completely forgot what should be its primary function – working for the interests of farmers. The Syntapa's mission is leading the fight for better compensation for farmers. In this context, Syntapa is fighting against GMOs (Bt cotton, biofortified sorghum) because, in addition to their adverse effects on health and the environment, they exacerbate the impoverishment of farmers.
CM: Can you expand on this? What does Syntapa claim with regard to GMOs?
OT: We are opposed to GMOs for several obvious reasons. The first reason is the catastrophic economic impact that the adoption of GMOs has had on farmers. The increase in the cost of the seed, from 1600 FCFA [24 Euros/34 USD] per hectare for conventional seeds last year to 54000 FCFA [82 Euros/115 USD] hectare for GM seeds this year, is not accompanied by increasing yield as was promised. Worse, the Bt cotton produces fewer seeds than the conventional variety, and is thus two times lighter in weight for the same output of fiber. Thus, peasant farmers, who are paid by the weight of their harvest, are the losers, whereas Sofitex [a state-controlled agro-industrial and commercial entity, involved in the entire cotton production cycle, including planting, ginning of seed cotton and export of cotton fiber] is the winner.
To take a concrete example: a truck full of conventional fiber weighed about 12 tons and generated 1.8 million FCFA [2748 euros] in revenue for the farmers. This same truck today, filled with the same amount of fiber, but from GM cotton, weighs 6 tons [50% less] and generates 900 000 FCFA [1374 euros, 50% less] for the farmers. This has caused significant financial losses for farmers during the first harvest of Bt cotton. Indebted farmers may have to sell their land, which will likely be bought by multinationals for monoculture export or biofuel.
Then we see an environmental impact: I saw farmers' herds of goats become seriously ill and die after GM cotton was planted in their fields. The authorities responded to this problem by ordering analyses of cotton leaves. But due to lack of funds and of independent testing bodies, the cotton samples were sent to Monsanto's own labs for testing.... Of course, the multinational, which sells Bt cotton, found nothing suspicious in the samples. We are not even sure that the analyses were even done.
Finally GMOs pose a safety problem: children have became ill through contact with the seeds and Sofitex itself advises pregnant women and children to stay away from GM seeds.
More at the link
http://en.sott.net/image/image/s3/73679/full/Nation_9_21_2009.jpgAccording to this article, the reality of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso in West Africa is... more
NOTE: Profile of the organisation running the controversial GM wheat trial in Australia.
EXTRACT: "Yes, we do find that it is often the best strategy to get into bed with these companies [MNCs]." - CSIRO's former chief executive
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is promoted as Australia's pre-eminent public scientific research body. Although ostensibly 'publicly funded' CSIRO has, in reality, been encouraged to get 30% of its funding from business with the CSIRO top management encouraging its staff to go to 40%. As a point of comparison, only about 10% of the funding of Europe's leading plant biotech institute, the John Innes Centre, is thought to come directly from industry although the JIC is considered highly industrially aligned.
According to John Stocker, CSIRO's former chief executive, 'Working with the transnationals makes a lot of sense, in the context of market access. There are very few Australian companies that have developed market access in the United States, in Europe and in Japan, the world's major marketplaces. Yes, we do find that it is often the best strategy to get into bed with these companies.' (Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1992).
Richard Hindmarsh in an article in the Journal of Australian Political Economy (No 44.), 'Consolidating Control: Plant Variety Rights, Genes and Seeds', describes CSIRO as having a long history of involvement with intensive agricultural R&D and collaboration with agribusiness multinationals, and as having become increasingly dependent upon industry funding. The effect of this is 'to generate convergence between private sector and public sector plant breeding operators.' Hindmarsh notes, 'The CSIRO, in keeping with its position of being at the forefront of scientific research, prioritised genetic engineering research in 1979. CSIRO scientists have since been very active in the promotion of GE to the Australian community, and especially to other scientists (Hindmarsh, 1996). In addition, multinational companies are seen as the key avenue to the international commercialisation of biotechnology products and research of both Australian public sector institutions and biotechnology firms.'
Hindmarsh also notes, '...the indications are that a Byzantine web of formal contractual obligations and informal connections has emerged between the CSIRO and other public-sector agencies..., universities, small or new biotechnology firms (NBFs), and multinational corporations.'
The corporations listed by Hindmarsh as having direct financial connections with CSIRO include: Agrigenetics, Monsanto, Rhone Poulenc and AgrEvo (later part of Aventis and then Bayer). A collaboration between the CSIRO and Monsanto generated Australia's first major GM commercial crop. On the day of the announcement of the commercial approval for Bayer's GM canola (oilseed rape) in Australia, CSIRO announced that Bayer would be extending its lucrative investment in CSIRO 'to develop modern biotechnology tools applicable to cotton and other crops'. The press release said, ' For Bayer CropScience, the alliance with CSIRO is regarded as a model for global cooperation.'
For some it is a model of everything that's wrong in the relationship between public science and private interests. An article in the journal Australasian Science written by a former CSIRO senior executive accused the head of CSIRO of subverting the CSIRO's traditional role of public research in favour of lucrative consulting work for government and the private sector. Research into GM crops, with its promise of intellectual property and revenue streams, is 'in' at the CSIRO, he reportd; research into organic farming is 'out'. He described morale among staff as at rock bottom.NOTE: Profile of the organisation running the controversial GM wheat trial in... more
The powerful biotechnology giant, which dominates Brazil's soya industry, has got a brochure on organic produce removed from the Ministry of Agriculture's website
Monsanto, the US-based biotechnology multinational, has had a brochure removed from website of the Ministry of Agriculture. The brochure, which can be accessed here, is a delightful and entirely innocuous publication, aimed at the general public. With illustrations by the renowned cartoonist and writer Ziraldo, it has been produced to publicise the new SISORG certification that has been produced by the Brazilian government for organic produce.
Although Monsanto has not explained the motives for its action, one can assume that it objects to the one and only mention of GMOs in the 32 pages of the brochure. The brochure states: "O agricultor organico nao cultiva transgenicos porque nao quer colocar em risco a diversidade de variedades que existem na natureza" (The organic farmer does not cultivate GMOs because he/she does not want to put at risk the diversity of the varieties that exist in nature).
It is difficult to think of other countries where such a statement, which is only reflecting what many organic farmers and anti-GMO activists believe, would be sufficient to have a publication taken off a government website. Monsanto has gone to court to have the publication banned, but the action by the Ministry of Agriculture has been taken before the court has made a ruling.
That Monsanto has the political clout to achieve this is a reflection of the expanding influence exercised by Monsanto since environmentalists and consumers lost a long legal battle and GMO soya was finally authorised in Brazil in 2003. Brazil is now one of the leading world producers of GMOThe powerful biotechnology giant, which dominates Brazil's soya industry, has got... more