Tag Archives: monsanto

The Big Organic Sellout?

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People should have certain expectations when it comes to farmers and companies that sell organic products and food.  We all seem to have this mystical image of the original concept being lead by ‘back-to-the-lander’ types with pony tails and a patch of marijuana tucked away in their back yard somewhere.

Fast-forward to the present and you’ll have to quickly acknowledge that if you did have this vision, it’s wrong.

This story (http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22449.cfm) illustrates how several companies – including Whole Foods, Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm (now owned by Danone) have surrendered to Monsanto – the anti-thesis of organic – by announcing that they will pursue a life of ‘co-existence’ with Genetically Engineered (GE) foods.

And just like that, ‘organic’ risks being seen as a big marketing scam.  The entire effort of generations of people that do not want to risk having their crops and services contaminated by Monsanto’s poisonous approach to farming is now put at risk by a single decision.

Here’s the rationale as to why it all happened:

The Organic Inc. CEOs (ie. those from Whole  Foods, Stonyfield and Organic Valley) are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it’s time to reach for the consolation prize.  The consolation prize they seek is a so-called “coexistence” between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto’s unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.

In order to eliminate any confusion about what’s in your food, the article we cited comes to a conclusion that we support:  truth-in-labeling.  It’s the only way to differentiate real food from modified food and it has to start immediately.

In the US, Dennis Kucinich (D, Ohio) has introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs.  The chances of this being successful are slim.

With this in mind, the other opportunity is to keep applying the pressure:

The Organic Consumers Association, joined by our consumer, farmer, environmental, and labor allies, has just launched a nationwide Truth-in-Labeling campaign to stop Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans.

You can also petition Whole Foods here:  http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22309.cfm

In Canada, most of the information that I’m able to find is stale, but I’m hoping you can help by providing some additional links in the comments.  I do know that there is CBAN and they are encouraging Canadians to get their MP to support Bill C-474, a requirement to assess the economic impact of GE use with food production.

More information can be found here:  http://www.cban.ca/Take-Action/Act-Now

Click here to see how your MP voted on the original submission of the Bill.

Indian Farmers Committing Suicide en masse … because of GM seeds?

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This story is sad.  It tells about the dismal treatment of a working class in India that has been manipulated into believing it can dig itself out of povery, all for the benefit of a single corporation known as Monsanto.

By Andrew Malone

When Prince Charles claimed thousands of Indian farmers were killing themselves after using GM crops, he was branded a scaremonger. In fact, as this chilling dispatch reveals, it’s even WORSE than he feared.

The children were inconsolable. Mute with shock and fighting back tears, they huddled beside their mother as friends and neighbours prepared their father’s body for cremation on a blazing bonfire built on the cracked, barren fields near their home.

As flames consumed the corpse, Ganjanan, 12, and Kalpana, 14, faced a grim future. While Shankara Mandaukar had hoped his son and daughter would have a better life under India’s economic boom, they now face working as slave labour for a few pence a day. Landless and homeless, they will be the lowest of the low.

Indian farmer

Human tragedy: A farmer and child in India’s ‘suicide belt’

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.

As neighbours gathered to pray outside the family home, Nirmala Mandaukar, 50, told how she rushed back from the fields to find her husband dead. ‘He was a loving and caring man,’ she said, weeping quietly.

‘But he couldn’t take any more. The mental anguish was too much. We have lost everything.’

Shankara’s crop had failed – twice. Of course, famine and pestilence are part of India’s ancient story.

But the death of this respected farmer has been blamed on something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops.

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiralling debts – and no income.

So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

The crisis, branded the ‘GM Genocide’ by campaigners, was highlighted recently when Prince Charles claimed that the issue of GM had become a ‘global moral question’ – and the time had come to end its unstoppable march.

Speaking by video link to a conference in the Indian capital, Delhi, he infuriated bio-tech leaders and some politicians by condemning ‘the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming… from the failure of many GM crop varieties’.

Ranged against the Prince are powerful GM lobbyists and prominent politicians, who claim that genetically modified crops have transformed Indian agriculture, providing greater yields than ever before.

The rest of the world, they insist, should embrace ‘the future’ and follow suit.

So who is telling the truth? To find out, I travelled to the ‘suicide belt’ in Maharashtra state.

What I found was deeply disturbing – and has profound implications for countries, including Britain, debating whether to allow the planting of seeds manipulated by scientists to circumvent the laws of nature.

For official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here each month.

Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide – a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops.

It seems that many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.

Pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and ‘agrarian distress’ that is the real reason for the horrific toll.

But, as I discovered during a four-day journey through the epicentre of the disaster, that is not the full story.

Monsanto

Death seeds: A Greenpeace protester sprays milk-based paint on a Monsanto research soybean field near Atlantic, Iowa

In one small village I visited, 18 farmers had committed suicide after being sucked into GM debts. In some cases, women have taken over farms from their dead husbands – only to kill themselves as well.

Latta Ramesh, 38, drank insecticide after her crops failed – two years after her husband disappeared when the GM debts became too much.

She left her ten-year-old son, Rashan, in the care of relatives. ‘He cries when he thinks of his mother,’ said the dead woman’s aunt, sitting listlessly in shade near the fields.

Village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds.

The price difference is staggering: £10 for 100 grams of GM seed, compared with less than £10 for 1,000 times more traditional seeds.

But GM salesmen and government officials had promised farmers that these were ‘magic seeds’ – with better crops that would be free from parasites and insects.

Indeed, in a bid to promote the uptake of GM seeds, traditional varieties were banned from many government seed banks.

The authorities had a vested interest in promoting this new biotechnology. Desperate to escape the grinding poverty of the post-independence years, the Indian government had agreed to allow new bio-tech giants, such as the U.S. market-leader Monsanto, to sell their new seed creations.

In return for allowing western companies access to the second most populated country in the world, with more than one billion people, India was granted International Monetary Fund loans in the Eighties and Nineties, helping to launch an economic revolution.

But while cities such as Mumbai and Delhi have boomed, the farmers’ lives have slid back into the dark ages.

Though areas of India planted with GM seeds have doubled in two years – up to 17 million acres – many famers have found there is a terrible price to be paid.

Far from being ‘magic seeds’, GM pest-proof ‘breeds’ of cotton have been devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite.

Nor were the farmers told that these seeds require double the amount of water. This has proved a matter of life and death.

With rains failing for the past two years, many GM crops have simply withered and died, leaving the farmers with crippling debts and no means of paying them off.

Having taken loans from traditional money lenders at extortionate rates, hundreds of thousands of small farmers have faced losing their land as the expensive seeds fail, while those who could struggle on faced a fresh crisis.

When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year.

But with GM seeds they cannot do this. That’s because GM seeds contain so- called ‘terminator technology’, meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own.

As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds each year at the same punitive prices. For some, that means the difference between life and death.

Take the case of Suresh Bhalasa, another farmer who was cremated this week, leaving a wife and two children.

As night fell after the ceremony, and neighbours squatted outside while sacred cows were brought in from the fields, his family had no doubt that their troubles stemmed from the moment they were encouraged to buy BT Cotton, a geneticallymodified plant created by Monsanto.

‘We are ruined now,’ said the dead man’s 38-year-old wife. ‘We bought 100 grams of BT Cotton. Our crop failed twice. My husband had become depressed. He went out to his field, lay down in the cotton and swallowed insecticide.’

Villagers bundled him into a rickshaw and headed to hospital along rutted farm roads. ‘He cried out that he had taken the insecticide and he was sorry,’ she said, as her family and neighbours crowded into her home to pay their respects. ‘He was dead by the time they got to hospital.’

Asked if the dead man was a ‘drunkard’ or suffered from other ‘social problems’, as alleged by pro-GM officials, the quiet, dignified gathering erupted in anger. ‘No! No!’ one of the dead man’s brothers exclaimed. ‘Suresh was a good man. He sent his children to school and paid his taxes.

‘He was strangled by these magic seeds. They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here.’

Monsanto has admitted that soaring debt was a ‘factor in this tragedy’. But pointing out that cotton production had doubled in the past seven years, a spokesman added that there are other reasons for the recent crisis, such as ‘untimely rain’ or drought, and pointed out that suicides have always been part of rural Indian life.

Officials also point to surveys saying the majority of Indian farmers want GM seeds  –  no doubt encouraged to do so by aggressive marketing tactics.

During the course of my inquiries in Maharastra, I encountered three ‘independent’ surveyors scouring villages for information about suicides. They insisted that GM seeds were only 50 per cent more expensive – and then later admitted the difference was 1,000 per cent.

(A Monsanto spokesman later insisted their seed is ‘only double’ the price of ‘official’ non-GM seed – but admitted that the difference can be vast if cheaper traditional seeds are sold by ‘unscrupulous’ merchants, who often also sell ‘fake’ GM seeds which are prone to disease.)

With rumours of imminent government compensation to stem the wave of deaths, many farmers said they were desperate for any form of assistance. ‘We just want to escape from our problems,’ one said. ‘We just want help to stop any more of us dying.’

Prince Charles is so distressed by the plight of the suicide farmers that he is setting up a charity, the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation, to help those affected and promote organic Indian crops instead of GM.

India’s farmers are also starting to fight back. As well as taking GM seed distributors hostage and staging mass protests, one state government is taking legal action against Monsanto for the exorbitant costs of GM seeds.

This came too late for Shankara Mandauker, who was 80,000 rupees (about £1,000) in debt when he took his own life. ‘I told him that we can survive,’ his widow said, her children still by her side as darkness fell. ‘I told him we could find a way out. He just said it was better to die.’

But the debt does not die with her husband: unless she can find a way of paying it off, she will not be able to afford the children’s schooling. They will lose their land, joining the hordes seen begging in their thousands by the roadside throughout this vast, chaotic country.

Cruelly, it’s the young who are suffering most from the ‘GM Genocide’  –  the very generation supposed to be lifted out of a life of hardship and misery by these ‘magic seeds’.

Here in the suicide belt of India, the cost of the genetically modified future is murderously high.

Monsanto out to ruin farming in Mesopotamia?

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Just as I’m reporting on SPIN farming and efforts to grow our own produce in our backyards, I come across this article describing Monsanto’s efforts to control farming in Mesopotamia.  While we make efforts to collect and harvest heritage seeds, Monsanto is ramming ‘democracy’ down the throats of Iraqi farmers in the form of legalized theft.

This whole thing disgusts me.  I could be wrong, as I’m not an agrarian historian, but how can we sanction this top-down approach to farming, when it was most likely the Mesopotamians that domesticated wheat and other products in the first place, largely out of respect for variety and diversity.

Here are some snapshots from the article:

The 100 Orders [of Paul Bremer] allow multinational corporations to basically privatize an entire nation, and this degree of foreign and private control has not been witnessed since the days of the British East India Company and its extraterritoriality treaties.

A few examples of the 100 Orders are illuminating:

  • Order 39 allows for the tax-free remittance of all corporate profits.
  • Order 17 grants foreign contractors, including private security firms, immunity from Iraq’s laws.
  • Orders 57 and 77 ensure the implementation of the orders by placing U.S.-appointed auditors and inspector general in every government ministry, with five-year terms and with sweeping authority over contracts, programs, employees and regulations.

Back to one of the most blatant orders of all: Order 81. Under this mandate, Iraq’s commercial farmers must now buy "registered seeds." These are normally imported by Monsanto, Cargill and the World Wide Wheat Company. Unfortunately, these registered seeds are "terminator" seeds, meaning "sterile." Imagine if all human men were infertile, and in order to reproduce women needed to buy sperm cells at a sperm bank. In agricultural terms, terminator seeds represent the same kind of sterility.

Terminator seeds have no agricultural value other than creating corporate monopolies. The Sierra Club, more of a mainstream "conservation" organization than a radical "environmentalist" one, makes the exact same case:

"This technology would protect the intellectual property interests of the seed company by making the seeds from a genetically engineered crop plant sterile, unable to germinate. Terminator would make it impossible for farmers to save seed from a crop for planting the next year, and would force them to buy seed from the supplier. In the third world, this inability to save seed could be a major, perhaps fatal, burden on poor farmers."

What makes this Order 81 even more outrageous is that Iraqi farmers have been saving wheat and barley seeds since at least 4000 BC, when irrigated agriculture first emerged, and probably even to about 8000 BC, when wheat was first domesticated. Mesopotamia’s farmers have now been trumped by white-smocked, corporate bio-engineers from Florida who strive to replace hundreds of natural varieties with a handful of genetically scrambled hybrids.

Just in case Iraqi farmer can’t read, Order 81 enforces the new monopoly on seeds with the jackboot. Order 81 makes this clear in its own text, buried at the bottom of the document, as is most screw-you fine print:

"The court may order the confiscation of the infringing variety as well as the materials and tools substantially used in the infringement of the protected variety. The court may also decide to destroy the infringing variety as well as the materials and tools or to dispose of them in any noncommercial purpose."

Order 81 is about power and profit, but it disguises itself as humanitarian legislation.

In Canada, we’ve also been inundated with terminator seeds, but all is not lost because of heroes like Percy Schmeiser .  He managed to fight Monsanto and won, in an undisclosed settlement in his favour.

Profiting From International Starvation

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Full Story Here.

Euthanol has driven the planet to starvation, and it looks like a small handful of companies are profiting from this situation.

Monsanto: net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn
Cargill: net earnings soared by 86 per cent from $553m to $1.030bn over the same three months.
Archer Daniels Midland: increased its net earnings by 42 per cent in the first three months of this year from $363m to $517m. The operating profit of its grains merchandising and handling operations jumped 16-fold from $21m to $341m.
Mosaic Company: income for the three months ending 29 February rise more than 12-fold, from $42.2m to $520.8m.

A number of organizations are pursuing water as a basic human right. At what point do we consider food as a basic human right as well?

Monsanto Documentary

Watch the video here:

http://bestdocumentaries.blogspot.com/2008/03/world-according-to-monsanto.html

Enjoy while you’re munching on some soya burgers!