Archive for May, 2013

British Supermarkets, GMO Soya and Birth Defects

May 30, 2013

Sue Branford
GMWATCH/News Investigation
Published: Wednesday 29 May 2013
Along with the possible health risk to consumers, there is the question of the horrific impact that the boom in GMO soya production is having on rural communities in South America, particularly Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay.
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Over the last year the UK’s six largest supermarkets have all quietly dropped their non-GMO feed requirement for poultry and eggs. Tesco, Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer, Morrison, ASDA, and the Co-op are now selling chickens fed on genetically modified soya. Few consumers are aware of the change, for the retailers are not labeling their products as containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Co-op and Tesco have also misled their customers by claiming that GM feed given to animals is not detectable in animal products. This is not true. Several research studies have found that GM DNA from animal feed is present in the milk, meat, and eggs that people eat. This has been confirmed by the UK Government’s Food Standards Agency. If you would like to support a campaign to get the supermarkets to rethink their decision, sign the petition organized by GMO Action and write to the supermarkets.

This change is a matter of concern for all of us. Along with the possible health risk to consumers, there is the question of the horrific impact that the boom in GMO soya production is having on rural communities in South America, particularly Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay. Because the soya has been genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate, the active agent found in Monsanto’s Round Up, it means that massive quantities of this herbicide are sprayed from the air throughout the growing season. Evidence is emerging that this has led to big increases in miscarriages, birth defects in babies, and childhood cancers in nearby villages.

Raul, a six-year-old boy, is virtually paralyzed from the head down. He lies snugly in the arms of his young mother, Maria Almeida, but she can’t stop the tears flowing as, sitting outside her home in the village of Saenz Peña in the north of Argentina, she says how much she would love to see him walk like his sister does. Raul is one of many children being born with congenital deformations in this town, which is surrounded by huge plantations of genetically modified soya.

 

Although no one can ever be sure in an individual case, many doctors are blaming the GMO soya boom for the alarming rise in health problems. Doctor Seveso, who works in the neonatal ward in the local children’s hospital, says that the number of congenital malformations in babies has increased from 14 per 10,000 live births in 1996 to 81 per 10,000 live births in 2008. Pointing to two graphs, she says that the sharp rise in malformations is mirrored very closely in the steep increase in the cultivation of GMO soya. 

This story and others like it were recently told in an extraordinary documentary on Al Jazeera television. In the village of Ituzaingó, also in the north of Argentina, mothers became so worried by the number of children falling ill that they carried out their own epidemiological study and discovered that birth defects and cancers in children, particularly leukemia and melanoma, were running at many times the national average.

They took their results to Andrés Carrasco, Argentina’s leading embryologist. He carried out laboratory studies and discovered a link between glyphosate and malformations. Carrasco was not surprised at his results: “We are applying 300 million liters of agro-chemicals, 200 million of which are glyphosate, on to our fields. We have to realize that this will cause harm, both to human health and to the natural environment.”

After a vigorous campaign, the mothers succeeded in getting a judge to ban aerial spraying around their village, a remarkable victory considering how strong the pro-soya lobby is in Argentina. But this isolated victory will not change the bigger picture. Argentina is adding another 10 million hectares of land to the 34 million hectares currently under cultivation. Most of this new land, which can only come from felling woods and forests, will be used to cultivate GMO soya and GMO cereals.

Since 1996 the Argentine government has given the go-ahead to 27 GMO crops. No other country in the world has adopted genetic modification on such a scale. GMO soya, cultivated in vast plantations, has depopulated huge areas. Travelling north by road from Buenos Aires one encounters one ghost village after another. Some farmers, like Gustavo Grobocopatel, the chief executive of Los Grobo and reportedly the world’s biggest soya farmer (having overtaken Brazil’s Blairo Maggi), have become extremely rich, but small-scale farmers are struggling even to stay on the land, as the big boys from the cities gobble up their plots. Even Grobocopatel is alarmed at the increase in health problems, saying somewhat defensively that he has been using only herbicides approved by the government.

Some agronomists believe that the soya boom will implode, as the chemical onslaught kills the soil. Already there are problems with the emergence of so-called “super weeds”, which have become resistant to glyphosate. The biotech companies have come up with a technical fix by making GMO seeds resistant as well to another herbicide, glufosinate. According to Andrés Carrasco, glufosinate has been shown to have a devastating impact on animals, producing convulsions and the death of brain cells. So nasty in fact that, while Argentina was approving five new seeds resistant to the glyphosate–glufosinate combination, the European Union had already banned the use of glufosinate within its territory.

Soya has spread like a plague across Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia over the last 20 years, destroying rural communities and demolishing valuable natural habitats. The model of monoculture agriculture it promotes is harmful in all its forms but there is little doubt that the GMO mode has particularly noxious consequences for people and habitats. Now, with the new GMO seeds, the deluge of toxic chemicals will get even worse.

It’s too late to save Maria Almeida’s little son but we as UK consumers can help to prevent the multiplication of similar cases by getting our supermarkets to re-impose their ban on GMO soya in animal feed. Brazilian farmers say that there is plenty of non-GMO soya on the market. Doing this will not solve all the problems but it will be a first step.

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The Monsanto Revolution

May 30, 2013

May 28, 2013

 

By Timothy Gatto

The Monsanto debacle has proven, beyond any shadow of a doubt that the commercial media is in the hands of the rich and powerful.

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(Article changed on May 28, 2013 at 13:17)

The Monsanto Revolution

The protests against the Monsanto Protection Act were not covered by the corporately run news media in the United States. This treacherous act itself has not been discussed by the majority of people and the information about what it really means to us is being hidden by those charged to provide this information.

The very fact that the corporate media has tried to minimize the coverage of the protests, and the fact that they hid the role of Congress in protecting a company that has the potential to damage our lives is something that is actually criminal. The fact that most Americans still  don’t  know about the potential effects of GMO seeds to the American people cannot be defended.

It was the alternative and social media that brought this matter to the public. The marches and the gathering of concerned Americans demonstrated the power of this new way of communication. The effectiveness and coordination in over 250 cities in the United States was absolutely remarkable and a demonstration of how democracy works.

It was also remarkable how the commercial media downplayed and censored the protests of the people . The importance of the information that the demonstrators were trying to present to the American public and the effect of what Monsanto’s policies will have on the public is of significant importance.

Even though people demonstrated in almost every city in the United States, the commercial media still managed to keep the purpose and the import of the demonstrations quiet, the suppression of that information was done masterfully.

What Else are they hiding from the People?

It appears that our government has morphed into something that would be unrecognizable to those that designed and formed it. In the period of time during the American Revolution, many people in the government were indeed rich and powerful, but many were not. Today most Senators and Congressman are rich and powerful and those that are not will by the time they leave office. The majority of those in Congress are controlled by corporate money and this is what funds their campaigns.

The Monsanto debacle has proven, beyond any shadow of a doubt that the commercial media is in the hands of the rich and powerful. Information they  don’t  want known does not escape from the mediacloud that is dispersed to the people. The importance of what Monsanto plans to do, and the effect it would have on all of the people in the United States proves that even a subject that affects us so deeply can be hidden from the people.

This should cause a seismic shift in our understanding of who and what controls the American people. The importance of The Monsanto Protection Act and the potential damage to the health and economic welfare of American citizen’s cannot be understated. What Congress has done was not done in the name of the American people; it was done to shield a corporation and thus was essentially an act of treason .

Again  I’m  asking the question; what else are they hiding from us? Whether it is because of corporate interests or because of what they feel is “national security”, these questions should and must be asked and the government should be compelled to answer.

The simple facts are, the people don’t work for the government in America, the government, under our law, works for the people! When they passed “The Monsanto Protection Act”, they passed a law that literally protected a corporation from the American people! Again, this is treason! Treason perpetrated against the American people is a capital offense! This may sound extreme, but every lawmaker that voted for this bill should be impeached and charged with treason against the people of the United States. The bill should be declared treasonous and overturned by The Supreme Court.

Of course, in today’s political climate, and with the perpetrators being the ones that hold power in Congress, this won’t happen at this particular time, but it can and will happen. It must happen! If the American people want control of the government instead of the government having control over them, they must take this issue to its logical conclusion.

As has happened many times in the past, it is happening here and now in the United States of America. The government has acted against the welfare of its own people for the personal gain of a corporation. This display of corporate power is contrary to our Declaration of Independence and against our Constitution.

Anyone who really cares about the welfare of their fellow man should take notice. It is apparent that one day of marches and demonstrating in the streets just isn’t enough. The only way forward is to continue to raise hell; more marches, more demonstrations, more people posting articles and more people raising awareness using any means possible. This is the only hope of stopping treason against the people.

We cannot stop the protests until this matter is rectified and the people responsible inside and outside of our government are brought to justice and tried by a jury of their peers.

Submitters Website: http://liberalpro.blogspot.com

Submitters Bio:

Former Chairman of the Liberal Party of America, Tim is a retired Army Sergeant. He currently lives in South Carolina. A regular contributor to OpEdNews, he is the author of Kimchee Days or Stoned Cold Warriors. Tim’s political book, “From Complicity to Contempt” and “Kimchee Days” can be purchased at most online booksellers. The second book in the political series called “Contempt to Outrage” is due one of these fine days. Tim is also working on a new novel.

Groups Slam Trade Deal for Choosing “Private Interests and Profits” over People and Planet

May 28, 2013

Published on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 by Common Dreams

Over 130 organizations publish statement denouncing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and similar ‘free trade’ pacts

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Following the most recent round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in Lima, Peru, more than 130 organizations have come out against suchinternational trade agreements calling them a “deadly weapon” against democratic rule, the protection of individual rights and environmental justice.

(Photo: Caelie Frampton/ Flickr)”These agreements further consolidate the asymmetry of laws that propagate that the rights and power of corporations are protected by ‘hard law’ and are above the rights of peoples and communities,” write the groups write in an open letter criticizing the agreements.

“We believe that Nation-states should have not only the obligation but also the full freedom to implement laws and policies in favour of the people and the environment, without the threat of being sued by transnational capital,” the letter continued.

According to the alliance—which includes such groups as Friends of the EarthGlobal Trade WatchInstitute for Policy StudiesGlobal Exchange—under International Investment Agreements (IIAs) such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a co-signed country can be sued by a transnational corporation if their laws or policies go against the interests of the corporations, such as legislation that favors people or the environment.

“International Investment Agreements grant unprecedented rights to foreign corporations and investors,” said Alberto Villarreal from Friends of the Earth-Uruguay, adding, “They are deadly weapons against democratic rule and the protection of peoples’ rights and environmental justice.”

The group is calling on State signatories to “denounce and stop signing” these agreements that have “unlawfully subjected them to foreign jurisdictions and violate peoples’ rights.”

Rather, they propose an alternative legal framework for international economic relations that is based primarily on democratic principles, prioritizing the rights of humans and nature over “private interests and profits.”

They explain:

This framework should include binding obligations for private and public transnational corporations on issues of human rights, as well as economic, labor, social rights, and respect for mother nature. It should also guarantee governments’ possibility to enact public policy for the realization of these rights. In this context, any investment agreement should also include a mechanism for public participation and democratic discussion with representatives of the relevant social sectors.

The 11 member states of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, United States of America, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and Peru—are expected to finalize their negotiations by the end of 2013.

Friends of the Earth produced the below video, “Peril in the Pacific,” to further explain how countries are impacted by the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Peril in the Pacific (sub esp) from Radio Mundo Real on Vimeo.

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Beware Capitalist Tools

May 28, 2013

Published on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 by RobertReich.com

by Robert Reich

Forbes Magazine likes to call itself a “capitalist tool,” and routinely offers tool-like justifications for whatever it is that profit-seeking corporations want to do. Recently it has deployed its small army of corporate defenders and apologists in the multi-billion dollar fight to keep the effective tax rates of global corporations low.… Or not.

One of its contributors, Tim Worstall, recentlytook me to task for suggesting that a way for citizens to gain some countervailing powerover large global corporations is for governments to threaten denial of market access unless corporations act responsibly.

He argues that the benefits to consumers of global corporations are so large that denial of market access would hurt citizens more than it would help them. The “value to U.S. consumers of Apple is they can buy Apple products,” Worstall writes. “Why would you want to punish U.S. consumers, by banning them from buying Apple products, just because Apple obeys the current tax laws?”

Wortstall thereby begs the central question. If global corporations obeyed all national laws — the spirit of the laws as well as the letter of them – and didn’t use their inordinate power to dictate the laws in the first place by otherwise threatening to take their jobs and investments elsewhere, there’d be no issue.

It’s the fact of their power to manipulate laws by playing nations off against one another – determining how much they pay in taxes, as well as how much they get in corporate welfare subsidies, how much regulation they’re subject to, and so on – that raises the question of how citizens can countermand this power.

Consumer benefits may sometimes exceed such costs. But, as we’ve painfully learned over the years (the Wall Street meltdown, the BP oil spill in the Gulf, consumer injuries and deaths from unsafe products, worker injuries and deaths from unsafe working conditions, climate change brought on by carbon dioxide emissions, and, yes, manipulation of the tax laws – need I go on?), the social costs may also exceed consumer benefits.

Why would an economics writer for a seemingly sophisticated national publication such as Forbes deny the existence of corporate power to circumvent or create favorable laws, or dismiss the social costs that corporations bent solely on maximizing profits routinely disregard? I’ll get back to this in a moment.

Worstall then goes on to criticize me for suggesting that governments also condition market access on receiving some of the social benefits that corporations now wield to play countries off against one another, such as good jobs or investments in research and development. In his eyes, I’m committing the mortal sin of denying the economics of comparative advantage.

On what planet have Forbes’ capitalist tools been living? Many of the world’s most successful economies – among them, China and Singapore – owe their successes in part to their conditioning market access on certain kinds of jobs and investments, including research and development. That’s the way they have come to use global corporations, rather than be used by them. It’s the same approach Alexander Hamilton advocated more than two centuries ago in proposing how the United States develop its manufacturing industries.

Comparative advantage is nice in theory, but in a world where powerful global corporations are using every strategy imaginable to maximize their profits and powerful governments are strategically employing market access to develop their economies, it’s just theory.

Economics writers like those affiliated with Forbes Magazine surely are sophisticated enough to know this as well. So why are they so eager to trot out such economic nonsense?

Perhaps because so much profit is at stake that those who pay their salaries – and who have also put many academic economists on retainers – prefer that they mislead the public with simplistic economic theory that appears to justify these profits rather than to tell the truth.

My modest suggestion that governments become the agents of their citizens in bargaining with global capital should hardly raise an eyebrow. But the capitalist tools at Forbes, and elsewhere, must be worried that average citizens may be starting to see what’s really going on, and might therefore take such a suggestion seriously.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Robert Reich

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of NationsLocked in the CabinetSupercapitalism; and his newest, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at http://www.robertreich.org.

The Long March Towards Abolition of War

May 28, 2013

 THALIF DEEN
 Inter Press Service/News Report
Published: Tuesday 28 May 2013
The current crisis in Syria, for example, has resulted in over 70,000 deaths so far, with no end in sight.
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Slavery. Colonialism. Apartheid. Gender discrimination in voting. All were abolished in most places after longstanding battles – largely in bygone eras.

Now a high-level panel is scheduled to meet next month to discuss another politically sensitive issue: Should the institution of war be abolished?

Asked if this would be just an exercise in futility, Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, told IPS, “I don’t think that working toward ending war is an exercise in futility.

“I think there is little consistent effort to challenge the view that war is inevitable and to begin serious education from the time children enter school about conflict resolution and the actions we all need to take to create a global culture of sustainable peace,” said Williams, who led the highly successful global campaign to ban anti-personnel landmines.

Asked if the concept of eliminating wars should begin in the minds of politicians and decision-makers or with the leaders of the global arms industry, she said: “I think the work to ending wars must begin at all levels.”

Williams said it should extend from educating children about the horrors of war – “and not pretending it is all heroic and patriotic” – to pressuring policy and decision makers to change their thinking about war as a solution to problems.

“Tackling the arms industry directly would likely not be as fruitful and they stand to lose the most,” she added.

Williams will be one of the participants, along with diplomats, former senior U.N. officials and anti-war activists, at a briefing co-sponsored by a coalition of non-governmental (NGOs) organizations and Switzerland, a country which has not been in a state of war since 1815.

Scheduled to take place Jun. 6, the briefing will focus on the topic “Determined to Save Succeeding Generations from the Scourge of War.”

The speakers will also include Ambassador Paul Seger of Switzerland, Ralph Zacklin, former U.N. assistant-secretary-general for legal affairs, and Nounou Booto Meeti, program manager, Centre for Peace, Security and Armed Violence Prevention.

Cora Weiss, president of The Hague Appeal for Peace, told IPS, “There will always be war, some say, just as many said there will always be slavery, colonialism and apartheid and womenwill never vote. 

“Maybe if more women were at all decision making tables and at all levels of governance (per Security Council resolution 1325), we would see less violence,” she added.

Asked for his take, Siddharth Chatterjee, chief diplomat at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told IPS, “If the world cannot find a way out of war, then we may well be defeated as a civilization.”

Asked about the role of politicians, decision-makers and the global arms industry in preventing wars, Chatterjee said, “Simple economics. Once the demand for war stops, the tools that supply it to wage the war will also stop”.

He said it goes beyond politicians and policy makers. And civil society can actually play a strong role in preventing wars.

A backgrounder to the briefing released here points out that since the U.N.’s creation, the international community has not seen a conflict with the same level of globally widespread catastrophe as the Second World War, which motivated governments toward the creation of the world body.

“Unfortunately, the scourge of war has not disappeared. Now, nearly 70 years after the U.N. Charter’s signing, ongoing violent conflicts continue to inflict unimaginable suffering around the world,” it says.

The current crisis in Syria, for example, has resulted in over 70,000 deaths so far, with no end in sight.

According to the latest statistics, over 1.7 trillion dollars is spent globally on armaments, making up about 2.5 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the world is over-armed and peace is underfunded.

Asked about the validity of the view that the fear of nuclear weapons has done more for global peace than any other threat, Williams told IPS: “No, it is not valid. You cannot prove a negative.”

She said it is a claim easy to make because there is no real answer.

Growing up under the threat of nuclear war, however, has marked people for life, she added.

“I had to practice curling up in a ball under my desk in grade school to know how to protect myself during nuclear attack. I was totally terrified. It most definitely did not feel like a peaceful world,” she added.

Weiss said the secretary-general has been a champion for disarmament, asserting that nuclear disarmament in particular “is critical to global peace and security”.

“Increasingly I find people talking about the immorality, illegality and glorification of war and the militarization of society,” she said, adding that the 1999 Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century said: ‘Peace is a Human Right and Time to Abolish War’. It was endorsed by 10,000 people from over 100 countries.

The nature of war has changed. Weiss said the journalist Jeremy Scahill has just published “Dirty Wars” documenting armed violence in half the world.

“As long as there are nuclear bombs and nuclear wanna-bees, global security is threatened,” Weiss said.

“If we could abolish apartheid,” she quoted Bishop Desmond Tutu as saying, “why not war?”

Chatterjee told IPS the toll that war takes on a soldier is clear, but what sort of toll does it take on a community?

“What does this say about a community that not only do we send people out to a war that leaves them permanently scarred at the age of 21 or 22, but we also do not help them ease back into civilian life so that they can have a shot at a normal life?

“Doesn’t it affect the future of a country and a people when hundreds of thousands of young people are asked to put their life at risk to defend its borders, only to be told their wellbeing is not of concern to the very people who would ask this sacrifice of them?” asked Chatterjee, who has overseen U.N. relief missions in several of the world’s battle zones.

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ABOUT THALIF DEEN

Thalif Deen, U.N. Bureau Chief and Regional Director, Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, has been covering the United Nations since the late 1970s. A former deputy news editor of the Sri Lanka Daily News, he was also a senior editorial writer on the Hong Kong Standard. He has been runner-up, and cited twice for “excellence in U.N. reporting”, at the annual awards presentation of the U.N. Correspondents’ Association. A former Information Officer at the U.N. Secretariat, and a one-time member of the Sri Lanka delegation to the U.N. General Assembly sessions, he is currently editor in chief of the IPS UN Journal Terra Viva. Since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, he has covered virtually every single major UN conference on population, human rights, environment, social development, globalization and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A former Middle East military editor at Jane’s Information Group in the U.S, he is a Fulbright-Hayes scholar with a Master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University, New York.

Half of America is in or Near Poverty — and It’s Getting Worse

May 28, 2013
 PAUL BUCHHEIT
 NationofChange/Op-ed
Published: Tuesday 28 May 2013
Arguments about poverty won’t end. Neither should our efforts to uncover the awful truth.

The Census Bureau has reported that 15% of Americans live in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009

Analysis of Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney’s famous 47 percent, the alleged ‘takers,’ have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An OECD report states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobshave replaced formerly secure middle-income positions

3. Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty.

 

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The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130% of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four. 

Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own figures under-represent the number of people in poverty. Its Supplemental Poverty Measure increases, by 50%, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.

4. Based on household expense totals, poverty is creeping into the top half of America.

A family in the top half, making $60,000 per year, will have their income reduced by a total tax bill of about $15,000 ($3,000 for federal income tax and $12,000 for payroll, state, and local taxes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau agree that food, housing, and transportation expenses will deduct another $30,000, and that total household expenditures will be about $50,000. That leaves nothing.

Nothing, that is, except debt. The median debt level rose to $75,600 in 2009, while the median family net worth, according to the Federal Reserve, dropped from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010.

5. Putting it in Perspective

Inequality is at its ugliest for the hungriest people. While food support was being targeted for cuts, just 20 rich Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire 2012 SNAP (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.

And as Congress continues to cut life-sustaining programs, its members should note that their 400 friends on the Forbes list made more from their stock market gains last year than the total amount of the foodhousing, and education budgets combined.

Arguments about poverty won’t end. Neither should our efforts to uncover the awful truth.

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ABOUT PAUL BUCHHEIT

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher with formal training in language development and cognitive science. He is the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, RappingHistory.org, PayUpNow.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

As world marches against Monsanto, senators protect it from labeling laws

May 28, 2013

By John Upton

Any U.S. senators paying attention to what was happening in the entire world over the weekend may have noticed a teensy disconnect between their protectionist votes for Monsanto and global discontent with the GMO giant.

Marching against Monsanto in San Francisco
Steve Rhodes
Marching against Monsanto in San Francisco.

On Saturday, protestors in dozens of countries took to the streets to “March against Monsanto.” The coordinated day of action against genetic engineering and reprehensible business practices by the Missouri-based company came just two days after the Senate rejected a bid by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to ensure that his state and others are free to mandate labels on transgenic foods.

First, to those protests. Organizers tallied rallies in 436 cities across 52 countries, according to the AP:

The ‘March Against Monsanto’ movement began just a few months ago, when founder and organizer Tami Canal created a Facebook pageon Feb. 28 calling for a rally against the company’s practices.

“If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said Saturday. Instead, she said an “incredible” number of people responded to her message and turned out to rally. …

 

Protesters [marched] in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina, where Monsanto’s genetically modified soy and grains now command nearly 100 percent of the market, and the company’s Roundup-Ready chemicals are sprayed throughout the year on fields where cows once grazed. They carried signs saying “Monsanto — Get out of Latin America.”

In Portland, thousands of protesters took to Oregon streets. Police estimate about 6,000 protesters took part in Portland’s peaceful march, and about 300 attended the rally in Bend. Other marches were scheduled in Baker City, Coos Bay, Eugene, Grants Pass, Medford, Portland, Prineville and Redmond.

Across the country in Orlando, about 800 people gathered with signs, pamphlets and speeches in front of City Hall. Maryann Wilson of Clermont, Fla., said she learned about Monsanto and genetically modified food by watching documentaries on YouTube.

Now, to those senators. From The Guardian:

The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would allow states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said his amendment was an attempt to clarify that states can require the labels, as several legislatures have moved toward putting such laws into place. The Vermont house and the Connecticut senate voted this month to make food companies declare genetically modified ingredients on their packages.

The Senate rejected the amendment on a 71-27 vote, during debate on a wide-ranging, five-year farm bill that includes generous supports for crops like corn and soybeans that are often genetically modified varieties. Senators from farm states that use a lot of genetically modified crops strongly opposed the amendment, saying the issue should be left up to the federal government and that labels could raise costs for consumers.

The vote did not affect a bill introduced in Aprilby Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) that would mandate labeling of all products containing genetically ingredients sold in America. But it was a reminder that the labeling bill doesn’t stand a honey bee’s chance in a field full of Roundup of becoming law.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin whotweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:johnupton@gmail.com.
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Is the Monsanto Protest the Next Salt March?

May 28, 2013
Michael Nagler and Stephanie van Hook
Metta Center for Non-violence/Op-ed
Published: Tuesday 28 May 2013
Monsanto created an internal system, including the personnel it attracts and holds, of an insensitivity to life and nature that is unparalleled even in our insensitive age. That is their strength. It is also their vulnerability.

When a people is faced with a destructive system that has been insidiously putting its tendrils down in many sectors of society, steadily taking over its institutions, it can seem all but impossible to dislodge that evil; but it always seems that a system like that will have some vulnerability, some leverage point that an aroused people can ferret out and be rid of the evil.

The question is, has the Monsanto Corporation become that leverage point by attacking which we could be on our way to the crumbling of the entire system of militarism, racism, greed, and violence that we loathe. Could 2 million person worldwide, May 25th’s march against Monsanto be our Salt March? And our answer is, yes; if we choose to use it as such.

We are aiming high here. Monsanto is a giant corporation; it has a firm grip on many elements of our government. It has created an internal system, including the personnel it attracts and holds, of an insensitivity to life and nature that is unparalleled even in our insensitive age. That is their strength. It is also their vulnerability.

Gandhi, with his insight and his passion, saw that with the simple mechanism of the salt tax the British Raj had a chokehold on the life of India, particularly its impoverished millions. Vandana Shiva has rightly named her movement in India against the corporate giant a “seed Satyagraha” to emphasize the parallel with Gandhi’s pivotal campaign. (“Let the seed be exhaustless, let it never get exhausted, let it bring forth seed next year” are the words of a Indian peasant prayer). In the case of Monsanto, of course, we have a subtler situation than that tackled by the Salt Satyagraha; Monsanto’s employees do not come from another country and wear a different-colored skin. Still, it is as dangerous and as offensive as the British attempt to commoditize salt to the extent that Indians were not allowed to harvest it from their own seashores.

 

We would like to offer some suggestions for seizing the opportunity presented by the widespread revulsion against this one corporation’s practices to not only humanize some of those practices but turn the tide of corporatization and de-democratization of which they have become an emblem. 

However the present march turns out, we should consider it a step on a long journey – and plan that journey. A great deal of what Gandhi would have called “Constructive Programme” – education, community building, long-term efforts like organic and community-based farming to replace the old system (the center of our town, Petaluma, has a GMO-free seed bank that used to be an old-paradigm money bank) – and the beginnings of a robust, diverse, and smart resistance movement represented by, among other things, the present march. We need to plan how to continue the steady pulse of constructive alternatives while escalating, as needed, the resistance.

 

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Interestingly enough, the Salt Satyagraha did not actually “succeed” in changing the salt laws, but that was all right because it was only a step in a long strategic journey. If Gandhi did not have a strategy India might still be a colony even if the Satyagraha was a success! We who are being colonized internally by Monsanto (and other corporations) need to build on the present momentum, deliberately. We’re not marching against Monsanto, really; we’re marching for the protection of life against literally poisonous commercialization. That will take time, and we need to think through that time beforehand; how will we, for example, choose whether to emphasize construction or resistance? 

The destructive, cruel Monsanto practices did not put down roots overnight, and they did not spring up without steady watering. This toxicity of Roundup flourished in a toxic culture that separated us from one another and the rest of life and we must nourish a culture of deep, inclusive respect for all of us so such cruelty cannot creep through the cracks again. Strategically speaking, let’s not reinvent the wheel. Study the victories – and failures – of movements that have taken place around the world; there are groups committed to nonviolence (like Occupy DC, among many others) who are already on the move against one or another aspect of this problem with whom we can strategize and otherwise join our creative energies.

Learning from this past, and in some cases recent experiences, we should not let our events devolve into a struggle with the police and state security apparatus: they are not the enemy, and in any case we cannot overcome them on their terms. Invite a local peace team when you’re planning a public event.

Let’s not think this is going to be easy even with all of this planning; but it is going to be possible. Monsanto et al have gone too far, entrapped as they are by their own corporate logic: patenting seeds?! This is offensive at such a deep level that with some respectful, reasoned arguments and effective imagery backed by creative passion and relentless dedication that insanity can be exposed for what it is – even to many who are now drawing a salary from Monsanto.

However the present march turns out, we should consider it a step on a long journey – and plan that journey. A great deal of what Gandhi would have called “Constructive Programme” – education, community building, long-term efforts like organic and community-based farming to replace the old system (the center of our town, Petaluma, has a GMO-free seed bank that used to be an old-paradigm money bank) – and the beginnings of a robust, diverse, and smart resistance movement represented by, among other things, the present march. We need to plan how to continue the steady pulse of constructive alternatives while escalating, as needed, the resistance.

Interestingly enough, the Salt Satyagraha did not actually “succeed” in changing the salt laws, but that was all right because it was only a step in a long strategic journey. If Gandhi did not have a strategy India might still be a colony even if the Satyagraha was a success! We who are being colonized internally by Monsanto (and other corporations) need to build on the present momentum, deliberately. We’re not marching against Monsanto, really; we’re marching for the protection of life against literally poisonous commercialization. That will take time, and we need to think through that time beforehand; how will we, for example, choose whether to emphasize construction or resistance?

The destructive, cruel Monsanto practices did not put down roots overnight, and they did not spring up without steady watering. This toxicity of Roundup flourished in a toxic culture that separated us from one another and the rest of life and we must nourish a culture of deep, inclusive respect for all of us so such cruelty cannot creep through the cracks again. Strategically speaking, let’s not reinvent the wheel. Study the victories – and failures – of movements that have taken place around the world; there are groups committed to nonviolence (like Occupy DC, among many others) who are already on the move against one or another aspect of this problem with whom we can strategize and otherwise join our creative energies.

Learning from this past, and in some cases recent experiences, we should not let our events devolve into a struggle with the police and state security apparatus: they are not the enemy, and in any case we cannot overcome them on their terms. Invite a local peace team when you’re planning a public event.

Let’s not think this is going to be easy even with all of this planning; but it is going to be possible. Monsanto et al have gone too far, entrapped as they are by their own corporate logic: patenting seeds?! This is offensive at such a deep level that with some respectful, reasoned arguments and effective imagery backed by creative passion and relentless dedication that insanity can be exposed for what it is – even to many who are now drawing a salary from Monsanto.

 

Extensive List of Politicians Paid Off by Monsanto

May 28, 2013

ANTHONY GUCCIARDI
Natural Society/News Report
Published: Tuesday 28 May 2013
Keep in mind these are the figures we know, which means that behind the scenes expect these numbers to multiply extensively.
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Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter. As long as you can help Monsanto slide its icy tentacles into the food chain, then there’s some financial tip available to you. Thankfully, many such ties can be exposed through some data digging, and thanks to diligent readers who send comprehensive news tips and other researchers out there, we now have an extensive list of politicians getting paid cold hard cash from GMO juggernaut Monsanto.

Keep in mind these are the figures we know, which means that behind the scenes expect these numbers to multiply extensively. But what is most amazing is that these politicians just don’t care that you know they’re receiving thousands of dollars from Monsanto! They sweep it under the carpet, but they are openly taking money from this corporation that has been caught running ‘slave-like’ rings and disregarding public health. We’re talking about a corporation that primarily aided in the creation of Agent Orange — the Vietnam-era chemical weapon that killed over 400,000 people and led to 500,000 plus birth defects.

Looking at these figures, over $260,000 was openly pumped into the House, and $122,000 was pumped into the Senate. And again, this is openly. I’m speculating, but I would imagine the real number to easily be in the millions. Can you imagine how much they must pay these politicians to shoot down GMO labeling bills that 90 plus percent of the entire country wants?

Monsanto paid Senator Roy Blunt to ‘help write’ the Monsanto Protection Act that grants Monsanto immunity from federal courts? Roy’s cash payment is not included in this list, however RT reports he received $64,250 towards his campaign from the company. Surely they expected nothing inreturn.

Politicians Paid By MonsantoHouse of Representatives:

Total paid by Monsanto to Democrats: $72,000Total paid by Monsanto to Republicans: $190,500

Barrow, John (D-GA) $2,500

Bishop, Sanford (D-GA) $5,000

Boehner, John (R-OH) $10,000

Braley, Bruce (D-IA) $5,000

Camp, Dave (R-MI) $5,000

Cantor, Eric (R-VA) $10,000

Clay, William L Jr (D-MO)$10,000

Cleaver, Emanuel (D-MO) $5,000

Conaway, Mike (R-TX) $2,000

Courtney, Joe (D-CT) $4,500

Crawford, Rick (R-AR) $2,500

Fincher, Steve (R-TN) $8,000

Gardner, Cory (R-CO) $7,500

Goodlatte, Bob (R-VA) $4,500

Graves, Sam (R-MO) $5,000

Griffin, Tim (R-AR) $1,000

Guthrie, Brett (R-KY) $1,000

Hanabusa, Colleen (D-HI)$5,000

Hannemann, Mufi (D-HI) $1,000

Hartzler, Vicky (R-MO) $3,000

Holden, Tim (D-PA) $1,000

Huelskamp, Tim (R-KS) $2,500

Hultgren, Randy (R-IL) $2,500

Jenkins, Lynn (R-KS) $2,500

Johnson, Timothy (R-IL) $3,000King, Steven A (R-IA) $2,500

Kingston, Jack (R-GA) $7,000

Kinzinger, Adam (R-IL) $3,500

Kissell, Larry (D-NC) $5,000

Labrador, Raul (R-ID) $2,000

LaMalfa, Doug (R-CA) $1,000

Landry, Jeff (R-LA) $1,000

Latham, Tom (R-IA) $10,000

Loebsack, David (D-IA) $5,000

Long, Billy (R-MO) $2,500

Lucas, Frank D (R-OK) $10,000

Luetkemeyer, Blaine (R-MO)$5,000

Lungren, Dan (R-CA) $1,000

McIntyre, Mike (D-NC) $1,000

Neugebauer, Randy (R-TX)$1,000

Noem, Kristi (R-SD) $1,000

Nunes, Devin (R-CA) $3,500

Owens, Bill (D-NY) $2,000

Peterson, Collin (D-MN) $10,000

Rogers, Hal (R-KY) $7,500

Rokita, Todd (R-IN) $5,000

Roskam, Peter (R-IL) $1,000

Schilling, Bobby (R-IL) $3,000

Schock, Aaron (R-IL) $5,000

Shimkus, John M (R-IL) $5,000

Simpson, Mike (R-ID) $10,000

Smith, Adrian (R-NE) $5,000

Stutzman, Marlin (R-IN) $5,000

Thompson, Bennie G (D-MS)$10,000

Thompson, Glenn (R-PA) $1,000

Upton, Fred (R-MI) $5,000

Valadao, David (R-CA) $2,500

Wagner, Ann L (R-MO) $10,000

Walden, Greg (R-OR) $1,000

Walorski, Jackie (R-IN) $2,500

Womack, Steve (R-AR) $1,000

Senate

Total paid by Monsanto to Democrats: $37,500Total  paid by Monsanto to Republicans: $85,000

Akin, Todd (R-MO) $3,500

Baucus, Max (D-MT) $1,000

Berg, Rick (R-ND) $10,000

Blunt, Roy (R-MO) $10,000

Boozman, John (R-AR) $5,000

Casey, Bob (D-PA) $2,500

Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA) $5,000

Fischer, Deb (R-NE) $5,000

Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY)$1,000

Grassley, Chuck (R-IA) $2,000

Hirono, Mazie K (D-HI) $1,000

Johanns, Mike (R-NE) $1,000

Klobuchar, Amy (D-MN) $5,000

Landrieu, Mary L (D-LA) $1,000

McCaskill, Claire (D-MO)$5,000

McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $10,000

Moran, Jerry (R-KS) $2,500

Nelson, Ben (D-NE) $13,000

Rehberg, Denny (R-MT) $2,000

Risch, James E (R-ID) $3,500

Roberts, Pat (R-KS) $9,000

Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI) $8,000

Thompson, Tommy G (R-WI)$5,000

Wicker, Roger (R-MS) $1,000

Wilson, Heather A (R-NM)$2,500

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ABOUT ANTHONY GUCCIARDI

Anthony is an accomplished investigative journalist whose articles have appeared on top news sites and have been read by millions worldwide. A health activist and researcher, Anthony’s goal is informing the public as to how they can use natural methods to revolutionize their health, as well as exploring the behind the scenes activity of the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA.

 
   

What Must Be Done About the Monsanto Corporation, and Why

May 28, 2013
Green Shadow Cabinet’s Ecology and General Welfare branches
Gree Shadow Cabinet/Op-ed
Published: Tuesday 28 May 2013
This year, Monsanto won a great legal victory through its stealth passage of the so-called Farmer Assurance Provision, which is known as the Monsanto Protection Act.

The following is a joint statement of members of the Green Shadow Cabinet’s Ecology and General Welfare branches. Signers include Ronnie Cummins, Administrator, Food and Drug Administration; Mark Dunlea, Director, White House Office of Climate and Agriculture; Margaret Flowers, M.D., Secretary of Health; Jim Goodman, Secretary of Agriculture; Diljeet Singh, M.D.  Assistant Secretary of Health for Women’s Health and Cancer; Brian Tokar, Director of the Office of Technology Assessment. The statement is issued in concert with the May 25th Global Day of Action to Shut Down Monsanto.

Monsanto Corporation Threatens Food Sovereignty, Biodiversity, Environment and Health: Immediate steps must be taken to preserve our future

The Monsanto corporation is a top “corporate climate criminal” whose drive for profit and control of the global food system threatens food safety, biodiversity, and food sovereignty. Monsanto is the world’s leading producer and proponent of genetically modified agriculture. Through aggressive purchases of seed companies, Monsanto is rapidly taking control of the world’s seed supply.

In addition, Monsanto produces dangerous chemicals that poison communities, add toxics to the food supply and create ‘super weeds’ that require increased application of even more toxic herbicides. Monsanto also promotes farming practices that severely exacerbate climate change by requiring excessive water and energy, and promoting massive deforestation to provide land for genetically modified agriculture.

Monsanto uses its political connections and market power to intimidate farmers and create a near monopoly on seeds creating a fragile, homogenous food supply as well as to protect themselves from liability for their actions. As more information becomes available, it is clear that Monsanto’s practices threaten the future of our ability to grow food and live healthy lives.

Immediate steps must be taken to preserve our food system and future. We recommend the following actions:

  1. Immediate moratorium on development and certificationof new pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops.
  2. A long-overdue, thorough, science-based examination of GMO and pesticide safety, by scientists not tainted by the revolving door or financial ties to agribusiness industry giants and all research, past and present, must be available to the public.
  3. An urgent phase out of existing GMOs and pesticides not demonstrated to be safe for people and the environment.This would begin immediately, targeting highest risk GMOs/pesticides first.
  4. Clear labeling of all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  5. Immediate creation of economic and agricultural supports to expedite conversion from toxic industrial agriculture to sustainable, organic farming – which is healthy for people, the environment and our economy.
  6. Urgent public investment in crop breeding to increase the supply of a broad diversity of traditional seeds to meet our agricultural needs.
  7. Public investment in research and education on agro-ecological (organic) farming practices.
  8. Monsanto must pay for cleanup of the environment, the remediation of the supply of traditional seeds, remuneration to farmers whom they have adversely affected and the ongoing costs of health effects caused by their products
  9. End production of ethanol for fuel until it can be done in a way that does not adversely affect access to food and does not consume more energy than is produced.
  10. End Monsanto’s influence over government agencies. As a start, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor must resign from his position, and the Monsanto Protection Act must be repealed.

Food production needs to serve the function of nourishing our communities. And food production needs to be transformed to sustainable, primarily local and organic agriculture that uses less water and energy and creates better soil and healthier food. Monsanto takes the global food system in the opposite direction toward increased use of pesticides, increased use of energy and water, a less biodiverse agricultural system and a food supply of unknown safety.

Genetically Engineered Foods

Monsanto made genetically modified seeds (GMOs) that are resistant to the herbicide, glyphosate (a.k.a. RoundUp) commercially available in 1996. They also claim to have created drought-resistant seeds, although so far they show “only modest results, and only under moderate drought conditions” and do “not improve water use efficiency.” In fact, conventionally bred varieties grown with organic methods are far more capable of resisting the effects of drought than Monsanto’s crops.

Genetically altered strains of corn, soybean, cotton and canola plants are currently on the market. And Monsanto genes are currently found in 80 percent of all corn and 95 percent of all soy grown in the US. These genetically altered crops were introduced and permitted for use in commercial foods prior to adequate safety studies. Instead, in the early 1990s, Monsanto lobbyists pushed heavily on the Food and Drug Administration for de-regulation and policies that allowed genetically altered foods to be considered “substantially equivalent” to traditional foods. This effectively eliminated any requirement for safety testing of this new technology.  They also opposed labeling of foods containing genetically altered ingredients using the rationale that such labeling might cause consumers to be confused.

The few health studies that have been done were conducted on rats, are almost entirely short term and often lacking rigorous scientific methods. Nonetheless, given the systemic failure to require routine safety testing, unanswered, troubling questions have been raised by these studies suggesting liver and kidney damage associated with genetically altered foods in the diet. To continue exposing vast numbers of people to this largely untested substance violates the common sense Precautionary Principle – which states that a product must be proven to be safe before consumers are exposed to it.

Monsanto has a history of ignoring and hiding studies which found that their previous products such as Agent Orange (a major contaminant of which is dioxin) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were toxic. Although they have known that RoundUp causes birth defects since the 1980s, they market RoundUp as being safe. It is entirely within reason to suspect that the same obfuscation of information is occurring now.

 

Additionally, evidence from the Genome Project indicates that genes which were once thought to produce only one protein actually often code for multiple proteins, and the proteins produced cannot be predicted. This calls into question what additional proteins are being created by Monsanto genes and what health effects they may have. 

That is why we call for an immediate moratorium on the development and certification of new pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops and clear labeling of all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

PESTICIDES

The stated purpose of RoundUp Ready crops was to promote no-till farming and to increase crop yield by reducing weeds. The practice of no-till farming has encouraged the farming of land that was too erodible for crops and has caused that land to erode even further. And RoundUp Ready crops are yielding 5 to 10 percent less than traditional crops. Instead of benefiting food production, these crops have caused the development of ‘super weeds’ with increased resistance to RoundUp requiring larger amounts of RoundUp application to crops. This has caused a number of detrimental effects.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, is contaminating air, water, land and foods. According to 2012 report coordinated by Earth Open Source, farmers who grow genetically altered crops use 25 percent more RoundUp. And RoundUp is being sprayed from airplanes in areas where people live and go to school which has been documented to increase cancer and birth defect rates in those populations.

There is also concern that glyphosate is killing aquatic organisms and contributing to the worldwide decline of amphibians. RoundUp contaminates water supplies through spraying and run-off.

 

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Monsanto markets a number of pesticides that are known to cause cancer, endocrine disruption and to be otherwise toxic such as Acetochlor, Atrazine and Dicamba. In particular, Atrazine, which has been banned in the European Union, is used in the US, especially in farming states. In the state of Maryland, Atrazine is found in 69 percent of the drinking water. 

In addition, farmers are struggling to afford the greater amounts of RoundUp and other chemicals required to grow their Monsanto crops and the skyrocketing cost of Monsanto’s seeds. As a result of growing Monsanto’s Bt cotton and the debt incurred to purchase seeds and pesticides, more than 270,000 farmers in India have committed suicide, many by drinking the pesticides that sent them into debt.

That is why we call for a long-overdue, thorough, science-based examination of GMO and pesticide safety, by scientists not tainted by the revolving door or financial ties to agribusiness industry giants.  All  research  – past, present and future – on genetically modified organisms, seeds and pesticides, must be made available to the public.  We also call for an urgent phase out of existing GMOs and pesticides not demonstrated to be safe for people and the environment. This would begin immediately, targeting highest risk GMOs/pesticides first.

LOSING BIODIVERSITY AND FARMERS

Monsanto’s practices are creating an alarming loss of biodiversity. The pollen from genetically altered crops contaminates traditional crops, which leads to changes in traditional seeds produced by those crops. In addition to producing and extensively marketing their genetically altered seeds, Monsanto forces farmers to sign contracts guaranteeing that they will not save their own seed for planting the next year’s crop as farmer have always done.

Since the early 1980s, Monsanto has been buying up the world’s independent seed companies. In the decade after the mid-90s, Monsanto spent more than $12 billion to buy at least 30 businesses contributing to the decline of independent seed companies and making Monsanto the world’s largest seed company.

Independent seed companies are often local companies whose seeds are appropriate for their local growing conditions. The loss of biodiversity of seeds, particularly in a time of climate uncertainty, threatens the resilience of our food supply.

Monsanto is also destroying family and organic farms. Farmers who use Monsanto’s seeds are barred from re-using seeds from year to year and are charged skyrocketing prices for seeds and the chemicals that go with them. These farmers are also threatened and intimidated by lawsuits from Monsanto that result in large fines and can lead to bankruptcy. And farmers who do not use Monsanto seeds have to change their farming practices to try to protect their crops from being contaminated by Monsanto crops (for which the farmer can be sued). Organic farmers are particularly threatened by contamination.

Due to the recent droughts, the domination of Monsanto seed for corn, soy and canola crops and the restriction on saving seeds, there are inadequate amounts of traditional seeds to permit an immediate ban on the use of GMO seeds.

That is why we call for the immediate creation of economic and agricultural supports to expedite conversion from toxic industrial agriculture to sustainable, organic farming – which is healthy for people, the environment and our economy. As part of these supports, we call for public investment in crop breeding to increase the supply of a broad diversity of traditional seeds to meet our agricultural needs. This should be complemented in public investment in research and education on agro-ecological (organic) farming practices in general. Finally, for all these reasons, we call for Monsanto to be required to pay for cleanup of the environment, the remediation of contaminated seeds, for the remuneration of farmers who they have adversely affected, and for the ongoing costs of health problems caused by their products.

ETHANOL AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Monsanto promotes genetically altered high starch content corn to be grown for ethanol as a fuel. Rather than reducing dependence on fossil fuels, the process of producing ethanol from the seed to the tank eats up more energy than it produces. It also promotes chemical and water intensive farming practices.  And it degrades the land more quickly.

Biofuels worsen the global food crisis. Growth of corn for ethanol displaces land from food production. Forty percent of corn grown in the US is used to make ethanol. If the same land in the US on which crops for biofuels are grown were instead used to grow food, that alone would feed more than 330 million people (a number greater than the entire US population).

Growing food for biofuels increases the cost of corn. As the price of corn goes up, it also raises the price of meat, eggs and milk. And the leftover corn mash from ethanol production that is fed to cattle can increase the incidence of the pathogenic bacteria e coli 0157 which can contaminate meat and produce that are grown using manure for fertilizer.

Growing corn for ethanol promotes big agribusiness instead of what is urgently needed: a transition to small organic and sustainable farms.

That is why we recommend ending production of ethanol for fuel until it can be done in a way that does not adversely affect access to food and does not consume more energy than is produced.

UNDUE INFLUENCE

Monsanto exerts undue influence over the government through campaign donations, lobbying and its revolving door of Monsanto executives in and out of government positions. This has turned the government apparatus into a marketing tool for Monsanto products. And Monsanto abuses the court system to promote its own interests and to restrict the ability of farmers and consumers to protect themselves.

Seven Monsanto executives have held top positions in government since the 1980s. At present Michael Taylor is the Deputy Commissioner of Foods for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Taylor led the push to prevent labeling of GE foods and to consider GE foods as “substantially equivalent” to traditional foods in the 1990s. These actions have had the effect of keeping the public in the dark about GE foods and their health and environmental effects. Rather than protecting the public, which should be the role of a public food commissioner, Taylor has placed the public at risk to benefit Monsanto.

This year, Monsanto won a great legal victory through its stealth passage of the so-called Farmer Assurance Provision, which is known as the Monsanto Protection Act. This law prevents the courts from stopping the growing or selling of GE crops even if they are proven to be harmful to the public.

That is why we call for an end to Monsanto’s influence over government agencies. As a start FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor must resign from his position and the Monsanto Protection Act must be repealed.

The above steps are urgently necessary to halt the harmful practices of Monsanto and to begin reversing the disastrous course we have taken towards destroying the global food supply and making climate change worse.  To ensure the future of our access to healthy food and our existence on the planet, we must also move immediately to promoting sustainable practices such as maintaining biodiversity, promoting more small scale farms and adopting organic farming methods. We must restore independent scientific study to clarify the agricultural practices that restore and preserve our planet and future.

Signed by the following members of the Green Shadow Cabinet:

ABOUT GREEN SHADOW CABINET’S ECOLOGY AND GENERAL WELFARE BRANCH

Members of Green Shadow Cabinet’s Ecology and General Welfare Branch include