Green washing = Public relations designed to convince people that biotech, genetically modified foods and agricultural chemicals, are environmentally friendly.

Poor washing = Efforts to convince people we must accept a program such as genetic engineering to increase yields to end hunger, reduce costs, and improve livelihoods of farmers and poor people. Poor washing has created calls for a “new” Green Revolution, especially in Africa, although there is little evidence that genetic engineering and agricultural chemicals, or moving farmers off their land, will realize any of these claims. There is mounting evidence of genetic engineering doing serious harm. Forcibly displaced populations always suffer harm.

From Voices From Africa: African Farmers and Environmentalists Speak Out Against A New Green Revolution In Africa PDF:

In June 2008, the United Nations held a High-Level Conference on Food Security that gained much prominence in the midst of the food crisis and became a key venue to promote genetically engineered food as a solution to world hunger.

Despite the overwhelming opposition to genetic engineering and chemical-input based agriculture, the biotech industry—with assistance from rich donor nations, multilateral institutions, and the philanthropic community—has used the food price crisis to gain support for GM crops. The result of the biotech industry’s well-financed publicity blitz based on “green washing” (biotech is environmentally friendly) and “poor washing” (we must accept genetic engineering to increase yields to end hunger, reduce costs, and improve livelihoods of farmers), have been calls for a “new” Green Revolution, especially in Africa.

… AGRA is the biggest grantee of the Gates Foundation. With over $262 million committed, AGRA is poised to become one of the main institutional vehicles for changing African agriculture.

Key positions in AGRA are all held by people who owe their careers to Monsanto and the biotech industry:

In 2006, the Gates Foundation appointed Dr. Robert Horsch as the Senior Program Officer in the Global Development Program, which directly supervises the AGRA initiative. Horsch came to the foundation after 25 years on the staff of the Monsanto Corporation

Another major player hailing from the St. Louis biotech hub is Lawrence Kent of the Danforth Center, an institute that is heavily funded by Monsanto. … Unsurprisingly, on January 8, 2009, St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that the Gates Foundation has awarded a $5.4 million grant to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, to “help the center secure the approval of African governments to allow field testing of genetically modified banana, rice, sorghum and cassava plants that have been fortified with vitamins, minerals and proteins.”

Lutz Goedde, another hire from the biotech industry, is the former CEO and President of Alta Genetics, and is credited with making Alta the world’s largest privately owned cattle genetics improvement and artificial insemination company. All three are working for the Gates Foundation, funding projects aimed at the developing world.

No African farmers, none, have been consulted for the foundation’s agricultural strategy. None of the reviewers or the external advisory board members is a farmer from Africa.

AGRA and the Gates Foundation speak about “land mobility” which means moving farmers off their farms so the land can be used for large scale mechanized agriculture. But there is no mention of where these people will go and live, and how they will be reemployed. What this means is thousands of displaced people moving to slums around the cities, which will grow and will be filled with unemployed people. This is politically and socially destabilizing. It breeds crime and political violence. This kind of policy also hits women particularly hard, because in western models such as corporate agriculture, their traditional rights to land are ignored. Women are the majority of agricultural workers, and will become even more impoverished and disenfranchised, not that it will bother AGRA or Gates or Monsanto, as they say:

Over time, this will require some degree of land mobility and a lower percentage of total employment involved in direct agricultural production.

People in Africa are taking action and speaking out.
From: A Statement by Friends of the Earth—Africa at the Annual
General Meeting held at Accra, Ghana, 7-11 July 2008

Members of FoE Africa from Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Nigeria, Mauritius, Tunisia and Swaziland met for five days in Accra, Ghana reviewing issues that confront the African environment. A particular focus was placed on the current food crisis and agrofuels on the continent.

FoE Africa groups deplored the characterization of Africa as a chronically hungry continent; and rejected the projection of the continent as an emblem of poverty and stagnation and thus as a continent dependent on food aid.

FoE Africa reiterated the fact that the agricultural fortunes of the continent have been dimmed by externally generated neoliberal policies including Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed on the continent by the World Bank, IMF (International Monetary Fund) and other IFIs.

FoE Africa expressed disgust at the manner by which the burden for solutions to every crisis faced by the North is shifted onto Africa. Examples include the climate change and energy crises wherein the burden has been inequitably placed on the continent. Africa is forced to adapt to climate impacts and she is also being targeted as the farmland for production of agrofuels to feed the factories and machines in the North.

FoE Africa resolved as follows:

1. Africa contributed very little to climate change and the North owes her an historical debt to bear the costs of adaptation without seeking to further burden the continent through so-called carbon finance mechanisms.

2. Africa must no longer be used as a dumping ground for agricultural products that compete with local production and destroy local economies.

3. Africa must not be opened for contamination by GMOs through food aid and/or agrofuels.

4. Africans must reclaim sovereignty over their agriculture and truncate attempts by agribusiness to turn the so-called food crisis into money-making opportunities through price fixing, hoarding and other unfair trade practices.

5. We reject the promotion of conversion of swaths of African land into monoculture plantations and farms for agrofuels production on the guise that some of such lands are marginal lands. We note that the concept of marginal lands is a cloak for further marginalizing the poor in Africa through their being dispossessed and dislocated from their territories.

6. Africa has been subsidizing world development for a long time and this has to change and African resources must be used for African development to the benefit of local communities.

FoE Africa calls on all communities of Africa to mobilize, resist and change unwholesome practices that entrench servitude and exploitation on our continent.

FOE Ghana; FOE Togo; FOE Nigeria; FOE Cameroon; FOE Sierra Leone; FOE Tunisia; FOE Swaziland; FOE South Africa; FOE Mauritius

There is much more in the report, you can read the whole document here: Voices From Africa: African Farmers and Environmentalists Speak Out Against A New Green Revolution In Africa PDF

I rarely go to plays or musicals in the theater. I used to go sometimes, but I did not often enjoy the ones I saw. Last night some friends persuaded me to join them in seeing Nerds://A Musical Software Satire at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, and I loved it!

I was riveted for the entire show. It moved along at a bounding pace, with a cast that put their whole hearts into the fun and spirit of the show. I’m not a theater critic, I don’t know enough about theater. But I can recognize a fabulously good time. And watching Nerds was a fabulously good time. The whole audience felt the same, based on the laughter and enthusiastic clapping throughout the whole show. The energy and talent of the entire cast carried us all along.

The playbill described the musical as:

Nerds is an outrageous musical take on the parallel stories of computer pioneers Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as they blaze from ‘garage inventors’ to warring titans of the computer revolution.

It isn’t a history of the actual people, Gates and Jobs, and a few others, it is not a documentary. It is a cultural impression of the beginnings of the personal computer, until its all encompassing role in our lives now. Gates and Jobs are cultural icons, and nerdy kids we may all once have been. The writers have done a terrific job of incorporating cultural institutions and pop culture references such as Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, IBM, and many others, that most people in the US, and many around the world will recognize. Nerds uses the rivalry between the characters Gates and Jobs, Microsoft and Apple, to drive the storyline. And the writers put the story together with some smash musical numbers in a variety of pop music styles that all work together and compliment each other, and the story. We laughed at jokes in the music, at the clever writing, visual jokes, and luxuriated in the acting, singing, dancing, and visual feast.

I think Nerds would make a super movie. The show is playing through Feb. 25, but I hope there will be more chances for more people to see it. I’d like to see it again. You can hear samples of 3 of the songs here. There is a Nerds://A Musical Software Satire blog, where you can see a few more photos than the one here, and where I found these quotes:

“Nerds, a new musical about the digital age, is an unrelenting hoot, and it sucks you in like a high-speed download . . .
The [show is] directed by Philip Wm. McKinley . . . who clearly has encouraged the cast to wring every drop of fun from this twisted history of computers, and of the two prime movers who made them a force that redefined everyday life…The entire cast plumbs the show for all it’s worth, the sort of hard drive you’ll never find inside that little tower at your desk.”
– Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Fantastic, new musical…the detailed greatness of prop, costume, and scenery, let alone actor, song, and story, would be enough to truly delight…Nerds is a delightful show with a whole lot for the eye to take in. Real life nerds will love it, but so will everybody else.” – Caren Beilin, Philly Theatre Review