Monsanto


Why do you bring your mistakes here?

Kofi Annan has joined with President Obama, Monsanto, AGRA, and the Gates foundation to promote and execute food aid that replaces bags of wheat, rice and corn (agricultural dumping) with bags of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and genetically engineered seeds. The end result will be to starve people in Africa and feed corporations in the US and Europe.

Kofi Annan and farmers

Under the guise of “sustainability” the [Gates] Foundation has been spearheading a multi-billion dollar effort to transform Africa into a GMO-friendly continent. The public relations flagship for this effort is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a massive Green Revolution project. Up to now AGRA spokespeople have been slippery, and frankly, contradictory about their stance on GMOs.

If you had any doubts about where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is really placing its bets, AGRA Watch’s recent announcement of the Foundation’s investment of $23.1 million in 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock should put them to rest. Genetic engineering: full speed ahead. (Eric Holt-Gimenez)

If you have questions about Monsanto’s agenda, here it is in brief:

At a biotech industry conference in January 1999, a representative from Arthur Anderson, LLP explained how they had helped Monsanto design their strategic plan. First, his team asked Monsanto executives what their ideal future looked like in 15 to 20 years. The executives described a world with 100 percent of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Anderson consultants then worked backwards from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct. (Jeffrey M. Smith)

Monsanto: No food shall be grown that we don't own

Kofi Annan is Chairman of the Board of Directors for AGRA. He is convening a conference in Ghana in the first week of September. As detailed in this blog, and by others, both AGRA and USAID top positions are filled with people that come from Monsanto and Dupont.
Kofi Annan Calls For United Effort To Accelerate African Green Revolution

African heads of state, industry representatives, the international donor community and farmers will meet in Ghana at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in the first week of September. Delegates will create an action plan on the acceleration of a Green Revolution in Africa.

Samuel Amoako has reported on this as well: Kofi Annan Hosts Forum On Africa’s Food Security in the Ghanaian Times on August 11.

It is worrisome that Kofi Annan is connected with AGRA. Maybe he believes that US mechanized and chemical agriculture work well. Most people in the US do, aside from family farmers who see the effects first hand. I have a good friend who works for the US Dept. of Agriculture and thinks this kind of big agriculture really is the best and that Monsanto is a boon to mankind. We have had several heated discussions. In fact Monsanto is destroying land, causing chemically induced human diseases, creating super weeds, super insect pests, and economic havoc in many parts of the US farming areas, particularly in the midwest and the south. There have been countless protests all over India and Brazil. I’ve read many heartbreaking stories, including this comment from Pearl on this blog:

The farmers of southern Kentucky have been enslaved by Monsanto. The previous generation fell for an ad campaign called “Hi-bred” or “High-Bred”, and the current generation is stuck with fulfilling the contracts their fathers signed. The chemicals that Monsanto has contractually required be applied to those fields have so damaged the soil that the only way to get anything to grow in the fields now is to keep applying more of those blasted chemicals. So even if a person who inherited a contract WANTS to discontinue the agreement with Monsanto when the contract expires, they are unable to do so unless they want to leave the land fallow for many, many, many years. Most farmers cannot afford to do this, as this would mean little to no income for their families for somewhere between 5 to 20 years, depending on how long it would take for the soil to renew itself.

I’ve always had enormous respect for Kofi Annan, I do not understand his participation in this and it bothers me a great deal. Even though I admire and respect him there are no free passes with a subject like this.

Genetically modified crops produce less, not more, than conventional crops.

Alexis Baden-Mayer points out in Dupont, Monsanto, and Obama Versus the World’s Family Farmers that AGRA is basing its programs on myth:

Most of the world’s food is not produced on industrial mega-farms. 1.5 billion family farmers produce 75 percent of the world’s food.

The hunger problem is not caused by low yields. The world has 6 billion people and produces enough food for 9 billion people.

And as I’ve discussed before, the smaller the farm the greater the yield.

There is an inverse relationship between the size of farms and the amount of crops they produce per hectare. The smaller they are, the greater the yield.

In some cases, the difference is enormous. A recent study of farming in Turkey, for example, found that farms of less than one hectare are twenty times as productive as farms of over ten hectares(3). Sen’s observation has been tested in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Java, the Phillippines, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. It appears to hold almost everywhere. (Monbiot)

The key to true food security is food sovereignty, and the key to food sovereignty lies in who controls the land. The problems of both starvation and obesity stem from injustice in the way farmland and food are distributed. AGRA policies will poison the land and water, destroy local seeds and seed gene pools that provide the true hope for food sustainability. Local agriculture in most parts of the world has developed seeds that are tough and resistant to local pests, weeds, and local environmental dangers such as droughts or floods. AGRA wishes to replace these seeds with ones that need expensive, continuous, and ever expanding chemical coddling. These chemicals will poison the land, the water, and the people.

Additionally the Gates Foundation, Monsanto, and other corporate interests are investing in a doomsday seed bank, in which they will own the world’s agricultural gene pool. They are storing seeds from all over the world. In the event of genetic disaster, they will own the surviving gene pool.

Jonathan Weiner, in The Beak of the Finch describes how chemicals drive the destruction of land and the creation of super weeds and super insect pests:

Some of the greatest opposition to evolution comes from the farmers of the Cotton Belt, and that is where Taylor is seeing one of the most dramatic cases of evolution in action on this planet.

… in the year 1940, cotton farmers began spraying their fields with the chemical compound dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, better known as DDT. These first insecticidal sprays killed so many insects, and killed so many of the birds that ate the insects, that in biological terms the cotton fields were left standing virtually vacant, like an archipelago of newborn islands – and out of the woods and hedgerows fluttered [the cotton destroying moth] Heliothis virescens.

In the next few optimistic years, pesticide manufacturers assaulted Heliothis with bigger and bigger doses of DDT. They also brought out more poisons from the same chemical family: aldrin, chlordane. The aim was nothing less than the control of nature, and pesticide manufacturers believed that control was within their grasp. The annual introduction of new pesticides rose from the very first product, DDT, in 1940, to great waves of chemical invention in the 1960s and 1970s. In those decades, dozens of new herbicides and insecticides were brought to market each year. Heliothis became on of the most heavily sprayed species in what amounted to a biological world war. Through it all, the moths clung to the cotton.

… The moths have become almost absolutely resistant to all pesticides, from your cyclodienes to your organophosphates to your carbamates, and most of your pyrethroids. …

“Its an extraordinarily potent example of evolution going on under our eyes,” Taylor says. “Visible evolution.”

A pesticide applies selection pressure as surely as a drought or a flood. The poison selects against traits that make a species vulnerable to it, because the individuals that are most vulnerable are the ones that die first. The poison selects for any trait that makes the species less vulnerable, because the least vulnerable are the ones that survive longest and leave the most offspring. In this way the invention of pesticides in the twentieth century has driven waves of evolution in insects all over the planet. Heliothis is only one case in hundreds. (from pp 251-255)

In short, pesticides and herbicides destroy most of the insects, plants, and often other animals in those fields where they are used. But nature fights back. Those insects and weeds that can resist the chemicals initially, breed and grow stronger. They have no competition except from the chemicals, and they quickly evolve immunity, even as the chemicals become stronger and more toxic. Stronger and more toxic chemicals are needed to fight the new insects and weeds, and the destructive cycle continues. The chemicals wind up in the food, and run off into the land and the water, creating an ever increasingly toxic environment for humans and many other plants and animals.

For the growth of super weeds world wide, see the following charts:

The vertical axis shows the number of species of weeds that have become chemical resistant, the horizontal axis shows the years. You can see the exponential increase starting about 1970 when Monsanto introduced Roundup, and continuing into 2010. (click to enlarge)

You can see the distribution, North America, Western Europe, and Australia have already been severely impacted. Africa is a huge new market that has not yet been ruined. You can see why it is so desirable, it is a huge wide open opportunity to Monsanto and other greedy chemical corporations. Most countries in Africa have not yet been touched or biologically recolonized by GMOs and agricultural chemicals. South Africa, which has allowed GMOs, is the most severely impacted to date. (click to enlarge)

Genetically modified seeds, GMOs, are designed to be used as part of a program involving chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Their effect on farmers is usually to lock them into a cycle of debt, as described by Pearl above, and as experienced and protested in many countries including India and Brazil, as mentioned above. Terminator seeds, also known as suicide seeds or homicide seeds, will not regenerate, so instead of saving seeds, farmers have to buy new seeds each year, as well as investing in more, and more toxic chemicals each year that are necessary to make the GMO seeds grow. This cycle has created death and destruction in many places, including hundreds of farmer suicides in India.

I’ve heard that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that is certainly the case for the insects and weeds targeted by chemical pesticides and herbicides. Those that don’t die become very much stronger. We have already have super bugs and super weeds, thanks to the efforts of companies such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta. Evolution can move very fast, not just fast enough to observe, but fast enough to leave us humans struggling in its wake. Monsanto and the other agricultural chemical companies market each new product as though it is the end of some pest, that evolution stops at this point, and we can just relax. In fact each new chemical is the creator and the beginning of many more powerful threats. And the more powerful the chemical tools we use against these threats, the more those chemicals poison us and strengthen the insects and weeds we are fighting.

Although they have stopped talking much overtly about this, 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.

Family farmers, who produce 75% of the worlds food, will gradually be displaced, driven off their land, and the land will be poisoned and ruined. There will be less food, less healthy food. More people will starve, while more corporations will get fat.

As Joan Baxter writes:

Back in the early 1990s when I was reporting from northern Ghana, an elderly woman farmer decided I would benefit from a bit of enlightenment. In a rather long lecture, she detailed for me the devastating effects that the Green Revolution – the first one that outside experts and donors launched in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s – had had on farmers’ crops, soils, trees and their lives. She said that the imported seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and tractors, the instructions to plant row after row of imported hybrid maize and cut down precious trees that protected the soils and nourished the people – even the invaluable sheanut trees – had ruined the diverse and productive farming systems that had always sustained her people. When she finished, she cocked an eye at me and asked, with a cagey grin, ‘Why do you bring your mistakes here?

For more African farmers perspectives on this subject, see:

Africa: African Farmers and Environmentalists Speak Out Against A New Green Revolution In Africa PDF
http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/voicesfromafrica/pdfs/voicesfromafrica_full.pdf

________

The first part of this article was published, text only, on GhanaWeb on September 13, 2010. You can read it here. However, the comments are not archived.

Added Oct. 12, 2014
You can follow the fight against GMOs and corporate rule in Ghana at Food Sovereignty Ghana.
And follow discussions on the FSG Facebook page.

ricemadagascar

Rice fields in Madagascar

Glenn Ashton of the The South African Civil Society Information Service has written a telling article about the new colonial land grabs in Africa titled Madagascar: the new land grab.

Just when colonialism was considered dead and buried, along comes neo-colonialism in its latest guise. Allied with its close relatives globalisation, free marketeering and lack of transparency, it is currently launching a new offensive on the disempowered population of this continent. …

Neo-colonialism is now garbed in new clothes. Powerful interests are presently seeking and gaining access to land in government-to-government deals as well as through private capital. These arrangements ostensibly offer to manage land that is not being economically utilised in order to improve food security. But for whom? …

The global food security focussed NGO, GRAIN, issued a report on this phenomenon in October 2008, where they cited more than 100 examples of this new neo-colonial land grab. These land grabs are primarily by nations that have insufficient natural capital or space – such as the desert-bound nations of the Middle East and overpopulated nations such as China and South Korea. They seek to improve the food security of those nations while undermining the ability of host nations to access similar benefits, through the alienation of prime agricultural land. The ecological impacts can also be significant.

Since the GRAIN report was published, the land grab has continued apace. The recent acquisition of a reported 1.3 million hectares (ha) of land in Madagascar by the South Korean company Daewoo Logistics Corporation on 99-year lease has raised eyebrows around the world. This land represents around half of that island nation’s arable land.

In Madagascar a reported 70% of the population suffer from food shortages and malnutrition. Nearly 4% are fed through aid programmes. Besides this, more than 50% of the population is below the age of 18. What hope is there for local youth when South African farmers are reportedly being recruited to run the highly mechanised and automated farms under the Daewoo lease? …

China is also actively seeking new land. Given its massive population and constrained access to farmland, China has moved aggressively into Africa with land interests in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon and Tanzania. …

Even the World Bank is continuing its role as a neo-colonial consensus agent by actively pursuing and financing access to ‘under-utilised land’ around the world through its International Finance Corporation.

Of course much of the land is “under-utilised” because African countries were following World Bank recommendations and requirements. Malawi used to provide free seeds and fertilizer to its farmers.

The results were impressive, but the subsidies ran afoul of the pro-market policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which argued that subsidies were “crowding out” commercial sales and constituted undue government interference in the economy. Under considerable pressure from these financing institutions, the programme was phased out. The IMF also insisted that Malawi sell much of its national grain reserve to pay off the debts of the state-owned maize marketing agency.

Most Malawian farmers, however, were too poor to pay commercial rates for fertilizer and seeds. As a result, maize yields plunged. When drought struck in 2001 neither farmers nor the government had adequate grain stores to see them through, and more than a thousand people are estimated to have died. Then after the failed 2005 harvest left 5 million of Malawi’s 13 million people on the brink of starvation, the newly elected government of President Mutharika defied the donors and launched the subsidy scheme with its own funds.

Without the seeds and fertilizer, the land was “under-utilized.” People starved because they could not farm. This has been World Bank and IMF policy throughout Africa. As Ashton points out:

… international finance instruments run by the then G5 (now expanded to the G8), such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund used aid and so-called development finance instruments to further their interests.

It has been established by repeated research over decades that the smaller the farm the greater the yield. For more information read the article Small is Bountiful, and check the references listed at the end. There are economies of scale with big agriculture. Big agriculture allows the proceeds to be concentrated among a few people unrelated to the people actually living on the land. It is generally harmful to the land, due to the use of toxic chemicals needed to sustain monocultures, and due to unsafe genetic engineering. It is harmful to the people who live in its vicinity, depriving them of their livilihood and damaging their health.

Ashton continues:

Perhaps more sinister is the recent news of leasehold rights being acquired for approximately 400,000 hectares of land in the Southern Sudan from the family of former warlord Gabriel Matip. In a deal struck by US financier Philippe Heilberg, who has used a British Virgin Islands subsidiary of his Jarch Group to facilitate the deal, private interests have intervened directly in disputed territories. Co-directors of the group reportedly include ex-CIA operatives. Given the ongoing instability in that nation and the forced eviction of millions in the neighbouring Darfur region, this sort of land acquisition is perhaps a harbinger of an unsavoury trend in who gets to control the land in disputed territories.

I wrote about this in an earlier post: Jarch Colonial Holdings, and quote Heilberg: “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa”. His intentions are clear. The Jarch management contains people with connections to both the current and the previous US administrations. You can see their management listed on the Jarch LLC website.

Ashton concludes:

Activities to increase agricultural growth in Africa have also been severely compromised by questionable alliances. For instance AGRA, the African Union endorsed ‘Association for a Green Revolution in Africa,’ has seen the undemocratic and unsolicited intervention of supposedly neutral funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The relationship between these funders and pro-genetically modified food interests (in what is now termed bio-colonialism) has served to actively undermine local agricultural collectives, NGOs and projects that aim to promote and share proven solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition.

This is perhaps the most dangerous manifestation of neo-colonialism as it operates behind a veil of philanthropy while (wittingly or unwittingly) undermining democratic structures and interests. The obscene profits accrued by capital over recent decades, instead of being taxed and distributed by state organs, are now in the hands of ill-informed and often ideologically biased do-gooders. For instance, given the technocratic origins of the Gates fortune, it is logical that undue emphasis will be placed on similar technocratic agricultural solutions.

These ‘solutions’ are imposed through slick public relations and the support of corporate aligned agri-business interests such as Africa-Bio and A New Harvest, both of which are linked to GM corporations such as Monsanto, the worlds biggest seed company and genetically modified seed distributor.

There is an urgent need to examine these new neo-colonial thrusts. Careful and objective analysis must be undertaken as to how food and land sovereignty is being compromised through naïve interaction with the new global powers of finance and trade. The interests of global capital need to be tempered by intervention and through more pragmatic approaches that take account of the historical relationships between land, community, food security and economic development.

It is ironic that while Africans have fought to cast aside colonial oppression and its concomitant heritage, we have instead opened gates (pun intended) to a new wave of colonial interests that threaten, yet again, to bypass the marginalised whilst enriching a well-connected minority.

It would be tragic to cast aside Africa’s recently won freedom for a yoke of a different design.

Under democratic governance the people who live on the land would determine how their land is used. As Vandana Shiva writes:

In a democracy, the economic agenda is the political agenda.

The US claims to support and foster democracy. This is a test. In fact, it is probably THE test. Without food, none of us survive.

Added January 31:

From the GRAIN website:

THERE ARE FOUR MAIN PARTS TO THIS LAND GRAB BRIEFING:

1. A summary and announcement – available online here:
http://www.grain.org/nfg/?id=610

2. The full report is available here:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212
Also available in PDF format:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212&pdf

3. The Annex to this briefing is a table with over 100 cases of land grabbing for offshore food production as presented in this report. It is available in a separate PDF file:
http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/landgrab-2008-en-annex .pdf

4. GRAIN has released a Google Notebook with full-text news clippings collected during the research for this briefing as a support to those who want to read more.
http://tinyurl.com/landgrab2008

The notebook is only available online, and the news clippings are not in any order, but it can easily be searched. We are doing this because this is not always an easy subject to research on the internet, if you want a broad picture. People may add further clippings to the notebook as they wish, to further build this collective resource – if you would like to participate, please send an email to landgrab@grain.org . GRAIN will not be maintaining nor be responsible for it. Most of the articles are at present in English. (A backup copy is available in PDF format from here: http://www.grain.org/m/?id=209 )

corn in Ghana

corn in Ghana

In his essay Destroying African Agriculture Waldo Bello describes how:

African agriculture is a case study of how doctrinaire economics serving corporate interests can destroy a whole continent’s productive base.

Until the 1970s, Africa was able to feed itself and export food. Now most African countries are net importers. Among the international financial institutions, the IMF, and the World Bank, there was no intention to assist or maintain Africa’s ability to feed itself:

As then-U.S. Agriculture Secretary John Block put it at the start of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations in 1986, “the idea that developing countries should feed themselves is an anachronism from a bygone era. They could better ensure their food security by relying on U.S. agricultural products, which are available, in most cases at lower cost.”

What Block did not say was that the lower cost of U.S. products stemmed from subsidies that were becoming more massive each year, despite the fact that the WTO was supposed to phase out all forms of subsidy.

Bello’s essay is short and crystal clear in describing the net effect of structural adjustments and agricultural dumping.

Mark Plotkin writes in his book about ethnobotany Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice:

Ironically, if the American farmer had to grow only species native to the United States, we would be living off of Jerusalem artichokes, pecans, black walnuts, sunflower seeds, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and gooseberries. To paraphrase the contemporary Kenyan economist Calestous Juma, the exploitation of tropical plant resources by the United States has turned a continent of berries into a global agricultural power.

I was leafing through Plotkin’s book today looking for another quote, which I didn’t find yet, when I found the previous passage and thought it particularly ironic in light of Block’s sentiments above. There is another related issue Plotkin discusses. He is speaking of medicinal uses for plants, but the same holds true for food crops:

… new medicines were probably just waiting to be found in the rain forest plants, but one of the issues that troubled me as I began my research is what has come to be called “intellectual property rights.” Briefly stated, no matter what disease an ethnobotanist might find a cure for during the course of his research, the indigenous peoples who taught him the cure would not benefit from the sales of the new drug.

American agriculture has profited by exploiting the botanical heritage of the entire world. Now giant corporations such as Monsanto are trying to engineer plants from across the globe, so that they cannot be grown anywhere without paying tribute to Monsanto. Local people, whose heritage is these crops, do not share in the profits, and may be forced to pay tribute to a corporation to enjoy their own heritage.