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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.

Signed:
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

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seeddemobrazilSigns read:
SUICIDE SEEDS ARE HOMICIDE SEEDS
SAVE SEEDS__ TERMINATE TERMINATOR!

One technology AGRA, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, will bring to Africa is terminator seeds. One of the most concise explanations of these is from Teeth Maestro in Pakistan:

Monsanto is a chemical company posing as an agricultural company specializes in toxic, dependency-creating, genetically-engineered crops and pharmaceuticals. Monsanto is one of the world’s most notorious multinationals that has been caught red-handed for bribery, false studies and evaluations, and paying off scientists for favourable reports. It has been responsible for over 10,000 farmer suicides and thousands of poisoned sheep in India alone. Its GE products are banned in countries including in Europe after painful experiences.

“Terminator” seed controversy

In June 2007, Monsanto acquired Delta & Pine Land Company, a company that had been involved with a seed technology nicknamed “Terminator”, which produces plants that produce sterile seed to prevent farmers from replanting their crop’s seed, and are instead forced to continue purchasing seeds from Monsanto for every planting. In recent years, widespread opposition from environmental organizations and farmer associations has grown, mainly out of the concerns that these seeds increase farmers’ dependency on seed suppliers (having to buy these each year for seeding new crops)

… there have been countless protests all over India and Brazil demanding Monsanto be thrown out of their countries …

The picture above is from BanTerminator.org taken at protests in Brazil. They describe terminator seeds:

Terminator technology refers to plants that have been genetically modified to render sterile seeds at harvest – it is also called Genetic Use Restriction Technology or GURTS. Terminator technology was developed by the multinational seed/agrochemical industry and the United States government to prevent farmers from saving and re-planting harvested seed.

In India:

One of the top cotton-growing areas in India is Madhya Pradesh. It has a rich black soil, perfect for cotton. In 2002 farmers were persuaded to use BT cottonseed. — Some 10,000 acres were planted with it — although official permission had not been granted till then. The farmers ended up with 100 per cent failure. Due to the drought, indigenous cotton varieties had also been negatively affected but their ‘failure’ accounted for only 20 per cent of the crop, not all of it. Furious farmers demanded compensation from the company that supplied these seeds. That was Mahyco. And where did Mayco get these seeds from? – From Monsanto, the US multinational chemical giant which had a 27 percent share in Mahyco.

reports emerged, confirmed by a Gujrat khadi institute, of allergies not only among farmworkers but also itching and rashes in people wearing clothing made from Bt Cotton.

Even when farmers found the seed to be four times as expensive, they felt it was because of ultimate economy, and even went into debt to buy the input package. There were other problems. Bt cotton requires 20 percent more water than other hybrid cotton which needs more water than traditional varieties to begin with. No one said anything about Bt cotton being drought resistant. The truth was that Bt cotton was unable to adapt to stress conditions. It was criminal to encourage Bt cotton in drought-prone areas – and not telling farmers about this drawback in Bt cotton. The rains failed to come in some districts. Farmers were ruined because they had not grown the local hardy species that had evolved to withstand drought conditions with minimal loss.

That was not all. There was serious oversight on the part of Monsanto scientists. Wouldn’t it be common sense to deduce that if the Bt cotton plant was poisonous to bollworms eating it, it could be poisonous to other living creatures too? After the harvest, sheep were allowed to graze on the harvested fields to eat the crop residues, a common practice worldwide wherever natural farming is pursued. In just four villages in Andhra Pradesh, 1800 sheep died horrible, agonising deaths within 2-3 days from severe toxicity. More deaths were reported in other areas. The word was quickly spread to avoid grazing sheep where Bt cotton had grown. It meant less fodder and greater expense for the sheep-owners.

Other reports have emerged from India on the ill health effects of Bt cotton on both people and animals. It is being held responsible for causing “untimely deaths, decline in milk quality and quantity, and serious reproductive failures.”

From SeattleTammy:

Farmers in 3rd world countries are being sold these patented seeds. The crops were planted by illiterate farmers, for whom, even if they could read, the information on the packaging would be worthless, it was in English only. That information would have told them that these crops would need irrigation, and shouldn’t be used in rain-fed farm lands. The crops would also need pesticides and fertilizers, again from Monsanto. These crops failed, leaving the farmers further in debt, to surprise, the company store: Monsanto. Since these seeds are patented, the farmers are forbidden from saving seed from one year to the next, selecting the healthiest traits for the next season. New seeds must be purchased. The in-debted farmer’s land is then seized by Monsanto, which compounds the debts. Now hopeless in their situation, the farmers are committing suicide.

By drinking Monsanto pesticides.

Many thousands of farmers in India have committed suicide.

In conclusion for today, I offer, and appreciate the words of this farmer from Zambia:

“Somebody is trying to befool me as a farmer,” said Clement Chipokolo of the African Biodiversity Network, who came here all the way from Zambia. “In my culture we don’t buy seeds. We save them. But now somebody is trying to bring agricultural slavery for us.”

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.