Saturday, February 07, 2009
The GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide after using genetically modified crops
By Andrew Malone, Daily Mail.
Article source: www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1082559/The-GM-genocide-Thousands-Indian-farmers-committing-suicide-using-genetically-modified-crops.html
When Prince Charles claimed thousands of Indian farmers were killing themselves after using GM crops, he was branded a scaremonger. In fact, as this chilling dispatch reveals, it's even WORSE than he feared.
The children were inconsolable. Mute with shock and fighting back tears, they huddled beside their mother as friends and neighbours prepared their father's body for cremation on a blazing bonfire built on the cracked, barren fields near their home.
As flames consumed the corpse, Ganjanan, 12, and Kalpana, 14, faced a grim future. While Shankara Mandaukar had hoped his son and daughter would have a better life under India's economic boom, they now face working as slave labour for a few pence a day. Landless and homeless, they will be the lowest of the low.
Human tragedy: A farmer and child in India's 'suicide belt'
Shankara, respected farmer, loving husband and father, had taken his own life. Less than 24 hours earlier, facing the loss of his land due to debt, he drank a cupful of chemical insecticide.
Unable to pay back the equivalent of two years' earnings, he was in despair. He could see no way out.
There were still marks in the dust where he had writhed in agony. Other villagers looked on - they knew from experience that any intervention was pointless - as he lay doubled up on the ground, crying out in pain and vomiting.
Moaning, he crawled on to a bench outside his simple home 100 miles from Nagpur in central India. An hour later, he stopped making any noise. Then he stopped breathing. At 5pm on Sunday, the life of Shankara Mandaukar came to an end.
As neighbours gathered to pray outside the family home, Nirmala Mandaukar, 50, told how she rushed back from the fields to find her husband dead. 'He was a loving and caring man,' she said, weeping quietly.
'But he couldn't take any more. The mental anguish was too much. We have lost everything.'
Shankara's crop had failed - twice. Of course, famine and pestilence are part of India's ancient story.
But the death of this respected farmer has been blamed on something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops.
Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.
Prince Charles has set up charity Bhumi Vardaan Foundation to address the plight of suicide farmers
Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiralling debts - and no income.
So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.
The crisis, branded the 'GM Genocide' by campaigners, was highlighted recently when Prince Charles claimed that the issue of GM had become a 'global moral question' - and the time had come to end its unstoppable march.
Speaking by video link to a conference in the Indian capital, Delhi, he infuriated bio-tech leaders and some politicians by condemning 'the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming... from the failure of many GM crop varieties'.
Ranged against the Prince are powerful GM lobbyists and prominent politicians, who claim that genetically modified crops have transformed Indian agriculture, providing greater yields than ever before.
The rest of the world, they insist, should embrace 'the future' and follow suit.
So who is telling the truth? To find out, I travelled to the 'suicide belt' in Maharashtra state.
What I found was deeply disturbing - and has profound implications for countries, including Britain, debating whether to allow the planting of seeds manipulated by scientists to circumvent the laws of nature.
For official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here each month.
Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide - a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops.
It seems that many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.
Pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and 'agrarian distress' that is the real reason for the horrific toll.
But, as I discovered during a four-day journey through the epicentre of the disaster, that is not the full story.
In one small village I visited, 18 farmers had committed suicide after being sucked into GM debts. In some cases, women have taken over farms from their dead husbands - only to kill themselves as well.
Latta Ramesh, 38, drank insecticide after her crops failed - two years after her husband disappeared when the GM debts became too much.
She left her ten-year-old son, Rashan, in the care of relatives. 'He cries when he thinks of his mother,' said the dead woman's aunt, sitting listlessly in shade near the fields.
Village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds.
The price difference is staggering: £10 for 100 grams of GM seed, compared with less than £10 for 1,000 times more traditional seeds.
But GM salesmen and government officials had promised farmers that these were 'magic seeds' - with better crops that would be free from parasites and insects.
Indeed, in a bid to promote the uptake of GM seeds, traditional varieties were banned from many government seed banks.
The authorities had a vested interest in promoting this new biotechnology. Desperate to escape the grinding poverty of the post-independence years, the Indian government had agreed to allow new bio-tech giants, such as the U.S. market-leader Monsanto, to sell their new seed creations.
In return for allowing western companies access to the second most populated country in the world, with more than one billion people, India was granted International Monetary Fund loans in the Eighties and Nineties, helping to launch an economic revolution.
But while cities such as Mumbai and Delhi have boomed, the farmers' lives have slid back into the dark ages.
Though areas of India planted with GM seeds have doubled in two years - up to 17 million acres - many famers have found there is a terrible price to be paid.
Far from being 'magic seeds', GM pest-proof 'breeds' of cotton have been devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite.
Nor were the farmers told that these seeds require double the amount of water. This has proved a matter of life and death.
With rains failing for the past two years, many GM crops have simply withered and died, leaving the farmers with crippling debts and no means of paying them off.
Having taken loans from traditional money lenders at extortionate rates, hundreds of thousands of small farmers have faced losing their land as the expensive seeds fail, while those who could struggle on faced a fresh crisis.
When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year.
But with GM seeds they cannot do this. That's because GM seeds contain so- called 'terminator technology', meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own.
As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds each year at the same punitive prices. For some, that means the difference between life and death.
Take the case of Suresh Bhalasa, another farmer who was cremated this week, leaving a wife and two children.
As night fell after the ceremony, and neighbours squatted outside while sacred cows were brought in from the fields, his family had no doubt that their troubles stemmed from the moment they were encouraged to buy BT Cotton, a geneticallymodified plant created by Monsanto.
'We are ruined now,' said the dead man's 38-year-old wife. 'We bought 100 grams of BT Cotton. Our crop failed twice. My husband had become depressed. He went out to his field, lay down in the cotton and swallowed insecticide.'
Villagers bundled him into a rickshaw and headed to hospital along rutted farm roads. 'He cried out that he had taken the insecticide and he was sorry,' she said, as her family and neighbours crowded into her home to pay their respects. 'He was dead by the time they got to hospital.'
Asked if the dead man was a 'drunkard' or suffered from other 'social problems', as alleged by pro-GM officials, the quiet, dignified gathering erupted in anger. 'No! No!' one of the dead man's brothers exclaimed. 'Suresh was a good man. He sent his children to school and paid his taxes.
'He was strangled by these magic seeds. They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here.'
Monsanto has admitted that soaring debt was a 'factor in this tragedy'. But pointing out that cotton production had doubled in the past seven years, a spokesman added that there are other reasons for the recent crisis, such as 'untimely rain' or drought, and pointed out that suicides have always been part of rural Indian life.
Officials also point to surveys saying the majority of Indian farmers want GM seeds - no doubt encouraged to do so by aggressive marketing tactics.
During the course of my inquiries in Maharastra, I encountered three 'independent' surveyors scouring villages for information about suicides. They insisted that GM seeds were only 50 per cent more expensive - and then later admitted the difference was 1,000 per cent.
(A Monsanto spokesman later insisted their seed is 'only double' the price of 'official' non-GM seed - but admitted that the difference can be vast if cheaper traditional seeds are sold by 'unscrupulous' merchants, who often also sell 'fake' GM seeds which are prone to disease.)
With rumours of imminent government compensation to stem the wave of deaths, many farmers said they were desperate for any form of assistance. 'We just want to escape from our problems,' one said. 'We just want help to stop any more of us dying.'
Prince Charles is so distressed by the plight of the suicide farmers that he is setting up a charity, the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation, to help those affected and promote organic Indian crops instead of GM.
India's farmers are also starting to fight back. As well as taking GM seed distributors hostage and staging mass protests, one state government is taking legal action against Monsanto for the exorbitant costs of GM seeds.
This came too late for Shankara Mandauker, who was 80,000 rupees (about £1,000) in debt when he took his own life. 'I told him that we can survive,' his widow said, her children still by her side as darkness fell. 'I told him we could find a way out. He just said it was better to die.'
But the debt does not die with her husband: unless she can find a way of paying it off, she will not be able to afford the children's schooling. They will lose their land, joining the hordes seen begging in their thousands by the roadside throughout this vast, chaotic country.
Cruelly, it's the young who are suffering most from the 'GM Genocide' - the very generation supposed to be lifted out of a life of hardship and misery by these 'magic seeds'.
Here in the suicide belt of India, the cost of the genetically modified future is murderously high.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Failure of GMOs in India
by Dr. Vandana Shiva and Afsar H. Jafri,
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
On April 25, 2003, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, denied commercial clearance to Monsanto’s Bt cotton for the northern Indian states. This vindicates the apprehensions of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) and others who have warned the government about the severe repercussions to Indian farmers and their livelihood if further clearance to the Bt cotton had been allowed in view of its large scale failure in the first year of its commercial planting in approximately 40,000 hectares.
This is a third consecutive victory for the people for their food security and food safety after the denial to ProAgro-Bayar for the commercial clearance of GE mustard as well as the rejection of import of 10,000 million tons of corn soya blend suspected of containing Bt “Starlink” corn as food aid by two NGOs—CARE India and Catholic Relief Services. This was achieved despite the massive media campaign in favor of transgenic mustard by ProAgro-Bayar as well as the massive pressure from USAID and the US Embassy. They tried hard to subvert the GEAC’s decision-making process through the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) by seeking a special audience in the official meeting of the GEAC.
…yields have been as low as 20 kgs in one acre.
This decision of the GEAC is welcomed by RFSTE and others because, GMO’s or no GMO’s, Monsanto seeds are spreading disaster. Recently, Monsanto hybrid maize seeds failed in more than 350,000 acres in about 11 districts of north Bihar. Farmers of these districts are in deep distress because Monsanto sold its 700 metric tons of “Cargill hybrid 900M” maize seeds in the flood- prone areas of north Bihar. Similarly, the water- intensive hybrid maize seeds were introduced in the drought-prone regions of Rajasthan, which has put an extra burden of chemical inputs and water on the Rajasthani farmers. Monsanto India Ltd., a subsidiary of the US multinational, has been barred from selling seeds in Bihar for allegedly marketing substandard products.
Bt cotton failed in India
The GEAC denial to commercialize Bt cotton in the northern states comes after the massive failure of Bt cotton in the southern states of India. The GEAC, in spite of being aware of ecological hazards and GM corporations’ false claims of reduced pesticide use and higher yields, had given permission to Monsanto Mahyco to commercialize Bt cotton in the southern states on March 26, 2002, and asked for a year’s additional trials in the north. Though the official version about the Bt trials by Punjab Agricultural University is not available, independent studies by a citizen group found that the Punjab farmers have rejected the first ever genetically modified commercial cotton hybrid seed, Bt cotton, due to its poor harvest. Malwa, a cotton- rich area in southern Punjab, is highly dependent on this cash crop, but successive failures have left farmers in the lurch. Bt cotton had found many takers among farmers in Punjab when it was introduced. Though the Punjab Agriculture University was against the sowing of Bt cotton seeds, several farmers smuggled Bt cotton seeds from Gujarat hoping for better results. The yield was, however, lower than claimed. The Daula village sarpanch Mr. Darshan Singh said, “ ... We had to spray chemicals 4–5 times on Bt cotton. The crops were attacked by various pests, specially the American Bollworm. The Bt cotton yield was lower than that of the local varieties, which are more profitable.”
Moreover, the Bt cotton seeds are costlier. Farmers who sowed Bt cotton got a yield of 250 kg per hectare while the local variety yielded almost twice that. The Bt cotton, however, requires less spraying than the local variety. “The local variety yields bigger cotton bales, which are preferred by traders. And it fetches more money for us. Marketing Bt cotton is difficult due to apprehensions regarding it,” said Mr. Nidhan Singh, a farmer.
RFSTE conducted a study in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka which showed that not only did Monsanto’s cotton not protect the plants from the American Bollworm, but there was an increase of 250–300% in attacks by non target pests like Jassids, aphids, white fly and thrips. In addition, the Bt plants became prey to fungal diseases like root rot disease or fusarium. The Bt cotton varieties gave very low yields. Even the staple lengths of what little cotton was produced were so short that the cotton fetched a very low price in the cotton market. The incomes of Bt cotton farmers suffered not just because of low yields, but also because of staple size.
Bt cotton does not give higher yields
Bt cotton was sold with the claim that it would give 15 quintals [1 quintal = 100 kgs] of yield per acre. However yields have been as low as 20 kgs in one acre. On average, yields of Bt cotton are 1.2 quintals per acre in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh; nowhere did Bt cotton yield exceed 4 quintals/acre at the end of the harvest.
In Madhya Pradesh, in Badwani, Khargaon, Dhar and Khandwa districts, almost half the 42 farmers visited reported that their crop had failed. Khargaon farmers faced total crop failure. In the other districts, only one expected a yield of 12.5 quintals. The average yield expected by the others was 4.01 quintals, as compared to the 15 quintals promised by Monsanto Mahyco.
…with Bt cotton, there are associated adverse impacts on parasitic natural enemies of cotton bollworm.
In Karnataka, 15 of the 40 farmers visited in Bellary, Sirippupa, and Haveri/Dharwad districts expected a total failure of their crops. The average yield expected by remaining farmers was 3.82 quintals per hectare (ha, 2.47 acres).
In most of the fields visited in the month of late October 2002, the Bt cotton plants were in a stage of maturity with leaves turning red before dropping off. The non Bt on fringes looked far healthier, taller and more green than Bt plants. The early maturity of the Bt crop could be caused by the toxin gene and not due to environmental conditions since non-Bt varieties and other hybrid cotton plants were healthy and lush green in October while Bt cotton plants had started reddening.
It means that unlike other hybrid cotton, which yields up to March, Bt cotton farmers could not get any yield after November–December.
In our view, this maturity factor could be caused by genetic engineering or genetic engineering processes through which the Bt cotton has been developed. This could also be due to the toxic gene in the Bt cotton plants. Even the CICR is expecting a maximum yield of 4 quintals per acre in 10 acres of Bt cotton being grown under the Institute Village Linkage Program (IVLP). Bt cotton disappointed its growers and the yield was much below their expectation.
Bt cotton does not increase farmers’ income
The failure of Bt cotton has completely exposed the companies who are trying to market their genetically engineered seeds at the cost of the farmers’ lives and livelihoods and calls into question the GEAC clearance given to an unreliable, untested, hazardous variety. The failure or drastically reduced yield of Bt cotton has devastated Bt cotton farmers, who are faced with penury.
The incomes of Bt cotton farmers suffered not just because of low yields, but also because of staple size. Monsanto Mahyco claimed a staple size ranging from 26–29 mm. In actuality, it is hardly 15–20 mm and fetched the rate of a short staple cotton (around 1500 Rupees per quintal), while the normal rate offered for best quality cotton is Rs. 2000 to 2200 per quintal. One of the buyers in the Warangal Cotton Market, Mr. Sarangpani of K.N.R. Enterprises, said that Bt cotton staples are only 6–7 mm long while the staples of good quality cotton are 32 mm.
The only paper that bolsters Monsanto’s claim to Bollgard (their Bt cotton seed product) is a study by Matin Qaim (University of Bonn’s Center for Development Research) and David Zilberman (Professor at the University of California in Berkeley), published in the journal Science, which said that the Indian experience with Bt is positive and yields have increased by 80%. Qaim and Zilberman have used data provided by Monsanto-Mahyco, which is still not in the public domain, to substantiate their claims. These claims have been rebutted by internationally renowned scientists and experts. Shanthu Shantharam, a scientist who has worked as a regulator with the USDA and is an authority on “pest resistant genes in managed ecosystems” states that such an increase cannot be attributed to a single Bt gene, calling it a “preposterous idea.”
The study is also rebutted by Dr. Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, who said that this paper extolling the outstanding performance of Bt cotton is based exclusively on data supplied by the company that owns the Bt cotton, Monsanto-Mahyco. Bt cotton, the first GM crop to be grown in India, was given approval for commercial cultivation in March 2002, so this is the first harvest of the Bt crop. The data presented in this sensational paper are, however, not based on this harvest as one would expect but on a few selected trial plots belonging to the company. No data from farmers’ fields or from the All India Coordinated Variety trials conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have been included.
The Indian experience with Bt cotton shows that it neither gives higher yields nor does it increase farmers’ incomes.
This amounts to manipulating data since trial plots are experimental fields with optimal conditions. The performance in real fields under normal cultivation conditions is very different. Nowhere near these kinds of results are seen anywhere else in the world where Bt cotton is being cultivated. In the US and China, 10–15% yield increase is recorded. These sensational data have led to a spate of media reports about the “superlative” performance of Bt cotton both nationally and internationally. Such misleading reports can end up influencing policy makers in a direction that could ultimately be detrimental to farmers, and therefore must be publicly denounced.
Farmers, who according to GEAC’s earlier statements that they would earn an additional income of Rs. 10,000 per acre with Bt cotton, actually lost more than this amount by planting Bt varieties. Not only is the cost of the seed higher than that of non Bt varieties but also Monsanto’s varieties need more fertilizer and water.
The Indian experience with Bt cotton shows that it neither gives higher yields nor increases farmers’ incomes.
Adverse environmental impacts of Bt cotton
Research conducted during the past few years at four domestic academic institutions shows that Bt cotton is effective in controlling the primary pest of cotton—bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera Hbner)—especially in the seedling stage of cotton. However, laboratory experiments and field research also demonstrate that there are adverse environmental impacts associated with the cultivation of Bt cotton.
1. In Chinese studies there are no significant impacts on predatory natural enemies associated with Bt cotton. However, there are associated adverse impacts on parasitic natural enemies of cotton bollworm. Consequently, the populations of parasitic natural enemies in Bt cotton fields are significantly reduced.
2. Bt cotton is not effective in controlling many secondary pests, especially sucking pests. Field experiments showed that the populations of secondary pests such as cotton aphids, cotton spider mites, thrips, lygus bugs, cotton whitefly, cotton leaf hopper and beet armyworm increased in Bt cotton fields after the target pest, bollworm, had been controlled. Some pests replaced bollworm as primary pests and damaged cotton growth.
Some pests replaced bollworm as primary pests and damaged cotton growth.
3. The diversity indices of the insect community, the pest sub community and the pests’ natural enemies sub community, as well as the evenness index of Bt cotton fields, are all lower than those in conventional cotton fields. However, the pest-dominant concentration in Bt cotton fields is higher than in the conventional cotton fields. Therefore, the possibility of outbreaks of certain pests in Bt cotton is much higher.
4. Both laboratory tests and field monitoring have verified that cotton bollworm can develop resistance to Bt cotton. Laboratory tests for selection of Bt resistant bollworm indicated that susceptibility of bollworm to Bt cotton fell to 30% after 17 generations under continuous selection with a diet of Bt cotton leaves. The resistance index of the bollworm increased 1000 times when the selection was continued to the 40th generation. Based on these results, the scientists concluded that Bt cotton would probably lose its resistance to bollworm in fields after the Bt cotton has been planted for 8–10 years continuously.
5. Bt cotton demonstrates excellent resistance to the second generation bollworm and chemical control is not generally needed for the seedling period of Bt cotton.
6. However, the resistance of Bt cotton to bollworm decreases over time, and control is not complete in the third and fourth generations. The fact that farmers must use chemicals 2–3 times to control bollworm, particularly from mid July to the end of August, has been commonly recognized in China, but there are not yet effective measures to postpone resistance development or to resolve the resistance problem. A high dose of the Bt toxin protein is considered difficult to obtain, and the refuge mechanism is not easily implemented.
Note: The complete 19-page report with references is available on the Synthesis/Regeneration web site, at: http://www.greens.org/s-r/33/shiva.pdf (pdf format)
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
GM cotton: Economic, social & ecological genocide
Cotton is responsible for more than 10% of world pesticide use including some of the most hazardous, and 25% of all insecticide use. As weeds and insects become resistant, more and more pesticides are needed in a vicious circle that’s a recipe for socio-economic, health and environmental disaster. About half of the GM cotton grown in the United States is herbicide resistant, and a comprehensive analysis by Dr. Charles Benbrook, a former Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture of the US National Academy of Science, confirmed that it required more herbicide than conventional varieties.
Most GM cotton crops worldwide are engineered with Bt for resistance to insect pests and promoted by firms like Monsanto as environmentally friendly, because they need less pesticide. Monsanto’s GM cotton ‘Bollgard’ carries the cry1Ac gene from soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, (Bt) to produce a toxin that kills some cotton pests including the boll weevil. However, Bollgard does not resist sucking pests, such as aphids, that might also damage the crop and will therefore require subsidiary spraying.
GM cottonseed prices include a ‘technology fee’ that can go up every year, and is calculated on supposed savings from reduced pesticide use with the Bt variety in a particular location. All farmers growing Monsanto’s Bt cotton sign a contract, called a Technology Use Agreement that is strictly applied. It stipulates that,
• Farmers cannot save seed for replanting
• Farmers are prohibited from supplying seed to anyone else
• Farmers must pay 120 times the technology fee, plus the legal fees of Monsanto, if they
violate the contract.
The Indonesian experience: A cautionary tale
"GM crops are nothing more than a profit-motivated deployment of scientific power dedicated to sucking the blood of farmers."
Indonesia was the first country in Southeast Asia to permit commercial GM farming against the warnings of scientists and activists on the environmental and socio-economic impacts.Fortunately, permission was granted only on a year-by-year basis, and the government reviewed the impact of the failed Bt crop.
The review was scathing. This "Gene Revolution", it said, seemed to be "a modern tool for cementing farmers’ dependence on seeds and transnational agrochemical corporations appearing in developing countries in different guises." The evidence from Indonesia is that "GM crops are nothing more than a profit-motivated deployment of scientific power dedicated to sucking the blood of farmers."
Monsanto promised Bt cotton would return 3-4 tonnes of cotton per hectare while requiring less pesticide and fertilizer than Kanesia, the local cotton variety. The seed was given to farmers with pesticide, herbicide, (including Roundup) and fertilizer as part of a credit scheme costing sixteen times more than non-Bt cotton. In fact, the average yield was 1.1 tonnes per hectare and 74% of the area planted to Bt-cotton produced less than one tonne per hectare. About 522 hectares experienced total crop failure. Despite that, the government extended approval for Bt cotton for another year; and the results were no better.
In 2001 farmers signed contracts, but in 2002 the seed price rose and the cotton price slumped. Farmers had no choice but to shoulder the debt and sell at the company’s rate; as a result, 76% of farmers who joined the credit scheme couldn’t repay their debt and many burned their cotton in protest against the government and the company (see "Broken promises", http://www.i-sis.org.uk/isisnews.php).
In 2003, Monsanto halted operations saying that the Indonesian Government’s decision to
authorize Bt cotton production on a year-by-year basis had been a big obstacle to business investment. PT Monagro Kimia, a Monsanto subsidiary, was under investigation by the US Department of Justice and the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission on suspicion that a payment of US$ 50 000 was made to Indonesian officials in 2002.
In January 2005, Monsanto was found guilty of authorising the bribe and fined $1.5m (see "GM cotton: corruption, hype, half-truths and lies", this series).
Bt cotton in India: The GM cotton suicide belt
Bt cotton entered commercial production in India in 2002 without comprehensive assessment for detrimental effects, and despite fierce protests by farmers and public interest organizations. Only six of India’s 29 states in the south and the west of the country have had permission to plant Monsanto’s Bt cotton. Four strains of Bt seed were available with at least one Indian variant of the licensed Monsanto varieties.
A 2002 study of Bt cotton in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh found a 35% reduction in the total yield of Bt cotton with a net loss of Rs 1295, compared to a net profit of Rs 5368 for non-Bt cotton. Bt cotton yield was 50% lower than that promised by Monsanto. Bollworm were predominant on both Bt and non-Bt crops showing that Bt cotton was ineffective against its target pest.
In 2003, there was 30% more rainfall than in 2002, and a new Bt hybrid compared favourably with the previous year; however it was still 9% less profitable than the non-Bt hybrids. In 2004, farmers in the state of Andhra Pradesh grew Bt cotton on 10% of the cotton acreage. Half of the farmers growing Bt cotton bought licensed seed from Monsanto at 1 500 rupees per 400 gm packet, while the other half bought unauthorised hybrid Bt seed at between Rs 800 to 1 200 per packet. Non-Bt hybrid seed cost farmers about Rs 400.
Farmers found that, with fluctuating weather as in 2002, much of the crop showed signs of wilt, and although some Bt cotton recovered from severe moisture stress, the yield was very poor compared to non-Bt types; also the yield from the unlicensed Bt cotton was better than Monsanto’s seed because drought tolerant females had been chosen for crossing to produce the hybrid. Monsanto is now demanding royalties of 70% from these seed producers.
Many Bt plants were small with few bolls that were infested with bollworm and other pests, including cercospora leaf spot, so the cotton had been neither high-yielding nor resistant to bollworm as promised by Monsanto. On 12 October, hundreds of farmers in Warangal district protested on the streets where the seed and pesticide dealer shops were located and demanded compensation for their losses, staging a sit-in on the highway. A second protest took place two days later when senior officials promised to attend; a Monsanto official was subsequently kidnapped. Meanwhile there has been a bumper harvest in non-GM cotton.
Bt cotton in China: "could cause a disaster"
Monsanto received a permit in 1997 for commercial production of Bt cotton in China and has since shared the Bt cotton market with domestically developed varieties that have expanded quickly over the country’s cotton-growing area. China has been held up as the success story in GM cotton, and is the key to statistics claiming benefit for small farmers from GM. However, earlier warnings of major problems have now been confirmed by a Chinese researcher who reports that the technology will not only be useless within six to seven years, but "could cause a disaster". Liu Xiaofeng, a researcher from Henan, China’s
second largest cotton producing province, told Reuters that the cotton bollworm is indeed
developing resistance and will not be susceptible to Bt cotton after 20-30 generations, or in six to seven years. Moreover, Bt cotton does not effectively control secondary pests such as Lygus bug.
The early warnings appeared in a study published in June 2002 based on the work of scientists at a research institute funded by China’s Environmental Protection Agency. It found that although Bt cotton was effective in bollworm control, it had adverse impacts on the parasitic natural enemies of bollworm, and was not effective in controlling many secondary pests that damaged the crop.
The study also found the diversity indices of the insect community in Bt cotton fields to
be lower than in conventional cotton fields, and that the cotton bollworm could develop resistance to Bt cotton. Liu’s work has received further collaboration by another study published in October 2004, which found that Bt cotton did not reduce the total numbers of insecticide sprays because additional sprays were required against sucking pests.
Seven-year glitch: Cornell warns that Chinese GM cotton farmers are losing
money due to 'secondary' pests
Although Chinese cotton growers were among the first farmers worldwide to plant genetically modified (GM) cotton to resist bollworms, the substantial profits they have reaped for several years by saving on pesticides have now been eroded. The reason, as reported by Cornell University researchers at the American Agricultural Economics Association (AAEA) Annual Meeting in Long Beach, Calif., July 25, is that other
pests are now attacking the GM cotton.
The GM crop is known as Bt cotton, shorthand for the Bacillus thuringiensis gene inserted into the seeds to produce toxins. But these toxins are lethal only to leaf-eating bollworms. After seven years, populations of other insects -- such as mirids -- have increased so much that farmers are now having to spray their crops up to 20 times a growing season to control them, according to the study of 481 Chinese farmers in five major cotton-producing provinces. "These results should send a very strong signal to researchers and governments that they need to come up with remedial actions for the Bt-cotton farmers. Otherwise, these farmers will stop using Bt cotton, and that would be very unfortunate," said Per Pinstrup-Andersen, the H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy at Cornell, and the 2001 Food Prize laureate.
The study -- the first to look at the longer-term economic impact of Bt cotton -- found that by year, three farmers in the survey who had planted Bt cotton cut pesticide use by more than 70 percent and had earnings 36 percent higher than farmers planting conventional cotton. By 2004, however, they had to spray just as much as conventional farmers, which resulted in a net average income of 8 percent less than conventional cotton farmers because Bt seed is triple the cost of conventional seed.
In addition to Pinstrup-Andersen, the study was conducted by Shenghui Wang, Cornell Ph.D. '06 and now an economist at the World Bank, and Cornell professor David R. Just. They stress that secondary pest problems could become a major threat in countries where Bt cotton has been widely planted. "Because of its touted efficiency, four major cotton-growing countries were quick to adopt Bt cotton: the U.S., China, India and Argentina," said Wang. Bt cotton accounts for 35 percent of cotton production worldwide. In China, more than 5 million farmers have planted Bt cotton; it is also widely planted in Mexico and South Africa.
When U.S. farmers plant Bt crops, they, unlike farmers in China, are required by contracts with seed producers to plant a refuge, a field of non-Bt crops, to maintain a bollworm population nearby to help prevent the pest from developing resistance to the Bt cotton. The pesticides used in these refuge fields help control secondary pest populations on the nearby Bt cotton fields.
Researchers do not yet know if a secondary pest problem will emerge in the United States and other countries, Pinstrup-Andersen said.
"The problem in China is not due to the bollworm developing resistance to Bt cotton -- as some researchers have feared -- but is due to secondary pests that are not targeted by the Bt cotton and which previously have been controlled by the broad-spectrum pesticides used to control bollworms," added Pinstrup-Andersen, who also is serving as president of AAEA for 2007.
Wang and her co-authors conclude, "Research is urgently needed to develop and test solutions." These include introducing natural predators to kill the secondary pests, developing Bt cotton that resists the secondary pests or enforcing the planting of refuge areas where broad-spectrum pesticides are used.
This study was jointly conducted by the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Chinese
Academy of Science and Cornell.
Field trials in Africa
GM cotton = Trojan Horse of bio-tech multinationals to control the local food chain
South Africa, already the sixth biggest producer of GM crops in the world, grows Bt cotton on large and small commercial scales, extolling the benefits to small farmers in spite of the serious debts incurred.
Although there is a glut of cotton in the world market and depressed prices caused by US
subsidies to their own growers worth $3.7 b per annum, the US government and the world’s biggest agrochemical companies are putting pressure on West African countries to introduce Bt cotton, the ‘trojan horse’ for other GM crops waiting in the wings. In West Africa there are wild relatives of cotton that may be contaminated, but in the US, GM cotton is prohibited in Florida where wild relatives grow.
In November 2003, USAID, with the official support of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, declared that it wants to ‘GM-ize’ Africa. Mali’s National Agricultural Research Institute has been negotiating with Monsanto and
Syngenta for field trials of Bt cotton. There is a plan to convert the country’s crop to GM varieties over the next five years; local farmers and the public are unaware of this intention. West African farmers, already unable to sell enough natural cotton because of subsidies, are locked into a cycle of poverty with credit against next years harvest.
• Burkino Faso has been field-testing Bt cotton since July 2003 in collaboration with
Monsanto. But Francois Traore, president of the National Union of Cotton Producers,
says, "If we already have the means to reduce pesticide use, why look for things that are
going to complicate life?"
• Benin has had a moratorium on GM products since March 2002, but is under constant
pressure to introduce Bt cotton.
• Senegal ran an unofficial field trial of Monsanto’s Bt cotton, but efforts were abandoned
after the cotton failed to perform.
• Egypt has a pro GM policy with field trials underway for Bt cotton and many other crops.
• Kenya has many research institutes pushing GM crops, and research on GM cotton is
• Uganda has just published its first biosafety policy bill, which has yet to be made law by
parliament, however it is expected to take up Bt cotton soon.
• Zimbabwe: The government destroyed some unsupervised field trials of Bt cotton
conducted by Monsanto some years ago.
In the US, home of Monsanto’s Bollgard first planted in 1996, there have been problems with erratic and disappointing yield, especially in Southeast Arkansas where costs were significantly higher on Bt acreage. In 2002, despite the use of supplementary pesticides, 7.5% of the Bt crop was destroyed by bollworm and 1.4% destroyed by Spodoptera and Pseudoplusia includens caterpillars. The total insecticide use has remained relatively stable due to the increasing importance of secondary pests; it is lower in dry states such as Texas, but increasing in the Mississippi delta.
Bollworms feeding on Bt cotton in Arkansas
Bollworms have been showing up in cotton fields across Arkansas. They’re especially prevalent in south Arkansas, said Glenn Studebaker, entomologist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
They began showing up at the end of last week (July 16-22) in south Arkansas and now they’re in north Arkansas,” Studebaker said. “We’re seeing pretty heavy numbers.”
The entomologist said insect numbers tend to “blow up” in July and August. Worms tend to get worse this time of year in cotton as do the late-season insects, plant bugs and stink bugs.
“The big problem is that farmers are finding damage in Bollgard cotton, Bt cotton genetically modified to provide protection against tobacco budworms. Usually, they provide some protection against bollworms. But this year seems to be worse. Farmers are having to spray a lot of Bt cotton for bollworms.”
Studebaker said the insects are feeding in the terminal area on the upper plant. Usually, if they survive on Bt cotton, they feed from the lower portion of the plant.
Why isn’t the variety providing some degree of protection?
“It’s too early to say why yet. It could be a natural cycle or it could be growing tolerance for Bt in these insects,” Studebaker said. “Farmers have been growing Bt cotton for about 10 years. Bollworms always had some tolerance to Bt, but after 10 years, we may have been selecting for insects that are more tolerant.”
Meanwhile, farmers with Bt cotton being damaged by bollworms are having to spray with pyrethroid insecticides. But Studebaker said it’s never a good thing when farmers have to spray costly insecticides.
Research on Bollgard cotton adopted in North Carolina, conducted between 1996-2003 by Jack Bacheler, North Carolina State University Extension entomologist found changes in insect communities, and that while damage from bollworms decreased, stink bug problems have increased.
In 2004, Bt cotton was grown in nine states and comprised more than 75% of all cotton grown. Most varieties are Roundup Ready (RR) or RR and Bt combined . The proposed ‘technology fee for Bollgard II was US $99 ha in 2004, this is to be added to the seed price.
Bt cotton is also grown in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Columbia. In Columbia the vice-president of the biosafety council works for Monsanto and was thus able to both apply for and grant permission for release of a Bt crop in an area that is a centre of origin for some wild cotton species. Moreover, the pest responsible for 70% of pesticide use on cotton is the picudo, which is not targeted by Monsanto’s cotton. The small farmer will once again lose out due to this folly.
US/EU (illegal) cotton subsidies leading to overproduction of cotton are devastating the environment and destroying the livehoods of millions of poor cotton farmers around the world.
World overproduction of cotton, a crop that degrades the environment by escalating requirement for pesticide, demand on scarce water resources and exhaustion of soil, is a subject for serious concern in its own right. Large commercial plantings - which attract subsidies in rich countries - create monoculture deserts and distort world markets. As a result, the poor producer in the south, who has traditionally grown a crop of one or two hectares, descends into a spiral of debt. The aggressive introduction of GM cotton will exacerbate all the problems of the conventional crop and, in developing countries, nullify centuries of successful local crop breeding by farmers, destroying their autonomy and control of seed, their livelihoods and cultural traditions.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Seeds of Destruction
The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation
by F. William Engdahl
Seeds of Destruction: The Geopolitics of GM Food,
In June 2003, President George W. Bush made the issue of lifting an 8-year European Union ban on genetically modified (GM) plants a matter of US national strategic priority. This came only days after the US occupation of Baghdad. The timing was not accidental. Since that time, EU resistance to GM plants has crumbled, as has that of Brazil, and other key agriculture producing nations. One year before, the future of GM crops was in doubt.
Now, some months and enormous pressure later, the strategists of GM food hegemony are on the verge of a control over the global human and animal food chain never held by any single nation or power.
The present debate over the nature of biotechnology and genetic modification of basic food such as maize or soybeans, misses the most essential point. The conversion of world agriculture by a small elite of biotech companies, most US-based, has little to do with corporate greed. It has very much to do with geopolitics and plans of some people to control world population growth over the coming decades.
The nature of American power projection in the world today rests on the development of key strategic advantages which no other combination of nations can challenge, what the Pentagon planners term, "full spectrum dominance." This includes global military dominance. It includes dominance of the world's limited, and rapidly depleting petroleum supplies. It includes control of the world's reserve currency, the dollar. And today it most definitely includes future control of world agriculture through control of GM patents and GM crops.
Before the end of the decade, if present trends continue, US global dominance will be based on control of the food supply of most of this planet, far more than military or even energy control. The geopolitical dimension of this prospect bears careful examination.
A Rockefeller Trojan horse
The agency at the center of the GM controversy is the Rockefeller Foundation in New York. Over the past decade, this influential private foundation has spent more than $100 million in sponsoring research and development of GM crops to be deployed in world food production. They have specifically targeted key developing nations in their effort.More on Monsanto
Their public statements suggest noble motives: "The Rockefeller Foundation is a global foundation with a mandate and a commitment to enrich and sustain the lives of the poor and excluded throughout the world," said foundation president, Gordon Conway, in a 1999 speech to the Monsanto Company, the world's largest producer of GM seeds and pesticides. Conway cites as justification for the GM revolution in agriculture the projections of an added 2 billion people in the world by 2020, amid a decline in existing agriculture yields, and increased degradation of soils and ecology. All indications suggest this is not the real reason GM plants are being promoted with a fervor.
Over the past 18 years, the Rockefeller Foundation has played a decisive role worldwide in spreading the acceptance of radical practices of genetic modification to countries and laboratories where a direct US Government research program would be greeted with greatest suspicion. The Rockefeller Foundation is, in effect, the Trojan Horse of GM proliferation.
It has gained entry in key countries in part by selecting key scientists from select developing countries to be educated and trained in the US or other industrial countries under foundation programs and auspices. It has done this by funding GM research and by using its influence in government and other agencies and NGO's. To date more than 400 leading scientists from the Philippines to Thailand to Kenya to China have been trained and cultivated by the foundation.
The Rockefeller Foundation has a murky past, since its creation in 1914 out of the Rockefeller family Standard Oil Trust fortune. Well before 1945, the foundation had been a leading funder of eugenics research, work made infamous by the Nazi race purity experiments. This included Rockefeller support to the American Eugenics Society and the Population Council. As the race breeding policies of the German Third Reich came to light after the war, Rockefeller strategists shifted profile to champion the causes of environment, resource scarcity and over-population. The policy remained one of global population reduction. (1).
Kissinger and NSSM 200
Since more than a quarter century, Rockefeller Foundation energy has been focused on biotechnology and genetic engineering research and promotion. This comes after decades of involvement in various population control schemes for the developing world. There is no contradiction.
In 1972 President Nixon named foundation board member, John D. Rockefeller III, to chair a Presidential Commission on "Population and the American Future." The same Rockefeller created the Population Council in 1952, and openly called for "zero population growth."
Rockefeller's Commission on Population and the American Future laid the foundation for Henry Kissinger's National Security memorandum, NSSM 200, of April 1974, which cited population growth in strategic, raw materials rich developing countries as a US national security concern of the highest priority.
During the 1970's, when Kissinger was National Security Council director as well as Secretary of State, food and oil emerged as strategic US national security commodities. Kissinger initiated the controversial "oil-for-food" strategy in which a food-deficient USSR imported vast sums of US grain and paid it with large export of Soviet oil for dollars. US domestic oil production, outside Alaska, had peaked in 1970 and began a steady decline. The US was becoming increasingly an oil import nation. National security became tied to security of cheap imported oil, and food was a weapon in the US security arsenal from that time on. Kissinger's Cabinet colleague, Agriculture Secretary, Earl Butz, reflected the Kissinger policy when he stated, "Hungry men listen only to those who have a piece of bread. Food is a tool. It is a weapon in the US negotiating kit." Kissinger was then chief negotiator.
In 1974, Kissinger submitted the NSSM 200 memorandum to President Nixon, naming population growth in key raw-materials rich developing countries as, a US "national security threat." Since that time, control of economic growth rates and population growth in key developing countries has been US national security priority.
Kissinger owed his political career since the late 1950's to his stint as a researcher for the Rockefeller family, and owed his rise to power to their backing. The Rockefeller family had been at the center of US oil and raw materials geopolitics since early in the 1900's, when the Standard Oil Trust was built. Kissinger was well aware of the importance of food and energy to US national interests.
With Kissinger's NSSM 200, Washington official policy was to impose restrictions on fast-growing developing countries, policies which would significantly cut population growth. In NSSM 200, Kissinger implied that famine might be an effective way to reduce population: "â€¦large-scale famine of a kind not experienced for several decades - a kind the world thought had been permanently banished," was foreseeable, he wrote. He remarked that the US and other donor countries would not be likely to provide necessary food export to the afflicted regions.
In 1975, Kissinger's successor as National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, later a Kissinger business partner, wrote, "United States leadership is essential to combat population growth, to implement the World Population Plan of Action and to advance United States security and overseas interests. The President endorsesâ€¦NSSM 200â€¦," Scowcroft added.
Kissinger's NSSM 200 document, classified secret and not made public until 1989, took estimates of world population growth to the end of the century and beyond, and the impact on the need for food and raw materials, notably energy. "Growing populations will have a serious impact on the need for food especially in the poorest, fastest growing LDC's," Kissinger stated. "World needs for food rise by 2.5% or more a year at a time when readily available fertilizer and well-watered land is already largely being utilized. Therefore, additions to food production must come from higher yields," the Government memo declared. It was at this time that the Rockefeller Foundation also began large research in genetic engineering of plants, including rice, ostensibly to raise yields.
With NSSM 200, Washington made implementation of population control programs a pre-condition for US financial aid, even famine relief. Washington ensured that birth reduction was adopted as official policy by the IMF, World Bank and the UN. Beginning the mid-1970's all IMF and World Bank aid to developing target countries was tied to their willingness to accept population control policies dictated by Washington.
NSSM 200 explicitly listed 13 countries as "key countries" in which the US held a "special political and strategic interest." These were: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Nigeria, Philippines, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. Their population growth was deemed especially worrisome to US national interests, according to Kissinger. Notably, every key country has been subjected to major social, economic and military upheaval since 1974. US food aid, even in famine, was withheld from countries refusing to adopt US-mandated birth control or population reduction policies. (2).
NSSM 200 continues as unofficial US Government policy to the present day, despite public Bush Administration concessions to Catholic Right to Life groups. In this, the role of the Rockefeller Foundation is central to Washington policy regarding genetic engineering in world agriculture, especially that in key developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Rockefeller's GM proliferation network
In 1971 the Rockefeller Foundation, together with the Ford Foundation and the World Bank, established the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which runs 16 research centers around the world, most in developing countries, spending some $350 million annually. The focus of CGIAR is the spread of GM crops in the developing world.
CGIAR today operates under the umbrella of the World Bank, and has drawn 20 developing countries in as sponsors. World Bank aid is administered on the basis of a recipient agreeing to impose population control policies, the present form of NSSM 200, but with Washington officially in the background. Thus, the Rockefeller Foundation, World Bank, Monsanto and other agri-giants and the US Government, all meet under CGIAR auspices.
The CGIAR mission is to promote "sustainable agriculture for food security." To do this, CGIAR has used its funds and government influence to take control of one of the world's largest collections of plant genetic resources. CGIAR then makes the materials available to companies like Monsanto and Syngenta, "so that new gene combinations can be used to increase productivity, sustainably," as they state. In turn, CGIAR mobilizes biotechnology proliferation in developing countries. CGIAR trains the most promising national scientists and researchers in biotechnology, insuring that cadre of pro-GM national researchers will promote the spread of GM agriculture and biotechnology back home.
In addition to its role in establishing CGIAR, the Rockefeller Foundation has been a major donor to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications or ISAAA.
Every US President since George H.W. Bush in 1992, has made support of genetically engineered crops a matter of highest national priority. The example of US-AID backing for the Rockefeller Foundation's ISAAA is exemplary.
The ISAAA was originally founded with Rockefeller Brothers' Fund money for the sole purpose to "facilitate the delivery of proprietary biotechnologies from the corporate labs of the industrialized world into the food and farming systems of the South."
How this works becomes clear when the current financial sponsors of the ISAAA are known. In addition to the Rockefeller Foundation, sponsors include Monsanto (USA), Syngenta (Swiss), Dow AgroSciences (USA), Pioneer Hi-Bred (USA), Cargill (USA), Bayer CropScience (Germany), and a mysterious "Anonymous Donor "(USA), and US-AID of the State Department.
The argument of the institutions behind ISAAA is that the developing world is where a rising population makes growing food demand most acute, but where economic resources are least able to meet the needs. Hence, ISAAA enables the introduction of corporate GM technologies and crops from the industrial world into the South, acting as "honest brokers" in their words.
As the Kissinger NSSM 200 targeted 13 developing countries in 1974 for population reduction, the ISAAA targets 12 countries for introduction of GM crops. Six of these countries are the same as Kissinger listed in 1974: Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Egypt. In addition, ISAAA lists Malaysia, Vietnam, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Argentina and Costa Rica.
By their own admission, the ISAAA launches propaganda offensives to counter hostility to GM crops, and they train science elites from the target countries, often bringing them to USA or other leading GM research centers such as the Monsanto Life Sciences Research Center, to learn the world of GM elite research. Randy Hautea is head of the group's SEAsia Center in the Philippines, based in the center established by the Rockefeller Foundation's International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Hautea recently stated that his group has targeted Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam because, "they all have the political will to pursue and adopt biotechnology applications." What Hautea did not say was that introduction of GM seeds means introduction of costly GM pesticides and other policies which only global agribusiness companies are able to carry out.
Food production of target countries is being transformed into the global agribusiness market, not longer available for national food security. Hautea does not say how biotechnology brought in to, say, Indonesia or Malaysia by Syngenta or Monsanto, contributes to the benefit of small farmers, the heart of their food production. To date, in fact, there exists no proof of any benefit from GM crops for family farmers. In fact the opposite is the case. Farmers are often coerced or forced to buy Monsanto GM seeds or other GM seeds by their governments.
Through ISAAA and related networks of organizations, the Rockefeller Foundation is at the center of the worldwide actions of Monsanto, DuPont, Cargill and Dow Agri-sciences, Syngenta, Bayer AG and other major biotech giants, dominating the ongoing "new Green Revolution" as Rockefeller's Conway terms it. (3).
Spreading the GM control
The list of major GM plants today includes GM rice, soybeans, corn, oilseeds, and numerous other basic food crops. The Rockefeller Foundation has played a key fostering role in the development of most major new types.
More than 70% of all processed foods Americans consume comes today from GM products. Almost all the animal feed used to feed cattle, and other animals in the US and in major world markets today is GM feed, mainly soymeal and corn.
Most Americans are ignorant of what they eat. The US government has refused to label food that contains GM inputs. A new EU food labelling law also does not require producers to identify animal products fed on GM feed, leaving consumers ignorant of what GM products they eat. In 2003, the total acreage planted to GM seeds worldwide was 167 million acres or 68 million hectares according to ISAAA data. This was a 15% rise in one year. The United States is the largest GM grower with 106 million acres of genetically modified soybeans, corn and cotton. Worldwide, 55% of all soybeans grown now are GM crops. Soymeal is one of the most essential and richest protein sources for animal and human consumption. Every bite of a McDonald's hamburger contains as much as 30% of GM soyameal.
Without even realizing, most people in North America, East Asia and Europe regularly eat products or animals fed from GM crops. What is most remarkable is the fact that farmers in North America, Australia, Argentina, and more recently after a long battle, in Brazil, have surrendered their control over seeds to a handful of multinational biotech giants who have a deliberate strategy to dominate and control the planting of basic food crops worldwide.
The terminator not dead
If emerging nations from China to India to Indonesia and beyond, were to manage to create a food self-sufficiency independent of reliance on US or OECD food suppliers, the ability of the United States to remain the dominant power would diminish, regardless of military might.
What better way to control the destiny of China, India, East Asia and the rest of the world than to establish permanent control over their ability to grow food? Enter Monsanto and the agriculture biotechnology cartel, who dominate GM crops globally. Just two years ago it seemed Monsanto might be headed into financial ruin. Today, it is on the verge of becoming the one of the single most powerful corporations in the world.
Interestingly, it was the direct intervention of the Rockefeller Foundation in October 1999, which was responsible for the widely-touted decision of Monsanto "not to commercialize" its 'terminator technology' for GM seeds. Monsanto president Robert Shapiro wrote to the Rockefeller Foundation that it would "shelve" or put on hold its "sterile seed" technology, formally called Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT). The Monsanto decision was a tactical ploy, taken on advice of Rockefeller's Conway, to defulse growing opposition to GM crops, especially in Europe. Monsanto's terminator seed technology, in which the US Department of Agriculture also holds part patent rights, has been called the ultimate weapon, the 'neutron bomb' of agriculture, rightly so.
Terminator seeds would solve a major problem for Monsanto and other GM giants in collecting seed fees in the developing world for patented GM seeds, something made possible a few years ago by GATT trade talks on patent rights.
Free trade in agriculture is today at the heart of the WTO. Under the treaty of the World Trade Organization, created by the GATT Uruguay trade round in the early 1990's, multinational corporations now have the right, enforced by WTO sanctions, to collect royalty payments for "intellectual property."
The Uruguay agreement, ratified by all GATT member countries under enormous US pressure, allows a corporation for the first time, to patent a specific plant variety, even though that plant sort might have been in the public domain in a country such as Pakistan or Peru for thousands of years. The WTO term is Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPs. Washington pushed the controversial TRIPs agreement through GATT, accusing developing countries of 'piracy' in not paying due royalties to multinationals, claiming US companies were losing hundreds on millions in unpaid fees for fertilizer and seeds or drugs. Mickey Kantor, US Trade Representative who negotiated the Uruguay Round talks, today sits on the board of Monsanto.
The TRIPs WTO agreement includes patent rights on GM plants. Under TRIPs the Swiss agri-tech company, Syngenta, holds control potentially of most of the rice in Pakistan, India and Asia. Monsanto dominates patents on soybeans, corn, cotton and other major crops. Their only problem is how to collect royalty payments from millions of small peasant farmers. Collecting patent payments for GM seeds in many developing countries is extremely difficult.
Not so, if terminator seeds are sold. Terminator technology, which Monsanto paid $1.6 billion to acquire, allows introduction of a 'suicide gene' into plants such as corn or cotton or soya or potentially, even wheat. A farmer using terminator seeds no longer will be able to share seeds with other farmers or plant his own in following years. He will be forced to turn to Monsanto each season to buy his existence, in the form of more suicide seeds, as well as the special herbicides Monsanto has developed to be used with it. The original developers of terminator technology, Delta & Pine Land Seed, which Monsanto bought in 1998, specifically noted that the rice and wheat markets of China, India, Pakistan and such major population countries was the target of terminator. The political implications of such a development are easy to imagine.
Rockefeller Foundation funds vaccines with hidden birth-control hormones
The Rockefeller Foundation is among the funders of a WHO program in "reproductive health" which has developed a tetanus vaccine that allegedly contains hidden birth-control hormones.
According to a report from the Global Vaccine Institute, the WHO has overseen massive vaccination campaigns against tetanus in Nicaragua, Mexico and the Philippines since the early 1990's. Comite Pro Vida de Mexico, a Catholic organization, tested numerous vials of the vaccine and found them to contain human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), a natural hormone needed to maintain a pregnancy. When combined with a tetanus toxoid carrier, it stimulates formation of antibodies against hCG, rendering a woman incapable of maintaining a pregnancy. Similar reports of vaccines laced with hCG hormones have come from the Philippines and Nicaragua.
The organization confirmed several other curious facts about the WHO vaccination programs. Tetanus vaccine was given only to women, between ages 15-45, not men or children. The presence of hCG is a clear contamination of the vaccine. It does not belong. With financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank, the Population Council, Ford Foundation, among others, the WHO has been working for 20 years to develop an anti-fertility vaccine using hCG with tetanus and other vaccines, according to scientific articles published on the effort by WHO. This has been documented by WHO and others, including the respected British medical journal, The Lancet, June 11, 1988, "Clinical Trials of a WHO Borth Control Vaccine."
To mid-1993 the WHO had spent a total of $365 million of such research funds on "reproductive health" including research on implanting hCG into tetanus vaccine. WHO has been unable to answer why women vaccinated were found with anti-hCG antibodies. They feebly replied it was "insignificant." The vaccine was produced by Connaught Laboratories Ltd of Canada and Intervex and CSL Laboratories of Australia.
Since the 1920's the Rockefeller Foundation has been among the leading sponsors of population reduction programs worldwide. If the reports of birth control vaccines are true, it is not difficult to suspect the Rockefeller Foundation is also among those planning to use genetically modified seeds technology as a potential means to control world population growth through future control of food supply.
The Rockefeller-Monsanto public relations maneuver "not to commercialize" terminator seeds was clearly designed to defuse growing opposition to proliferation of GM seeds, to buy time while allowing them to spread GM crops to the world's largest growing areas - North America, Argentina, Brazil and now, the EU. Once spread, it is simple to shift to terminator.
In February 2003, at a meeting of the International Seed Federation in Lyon France, Monsanto's Roger Krueger released a paper titled, "The Benefits of GURTs." It argued that terminator in fact would benefit poor farmers. Monsanto argues in a new ploy, that terminator would in fact hinder spread of unwanted GM genes to non-GM plants, promoting the same idea in new clothes as a "biosafety" tool. Clearly they believe opposition to terminator and GM is falling. Reports are that Monsanto would be ready to introduce commercial terminator or GURT seeds in 3-4 years.
Dual use and GM crops: Biowarfare?
The days are long past when the USDA represented the interests of America's family farmers. Today, US agri-business, dominated by a dozen or more giant international concerns, is the second most profitable industry next to pharmaceuticals, and has annual value of well over $800 billion. The USDA today is the organized lobby of agri-business giants, none more influential than Monsanto. Bush Administration official, Ann Veneman, USDA Secretary, is a former board member of a Monsanto company and, not surprisingly, a strong advocate of GM. Several other Bush officials have ties to Monsanto as well.
Terminator and related GM technologies in the hands of Monsanto and less than half-a-dozen corporations worldwide, backed by the USDA, Defense Department and State Department, could open the door to potential forms of biological warfare against entire populations not imagined before. A recent US Air Force study states that "biological weapons offer greater possibilities for use than do nuclear weapons."
Washington US-AID food assistance for Africa in recent months has been linked to willingness of a country to accept US GM crops. US assistance to combat AIDS in Africa has similar strings. GM has clearly become a strategic, geopolitical tool for Washington.
Defenders of GM technology argue that no one in their right mind would consider such a drastic use of GM crops as to control entire areas of world food supply. "We're tempted to say that nobody in their right mind would ever use these things." Stanford biology professor Steven Block stated in another context. Block hastened to add, "But not everybody is in their right mind!" Block, a leading consultant to the US Government, went on to warn, "Any technology that can be used to insert genes into DNA can be used for either good or bad." Genetic engineering can create rice with enhanced vitamin A, but can just as well create seeds containing highly toxic bacteria. US researchers first did this in 1986. Genetic engineering of more toxic and harder to detect bioweapons was a major motivation for nations to call for a stronger convention on bioweapons.
The US Government's controversial drug eradication program in Colombia, since discontinued, would spray crops with deadly glyphosate. Glyphosate, under the patent name, Roundup, is the GM herbicide sold by Monsanto also for its GM plants. The Bush Administration has repeatedly refused to back a legally binding Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, arguing it needs the freedom to develop defense against biowarfare. Freedom can work both ways however.
Genetic manipulation opens the possibilities in the hands of a malevolent power, to unleash untold harm on the human species. Even were it to be the case that GM plants increase yields, which is not at all proven, this potential for control of the food supply of entire nations is too much power to give to any single corporation or government. Essential foods, like fresh water, are no ordinary commodities to be sold under rules of an imposed free market. They are basic human rights as the right to breathe. We should not tempt any government with the power that present GM strategists advocate over our food security.
1. B.K. Eakman, "The Cloning of the American Mind," gives information on Rockefeller Foundation funding of eugenics.
s. Jim Heron, "Population Politics and the Shambles of Africa in http://catholiceducation.org/articles/population/pc0005.html.
2. National Security Strategy Memorandum, NSSM 200, "Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests," National Security Council, April 24, 1974, Henry Kissinger, director, National Security Council. "The Over-population cabal" in Mindszenty Report, Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, April 1999, www.mindszenty.org.report/1999/April1999.html .
3. "ISAAA in Asia promoting corporate profits in the name of the poor," October 2000, in www.grain.org/publications/reports/isaaa.html.
4. The Monsanto terminator seed plans are described in "Monsanto Breaks Promise to Abandon Terminator Technology," April 23, 2003, http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/promise042403.cfm. "Biological warfare against crops," by Simon Whitby, reviewed in www.rainbowbody.net/Ongwhehonwhe/plantwar.htm notes the US use of Roundup against crops in Colombia. "Biological warfare emerges as 21st Century threat," by Mark Schwartz in Stanford Report, January 11, 2001, details the warnings of Block, a member of the top-secret Government research group, Jason. The US Air Force has published on the subject, "Biological Weapons for Waging Economic Warfare," by Lt. Col. Robert Kadlec who speaks of "using biological warfare to attack livestock, crops or ecosystems." In www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/battle/chp10.html, also www.sunshine-project.org/bwintro/gebw.html.
source: http://www.currentconcerns.ch/archive/2004/05/20040505.php 5mar2005
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Monday, February 02, 2009
The Great Depression of the 21st Century: Collapse of the Real Economy
by Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, November 15, 2008
The financial crisis is deepening, with the risk of seriously disrupting the system of international payments.
This crisis is far more serious than the Great Depression. All major sectors of the global economy are affected. Recent reports suggest that the system of Letters of Credit as well as international shipping, which constitute the lifeline of the international trading system, are potentially in jeopardy.
The proposed bank "bailout" under the so-called Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is not a "solution" to the crisis but the "cause" of further collapse.
The "bailout" contributes to a further process of destabilization of the financial architecture. It transfers large amounts of public money, at taxpayers expense, into the hands of private financiers. It leads to a spiraling public debt and an unprecedented centralization of banking power. Moreover, the bailout money is used by the financial giants to secure corporate acquisitions both in the financial sector and the real economy.
In turn, this unprecedented concentration of financial power spearheads entire sectors of industry and the services economy into bankruptcy, leading to the layoff of tens of thousands of workers.
The upper spheres of Wall Street overshadow the real economy. The accumulation of large amounts of money wealth by a handful of Wall Street conglomerates and their associated hedge funds is reinvested in the acquisition of real assets.
Paper wealth is transformed into the ownership and control of real productive assets, including industry, services, natural resources, infrastructure, etc.
Collapse of Consumer Demand
The real economy is in crisis. The resulting increase in unemployment is conducive to a dramatic decline in consumer spending which in turn backlashes on the levels of production of goods and services.
Exacerbated by neoliberal macro-economic policy, this downward spiral is cumulative, ultimately leading to an oversupply of commodities.
Business enterprises cannot sell their products, because workers have been laid off. Consumers, namely working people, have been deprived of the purchasing power required to fuel economic growth. With their meager earnings, they cannot afford to acquire the goods produced.
Overproduction Triggers a String of Bankruptcies
Inventories of unsold goods pile up. Eventually, production collapses; the supply of commodities declines through the closing down of production facilities, including manufacturing assembly plants.
In the process of plant closure, more workers become unemployed. Thousands of bankrupt firms are driven off the economic landscape, leading to a slump in production.
Mass poverty and a Worldwide decline in living standards is the result of low wages and mass unemployment. It is the outcome of a preexisting global cheap labor economy, largely characterized by low wage assembly plants in Third World countries.
The current crisis extends the geographic contours of the cheap labor economy, leading to the impoverishment of large sectors of the population in the so-called developed countries (including the middle classes).
In the US, Canada and Western Europe, the entire industrial sector is potentially in jeopardy.
We are dealing with a long-term process of economic and financial restructuring. In its earlier phase, starting in the 1980s during the Reagan Thatcher era, local and regional level enterprises, family farms and small businesses were displaced and destroyed. In turn, the merger and acquisition boom of the 1990s led to the concurrent consolidation of large corporate entities both in the real economy as well as in banking and financial services.
In recent developments, however, the concentration of bank power has been at the expense of big business.
What is distinct in this particular phase of the crisis, is the ability of the financial giants (through their overriding control over credit) not only to create havoc in the production of goods and services, but also to undermine and destroy large corporate entities of the real economy.
Bankruptcies are occurring in all major sectors of activity: Manufacturing, telecoms, consumer retail outlets, shopping malls, airlines, hotels and tourism, not to mention real estate and the construction industry, victims of the subprime mortgage meltdown.
General Motors has confirmed that "it could run out of cash within a few months, which could prompt one of the biggest bankruptcy filings in U.S. history". (USNews.com, November 11, 2008)) In turn this would backlash on a string of related industries. Estimates of job losses in the US auto industry range from 30,000 to as much as 100,000.(Ibid).
Collapse of General Motors Share Price
In the US, consumer retail companies are in difficulty: the share prices of JC Penney and Nordstrom department store chains have collapsed. Circuit City Stores Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection. The shares of Best Buy, the electronics retail chain, have plunged.
The Vodafone Group PLC, the world's biggest mobile phone company not to mention InterContinental Hotels PLC are in difficulty, following the collapse of stock values. (AP, Nov 12, 2008). Worldwide, over two dozen airlines have gone under in 2008, adding to a string of airline bankruptcies in the course of the last five years. (Aviation and Aerospace News, 30 October 2008). Denmark's Second commercial airline Stirling has declared bankruptcy. In the US, a growing list of real estate companies have already filed for bankruptcy protection.
Vodophone. Collapse of Share Price
InterContinental Hotels PLC
In the last two months, there have been numerous plant closures across America leading to the permanent layoff of tens of thousands of workers. These closures have affected several key areas of economic activity including the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, the automobile industry and related sectors, the services economy, etc.
US factory orders have declined dramatically. Research firm Autodata reported in October that "sales of cars and light trucks in September had declined 27 percent compared with a year earlier."(Washington Post, October 3, 2008)
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an additional 240,000 jobs were lost during the month of October alone:
"Nonfarm payroll employment fell by 240,000 in October, and the unemployment rate rose from 6.1 to 6.5 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. October's drop in payroll employment followed declines of 127,000 in August and 284,000 in September, as revised. Employment has fallen by 1.2 million in the first 10 months of 2008; over half of the decrease has occurred in the past 3 months. In October, job losses continued in manufacturing, construction, and several service-providing industries...
Among the unemployed, the number of persons who lost their job and did not expect to be recalled to work rose by 615,000 to 4.4 million in October. Over the past 12 months, the size of this group has increased by 1.7 million." (Bureau of Labor Statistics, November, 2008)
The official figures do not describe the seriousness of the crisis and its devastating impact on the labor market, since many of the job losses are not reported.
The situation in the European Union is equally disturbing. A recent British report points to the potential plight of mass unemployment in North Eastern England. In Germany, a report published in October, suggests that 10-15% of all automotive jobs in Germany could be lost.
Job cuts have also been announced at General Motors and Nissan-Renault plants in Spain. Sales of new cars in Spain plummeted by 40 percent in October in relation to sales in the same month last year.
Workers of Nissan automaker protest in front of the Japanese company's building in Barcelona (AFP)
Bankruptcies and Foreclosures: A Money-spinning Operation for the Financial Giants
Among the companies on the verge of bankruptcy are some highly lucrative and profitable operations. The important question: who takes over the ownership of bankrupt giant industrial corporations?
Bankruptcies and foreclosures are a money-spinning operation. With the collapse in stock market values, listed companies experience a major collapse of the price of their stock, which immediately affects their creditworthiness and their ability to borrow and/ or to renegotiate debts ( which are based on the quoted value of their assets).
The institutional speculators, the hedge funds, et al have cashed in on their windfall loot.
They trigger the collapse of listed companies through short selling and other speculative operations. They then cash in on their large scale speculative gains.
According to a report in the Financial Times, there is evidence that the plunge of the US automobile industry was in part the result of manipulation: "General Motors and Ford lost 31 per cent to $3.01 and 10.9 per cent to $1.80 despite hopes that Washington may save the industry from the brink of collapse. The fall came after Deutsche Bank set a price target of zero on GM." (FT, November 14, 2008, emphasis added)
The financiers are on a shopping-spree. America's Forbes 400 billionaires are waiting in limbo.
Once they have consolidated their position in the banking industry, the financial giants including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, et al will use their windfall money gains and bailout money provided under TARP, to further extend their control over the real economy.
The next step consists in transforming liquid assets, namely money paper wealth, into the acquisition of real economy assets.
In this regard, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is a major shareholder of General Motors. More recently, following the collapse in stock values in October and November, Buffett boosted his stake in oil producer ConocoPhillips, not to mention Eaton Corp, whose price on the NYSE tumbled by 62% in relation to its December 2007 high (Bloomberg).
The target of these acquisitions are the numerous highly productive industrial and services sector companies, which are on the verge of bankruptcy and/or whose stock values have collapsed.
The money managers are picking up the pieces.
Ownership of the Real Economy
As a result of these developments, which are directly related to the financial meltdown, the entire ownership structure of real economy assets is in turmoil.
Paper wealth accumulated through insider trading and stock market manipulation is used to acquire control over real economic assets, displacing the preexisting ownership structures.
What we are dealing with is an unsavory relationship between the real economy and the financial sector. The financial conglomerates do not produce commodities. They essentially make money through the conduct of financial transactions. They use the proceeds of these transactions to take over bona fide real economy corporations which produce goods and services for household consumption.
In a bitter twist, the new owners of industry are the institutional speculators and financial manipulators. They are becoming the new captains of industry, displacing not only the preexisting structures of ownership but also instating their cronies in the seats of corporate management.
No Reform Possible under the Washington-Wall Street Consensus
The November 15 G-20 Financial Summit in Washington upholds the Washington-Wall Street consensus.
While formally presenting a project to restore financial stability, in practice, the hegemony of Wall Street remains unscathed. The tendency is towards a unipolar monetary system dominated by the United States and upheld by US military superiority.
The architects of financial disaster under the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act (FSMA) have been entrusted with the task of mitigating the crisis, which they themselves created. They are the cause of financial collapse.
The G20 Financial Summit doesn't question the legitimacy of the hedge funds and the various instruments of derivative trade. The final Communiqué includes an imprecise and blurred commitment "to better regulate hedge funds and create more transparency in mortgage-related securities in a bid to halt a global economic slide."
A solution to this crisis can only be brought about through a process of "financial disarmament", which forcefully challenges the hegemony of the Wall Street financial institutions including their control over monetary policy. "Financial disarmament" would also require freezing the instruments of speculative trade, dismantling the hedge funds and democratizing monetary policy. The term "financial disarmament" was initially coined by John Maynard Keynes in the 1940s.
Obama Endorses Financial Deregulation
Barack Obama has embraced the Washington-Wall Street consensus. In a bitter twist, former Congressman Jim Leach, a Republican who sponsored the 1999 FSMA in the House of Representatives is now advising Obama on formulating a timely solution to the crisis.
Jim Leach, Madeleine Albright and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who also played a key role in pushing through the FSMA legislation, were in attendance at the November 15 G-20 Financial Summit, as part of President-elect Barack Obama's advisory team:
"President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden announced that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Republican Congressman Jim Leach would be available to meet with delegations at the G-20 summit on their behalf. Leach and Albright are holding these unofficial meetings to seek input from visiting delegations on behalf of the president-elect and vice president-elect. (mlive.com, November 15, 2008)
GLOBAL AGRICULTURE AND GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) COTTON IN AFRICA
By Stephen Greenberg
for the African Centre for Biosafety
There is a strong push to spread the commercial planting of genetically modified (GM or
transgenic) cotton into Africa’s core cotton growing regions. Yet the language of poverty
reduction and humanitarianism that is used to justify this is a thinly veiled disguise for the global expansion of transnational corporate interests.
There are many reasons to be wary of the introduction of genetically modified organisms into agriculture. These include environmental and health concerns, lack of certainty about economic benefits, ethical and even spiritual concerns, and issues related to the use of technology for sectional interests. This paper will focus on the socio-economic and political implications of the introduction of this technology.
Africa is on the threshold of the introduction of transgenic cotton. In order to fully understand the possible implications of this development, it is useful to have an understanding of the structure of power in the global cotton industry.
This paper offers an analytical overview of the economic, social and political forces driving the introduction of genetically modified cotton in Africa. Africa as a whole is the third largest cotton exporting region in the world behind the US and
Uzbekistan. Four West African countries (Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and Burkina Faso) dominate exports, followed by Zimbabwe. Cotton has also historically been produced in East Africa, and these are targets for the introduction of GM cotton.
The rapid growth in the adoption of GM cotton across the world is used to argue that Africa will miss out on this ‘second Green Revolution’ if it does not immediately adopt the technology.
Globally, the claimed successes of GM cotton are contested. The apparent benefit of Bt cotton is that farmers save money by spraying less insecticide because the insecticide is built in to the genetic structure of the seed. An additional spin-off is the reduction in environmental damage.
The claimed benefit of Bt cotton rests more in the reduction in the use of insecticides than in higher yields. However, as with the yields, the relationship between Bt cotton and reductions in pesticide use is also not well established.
The reliance on a single gene to eradicate pests is flawed because insects develop resistance to pesticides over time. So far, evidence does not point to a definitive rise in yields as the result of the use of transgenic cotton varieties. On the other hand a number of studies show that yields have not improved or that transgenic cotton crops have failed outright (see Hitavada 2002; RFSTE 2002; Shah and Banerji 2002; Deccan Development Society 2003; Khan and Chaodhry 2003; NGIN 2003 for India and Pakistan and GRAIN 2001; ISIS 2001 for Indonesia). Questions have also been raised regarding the quality of fibres from transgenic cotton varieties, including by William Duvanant, CEO of Duvanant Enterprises, one of the largest cotton merchants in the world (GRAIN 2004c:20).
The introduction of transgenic crops cannot be separated from the perceived role of agriculture as a driver of market and private sector-led development in Africa..
.The USAID Initiative to End Hunger in Africa approaches the reduction of poverty “primarily through efforts to increase productivity and incomes in the agricultural sector” (Abt Associates Inc. 2003:3). Productivity enhancements in cash crops may raise incomes for some and thereby alleviate poverty. Yet rising cotton productivity in current conditions merely results in further depressed prices. In West Africa in particular, productivity is good by international standards and costs are low. Yields in West Africa are second only to Australia (Elbehri & MacDonald, forthcoming:29). Primary producers are also not in a position to capture a greater share of value in the context of an uneven distribution of power in the commodity chain
As with the GM debate today, local needs are reinterpreted by dominant powers to
align with dominant global interests i.e. higher incomes through greater productivity. This binds African producers into a social and economic model in which they will forever be producers of primary goods and consumers of processed goods.
Importantly, amongst the reasons for success of cotton in the region are the application of appropriate soil nutrient replenishment, and pest management and seed varieties that are well suited to local conditions (Gillson et al. 2004:45-6). Uniform seed varieties genetically altered for conditions in another country and parachuted in are not likely to solve the problems of poverty, even amongst West African cotton growers. Rising commodity prices where producers receive the benefits of those increases is a more effective short-term measure for reducing poverty.
The types of institutional, social and economic changes that are required to increase cotton productivity through transgenic seed have far greater negative effects on living conditions. In particular, poverty is exacerbated by trade liberalisation in the context of deep global inequality. With trade liberalisation, African farmers have to compete directly with the heavily subsidized and marketed agricultural products from the North (Makanya 2004). The focus on productivity has been interpreted as diverting attention from the issue of cotton subsidies that would by all accounts have a far greater impact on incomes amongst African cotton producers.
The US, EU and Chinese governments pay producers massive subsidies to continue production, even though these cost the state more than the total value of production. In the US and the EU, large-scale agribusinesses are the primary beneficiaries of state subsidies. These subsidies permit producers to adopt more expensive technology such as GM cotton and its associated chemicals and still sell their cotton on the world market cheaper than unsubsidised producers in other parts of the world including in Africa.
The subsidies can only be understood in conjunction with trade liberalisation because the World Trade Organisation (WTO) determines the legality of subsidies.
Although the WTO recently ruled against US cotton subsidies, the 2004 ‘July framework’ that aims to restart global negotiations around trade in agriculture permits the Us and EU to continue to manipulate the various categories of support. Both the US and the EU have indicated their intentions to reorganise their subsidy systems to comply with WTO regulations while not substantively reducing the subsidies.
USAID together with the largest TNCs in the seed-biotech-chemical sector are setting the research agenda by providing funding in the context of withdrawal of national state support for agricultural research. Their express intention is to produce commercially viable biotechnology products under the ownership of the TNCs. The US in particular assists biotechnology and seed companies to undermine or water down multilateral environmental agreements that seek to limit their spheres of operation. The dominant states help to construct regulatory and legal systems that protect corporate property rights and favour their insertion into new areas of operation. In the case of cotton, this is both to introduce their products (including seed) and to access commercially untapped genetic resources for future product development.
Given this multi-pronged attack on African cotton systems, it is recommended that African producers and governments reject the introduction of GM cotton, and the utilisation of existing agricultural infrastructure and institutions for the insertion of GM cotton into their systems. Far more sustainable alternatives to GM cotton exist. Pest management techniques that rely on increasing producers’ knowledge and integrating farmers’ own knowledge with environmentally sustainable best practices from elsewhere are preferable to the introduction of technology that draws pest management away from control of the direct producer. Poverty reduction is more feasible if based on the redistribution of existing resources, including secure access to land, water and locally available genetic material than if based on a single technology reliant on a vast array of external inputs only made available on the basis of payment.
Instead of privatising agricultural institutions and focusing on biotechnology that places control in the hands of distant experts, research and development could become more participatory, allowing producers to determine their own needs whether for the global market or not. In particular, dedicated support for the production of food and fibre for local need first and only then for exchange should be encouraged. At the end of the day, primary producers, farm workers and the landless need to organise themselves to press for their own demands. A rejection of the imposition of GM crops and the associated restructuring is imperative in this regard.
There is a strong push to spread the commercial planting of genetically modified (GM or transgenic) cotton into Africa’s core cotton growing regions. Yet the language of poverty reduction and humanitarianism that is used to justify this is a thinly veiled disguise for the global expansion of transnational corporate interests. There are many reasons to be wary of the introduction of genetically modified organisms into agriculture. These include environmental and health concerns, lack of certainty about economic benefits, ethical and even spiritual concerns, and issues related to the use of technology for sectional interests.
Smallholder African cotton producers, generally resource poor and lacking in adequate support, are now the targets for profit making. Building on the social devastation left by colonialism and still all too apparent across Africa, the introduction of GM crops seeks to restructure political, social and economic systems yet further to the primary benefit of corporate activity.
Nation states play an important role in facilitating these processes of technology-driven development and economic concentration by maintaining and restructuring regulatory frameworks as required. The challenge for Africa is not only how to resist this imposition, but also how the African populace can reassert control over political and economic processes that unfold in its name but seldom to its benefit.
Conditions in West Africa are not favourable for converting fibre into textiles in the face of subsidised dumping and the importing of used clothes because weaving has a high capital/labour ratio and it relies heavily on electricity, which is expensive in the region (Goreux 2004:21). A strategy of adopting targeted tariffs to limit dumping and encourage domestic industry, coupled with a focus on small scale production to meet domestic textile demand would require a shift from an export orientation in cotton production. Such a strategy would also have important implications for the introduction of transgenic cotton varieties into West Africa. Rather than requiring the adoption of transgenic technology, it would encourage the adoption of local varieties better adapted to local conditions that could provide for uniqueness in local textile production (Devlin Kuyek, pers comm., 5 Oct
In the case of transgenic cotton, African farmers are to be the recipients of technologies that will increase productivity and reduce input costs for farmers. Northern governments and private companies are presented as altruistic agents with the best interests of resource poor African farmers at heart.
Field trials of transgenic cotton in Africa are proliferating and it is only a matter of time before other countries join South Africa in commercial production. Burkina Faso
has field-tested Bt cotton since July 2003 even before biosafety laws were in place (GRAIN
2004b). In mid-2003 the Burkina Faso Fibre and Textile Company (SOFITEX) announced its plan to embark on transgenic cotton production in partnership with Monsanto and Syngenta (Agencies 2003). Reports in September 2004 indicate the country has approved the commercial planting of Bt cotton (Kalibwani et al. 2004:9). In Mali, The national agricultural research institute (IER) has been negotiating with Monsanto and Syngenta for field trials of Bt cotton (GRAIN 2004a). Despite this apparently slow take-up, there is a lot of activity around biotechnology and the introduction of transgenic cotton in West Africa, as detailed in the section on introducing transgenic cotton in Africa below.
South Africa has played a key role in bringing GM crops into Africa through research and
development, legislation permitting the planting of GM crops, approval for the commercial
planting of GM maize, cotton and soya, and the export of its biotechnology thrust into Africa using NEPAD (see Biowatch 2003). Elsewhere in Southern and East Africa, field trails of GM cotton are under way. The Ugandan government’s acceptance of Bt cotton trials was adopted despite strong domestic opposition, including from the state-run Cotton Development Organisation (Ojambo 2002).
De Grassi (2003:i) outlines five criteria that should determine the introduction of new
technologies into African agriculture. First, agricultural research must generate site-specific
varieties to accommodate different conditions of production. Second, research should be led by the self-expressed needs of poor farmers. Third, there is a need to prioritise and choose the most cost-effective technologies. Fourth, environmental sustainability requires consideration not only of the second-generation effects of the Green Revolution (for example, damage caused by pesticide use) but also soil fertility. Finally, there is a need for institutional sustainability. In a detailed study of South Africa’s smallholder cotton farmers, de Grassi found that the introduction of Bt cotton failed all of the criteria. The technology is uniform and imposed from outside without full information being provided (partly because information about long-term effects on environment and social organisation is unknown).
GM crops favor producers with large farms based on monocropping and uniformity, with a high reliance on external inputs (Makanya 2004). Yet contrary to these characteristics, most African farmers are resource-poor and small-scale farmers who will be unable to afford the ongoing costs associated with technology fees, higher seed prices, increasingly privatised water costs and chemical inputs.
Producer subsidies in the US (52% of global subsidies in 2002/03) and to a lesser extent the EU (27%) and China (20%) serve to depress international prices while shielding subsidised producers from these lower prices. Being major players in the market, subsidies in these countries have a direct influence on the price of cotton Thus while African farmers are amongst the world’s lowest cost producers, prices received are still often below costs of production.
The US cotton export industry has been globally dominant for centuries, since 1800 when it
overtook the West Indies as the prime exporter of cotton to the engine of the textile industry, the UK (Roberts 1996:48). This history has allowed the powerful agribusiness lobby, the National Cotton Council, to draw substantial state subsidies towards the cotton industry, with cotton farmers receiving more per capita and per acre than any other group of US agricultural producers (Watkins 2003:5). In 2000 the cost of subsidies to the cotton industry was equivalent to the value added to the US economy by cotton production (Watkins 2003:4). In 2001, the value of subsidies exceeded the market value of output by around 30% (Watkins & Su 2002:2).
The floor price was maintained under the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act where cotton producers are guaranteed a floor price of around 52c/lb, regardless of world market prices (Watkins & Su 2002:12). Over and above the guaranteed floor price, US producers receive additional payments to top up their income to a target price, set at 72.4c/lb (Watkins & Su 2002:12). This should be compared to the A-Index price of US$1.04 in 2002 (Baffes 2004:66).
An important aspect of the US subsidy is the significant export component. So-called ‘Step 2’ subsidies (the middle in a set of three) were introduced in the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990 to keep US cotton competitive (Baffes 2004:69). Step 2 payments are government subsidies to US companies that export or mill cotton sourced from inside the US.
Since 1995, the US government has made Step 2 payments to the value of US$1.68 billion to
cotton companies (see EWG 2004a). The subsidy offers exporters additional payments when
quoted prices for US cotton traded internationally are high relative to other cotton traded
internationally (Roberts & Jotzo 2001:28). The Step 2 subsidies are also offered to domestic mills using US cotton to eliminate any difference between US internal prices and the international price (Watkins & Su 2002:15). A cursory look at the list of subsidy beneficiaries reveals the dominance of millers, ginners, and apparel and textile manufacturers (EWG 2004a).
Simply this means the government is paying mainly large-scale agribusinesses – including multinationals – to continue supporting cotton production in the US regardless of its economic cost. The subsidies are biased towards large-scale producers and processors, with the top 10 percent of recipients accounting for over 75% of the subsidy (Watkins 2003:5). According to EWG (2004a) the top twelve recipients (4% of all recipients) accounted for half the total payments, worth US$843.9 million between 1995 and 2002. The top five, who account for over a quarter of all Step 2 subsidies are Allenburg Cotton Co (owned by Louis Dreyfus), Duvanant Enterprises, Parkdale Mills Inc, Cargill and Calcot Ltd (California Cotton) (EWG 2004a).
Cotton prices are historically low and declining. According to the Cotlook A-Index international cotton prices have been declining especially since the early 1980s in the face of growing competition from chemical fibres, rising productivity and government subsidies that encourage production regardless of cost. Real prices dropped 60% between 1980 and 2002 (Baffes2004:66). Subsidies further depress the price, with world cotton prices calculated to rise by up to 20% if subsidies were withdrawn (Goreux 2004:16). Nevertheless, one needs to ask who will benefit from higher cotton prices? It is not possible to separate the issue of subsidies from the global expansion of input supply, crucially including seed, and concentration at the trading node.
It is apparent, as will be indicated below, that transnational corporations supported by dominant states are positioning themselves to retain profits in an environment where subsidies are curtailed (even if not outright eliminated).
Politics & cotton production
The continuation of the subsidy system reveals where the interests of the US government and US agribusinesses really lie. It is just one manifestation of a close relationship between states and corporate agricultural interests, especially in the advanced capitalist economies. In the US there is a revolving door between some of the largest biotech corporations and the USDA. Ann Veneman, current Secretary of Agriculture served on the board of Calgene, a biotech company later taken over by Monsanto. A number of other top officials also have direct links to biotech
companies (Mattera 2004:26, 28). Federal funds have been used to finance the terminator
technology that helps seed companies protect their intellectual property by rendering seeds
sterile (ibid.:27). As shown above, the USDA provides massive subsidies to the cotton industry that outweigh the value of production.
In China, the government sets a reference price for cotton, usually above the world market price, and maintains import tariffs to bridge the gap between domestic and world prices.
In the EU, although the subsidy to Greek and Spanish producers is a smaller percentage of
global subsidies than the US subsidy, it is more concentrated. At more than 60c/lb (Riboux
2002:3) the subsidy is consistently more than the international price of cotton, rising as high as 253% of international prices for Spanish recipients in 2001/02 (Baffes 2004:70). Reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 1999 imposed a ‘penalty’ of reduced subsidies once cotton production reached a predetermined maximum. However, this operated at the aggregate level rather than for individual enterprises, and has failed as a surplus containment mechanism (Baffes 2004:14).
The EU also has a general policy of support to large agribusinesses. In the mid-1980s, 60% of the EU budget was going to agriculture. Of this 80% was going to larger farmers (Brassley
1997:130). In 1999, just 2.2 per cent of the 4.5 million farms in Europe received 40 per cent of the total payments, and will continue to do so under CAP reforms proposed in 2003 and to be implemented from 2005 (Sharma 2004).
There are two sides to trade liberalisation. On the one hand, large-scale producers need access to new markets in order to remove domestic surpluses. On the other hand, processing and value-added industries are constantly looking for new, cheaper sources of raw materials. The former encourage the reduction of barriers to market access in other countries, while the latter seek conditions that facilitate global sourcing.
The result of the Uruguay Round in agriculture was that the US and EU continued to provide massive subsidies to their agricultural sectors. Total support provided by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) governments in 1999 stood at US$361 billion. After a slight decline in the 1990s, support to agricultural producers had returned to the same level as the historical peak of 1986-88 (OECD 2000:23). On the other hand, developing countries that were not organised and were railroaded into the agreement were forced to open their agricultural markets to the subsidised surpluses from these big economies.
Negotiations for a new agreement failed in Seattle in 1999 and Cancun in 2003 when developing countries resisted US and EU attempts to steamroll another agreement on their own terms. After a long effort to restart negotiations, a framework was constructed to formulate a new trade pact.
This so-called ‘July framework’ has been hailed as a victory for developing countries, with some commentators even referring to a ‘post-subsidy’ era after ‘countries agreed for the first time to abolish all forms of export subsidies’ (Lourens 2004; Njobeni 2004). However, such talk appears to be premature. French Agriculture Minister, Herve Gaymard informed the media that it would not be before 2015 or 2017 when export subsidies are completely eliminated (Sharma 2004a; Kwa 2004).
As with the Uruguay Round, the amount of the subsidy will not change but the terminology used to define its legal status will. chief US agriculture negotiator, Allen Johnson, told reporters: “The United States succeeded in shifting farm subsidies to a new WTO category (read ‘blue box’) to avoid actual reductions” (both quotes in Sharma 2004a).
Cotton received media attention during the July negotiations. Brazil took advantage of the
lapsing of the Uruguay Round peace clause to launch a complaint against US cotton subsidies. The WTO ruled that the US was in contravention of its commitments under the Agreement on Agriculture and ordered the US to take appropriate steps to remove the adverse effects or to withdraw the subsidies “without delay” (WTO 2004a:350-51). The US has announced its intention to appeal parts of the ruling (Sapa-AFP 2004).
Under the West African Cotton Initiative, four West African cotton-producing countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) also placed pressure on the US at the WTO negotiations to the eliminate production subsidies of any sort in the cotton sector, and the payment of compensation for as long as the subsidies remained in place. But given the July framework text it appears that US counter-cyclical payments approved in the 2002 Farm Bill, including cotton subsidies, will be shuffled around to fit into the new blue box and then reduced, but not eliminated, over time (Kwa 2004; Raghavan 2004).
Of importance to the African cotton sector is the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in the US, concentrating as it does on providing access to the US market for textiles produced in Africa.
The Act has a two-phase approach to the liberalisation of the textile sector in Africa. The
Act allows for exports to the US of garments made from fabric produced anywhere in the world until 30 September 2004 (Clean Clothes Campaign 2002:9). Trade preferences under the Act are conditional on African governments liberalising agricultural markets, including the cotton sector (Watkins & Sul 2002:3). The Act is only open to African governments that take concrete steps towards the elimination of barriers to US trade and investment (AGOA, cited in Clean ClothesCampaign 2002:9). This first phase of liberalisation therefore serves to stimulate the African textile sector and encourages investment especially from US companies. It also provides a short-term
boost to local producers able to take advantage of growth in the export textile industry.
It goes without saying that producers with resources available with be best placed to occupy this space.
The second phase of AGOA after September 2004 provides for limitless duty-free and quota-free access to the US market for garments that are made in eligible sub-Saharan countries from US, or AGOA-eligible country, fabric, yarn and thread (Clean Clothes Campaign 2002:9). This explicitly serves the interests of US cotton producers and processors since their subsidized cotton can arrive in Africa and still be cheaper than locally produced cotton.
As shown in the section on African cotton production above, a number of US producer-processors already have ginning operations in place in Africa. The provisions of AGOA will favour those that can bring subsidised cotton from the US, process it in Africa using infrastructure owned by them, and export it back to the US for further value adding or for sale. AGOA excludes the import of raw cotton to the US from Africa (Gillson et al. 2004:8). Sanctions against Zimbabwe mean that products derived from Zimbabwean cotton will not be eligible for export to the US under
AGOA. This denies the Southern African region in particular the ability to draw on a key cotton producer in one of the region’s most competitive supply pipelines (Coughlin, Rubin & Darga 2001:xiii)
PRIVATISATION AND DEREGULATION
In order to take advantage of the trade regime, multinationals require reforms to give them
access to the cotton sector in African countries. Historically these sectors have been
monopolised by state institutions, and these monopolies have to be broken down to permit the profitable entry of multinationals. African cotton production already has a well-established infrastructure that TNCs can take advantage of (GRAIN 2004b).
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS AND PATENTS
“Our vision is for a regulatory system that favours investment and innovation.
We will stifle innovation if our framework fails to provide sufficient financial
rewards to justify continued investment”
(Michael Pragnell, President, CropLife International and CEO of Syngenta, 3 June 2004,
quoted in CropLife International 2004)
The introduction of genetically modified crops into Africa is based on the ability of corporations to control the technology and generate a profit from it. Since these corporations have legal ownership of much of the technology, they will determine how and when it is used.
USAID has indicated its intention to play its part to “integrate biotechnology into local food systems and spread the technology through regions in Africa” (US Dept of State 2002). This is to be on a commercial basis. Once transgenic crops are in the ground and a regulatory system is in place, the threat of states outlawing their use is eliminated.
Capacity building to carry out biotechnological research is closely linked to the research agendas of private companies. Generally, USAID supported programmes to extend biotechnology into Africa are partnered by the large biotech and seed companies. Monsanto and other biotech corporations sponsor USAID (Greenpeace 2002:6). In turn, USAID has paid US biotech corporations to run GM research programmes with local research institutes in African countries.
The USAID sponsored Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) assists in biosafety research, policy and capacity, including in East and West Africa. African partner organisations include African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF; Kenya), Association
for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA; Uganda), East African Regional Programme and Research Network for Biotechnology, Biosafety, and Biotechnology Policy Development (BIO-EARN; Uganda), Le Conseil Ouest et Centre Africain pour la Recherche et le Developpement Agricoles (CORAF; Senegal) and national agricultural research organisations.
Not only USAID and the biotech companies, but also the international agricultural research
centres organised under the Collaborative Group on International Agricultural Research
(CGIAR) are party to the biotech agenda.
In 1998 African governments adopted a model law on the ‘Protection of the rights of local
communities, farmers, breeders and regulation of access to biological resources’. Amongst its core principles are the right and responsibility to keep seed free; prior informed consent to use biological resources; local community access to gene pools; and no patents on life forms (Kalibwani et al. 2004:41).
Despite all this activity, the International Cotton Advisory Committee (n.d.) recognises that
“because of the diversity of cotton growing problems throughout the world, there is no simple approach for transfer and implementation of biotechnical knowledge. Thus, many of the cotton growing problems of the world will not receive required attention”…by biotechnological responses, it should be added. Other fields of knowledge also have a role to play in responding to the problems of cotton growing.
The US is trying to head-off African criticism of its cotton subsidies by talking about helping to improve productivity, through Bt cotton. In the meantime, it is reorganising its domestic subsidy regime to comply with the WTO while attempting to limit the actual reductions it will make.
Nevertheless, in preparation for the future reduction of cotton subsidies, the industry is the process of globalising its operations, especially through the consolidation of corporate trading interests and firming its grip over input supply. The dominant states are fully behind this agenda through using their power to force open markets in developing countries, either through the WTO or through imposing conditionalities for bilateral trade preference. The World Bank is playing a crucial role in justifying the dismantling of state-run and single channel cotton export systems, regardless of how well they are functioning.
Dominant states are also providing support for the maintenance of the corporate stranglehold over input supply, especially seed, by assisting in establishing mechanisms for the protection of intellectual property rights and by funding research agendas that favour the interests of transnational seed and biotechnology companies.
Contamination is not just a risk, it is THE mechanism, combined with patents, through which the industry will impose its agenda. This accounts for the push for the early introduction of the commercial planting of GM crops, knowing full well that once they are in the ground it will be impossible for states to reject them.
Bt cotton is on top of the list because of the greatest likelihood of commercial success in the shortest time. Once the cotton is in the ground, the floodgates for future GM varieties are opened.
Given this multi-pronged attack on African cotton systems, it is recommended that African producers and governments reject the introduction of GM cotton, and the accompanying utilisation of existing agricultural infrastructure and institutions for the insertion of GM cotton into their systems.
More sustainable alternatives to GM cotton exist. Poverty is multifaceted, cutting across economic, social and political systems and cannot be eliminated or reduced through the imposition of a single technological fix that itself is encoded within a system of increasing inequality.
Poverty reduction is more feasible if based on the redistribution of existing resources, including secure access to land, water and locally available genetic material than if based on a single technology reliant on a vast array of external inputs only made available on the basis of payment.
Pest management techniques that rely on increasing producers’ knowledge and integrating farmers’ own knowledge with environmentally sustainable best practices from elsewhere are preferable to the introduction of technology that draws pest management away from direct control by the producer.
Instead of privatising agricultural institutions and focusing on biotechnology that places control in the hands of distant experts working for giant corporations, research and development could become more participatory, allowing producers to determine their own needs whether for the global market or not. In particular, dedicated support for the production of food and fibre for local need first and only then for exchange should be encouraged.
Primary producers, farm workers and the landless ultimately need to organise themselves to press for their own demands. A rejection of the imposition of GM crops and the associated political and institutional restructuring is imperative in this regard.