A documentary that Americans won't ever see (19/3/2008)

1.A documentary that Americans won't ever see
2.US attempt for hegemony: Doomsday Seed Vault


1.The World According to Monsanto - A documentary that Americans won't ever see
By Siv O'Neall
Axis of Logic, March 19 2008

The gigantic biotech corporation Monsanto is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity which has served mankind for thousands of years. The endless list of genetically modified seeds sold and controlled by Monsanto are putting at enormous risk age-old agricultural patterns under the presumptuous slogan of aiming at solving the huge problem of hunger in the world.

On March 11 a new documentary was aired on French television (ARTE French-German cultural tv channel) by French journalist and film maker Marie-Monique Robin, entitled 'The World According to Monsanto' (Le Monde selon Monsanto[1]). Starting from the Internet over a period of three years Robin has collected material for her documentary, going on to numerous interviews with people of very different backgrounds. She traveled widely, from Latin America, to Asia, through Europe and the United States, to personally interview farmers and people in influential positions.

As an example of pro-Monsanto interviews, she talked at length with Michael Taylor who has worked as a lawyer for Monsanto and also for the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), where he had great influence on the legalization of the genetically modified bovine growth hormone (BGH). It also became FDA policy during Taylor's tenure that GM seeds are declared to be 'substantially equivalent'[2] to non-GM seeds, hence proclaiming proof of the harmlessness of GMs to be unnecessary. Michael Taylor[3] is a typical example of technocrats employed via 'the revolving door policy'. He is now head of the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto Corporation.

The gospel according to Monsanto is that their patented GM seeds and their bovine growth hormone (BGH) will increase worldwide production of agricultural, dairy and meat products and Bt cotton to the extent that worldwide hunger and poverty will be eradicated.

The actual truth is rather the opposite. GMOs are creating serious damage all over the world and artificial BGH injection in cows[4] cause numerous health problems, and even death.

Monsanto is not held back by any considerations of ethics and it hides the reality of its sordid machinations behind a wall of secrecy. Everything Monsanto does is exclusively with the intent of increasing its own profit – everything else be damned. If left to its own devices it will most certainly destroy the livelihood of millions of farmers – a process begun a decade ago in India and certainly in many other countries as well[5]. The planet's ecosystems will be seriously threatened by unnatural ways of changing agricultural patterns. The dangers of GMO cultivation to the environment come in many forms:

Switching from age-old biodiverse crops that can tolerate low-level amounts of water to industrial monocultures of crops such as GM soya, cotton, sugarcane, etc. that require large amounts of irrigation.

Inundating cultivated lands with toxic herbicides, in particular the dangerous Monsanto product Roundup, to which the GMO seeds have been made biotechnically resistant. Any other growth should succumb to Roundup, were it not for the fact that weeds to a very large extent become Roundup resistant.

Putting an end to biological [organic] farming and poisoning non GM cultures through pollenization from GM crops and accidental exposure to Roundup herbicide.

Deforestation to make more land available for the culture of the GM seeds Monsanto sells at high prices to poor farmers.

On top of all these dangers to biodiversity and biological [organic] farming comes the fact that Monsanto has patented its products and farmers are legally bound not to save seeds for replanting for the following year. They must buy new seeds from Monsanto every year and the company has a sizeable staff that just deals with prosecuting farmers suspected of illegally using one year's seeds for the planting of the next year's crop.

Globalization and Poverty

Biological [organic] farming is adapted to existing ecosystems. But age-old biological farming has had to give room to industrial monocultures that enrich the few and cause poverty and despair for millions of small farmers. Now there is soil erosion, destruction of biodiversity and social/economic disasters in tow. Contrary to Monsanto promises that GM seeds and Roundup would reduce production cost, farmers now have to pay skyrocketing prices for herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer. [6]

The destructive effects of genetically engineered crops are worldwide, but the extensive damage done in India has been widely documented by Dr Vandana Shiva. She is a physicist and environmentalist as well as a tireless activist and author of many books concerning the nefarious consequences of GM farming as opposed to the wisdom of traditional family and biological farming. She is currently based in New Delhi.

Quote from Dr. Vandana Shiva:

'I am writing this statement from beautiful Doon Valley in the Himalaya where the monsoons have arrived, and our Navdanya (Nine SeedsOur National Movement on Conservation of Biodiversity) team is busy with transplanting of over 300 rice varieties which we are conserving along with the rich diversity of other agricultural crops. Our farm does not use any chemicals or external inputs. It is a self-regenerative system which preserves biodiversity while meeting human needs and needs of farm animals. Our 2 bullocks are the alternative to chemical fertilisers which pollute soil and water as well as to tractors and fossil fuels which pollute the atmosphere and destabilise the climate.'[7]

'Economic globalization has become a war against nature and the poor' says Dr. Vandana Shiva.

'Recently I was visiting Bhatinda in Punjab because of an epidemic of farmers’ suicides. Punjab used to be the most prosperous agricultural region in India. Today every farmer is in debt and despair. Vast stretches of land have become waterlogged desert. And, as an old farmer pointed out, even the trees have stopped bearing fruit because heavy use of pesticides has killed the pollinators the bees and butterflies.

And Punjab is not alone in experiencing this ecological and social disaster. Last year I was in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh, where farmers have also been committing suicide. Farmers who traditionally grew pulses and millets and paddy have been lured by seed companies to buy hybrid cotton seeds referred to as 'white gold', which were supposed to make them millionaires. Instead they became paupers.'[8]

In India as well as in China it has been proven that the unscrupulous promises of Monsanto that Bt cotton (genetically engineered cotton) would produce a far higher yield and prove less costly in terms of herbicide and fertilizer required has been the exact opposite of what was promised. Bt cotton increases irrigation and water requirements where biological cotton would thrive without added irrigation. Thus the yield of Bt cotton has been far inferior to that of biological [organic] cotton and the costs of production significantly higher.[9]

Disastrous health problems caused by GMO products

In spite of the reassurances from Monsanto and its own lawyers and scientists that GMO cultures and Roundup herbicide are not health hazardous, it has been proven in their own research that rats have developed different forms of tumors and other health problems. However, instead of pushing the research further, they put a complete stop to it.

'As farmers know there is a cancer epidemic in America's heartland partly resulting from exposure to chemicals like Roundup, and partly from ingesting contaminated food and drinking water.' (Economic, health & environmental impacts of Roundup-type chemical and Roundup Ready soybeans)

Particularly when Roundup is applied by aerial spraying the risk of drift of the herbicide to close-by crops and trees is considerable. Both trees and nutritious and medicinal herbs have been proven to be killed or producing severely damaged fruit and leaves from the effect of Roundup being sprayed on nearby cultures, by air as well as by ground spraying.

Quote from 'New research on the impact of GMOs on health'

'Although some GMOs have been approved and marketed for several years, there was no body of scientific research on their impact on the biology of living organisms. This is partly because animal feeding trials are not required in the current safety approval process for GMOs in the EU or USA. Only now is a body of evidence starting to emerge from a small number of animal feeding trials into the health effects and progress in the new science of epigenetics. This indicates that genetic engineering is much more unpredictable and risky than traditional breeding.'[10]

Various health problems from GMO products have been identified, from serious skin problems in humans in Argentina at soya plantations (documented by Marie-Monique Robin in her film The World According to Monsanto), to allergies in humans as well as tumors, damage to internal organs and internal bleeding in rats fed with genetically engineered potatoes.

From a lack of sufficient research and the fact that many health hazards develop over a long period of time, there is still no complete list of real health hazards to humans caused by GMO products. Monsanto who provides 90% of the world's long list of genetically engineered products[11] (having bought up 50 smaller companies during the last decade) does their business with such complete secrecy that there are still sold-out individuals out there who praise the complete revolution of agriculture achieved by the culture of GMO crops. These corrupt people seem to be totally unaware of the health hazards and the drive to despair and ruin of small farmers caused by GMO products. They seem to still believe that genetically engineered seeds can save the world's food problems. Or worse yet, they don't care.

A high representative for Monsanto has openly admitted that 'We want to control the world's food supply.' [12] It is also very clear that they have no concern for health hazards or human disasters caused by the callous decisions of world leaders to give up on biological farming and opt for genetically engineered food production and monoculture industrial farming.

The proofs that GM huge industrial monocultures and Roundup herbicide are destroying the earth's environment and human health are completely censured and ignored, due to intense lobbying and pressure from sold-out individuals at the United States Department of Agriculture and the Federal Drug Administration.

Once again, only corporate profit counts and people as well as the environment are of no importance. And the neocon puppets are playing the game with great gusto.

[1] Also entitled 'Monsanto, une enterprise qui vous veut du bien' (Monsanto, a company that wants the very best for you.) Monsanto is the multinational producer of Agent Orange, dioxin, bovine growth hormone, Round Up and 90% of the world production of GMOs.

New movie damns Monsanto's deadly sins

See also: Le Monde selon Monsanto

[2] [Michael Taylor] Attorney for Monsanto who rewrote the 'regulations' for Genetically Modified foods. His brilliant addition is the 'substantial equivalence' measure which says if the nutrition measures are the same for the GMO as the natural food it is nobody's business what the chemical companies add.

[3] Michael Taylor, former legal advisor to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Bureau of Medical Devices and Bureau of Foods, later executive assistant to the Commissioner of the FDA - still later a partner at the law firm of King & Spaulding where he supervised a nine-lawyer group whose clients included Monsanto Agricultural Company - still later Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the United States Food and Drug Administration - and later with the law firm of King & Spaulding - now head of the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto Corporation.

[4] Reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson Blow Whistle On News Station - Florida Milk Supply Riddled with Artificial Hormone Linked to Cancer. They Were Ordered to Lie About it on Fox-TV.

[5] 1997 witnessed the first emergence of farm suicides in India. A rapid increase in indebtedness, was at the root of farmers taking their lives. Debt is a reflection of a negative economy, a loosing economy. Two factors have transformed the positive economy of agriculture into a negative economy for peasants - the rising costs of production and the falling prices of farm commodities. Both these factors are rooted in the policies of trade liberalization and corporate globalisation. (Vandana Shiva) http://www.countercurrents.org/glo-shiva050404.htm

[6] The shift from farm-saved seed to corporate monopolies of the seed supply is also a shift from biodiversity to monocultures in agriculture. The District of Warangal in Andhra Pradesh (India) used to grow diverse legumes, millets, and oilseeds. Seed monopolies created crop monocultures of cotton, leading to disappearance of millions of products of nature's evolution and farmer's breeding. Monocultures and uniformity increase the risks of crop failure as diverse seeds adapted to diverse ecosystems are replaced by rushed introduction of unadapted and often untested seeds into the market. When Monsanto first introduced Bt Cotton in India in 2002, the farmers lost Rs. 1 billion due to crop failure. Instead of 1,500 Kg / acre as promised by the company, the harvest was as low as 200 kg. Instead of increased incomes of Rs. 10,000 / acre, farmers ran into losses of Rs. 6400 / acre. (Vandana Shiva) http://www.countercurrents.org/glo-shiva050404.htm

[7] Monocultures, monopolies, myths and the masculinisation of agriculture - Statement by Dr. Vandana Shiva http://www.ratical.org/co-globalize/shiva.html

[8]Indian Agrarian Crisis

[9] 'Several studies have shown Bt cotton yields to be substantially lower than non-Bt varieties.' Has the Bt cotton bubble burst? (Devinder Sharma) http://www.indiatogether.org/2006/oct/dsh-btbubble.htm

[10] New research on the impact of GMOs on health http://www.soilassociation.org/web/sa/saweb.nsf/89d058cc4dbeb16d80256a73005a2866/94dada85ebee057180257194005ca7d0%21OpenDocument

[11] New movie damns Monsanto's deadly sins

[12] Greenpeace researcher uncovers chilling patent plans - One way or another, Monsanto wants to make sure no food is grown that they don't own -- and the record shows they don't care if it's safe for the environment or not. (Direct quote in Marie-Marianne Robin's documentary)

Siv O'Neall is an Axis of Logic columnist, based in France. She can be reached at [email protected]
Read the Biography and additional articles by Axis Columnist, Siv O’Neall
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2.US attempt for hegemony: Doomsday Seed Vault
Devinder Sharma

Developing countries should not deposit their seed collections in the seed bank Global Seed Vault.

Tucked away deep inside the Arctic Circle, about 1120 kms from the North Pole, on an island in Svalbard, Norway, lies the world’s latest and most sophisticated seed bank. The 'Global Seed Vault' as the seed bank is called, is seen as a safest depository against any disaster, be it nuclear or natural.

With a capacity to store 4.5 million seed samples, the 'Global Seed Vault' was formally opened on February 26, 2008. Supporting a robust security system, the seed bank is designed more or less like a giant icebox that can store seeds for hundreds of years. The seed collections will be stored in a 'black box' kind of arrangement with the host countries/organisations having the right to draw back.

This is probably where the benign mission objectives end. We all know that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Moreover, considering the scramble the world is witnessing to seek control over seeds and through it the entire food chain questions will continue to be posed about the real motive. Although the seed vault is being managed in a tripartite agreement between the Norwegian government, the Nordic Genetic Resource Center and the Global Crop Diversity Trust, it is being funded by some of the biggest seed corporations.

Among the donors for the Global Crop Diversity Trust are: the Swiss seed multinational Syngenta AG, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, the US agribusiness giant DuPont/Pioneer Hybred, International Seed Federation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the World Bank.

This is not the first time that security and safety alarms have been raised to collect seed resources from across the world. Some 40 years back, the United States had used the same arguments to befool the world to believe that it was housing the world’s biggest collection of plant biodiversity for reasons of safety. Developing countries were made to believe that its national interests were perfectly safe in depositing the massive plant germplasm collections in safe custody at Fort Knox.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had applied the same trick. It had said that although most of the 16 international agricultural research centres (like the International Rice Research Institute at Manila, Philippines) were keeping the seed collections, there remained a possibility that someday some terrorist group will blow it up. These valuable seed collections would then be lost for posterity. Therefore there was an urgent need to keep one copy of these seed samples in safe custody. And this safe custody was obviously in the US, at Fort Knox.

To convince the world of its pious intentions, it vacated a small air base under a hilly terrain in Fort Knox and put up a gene bank. The world became reassured that its most important seed collections, some think it is more valuable than the gold reserves, were now in safe custody. No terrorist could blow it up. But it didn’t take much time for the custodian (the USDA) to claim ownership over these huge collections.

Remember the signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) treaty at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. It was this treaty, which for the first time recognised plant genetic resources are a national sovereign resource. Prior to this plants and seeds were treated as a mankind’s heritage. But what is relevant to know here is that the world’s largest collection of plant germplasm, some 6,00,000 plant accessions, lying in control of the USDA are outside the purview of this treaty.

In other words, the US has wrested control over these massive plant collections. The countries from where these were collected have no control or say over these resources, nor do they get any benefit from providing these valuable resources.

The Global Seed Vault goes a step ahead. It has not only used the remoteness of the arctic polar cap to reassure the world of the genuineness of its safety claims, it has also invited some of the biggest global seed multinationals to have a direct stake. In the days to come, we will probably see some more private seed and agribusiness companies joining the initiative.

Any global initiative on biodiversity and seeds remains incomplete without the participation of India and Brazil. Both these developing countries are rich in biodiversity. But ironically, while India had no resources to build its own national gene bank in New Delhi (the National Gene Bank was built with USAID help), it is one of the donors for the Global Seed Vault. So far India has not deposited its seed collections in the doomsday vault. It has also directed the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to refrain from sending the Indian collections of the dryland seeds to the seed vault.

The 16 international agricultural research centres are at present sending copies of its collections to the seed vault. Most of the other biodiversity rich countries are adopting a more cautious and sensible wait-and-watch approach. In my understanding, developing countries need to refrain from falling once again into a visible trap. Let us not be carried away by the doomsday bug. Remember, you can be fooled once, but not always.

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