|Biotech's rich list / Lula sellout as rainforest disappears (18/4/2004)|
Amidst the emblematic richness of recent news of the UK's Science Minister losing his shirt on his biotech investments, there are some whose ships haven't yet hit the rocks, at least among those avoiding GM crops! (see item 1)
In Brazil, the Lula honeymoon is over: "Brazilians are starting to question both his credibility and competence. They claim he has caved in to big business interests..." (item 2)
As for its neighbour: "Argentina offers a vision of the possible nightmare future for agriculture and food production in Latin America... 2O million people out of a population of 38 million live below the poverty line. Six million are indigent, suffering extreme hunger, and nearly four and a half million are unemployed.
"Nonetheless Argentina has the highest per capita food production in the world with more than 70 million tons of grain... [etc.] However, that mass of food products bears witness to the greatest hunger and social genocide in our history.
"This brutal process of social vindictiveness serves as an example for the rest of the world's peoples, who can see in situ the role played by transgenic crops, publicised by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont and the rest of the multinational owners of biotechnology, as a panacea to alleviate human hunger. " (item 3)
1.Biotech's rich list
1.Biotech's rich list - comment from Prof Joe Cummins <[email protected]>
April 1 Genetic Engineering News put out their list of biotech's millionaires.
The leaders included first P. Frost of Ivax, followed by L. Rosenthal of a number of companies, William Gates III fourth on the list with 220 million in Icos a Bothell , Washington firm that makes Cialis,the most popular drug among spammers. Gates may not be happy about the spammers on windows but he takes cialis to keep a stiff upper lip :-). A former colleague Bill Rutter is number five on the list.
Sam Waxsal of Imclone has dropped to 12 on the list, he was sentenced to seven years in federal prison, sentenced for securities fraud, obstruction of justice, perjury, bank fraud and tax evasion. He is expected to spend his jail time in a Florida prison, home for rich swindlers. He may be joined by others on the list [btw whatever happened to that nice Martha Stewart? ed]. Along with the crooks the list includes Nobel Prize winners and women (a few of each). The states homes to the richest biotech companies are California, New York, Massachusetts then Washington State. Monsanto and the other Ag biotech companies are not listed for some reason?
2.Greens cry sellout as rainforest disappears
WHEN he took power 15 months ago after a 13-year battle to win the presidency, Brazilian environmentalists rejoiced at the prospect of seeing Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leading the worlds most ecologically diverse nation.
The former Socialist had always supported green causes and they were hopeful he would be the man to give environmental concerns the attention they deserved.
Now, however, in the light of new figures that show deforestation in the Amazon increasing for the third consecutive year, the greens are seeing red.
"Lula has been dazzled by power," said Fernando Gabeira, a former Green Party legislator who joined Da Silvas Workers Party before the election but resigned last year because, he said: "Lula was talking like someone who wants development at all costs.
"He cheated us in that he gave us the impression that we were allies and today he is much more allied with our adversaries. But then again he cheated many sectors. He got into government and changed positions."
Presidential candidates who say one thing on the campaign trail and another when they get into power are nothing new. But there were many reasons to believe Da Silva was different. A former shoeshine boy and union leader who won a landslide victory by promising to make Brazil a kinder and fairer nation, he was elected in large part because of his personal and political integrity.
Now, though, with the economy stagnant, unemployment high and corruption scandals forcing the government to spend more time defending itself than tackling problems, Brazilians are starting to question both his credibility and competence. They claim he has caved into big business interests, in particular soya and beef farmers.
Prime among them are his disgruntled former allies in the green lobby. According to Gabeira, Da Silva has wavered on a number of issues, including genetically modified foods, the importation of used car tyres and the possibility of opening a third nuclear reactor outside Rio de Janeiro.
Last weeks announcement that annual deforestation grew 2% to 9,169 square miles - an area equal to the size of Israel and the second highest annual total since officials started keeping tabs on the destruction in 1988 - confirmed environmentalists fears.
Activists condemned Da Silva for not doing enough to prevent the rise. Government officials said they were unhappy with the figures, but claimed they were delighted at having stemmed a tide that had seen the deforestation grow 40% the year before.
"That 9,169 square miles disappeared last year is unacceptable," said Adriana Ramos, the public policy coordinator with green NGO Instituto Socio Ambiental. "What is extremely worrying is that it has levelled out at a rate so much higher than it was a decade previously."
As in previous years, most of the destruction came along the Arch of Deforestation, a swathe of land on the southern and eastern borders of the forest that is home to many of Brazils soya producers and cattle ranchers. Brazil is the worlds second biggest soya producer and has the second biggest herd of cattle. Both sectors are growing rapidly.
Together they are greedily gobbling up forest, and Da Silva, critics say, is turning a blind eye because the foreign currency they bring is vital to keeping the economy afloat.
One of the biggest criticisms has been his failure to spend money set aside for the Amazon Regional Protected Areas program, a World Bank-sponsored scheme that seeks to triple the amount of rainforest under protection by 2012 - and act as a buffer to more development. The Da Silva government has named no new protected areas over the past year even though officials said the money to do so was available.
"The government deforestation data is alarming and underscores the need to move rapidly with plans to zone the most biologically important parts of the Amazon into both strictly protected areas and those where resource use is regulated and sustainable," said Rosa Lemos de Sa, Conservation Director for the Brazilian branch of the World Wildlife Fund. "It worries me that they have the resources and arent using them."
She added: "His [rhetoric] is one thing and his actions another. He speaks about improving life for the poor but his economic performance doesnt show that. He has given incentives to the rich and hasnt helped the poor. To invest in agri-business is to invest in the richest 10% of the population because they are the ones who run this business. His economic policies are making the rich richer and the poor poorer."
Government officials say they are being effective and point to last months launch of a comprehensive and innovative plan that relieves the burden on the often weak Environment Ministry and for the first time charges 12 other ministries such as Agriculture, Industry, Justice and Labour with responsibility for halting the deforestation.
The $140m plan, which also calls for new sustainable development programmes, earlier monitoring and tougher penalties for offenders, could stop and perhaps even reverse some of the worst damage, said Environment Minister Marina Silva, herself a rubber tapper from the remote jungle state of Acre.
"We knew the problem could not be solved in a year," Silva said. "We preferred to carry out restructuring work and wait for a response in 2004. We have taken action but it will only pay dividends in the medium and long-term."
Environmentalists saluted the plan but said the time for promises was over. Da Silva is running out of chances, said Lemos de Sa.
"The fact that they took the time to write a plan involving 12 ministries is a positive sign that they are taking the issue seriously," she said. "But having a beautiful plan is no good if you dont implement it. I am starting to get nervous. I want to see things happening."
3.Food, Trade And US Power Politics In Latin America
Dumped food and attendant [US] "aid" measures soften up recipient countries by distorting a country's domestic agricultural economy. Military and economic aid props up compliant regimes. Central America's history is replete with examples of this use of "aid". Witholding aid - or threatening to - tightens the screws on governments the US deems recalcitrant. That pressure is usually complemented by economic sanctions and incentives applied both bilaterally and through US proxies like the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank.
In that context, trade negotiations like the Central America Free Trade Agreement are put like a pistol to the heads of governments. Trade negotiators find their minds concentrated under the threat of their government losing US aid or concessionary World Bank or Inter American Development Bank loans and IMF balance of payments support.
Never mind FTAA-lite. Try Empire-heavy.....
Meanwhile, to Congress, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick tells it like it is, "Day-in and day-out, all around the world, the U.S. government is working aggressively to make sure barriers to U.S. goods and services are removed......Our new and pending FTA partners represent America's third largest export market -- these FTAs are stripping away trade barriers across-the-board, market-by-market, and expanding American opportunities....... Enforcement of existing trade agreements is a vital complement to producing new ones. Indeed, enforcement is inherently connected to the process of negotiating new agreements......Virtually everything USTR does is connected with enforcement in some way. Negotiations to open markets and enforcement are two sides of the same coin." 
Zoellick's report to Congress lists what the the US Trade representative views as unfair trade barriers and practices to American exports of goods, services, and farm products around the world. It covers 58 countries. No one reading it can have any illusions that the primary purpose of all the US phony "free trade" deals is to break open markets for US and foreign (Zoellick's links to the multinational Vivendi are relevant here) multinational corporations - permanently, especially as regards food and energy resources.
Many writers from around the world see the issue of food sovereignty as equally if not more important than sovereignty over energy resources.
People at all levels across Latin America see this very clearly. A spokesperson for the Movement of Landless Workers in Brazil, states, The principal base for forging a free, sovereign people is that it has the conditions to produce its own food. If a country becomes dependent on another in order to feed its people it becomes a dependent nation politically, economically and ideologically.
Worrying about the GM Frankenstein Monster
Within the broader concern in Latin America about food sovereignty, anxiety about genetically manipulated foods is acute. Writers like Elizabeth Bravo of Ecuador's Acción Ecológica have analysed what the FTAA would mean in terms of the ability of US multinationals like Monsanto and Dupont to penalise local agriculture by enforcing Intellectual Property Rights on plants and seeds through patents and related ownership rights. She argues this will introduce monopoly rights into the food production system, limit the free movement of seeds, increase erosion of genetic resources and force farmers to pay royalties on the seed they use, thus generally increasing food prices.
She goes on to point out that, even without broaching the ethical monstrosity of patenting life forms, these attempts to prioritise the agenda of the agribusiness multinationals will lead to monocultivation and eliminate small farmers. Latin American agriculture will become more insecure the more it comes to rely on foreign, especially United States, technology. Looking further afield, one has only to consider a country like Honduras to see where the "free trade" model leads: abject dependency, widespread poverty. massive unemployment.
The Case of Argentina
Argentina offers a vision of the possible nightmare future for agriculture and food production in Latin America. Gutted financially after embracing the great neo-liberal economic confidence trick through the 1990s, now Argentina faces the consequences of selling out its food sovereignty to foreign multinationals. These excerpts from an article by Alberto Lapolla are worth quoting at length.
"Our people suffers the greatest punishment in its history. 55 children, 35 adults and 15 older people die daily through hunger related causes. That is 450,000 people between 1990 and 2003, a true economic genocide. 2O million people out of a population of 38 million live below the poverty line. Six million are indigent, suffering extreme hunger, and nearly four and a half million are unemployed.
Nonetheless Argentina has the highest per capita food production in the world with more than 70 million tons of grain and 56 million head of cattle, a similar number of sheep and likewise of pigs a food production of three tons per person each year. However, that mass of food products bears witness to the greatest hunger and social genocide in our history.
This brutal process of social vindictiveness serves as an example for the rest of the world's peoples, who can see in situ the role played by transgenic crops, publicised by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont and the rest of the multinational owners of biotechnology, as a panacea to alleviate human hunger.
The hunger of the Argentine people, its thousands of children dead of hunger, its old people dead from hunger, the millions of impoverished people sorting through rubbish seeking something to eat are the clearest and most categorical demonstration of the true effects of transgenic crops on people's economies.
This year, Argentina will produce 34.5 millon tons of transgenic soya (50% ot the grain total) on 14 million hectares (54% of cultivated land). 99% of this soya is transgenic, destined to feed cattle in the European Union and China. They then export that beef to markets that no longer import Argentine beef because our open range cattle production has been affected by the uncontrolled expansion of transgenic soya production. So the government produces export commodities instead of food and industrial products so as to get foreign exchange in order to pay illegitimate foreign debt."