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Global Assault on Seed Sovereignty through Trade Deals

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Global Assault on Seed Sovereignty through Trade Deals Is Assault on Human Rights, Protest is Fertile

From Asia to South America, the EU to the Caribbean, the corporate seed industry is using international trade agreements to criminalise farmers for saving seeds

(A fully referenced version of this report is posted on ISIS members website and otherwise available for download here)   Institute of Science in Society     01/12/15

Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji

The multinational seed industry is continuing its multipronged attack on the most basic of human rights, the access to seed. Lobbyists of the seed industry are using trade agreements to pressure nations into adopting strict measures such as UPOV agreements that ensure the protection and ownership of new plant varieties for plant breeders. On top of this, corporate seed industry lobbyists are proposing revisions to the UPOV convention that promote further monopolisation of the seed industry through ‘harmonisation’ of procedures for registering and testing new plant varieties.

Protests in many regions around the world are putting up much needed resistance against this corporate takeover of the food system, successfully forcing governments to delay and even repeal the agreements. These movements are an inspiration for our continual global struggle against the relentless onslaught of agribusiness whose current biggest targets are the ‘untapped’ markets of the global South, with the spotlight on Africa and other regions where seeds have not yet been commercialized, and are still used in traditional systems that allow seed saving and exchange.  Read the rest of this entry »

Glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup, linked to epidemic diseases

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Stop Monsanto's Roundup Credo Action     In case you weren’t sure yet if the massive use of the herbicide glyphosate – the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup – was cause for concern, here’s the sobering takeaway from an MIT senior researcher who just conducted a review of the stuff:

“I’m certain at this point that glyphosate is the most important factor in an alarming number of epidemic diseases.”1

The introduction of Roundup in 1973 has corresponded with a rise in conditions including celiac disease (gluten intolerance), autism, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s and others.2

And its use – along with the rates of many of these diseases – has gone stratospheric over the last 15 years, with the approval of Monsanto’s GMO “Roundup Ready” crops specifically engineered to tolerate massive exposure to glyphosate. Roundup is now used all over the world on staple crops like wheat and soy, and has become the most widely used herbicide in the US.

Despite these trends, the EPA and FDA still consider glyphosate to be relatively safe and harmless – based largely on unpublished, industry-produced studies. That position is looking increasingly dangerous, and possibly wrong.

Tell the EPA and FDA: Immediately suspend the use of Monsanto’s Roundup until it can be proven safe. Click here to  sign the petition.

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Glencore: Profiteering From Hunger and Chaos

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Updated: new links below

By Chris Arsenault * 

DOHA, May 10, 2011 (IPS/Al Jazeera) – The rapid rise in prices for food, fuel and commodities has been disastrous for the world’s poor, including Indonesian market vendor Lia Romi. But it’s a bonanza for multinational trading firms such as Glencore.

While Romi has trouble feeding her family, Glencore – the world’s largest diversified commodities trader – is planning a $11 billion dollar share sale, likely the largest market debut ever seen on the London Stock Exchange.

“The price for our daily food has at least doubled in the past two years,” Lia Romi told Al Jazeera through a translator. “Food costs 100 per cent of my family’s daily income [of about $3]. I have nothing saved and I owe [money] from my [market stall] business.”

While Romi, and millions like her, worry about feeding their families, the initial public offering from the commodity speculating giant will create at least four billionaires, dozens worth more than 100 million dollars and several hundred old fashioned millionaires. Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg is set to make more than nine billion from the share sale. And speculating on food prices is an important part of his wealth.

Controlling prices

Valued at about 60 billion dollars, Glencore controls 50 percent of the global copper market, 60 per cent of zinc, 38 per cent in alumina, 28 per cent of thermal coal, 45 per cent of lead and almost 10 per cent of the world’s wheat – according to information the firm disclosed prior to its share sale. It also controls about one quarter of the world market in barley, sunflower and rape seed.

“They are possibly one of very few mining companies that are price makers, rather than price takers,” said Chris Hinde, editorial director of Mining Journal magazine. “They are the stockbrokers of the commodities business [operating] in a fairly secretive world. They are effectively setting the price for some very important commodities,” he told Al Jazeera.

The firm employs about 57,000 people, generated a turnover of 145 billion dollars in the past year and has assets worth more than 79 billion. Glencore’s media department refused interview requests from Al Jazeera.

Based in Baar, Switzerland, where regulation is minimal, the company’s sprawling interests span Bolivian tin mines, Angolan oil, zinc producers in Kazakhstan, Zambian copper mines and Russian wheat operations.

“Glencore’s vertical integration really is unprecedented,” said Devlin Kuyek, a researcher with GRAIN, a non-profit international organisation working on food security.

“Glencore owns almost 300,000 hectares of farm land and it is one of the largest farm operators in the world. They are engaging in speculation on the grain trade and have immense market power,” he told Al Jazeera.

Global food prices have climbed recently, returning close to their 2008 peak, when bread riots swept parts of the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

“A disturbing amount of price increases, I fear, is being driven by speculative activity,” Marcus Miller, a professor of international economics at the University of Warwick, told Al Jazeera. “Bets [on future price rises or declines] can become self-fulfilling if you are big enough to affect the market.”

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Farmers and Consumer Groups File Lawsuit Challenging Genetically Engineered Alfalfa Approval

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March 18, 2011 –  Center For Food Safety

“Roundup Ready” Alfalfa Will Increase Pesticide Use and Cause Grave Harm to Environment and Organic Industry
USDA Failures Guarantee Transgenic Contamination, Creation of More Superweeds

Today, attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), arguing that the agency’s recent unrestricted approval of genetically engineered (GE), “Roundup Ready” Alfalfa was unlawful.  The GE crop is engineered to be immune to the herbicide glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Roundup.  USDA data show that 93% of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. is grown without the use of any herbicides.  With the full deregulation of GE alfalfa, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year.

“USDA has once again failed to provide adequate oversight of a biotech crop,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “This reckless approval flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that GE alfalfa threatens the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as significant harm to the environment.  APHIS has refused to apply and enforce the law and instead has chosen to bow to the wishes of the biotech industry.”

This is the second case challenging the legality of USDA’s handling of GE alfalfa.  In 2007, in another case brought by CFS, a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of the engineered crop violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of Roundup.  The case resulted in USDA undertaking a court-ordered four-year study of GE alfalfa’s impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Remarkably, it marked the first time USDA had ever undertaken such a study, known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in over 15 years of approving GE crops for commercial production.  While USDA worked on the EIS, GE alfalfa remained unlawful to plant or sell, a ban that remained in place despite Monsanto appealing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The Oily Billionaire Koch Bros’ Obscene Game of Monopoly

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AlterNet

Here’s an infographic from  friends at The Other 98%:

Looting Public Assets: here come the Koch brothers!

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(updated)  x 3

First Wisconsin, then your back yard.          

This isn’t just about unions- the big scam is about power plants and a vertical monopoly for the Koch Brothers with total disregard for the public interest. In a word: looting.


This is the big issue hidden behind the bargaining conflict: selling off public assets for peanuts to corporate cronies of corrupt politicians.  We will soon be prisoners in our own country if this continues: pay a corporation to drive on your street, to cross every bridge, to use your water faucet, to flip a light switch….They’ll add exponential profits to use what used to be public utilities and infrastructure built with public funds.  The new feudalism is at the gate!

May 1933: Hitler Abolishes Unions

“On May 2nd, 1933, the day after Labor day, Nazi groups occupied union halls and labor leaders were arrested. Trade Unions were outlawed by Adolf Hitler, while collective bargaining and the right to strike was abolished. This was the beginning of a consolidation of power by the fascist regime which systematically wiped out all opposition groups, starting with unions, liberals, socialists, and communists using Himmler’s state police. Fast forward to America today, particularly Wisconsin. Governor Walker and the Republican/Tea Party members of the state legislature are attempting to pass a bill that would not only severely punish public unions (with exception for the police, fire, and state trooper unions that supported his campaign), but it would effectively end 50 years to the right of these workers to collectively bargain.”

The Koch Brothers’ End Game in Wisconsin

[Note: Now here’s a thought…] As always this has to do with money, and the union “compromise” coming down the pipe was set up to be the “booby” prize while the Koch Brothers get their “booty” prize. This is all being well-orchestrated with an end game that has absolutely nothing to do with unions. As I said in comments before, to much bewilderment, this is about power plants and a vertical monopoly the Kock Brothers have their eye on in Wisconsin. So in short: 1) Koch Brothers get their puppet Governor Walker in power 2) Governor Walker gins up a crisis 3) Democrats and Progressives take the bait and counter-protest on collective bargaining 4) Governor Walker will compromise on collective bargaining if the rest of the budget is passed as is 5) Bill passes, with trojan horse give-a-way to the Koch Brothers nested in 6) Koch Brothers will buy Wisconsin state-owned power plants for pennies on the dollar in closed unsolicitated bids for which there will be no oversight 7) Koch Brothers get the best vertical monopoly in a generation .

Scott Walker Threatens Rights and Jobs for Wall St. Billions

In a move so fitting for a hero of the modern Corporate Facist Republican Party Scott Walker today is having a hissy fit if he does not get his way. Yes, the Governor that started that state’s budget problems with huge giveaways to Corporate America now wants his plan to make workers pay for it passed at all costs. Today he is refusing to compromise and threatening to axe 1500 jobs in a recession if he does not get his way. But of course Scott Walker has already been bought and paid for and has received his marching orders. Indeed, Walker has become a foot soldier for billionaires in the War on the Working Class and is relishing his new role as “warrior” for the greediest and least patriotic among us.

Wisconsin Is a Battleground Against the Billionaire Kochs’ Plan to Break Labor’s Back

By Adele M. Stan | AlterNet

What’s at stake in Wisc: Public Assets No-Bid Give-Away to Koch brothers

The fight in Wisconsin is over Governor Walker’s 144-page Budget Repair Bill. But the MSM is missing a large part of what the bill would do. The bill would allow for the NO-BID selling of state-owned heating/cooling/power plants, without concern for the legally-defined public interest. The attempt to break labor is part of the same continuous motion as saying that the crony, corporatist selling of state utilities to the Koch brothers and other energy interests is the new “public interest.”

A CMD Special Report: Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money

Madison, Wisconsin — A new investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy documents the big money funneled by one of the richest men in America and one of the richest corporations in the world to put controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in office.

Walker’s hidden energy agenda was evident even before he took office:

Walker kills project to convert power plant to burn biofuels

***

Addendum: thanks to Mike Konczal at Rortybomb

Shawn Doherty in Cap Times has a great article on Governor Walker going after Medicaid.   I’ve been trying to get my head around this part of the debate, a part equally important as the public union breaking part.  The ability for a Governor to rework important state functions without oversight and without some sort of check for the “public interest” leads to crony deals and corruption. Jonathan Cohn has an important followup, where he points out the telling idea that Walker is even going after Tommy Thompson’s reforms.

Item from August, 2010:

COVERT OPERATIONS The billionaire brothers [owners of Koch Industries, Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, 74 and 70, respectively, at date of publication  8/30/2010],  are waging a war against Obama

Rupert Murdoch and David Koch Collude Against Wisconsin Workers

While Fox News feeds its rabble the anti-union line, Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal columnists front for Koch’s Americans for Prosperity and coddle elite investors

Confirmed: Union-Bashing Right-Wing Media Stars Hannity, Limbaugh and O’Reilly Are AFL-CIO Union Affiliated Members

In spite of their criticism of unions in Wisconsin, AlterNet has confirmed that leading right-wing pundits are American Federation Television and Radio Artists union members.

The Sun Is Fading on Biotechnology

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Source: Global Research

from   Does Your Food Contain Genetically Modified Organisms?” by Rady Ananda  10/10/10

Biotechnology may have had its day in the sun, but that light is fading. The New York Times reported Monsanto’s stock dropped from a peak of $145 a share in 2008 to under $48 a share on Monday. The Christian Science Monitor noted that “the rapid increase in the percentage of US farm acres planted with biotech crops has slowed. It rose only 1 percent last year, from 85 percent to 86 percent, the smallest increase since 2001.”

Check out this interactive map of the history of GMO releases in the US from 1987 thru 2008:

Cataloguing the problems of the biotech industry, CSM states:

“Corn Belt farmers complain loudly about the soaring cost of seed. The federal government is investigating the industry for anticompetitive practices. Farmers are grappling increasingly with weeds that have grown resistant to Roundup, an herbicide widely used with genetically modified crops, and genetic contamination of conventional crops.”

Even the United Nations rebuked biotechnology this year when it concluded that agroecology “improves food production and farmers’ incomes while at the same time protecting the soil, water and climate.” The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, reported:

“The widest study ever conducted on the subject found that agroecological approaches resulted in an average crop yield gain of 79 per cent. The study covered 286 projects in 57 developing countries, representing a total surface of 37 million hectares.” (That’s over 91 million acres.)

Biotech found a friend in billionaire Bill Gates, however, so this fading light still has juice. This is precisely why a home-grown solution like the Non-GMO Project can be so effective.  By verifying which products are GM-free, NGP allows consumers to make informed choices, despite censorship by the FDA.

Use NPG’s PDF shopping guide or their iPhone app to find products verified as GM-free. The Rodale Institute, also involved with NGP, advises to buy organic and grass-fed. Check the PLU code:

“GMO foods contain the number 8 before the four-digit code printed on the produce sticker. Organic foods contain the number 9.”

The Trust Crisis with Regulating Net Neutrality

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August 6, 2010     Activist Post

Since it was reported that Google and Verizon are close to a deal on so-called “net neutrality,” the policy debate has heated up in Washington. Of course the debate has very little to do with the actual mechanics of how net neutrality will work, rather who will get the control to regulate it.

However, now that the FCC has abandoned negotiations on a “net neutrality” compromise, it is looking like the Congress will ultimately establish the rules — handed down to them by their corporate masters. It seems the Elite’s fight over who controls the dial has been decided.  One thing is for sure, whoever controls the speed dial on the Internet will control the entire Web and subsequently all flow of information.

This is where the problem lies:  the American people don’t have any trust in their government, regulatory agencies, or corporations.  In fact, it seems that these three entities typically work in unison to establish profit and power guarantees that can only be described as monopolistic cartels where power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  We the people have lost our voice in nearly all legislation or regulation debates.  And doing away with net neutrality — the people’s last bastion of free speech — is the endgame for the power of the people.

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Stop Global Food Security Act Promoting GMOs

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Biotech corporations and mega-charities are promoting the GMO agenda as US foreign policy, and it must be stopped.

June 21, 2010   Dr. Mae-Wan Ho The Institute of Science in Society

The GM clause to food security

The US Global Food Security Act of 2009 (S. 384) sponsored by Richard Lugar (Indiana, Republican), Robert Casey (Pennsylvania, Democrat) and seven other US Senators in February 2009 is [1, 2] “A bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, to stimulate rural economies, and to improve emergency response to food crises, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, and for other purposes.”

However, the proposed amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961 has proven controversial. It would “include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology.”

The bill is supported by the US land grant colleges as well as InterAction (American Council for Voluntary International Action) and its 26 member organizations including WWF, Oxfam, Bread for the World CARE, Save the Children, and ONE [3]. The bill was passed through the Senate foreign Relations Committee on 31 March 2009, and the Senate is expected to vote on it soon in 2010.

Widespread opposition to GM mandate

In April 2010, 140 civil society groups, scientists, and development experts signed an open letter to US Senators, urging them to “strip the GM mandate” from the Global Food Security Act [4]. While the petitioners applaud the bill’s intention to reform aid programmes to focus on longer-term agricultural development and restructure aid agencies to better respond to crises, they object to the clause effectively earmarking one agricultural technology – genetic modification – for billions of dollars in federal funding. US$7.7 billion goes with the bill, and no other farming methods or technologies are mentioned.

Not surprisingly, Monsanto has lobbied the hardest to support the bill. The US company is the world’s leader in the increasingly concentrated agricultural biotech industry, which is already subject to an anti-trust inquiry (see [5] US Farmers Oppose ‘Big Ag’ in Anti-Trust Hearing, SiS 46). Monsanto is likely to benefit most from the new research funding stream, and to profit from its patented products (both GM seeds and pesticides).

The petitioning groups represent the anti-hunger, family farms, farm-workers, consumers and those practicing and supporting sustainable agriculture. The letter delivered urges the Senate to reject the bill until it is made technology-neutral, and calls for agricultural research funding to concentrate on addressing local challenges faced by small-scale farmers, instead of mandating a specific and narrow technological fix, particularly one with little prospect of success and increasingly rejected by countries around the world.

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GM Food: Angel or Devil?

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A new book published in China examines GMO technology and its potential impacts on world food security. (full info at end) The foreword to the book was written by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho from the Institute for Science in Society.

Foreword
By Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

It has been 16 years since the first genetically modified (GM) crop – Flavr Savr tomato for delayed ripening – was approved for commercial growing in the USA. It was also the year that I became a ‘science activist’, on realising how science itself was falling prey to corporate manipulation. Flavr Savr was soon withdrawn as a failure; but it was only a decoy, as agbiotech corporations like Monsanto were after much bigger game.

Genetic modification actually focussed on three major crops and two main traits: herbicide-tolerance (HT) due to glyphosate-insensitive form of the enzyme targeted by the herbicide – 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS) – derived from the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens , and insect-resistance due to one or more toxins derived from another soil bacterium Bt ( Bacillus thuringiensis ).

Commercial planting of these crops began around 1997 in the USA, the heartland of GM crops, and increased rapidly thereafter. Though, thanks to strong resistance from informed citizens in Europe and other parts of the world, GM crops have remained confined, to this day, to less than 3 percent of global agricultural land, with 79 percent of the area planted concentrated in the USA, Argentina and Brazil [1].

In the USA, GM crops now occupy 85-91 percent of the area planted with the three major crops, soybean, corn and cotton. And it is the USA that’s now facing an ecological meltdown due to GM crops [2].

HT crops encouraged the use of herbicides sold as a package with the crop, resulting in herbicide-resistant weeds that demand yet more herbicides. But the increasing use of deadly herbicide and herbicide mixtures has failed to stall the advance of the dreaded palmer superweed that stops combine harvesters and break hand tools. At the same time, secondary pests such as the tarnished plant bug, against which Bt toxin is powerless, became the single most damaging insect for US cotton. The US corn belt, meanwhile, has been ravaged by yet another secondary pest, the western bean cutworm ( Striacosta albicosta ) [3]. Farmers are at a loss to deal with the crisis. They are being advised by misguided academics to use an armoury of more deadly herbicides and insecticides that accomplishes little else than make bigger profits for the same agbiotech companies that sell them the offending GM crops. Those farmers that have held out against planting GM crops, or want to stop planting them, are finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible to buy non-GM seeds, as corporations like Monsanto have been consolidating their monopoly on seeds in the mean time [4]. In addition, they are offering new GM varieties with up to eight ‘stacked’ traits to keep farmers on the transgenic treadmill [5].

The situation is bad enough for farmers in the United States; but it has been deadly in India, where farmers do not have any state subsidies, unlike their counterparts in the USA, and many are already caught in a cycle of indebtedness from the ‘green revolution’ agriculture that depends on high chemical inputs.

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