Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Indigenous, farmers, environmental activists and lots of other people are pissed off about the widening connection between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and agribusiness titan Monsanto. A report last month found that the Foundation had purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock with an estimated worth of $23.1 million purchased in the second quarter of 2010 (see the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission). This marks a substantial increase from its previous holdings, valued at just over $360,000 (see the Foundation’s 2008 990 Form).

Why is this a bother?

Check the Weather.net answers:

“The Foundation’s direct investment in Monsanto is problematic on two primary levels,” said Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering. “First, Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast serious doubt on the Foundation’s heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an enormous conflict of interests.”
Monsanto has already negatively impacted agriculture in African countries. For example, in South Africa in 2009, Monsanto’s genetically modified maize failed to produce kernels and hundreds of farmers were devastated. According to Mariam Mayet, environmental attorney and director of the Africa Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg, some farmers suffered up to an 80% crop failure. While Monsanto compensated the large-scale farmers to whom it directly sold the faulty product, it gave nothing to the small-scale farmers to whom it had handed out free sachets of seeds. “When the economic power of Gates is coupled with the irresponsibility of Monsanto, the outlook for African smallholders is not very promising,” said Mayet. Monsanto’s aggressive patenting practices have also monopolized control over seed in ways that deny farmers control over their own harvest, going so far as to sue—and bankrupt—farmers for “patent infringement.”
There really isn't anything new or secretive about this. In 2006, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations launched the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which is based in Nairobi, Kenya. Their "aim" is to alleviate poverty and hunger in Africa by increasing food production." Much like the original green revolution, which still plagues farmers throughout India and Latin America, their mission is to increase production by increasing the amount of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and chemical dependent high-yield seed varieties farmers use. They are also aggressively pushing genetically modified seeds and the involvement of agribusiness giants such as Monsanto.
As a typical example imperialist thinking, this great undertaking didn't seem to include too many civil society groups in that country in the decision making process.  
Josphat Ngonyo, director of the Africa Network for Animal Welfare and member of the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, states in a recent issue of Yes!, “AGRA didn’t involve the people in Africa. This was an idea pushed onto Africa that does not work. If Africans aren’t included, it’s clearly not about us.” Ngonyo, along with many other organizers and farmers, often asks a basic question that the foundation has yet to answer: Why do you want to spread the very same farming methods that have made our farmers poor and hungry?
Hell, why get involved at all with a company that kills humans, other animal species and plants with impunity. At least a dozen studies have now shown that Roundup, the Monsanto herbicide used in conjunction with the cultivation of RR (Roundup Ready) soy and other GM crops, is harmful to aquatic life, insect and bird populations, and to soil biodiversity.

Residues of Roundup, at far lower concentrations than those allowed in agriculture, interfere with the hormone functioning of human cells and damage human embryonic cells. Residues also cause skeletal malformations in foetuses in animal experiments.
The Los Angeles Examiner reports, "In April 2010 a commission opened by the provincial government of Chaco in Argentina completed a report analyzing health statistics in the town of La Leonesa and other areas where soy and rice crops are heavily sprayed. The commission reported that the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa from 2000 to 2009 during the large-scale introduction of RR crops. The rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire state of Chaco."  
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world many are working to ban the testing and trading of Bt Talong or basillus thuriengencies Talong, a genetically-modified-organism (GMO) vegetable that the Department of Agriculture there has reportedly endorsed.  
BT Talong is now being developed and field tested in the provinces of Pangasinan, Laguna, Camarines Sur, Ilo-ilo, Southern Leyte, North Cotabato and Davao after the Bureau of Plant Industry approved the application of Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) of University of the Philippines-Los Banos, Laguna according to the Bohol Standard.

IPB is said to have been provided by Mahyco, an Indian-based subsidiary of Monsanto, one of the biggest GMO seed and agro-chemical companies in the world, with materials for field testing of the BT Talong. 

Paul Borja of the Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) said in his paper submitted to Damalerio that “BT Talong refers to a variety of eggplant that has been genetically modified to resist the fruit and shoot borer (FSB), one of the major pests of the eggplant.” 

This eggplant variety through genetic modification or artificial altering of genes contains toxin gene from a soil-based bacteria called basillus thuriengencies (BT) and the gene produces a protein called “Cry”, which when ingested or consumed by certain insects particularly their larvae, is able to kill them (insects). Thus, this GMO eggplant is known to have the ability to kill fruit and shoot borer larvae.

Borja said that there appears to more questions than answers about GMO eggplant that involves effects on human health and environment.

One in five of the world's 380,000 plant species is threatened with extinction according to a study recently released by Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London's Natural History Museum and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  

Monsanto, meanwhile, is everywhere in the world doing what it does best...

The following is from La Via Campesina.



La Via Campesina release
On the occasion of the meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, and to mark World Food Day on October 16, 2010, La Via Campesina calls for actions around the world to denounce the role of agribusinesses such as Monsanto and their destruction and corporatization of biodiversity and life.

Even though the UN declared 2010 the International year of Biodiversity, the CBD is meeting at a time of unprecedented biodiversity destruction. As well as animals, insects and birds, the world is also seeing the disappearance of thousands of plant varieties as agribusiness destroys, contaminates and privatizes the World Heritage stored inside the seeds and plants nurtured by generations of farmers over thousands of years of agriculture on Earth. Since 1900, approximately 90% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost from farmer's fields. Biodiversity is also endangered by land-grabbing and the displacement of communities who are actually protecting biodiversity.
Agribusiness corporations are attempting to monopolize seeds through the use of hybrid seeds, patents and laws that make farmers' seeds illegal. Intellectual property rights systems that are upheld or enforced by institutions such as WTO or TRIPS are putting nature into private hands. Monsanto has become a true giant – the company owns almost a quarter of the patented seed market worldwide, and keeps taking over seeds companies particularly in Europe. The top ten biggest companies control almost 70% of the world's seeds. The company is now entering the “aid business”, selling its seeds in Africa with the Bill Gates Foundation through the “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)”.

Not only do the TNCs sell seeds, they also provide toxic chemicals with devastating effects. Huge monocultures treated with cocktails of agrochemicals will further destroy the world's biodiversity as well as peasant communities. In the world of Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and others, there is no space for biodiversity, just uniformity, biotechnology and profit.

Within the decision making spaces on climate change, agribusiness promotes aggressively technologies that destroy biodiversity such as transgenic trees plantations or GM seeds, solutions which are fasly presented as better adapted to the new climate.

La Via Campesina knows that the future of our planet depends on our ability to protect, nurture and promote agro biodiversity. We, peasant men and women propose to develop the richness and diversity of our farms, plant varieties, cultures and traditions. Seeds are part of the World Heritage and should remain into public and community-based use, not private ownership.

It is the model of peasant agriculture in its diversity that will allow us to adapt to the demographic and climatic changes which are already upon us.

As we confront the agribusinesses in our fields through promoting our alternatives, we refuse to recognize their “rights” as owners of the planet's biodiversity and we will also confront them through political actions in the coming weeks, at the FAO, the CBD and the UN Climate Talks (UNFCCC).

We call for Actions worldwide around October 16th to protect biodiversity and confront transnational corporations such as Monsanto.

La Via Campesina invites you to coordinate your actions with the call of the network “Climate Justice Action!” in order to organise direct actions worldwide for climate justice on October 12th, 2010. (/www.climate-justice-action.org/)

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