22 June, 2015

Protest Music

Neil Young's most recent album, “The Monsanto Years” is getting a lot of press for the themes it presents – including some replies from the corporations Young has singled out to criticize, including Starbucks, Monsanto, Walmart and stony silence from Chevron. Starbucks, in it's post-liberal, coffee drinking way, ditched the whole thing by asking for a 'national solution' which is about as likely as USDA or FDA doing anything to actually protect the American people who pay part of their salary – augmented liberally by the companies they have sworn, off camera, to protect.

But Monsanto published a statement on the album that bears some scrutiny because it shows the pattern of their public debate on this and other subjects of interest to any one who eats food:

Many of us at Monsanto have been and are fans of Neil Young,” the company said. “Unfortunately, for some of us, his current album may fail to reflect our strong beliefs in what we do every day to help make agriculture more sustainable. We recognize there is a lot of misinformation about who we are and what we do—and unfortunately several of those myths seem to be captured in these lyrics.”

“... make agriculture more sustainable.” Speaking of myths...

No Myth Here, Move Right Along

Any propaganda machine uses the exact opposite of what is happening to bolster their argument, so it is no surprise that Monsanto uses the term, “more sustainable” in their response. One wonders how in the world they define “sustainable!” Certainly no where near the way I, or millions of others, would define it! The non—myth list:

Use of GE (genetically engineered aka GMO) crops results in:
Less diversity in our food supply inviting disaster and shortages
More pesticide use; more poison in our food supply
Less habitat for wild birds and butterflies, therefore less wildlife
More corporate control over farmers
More corporate control over our food supply
Lower nutrient content in the food we eat
Resting our entire food supply on a non-tested technology
Corruption on an unimaginable scale throughout all levels of our governments
Lawsuits for farmers that do not tow the GE line
Compromise of all alternative food production because GE crops cannot 'peacefully co-exist with GE crops because pollen is spread by natural processes over which the GE producers have no control and do nothing to mitigate the contamination
Distortion of our legal system to protect the usurpers of our national heritage of plant genetics and seed supplies.
Loss of markets for US agricultural products
Bankruptcies of farmers world wide, culminating in suicides by Indian farmers on a scale that is an international scandal.

On the positive side of the ledger, it has made several chemical companies a enough money to bribe politicians throughout the US and in many countries abroad.

Myths Exploded

In some 30 years of being in the market, not one of these corporations has released a product that has any benefit to a consumer – not more nutrition, taste, availability, cost or convenience. All of the GE seeds have only one benefit: to make money for Monsanto and other chemical companies like them that have turned our food world into a jungle of pesticides and destruction. And yet there are a few well-meaning citizens that support them, having bought the propaganda lie about needing GE food to
  • feed the world (we waste 40% of the food grown, we can already feed a population that is doubled)
  • overcome global warming (they are a part of the problem because their model depends on OIL in every facet of the GE mode of farming, from the increased pesticides and fertilizer and the conventional model of food production)
  • reduce the use of pesticides (we've seen an increase in pesticides – besides, if the PLANT itself IS the pesticide, meaning all of it including the pollen, you have remarkedly increased the pesticides – how many birds and non-target insects are destroyed by your so-called “reduced pesticides?)
  • increase of yield (the Rodale Institute's 30 year study smashes that myth by showing even conventional agriculture out produces GE crops under any circumstance – even the USDA reports that US crop production rose on improvements in conventional agriculture and had nothing to do with the introduction of GE crops in any way – and that's a USDA practically paid for by Monsanto etc themselves!)

Included in the Solution 

I am no fan of the modern farming process. It is going to become unhinged in the very near future and we will have a lot of hungry mouths to feed. Our bet on technology is so huge while we have failed to hedge those bets. I am in strong concurrence with the FAO (Food an Agriculture Organization, an arm of the UN) that has repeatedly warned that our dependence on the BIG farm and big machines and new forms of technology are leading us towards a killing field. More than ever, we are selling out the only form of sustainable agriculture – most of which occurs in the third world. For all they lack, they may well have the key which we ourselves have thrown away. The solution is in technologies that don't make technology companies rich, ironically. The solutions HAVE to include:
  • rebuilding our soils and stopping erosion of that precious layer that is left
  • ceasing all uses of pesticides and fertilizers as we now know them
  • embracing nature into our farms and gardens
  • expectation of lower yields in current productive lands and moving into less desirable lands with smaller farms and dependence on human and animal power – less on fossil fuels
  • breeding of new plants that will grow without the chemical cocktail mix used today
  • improved distribution of the food that is grown
  • teach customers to value all produce not just the blemished free 'perfect' foods
  • more food growing nearer the consumer – deliveries by non-polluting, non-fossil fueled vehicles
  • more citizen control over the food we grow and eat – less corporate control

I would like a repeal of the plant patent laws, but I doubt that will ever happen. Why there is no religious outcry over patenting life, I cannot fathom. That has got to be a sin (probably with a capital 'S') in almost every major religion in the world, yet it is now the law of the land – a law we are hastily exporting world wide.

Rock on in the 'free' world, Neil Young! By the way, do you think Donald Trump has ANY idea about the lyrics of that song? That is an odd track to choose for a Republican candidate's campaign rally.  Really odd.


15 June, 2015

Making Money Exporting Disaster

(Written on June 4th...)  As the G7 leaders prepare to meet in Bavaria this weekend, small-scale farmers from around the world call on them to abandon their disastrous plan for the corporate takeover of global agriculture and the extirpation of small-scale farmers everywhere - those who produce most of the world's food. True food security must be rooted in local control over land, seeds and water.  (http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2896088/g7_be_warned_your_new_alliance_threatens_to_destroy_smallscale_farmers.html)

On a regular basis, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations issues reports on the production of food. Over and over, decade after decade, their findings report that small farms (mostly the work of women), hour for hour, acre for acre, produce more food (and less waste) than the massive farms of the first world. And even with this repeated confirmation, the governments of the Northern Hemisphere, aka the G7, insist on exporting their failed food production to third world countries.

Exactly the opposite of abundance, the G7's initiative
imposes a death sentence on farming in Africa.

It's all of scheme and the G7 either are in cahoots with the corporations (and getting a healthy bank account out of it) or are just flat out stupid. In either case, they are going to be culpable in the famines of the future and perhaps the deaths of millions of folks. And these folks don't get to vote on any of this.

Yet, even though they be among the most impoverished people on the planet, they will pay the price for the arrogance of those who have plenty to eat. No famine will come to knock at the door of Monsanto and other participants in America's Big Ag, or the Big Ag of Europe and the rest of them. Trying to export our model – and make profit when we get to sell seeds, fertilizers and other necessities for farming American style, when such farming is the worst farming you can have. We will not starve not because our farming is so damn good but because we have fertile soils (that are quickly becoming marginalized).

If yield is your only consideration, we do good especially if you only produce two or three different kinds of crops. But that is such a small criteria. Farming American style destroys the soil and the only reason it is still around today is because of those incredible soils and the ability we've had to move water around – but that's coming to an end soon. It is only a matter of time before that incredible topsoil of Iowa and there bouts is washed down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to cover the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.

And our use of poisons in our agriculture is truly appalling and will end badly for farmers and consumers alike. There is only so much poison, regardless of which poison the science du jour is selling, you can pour on food before you have destroyed the food. Our wonderfully full grocery stores are primarily illusion that can only deceive a person for so long. All built on corn and soybeans.

The truth is our way of eating and growing what we eat rests on a razor thin margin. And the disrespect shown to our agricultural roots and history is born of the same hubris of the G7 leaders casually condemning the lifestyles of millions of people to the dustbin of history when those poor people have the only PROVEN agricultural system on the planet. It's all backwards. If you're counting on the meals of the rest of your life from the current system, I hope your older than I am and not thinking about being around in twenty years or so. This 'thing' we live with that we call our food system is not robust and not capable of handling a one-two punch from nature – and, as we see by the headlines, nature has plenty of one-two punches to give.

The Great Valley in California is salting up and doesn't have enough water to continue its current production for much longer. The soils of the mid-West are in trouble as noted above. The amounts of pesticides we put on our crops (and their increasing toxicity) will have to come to an end sooner rather than later.  Petroleum, upon which the whole thing is built, is becoming prohibitively expensive.  And then there is Global Climate Change which makes growing ANYTHING a much dicier proposition, no matter what the Senator with a snowball says or what  you believe.  You don't have to believe in gravity, but you'll still only fall DOWN.

It doesn't take even a fool more than a precursory evaluation to realize that the Ethiopian Famine in the late 1900's was caused by this very kind of meddling in the first place. If we had left the Ethiopians alone to begin with and not insisted they plant our more 'modern' wheat and other grains that required more water, ditching their more drought resistant local varieties, the drought, though bad, would not have been the wretched experience it became

Now the G7 has the rest of Africa in its sights for the same exact kind of consolidating destruction that will profit the G7 and leave Africans at the mercy of so-called aid, which is nothing more than MORE of the meddling that precipitated the famine in the first place! We, the people of the G7, are accomplices in this disaster.

The only way to true plenitude is local control of local seeds, local soil and local water. This power grab from the G7 is all of that backwards. It's an outrage and a death sentence for too many people who do not get a vote about their fate.

We, social movements, grassroots organizations and civil society organizations engaged in the defense of food sovereignty and the right to food in Africa, met at the World Social Forum in Tunis in March 2015 to unite those opposing the G8 'New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition'.
Social movements and organizations from Africa shared their experiences and analysis about the impacts of the New Alliance in their countries and participants from all over the world agreed to support their struggles against this threat to food sovereignty and agro-ecology.
As such, we joined the Global Convergence of Land and Water Struggles and adopted its Declaration. This statement reflects our discussions and our demands to governments engaged in the New Alliance and expresses support for the call on the G7 Presidency made by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.
To endorse this statement, please write to Gino Brunswijck: nafsn@aefjn.be