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Seed Freedom Under Attack from Monsanto-backed G7 Initiative


#1

Seed Freedom Under Attack from Monsanto-backed G7 Initiative

Heidi Chow

“My mother gave me some seeds to plant. And I’m also giving those seeds to my children to plant. So that is ongoing, every time we transfer to our children. And that is how all the women are doing it. We don’t buy, we produce it ourselves.” Sitting together in the heat of the Ghanaian sun, Esther Boakye Yiadom explained to me the importance of seeds in her family and the transfer of knowledge between the different generations of women.


#3

Neo-colonialism is too kind a word to describe what the triumvirate of Corporations, Development Finance Institutions, and Foundations are up to Africa. What is happening to Africa is accurately described as enslavement and cultural genocide.

Throughout Africa these three types of organizations are the paymasters of government officials, effectively leaving the vast majority of Africans without representation in government. It is a very effective strategy: Development Finance Institutions use western countries taxpayer money to fund African governments on condition that they support corporate agendas, which include land grabbing and seed privatization. Foundations are heavily influenced by the corporations that finance them.

Without exception, ministries of Agriculture throughout Africa promote the agenda of their paymasters: farmers need 'improved seeds', 'mechanization', 'inputs'--all code words for products corporations sell.

Before our eyes, Africa is becoming a land of landless laborers working on corporate owned plantations to grow export crops. It is exactly the 18th century plantation slavery model of development. Exactly.


#4

I don't see the problem. The way the proposed law is written, only proprietary seeds would be covered. Farmers would still be free to trade their own traditional seeds. So if a farmer bought commercial, patented seeds he would not be able to sell or trade them. But that would be his decision. And in any case, I doubt there is much overlap between these new patented seeds and traditional crops. A farmer might have his reasons to switch to market oriented farming and all it entails-- but there would be little reason for anyone to buy expensive new tomato or okra seeds even if they existed. So what's the problem?


#5

Yikes! It's statements like yours that are so frightening to people who understand the old adage " good fences make good neighbors. ". An example for your edification: Farmer A shares a property line with Farmer B. Farmer A is an organic truck farmer whose seed line has been passed down by an extended family for centuries. Or, has been shared and rotated in similar biospheres with other organic farmers ( real competition, btw ). Farmer B uses industrialized farming practices ( GMO seeds, insecticides, herbicides, monoculture commodity crops, et al ). Farmer B sprays Roundup, 2.4D and other carcinogens on his crops which drifts onto Farmer As land, kills his current crops, enters and poisons his wells from which drip irrigates, kills his mixed vegetable gardens, accidentally pollinates his organic corn, etc. ( there's more it does but you get the picture ). Under the current laws and governance of WTO, NAFTA, ETC and in coordination with USAID and other NGO ALPHABETS front groups Farmer A is at fault and punished ( for doing nothing wrong except protecting his own land and future ) by the gov't he's forced to live under. Farmer B is awarded special rights and legal representation and protection by same said gov't. through the auspices and powers of the likes of Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Bayer, John Deere and the rest of the usual suspects, including the gov't of the U.S. of A. Now, who do you trust with your food and who would you sit down with, and have a picnic with, given what you know about " you are what you eat. " ? If you answered Farmer B I have some fracking water for you to drink in lieu of the Kool-Aid you've been drinking.


#6

Once seeds are patented, the business strategy is to work with ministries of agriculture to distribute the new varieties--provided free by USAID or DFiD grants or foundations. It only takes the missing one or two crop cycles for the seeds of traditional, un-patentable, seeds to become extinct and for farmers to have no choice but to then buy seeds that are no longer available cheap or free.


#7

Thank you for shedding some light-- this is a problem I've been scratching my head over for a while now. In places like Ghana it seemed to me to be a straightforward choice between maintaining a traditional life style, growing crops for subsistence and the local market, and joining the world of global trade, where you take out loans every planting season to put in crops the Western way (heavy on expensive inputs) and grow for Western markets. But I see it's not quite so simple.

I was envisioning a switch to large monocrops, like corn, soy or golden rice, to be sold on the world market. And no way could I see that as being in competition with local crops, of totally different species. There would be no bleed-over of trans genes at the fence line. However on looking further into the issue I see that the inventive folks at Monsanto and elsewhere are now cracking open local markets as well. Currently under development or actively being sold and grown are such crops as transgenic cassava, sorghum, cowpeas, bananas, cotton, corn and sweet potatos-- all tailored to the African biome. So they are indeed making a contested effort to penetrate local African markets.

It may be that protests, petitions, etc may be able to save the day and keep the transnationals out. But if that happens, it would be the first time the big boys were defeated. I'm thinking a better strategy would be to educate local farmers as to the true gravity of their choices. It's certainly the case that by the time one is deep in debt to the development banks, it's too late to back out. But it should be explained that the real problem is not just the way these transgenes get made. It's the whole package: binding contracts, unpayable loans, being left to the mercy of sophisticated sole buyers, etc. So maybe there should be a slight shift in emphasis if farmers are to be enlightened.


#8

Apparently you have not been paying attention to what has been happening to American farmers over the past 20 years (with the development of GM crops and the monoculture system.

And apparently you are not familiar with how societies operate in various places in Africa such as Ghana in which social relationships are primary (as emphasized in the article). Americans/westerners have a hard time understanding this given their focus in individualism. It is not simply a matter of one farmer making his/her own decision about what to grow and what seed to use; it is about social and cultural disruption.

And I won't bother to go into the effects on the natural environment.


#9

Actually I'm pretty familiar with the issue. I've been following it since Percy Schmeisser's unsuccessful fight with the Province of Alberta. But I've always had a problem with the leap of logic that claims that any use of patented crops will lead to the death of non-patented crops. (And BTW, I think Percy should have countersued Monsanto for polluting his non-GMO canola crop).

As for whether farmers are more individuals or more members of the Hive, I will note that locally, a majority of farmers on worn-out soil have chosen to obligate themselves to outfits like Tysons or Wampler, raising poultry in CAFO operations that leave them deeply indebted, with no chance of getting ahead of the game. Their chickens & turkeys may not be GMO, but the rest of the operation that imprisons them is the same. They all went with the herd, and got taken.

The more independent ones have been going with nontraditional crops like shiitakes or hops. Crops that take some thinking. And I would expect farmers in Ghana to be similar. Most will go with what the crowd decides, and a few will be more wary. So I will repeat my suggestion: the real job that needs doing is to educate these people before they make their fateful choice. I think that's a strategy with a much greater likelihood of success than marchers with signs making the Ag giants decide they're through with their project of gobbling up the world.

As for the future of our "natural" environment, once they finish digging the place up to find all the coal, oil and gas they'll go over it with giant plows, to dredge up those trace amounts of gold and uranium you can find in most any soil. Until money stops being quite so valuable as it is today, our planet's goose is well cooked.


#10

You are a paid shill defending the "rights" of corporations like Monsanto and using stealth to justify "free" trade agreements. Go back to the Koch Brothers' basement "think" tank.


#11

It's worse that the earlier plantation model because back then the bastards hadn't yet broken into the ultimate bank vaults: those that belong to Mother Nature and represent her countless SEED variations. Matters are far worse for humans, animals, plants, minerals, and their overall interactive Gestalt. The plunderers today, 21st century corporations are the New Conquistadors and they've working through the cheap (based on their profit margins) means of purchasing politicians to make laws that do THEIR bidding. It's graft on so massive a scale as to stun the imagination.


#12

Ah, now it's the Libertarian--educate EACH farmer as INDIVIDUAL meme. How convenient!


#13

Sue, IMO that's very simple thinking. Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer et al are indeed on their way to owning food itself. I'm just trying to come up with strategies to thwart their aims that will be effective and substantive. If marching and demonstrating against stuff was an effective tactic there would be, for instance, no more war.

Therefore the approach I'm going with is to reach out to farmers and educate them as to the consequences of choosing to buy the new "miracle" seeds... and find when it's too late they've bought into a life that's no good for them.

Don't underestimate the power of global capital. It gets its way every time. A direct assault on their right to bring a seemingly valuable product to market is not likely to be upheld by law. Look, for instance, at how easily the people behind the TTIP and the TPP have been able to bring Mr Obama onto their team. The fix is in, big time.

Read the ETC report, Who Owns Nature? Find out what we're fighting against.


#14

Yes, it is worse when the diversity of food is considered. I heard somewhere--maybe in the documentary The Future of Food--that the earth has lost 97% of the varieties of fruits and vegetables available to us in 1900. Then in the 1990's when Genetically Mutilated Organisms were added to monoculture agriculture, the food gene pool was diminished even further. It is inconceivable to me that after all we now know about how Green Revolution practices severely compromised our food system, the Gates Foundation is now throwing huge money at something called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa in the name of food security when it leads to exactly the opposite. The Green Revolution led to less diversity, more reliance on petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides, depletion of the water table, more debt, fewer farmers, greater urban migration, greater deforestation. Africa is in a free for all of corporate exploitation, any and every way possible.


#15

Take the time to read up on A Canadian farmer who had the misfortune of A Monsanto laden seed truck "accidentally" spill seeds by the roadside that cross pollinated and grew on his lower 40- He went through holy hell in Canadian Courts with Monsanto- He eventually had to destroy his entire seed stash- Monsanto was giving neighbors free leather jackets to get them to spy and rat on the guy- He spent years and years in court and even traveled to Europe to speak and warn them of this up and coming "trend"- Monsanto made physical threats to him and practically ruined this hard working farmers life- And the Court system bounced him around like A ping pong ball....
His name is Percy Smeizer (sp?) and you can google the name FYI....There is A very well done Documentary on this disgusting story also-
I literally despise bastard companies like Monsanto, Cargill etc. but there is light at the end of the tunnel- Word on the street has it that Monsanto stock is NOT A good investment what with all of the Law Suits headed their way- But the Rockefeller's are moneyed up and sadly rarely lose...


#16

Neil Young Targets Monsanto
Monsanto and the Damage Done
by COLIN TODHUNTER
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/15/monsanto-and-the-damage-done/


#17

Thanks for educating me, Stu. You might recall this comment, that I posted here yesterday:

"Actually I'm pretty familiar with the issue. I've been following it since Percy Schmeisser's unsuccessful fight with the Province of Alberta. But I've always had a problem with the leap of logic that claims that any use of patented crops will lead to the death of non-patented crops. (And BTW, I think Percy should have countersued Monsanto for polluting his non-GMO canola crop)."

And actually, sadly, Monsanto, Syngenta and the like are considered to be excellent long-term investments. It's not just that they "rarely lose". The fact is that so far, they and their like have always won. They're the kind of people who like to say money talks, and BS walks. They're very, very used to winning.

That's why I would emphasize, a change in tactics might be useful. Don't be the kind of person who tries the same thing every time, expecting different results. (And no, I'm not talking about violence. That's been tried and has failed-- disastrously!)


#18

"Africa is in a free for all of corporate exploitation, any and every way possible."

The doors have been kicked open wide, with the destruction on 2011 of Libya (and Qaddafi's dream of a gold-backed dinar to offset the power of the Dollar). There is no longer any rallying point for resistance to corporate penetration. China, of course, is not only gleefully joining in, they're currently in the lead. It's a true land rush, with the asset this time being the agricultural lands of Africa.

The losers are the peasants. After they are evicted, through bank foreclosure or through government claims of ownership, a few of them will be called back to work as company employees on the land they used to live on. GMOs are a part of the overall plan, but actually almost a side issue. At stake is not just the ownership of the food chain but the ownership of land and people.


#19

Although it seems that many farmers do understand the need, i'm sure more education wouldn't hurt, even here in the good old usa. It's the governments (under pressure from corporate money lenders) that usually decide the farmers' fate.

However, I am impressed by your willingness to give the subject a second look and revise your opinion, a rarity on comment boards. Welcome aboard!


#20

Thanks for the heads up, Bear. You can find a lot of people on the web who know all the answers. I'm still trying just to ask the right questions.

As for farmers understanding the need, I live in a farm area and see two kinds of farmers. The corporate ones, running Big Ag operations, seem to make their living profiting from federal subsidies. Without these I think their farms would be financially "under water".

The other kind, family farmers, mostly agree the numbers aren't in that kind of work any more. They're likely to say farming is a great hobby-- if you can afford it. And they're only holding onto their land until the city comes lapping up to the fence line, and developers are willing to pay them $100K an acre so they can grow subdivisions and shopping centers on it.

My observations is, then, that family farming is kind of dead unless one adopts permacultural methods and goes into specialty farming. Without such an approach you're finding it harder and harder to compete with the Big Guys. Monsanto et al have it all figured out. The farmer accepts all the risk and the people he indebts himself to assume all the profit. Just sign right here...

As Randy Newman says, I could be wrong... but I don't think so.


#24

I use a lot of words Spell-Check doesn't seem to have heard of. She probably thinks 'exploitive' is a misspelling of explosive.

On the 'free market' and small-government ideals, a lot of people don't quite understand what the fascists mean when they say we need to get rid of 'Big Government' and get back to the 'free market'. The Big Government they have no use for is the one that provides necessary social services, stuff like unemployment, public health, social security and the regulatory framework that keeps public funds from being stolen. Big Government subsidies for agriculture, weapons industries and financial services are very necessary and American, in their view.