April 17, 2009

The most evil company in the world

Wal-Mart? Close. Well, not really. I mean, don't get me wrong. I really don't like Wal-Mart and think it's generally a very sleazy company. But the good ol' Walton family enterprise is nothing compared to Monsanto.

And I'm not even talking about that old milk-labeling thing (shameless self promotion alert). And I'm not even talking about the thing where they hire people to go around harassing family farmers in middle America, falsely accusing them of using their genetically modified seeds without paying for them, with nothing more as their motive than putting out of business all farms that don't use Monsanto's genetically modified seeds.

I'm talking about the 1,500 dead farmers in India. They all committed suicide. You'd think that, even with all of the other messed things going on in the world, that might make a blip on the big broadcast and cable networks.

The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels.

"The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago," Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine

"Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well."

Mr Sahu lives in a district that recorded 206 farmer suicides last year. Police records for the district add that many deaths occur due to debt and economic distress.

Ah, but see, if you just read this, or some of the other articles about all of these dead farmers, you'd think it was just about water -- which in and of itself is a huge issue in many developing countries, if not the biggest one -- and dirt-poor farmers. But it's also about that really motherf@#$ing evil company, don't ya' know...

Shankara, respected farmer, loving husband and father, had taken his own life. Less than 24 hours earlier, facing the loss of his land due to debt, he drank a cupful of chemical insecticide.

Unable to pay back the equivalent of two years' earnings, he was in despair. He could see no way out. ...

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiralling debts - and no income.

So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

Read the whole story. Really, it's disgusting beyond belief. You'll learn that these farmers were, in the end, nearly forced to use the genetically modified seeds instead of traditional seeds. That the GM seeds require twice as much water. And that while they've been genetically modified to resist certain pests, the few crops they produced were devastated by others. And that the 1,500 farmers are just a pebble in a barren cropfield of 125,000 dead in what has been dubbed India's "suicide belt."

Two other important things to note here. One I hope to look into further. One needs no further investigation, and that is this: genetically modified crops don't have superior yields to traditional crop varieties. Shocking, I know.

[Union of Concerned Scientists'] Doug Gurian-Sherman searched the scientific literature for side-by-side comparisons of conventional and genetically engineered lines of corn and soybeans. He found that in almost all cases, genetically engineered crops did not produce larger harvests. The one exception was insect-resistant Bt corn, which produced higher yields only when neighboring plots of conventional corn suffered infestations of a worm called the European corn borer. Crop yields have increased significantly over the past decade, he says, but almost all of that increase was due to traditional plant breeding or other agricultural practices.

Pssst. Don't tell many of the ag researchers at our state's premier land grant university, Penn State. They love them their bioengineered food stuffs.

There's also this little nugget that, on its face, sounds all well and good:

In London after the G-20 summit yesterday, President Barack Obama called for Congress to double U.S. agricultural aid to developing countries in 2010 to $1 billion. ...

Some U.S. senators are already moving in this direction. This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill called S. 384 that would increase the authorized funding levels for U.S. foreign aid to $750 million in 2010, reaching $2.5 billion in 2014. Authorizations for university partnerships and international agricultural research centers would also rise.

It's that last little bit that makes my little tinfoil ears get all buzzy.

So then I go to the bill itself, S. 384. And right at the very top, what do we see?

Section 103A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151a-1) is amended in the first sentence--

(1) by striking `, and (3) make' and inserting `, (3) make'; and

(2) by striking the period at the end and inserting `, and (4) include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology.'.

Monsanto didn't double it's federal lobbying outlay from 2007 to 2008 (from ~$4 million to ~$8 million) for nothing, ya' know.


Farmer Troy said...

Good reporting . . . this is the first I'm hearing of it.

Annelies said...

I'd like to add, that in 2008 over 132.000 farmers in India commited suicide because of failing crops. Two years in a row, they had no harvest at all.
And yet they were forced to buy the very expensive GM-seeds from Monsanto. However, no harvest, no income, no money, no food, no new GM-foods.
They had no harvest in 2007, the year where the farmers without some extra money commited suicide. Aproximately 92.000 farmers.

So, lets do the math: 92.000 /2007 132.000 /2008 makes 224.000 farmers killed by Monsanto.

Fillippelli the (Wannabe) Cook said...

Thanks. I'm going to contact Harkin's office and see what they have to say about that line in the Senate bill and about the situation in India and the findings from the USC study.

I'm tired of these alleged progressives like Harkin doing big ag's bidding. It's sickening and if he's going to continue this crap, he needs to be taken out in a primary.

Mamatha said...

This has been happening for the last few years but I had no idea that Monsanto had a role to play. Thanks for this post - quite an eye-opener.


Fillippelli the (Wannabe) Cook said...

I need to call Sen. Casey's office, since he's a co-sponsor of this bill. I must make that a priority this week.