IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW, THERE IS A WORLD WIDE SEED CRISIS
WHY DO CHEMICAL COMPANIES CONTROL THE WORLD’S SEEDS?
There’s been quite a bit of press about GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) at least until January 20, 2017 when Trump took office. After that date, there’s been a whole lot of more important news (World War III) that’s occupied our days. You may not think that seeds are important to you and your life, but like butterflies and bees, they are a relatively unknown but vital piece of our very existence. For tens of thousands of years since agriculture emerged from what was then the Fertile Crescent but is now a Middle East war zone, the basic farming techniques and practises haven’t changed. Until recently, that is. Farmers turned over the soil at the start of the planting season (oxen and mules were plentiful back then), planted seeds, prayed for rain, weeded while their crops grew, and then harvested the fruits of their labors. But post harvest, seeds from the current year’s harvest were carefully stored to be used in seeding of next years crop. Even with the advent of the Green Revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s that introduced chemical fertilizers and pesticides, still seeds were collected and stored for next year’s use.
All of this has changed. Beginning in the early 1980’s, Monsanto, a chemical and food additive company, began experimenting with the engineering of corn and soybean seeds to produce plants that required less water, had higher yields per acre and were resistant to herbicides. The genetically modified seeds are designed to work with glyphosates so that they are not harmed but weeds are killed. One drawback to these seeds is that they are often sterile, their follow-on seeds cannot be used for next years crops. Glyphosates (Round –Up) soon followed and the use of such herbicides has spread world wide. (Monsanto’s “Round-Up” is the United States’ leading herbicide today.)
Did you know that hybrid corn developed in the 1920’s began the downward slide towards today where chemical companies own not only the seeds farmers plants but control how they are planted, where they are planted, how weeds and insects are controlled all through contracts that farmers must sign in order to buy the seeds they need for their crops. The U.S. Government, the Department of Agriculture, had distributed over a billion seed packets to farmers all across the country in the years leading up to the development of hybrid corn varieties but this ended as a result of industrial lobbyists.
Monsanto, Dow, Dupont have gained control of seeds through genetic engineering. Typically, a single gene in a strain of corn or wheat or rice is altered by the chemical companies thereby allowing them to own the newly modified seed through exclusive patents granted by the U.S. government. All the subsequent generations of the patented strain that are produced until eternity are also the property of Monsanto, Dow and Dupont and not the farmer who actually buys the seeds.
Because I spend three or four months a year in India, I’ve read dozens of news reports there about the crisis Indian farmers face over the spread of GMO seeds. Since the 1960’s and 1970’s Green Revolution which was based on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation and “modern” farming techniques, no longer does India face annual food shortages and famines. Even today, however, local shortages due to lack of rainfall do occur but famine in India is a thing of the past. But lately there has been trouble on India’s millions of small village farms and their farmers. Some 270,000 small farmers have committed suicide in the last few years but not because of lack of water or a bad yield or a disastrous growing season. They are committing suicide because of debt. That’s right. Money.
In the world of global interconnectedness, Monsanto has virtually taken over the entirety of the life of India’s farmers. But how? It’s really quite simple. A Monsanto salesman, usually a local Indian maybe from a neighboring village or nearby city who works for an Indian company selected by Monsanto to peddle its wares, brings an advertising campaign directly to village farmers usually through well made, attractive videos and fancy, easy to read 4-color brochures. In the videos, native farmers are seen as prosperous beyond the villager's wildest dreams, rolling in abundant crop yields, never bothered by weeds or pests and generally looking as if they have discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The reality, however, is quite different and it revolves around two fundamental changes that Monsanto’s GMO seeds inevitably bring to rural India: Cost and control. The local farmer must sign a contract with Monsanto’s secret sales agents the same way that our U.S. farmers are required to do so. The farmers are barred from re-using the seed in subsequent crops, are fined if they do and must use Monsanto – under a local brand name – products or face a fine. The genetically modified seeds are far costlier than your non-GMO seeds but with such higher yields and freedom from pests and weeds, it looks like a good deal for your average small farmer. And it is. As far as it goes. But remember that village farmers live off their crops – the sale of the excess after supplying their families – and have annual incomes of around 36,000 Rupees – about $560 a year. On this income, most - nearly all -farmers have to borrow money from the local village lender or community bank or even a commercial bank in order to purchase the Monsanto seeds. If all goes well and there is abundant rain, he can pay back the loan after the harvest. This pattern goes on year after year after year so if there is a bad year and he can’t repay his loan, it gets added to his debt and gets carried over. Two years of failing crops and the farmer is faced with destitution, unable to feed this family and is now saddled with the kind of debt that crushes him. This is how Monsanto’s control over the seeds he buys can lead to suicide. Ironically, one of the most common methods of farmer suicide in India is to drink Round-Up.
This disastrous situation facing India’s small farmers has generated a lot of press over the past three or four years. One of India’s most famous activists, Arundhati Roy (author of “The God of Small Things”) has been a vocal opponent of Monsanto’s practises and a couple of India’s state governments have gone so far as to ban the use of the company’s seeds and pesticides. We here in the U.S. are as yet “undecided” about GMO’s. But many of our farmer’s – the small farmers and not your Archer, Daniels, Midland (ADM) mega farming industrialists - still exercise a choice of not using Monsanto’s seeds and pesticides and opt for older varieties of seeds and farming methods.
Chlorpyrifos was first registered for use in the United States by Dow Chemical in 1965 to control leafage and ground insects. It was used extensively on residential lawns and golf course turf as a structural termite control agent. Banned from home use for about 15 years now, it is still allowed for agriculture uses so long as label instructions are followed.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt earlier this week signed an order denying a petition that sought to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide widely used in U.S. agriculture.
The anti-science Trump Administration kowtows to the demands of big business and to hell with the rest of us.
NOTE: Its’ kind of sad that the European Union – that socialist monster that Great Britain is exiting from – has required the labeling of all GMO food products for several years now but we here in the Free Market Business of America – aka the United States – can’t seem to convince our legislators of this simple effort. In Europe, Round-Up is a suspected carcinogen. As of now, there is certainly no hope of ever banning Monsanto’s Round-Up in our food supply as nearly happened last June in Europe. But Monsanto escaped there. This time.
Two excellent links if you want to know more about this issue, are here:
Although this issue may seem inconsequential to your daily existence, it's kind of like the Global Warming crisis that the Trump Administration says is simply a Chinese hoax. But in the worldwide scheme of things, the total control of agricultural production in the hands of Monsanto or Dow Chemical or Dupont - remember these are not agricultural production companies but chemical production companies - is in my view one of the most serious issues we are facing across the entire planet. It's no joke.
Have A Great Day Even Though The Trump Administration Is Not On Your Side.