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India’s Farmers Plan Mass March to the Nation’s Parliament as Agrarian Crisis Reaches “Civilization Proportions”

India’s Farmers Plan Mass March to the Nation’s Parliament as Agrarian Crisis Reaches “Civilization Proportions”

With over 800 million people, rural India is arguably the most interesting and complex place on the planet. And yet it is also one of the most neglected in terms of both investment and media coverage. Veteran journalist and founder of the People’s Archive of Rural India P. Sainath argues that the majority of Indians do not count to the nation’s media, which renders up to 75 percent of the population ‘extinct’.

According to the Centre for Media Studies in Delhi, the five-year average of agriculture reporting in an Indian national daily newspaper equals 0.61 percent of news coverage, while village-level stories account for 0.17 percent. For much of the media, whether print or TV, celebrity, IT, movements on the stock exchange and the daily concerns of elite and urban middle class dwellers are what count.

Unlike the corporate media, the digital journalism platform the People’s Archive of Rural India has not only documented the complexity and beauty of rural India but also its hardships and the all too often heartbreaking personal stories that describe the impacts of government policies which have devastated lives, livelihoods and communities.

Rural India is plagued by farmer suicides, child malnourishment, growing unemployment, increased informalisation, indebtedness and an overall collapse of agriculture. Those involved in farming and related activities are being driven to migrate to cities to become cycle rickshaw drivers, domestic servants, daily wage labourers and suchlike.

Hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to (GM) cash crops and economic liberalisation. According to this report,  the number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Food, Justice, Violence and Capitalism

Food, Justice, Violence and Capitalism

In 2015, India’s internal intelligence agency wrote a report that depicted various campaigners and groups as working against the national interest. The report singled out environmental activists and NGOs that had been protesting against state-corporate policies. Those largely undemocratic and unconstitutional policies were endangering rivers, forests and local ecologies, destroying and oppressing marginalised communities, entrenching the corporatisation of agriculture and usurping land rights.

These issues are not unique to India. Resistance against similar practices and injustices is happening across the world. And for their efforts, campaigners are being abused, incarcerated and murdered. Whether people are campaigning for the land rights of tribal communities in India or for the rights of peasant farmers in Latin America or are campaigning against the fracking industry in the UK or against pipelines in the US, there is a common thread: non-violent protest to help bring about a more just and environmentally sustainable world.

What is ultimately fuelling the push towards the relentless plunder of land, peoples and the environment is a strident globalised capitalism, euphemistically termed ‘globalisation’, which is underpinned by increasing state surveillance, paramilitary-type law enforcement and a US-backed push towards militarism.

The deregulation of international capital movement (financial liberalisation) effectively turned the world into a free-for-all for global capital. The ramping up of this militarism comes at the back end of a deregulating/pro-privatising neoliberal agenda that has sacked public budgets, depressed wages, expanded credit to consumers and to governments (to sustain spending and consumption) and unbridled financial speculation. In effect, spending on war is in part a desperate attempt to boost a stagnant US economy.

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GMO Agriculture and the Narrative of Choice

GMO Agriculture and the Narrative of Choice

The pro-GMO lobby claim critics of the technology ‘deny farmers choice’. They say that farmers should have access to a range of tools and technologies. It is all about maximising choice and options. Taken at face value, who would want to deny choice?

At the same time, however, we do not want to end up offering a false choice (rolling out technologies that have little value and only serve to benefit those who control the technology), to unleash an innovation that has an adverse impact on those who do not use it or to manipulate a situation whereby only one option is available because other options have been deliberately made unavailable or less attractive. And we would certainly not wish to roll out a technology that traps farmers on a treadmill that they find difficult to get off.

When discussing choice, it is can be very convenient to focus on end processes (choices made available – or denied – to farmers at the farm level), while ignoring the procedures and decisions that were made in corporate boardrooms, by government agencies and by regulatory bodies which result in the shaping and roll-out of options.

Where GMOs are concerned, Steven Druker argues that the decision to commercialise GM seeds and food in the US was based on regulatory delinquency. Druker indicates that if the US Food and Drug Administration had heeded its own experts’ advice and publicly acknowledged their warnings about risk, the GM venture would have imploded and would have never gained traction.

It is fine to talk about choice while ignoring what amounts to a subversion of democratic processes, which could result in (and arguably is resulting in) changing the genetic core of the world’s food. Whose ‘choice’ was it to do this? Was the choice given to the US public, the consumers of GM food? Did ordinary people choose for GM food to appear on their supermarket shelves?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

From Bernays to Trump, Hooked on Misery

From Bernays to Trump, Hooked on Misery

The father of modern public relations and spin, Edward Bernays was a cold, cynical manipulator of mass perception. He knew that by shaping people’s desires in a certain way, governments and corporations could sell just about any notion to the masses and manipulate them at will. Whether it was whipping up fear about the bogeyman of communism or selling the ‘American Dream’ of happiness through consuming goods, Bernays and the public relations/advertising industry, which took its cue from him, did exactly that.

Bernays was an expert in stage managing events to capture the popular imagination. Among his various accomplishments was to get women hooked on cigarettes by associating feminism and fashion with smoking. Calling cigarettes ‘torches of freedom’, he was instrumental in convincing women that cigarettes were trendy and that smoking symbolised emancipation. From getting people to change their diets to putting fluoride in drinking water, corporations knew who to turn to when they wanted to sell their dubious products.

Thanks in large part to Bernays, politicians, the corporate media and the system’s opinion leaders learned to appeal to primitive impulses, such as fear, sex and narcissism, that have little bearing on issues beyond the narrow self-interests of a consumer society. The whole point of such a society is to distract people from the reality of the wider world and train them to desire and want new things that they don’t really need – or for that matter even want – while stripping them of their ability to be self-reliant and independent.

The US government quickly learned that angels and demons could be manufactured from thin air and, from Guatemala and Congo to Vietnam, that wars and destabilisations could be built on packs of lies – lies about evil-doers about to kick down the door, lies about the impending misery they would inflict and lies about the government delivering the world from impending doom.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest

Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest

Photo by EU2017EE Estonian Presidency | CC BY 2.0

Until the 17th century, India was the richest country in the world and had controlled a third of global wealth. Political unity and military security helped evolve a uniform economic system, increased trade and enhanced agricultural productivity. Once the British has colonised India and left, it was a basket case.

Indian politician and writer Shashi Kapoor has documented the state the British left India in. They looted the country and the British legacy was 16 per cent literacy, a life expectancy of 27, practically no domestic industry and over 90 per cent living below the poverty line.

Once Britain lost its empire, it managed to secure a degree of global influence by throwing in its lot with the US as a junior partner in Washington’s quest for global hegemony. And if the 21st century tells us anything so far, it is that the centuries’ old colonialist mentality of the British state has not gone away: the mindset of Empire, conquest and duplicity persists.

In 2015, the then UK prime minister David Cameron said he felt deeply moved by the image of a Syrian boy dead on a Turkish beach. As pressure mounted on the UK to take in more of those fleeing to Europe from Syria and other war zones, Cameron added that the UK would fulfil its “moral responsibilities.”

On hearing Cameron’s words about ‘morality’, how many would not have failed to detect the hypocrisy? According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009. And writing in The Guardian in 2013, Nafeez Ahmed discussed leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials, that confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mass Deception and the Prelude to World War

Mass Deception and the Prelude to World War

In Libya, NATO bombed a path to Tripoli to help its proxy forces on the ground oust Gaddafi. Tens of thousands lost their lives and that country’s social fabric and infrastructure now lies in ruins. Gaddafi was murdered and his plans to assert African independence and undermine Western (not least French) hegemony on that continent have been rendered obsolete.

In Syria, the US, Turkey, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been helping to arm militants. The Daily Telegraph’s March 2013 article “US and Europe in ‘major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb’” reported that 3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia had been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels. The New York Times March 2013 article “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With CIA Aid” stated that Arab governments and Turkey had sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters. This aid included more than 160 military cargo flights.

Sold under the notion of a spontaneous democratic uprising against a tyrannical political leader, Syria is little more than an illegal war for capital, empire and energy. The West and its allies have been instrumental in organising the war as elaborated by Tim Anderson in his book ‘The Dirty War on Syria’.

Over the last 15 years or so, politicians and the media have been manipulating popular sentiment to get an increasingly war-fatigued Western public to support ongoing wars under the notion of protecting civilians or a bogus ‘war on terror’. They spin a yarn about securing women’s rights or a war on terror in Afghanistan, removing despots from power in Iraq, Libya or Syria or protecting human life, while then going on to attack or help destabilise countries, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of civilian lives.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War

The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War

The United States has devised on ongoing strategy of tension towards Russia. It has initiated economic sanctions against Moscow, concocted a narrative about ‘Russian aggression’ for public consumption and has by various means attempted to undermine and weaken the energy-dependent Russian eeconomy. It has moreover instigated a coup on Russia’s doorstep in Ukraine and is escalating tensions by placing troops in Europe.

The reality is that the US, not Russia, has around 800 military bases in over 100 countries and military personnel in almost 150 countries. US spending on its military dwarfs what the rest of the world spends together. For example, it outspends China by a ratio of 6:1.

But what does the corporate media in the West say about this? That the US is a ‘force for good’ and constitutes the ‘world’s policeman’ – not a calculating empire underpinned by militarism.

By the 1980s, Washington’s wars, death squads and covert operations were responsible for six million deaths in the ‘developing’ world. Other estimates suggests a figure closer to 20 million deaths in 37 nations since 1945.

Breaking previous agreements made with Russia/the USSR, over the past two decades the US and NATO have moved into Eastern Europe and continue to encircle Russia and install missile systems aimed at it. It has surrounded Iran with military bases. It is also ‘intervening’ in countries across Africa to weaken Chinese trade and investment links and influence. It intends to eventually militarily ‘pivot’ towards Asia to encircle China.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector

The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector

The Royal Society in the UK is a self-governing fellowship of distinguished scientists. Its purpose is reflected in its founding charters of the 1660s: to recognise, promote and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. Its motto, nullius in verba, is taken to mean ‘take nobody’s word for it’. It is an expression of the determination to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts based on experiment.

In 2015, Steven Druker challenged the Royal Society to justify its outspoken and partisan support of genetically modified (GM) crops and to correct any errors of fact in his book ‘Altered Genes,Twisted Truth’. Not long after the book’s release, he wrote an open letter to the Society calling on it to acknowledge and correct the misleading and exaggerated statements that is has used to actively promote genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and in effect convey false impressions.

Druker cited specific instances where members of the Royal Society have at various times made false statements and the Society’s actions were not objective or based on scientific reasoning but biased and stridently pro-GMO. He argued that the Royal Society has misrepresented the case for GMOs and has effectively engaged in a campaign of disinformation.

Almost three years later, from what we can gather, the Royal Society has not responded to Druker.

In August 2017, Druker wrote:

“For more than 20 years, many eminent scientists and scientific institutions have routinely claimed that genetically modified foods are safe. And because of the perceived authority of their pronouncements, most government officials and members of the media have believed them. But when the arguments these scientists employ to support their claims are subjected to scrutiny, it becomes clear that important facts have invariably been misrepresented — either deliberately or through substantial negligence. And when these facts are fairly considered, the arguments collapse.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Industrial Agriculture and the Agrochemical Industry

Industrial Agriculture and the Agrochemical Industry

The chemical-intensive industrial model of agriculture has secured the status of ‘thick legitimacy’. This status stems from on an intricate web of processes successfully spun in the scientific, policy and political arenas. It status allows the model to persist and appear normal and necessary. This perceived legitimacy derives from the lobbying, financial clout and political power of agribusiness conglomerates which, throughout the course of the last century (and continued today), set out to capture or shape government departments, public institutions, the agricultural research paradigm, international trade and the cultural narrative concerning food and agriculture.

Critics of this system are immediately attacked for being anti-science, for forwarding unrealistic alternatives, for endangering the lives of billions who would starve to death and for being driven by ideology and emotion. Strategically placed industry mouthpieces like Jon Entine, Owen Paterson and Henry Miller perpetuate such messages in the media and influential industry-backed bodies like the Science Media Centre feed journalists with agribusiness spin.

From Canada to the UK, governments work hand-in-glove with the industry to promote its technology over the heads of the public. A network of scientific bodies and regulatory agencies that supposedly serve the public interest have been subverted by the presence of key figures with industry links, while the powerful industry lobby hold sway over bureaucrats and politicians.

Monsanto played a key part in drafting the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to create seed monopolies and the global food processing industry had a leading role in shaping the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (see this). From Codex, the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture aimed at restructuring Indian agriculture to the proposed US-EU trade deal (TTIP), the powerful agribusiness lobby has secured privileged access to policymakers to ensure its preferred model of agriculture prevails.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Resisting Tyranny: Struggling for Seed Sovereignty in Latin America

Resisting Tyranny: Struggling for Seed Sovereignty in Latin America

The Latin America Seeds Collective has just released a 40-minute film (‘Seeds: Common or Corporate Property?) which documents the resistance of peasant farmers to the corporate takeover of their agriculture.

The film describes how seed has been central to agriculture for 10,000 years. Farmers have been saving, exchanging and developing seeds for millennia. Seeds have been handed down from generation to generation. Peasant farmers have been the custodians of seeds, knowledge and land.

This is how it was until the 20th century when corporations took these seeds, hybridised them, genetically modified them, patented them and fashioned them to serve the needs of industrial agriculture with its monocultures and chemical inputs.

To serve the interests of these corporations by marginalising indigenous agriculture, a number of treaties and agreement over breeders’ rights and intellectual property have been enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Since this began, thousands of seed varieties have been lost and corporate seeds have increasingly dominated agriculture.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that globally just 20 cultivated plant species account for 90 percent of all the plant-based food consumed by humans. This narrow genetic base of the global food system has put food security at serious risk.

To move farmers away from using native seeds and to get them to plant corporate seeds, the film describes how seed ‘certification’ rules and laws are brought into being by national governments on behalf of commercial seed giants like Monsanto. In Costa Rica, the battle to overturn restrictions on seeds was lost with the signing of a free trade agreement with the US, although this flouted the country’s seed biodiversity laws.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Monsanto, Bayer and Neoliberalism: A Case of Hobson’s Choice

Monsanto, Bayer and Neoliberalism: A Case of Hobson’s Choice

A Bayer marketing professional recently stated on Twitter that critics of GMOs deny choice to farmers. It’s a common accusation by the pro-GMO lobby. In a previous article, I noted the idea that GMOs offer increased choice is erroneous and that, by implication, corporations like Bayer or Monsanto restrict options. Much evidence suggests that GMOs provide a false choice.

However, to get drawn into endless debates about the whys and wherefores of GMOs tends to overlook the fact that GMOs belong to a particular model of agriculture which is increasingly being challenged. To quote Charles Eisenstein from a recent piece, what we should be talking about is the “choice between two very different systems of food production, two visions of society, and two fundamentally different ways to relate to plants, animals, and soil” (the table featured here provides concise insight into these visions).

The fact that someone chooses to market for a giant transnational company says much about a person’s allegiance to and belief in corporate power, let alone the prevailing economic system that company benefits from and the model of agriculture it promotes. Corporate-inspired visions of the world tend to define choice – and indeed how the world should be – within strict parameters.

Choice, development and the future of agriculture in India 

If current trends in India continue, it could mean dozens of mega-cities with up to 40 million inhabitants and just 15-20% of the population (as opposed to around the current 60% or more) left in an emptied-out countryside. It could also mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work.

GMOs, Global Agribusiness and the Destruction of Choice 

GMOs, Global Agribusiness and the Destruction of Choice 

One of the myths perpetuated by the pro-GMO (genetically modified organisms) lobby is that critics of GMOs in agriculture are denying choice to farmers and have an ideological agenda. The narrative is that farmers should have access to a range of tools and technologies, including GM crops.

Before addressing this issue, we should remind ourselves that GMOs have been illegitimately placed on the commercial market due to the bypassing of regulations. Steven Druker’s book Altered Genes,Twisted Truths (2015) indicates that the commercialisation of GM food in the US was based on a massive fraud. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) files revealed that GM foods first achieved commercialisation in 1992 but only because the FDA covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about their dangers, lied about the facts and then violated federal food safety law by permitting GM food to be marketed without having been proven safe through standard testing.

If the FDA had heeded its own experts’ advice and publicly acknowledged their warnings that GM foods entailed higher risks than their conventional counterparts, Druker says that the GM food venture would have imploded and never gained traction anywhere.

It is highly convenient for the pro-GMO lobby to talk about choice while ignoring such a massive subversion of democratic procedures and processes which could (and arguably is) changing the genetic core of the world’s food.

The denial of choice is a very important accusation. But just what is it that critics are said to be denying farmers? The pro-GMO lobby say that GM crops can increase yields, reduce the use of agrochemicals and are required if we are to feed the world. To date, however, the track record of GMOs is unimpressive.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Import and Die: Self-sufficiency and Food Security in India

Import and Die: Self-sufficiency and Food Security in India

India’s Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu recently stated that the country cannot survive on imported produce for its food security. He called for a greater focus on agriculture: “We can export (agricultural produce) for the time being but the population is growing.”

Naidu pointed out what has become increasingly apparent: “People are leaving agriculture and going to other professions. An agriculturist does not want his son to continue with the profession because of uncertain monsoons, natural calamities, market exploitation, etc. All this is affecting agriculture.”

Noting that agriculture is becoming financially unviable for farmers, he called for an end to the urban-rural divide by ensuring that people living in rural areas are provided basic amenities.

There are hints of the need to achieve food self-sufficiency in what he says and that is encouraging. But there is also a World Bank-backed plan for the future of India and the majority of farmers don’t have much of a role in it. Successive administrations in India have been facilitating this plan by making farming financially unviable with the aim of moving farmers out of farming and into the cities to work in manufacturing or service sector jobs – jobs that, by the way, do not exist. It is an agenda founded on a bogus model of ‘development’.

According to this report, the number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

The aim is to restructure agriculture according to the wishes of the US and its agribusiness corporations.

It entails displacing the existing labour-intensive system of food and agriculture with one dominated by a few transnational corporate agribusiness concerns which will control all aspects of the sector from seed to plate.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Seeds of Agroecology and Common Ownership

The Seeds of Agroecology and Common Ownership

The increasingly globalised industrial food system that transnational agribusiness promotes is not feeding the world and is responsible for some of the planet’s most pressing political, social and environmental crises. Localised, traditional methods of food production have given way to globalised supply chains dominated by transnational companies policies and actions which have resulted in the destruction of habitat and livelihoods and the imposition of corporate-controlled, chemical-intensive (monocrop) agriculture that weds farmers and regions to a wholly exploitative system of neoliberal globalisation.

Whether it involves the undermining or destruction of what were once largely self-sufficient agrarian economies in Africa or the devastating impacts of soy cultivation in Argentina or palm oil production in Indonesia, transnational agribusiness and global capitalism cannot be greenwashed.

In their rush to readily promote neoliberal dogma and corporate PR, many take as given that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be custodians of natural assets. There is the premise that water, seeds, land, food, soil and agriculture should be handed over to powerful, corrupt transnational corporations to milk for profit, under the pretence these entities are somehow serving the needs of humanity.

These natural assets (‘the commons’) belong to everyone and any stewardship should be carried out in the common interest by local people assisted by public institutions and governments acting on their behalf, not by private transnational corporations driven by self-interest and the maximization of profit by any means possible.

The Guardian columnist George Monbiot notes the vast wealth the economic elite has accumulated at our expense through its seizure of the commons. A commons is managed not for the accumulation of capital or profit but for the steady production of prosperity or wellbeing of a particular group, who might live in or beside it or who created and sustain it.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Monsanto and Bayer: Why Food and Agriculture Just Took a Turn For The Worse

Monsanto and Bayer: Why Food and Agriculture Just Took a Turn For The Worse

News broke this week that Monsanto accepted a $66 billion takeover bid from Bayer. The new company would control more than 25 per cent of the global supply of commercial seeds and pesticides. Bayer’s crop chemicals business is the world’s second largest after Syngenta, and Monsanto is the leading commercial seeds business.

Monsanto held a 26 per cent market share of all seeds sold in 2011. Bayer (mainly a pharmaceuticals company) sells 17 per cent of the world’s total agrochemicals and also has a comparatively small seeds sector. If competition authorities pass the deal, the combined company would be the globe’s largest seller of both seeds and agrochemicals.

The deal marks a trend towards consolidation in the industry with Dow and DuPont having agreed to merge and Swiss seed/pesticide giant Syngenta merging with ChemChina, a Chinese government concern.

The mergers would mean that three companies would dominate the commercial agricultural seeds and chemicals sector, down from six – Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont. Prior to the mergers, these six firms controlled 60 per cent of commercial seed and more than 75 per cent of agrochemical markets.

Alarm bells are ringing with the European Commission putting its approval of the Dow-DuPont deal temporarily on hold, and the US Senate Judiciary Committee is about to hold hearings on the deal due to concerns about consolidation in the industry, which has resulted in increased seed and pesticide prices.

In response to the Monsanto-Bayer merger, US National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson issued the following statement:

“Consolidation of this magnitude cannot be the standard for agriculture, nor should we allow it to determine the landscape for our future. The merger between Bayer and Monsanto marks the fifth major deal in agriculture in the last year…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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