Category Archives: Food Sovereignty

Neoliberal Death Knell for Indian Agriculture

In a 2017 article, I asked what might a future India look like and concluded that, if current neoliberal policies continue, there could be dozens of mega-cities with up to 40 million inhabitants and just two to three hundred million (perhaps 15-20% of the population) left in an emptied-out countryside. And it could also mean hundreds of millions of displaced rural dwellers without any work.

The policies referred to have not only continued but have been given a massive boost in the form of three parliamentary bills: The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

The ordinances were issued by the Modi-led government in June and (according to official rhetoric) seek to create barrier-free trade for farmers and allow them to enter into agreements with private players prior to the production for sale of agri-produce.

Some have commended these bills, claiming they will completely ‘liberalise’ the farm economy, leading to greater flexibility and efficiency and offering freedom and choice to farmers and buyers of produce. Others claim they effectively serve to impose the tenets of neoliberalism on the sector, finally clearing the way to restructure the agri-food sector for the benefit of large commodity traders and other (international) corporations: smallholder farmers will go to the wall in a landscape of ‘get big or get out’, mirroring the US model of food cultivation and retail.

As reported in the Economic Times, the Congress party chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said his party will fight the government “tooth and nail” on this issue:

These three draconian ordinances are a death knell for agriculture in India. They will subjugate the farmer at the altar of a handful of crony capitalists….

He added that farmers would not be able to get a remunerative price for their crop under the current system of minimum support price and that his party will join with other parties to put up a joint opposition to the draconian ordinances of the BJP government aimed at:

Subjugating the farming community and abolishing the livelihood of crores [tens of millions] of people who are aligned with the grain markets and other market systems.

The proposed legislation will mean that mandis – state-run market locations for farmers (overseen by Agricultural Produce Market Committees) to sell their agricultural produce via auction to traders – can be bypassed, allowing farmers to sell to private players elsewhere (physically and online), thereby undermining the regulatory role of the public sector. In trade areas open to the private sector, no fees will be levied (fees levied in mandis go to the states and, in principle, are used to enhance market infrastructure to help farmers).

This could incentivise the corporate sector operating outside of the mandis to (initially at least) offer better prices to farmers; eventually, however, as the mandi system is run down completely, these corporations will monopolise trade, capture the sector and dictate prices to farmers.

Another outcome of the proposed legislation could see the unregulated storage of produce and speculation, opening the farming sector to free-for-all profiteering for the big players.

Randeep Surjewala argues that the three ordinances are also a direct attack on the federal structure of India (farming and mandis come under the jurisdiction of states), but the government did not even consider it appropriate to consult them before promulgating the ordinances.

Sitaram Yechury, leader of the Communist Party of India, tweeted:

No amount of propaganda and spin can conceal such destruction of India and it’s economy. Withdraw these ordinances handing over our agriculture to multinational agribusinesses, further ruining our ‘annadaata’, demolishing India’s food security.

The proposed legislation will enable transnational agri-food corporations like Cargill and Walmart and home-grown billionaire capitalists like Gautam Adani and his agribusiness conglomerate and Mukesh Ambini and his Reliance retail chain to decide on what is to be cultivated, how much of it is to be cultivated within India and how it is to be produced and processed. From seed to field to plate, the corporate take-over of the food and agriculture chain will be complete.

Smallholder and marginal farmers will be further forced out and those remaining in the sector will be squeezed, working on contracts for market-dominating global seed and agrochemical suppliers, trader, distributors and retail concerns. Industrial agriculture will be the norm (with all the devastating externalised health, social and environmental costs that the model brings with it).

It may make some wonder who is actually determining policy in India when hundreds of millions of ordinary people could lose their livelihoods. Instead of pursuing a path of democratic development, the Indian government has chosen to submit to the regime of foreign finance, awaiting signals on how much it can spend. The imperatives of global capital require nation states to curb spending and roll back interventions and support mechanisms so that private investors can occupy the arena left open. And this is exactly what we are seeing in agriculture.

Foreign capital and sections of India’s billionaire class are working to displace the prevailing agrifood model and recast it in their own image. Tens of millions of small-scale and marginal farmers are already suffering economic distress and leaving farming as the sector is deliberately made financially non-viable for them.

The Modi administration is fully on board with the World Bank’s pro-corporate ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ and other such policies aimed at further incorporating nation states into the neoliberal fold, while equating neoliberal policies with ‘development’. Other recent policies will also serve to accelerate current trends in Indian agriculture as we see with regard to the Karnataka Land Reform Act, which will make it easier for business to purchase and consolidate agricultural land (leading to landlessness and urban migration).

Both ongoing and proposed ‘reforms’ are ultimately about ‘liberalising’ agriculture to further ease the entrance of foreign agribusiness interests and serve the needs of India’s home-grown billionaires. The Modi government is predictably facilitating what could eventually lead to a trillion-dollar (value of the Indian economy according to Modi’s former associates at APCO Worldwide) corporate hijack of India three steps closer with the ‘ordinances’.

By bringing the full force of liberalisation to the farm economy and in the process fundamentally restructuring Indian society (around 60% of the population still rely on agriculture for their livelihoods), any remnants of economic sovereignty and sovereign state status will be hollowed out and India will become a fully incorporated subsidiary of global capitalism and its fundamentally flawed and exploitative food regime.

Of course, many millions have already been displaced from the Indian countryside and have had to seek work in the cities. And if the coronavirus lockdown has indicated anything, it is that many of these ‘migrant workers’ have failed to gain a secure foothold and were compelled to return ‘home’ to their villages. Their lives are defined by low pay, insecurity and callous treatment by the government.

It raises the question: what does the future hold for the hundreds of millions of others who will be victims of the dispossessive policies of neoliberal capitalism?

The post Neoliberal Death Knell for Indian Agriculture first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Covid-19: past, present and future

The current pandemic continues to have a large negative impact on most aspects of our lives. Over 20.6 million have been infected and almost 750,000 have died worldwide (about 5.3 million infections and over 168,00 deaths in the US) due to this pandemic. Besides these horrific impacts, this pandemic has also made clearer the failure of the bipartisan neoliberal economic approach that puts profit before people and planet.

Pre-pandemic

Before the pandemic, the world was already nearing a climate catastrophe and ecological collapse. In addition, under its neoliberal approach, the US already had a shamefully large number of homeless, tens of millions underinsured or without health insurance, millions experiencing hunger, millions without jobs, millions more facing huge debts, and an appalling wealth and income inequality. Politicians, operating in a system of legalized bribery, continued to fund the military wildly beyond its needs. This wasteful spending clearly didn’t make us secure and took money from the far more needed and productive domestic spending. In addition, systemic racism, especially in the US ‘injustice’ system, greatly harmed minorities. This was hardly an ideal world.

During the pandemic

Due to the Trump administration’s scandalous lack of preparedness and its failure to promptly implement public health measures, many municipalities instituted total lockdowns in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19. These lockdowns led to the closing of many businesses (especially small businesses) and tens of millions filed for unemployment. These job losses resulted in millions more: 1) losing their health insurance; 2) facing the loss of their housing; and 3) experiencing severe hunger. In addition, due to systemic racism, minorities were disproportionately more susceptible to the disease than whites.

So far, the Trump administration and Congress have enacted relief packages that primarily benefited the already obscenely wealthy while providing only minimal short-term aid to the rest of us. In contrast, several other nations demonstrated real concern about their people and their businesses by funding 70% or more of the business payrolls. As a result, they didn’t experience large job losses or bankruptcies.

My hopes

My hopes are that the politicians would finally live up to the ideas in: 1) the Second Bill of Rights (an economic bill of rights) that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed in 1944; and 2) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), including the rights of women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.

Roosevelt said: In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; and,
  • The right to a good education.

Unfortunately, the US doesn’t recognize these rights and some others in the UDHR that are accepted by many other wealthy nations. As a result, tens of millions of our population unnecessarily suffer tremendous harm.

In addition, my hopes include a major overhaul in our imperialistic foreign policy. We must rejoin the family of nations and rely on diplomacy instead of military power and economic coercion. The global threats of nuclear war and the looming climate catastrophe require nations to work together.

Some vital changes

Unless the Trump administration and Congress quickly enact bills that:

1) fill shortfalls in the budgets of the Post Office and state and local governments;

2) provide aid to true small businesses;

3) provide long-term funding directly to the population;

4) declare a jubilee on debts owed to predatory lenders;

5) support a green new deal;

6) provide healthcare for all;

7) drastically reduce the military budget; and especially

8) fully protect the rights of minorities,

I fear the US is likely to fall into a long-lasting depression and risk societal collapse.

Update

President Trump and the Republican-led Senate dithered around for two months after the House proposed its major relief bill instead of getting a new relief bill enacted. This ineptitude and callous attitude towards the desperation and suffering of many Americans is incredible. Making matters maddeningly worse, the US is still ill prepared to deal with this crisis, a crisis that is likely to worsen upon the return of inadequately protected teachers and students to school.

Unfortunately, these updates reinforce my fears about the future.

COVID-19 Crisis Failure, People Must Save Themselves and the Economy

Positive COVID-19 Test (Shutterstock)

The US is at a moment of truth. This week, Congress has to face up to a pandemic that is out of control and an economy that is collapsing. The Republican’s and Democrat’s proposals show they will fail this test. The people will need to protect themselves and lead from below.

The pandemic is worsening with more than 60,000 new cases and approximately 1,000 new deaths daily. Deaths, now over 158,000, are spiking across the sunbelt and increasing across the Midwest. By Election Day, the US could have 250,000 deaths making COVID-19 the third largest killer after cancer and heart disease.

The economy shrank at a record 32.9% annual pace in the second quarter, the largest since records were first kept in 1947. Jobless claims increased for the second week in a row with 1.4 million new people seeking unemployment benefits and continuing claims have risen to 17.06 million. More than 35 million people have lost their jobs since March.

In the face of these depression-era numbers, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are planning enough spending to rebuild the economy. President Trump, who has botched the response to the pandemic, is unable to lead but seems willing to sign anything that passes Congress.

Boxes of food are distributed by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, at a drive thru distribution in downtown Pittsburgh, 10 April, 2020 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar.)

Republican HEALS Act Will Spread the Virus, Deepen Economic Collapse

The Republican Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act seeks to push people back to work and reopen schools even if it is not safe to do so. Their proposals to cut unemployment benefits are designed to make workers desperate so they will work in conditions that put their health at risk. A large portion of school funding is restricted to schools that physically reopen forcing unsafe schools. Here are some of the details of the bill:

Health care: The inadequacy of for-profit healthcare has been magnified by the pandemic. The loss of jobs resulted in millions of people losing their health insurance on top of almost 30 million people who were already uninsured. Republicans do not include a funding increase for Medicaid, which 70 million people rely on. The National Governor’s Association reports states are experiencing budget shortfalls ranging between 5 and 20 percent. The Republicans do not provide any funding to state and local governments to make up for this loss of income. Without new funding, states will have to cut Medicaid eligibility, reduce benefits, or reduce payments to providers at a time when the economy and virus mean more people need it.

Food: The Census reports 26 million people do not have adequate food. Food banks are reporting shortages and 14 million children are going hungry but the Republicans did not extend funding for food assistance programs. The Republicans did not extend either the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as food stamps, or the Pandemic EBT program, a benefit for households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals, which ended in June. In contrast, they did propose a 100 percent deduction on business meals through the end of 2020.

Housing: The eviction moratorium expired last week. It protected an estimated 12 million renters in federally-backed properties. The HEALS Act does nothing to prevent evictions from restarting. There are 110 million Americans who live in rental households. Twenty percent of them, 23 million people, are at risk of eviction by September 30 according to the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. With the cut in unemployment benefits, the Census Bureau estimates 24 million people will be unable to pay next month’s rent, including 45 percent of Black and Latinx households.

Worker safety: As workers are being forced back to work, the HEALS Act cuts their ability to sue at a time when worker-safety is at its greatest risk in a century.  Senator McConnell calls this a “red line” that must be in the final bill. His proposal would preempt the few state workplace safety laws that exist and supersede such federal worker safeguards as the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, among others. The Republican proposal would erect almost insurmountable obstacles to lawsuits by workers who become infected at their workplaces and limit damages. To be immune, employers would merely have to show they were  “exploring options” to comply with federal law, or they found the risk of harm to health could not be “reduced or eliminated by reasonably modifying policies, practices, or procedures.” A worker whose lawyer issues a demand letter and settlement offer would find themselves potentially facing litigation by the employer against them. If employers sue workers, there is no limit to punitive damages. These provisions would be retroactive to December 1, 2019, and remain in effect at least until October 1, 2024.

Student debt: The HEALS Act doesn’t extend the interest-free payment pause on federal student loans or halt debt collection on government-held student debt, two forms of relief in the original CARES ACT. Without extending the relief Congress first granted to student loan borrowers through the CARES Act, 40 million people are likely to have to resume payments on September 30, 2020 at a time when there are Depression-like levels of unemployment.

Business support: The Act provides $100 billion more for the problematic Paycheck Protection Program, which has been rife with corruption as members of Congress and the administration as well as their friends, families, and donors got payouts. Big businesses got loans even though the program was intended for small businesses, making small business owners furious. Black and minority businesses were denied loans. Money is needed for main street businesses but PPP needs major changes rather than just pouring more money into the failed program.

The bill also includes $1.75 billion for the FBI building. This was added at the insistence of the Trump administration because the president’s hotel is across the street from the FBI. Without funding to refurbish the building, the FBI could move to Virginia or Maryland, leaving the current building to be torn down and likely replaced with a hotel that would compete with Trump’s hotel.

Military spending: Nearly $30 billion in the HEALS Act would be allocated in a brazen giveaway to the military. The bill includes billions for the Pentagon including $686 million for F-35 stealth fighters, $650 million for A-10 ground attack airplane wing replacements, $1.4 billion for four expeditionary medical ships, and $720 million for C-130J transport aircraft, $375 million for armored vehicles, $360 million for missile defense, and $283 million for Apache helicopters. This is reportedly being added to make up for money taken from the Pentagon for the border wall and comes after Congress recently passed a record military spending bill.

Paramedics taking a patient into an Emergency Room at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The Democrats Fail To Use Their Power

The Democrats control the House of Representatives. Nothing can pass the Senate without Democratic Party support. The Senate Republicans are divided and Trump is desperate to sign a bill. Polls show Republicans could lose the Senate so they need to pass a good bill. The political alignment favors the Democratic Party but it still isn’t doing what is needed.

The Democrats passed the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act in May, a $3 trillion proposal compared to the $1 trillion HEALS Act. Two months ago this may have been adequate but now that figure needs to be increased as more jobs have been lost, state and city governments have lost income, and the cost of treating the virus has increased with more cases.

A “red line” for the Democrats should be funding state and local government with at least $1 trillion to continue basic services. More than 20 million people work for state and local governments such as firefighters, teachers, police, sanitation workers, and transportation workers. The Economic Policy Institute estimates 5.3 million jobs will be lost without state and local funding. President Trump and the Republicans do not want another massive increase in job loss, so the Democrats are in a strong position to make this demand.

The decrease in unemployment benefits should be another unacceptable “red line” as this will further shrink the economy. The Economic Policy Institute finds the loss of the extra $600 of unemployment benefits, which people are currently spending on basic needs, will result in the loss of an additional 3.4 million jobs.

One area where the Democrats can build on some agreement is the $1,200 COVID-19 relief payment to individuals. These payments are too small. A good COVID-19 relief package would increase payments to $2,000 per person monthly for the duration of the pandemic and recession for households earning under $150,000 as suggested by Sen. Bernie Sanders. This would slow the economic collapse and ease suffering.

It is essential to extend the moratorium on evictions not just for federally-subsidized housing, but the federal government should also cover rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the crises. Otherwise, millions of families will lose their homes in an election year, which should be politically unpalatable for both parties.

Health workers give people free Covid-19 tests in Arlington, Virginia, on May 26 (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

We Need a Plan

What is missing from both the Republican and Democratic bills is a strategy to control and stop the pandemic. The virus is 7 months old and still spreading rapidly. President Trump has failed to lead so Congress must do so. The bill should include a massive investment in making rapid testing available across the country. Every business and school should have rapid testing capability before they reopen. This should be combined with hiring 500,000 public health tracers so those who have been exposed to COVID-19 can be tracked to prevent further spread of the virus.

Everyone wants to restart the economy but this must be done safely. In addition to testing and tracing, workplaces and schools must be safe. School districts should decide whether to restart or continue web-based learning and should be supported by the federal government whatever they choose. Hundreds of thousands of tutors who can do one-on-one teaching to support web-based learning are needed. With high unemployment, especially among recent graduates and college students, there are people available to take on this task.

Congress should authorize OSHA to rapidly enact stringent standards for workplaces to reopen, along with funding for necessary safeguards. There should be increased funding for OSHA workplace inspections and investigations of inadequate safety. Employers who meet the standards for a safe workplace should have legal protection from frivolous lawsuits but employees should also have the right to sue if workplaces do not meet safety standards. This approach protects both workers and employers and will reduce the spread of the virus.

Neither party handled healthcare well even before the pandemic. COVID-19 has magnified the failure of for-profit healthcare. To stop the spread of the virus, Congress needs to break away from its privatized approach to healthcare. With the widespread job loss, 5.4 million workers lost their health insurance as did millions more family members. This is the largest decline in health insurance coverage in US history. The rapid response to this healthcare crisis should be the expansion of Medicare to everyone in the United States. Ideological opposition to publicly funded healthcare should not block this essential step. The long term failure of our healthcare system and widening health disparities demonstrate why we need a community-controlled, public, universal healthcare system.

Workers strike over safety (Yahoo Finance)

he People Must Rule, and Protect Ourselves

Congress and the President are unlikely to enact the laws needed to confront the pandemic and economic collapse. As a result, both will worsen. We will have to take action to protect ourselves and build popular power to win our demands.

We need to organize mutual aid to people meet people’s basic needs, such as for food and housing. Many cities have vacant buildings owned by the local and federal governments. As homelessness rises, these should be taken over to house people. We discuss the practical steps for taking over homes with Cheri Honkala this week on Clearing The FOG, (available as a podcast on Monday).

We build popular power by taking the streets as people have been doing for over two months now across the country, only buying essentials, refusing to pay rent or debt payments, blocking evictions and by building in our workplaces for a general strike.

Our actions must not be about which presidential candidate from the two parties of the millionaires to elect. Only one serious presidential campaign is right on COVID-19 and the economy, the Green candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker. Our actions need to be about building a people’s movement that grows in power before and after the November elections. No matter who is elected, the people will need to resist, create new systems and rule from below.

From Toxic Food to Agrarian Disaster: Dirty Deals Done Dirt Cheap

During the early days of the coronavirus lockdowns, in some quarters there was a certain degree of optimism around. Although millions of people were suffering, the hope was that the Covid-19 crisis would shine light on societal and economic systems across the world, exposing some of the deep-rooted flaws of capitalism. There was a belief that people working together with their respective governments could start building a fairer capitalism and more sustainable economies.

However, we see exactly the opposite taking place. In the UK, we now witness a post-Brexit trade deal being negotiated behind closed doors with the US that could see a lowering of food and environment standards, despite the Conservative government pledge that it would not compromise on standards in these areas. The government now proposes that chlorine-washed chicken, beef treated with growth hormones, pork from ractopamine-injected animals and many other toxic foods produced in the US will be allowed into the UK. Sanctioning the entry of (chemical-resistant) GM crops and GM food are also likely to be part of any deal.

It would effectively mean sacrificing UK farmers’ livelihoods, the environment and the nation’s health to suit the bottom line of US agribusiness corporations.

The UK isn’t the only country that US agribusiness has set its sights on. World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet after the various coronavirus lockdowns. This ‘help’ will be on condition that neoliberal reforms are implemented and become further embedded. Ranil Salgado, mission chief for India at the IMF, says that when the economic shock passes, it’s important that India returns to its path of undertaking such long-term reforms.

But haven’t ordinary Indians already had enough of these ‘structural adjustments’ and their impacts? Rural affairs commentator P Sainath has highlighted the desperate plight of migrant workers in India. He notes that millions of rural livelihoods have been deliberately snuffed out over a period of many years, sparking an agrarian crisis. As a result of lockdown, tens of millions went back to their villages but there is no work there because rural jobs have been extinguished – the reason for urban migration in the first place.

The US has been pushing to bring Indian agriculture under corporate control for a long time. Further ‘reforms’ would serve to accelerate this process. US agribusiness wants to force GMO food crops into the country, further displace peasant farmers thereby driving even more people to cities and ensure corporate consolidation and commercialisation of the sector based on industrial-scale monocrop farms incorporated into global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness and retail giants.

Like the UK, India is also involved in trade talks with the US. If this deal goes through and India capitulates to US demands, it could devastate the dairy, poultry, soybean, maize and other sectors and severely deepen the crisis in the countryside. India could also see GMO food flooding the country and the further corporate consolidation of the seed sector. The article ‘Perils of the US-India free trade agreement for Indian farmers’ published on the grain.org website highlights what could be in store.

In the wake of India deciding to not participate in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, another trade deal that would have had devastating consequences for farmers and the food system. the article concludes:

It would be inconsistent, and a slap in the face, to now start US-India trade talks that will pose much bigger challenges for India’s rural communities and agriculture sector. Such a deal would greatly compromise India’s huge diversity of local seeds and plants which are conserved and reused by millions of Indian farmers year after year. It will also destroy India’s hope for food sovereignty.

Any such trade deal will be for the benefit of powerful agribusiness giants and will reinforce the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of these corporations. It would also send millions more to the cities in search of jobs that are just not there. This will be the result of the ‘reforms’ demanded by the World Bank and IMF.

If lockdown has shown anything, it is that many of those who sought better lives in the cities have failed to establish a firm foothold. They are marginalised and employed in the worst jobs working long hours for minimal wages. The fragility of their position is demonstrated by the reverse migrations we have witnessed and the callous treatment they are used to was demonstrated by the government’s attitude to their plight under lockdown.

The various lockdowns around the globe have also exposed the fragility of the global food system, dominated by long-line supply chains and global conglomerates – which effectively suck food and wealth from the Global South to the richer nations.

What we have seen underscores the need for a radical transformation of the prevailing globalised food regime based on a system of agroecology which reduces dependency on external proprietary inputs, distant volatile commodity markets and patented technologies. It would help to shorten chains, increase crop diversity, improve diets, regenerate soils, support food sovereignty, re-localise production and consumption and boost local economies, which in India would stem the flow of people moving to the cities and would even create livelihoods for those who have returned to the countryside.

It is the type of system that Prof Michel Pimbert and Colin Anderson of Coventry University in the UK advocate. In contrast to corporate-driven trade deals, centrally controlled hi-tech innovations, people-free farming, drones replacing bees, genetically engineered crops and a future of synthetic lab-based food, the two academics argue:

Agroecological innovations… are being driven largely from the bottom up by civil society, social movements and allied researchers. In this context, priorities for innovations are ones that increase citizen control for food sovereignty and decentralise power.

Instead of trade deals hammered out behind closed doors above the heads of ordinary people by elite interests, the authors state that deliberative, inclusive processes like citizens’ juries, peoples’ assemblies and community-led participatory actions are urgently needed.

It is these types of processes that should guide all economic sectors, not just agriculture. Processes underpinned by a vision for a better, more just world that can only be delivered by challenging capitalism’s dispossessive strategies which fuel India’s agrarian crisis and the types of human and environmental degradation and exploitation we see across the globe.

Toxic Agriculture and the Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was launched in 2000 and has $46.8 billion in assets (December 2018). It is the largest charitable foundation in the world and distributes more aid for global health than any government. One of the foundation’s stated goals is to globally enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty.

The Gates Foundation is a major funder of the CGIAR system (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) — a global partnership whose stated aim is to strive for a food-secured future. Its research is aimed at reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition and ensuring sustainable management of natural resources.

In 2016, the Gates Foundation was accused of dangerously and unaccountably distorting the direction of international development. The charges were laid out in a report by Global Justice Now: ‘Gated Development – Is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?‘ According to the report, the foundation’s strategy is based on deepening the role of multinational companies in the Global South.

On release of the report, Polly Jones, the head of campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now, said:

The Gates Foundation has rapidly become the most influential actor in the world of global health and agricultural policies, but there’s no oversight or accountability in how that influence is managed.

She added that this concentration of power and influence is even more problematic when you consider that the philanthropic vision of the Gates Foundation seems to be largely based on the values of ‘corporate America’:

The foundation is relentlessly promoting big business-based initiatives such as industrial agriculture, private health care and education. But these are all potentially exacerbating the problems of poverty and lack of access to basic resources that the foundation is supposed to be alleviating.

The report’s author, Mark Curtis, outlines the foundation’s promotion of industrial agriculture across Africa, which would undermine existing sustainable, small-scale farming that is providing the vast majority of food across the continent.

Curtis describes how the foundation is working with US agri-commodity trader Cargill in an $8 million project to “develop the soya value chain” in southern Africa. Cargill is the biggest global player in the production of and trade in soya with heavy investments in South America where GM soya monocrops (and associated agrochemicals) have displaced rural populations and caused health problems and environmental damage.

According to Curtis, the Gates-funded project will likely enable Cargill to capture a hitherto untapped African soya market and eventually introduce GM soya onto the continent. The Gates foundation is also supporting projects involving other chemical and seed corporations, including DuPont, Syngenta and Bayer. It is effectively promoting a model of industrial agriculture, the increasing use of agrochemicals and patented seeds, the privatisation of extension services and a very large focus on genetically modified crops.

What the Gates Foundation is doing is part of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) initiative, which is based on the premise that hunger and malnutrition in Africa are mainly the result of a lack of technology and functioning markets. Curtis says AGRA has been intervening directly in the formulation of African governments’ agricultural policies on issues like seeds and land, opening up African markets to US agribusiness.

More than 80% of Africa’s seed supply comes from millions of small-scale farmers recycling and exchanging seed from year to year. But AGRA is promoting the commercial production of seed and is thus supporting the introduction of commercial (chemical-dependent) seed systems, which risk enabling a few large companies to control seed research and development, production and distribution.

The report notes that over the past two decades a long and slow process of national seed law reviews, sponsored by USAID and the G8 along with Bill Gates and others, has opened the door to multinational corporations’ involvement in seed production, including the acquisition of every sizeable seed enterprise on the African continent.

Gates, pesticides and global health

The Gates Foundation is also very active in the area of health, which is ironic given its promotion of industrial agriculture and its reliance on health-damaging agrochemicals. This is something that has not been lost on environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason.

Mason notes that the Gates Foundation is a heavy pusher of agrochemicals and patented seeds. She adds that the Gates Foundation is also reported to be collaborating in Bayer’s promotion of “new chemical approaches” and “biological crop protection” (i.e. encouraging agrochemical sales and GM crops) in the Global South.

After having read the recent ‘A Future for the World’s Children? A WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission’, Mason noticed that pesticides were conspicuous by their absence and therefore decided to write to Professor Anthony Costello, director of the UCL Institute for Global Health, who is the lead author of the report.

In her open 19-page letter, ‘Why Don’t Pesticides Feature in the WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission?’, she notes in the Costello-led report that there is much talk about greater regulation of marketing of tobacco, alcohol, formula milk and sugar-sweetened beverages but no mention of pesticides.

But perhaps this should come as little surprise: some 42 authors’ names are attached to the report and Mason says that in one way or another via the organisations they belong to, many (if not most) have received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation is a prominent funder of the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Gates has been the largest or second largest contributor to the WHO’s budget in recent years. His foundation provided 11% of the WHO’s entire budget in 2015, which is 14 times greater than the UK government’s contribution.

Perhaps this sheds some light on to why a major report on child health would omit the effects of pesticides. Mason implies this is a serious omission given what the UN expert on toxics  Baskut Tuncak said in a November 2017 article in the Guardian:

Our children are growing up exposed to a toxic cocktail of weedkillers, insecticides, and fungicides. It’s on their food and in their water, and it’s even doused over their parks and playgrounds. Many governments insist that our standards of protection from these pesticides are strong enough. But as a scientist and a lawyer who specialises in chemicals and their potential impact on people’s fundamental rights, I beg to differ. Last month it was revealed that in recommending that glyphosate – the world’s most widely-used pesticide – was safe, the EU’s food safety watchdog copied and pasted pages of a report directly from Monsanto, the pesticide’s manufacturer. Revelations like these are simply shocking.

Mason notes that in February 2020, Tuncak rejected the idea that the risks posed by highly hazardous pesticides could be managed safely. He told Unearthed (GreenPeace UK’s journalism website) that there is nothing sustainable about the widespread use of highly hazardous pesticides for agriculture. Whether they poison workers, extinguish biodiversity, persist in the environment or accumulate in a mother’s breast milk, Tuncak argued that these are unsustainable, cannot be used safely and should have been phased out of use long ago.

In his 2017 article, he stated:

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most ratified international human rights treaty in the world (only the US is not a party), makes it clear that states have an explicit obligation to protect children from exposure to toxic chemicals, from contaminated food and polluted water, and to ensure that every child can realise their right to the highest attainable standard of health. These and many other rights of the child are abused by the current pesticide regime. These chemicals are everywhere and they are invisible.

Tuncak added that paediatricians have referred to childhood exposure to pesticides as creating a “silent pandemic” of disease and disability. He noted that exposure in pregnancy and childhood is linked to birth defects, diabetes, and cancer and stated that children are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals: increasing evidence shows that even at ‘low’ doses of childhood exposure, irreversible health impacts can result.

He concluded that the overwhelming reliance of regulators on industry-funded studies, the exclusion of independent science from assessments and the confidentiality of studies relied upon by authorities must change.

However, it seems that the profits of agrochemical manufacturers trump the rights of  children and the public at large: a joint investigation by Unearthed and the NGO Public Eye has found the world’s five biggest pesticide manufacturers are making more than a third of their income from leading products, chemicals that pose serious hazards to human health and the environment.

Mason refers to an analysis of a huge database of 2018’s top-selling ‘crop protection products’ which revealed the world’s leading agrochemical companies made more than 35% of their sales from pesticides classed as “highly hazardous” to people, animals or ecosystems. The investigation identified billions of dollars of income for agrochemical giants BASF, Bayer, Corteva, FMC and Syngenta from chemicals found by regulatory authorities to pose health hazards like cancer or reproductive failure.

This investigation is based on an analysis of a huge dataset of pesticide sales from the agribusiness intelligence company Phillips McDougall. This firm conducts detailed market research all over the world and sells databases and intelligence to pesticide companies. The data covers around 40% of the $57.6bn global market for agricultural pesticides in 2018. It focuses on 43 countries, which between them represent more than 90% of the global pesticide market by value.

While Bill Gates promotes a chemical-intensive model of agriculture that dovetails with the needs and value chains of agri-food conglomerates, Mason outlines the spiraling rates of disease in the UK and the US and lays the blame at the door of the agrochemical corporations that Gates has opted to get into bed with. She focuses on the impact of glyphosate-based herbicides as well as the cocktail of chemicals sprayed on crops.

Mason has discussed the health-related impacts of glyphosate in numerous previous reports and in her open letter to Costello again refers to peer-reviewed studies and official statistics which indicate that glyphosate affects the gut microbiome and is responsible for a global metabolic health crisis provoked by an obesity epidemic. Moreover, she presents evidence that glyphosate causes epigenetic changes in humans and animals – diseases skip a generation then appear.

However, the mainstream narrative is to blame individuals for their ailments and conditions which are said to result from ‘lifestyle choices’. Yet Monsanto’s German owner Bayer has confirmed that more than 42,700 people have filed suits against Monsanto alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that Monsanto covered up the risks.

Mason says that each year there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with no treatments making any difference to the numbers; at the same time, she argues, these treatments maximise the bottom line of the drug companies while the impacts of agrochemicals remains conspicuously absent from the disease narrative.

She states that we are exposed to a lifetime’s exposure to thousands of synthetic chemicals that contaminate the blood and urine of nearly every person tested – “a global mass poisoning.”

Gates Foundation in perspective

As part of its hegemonic strategy, the Gates Foundation says it wants to ensure global food security and optimise health and nutrition.

However, Rosemary Mason alludes to the fact that the Gates Foundation seems happy to ignore the deleterious health impacts of agrochemicals while promoting the interests of the firms that produce them, but it facilitates many health programmes that help boost the bottom line of drug companies.  Health and health programmes seem only to be defined with certain parameters which facilitate the selling of the products of the major pharmaceutical companies which the foundation partners with. Indeed, researcher Jacob Levich argues that the Gates Foundation not merely facilitates unethical low-cost clinical trials (with often devastating effects for participants) in the Global South but also assists in the creating new markets for the “dubious” products of pharmaceuticals corporations.

As for food security, the foundation would do better by supporting agroecological  (agrochemical-free) approaches to agriculture, which various high-level UN reports have advocated for ensuring equitable global food security. But this would leave smallholder agriculture both intact and independent from Western agro-capital, something which runs counter to the underlying aims of the corporations that the foundation supports – dispossession and market dependency.

And these aims have been part of a decades-long strategy where we have seen the strengthening of an emerging global food regime based on agro-export mono-cropping linked to sovereign debt repayment and World Bank/IMF ‘structural adjustment’ directives. The outcomes have included a displacement of a food-producing peasantry, the consolidation of Western agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of many countries from food self-sufficiency into food deficit areas.

While Bill Gates is busy supporting the consolidation of Western agro-capital in Africa under the guise of ensuring ‘food security’, it is very convenient for him to ignore the fact that at the time of decolonisation in the 1960s Africa was not just self-sufficient in food but was actually a net food exporter with exports averaging 1.3 million tons a year between 1966-70. The continent now imports 25% of its food, with almost every country being a net food importer. More generally, developing countries produced a billion-dollar yearly surplus in the 1970s but by 2004 were importing US$ 11 billion a year.

The Gates Foundation promotes a (heavily subsidised and inefficient – certainly when the externalised health, social and environment costs are factored in) corporate-industrial farming system and the strengthening of a global neoliberal, fossil-fuel-dependent food regime that by its very nature fuels and thrives on, among other things, unjust trade policies, population displacement and land dispossession (something which the Gates Foundation once called for but euphemistically termed “land mobility”), commodity monocropping, soil and environmental degradation, illness, nutrient-deficient diets, a narrowing of the range of food crops, water shortages, pollution and the eradication of biodiversity.

At the same time, the foundation is helping powerful corporate interests to appropriate and commodify knowledge. For instance, since 2003, CGIAR (mentioned at the start of this article) and its 15 centres have received more than $720 million from the Gates Foundation. In a June 2016 article in The Asian Age, Vandana Shiva says the centres are accelerating the transfer of research and seeds to corporations, facilitating intellectual property piracy and seed monopolies created through IP laws and seed regulations.

Besides taking control of the seeds of farmers in CGIAR seed banks, Shiva adds that the Gates Foundation (along with the Rockefeller Foundation) is investing heavily in collecting seeds from across the world and storing them in a facility in Svalbard in the Arctic — the ‘doomsday vault’.

The foundation is also funding Diversity Seek (DivSeek), a global initiative to take patents on the seed collections through genomic mapping. Seven million crop accessions are in public seed banks.

Shiva says that DivSeek could allow five corporations to own this diversity and argues:

Today, biopiracy is carried out through the convergence of information technology and biotechnology. It is done by taking patents by ‘mapping’ genomes and genome sequences… DivSeek is a global project launched in 2015 to map the genetic data of the peasant diversity of seeds held in gene banks. It robs the peasants of their seeds and knowledge, it robs the seed of its integrity and diversity, its evolutionary history, its link to the soil and reduces it to ‘code’. It is an extractive project to ‘mine’ the data in the seed to ‘censor’ out the commons.

She notes that the peasants who evolved this diversity have no place in DivSeek — their knowledge is being mined and not recognised, honoured or conserved: an enclosure of the genetic commons.

This process is the very foundation of capitalism – appropriation of the commons (seeds, water, knowledge, land, etc.), which are then made artificially scarce and transformed into marketable commodities.

The Gates Foundation talks about health but facilitates the roll-out of a toxic form of agriculture whose agrochemicals cause immense damage. It talks of alleviating poverty and malnutrition and tackling food insecurity but it bolsters an inherently unjust global food regime which is responsible for perpetuating food insecurity, population displacement, land dispossession, privatisation of the commons and neoliberal policies that remove support from the vulnerable and marginalised, while providing lavish subsidies to corporations.

The Gates Foundation is part of the problem, not the solution. To more fully appreciate this, let us turn to a February 2020 article in the journal Globalizations. Its author, Ashok Kumbamu, argues that the ultimate aim of promoting new technologies – whether GM seeds, agrochemicals or commodified knowledge — on a colossal scale is to make agricultural inputs and outputs essential commodities, create dependency and bring all farming operations into the capitalist fold.

To properly understand Bill Gates’s ‘philanthropy’ is not to take stated goals and objectives at face value but to regard his ideology as an attempt to manufacture consent and prevent and marginalise more radical agrarian change that would challenge prevailing power structures and act as impediments to capitalist interests. The foundation’s activities must be located within the hegemonic and dispossessive strategies of imperialism: displacement of the peasantry and subjugating those who remain in agriculture to the needs of global distribution and supply chains dominated by the Western agri-food conglomerates whose interests the Gates Foundation facilitates and legitimises.

The full text of Rosemary Mason’s 19-page document (with relevant references) — ‘Why Don’t Pesticides Feature in the WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission?’ — can be accessed via the academia.edu website)  

Street Wise and Worldly

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States. For many the Reagan Administration is remembered for Reaganomics and ending the Cold War. Yet the poor and homeless of the time remember it rather for a dramatic reduction in housing and social services, Boss Tweed politics, and constant reminders that a mythical “welfare queen” in Chicago and exaggerated “welfare cheats” across America made their poverty their fault. “Mr. Reagan and Congress’s housing cutbacks are directly responsible for the homeless problem,” Mitch Snyder once said of the Administration.

On Thanksgiving Day 1981, tents appeared in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. A sign amidst the spread of tents read “Reaganville: Reagonomics at Work.” The tent city, an intentional throwback to the Hooverville encampments of the Great Depression, held 20-25 homeless persons and activists each night for the next four months. For many observers, a fine line had been drawn between what is real and what is theater. Such was precisely Snyder’s desire.

In addition to being an activist, Snyder was a self-proclaimed actor. A master of social pageantry and what now would be dubbed “street theater,” Mitch was famed for his insatiable motivation to cause a public scene. Among his exploits, he orchestrated a blood spattering of the Capitol steps, sloshed through the world’s biggest pie yelling “It’s all mine,” sat outside the White House in an old Irish tradition of waiting outside the home of someone who had wronged you without appropriate remorse, often jumped the White House fence, and, most infamously, fasted, nearly unto death three times. These actions gained significant attention to Mitch, the cause of homelessness, and helped to energize and unify many homeless persons and advocates.

— “I Don’t Mind Stealing Bread” … Remembering Mitch Snyder  (Hymns of Social Justice), Chris Henrichsen, July 24, 2013

Talking with John (he prefers a pseudonym), I know tagging this 48-year-old as a “victim of circumstances” won’t stick. He prefers to be called a vagabond. We talk about intelligent design, quantum physics, zoning laws, solutions to housing precarity.

He’s been going state to state for seven years. His own life philosophy is complicated, but in one sense is can be whittled down to – “Here today and gone tomorrow.”

“I am not a loner, don’t get me wrong,” he tells me while we share coffee. “I’ll associate with anyone who’s kind regardless of their station in life.”

Like many on the road, John doesn’t want many specifics revealed. He grew up in Los Angeles. He said he was probably a foster child. No siblings. He has no connection to his parents. The effects of a bullet to the lung and one to the hip at age 22 (both removed) are taking a toll on his ability to work long and grueling jobs.

Terry, 50, in Waldport, OR, on the streets and literally under a bridge at night.

He’s thrown in as a line chef, in carpentry, cabinet-making, demolishing structures and even was paid a penny a word for research through an on-line university.

He thinks labeling anyone with “mental illness” is both incorrect (“we can have mental issues and problems, but it is not a disease”) and a quick way to control people and taking away their rights.

John is skeptical of government services for homeless, saying, “The secular institutions aren’t capable of helping the homeless. When people help me, it’s members of the community. Religious institutions should be helping out much more.”

He’s not atypical in that he had his ID stolen in 2016, and has had major difficulty securing a copy of his birth certificate (from California) to get the process going for an ID. His California driver’s license, he said, was taken by police.

Working under the table isn’t always easy. He isn’t asking for any handouts, but when I pressed him about his immediate needs, he said:

  • somewhere to get out of the rain
  • a place with a source of heat
  • a place to cook food
  • a place to get out of the cold.

“It seems like the powers that be want us to freeze to death. Sometimes it’s just a place to get out of the cold that can make the difference,” John said.

Larry, right, 74, from California, went to Humboldt State, and he’s been without a home for fifty years. Both Larry and Terry (left) are the tip of the iceberg, so to speak: they are on the streets, have signs — “Anything will help” — and talk with locals. Citizens. Homeowners. The issue with homelessness yawns its monster mouth when we take into account couch surfing, basement living, folks with families in garages, those living in fifth wheels and vans and cars.

Two-part series in the local rag — “Behind the Faces of Lincoln County’s Homeless.”

Part of my impetus doing this sidebar is to get the word out, but in so many cases, I feel as if I am a babe in the woods. There are not real forums where strong, focused arguments about the failures of capitalism can be voiced. You see, the fewer opportunities for social-people-environmental-cultural justice to be voiced and delineated, the quicker this retail/consumer society will tank.

From the bottom up, of course, since we have a system of corporate welfare that sucks the very blood from people. Imagine, no outrage about food stamps — a program if run right, STIMULATES local economies, local food purveyors, local community building.

Instead, a million more people off the measly program, while those pigs of capital get cash hand over fist billions for military-surveillance-prison-banking complex.

Children already in bad schools — bad because they teach incompetence, small mindedness, compliance, stupidity, chaos, genuflection to lies about history and about the Empire — need real food, real veggies, real fruit, real nutrition. Instead, more children left behind.

And, then, who knows how many end up like these men in a decade, or two decades.

Imagine systems of oppression in schools, in communities, with police forces, with the broken and dictatorial social services, working to put more and more people through the ringer.

Yep, people come to Lincoln County (like hundreds of other counties) to find a place in the sun. To find work. To get away from the urban core of a Portland.

They find seasonal work, tourist industry low paying service jobs, no transportation system, no community gardens, no community centers, nothing, really, and alas, the worst part, they have no housing.

Think how hard communities of every size and shape give away trillions in tax abatements, free land, loopholes, entitlement program, federal dollars, the whole works. Yet, do we have cooperative housing so these businesses can keep people here with the low wages they shell out?

Insanity is believing the tip of the iceberg is the iceberg, so seeing these down and out men (and some women) on the streets and then calling it good when crappy hot chocolate is donated on a windy cold day, when a pile of toothbrushes is given out, when a Oregon Ducks used sweatshirt if thrown at them!

PhD’s on food-stamps! Adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants living in cars, tripling up, while football coaches and a million other superfluous employees at universities get big pay, big tenure rewards, big retirement benefits.

I have been around enough to have talked with plenty of faculty (I was a freeway flyer with a spouse, so we threw in together, with some help from my mother and her parents buying our only child “things” that would have cost us an arm and a leg) who are living in their vans. I have been around enough to have worked as a social worker with clients living in cars, in tents, in abandoned garages and shacks. These homeless people ARE workers, man — cutting Dole’s fruit, loading a million consumer goods onto pallets, answering phones at call centers. Tons and tons of people working the Amazon Fascist Smile Warehouse gig living in a beat-up 20 foot RV.

Tickets on their windows for parking in “illegal zones.” Tickets for expired plates. Tickets for garbage neatly boxed outside the RV. Tow truck operators making bucks, judges getting paid, cops getting retirement benefits.

Being poor, as John attests, costs a lot of money. “If I have no place to cook and heat up food, what does that leave me? Chips and bad food. I can’t go into a restaurant like this an pay $12 for an enchilada plate.”

Larry is so down and out he has cancerous growths on his face, on his back. His clothes are so bad that he gets shooed away from businesses just being outside. He is in need of massive intervention, and on the surface that intervention might look like mandatory “commitment” to a program or suite of programs. But he is in pain, dying on the streets, a constant reminder of the failure of so many systems in this wacko survival of the fittest/dog-eat-dog/Christ Let’s The Poor Inherit The Earth mumbo-jumbo.

Mumbo-jumbo that drive policy. I have met a hundred social workers (females) who have crucifixes around their necks, who believe in their own personal angels. I have met dozens of male social workers who believe in tough love, in turning off someone’s food stamps to get them to come into the office for their monthly face-to-face.

These are the evil people, the Little Eichmann’s, the banality of evil that is a country like USA. Or any country that values the rich and the material over the majority of people in their midst, over the land, over the ecosystems.

John believes the churches will step it up. He thinks the government is too strong, and that churches — the Xmas kind — should have power in this country. he’s a smart guy, deep thinker, been around but over the years it’s been those ministries that have given him a spare blanket, a dime, food.

That’s the odd thing about smart homeless people — they have undying faith in their personal protector, their big daddy in the sky. Many see their lives in this constant chaos and estrangement from “norms” as part of some big plan.

Some, that is, believe that.

But, just last night — a woman, forty, with two girls, on her own, getting disability security checks for the autistic child. She’s in subsidized housing. She has no money for car insurance. Getting a job means something right across the street from her subsidizing housing. An 11 year old at home with a daughter who just turned 18 receiving the $1300 a month for housing and disability compensation.

If this woman — the daughter — goes over $15 or more a month, she loses payments. Already the food stamp allotment has been cut by $85 a month. Imagine, a family of three, and that is a big cut big time.

The average person spends $75 a month on coffee at Starbucks. But the average person in the other category — really precarious, on the edge, without many employment options — they end up in a life and death situation. Less nutrition.

Now, some redneck type might ask where’s the father? Oh, where is that father who ended up in the US Army, got injured twice, with 300 pounds of antifreeze coming down on his head? Yep, ya think that man is cognitively okay? Divorced and left with the two children at a young age, this woman is not getting back child support.

The cogs of the machinery not only do not turn, they are frozen in place.

Recrimination abounds in the world I travel through — it’s her fault for having kids; it’s her fault for having a bad spouse; it’s her fault for not going to college’ it’s her fault she was born into a bad family with no father figure; it’s her fault she carries extra pounds on her frame; it’s her fault the kids have no extras, no activities to do outside of school, walks on the beach and TV; it’s her fault for being here on the coast.

A lot of faults, a lot of recriminations, a lot of what most people of “good upbringing” say among themselves or to themselves while passing this woman by as she walks with her daughters and the passerby is in her SUV.

As a writer-journalist-advocacy thinker-biased human being, I can say not enough gets said in meetings, not enough passion is passed around by the stakeholders and powerful. Not enough calling the kettle black, man.

This society where I enter — so many different demographics, activities, realms, professions, people types — is still deluded into believing the crap of American Exceptionalism. They really believe there was great time in USA, when it was a Great White City on the Hill.

In the end, trauma-trauma-trauma. Many end up precarious because of the trauma. Misanthropes like a Trump or Bloomberg or Zuckerberg, well, there might have been trauma-trauma-trauma in their lives (all three have exacted millions of traumas to others) but these archetypes are able to “overcome” them and become the cruel and ruthless and demeaning hucksters they have become. That the average Joe and Jane like or respect any of these folk — cult of celebrity is a death sentence of intelligence — is amazing still to me.

But the daily survival of John — he has so many skills a Trump of Bloomberg do not have — is both elegant and real. He is getting close to fifty, and he may look like a regular guy on some walkabout, he still knows things could be much better for him.

He laments how women who are homeless have it worse than the men. “Look, I have seen women come into an area after an assault. The cops don’t care. There are missing women all the time. There’s a new poster out in Newport of a young woman missing. How many of them are murdered, left in the woods. The police don’t pursue these rape cases, these missing persons cases. It’s a tragedy, a crime.”

Challenging the Flawed Premise Behind Pushing GMOs into Indian Agriculture

A common claim is that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are essential to agriculture if we are to feed an ever-growing global population. Supporters of genetically engineered (GE) crops argue that by increasing productivity and yields, this technology will also help boost farmers’ incomes and lift many out of poverty. Although in this article it will be argued that the performance of GE crops to date has been questionable, the main contention is that the pro-GMO lobby, both outside of India and within, has wasted no time in wrenching the issues of hunger and poverty from their political contexts to use notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynchpins of its promotional strategy. There exists a ‘haughty imperialism’ within the pro-GMO scientific lobby that aggressively pushes for a GMO ‘solution’ which is a distraction from the root causes of poverty, hunger and malnutrition and genuine solutions based on food justice and food sovereignty.

Last year, in the journal Current Science, Dr Deepak Pental, developer of genetically engineered (GE) mustard at Delhi University, responded to a previous paper in the same journal by eminent scientists PC Kesavan and MS Swaminathan which questioned the efficacy of and the need for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture. Pental argued that the two authors had aligned themselves with environmentalists and ideologues who have mindlessly attacked the use of genetic engineering (GE) technology to improve crops required for meeting the food and nutritional needs of a global population that is predicted to peak at 11.2 billion. Pental added that aspects of the two authors’ analysis are a reflection of their ideological proclivities.

The use of the word ‘mindlessly’ is telling and betrays Pental’s own ideological disposition. His words reflect tired industry-inspired rhetoric that says criticisms of GE technology are driven by ideology not fact.

If hunger and malnutrition are to be tackled effectively, the pro-GMO lobby must put aside this type of rhetoric, which is designed to close down debate. It should accept valid concerns about the GMO paradigm and be willing to consider why the world already produces enough to feed 10 billion people but over two billion are experiencing micronutrient deficiencies (of which 821 million were classed as chronically undernourished in 2018).

Critics: valid concerns or ideologues?

The performance of GE crops has been a hotly contested issue and, as highlighted in Kevasan and Swaminathan’s piece and by others, there is already sufficient evidence to question their efficacy, especially that of herbicide-tolerant crops (which by 2007 already accounted for approximately 80% of biotech-derived crops grown globally) and the devastating impacts on the environment, human health and food security, not least in places like Latin America.

We should not accept the premise that only GE can solve problems in agriculture. In their paper, Kesavan and Swaminathan argue that GE technology is supplementary and must be need based. In more than 99% of cases, they say that time-honoured conventional breeding is sufficient. In this respect, conventional options and innovations that outperform GE must not be overlooked or sidelined in a rush by powerful interests like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to facilitate the introduction of GE crops into global agriculture; crops which are highly financially lucrative for the corporations behind them.

In Europe, robust regulatory mechanisms are in place for GMOs because it is recognised that GE food/crops are not substantially equivalent to their non-GE counterparts. Numerous studies have highlighted the flawed premise of ‘substantial equivalence’. Furthermore, from the outset of the GMO project, the sidelining of serious concerns about the technology has occurred and despite industry claims to the contrary, there is no scientific consensus on the health impacts of GE crops as noted by Hilbeck et al (Environmental Sciences Europe, 2015). Adopting a precautionary principle where GE is concerned is therefore a valid approach.

As Hilbeck et al note, both the Cartagena Protocol and Codex share a precautionary approach to GE crops and foods, in that they agree that GE differs from conventional breeding and that safety assessments should be required before GMOs are used in food or released into the environment. There is sufficient reason to hold back on commercialising GE crops and to subject each GMO to independent, transparent environmental, social, economic and health impact evaluations.

Critics’ concerns cannot therefore be brushed aside by claims that ‘the science’ is decided and the ‘facts’ about GE are indisputable. Such claims are merely political posturing and part of a strategy to tip the policy agenda in favour of GE.

In India, various high-level reports have advised against the adoption of GE crops. Appointed by the Supreme Court, the ‘Technical Expert Committee (TEC) Final Report’ (2013) was scathing about India’s prevailing regulatory system and highlighted its inadequacies and serious inherent conflicts of interest. The TEC recommended a 10-year moratorium on the commercial release of all GE crops.

As we have seen with the push to get GE mustard commercialised, the problems described by the TEC persist. Through her numerous submissions to the Supreme Court, Aruna Rodrigues has argued that GE mustard is being pushed through based on outright regulatory delinquency. It must also be noted that this crop is herbicide tolerant, which, as stated by the TEC, is wholly inappropriate for India with its small biodiverse, multi-cropping farms.

While the above discussion has only scratched the surface, it is fair to say that criticisms of GE technology and various restrictions and moratoriums have not been driven by ‘mindless’ proclivities.

Can GE crops ‘feed the world’?

The ‘gene revolution’ is sometimes regarded as Green Revolution 2.0. The Green Revolution too was sold under the guise of ‘feeding the world’. However, emerging research indicates that in India it merely led to more wheat in the diet, while food productivity per capita showed no increase or actually decreased.

Globally, the Green Revolution dovetailed with the consolidation of an emerging global food regime based on agro-export mono-cropping (often with non-food commodities taking up prime agricultural land) and (unfair) liberalised trade, linked to sovereign debt repayment and World Bank/IMF structural adjustment-privatisation directives. The outcomes have included a displacement of a food-producing peasantry, the consolidation of Western agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of many countries from food self-sufficiency into food deficit areas. And yet, the corporations behind this system of dependency and their lobbyists waste no time in spreading the message that this is the route to achieving food security. Their interests lie in ‘business as usual’.

Today, we hear terms like ‘foreign direct investment’ and making India ‘business friendly’, but behind the rhetoric lies the hard-nosed approach of globalised capitalism. The intention is for India’s displaced cultivators to be retrained to work as cheap labour in the West’s offshored plants. India is to be a fully incorporated subsidiary of global capitalism, with its agri-food sector restructured for the needs of global supply chains and a reserve army of labour that effectively serves to beat workers and unions in the West into submission.

Global food insecurity and malnutrition are not the result of a lack of productivity. As long as these dynamics persist and food injustice remains an inbuilt feature of the global food regime, the rhetoric of GE being necessary for feeding the world will be seen for what it is: bombast.

Although India fares poorly in world hunger assessments, the country has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured there is enough food (in terms of calories) available to feed its entire population. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables, fruit and cotton.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Food security for many Indians remains a distant dream. Large sections of India’s population do not have enough food available to remain healthy nor do they have sufficiently diverse diets that provide adequate levels of micronutrients. The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 is the first-ever nationally representative nutrition survey of children and adolescents in India. It found that 35 per cent of children under five were stunted, 22 per cent of school-age children were stunted while 24 per cent of adolescents were thin for their age.

People are not hungry in India because its farmers do not produce enough food. Hunger and malnutrition result from various factors, including inadequate food distribution, (gender) inequality and poverty; in fact, the country continues to export food while millions remain hungry. It’s a case of ‘scarcity’ amid abundance.

Where farmers’ livelihoods are concerned, the pro-GMO lobby says GE will boost productivity and help secure cultivators a better income. Again, this is misleading: it ignores crucial political and economic contexts. Even with bumper harvests, Indian farmers still find themselves in financial distress.

India’s farmers are not experiencing financial hardship due to low productivity. They are reeling from the effects of neoliberal policies, years of neglect and a deliberate strategy to displace smallholder agriculture at the behest of the World Bank and predatory global agri-food corporations . Little wonder then that the calorie and essential nutrient intake of the rural poor has drastically fallen.

However, aside from putting a positive spin on the questionable performance of GMO agriculture, the pro-GMO lobby, both outside of India and within, has wasted no time in wrenching these issues from their political contexts to use the notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynch pins of its promotional strategy.

GE was never intended to feed the world

Many of the traditional practices of India’s small farmers are now recognised as sophisticated and appropriate for high-productive, sustainable agriculture. It is no surprise therefore that a recent FAO high-level report has called for agroecology and smallholder farmers to be prioritised and invested in to achieve global sustainable food security. It argues that scaling up agroecology offers potential solutions to many of the world’s most pressing problems, whether, for instance, climate change and carbon storage, soil degradation, water shortages, unemployment or food security.

Agroecological principles represent a shift away from the reductionist yield-output industrial paradigm, which results in among other things enormous pressures on soil and water resources, to a more integrated low-input systems approach to food and agriculture that prioritises local food security, local calorific production, cropping patterns and diverse nutrition production per acre, water table stability, climate resilience, good soil structure and the ability to cope with evolving pests and disease pressures. Such a system would be underpinned by a concept of food sovereignty,  based on optimal self-sufficiency, the right to culturally appropriate food and local ownership and stewardship of common resources, such as land, water, soil and seeds.

Traditional production systems rely on the knowledge and expertise of farmers in contrast to imported ‘solutions’. Yet, if we take cotton cultivation in India as an example, farmers continue to be nudged away from traditional methods of farming and are being pushed towards (illegal) GE herbicide-tolerant cotton seeds. Researchers Glenn Stone and Andrew Flachs note the results of this shift from traditional practices to date does not appear to have benefited farmers. This isn’t about giving farmers ‘choice’ where GE seeds and associated chemicals are concerned. It is more about GE seed companies and weedicide manufactures seeking to leverage a highly lucrative market.

The potential for herbicide market growth in India is enormous and industry looked for sales to reach USD 800 million by 2019. The objective involves opening India to GE seeds with herbicide tolerance traits, the biotechnology industry’s biggest money maker by far (86 per cent of the world’s GE crop acres in 2015 contain plants resistant to glyphosate or glufosinate and there is a new generation of crops resistant to 2,4-D coming through).

The aim is to break farmers’ traditional pathways and move them onto corporate biotech/chemical treadmills for the benefit of industry.

Calls for agroecology and highlighting the benefits of traditional, small-scale agriculture are not based on a romantic yearning for the past or ‘the peasantry’. Available evidence suggests that (non-GMO) smallholder farming using low-input methods is more productive in total output than large-scale industrial farms and can be more profitable and resilient to climate change. It is for good reason that the FAO high-level report referred to earlier as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof Hilal Elver, call for investment in this type of agriculture, which is centred on small farms. Despite the pressures, including the fact that globally industrial agriculture grabs 80 per cent of subsidies and 90 per cent of research funds, smallholder agriculture plays a major role in feeding the world.

That’s a massive quantity of subsidies and funds to support a system that is only made profitable as a result of these financial injections and because agri-food oligopolies externalize the massive health, social and environmental costs of their operations.

But policy makers tend to accept that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be owners and custodians of natural assets (the ‘commons’). These corporations, their lobbyists and their political representatives have succeeded in cementing a ‘thick legitimacy’ among policy makers for their vision of agriculture.

From World Bank ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ directives to the World Trade Organization ‘agreement on agriculture’ and trade related intellectual property agreements, international bodies have enshrined the interests of corporations that seek to monopolise seeds, land, water, biodiversity and other natural assets that belong to us all. These corporations, the promoters of GMO agriculture, are not offering a ‘solution’ for farmers’ impoverishment or hunger; GE seeds are little more than a value capture mechanism.

To evaluate the pro-GMO lobby’s rhetoric that GE is needed to ‘feed the world’, we first need to understand the dynamics of a globalised food system that fuels hunger and malnutrition against a backdrop of (subsidised) food overproduction. We must acknowledge the destructive, predatory dynamics of capitalism and the need for agri-food giants to maintain profits by seeking out new (foreign) markets and displacing existing systems of production with ones that serve their bottom line.  And we need to reject a deceptive ‘haughty imperialism within the pro-GMO scientific lobby which aggressively pushes for a GMO ‘solution’.

Incredible Lightness of Quetzalcóatl

From the far distance sounded the muffled howling of a family of monkeys, monos gritones, passing the night in the crowns of the mighty trees. It echoed through the jungle like the roar of an angry mountain lion. Gruesome and terrifying, it seemed to tear the night apart, but it did not disturb the jungle. It sang and fiddled, chirped and whistled, whined and whimpered, rejoiced and lamented its ever-unchanging song with the constancy of the roaring sea.

B. Traven, “Trozas”

Note: This is part two in a series on Mexico and the passion and the glory of an American (me) rejiggering his relationship to finally yawn out of the swill of this sick North American consumer fiesta and move away. We’ll see how that unfolds, as I too am in the grip of viscous repeated battered country abuse syndrome!

*****

She holds onto her role as daughter in this patriarchal land — Mexico. Not sure how patriarchal it would have turned out if the Spanish sword, swine, syphilis, santos, holy see, germs had never set root in this New World.

She’s 52, unmarried, unable to birth progeny. She spent years in the USA to gain a stake so she might get a sliver of her father’s property for which to build a little casita.

Her brothers get the father’s and deceased mother’s land and small houses, small parcels. Claudia has a small school supply store in Axochiapan (her deceased mother’s for years) but she can’t make a living at it thanks to Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart and other box store cancers. She has her younger sister in Cuernavaca, and she works three jobs to barely survive with her technical degree in computer repair and IT. These two women — Claudia and Alejandra — have more “la capacidad” in their pinky fingers than all of America has in its jowls. Claudia was so broke she ended up buying 30 buenas noches (poinsettias for the Christmas time) to sell on the street in upscale neighborhoods in Cuernavaca. She made no sales as Land Rovers and Lexus coupes zoomed by.

The plague of propaganda, low prices, low quality, and brand loyalty has run rampant in this southern land, like dengue mosquitoes lighting upon the children while still in vitro.

Years ago, both Alejandra and Claudia spent time in a print plant in Gresham, Oregon, and most of their siblings had also thrown in around Portland, and many more hoofed it through the causeway to Minneapolis. Many made it to the El Norte without proper papers from the US Gestapo.

Claudia thinks sometime in 2020 she might be eligible to return to the USA. For Alejandra, that’s five years down the pike. We’ll vouch for and sponsor both of them.

Both are proud, smart, feminist, and self-determined. They are full of empathy, and would give the shirts off their backs to help friends, family, anyone in need.

They worked hard in El Norte, conjoined efforts, lived small, and saved money. Mexico was always in their dreams, and they were here to try and build something back home.

Back home, 90 years of bastard politicians in the two parties  — PAN and PRI —  literally have ripped off trillions from Mexico’s coffers;  and the bastards’ bastard, USA, El Yanqui, and the other financiers and the dirty industry honchos, all have a history of theft and murder, and are still readily staged to exploit, which is another word for steal.

Very little is allowed to be manufactured in Mexico — cars, buses, equipment, more. NAFTA allows for a pipeline of US-made and US-provisioned stuff that the Mexicans could easily produce. We all know what the NAFTA two-step American gut disease is.

Claudia’s hardy but sad, admitting to bouts of depression; and her friend, my spouse, came to see her for the very first time for a visit to Claudia’s homeland. To her small pueblo where cane fields, corn forests and a few cows populate the land. All of that, plus me, new in my spouse’s life with a trainload of history with Mexico, Latin America, La Raza, hatred of El Yanqui, created a unique mix of ingredients that bonded us quickly as we went through by car (a friend of Claudia’s rented a new KIA Sole to us cheap) and saw many parts of Morelos and Guerrero.

These are powerful rendezvouses you’ll never get from Holly-Dirt Netflix originals. This story is not closed, but it’s universal.

In the chaotic Stockholm Syndrome lives of North Americans, nothing about the struggle to overthrow the chains of Capitalism and crony corruption resonates since North America is one flagging mall-dragging country, where the population is compliant in the workplace, but mad as hell on the troll worlds of on-line “discourse.” Sort of the salt peter of revolution and real deterministic radical action — the world wide web; Holly-dirt; Youtube; the infantilism and Chlamydia of mainstream pop culture;  wacko political correctness; the four seasons of  24/7  violence for younger and younger males with their sweaty warped joysticks; the endless joke-joke of Americans relishing in their own stupidity and air power; the endless useless pedantics in academia, the courts, and the state department.

It is so real, how falsely revisionist the North American concept of history for this Turtle Island. Trump is the culmination of all of the superficiality, all the Ponzi schemes, all the bankruptcy courts, the insipid hubris of the stupid, all the PT Barnum hustle, all the smoke and mirrors, all the self-aggrandizement, all the narcissistic syndromes, all the puffed-up faux bravado of a man (and many MAGA men) who would last 10 seconds in a field with some of my former veterans who are mad as hell at the lies of empire, the lies at the top, the failure of ALL POTUS’s.

Not one has the capacity to understand “third” world people, or people in Mexico, or the races, the Indians, the tug of the white supremacists who launched their hairy bodies into Mesoamerica to play their swindle for King-Queen-Captain-Cardinal on a people who had pretty much figured out things for several millennia before the hordes of hustlers and rapists and murderers from Iberia and the Anglo lands penetrated their soil and jungles and bays.

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Cuernavaca

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry was one of my top 100 books a while back. It shows the anachronistic debased values of a British envoy, drunkard, impotent, and the the emerging pathogen of Nazism embraced by the industrialists and that included some in Mexico. The Power and the Glory, too, by Graham Greene. The passion, impassioning, and possessiveness of men. Macario and Treasure of Sierra Madre (B. Traven and John Huston books and scripts respectively) and Night of the Iguana.

Contemporary writers in Mexico and some of their well-known titles also inspire:

In Search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi.
The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel.
Diablo Guardián by Xavier Velasco.
Down The Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos.
The Uncomfortable Dead by Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Subcomandante Marcos.
Leaving Tabasco by Carmen Boullosa.

More here, Mexico’s Finest Contemporary Writers: Tracing a Cultural Renaissance

More authors I’ve danced with during mescal-induced jaguar nights: Luis Spota, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Jaime Sabines, Martin Luis Guzman, and Valeria Luiselli.

And the simple poetics of Mexicans who were determined to break the yoke of the oppressors:

My sole ambition is to rid Mexico of the class that has oppressed her and given the people a chance to know what real liberty means. And if I could bring that about today by giving up my life, I would do it gladly.

Pancho Villa

In that first blow to the deaf walls of those who have everything, the blood of our people, our blood, ran generously to wash away injustice. To live, we die. Our dead once again walked the way of truth. Our hope was fertilized with mud and blood.

Subcomandante Marcos

Like all of Latin America, Mexico after independence in 1821 turned its back on a triple heritage: on the Spanish heritage, because we were newly liberated colonies, and on our Indian and black heritages, because we considered them backward and barbaric. We looked towards France, England and the U.S., to become progressive democratic republics.

— Carlos Fuentes

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My good friend from Tucson, John, who became bi-lingual early in his life before his three years as an Army LT,  ended marrying a woman from Cuernavaca. I was at the wedding 33 years ago. He’s got three daughters, and he’s been divorced a while. She came from upper class environs, and he was a Navy commander’s son living in the desert. He and I like our motorcycles, and he is now a translator on the international market, from home, via Skype, phone, what have you. He’s single again, living the desert rat life of many a gringo who has gotten a taste of Mexico in their blood and entwined it into his children’s DNA.

He forewarned me to not head to Cuernavaca or the State of Guerrero or anywhere away from the quintessential tourist zones. He was citing US State Department provisos, whichever news feeds he reads, and the broken down minds of his fellow Arizonans.

Of course, he and the State Department are dead wrong, as was Reagan’s idiotic ambassador to Mexico, Gavin. But with Trump and idiotic millionaires like Maddow and the like, the USA is one starched up Marvel comic book world of good and bad, light and evil, where the highest thinkers (sic) are at least a couple of notches below Lex Luther’s mental prowess, for sure.

The result of this xenophobia is a large city, Cuernavaca, that in December had very non-Mexican few tourists. The city is looking tired and worn, as is most of Mexico, excluding the industrial complexes, mining operations, smelting outfits, et al.

The ebb of life, though, even in the threadbare places in Mexico, is compelling. Laughter and hands held. The peek-a-boo amazing sights, sounds, and smells around every corner and in every walkway.

Our second largest trading partner behind Canada, Mexico is a shell of a country in many ways. Ugly Botoxed white women and men on billboards, their green and blue eyes like a cold lizard’s, and on TV, in positions of power, while la gente is continually denigrated and spat upon by the elites.

Axe

We are hatchets of steel and fire.
We live to reap and illuminate.
With the metal,
we fell the trunk.
With the flame,
we illuminate the cut,
the felling of what we are.

Carmen Boullosa

 

Diego Rivera, Liberation of the Peon, B. Traven

Invasions

Trump told the previous president of Mexico that he would be sending in the American cavalry to take care of “those bad hombres.”

He accused Peña Nieto of harboring “a bunch of bad hombres down there” and warned:

You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.

But there is a history of US meddling, both through “diplomatic channels,” through the economic structural violence our hit men are known for, and with troops:

When Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913, he inherited a chaotic diplomatic relationship with Mexico. Two years earlier, the country’s longtime head of state, Porfirio Díaz, had been deposed. Over three decades in power, Díaz had been strongly aligned with American economic interests, which came to control 90 percent of Mexico’s mineral resources, its national railroad, its oil industry and, increasingly, its land. Resentful of the “peaceful invasion” from their northern neighbors, in 1911 middle-class and landless Mexicans overthrew Díaz and installed a noted public intellectual and reform champion, Francisco Madero, in the presidency. Not long after, the military, under the leadership of General Victoriano Huerta, deposed and executed Madero.

Displaying his deep piety and moral conviction, Wilson declared that he would never “recognize a government of butchers” and declared his intent to “teach” Mexico “a lesson by insisting on the removal of Huerta.” To that end, he sent two personal envoys to Mexico City to instruct the country’s political leaders—“for her own good”—to insist on Huerta’s resignation. The mission fared poorly. For one, the envoys—William Bayard Hale, a journalist, and John Lind, a local politician from Minnesota—spoke not a word of Spanish. Lind privately regarded Mexicans as “more like children than men” and conducted himself accordingly, to the detriment of the mission.

[…] At first, Villa sought to align himself with Wilson, but as his grasp on power became more tenuous, he sought to raise additional resources by taxing American corporations and through general banditry. He took matters a step too far when his forces confiscated the sprawling Mexican ranch of American publisher William Randolph Hearst and briefly invaded a New Mexico border town, crying “Viva Villa! Viva Mexico!”

Incensed, Wilson raised a “punitive expedition” of 10,000 soldiers under the direction of General John J. Pershing. Equipped with all the modern trappings of war—reconnaissance aircraft, Harley Davidson motorcycles—the invading army searched high and low for Villa. It was like finding “a needle in a haystack,” Pershing would soon complain. Though Villa’s forces continued to plunder and maraud, the Americans proved incapable of finding and capturing the rebel leader. When Villa surfaced briefly in Glenn Springs, Texas, with his troops, only to disappear soon thereafter, the Wilson administration was left mortified and bereft of an explanation.

American entry into the Great War allowed Wilson and Pershing to save face. In February 1917 the expedition returned to American soil. Within weeks, Pershing sailed for Europe to command the nation’s war effort.

Trump has now warned the new Mexican president that he will deem drug cartels as terrorist organizations, igniting the TNT of war and invasion. This was on all the people’s minds when I was traveling just days ago in Mexico; even in the conservative mass media. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said:

But in these cases we have to act independently and according to our constitution, and in line with our tradition of independence and sovereignty.

War is irrational. We are for peace.

AMLO’s comments came after Trump fired off a series of tweets Tuesday morning offering Mexico “help in cleaning out these monsters.” Trump:

The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!” Trump said. “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!

No matter how barbaric the cartels are, and how in bed they are with the police, army, government, the barbarism of the US is in line with the Spanish and Portuguese slave traders. Each and every weapon manufactured and sold in the USA that gets south of the border is part of that barbarism. Every line of coke and hit of Meth consumed by the great happy USA population is a bullet to the head of the innocents of Mexico.

Like Italy, Mexico is at the whim of the Church and Mafia. Like Western Culture, every blinking moment in every individual’s life is determined by the billionaires, their cabal of financial and retail felons. We are at the whim of the heads of Boeing, Exxon, Raytheon and any number of resource extractors and consumer bombers. Fortune magazine praises the millionaires and billionaires and their disruptive industries, technologies, financial instruments. All of it is still American sodomy of a race, a culture, a place, a land.

In Mexico, the juxtaposition of Nestle bottles everywhere or the VW’s and the Dodge’s is easily supplanted by the hard lives of Mexicans still eking out livings and conjugating their traditions, no matter how deeply Western Plastic Culture and Consumer Goods have infiltrated their land.

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Family Wedded to Culture, Land, History

Yanquis and Stars and Bars flag wavers are the sum total of their genocidal roots destroying First Nations’ peoples and the enslavement of Africans, but also the deep racism and bigotry perpetrated against not just Filipino and Chinese and Japanese, but against the Jew, Eastern European, German, Irish, Italian, et al.

Drowning women deemed witches, complete decimation of the grasslands, the wetlands, the bayous, the slaying of buffalo and wolf and grizzly, and the metal machines cutting into earth and stoking the flames and smoke of today’s generation of cancer-riddled people. I have these trolls attempting to harass me, trolls who listen to that ape of a man, Stephen King of Iowa, who drivels his white supremacist crap on how the white Christian lands/peoples have contributed 90 percent or more of the marvels of modern humanity — from the internet to microscopes, from splitting of the atom to cinema, from supersonic jets to soda pop. These pigs are on the airwaves, both of the Tucker Carson kind and the liberal Hollywood and media types continually showing the great boom of intelligence in the Western White World, or in many cases, the great achievements of the Judaeo-Christian.

“Shit-hole” country may have come out of the racist whites’ moldy mouths decades/centuries before Trump’s bloviating (how many US presidents have shown outright racism against  ALL nations of color?), but it’s in the minds of liberals, democrats, those so-called professional class, the college educated, and the journalists and diplomats. Most Americans see the words “backwards” or “not evolved enough” or “heathen” or “simpleton” when they see Mexico or Mexicans.

[link] The irony is that Trump’s own ancestors came from Africa, as did all mankind. In the book and documentary “The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey,” the geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells traces the human migration out of Africa. He travelled the world for a decade to trace genetic markers by taking blood samples—from Bushmen in the sweltering Kalahari Desert and the Chukchi in icy Siberia to the Hopi in the American West—to prove the trail of the human migration. Wells concludes, “Old concepts of race are not only socially divisive but scientifically wrong.”

In the end we know which country is the shit-hole, the shitty one, and its collective stupidity and infantilism continues to lobotomize the masses. I teach k12, and the food these kids eat and then waste is criminal, but emblematic of the American project of exceptionalism and the right to pollute, throw away, discard, waste, over-consume. The youth have no culture, no art, no interest in anything but making a few dollars fast.

The reality is this throw-away society is right now generating, through this corrupt capitalism, more and more discarded peoples in this country and in other countries. The AI-Robot-GIG-Uber-ization-Amazon-ification-Economies of Scale-Centralization will again generate more and more disposed of humanity — in the USA, and elsewhere.

We know socialistic systems of organizing are the only way to stem this destruction. Read or watch  any number a a million essays, interviews, books on the subject.

What capitalism has done is gut Mexico, forcing families to break up sisters and brothers, sons and  daughters, uncles and aunts, grandkids and cousins, friends and lovers, husbands and wives to head to El Norte tob e exploited by capitalism on steroids and to weather the scourge of racist Americans, police, policies, bureaucracies, attitudes.

The amount of hate against Mexicans or Latino/a people is high in USA.

In their own country, the people of the land in Mexico are now sugar coated, eating crappy food, drinking soda, and hauling their bodies full of hormone disrupters, full of petro-chemicals, GMOs, nitrous oxide, and a million other particulates created by the full-scale NAFTA exploitation and the theft of their own culture, land, resources by the white devils in their own country — the elites educated in the Milton Friedman school of destruction.

Brotherhood

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

Netflix, The 43 — This docuseries with Paco Ignacio Taibo II in it, disputes the Mexican government’s account of how and why 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College vanished in Iguala in 2014.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II—leader in the 1968 Mexican student strike, journalist, social activist, union organizer—is widely known for his crime novels, and is considered the founder of the neo-crime genre in Latin America. One of the most prolific writers in Mexico today, more than 500 editions of his 51 books have been published in over a dozen languages. Taibo has won many awards, including the Grijalbo, the Planeta/Joaquin Mortiz in 1992, and the Dashiell Hammett three times, for his crime novels. His biography, Guevara: Also Known as Che (St. Martin’s Press, 1996), has sold more than half a million copies around the world and won the 1998 Bancarella Book of the Year award in Italy. Taibo organizes the Semana Negra (Noir Week), a crime fiction festival held every year in Gijón, Spain.

Taibo: Yes. I wanted to destroy the old idea that history is science and fiction is fantasy. Everybody knows that is not true. It’s a game: Just Passing Through starts asking if it’s really a novel, if it’s rather a history book, because of this and this and this. And then, in the second paragraph, it says: this is a novel, this cannot be a history book, it’s full of fiction. Then, in the third paragraph, what the hell is a novel, what the hell is a history book? The game is trying to destroy this secure attitude of historians to history and this secure attitude of fiction writers about fiction. There’s nothing secure in history. I don’t like security. History shouldn’t be a secure space, a comfortable space. Comfortable for whom? Readers? Writers? It’s the opposite.

We’ll go deeper in this reclamation of what it means to be in, live in, be with, hold onto Mexico and Mexicans!

The Right to Healthy Food: Poisoned with Pesticides    

Environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has just written an open letter addressed to three senior officials in Britain: John Gardiner, Under Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the British government; Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England; and Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Security.

Her letter focuses on the issue of food and the herbicide glyphosate. But the issues she discusses should not be regarded as being specific to the situation in Britain: they apply equally to countries across the world which are facilitating the interests of global agrochemicals conglomerates.

For instance, according to a September 2019 report in the New York Times, ‘A Shadowy Industry Group Shapes Food Policy Around the World’, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) has been quietly infiltrating government health and nutrition bodies. The article lays bare ILSI’s influence on the shaping of high-level food policy globally, not least in India and China.

Accused of being little more than a front group for its 400 corporate members that provide its $17 million budget, ILSI’s members include Coca-Cola, DuPont, PepsiCo, General Mills and Danone. The report says ILSI has received more than $2 million from chemical companies, among them Monsanto. In 2016, a UN committee issued a ruling that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup, was “probably not carcinogenic,” contradicting an earlier report by the WHO’s cancer agency. The committee, it turned out, was led by two ILSI officials.

And this brings us to Rosemary Mason’s letter.

In it, she describes how she established a very successful nature reserve in South Wales, which attracted huge numbers of insects, two bat species and many swallows, house martins and swifts. She says that it was miraculous. But disaster soon followed.

In 2011, the local council was asked to attempt to destroy Japanese Knotweed using the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.  Japanese Knotweed had become resistant to Roundup in the 1980s. That meant that however much of the chemical was sprayed, it was impossible to kill it; the plant just grew bigger and stronger. Between 2012 and 2017, Mason notes that the number of insects on her reserve began to decline. It ultimately became a wildlife desert.

Mason asks:

Monsanto, the British government and the UK and EU regulators say that glyphosate is safer than table salt. But would table salt kill all these insects that we recorded in our photo-journals or cause apocalyptic declines globally?

She adds that the invertebrates in her nature reserve were poisoned. But that was only the half of it:

My neurologist concluded that I had developed a toxic neurodegenerative disorder secondary to long-term exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides.

Mason proceeds to outline the cosy relationship between the agrochemicals sector, Cancer Research UK and the British government, the result of which is to promote a disease narrative that diverts attention from the effects of toxic agrochemicals and place the blame on individual lifestyle behaviour, choice of diet and alcohol consumption. She asks:

Where is the scientific evidence for this?

Aside from the government’s collusion with pesticides manufacturers, Mason says the corporate media, most notably in Britain, are silent about pesticides that are poisoning the public:

They haven’t informed the British people about the trials involving Roundup in the US. Bayer estimates that there are currently more than 42,000 plaintiffs alleging that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides made by Monsanto caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the UK, there were 13,605 new cases of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2015 (and 4,920 deaths in 2016).

Mason refers to Robert F Kennedy Jr, one of the US attorneys fighting Bayer (which bought Monsanto). He says that Monsanto told Bayer that a $270-million set-aside would cover all its outstanding liabilities arising from Monsanto’s 5,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits. However, Bayer never saw certain internal Monsanto documents prior to the purchase.

Kennedy explains that for four decades Monsanto manoeuvred to conceal Roundup’s carcinogenicity by capturing regulatory agencies, corrupting public officials, bribing scientists and engaging in scientific fraud to delay its day of reckoning.

He adds that Monsanto also faces cascading scientific evidence linking glyphosate to a constellation of other injuries that have become prevalent since its introduction, including obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts.

Moreover, strong science suggests glyphosate is the culprit in the exploding epidemics of celiac disease, colitis, gluten sensitivities, diabetes and non-alcoholic liver cancer which, for the first time, is attacking children as young as 10.

Whether as a weed killer or as a desiccant to dry oats and wheat immediately before harvest, farmers have been spraying Roundup directly on food. Roundup sales rose dramatically to 300 million pounds annually in the US, with farmers spraying enough to cover every tillable acre in the country with a gallon of Roundup.

Glyphosate now accounts for about 50% of all herbicide use in the US. About 75% of use has occurred since 2006, with the global glyphosate market projected to reach $11.74 billion by 2023.

Kennedy asserts that never in history has a chemical been used so pervasively: glyphosate is in our air, water, plants, animals, grains, vegetables and meats. And it’s in beer and wine, children’s breakfast cereal and snack bars and mother’s breast milk. It’s even in our vaccines.

And yet, in the UK, as Mason explains, the Department of Health says pesticides are not its concern. None of the more than 400 pesticides that have been authorised in the UK have been tested for long-term actions on the brain; in the foetus, the child or the adult. But perhaps that’s to be expected: between May 2010 and the end of 2013, the Department of Health alone had 130 meetings with representatives of the agri-food industry.

Mason then says that the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme has residues of 123 different pesticides, some of which are linked to serious health problems such as cancer and disruption of the hormone system. Moreover, the scientific community has little understanding about the complex interaction of different chemicals in what is termed the ‘cocktail’ effect.

The effects of these toxins carry through to adulthood. Mason discusses the deleterious effects of glyphosate on the gut microbiome. Glyphosate disrupts the shikimate pathway within these gut bacteria and is a strong chelator of essential minerals, such as cobalt, zinc, manganese, calcium, molybdenum and sulphate. In addition, it kills off beneficial gut bacteria and allows toxic bacteria to flourish. She adds that we are facing a global metabolic health crisis provoked by an obesity epidemic linked to glyphosate.

Gut bacteria are vitally important to our well-being. Many key neurotransmitters are located in the gut. Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, these transmitters affect our moods and thinking. Findings published in the journal Translational Psychiatry in 2014 provided strong evidence that gut bacteria can have a direct physical impact on the brain. Alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome have been implicated in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression and Parkinson’s Disease.

Mason then proceeds to provides evidence that shows that Britain (and the US) is in the midst of a barely reported public health crisis.

She refers to a letter written in 2013 by the late Marion Copley (US EPA toxicologist) to her colleague Jess Rowland. She accused Rowland of conniving with Monsanto to bury the agency’s own hard scientific evidence that it is “essentially certain” that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, causes cancer. The date of the letter comes after Copley left the EPA in 2012 and shortly before she died from breast cancer at the age of 66 in January 2014:

Jess, Since I left the agency with cancer [breast] I have studied the tumor process extensively… based on my decades of pathology experience. Glyphosate was originally designed as a chelating agent and I strongly believe that is the identical process involved in tumor formation.

Dr Copley makes 14 observations about chelators and/or glyphosate, including that they are endocrine disruptors and suppress the immune system and damage the kidneys or pancreas, which can lead to clinical chemistry changes that favour tumour growth. She notes glyphosate kills bacteria in the gut: the gastrointestinal system is 80% of the immune system making the body susceptible to tumours.

Copley adds:

It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer.

Mason concludes her letter by saying:

The probability is that the population in Britain will increasingly suffer from the diseases associated with glyphosate-based herbicides and with the 400-odd pesticides that contaminate our food. The deleterious effects of glyphosate on trees and crops will also continue because it is in the soil, water, air and rainfall.

On the back of Brexit, the Conservative government in Britain is set to jump into bed with the US via a trade deal hammered out without public scrutiny or parliamentary oversight. That deal could see the gutting of food safety and environmental standards so that they are brought in line with those in the US. With its recent ‘landslide’ election victory (having gained just 29.5% of the electorate’s votes), it seems increasingly likely that, given his stated commitment to do so, Boris Johnson will usher in herbicide-tolerant GM crops.

US agrochemicals and GM seeds manufacturers must be salivating at the prospects of any such trade deal. With the privatisation of an increasingly burdened NHS likely to be part of a deal, private healthcare providers and insurers must be too.

You may read Rosemary Mason’s open letter in full (with all relevant citations) here.

Lab Rats for Corporate Profit: Pesticide Industry’s Poisoned Platter 

Newly released pesticide usage statistics for 2018 confirm that the British people are being used as lab rats. That’s the message environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has sent to Dave Bench, senior scientist at the UK Chemicals, Health and Safety Executive and director of the agency’s EU exit plan. In her open letter to Bench, Mason warns that things could get much worse.

In 2016, the UK farming minister said that the nation could develop a more flexible approach to environmental protection free of “spirit-crushing” Brussels directives if it votes to leave the EU. George Eustice, the minister in question, said that the EU’s precautionary principle needed to be reformed in favour of a US-style ‘risk-based’ system that would allow for faster approvals.

There is little doubt that Eustice had GM crops in mind: the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that the most promising crops suitable for introducing to England would be Roundup Ready GA21 glyphosate-tolerant crops as they synergise well with herbicides already widely used in the UK.

Similarly, Boris Johnson said in his first speech as prime minister in July 2019:

Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.

However, the ‘GM will feed the world mantra’ is pure industry spin. The technology has a questionable record and, anyhow, there is already enough food being produced to feed the global population, yet around 830 million are classed as hungry and two billion experience micronutrient deficiency. If Johnson wants to ‘feed the world’, he would do better by looking of the inbuilt injustices of the global food regime which is driven by the very corporations he seems to be in bed with.

Conservative politicians’ positive spin about GM is little more than an attempt to justify a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington that will effectively incorporate the UK into the US’s regulatory food regime. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops, using more glyphosate (or similar agrochemicals) and a gutting of food safety and environmental standards. It is no secret that various Conservative-led administrations have wanted to ditch the EU regulatory framework on GM for some time.

Unregulated chemical cocktail

Mason asks Bench why Defra and the Chemicals Regulation Division refuse to ban glyphosate-based herbicides in Swansea between 2014-2017 when she told them that it was poisoning her nature reserve:

Analysis of local tap water in August 2014 revealed a 10-fold increase since August 2013: from 30 ppt to 300 ppt.  I told them that these were of the order of concentrations found in a laboratory study in 2013 that showed that breast cancer cell proliferation is accelerated by glyphosate in extremely low concentrations. We had several neighbours who have recently developed breast cancer. Now, in 2019, with many scientific papers reporting apocalyptic insect declines around the world, we are facing a global Armageddon; yet the public has no idea, because the press has concealed it from them.

Bench is also asked:

Have you seen the pesticides usage statistics for 2018? They confirm what a European NGO said in 2013, that the British citizens are being used as lab rats!

Mason continues:

Dave Bench, you presented a paper at the Soil Association meeting on 20 November 2017… [it] showed that pesticide active ingredients applied to three British crops had increased between 6-18 fold between 1974 and 2016, rather than halved as farmers and industry had claimed!! As well as hearing this new evidence of increased pesticide use in the UK, the conference heard new scientific evidence from around the world showing that very low doses of pesticides, well below official ‘safety’ levels, pose a significant risk to public health via our food supply.

Were you shocked? Presumably you weren’t because you described the regulatory system for pesticides as robust and as balancing the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society. That statement is rubbish. It is for the benefit of the agrochemical industry. The industry (for it is the industry that does the testing, on behalf of regulators) only tests one pesticide at a time, whereas farmers spray a cocktail of pesticides, including over children and babies, without warning.

Ian Boyd, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to Defra, says pesticides, once they have been authorised, are never reviewed.

Mason adds there is consistent denial by the National Farmers Union (NFU), Defra and the agrochemical industry about the massive amounts of pesticides used on farmland and herbicides used in towns and cities on weeds; and there is silence from the UK corporate media.

She informs Bench that although glyphosate was relicensed in Europe by a “corrupt” group of individuals, it is distributed to every organ of the body and has multiple actions: it is an herbicide, an antibiotic, a fungicide, an antiprotozoal, an organic phosphonate, a growth regulator, a toxicant, a virulence enhancer and is persistent in the soil. It chelates (captures) and washes out the following minerals: boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel and zinc.

In her previous reports, as in her letter to Bench, Mason has documented the consequences of this for human health.

Just as concerning is the UN Global Chemicals Outlook II report that indicates large quantities of hazardous chemicals and pollutants continue to leak into the environment, contaminating food chains and accumulating in our bodies, where they do serious damage. Estimates by the European Environment Agency suggest that 62 per cent of the volume of chemicals consumed in Europe are hazardous to health. The World Health Organization estimates the burden of disease from selected chemicals at 1.6 million lives. The lives of many more are negatively impacted.

Business as usual: public health crisis

Mason goes on to highlight numerous disturbing aspects of the revolving door between the pesticide industry and public bodies/government in the UK. She also notes that David Cameron appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta, to Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) board and awarded him a CBE in 2017 for services to cancer research.

Mason explains that the British government’s UK life sciences strategy is dependent on funding from the pharmaceutical sector which has links with the pesticide industry. In 2011, CRUK started donating money (£450 million/year) to the government’s ‘Strategy for UK Life Sciences’ while AstraZeneca (Syngenta’s parent company) was providing 22 compounds to academic research to develop medicines in the UK. She argues that Syngenta’s products cause diseases, while its parent company tries to cure them with synthetic chemicals. And CRUK is a willing enabler.

In 2014, the NFU, the Crop Protection Association (CPA) and Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) launched ‘Healthy Harvest’ to safeguard the crop protection pesticide toolbox. The NFU and the agrochemical companies have continually defended the use of pesticides for economic reasons and complain about any attempt to restrict the 320-odd at their disposal. CPA, AIC and the NFU commissioned Andersons to write a report: ‘The effect of the loss of plant protection products on UK Agriculture and Horticulture’. Conveniently for the report’s commissioners, Andersons predicted dire economic effects on UK farming if pesticides were to be restricted.

And it is not that these powerful interests do not have the government’s full attention. Between May 2010 and the end of 2013, the Department of Health alone had 130 meetings with representatives of industry. According to Mason, it is business as usual and patently clear that the pesticides industry is being protected.

While continuing to ignore and side-line important scientific research findings which highlight inconvenient truths for government and the pesticide industry, prominent public officials and scientists as well as the media attempt to explain away all the diseases now affecting the UK as a result of individual behaviour: bad lifestyle choices.

In her various reports, Mason has discussed the importance of the gut microbiome and the deleterious effects of glyphosate which result in various health issues, such as obesity and depression. By 2018, CRUK was claiming that obesity caused 13 different cancers, but Mason argues that contamination by residues from 123 different pesticides on the fruit and vegetables supplied to schools by the Department of Health is the real reason for childhood obesity – not biscuits or poor choices.

Each year, there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers with no treatments making any difference to the numbers. While certain prestigious research centres are lavished with funding, Mason argues their work merely serves to strengthen the pesticide and pharmaceutical industries and implies the entire process is little more than a profitable racket at the expense of public health.

In finishing, let us remind ourselves of what the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, said in 2017:

The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies…

Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, added:

While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.

There is a lot more valuable information in Rosemary Mason’s 10,000-word open letter to David Bench, including many references and citations in support of her claims. Readers are urged to access ‘Pesticides usage statistics for 2018 prove that the British people are being used as lab rats’ via the academia.edu website.