If You Oppose US Imperialism, This Is The Place To Be

We are still writing to you from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC where we are here as the Embassy Protection Collective with the full permission of the Venezuelan government. We have the grave responsibility to hold this space from takeover by the opposition, which would happen with the assistance of US law enforcement, until the Venezuelan government can complete negotiations with the United States over the status of their respective embassies.

What hangs in the balance is the possibility of a peaceful and orderly resolution to the end of diplomatic relations, and perhaps an entry to further negotiations, or, an escalation of aggression between the United States and Venezuela that could spiral into greater global conflict. Every moment, we are doing what we can to maintain a strong physical presence at the embassy, create a positive image of our collective and counter opposition tactics.

Support the Embassy Protection Collective by signing the Declaration, volunteering to participate, and/or donating money or supplies. You can contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni.

Serving as interim protectors

The Embassy Protectors are here with permission from the elected Venezuelan government, which is the government in power. On Wednesday, Carlos Ron, the Vice Foreign Minister, sent us a video message of support. Thursday, we held a virtual event with the Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, and the United Nations Representative Samuel Moncado, who were in New York City. They also expressed their full support. The next day, Arreaza was sanctioned by the United States. On Friday, we received a message of solidarity from President Nicolas Maduro.

We are making it clear to the State Department that we are in the embassy with the full knowledge and support of the Venezuelan government. If they or the opposition enter the building, they will be trespassing in violation of the law. Further, as we have been living and working from the embassy for more than two weeks, we have established tenancy. In Washington, DC, building owners are not allowed to evict tenants without due process.

Although we are on the lawful side of this situation, we recognize that doesn’t necessarily matter to the US ruling class. We are one impediment to their plans to install a puppet government and plunder the rich assets of Venezuela. We know how that turns out. Look at the Congo or Afghanistan, among other targets of US imperialism. We are training regularly in nonviolence and have pledged to stay here peacefully to hold this space until the Venezuelan government finds a permanent protectorate for the building.

Front door of the Venezuelan embassy (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

What’s at stake?

The United States and Venezuela ended diplomatic relations because of persistent US interference in Venezuela. The US has been working overtime to replace the government that supports the Bolivarian Process and both end that as a possible example of what it looks like when a country prioritizes the needs of the poor and to gain access to Venezuela’s reserves of oil, gold, diamonds and more.

When US efforts to de-legitimize the 2018 presidential election failed, the US government attempted to assassinate President Maduro and failed. The US then led a coup effort starting in January of this year, which also failed. However, the US government, and its proxies such as the Organization of American States (OAS), refuse to acknowledge their failure and are recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the president. The US has given Guaido access to Venezuela’s financial assets that are in the US and turned over the Venezuelan consulate in New York and two military attaché offices in Washington, DC. The opposition now has its eyes set on the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC.

If the Venezuelan embassy in Washington is taken over by the opposition, it will have disastrous results. The Venezuelan government declared that if this happens, they will take the US embassy in Caracas. The US will view this as an act of aggression, and because it is already looking for an excuse to do so, could attack Venezuela. Because Russia and China are close allies of Venezuela, this could spark a global conflict.

On the other hand, there is a path of peace. The US negotiated an agreement with Switzerland to serve as a protectorate for the US embassy in Caracas, but this requires approval by the Venezuelan government. Venezuela is in negotiations to find a country willing to serve as a protectorate for its embassy. If that occurs, the two countries could reach a mutual agreement.

This might start a process to further negotiations to end the coercive measures and threats of military attacks by the US against Venezuela. We are serving as interim protectorates until negotiations are complete. We hope we can hold this space until that occurs, but the threat of the Secret Service coming into the embassy, arresting us and turning it over to the opposition looms over us.

From The Georgetowner by Robert Devaney

Our response

We began the Embassy Protection Collective with CODEPINK and the ANSWER Coalition, on April 10, the day after the OAS changed its rules and recognized Juan Guaido as the ‘president’ of Venezuela. Guaido wants to place Gustavo Tarre as the OAS diplomat in the embassy, a man who served in the Venezuelan Congress in the 1970s to 1990s, the period before the Bolivarian revolution, and a long time player in the Washington Consensus.

For our first week in the embassy, we spoke to many lawyers about possible legal options to prevent the takeover of the embassy. It became clear, though, there are none because of a doctrine of non-judiciability, which basically means this is a political question, not a judicial one.

After that we turned to a strategy of bringing as many Embassy Protectors and as much attention to the embassy as possible. The response has been tremendous with large groups of people working and living here. But, the reality is that we have to hold this space for weeks or possibly months, cooking, cleaning, creating media and providing our own security.

The top need we have is for more volunteers. If you are interested, fill out the contact form here and we will be in touch. Some people come here to work during the day. Others sleep here and go to work or school in the morning. We also hold public events every evening – speakers and cultural events. The more people that are here, the better. And all ages are welcome. On Saturday, people from three months to 106 years joined us.

This is a historic moment. We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to prevent our government from the illegal seizure of the Venezuelan embassy, an act that would violate the 1961 Vienna Convention and set a dangerous precedent for further violations. It doesn’t matter what you think of President Maduro, although personally we have great respect for him; what matters is that we as people in the US must demand our government respect the sovereignty and self-determination of other peoples to choose their leaders and decide their fates.

What you can do:

  1. Sign up to be an Embassy Protector.
  2. Follow us on social media and share that. Our Facebook page is Embassy Protection Collective and our hashtag on Twitter is @ColectivosPorLaPaz.
  3. Attend the public events in person or watch the live streams on the Popular Resistance Facebook page.
  4. Donate by ordering food to be delivered to 1099 30th St., NW in Washington, DC or make a monetary donation to Popular Resistance here.

The Venezuelan Embassy (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

When will Californians wake up to the Risk to Children from Nuclear Radiation?

On March 7, the Inter Press Service (IPS) published my article, “Eight Years on, Fukushima Still Poses Health Risks for Children,” and I am very gratified to learn that it was the second most popular article published in IPS News that week. It also appears that many readers were surprised to learn that removal of the irradiated cores from the three crippled nuclear reactors at Fukushima would take at least forty years.

This revelation reminds me of my conversation with the late Dr. Hans-Peter Durr, former Director of the Max Plunch Institute of Germany, when the Fukushima accident occurred in March 2011. Hans-Peter called me to say that the Fukushima accident was much worse than the government of Japan and TEPCO were disclosing to the public and suggested that I talk to the Prime Minister of Japan on this urgent matter. When I asked Hans-Peter how long it might take to solve the Fukushima accident, he replied that it will take at least forty years.

It shocked me to realize that the consequences of such a human accident would take so long to resolve. For example, twenty years after the complete destruction of Tokyo City during World War II, Tokyo City hosted the 1964 Olympic Games. In contrast, the huge area impacted from the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986 remains desolate 33 years later and will likely remain so for many more decades or even centuries.

World Wars I and II destroyed cities in huge urban areas, yet many of these cities were rebuilt within 20 years. The difference between these catastrophes is due to the fact that while the environmental landscape in cities destroyed by conventional warfare stayed relatively healthy, cities which were impacted by nuclear radiation will remain partly or completely uninhabitable for centuries. Within the “controlled” environment of a nuclear plant facility, spent fuel rods should be kept in a safe place for 100,000 years, and the 250,000 tons of radioactive waste produced worldwide will remain dangerous to all life for thousands of years. I have never thought of such a long time-span which could well extend beyond humanity’s existence on Earth.  This new discovery is what I and many of my readers share.

Based on the following facts related to the Fukushima nuclear accident, I have the following concerns regarding radioactive damage to ocean marine life and related health risks to both the children of Fukushima and/or the West Coast of North America:

  1. It would take at least 40 years (my nuclear scientist colleagues say between 60 to 80 years) to remove the irradiated cores, yet nobody knows the exact location of the irradiated cores, or how to remove them and how long it might take once they are located and a method for removal and containment is determined.
  2. The latest radiation readings by a remote-controlled robot to detect the radioactive level in Reactor 2 was 530 sieverts per hour, the highest since the March 2011 meltdown. Radioactive winds flow toward North America every day and will continue until all radioactivity at Fukushima is contained.
  3. There are approximately 1,000 storage tanks containing 1.1 million tons of high-level radioactive water.  These tanks were built on an emergency basis and are therefore not expected to last 40 years.
  4. There is no space to build additional tanks in the Fukushima area, and sooner or later there will be no choice but to release the contaminated water into the ocean.
  5. And independent assessments indicate that, despite the Japanese government’s best efforts, hundreds of thousands of gallons of irradiated water “leak” out to the Pacific Ocean every day due to the physical impossibility of capturing all the irradiated water in to the referenced storage tanks.
  6. A strong earthquake or the eruption of Mt Fuji are predicted in the near future, and there is considerable uncertainty as to whether the three crippled nuclear reactors would withstand the seismic impacts from such an event. If one or more of the three nuclear reactors collapses, or the respective reactor cores are further impacted by adverse earthquake pressures, an extreme worst-case scenario in addition to the current crisis would be created.

As no scientists would argue with the above facts, I come to my primary concerns:

  1. The cumulative risks from radioactive environmental contamination to young children and women of childbearing age living in the wider Fukushima prefecture and the West Coast of North America continues unabated.
  2. Ongoing radioactive contamination of the sea adjacent to the Fukushima plant results in increased uptake of radionuclides by fish and other sea animals, increasing the risk of long-term seafood contamination to all nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Dr. Hiroaki Koide, a well-regarded nuclear scientist and former Professor of Kyoto University, said that Japan originally established the legal limit of permissible radiation as 1 ml Sievert per year for the average person, and 20 ml Sievert per year for nuclear research professionals like him.

However, since the Fukushima nuclear accident, the government of Japan officially announced the Nuclear Emergency Countermeasure Declaration [RP1], which voided the prior law. A UN Special Rapporteur criticized Japan for sending evacuees home to radiation exposures 20 times higher than the original limit before the nuclear disaster of 1 ml Sievert per year.

According to a radiation simulation map by the Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherche en Environnement Atmosphérique (CEREA), along with research by Professor Hiroaki Koide, of Kyoto University, radiation levels in the state of California seem to be higher than those of the city of Hokkaido in Japan. As it is understandable that scientists have not yet calculated the cumulative impact of radiation on the West Coast 40 years from now, we therefore need the International Assessment Team to analyze the current situation and to dedicate the best expertise and resources to plan both short- and long-term strategies. It must also be noted that prevailing winds carrying airborne radiation from Fukushima do not stop at the western U.S. coastline. Indeed, this is both a national and global issue.

The confounding task of trying to address a life threatening situation for which there currently is no recognized solution presents obstacles with multiple levels of denial. The first level of denial is deliberate institutional silence.  However, it is specious to argue that because there is no solution, there is little value in talking about it and raising stress and anxiety levels.  When examining the eight years of unabated radioactive leakage from Fukushima, institutional silence from governments and academia concerning measured radiation levels and the foreseeable health impacts must be exposed and challenged.

California currently ranks as the world’s fifth largest economy, with agriculture, science and technology, media and tourism constituting the most dominant sectors. However, California’s continued economic performance can only continue when its land and citizens remain healthy.

It is past time for Californians to take a hard look at the reality of continued exposure from Fukushima and other radioactive sources, and not push the problem on to future generations. To borrow from an American Indian proverb:

We do not inherit our land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

40,000 Dead Venezuelans Under US Sanctions: Corporate Media Turn A Blind Eye

A new report on April 25 by a respected think tank has estimated that US sanctions imposed on Venezuela in August 2017 have caused around 40,000 deaths. This atrocity has been almost entirely blanked by the British ‘mainstream’ media, including BBC News. Additional sanctions imposed in January 2019 are likely to lead to tens of thousands of further deaths.

The report was co-authored by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs for the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. CEPR was founded in 1999 ‘to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives.’ Its advisory board includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz.

Weisbrot is Co-Director of CEPR and his expertise encompasses economic growth, trade, international financial institutions, development and Latin America. Sachs is a world-renowned economist and senior UN advisor with considerable knowledge of policies related to sustainable development and combatting poverty. Their credentials are impressive and the title of their report is damning: ‘U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela Are Responsible for Tens of Thousands of Deaths’.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela in August 2017. These prohibited the Venezuelan government from borrowing in US markets, thus preventing the country from restructuring its foreign debt. As the report made clear:

It is important to emphasize that nearly all of the foreign exchange that is needed to import medicine, food, medical equipment, spare parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, or transportation, is received by the Venezuelan economy through the government’s revenue from the export of oil. Thus, any sanctions that reduce export earnings, and therefore government revenue, thereby reduce the imports of these essential and, in many cases, life-saving goods.

The authors added:

The sanctions reduced the public’s caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation. They exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.

In January 2019, additional US sanctions cut Venezuela off from its largest oil market – the United States. Washington also intervened to pressure other countries, including India, not to buy Venezuelan oil that had been previously imported by the US. The consequences have been catastrophic. Amongst the report’s findings were:

• More than 40,000 deaths from 2017–18;
• Sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine, and increased disease and mortality;
• The August 2017 sanctions contributed to a sharp decline in oil production, causing great harm to the civilian population;
• If US sanctions implemented in January 2019 continue, they will almost certainly result in tens of thousands more avoidable deaths;
• This finding is based on an estimated 80,000 people with HIV who have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension (many of whom cannot obtain insulin or cardiovascular medicine);
• Since the January 2019 sanctions, oil production has fallen by 431,000 barrels per day or 36.4 per cent. This will greatly accelerate the humanitarian crisis. But the projected 67 per cent decline in oil production for the year, if the sanctions continue, would cause vastly more loss of human life.

Weisbrot spelled out the enormity of punitive US policy towards Venezuela:

The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports. This is illegal under U.S. and international law, and treaties that the U.S. has signed. Congress should move to stop it.

Just as the corporate media blamed Saddam Hussein for the devastating impact of US-UK sanctions on Iraq which led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis between 1990 and 2003, ‘our free press’ are united in blaming Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, for the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis. The new CEPR report refutes that propaganda framework. Sachs emphasised:

Venezuela’s economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela. But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change [our emphasis]. It’s a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.

The report highlights that:

The pain and suffering being inflicted upon the civilian population may not be collateral damage but actually part of the strategy to topple the government.

Indeed, Weisbrot and Sachs make the devastating point that sanctions:

would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory.

In a sane political and media world, this would be headline news.

Media Response?

So, what has been the media response to such a damning report by two authoritative experts? In fact, with a single exception, US and UK ‘mainstream’ newspapers have simply turned a blind eye. This lack of coverage is especially ironic in the case of the Guardian. As journalist John McEvoy, a regular contributor to The Canary, pointed out:

In an editorial [in 2008] the @guardian praised CEPR as a “a professional thorn in the side of orthodoxy” & claimed “in a world of Goliaths, CEPR makes a rather effective David”. Yet it has said nothing of CEPR’s recent study holding US sanctions responsible for 40,000 deaths in Venezuela.

We challenged BBC News via Twitter to cover the important new CEPR report implicating US policy in the deaths of over 40,000 Venezuelans:

What are the odds that @BBCNews will push this as their lead story, with major coverage on #BBCNewsTen from one of their big-name reporters? #Venezuela

There has been no BBC coverage, as far as we can see. Online, we found a brief mention in an article by the ‘mainstream’ press agency, Agence France-Presse: it was buried in the final three paragraphs of a 25-paragraph piece. Exceptions to the ‘norm’ of shameful, power-friendly silence were found in media outlets that we are supposed to ignore or disparage in the West: RT, Sputnik International, TeleSur English, Venezuela Analysis, amongst others.

Imagine if Russian policy had been responsible for a similar number of deaths in another country, with tens of thousands more lives at risk in the months to come. The headlines and in-depth coverage here would be incessant. The Russian ambassador in London would be given a stern dressing-down by the UK Foreign Secretary. There would be calls at Westminster from all parties to condemn Putin in the strongest possible terms. There would be global demands for the UN to intervene. The ideological discipline required to ignore such a major crime under Western policy is remarkable, but entirely standard in the corporate media system; as Noam Chomsky has long observed.

The independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone summed up:

To be clear, this unforgivable atrocity rests predominantly on the shoulders of the Trump administration. […] Imagine if Trump deployed a barrage of Tomahawk missiles onto the most impoverished parts of a densely populated city in Venezuela, then hearing anyone say “Well Maduro actually exploded those people, because he wouldn’t do what we told him to do.” […] Sanctions are a slower and more gruelling weapon of war than bombs and missiles, but they’re vastly superior when it comes to the matter of keeping the public asleep through depraved acts of mass slaughter.

As ever, the corporate media is doing its required job of keeping the public in a state of ignorance, or acquiescence, regarding the crimes of the West. ‘When truth is replaced by silence,’ the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said, ‘the silence is a lie.’ As John Pilger noted in 2004, following the invasion and occupation of Iraq:

He might have been referring to the silence over the devastating effects of the embargo. It is a silence that casts journalists as accessories, just as their silence contributed to an illegal and unprovoked invasion of a defenceless country.

Venezuela Coup! Will Neocons (Finally) Get Their War?

At dawn, US-backed and self-proclaimed president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, announced the "final phase" of his coup against the Maduro government. While defections from the military are minor at this point, it is unknown whether the coup will reach critical mass. In the US, both Republicans and Democrats - who not long ago were furious over claims that the Russians have interfered in our elections - are cheering this US interference in Venezuelan elections. US neocons have joined the battle from the safety of their keyboards. Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

The Challenge of Cleaning up Toxic Sites Is More Complex Than We Might Hope

Note: I enjoy intersecting with scientists who are associated with universities that are now struggling to keep afloat, for many reasons to include the rise of the admin class, deanlets, non-academic departments, states lowering the matching rate to pay for faculty, presidents of universities making way too much money but throwing more at the athletic departments; and, alas, these vibrant and fully-packed schools — supposedly the smartest and brightest —  have continuously sold out by taking bribe money from major corporations to shunt true research away from the capitalists’ intended and unintended crimes of their engines of profit.

I think, though, it’s good to shift from my radicalized (root deep) perspective and narrative to a more down played newspaper style. I have sent this to the editor of the newspaper I have been working with to promote environmental concerns in the area I know call home — since December 2018.

So, here, a story that on the surface is a sciency piece to bring the small communities that read the newspaper a chance at seeing some of the super stars at the university — home of the beavers — that is 50 miles away as a main campus and with a marine sciences teaching and research facility in the town of Newport:

The Challenge of Cleaning up Toxic Sites Is More Complex Than We Might Hope

Analytical and organic chemistry were on display April 25 in Newport, and as a science buff and former science reporter, I find it fascinating to glean from a Ph.D.’s rarefied research pertinent information for the lay person. In this case, the average reader of the Times-News.

For one Oregon State University chemist — who was once a research scientist for Proctor and Gamble before her current 16 years at OSU — the big question she is preoccupied with ties into thousands of remediation sites in the country: Is the remediation making these sites more toxic?

For our Newport area, the public is lucky to have researchers, experts, artists and others speak about their research and projects at the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center. One such speaker, Staci Simonich, OSU VP for Research Operations & Integrity and chemistry professor, presented her deep study into a by-product of the incomplete combustion of organic matter.

Simonich’s research presentation, “Is Remediation Worth It?:  The Potential for Remediation to Make Soils and Waterways More Toxic,” has huge implications for every American since, first, what she’s studying —  Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — are ubiquitous and are known carcinogens and disruptors of DNA, as in producing birth defects. Second, we pay billions a year to clean up sites contaminated with PAH’s vis-à-vis industries associated with fossil fuel and coal extraction, processing and burning.

The OSU chemist, who supports a cadre of graduate students also researching PAHs, posits an age-old question: Is the cure worse than the disease?

Her team’s research is both compelling and, in some sense, earth shattering in a world of continued growth of industrialization, the burning of biomass (forests, jungle), and fossil fuel production processes such as hydraulic fracturing, AKA fracking.

“Our results to date indicate that previously unidentified PAH breakdown products form in the environment and during remediation of Superfund sites,” she states.  “As the research continues, we will be able to assess which remediation technologies minimize their formation and if they pose a hazard to human health.”

The chemistry is somewhat straightforward – in the lab. However, “we are hoping to try to understand the transformation process of PAHs in a highly complex media – soil.” Deploying the fields of toxicology and chemistry will help engineers to understand what is causing the toxicity to stay the same or go up even after bioremediation.

These aromatic compounds are also found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust and in the smoke (and food) of barbecuing foods. The leeching out of soils into waterways is one way they bioaccumulate in the food-web.

In the end, for the average person, the lifetime cancer risks and the best bang for the buck are two overriding concerns. Oil spills on land and in water are regular occurrences – thousands and thousands a year, not of the Exxon Valdez or Gulf Coast variety and size. Many compounds are formed from the chemical evolutionary process of remediating a fouled site.

Simonich stated that we just do not know the toxicity of these metabolites created in the process of bioremediation.

The cheapest and most effective is composting using all sorts of complex organic substances mixed into the contaminated soil. Included in the clean-up process is biostimulation, bioaugmentation, phytoremediation at the site.

“There is no magic bug to cleaning up a site. In most cases, there are decreases in toxicity but not to a safe level,” she told the audience.

One area she and her students have studied is the SEE method of dealing with contaminated sites – steam enhanced extraction. There is an injection well, where steam is pumped in, turning into hot water that then moves the oil through the transportation process underground where the oil/water mix can then be pumped out. “The steam enhanced extraction process could increase toxicity,” she warned.

We also have to dispose of the water/oil mixture once pumped out.

Luckily for chemists like Simonich, they can get DNA and birth defect results from some of these remediated soils’ toxicity levels not through human subjects but by using a zebra-fish specifically raised to test developmental toxicity.

Here, the hours past fertilization tell an interesting story about cell damage, or genes that have been knocked out because of, say, soil contaminated by coal tar which is a big issue for the southeast.

As common as electrical and cable poles are in Lincoln County, many readers might not realize there is an unintended cancer causing consequence of the chemical treatment of wooden poles to keep them from rotting and decaying. Creosote is a culprit in many sites across the country where the soil is polluted through production and application of the substance.

For instance, the poison — a dark brown oil distilled from coal tar and used as a wood preservative containing a number of phenols, cresols, and other organic compounds – seeps into the soil initiating what Staci Simonich focuses on:  the measurement, fate, transport, and toxicity of PAH transformation products during remediation and atmospheric transport.

Another huge concern is the long-range transportation the North America relies on for goods coming from Asia. A typical trip for a container ship from say, Xiamen, China, to Oakland or Seattle, takes 19 days. The amount of smoke – containing many of the main 16 PAHs – is astronomical.

The implications are vast, as the wind currents move the particulates eastward where they end up precipitating out along the Pacific Coast range, and beyond, due to the cold condensation process. So Chinese diesel smoke from container ships ends up leaching out into our soils and waterways, again, affecting the health of both humans and non-humans alike.

I posed a question to her about just how safe are all the brownfields redeveloped throughout the USA – old railroad yards, mill and factory sites that have been in disuse and then re-purposed for prime real estate planned developments as more and more cities shift from manufacturing to services.

The chemist winced some, nodded her head, and basically indicated that we have no idea just what new compounds and off-shoots have been percolating through the soils and just how hazardous to human development and health they might be.

Staci Simonich Lab

End note: So, as many of my friends have stated, why is it us, the average person, who has to pay both the ecological/health costs of these capitalist systems as well as pay to mitigate the other parts of attempting to clean up the toxic mess?

We can’t blame China, when corporations have made a million Faustian Bargains with insane business leaders and greedy rich people who will capitalize on any means necessary to corner markets, kill competition, thwart ecosocialism, squeeze local economies, bring human suffering through unchecked mining, harvesting, burning and drives for more and more economies of scale business mispractices.

I will remind my readers that we have so many cascading issues at hand, beyond the existential crisis of global warming/world without ice.   We have microplastics in every human’s feces and have zero idea what that means to the human physiology. We have the kissing bug moving north in the USA, a seemingly benign insect story, right? Fueled by global warming in the USA

Benign? And, the conservative scientists are not yet going to hands down say the spread of the species into the USA starting in 1880 and now moving north to northern states is a result of climate change. Alas, this is why many in the world I align with are so skeptical of the sciences and the academics arena where science is touted but not politicized, which it should be!

Triatomine bugs, more commonly known as kissing bugs, are called as such because of their behavior of biting humans in the face, particularly near the mouth or eyes, and often when the human is sleeping.

Kissing bugs are common in places with warmer climates such as in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Australia, but they have since been spotted in many U.S. states. In particular, kissing bugs have been spotted in southern states since the 1800s, but recently they are also being observed in northern states as well.

Unfortunately, the insects are carriers of Chagas disease, which is a condition that can cause fever, mild swelling, or in some cases inflammation of the heart or brain muscles. If left untreated, it can enter a chronic phase and even last for a lifetime.

The infection, however, does not come from the bite itself, but from the fecal matter of the insect, which gets smeared at the wound when the bitten person scratches.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 300,000 people with Chagas Disease in the United States, but that the number may be rising. Most of the cases are of people who got the infection after living in or traveling to South or Central America. As such, the agency has since set up education courses about Chagas disease for physicians and nurses.

As I teach and write a short book on the hazards of bad education, and the good, bad and ugly of US public education, I understand there are massive shifts in the way people think, or can’t think. “The Road Beckons” in Counterpunch:

Although I often took my students’ anti-intellectualism personally, I knew that their attitudes had developed in an accommodating milieu. Beginning roughly with the Reagan years, the colleges and universities transformed themselves into business-like corporations: marketing experts, corporate titles for academic officers, patent shopping, shilling for business paraded as public interest research, distance “learning,” grotesquely high salaries for those who bring in the most money, million-dollar coaches, education as product, students as consumers, the de-funding of the humanities and social sciences, and the general cheapening of learning. As business values consumed the colleges, class sizes shot up and more part-timers were hired. To compensate for lower pay and harder work, teachers began to cut corners, dumbing-down their classes in the process. This meant that less competent teachers could be hired, and this fit in nicely with the work-averse attitudes of so many students. Students flocked to easy teachers and soft majors, like business and communications, and the schools got worse and worse.

Inherently true is the fact that we again, simple bright people that we are, have to pay the ferryman — business, war lords, toll-tax-fine collectors — to live, and that living is now on a razor’s edge, so much closer to everyone in the world now being born mutated, knocked off genes, continual chronic illness and chronic way of thinking. Here, farmer, older than I am, Joe, from Merced, California:

Paul

The thing that chaps my balls the most is how Fukashima along with an estimated 450 plants worldwide along with 60 under construction,* each one a potential environmental nightmare long after man has gone the way of the buffalo, has fallen completely off the environmental communities radar. This atomic nightmare from Hell brought to us by those that bring good things to life/GE, is rarely talked about even among the most devote environmentalists. Many in the environmental community look to nuclear as being part of a green solution. It’s fine tuned insanity. Fukashima will continue to pollute the ocean long after today’s children are dead and gone, spewing its radiation like a drunken sailor on shore leave spews his puke.

And the other thing that really twists my nuts in a knot is how these corporations that cause all these environmental nightmares are let completely off the hook for the cleanup of their messes. Everyone of the corporations are LLC’s, limited liability corporations, that in the event that they truly fuck the goose that laid the golden egg to death, are allowed to file bankruptcy and reform as a new entity, leaving the victims to deal with the results of their negligence. The CEO’s and the top brass of these corporations make out like bandits. Hell they don’t even cover their faces with bandanas anymore while they hold you at gun point. PG&E is doing that right now in California. Look back at every super screw-up by these corporations and you’ll see it’s the people effected by their misdeeds along with the taxpayers that pickup the tab.

My objection to the Green New Deal is that it shouldn’t be up to us to pay for the GND but rather the corporations that have taken us to the brink of collapse. Those are the ones that should have their assets confiscated to pay for the GND. They’ve screwed the public for their profit seeking for years. Now it’s time for the public to make love to them against their will. The public as you have said before Paul, didn’t get to vote to have our water destroyed, our air polluted, our oceans filled with plastic, the people that benefited from foisting this shit on us shouldn’t get to vote on us confiscating their assets to clean up what they created.

I’ve written about it before, being verbally attacked at the farmer’s market one day for questioning the idea of people running to raise money for breast cancer victims. My question to the attacker was why don’t you run to raise money to hold the corporations that create the conditions that cause cancer accountable and throw their sorry asses in jail? Prevention is worth a pound of cure right? Why won’t the public hold these profiteers accountable? It was as though I killed a government mule, having the audacity to criticize people trying to help the victims of cancer.

I don’t pretend to have any answers, but until as Geoff Beckman today quotes, H.L. Mencken who wrote, “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.”

I know of no greater group of people deserving of such a destiny than the corporate oligarchy and their minions in government.

Joe

So, the corporations need their Little Eichmanns to succeed and to formulate their schemes at indenturing most of us to their dirty, greedy, illegal and unethical practices. And now, the marketing of the environmental crisis, and it’s rarely now the crises of pollution, fence line communities sucking in all the vapors of plastics and polymers. Rarely do we care about the hundreds of thousands of carcinogens spit out through industrial capitalism. Rarely do we think what it means to have nanoparticles coursing through our bodies, messing with glands and nervous systems and crossing the blood-brain barrier.

The horrors a bigger and more tied to the technological enslavement we have allowed ourselves to live under than the bleaching coral reefs. All bad, but imagine, how many more percentage-wise people on planet earth born with more and more mutated genes and expressions of chronic mental, intellectual and physical disease.

For a bit of anti-NGD ending, John Steppling:

Our thought, so enslaved to instrumental logic, a logic that demands even superficial and meaningless *solutions*, cannot conceive a Nature that is not a colonial externality. That Nature, that which ostensibly everyone is trying to save (except for those who aren’t) seems just out of mental reach. The Garden of Eden story is very telling in a sense here. The cultic think is one that reflexively tolerates brutality and even fascist domination if it helps save the planet. That is certainly the way the marketing of new green projects sees it — lesser evil-ism in a sense, with apocalyptic overtones. And with every new threat or prediction the bourgeoisie double down on repressing their own terror, and double down projecting it outward onto those who will not fall in line. Nature, the planet Nature, is increasingly abstracted and these adumbrated narratives or story-lines are scanned and their linkage to the economic engine of society is repressed, pushed ever further back out of conscious reflection. The cultic neo New Age concerns for humanity have compartmentalized to such a degree that even ongoing Western genocides are barely mentioned. The economic logic of Capital has subsumed notions of a future, of value and concern and care and empathy. Saving the planet means tolerating the lesser evil. It is the derivatives market logic in a certain sense.

The possible is only found through de-organizing the instrumental. I fear the right image might trigger mass executions — not by the state (though that, too, I suppose) but by the bourgeoisie, the white concerned American.

US Government, Corporate Media Join Forces in Neoliberal War Against Venezuela

Graffiti opposing US imperialism in Venezuela. Photo credit: Aljazeera.com

President Donald Trump and the likes of the New York Times might seem like strange bedfellows but they have found common cause in seeking regime change in Venezuela, a country that poses no threat to the United States but sits on the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Trump administration sanctions have already killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans while U.S. media outlets drum up support for a possible military intervention to replace the socialists in Caracas with free market ideologues eager to privatize the oil industry.

On Sunday, the latest round of U.S. economic sanctions took effect that are designed to completely shut down Venezuela’s oil trade, which accounts for more than 95 percent of the country’s export earnings. The roughly $31 billion in annual oil revenue also makes up a significant proportion of Venezuela’s real GDP, which fell almost 18 percent last year from a level of just over $370 billion.

The United States intensified sanctions against Venezuela in late January after U.S.-endorsed opposition leader Juan Guaido illegally attempted to declare himself the interim president while calling on the legitimate democratically-elected leader, President Nicolas Maduro, to step down. Washington immediately seized about $7 billion in Venezuelan oil assets and basically helped Guaido take control of Citgo, the PDVSA’s U.S.-based refining unit.

Maduro, for his part, accused Washington of trying to orchestrate a coup to install Guaido as a puppet and control Venezuela’s oil resources. Based on U.S. statements and actions before and since, the Venezuelan president’s characterization of the situation is 100 percent accurate.

In fact, ever since they began tightening sanctions in August of 2017, Trump administration officials have hardly tried to conceal their objectives – they have publicly stated that the U.S. intends to privatize Venezuela’s oil industry while eradicating the scourge of socialism.

Guaido, predictably, has openly expressed his desire to free up Venezuela’s oil fields for U.S. corporations to feast on after years of nationalization.

Regardless of the motives, U.S. measures have already had devastating consequences. A UN special rapporteur along with several human rights attorneys have said that the U.S. economic sanctions in Venezuela rise to the level of crimes against humanity and violate several international treaties including the Geneva Conventions and Nuremberg Charter.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in a study co-authored by world renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs concluded that U.S. sanctions against Venezuela are responsible for at least 40,000 deaths from 2017-2018.

The sanctions have led to reductions in imports of life-saving goods such as food, medicine, and medical equipment and have exacerbated an ongoing electricity crisis, according to the report released last week. The CEPR economists warned that the newer sanctions unveiled in 2019 – including the ones that took effect on Sunday – will have even more destructive ramifications, which means the death toll will grow significantly.

While the Trump administration has been transparently imperialistic, playing a more insidious role is the New York Times which has collaborated with members of Guaido’s fake government to push false narratives to win public support for overthrowing Maduro.

The New York Times’ campaign to oust Maduro is truly a case study in manufacturing consent. The Times has executed an impressive “communications strategy” from the editorial board right down to reporters in the field to place the blame squarely on Maduro and his socialist policies.

The campaign was launched on January 24 when the New York Times editorial board decided to publicly endorse Guaido as a “fresh young leader” and, in the same article, urged the international community to pressure Maduro into fleeing abroad.

Less than a week later, the Times allowed the pretender to write an op-ed in which he tried to blackmail Venezuela’s military leaders by offering amnesty in exchange for overthrowing Maduro.

Since then, NYT reporters have filed biased reports from the field including one that appeared on March 8 that portrayed Maduro as AWOL while the people of Venezuela suffered through an electricity crisis. However, Mark Weisbrot, who happens to be the other co-author of the CEPR study, exposed the NYT’s duplicity.

“This is amazing: buried deep in this NYT article is a sentence indicating the Trump economic sanctions are a major cause of the deadly blackout in Venezuela, contradicting the rest of the article. No one has noticed; this should have been the main story,” Weisbrot said in a tweet on March 10.

A month later an even more disturbing leg of the propaganda campaign was exposed. The New York Times produced, posted and tweeted a 5-minute anti-Maduro video narrated by contributor Joanna Hausmann. The clip, viewed by nearly 800,000 users, demonizes figures such as Noam Chomsky and Senator Bernie Sanders for daring to oppose military intervention in Venezuela.

Grayzoneproject journalist Anya Parampil uncovered the most galling aspect of the entire episode: The New York Times failed to disclose that Joanna Hausmann’s father, Ricardo Hausmann, is an economic adviser to Guaido and former planning minister who helped run Venezuela’s central bank in the pre-Chavez era.

“NYT fails to disclose that @joannahausmann is the daughter of Guaidó advisor @ricardo_hausmann, who was instrumental in neoliberalizing & destroying VZLA’s economy in the 90s & wants to do it again. Weak journalism!” Parampil tweeted on April 1 with a link to Hausmann’s video clip.

According to research conducted by Parampil, Ricardo Hausmann emerged from the Caracas-based Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA). The group became known as “the IESA Boys,” in reference to “the Chicago Boys” – Milton Friedman’s clique from the University of Chicago who during the 1970s advised Chilean dictator Pinochet to implement neoliberal policies after the CIA helped overthrow Allende’s socialist government.

Moreover, Mr. Hausmann apparently does not believe sanctions will be enough. In a piece for Project Syndicate published last January he even proposed a “D-Day” type strategy for Venezuela.

“A negotiated political transition remains the preferred option, but military intervention by a coalition of regional forces may be the only way to end a man-made famine threatening millions of lives,” Hausmann wrote in an article entitled “D Day Venezuela.”

Guaido, who is also an IESA Boy, wants to usher in the same “shock therapy” policies that ruined Venezuela’s economy, sparked a national revolt and paved the way for the rise of Hugo Chavez in 1998. Chavez, then, implemented “evil” socialistic policies that resulted in lower unemployment, reduction in poverty, eradication of illiteracy, improved housing, and increased accessibility to healthcare. But that is a story for another day.

Why Are Clapper and Brennan Not in Jail?

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The clearest of all the laws concerning US intelligence is Section 798, 18 US Code—widely known in the Intelligence Community as “the Comint Statute,” or “the 10 and 10.” Unlike other laws, this is a “simple liability” law. Motivation, context, identity, matter not at all. You violate it, you are guilty and are punished accordingly.

Here it is:
a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, . . . any classified information—

(1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or

(2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States …or

(3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or

(4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence . . .

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
On December 9 and 10, 2016, the New York Times and the Washington Post independently reported that anonymous senior intelligence officials had told them that, based on intercepted communications, the intelligence agencies agreed that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee to help Donald Trump win the election. Their evidence was the fact of their access to U.S communications intelligence. A flood of subsequent stories also cited allegations by “senior intelligence officials” that “intercepted communications” and “intercepted calls” showed that “members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”

Incontrovertibly, the officials who gave these stories to the Times and Post violated the Comint Statute, and are subject to the “10 and 10” for each count. There is no clearer instance of what the governing law is, of how it was violated, and of the punishment that this incurs.

Consequently, there is no clearer indictment of our legal system than the fact that no one has been prosecuted for these violations, much less punished.

Nor is there any doubt as to who at least two of these “senior intelligence officials” are: Former CIA director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Beginning in January 2017, Brennan and Clapper made essentially the same statements on national television. The only possible excuse—that their allegations were lies—is irrelevant because the essence of the violation is the revelation that U.S intelligence was monitoring the communications of the Russians in America, and those of the Trump campaign as well. This is true, and that revelation is a textbook violation of the Comint Statute.

The reasons no prosecutions have followed should be plain enough. The offenders are big people, in the permanent government and in the Democratic Party. They have a great many friends in the U.S Justice Department. From the top down, the Trump Administration has been filled by much smaller people. Loud words aside, the president has kowtowed to the intelligence agencies in every way imaginable. No prominent Republican has chosen to challenge the de facto privileged relationship between Democrats in the intelligence agencies and the media.

And so, Brennan and Clapper continue as living proof that the United States has a dual system of justice. The example of their impunity speaks louder than any speech, and reassures their leftist successors in the intelligence agencies that their channel to the Times and Post is as safe as ever.

Politics is not responsible for the non-application of Section 798 to Brendan and Clapper. It is difficult to imagine that the public would not approve massively the straightforward application to prominent men of a law that is so unambiguous, which is the foundation of arguably the main part of U.S intelligence, and which has been applied countless times to ordinary people.

Rather, the absence of real politics—of real competition between opposing sides in American life—is the culprit. What we see is that those in the upper echelons of American life, whether they call themselves Republicans or Democrats, have greater loyalty to the ruling class to which they belong than to any law or institution. The refusal to apply Section 798 to Brennan and Clapper —the fact that they are free men —is simply the most obvious manifestation of the fact that we have a ruling class, that it is coherent, and that it has yet to be challenged in any serious way.

Reprinted with permission from AmericanGreatness.com.

Daesh’s new territories, by Thierry Meyssan

Although there is no longer any reason for the jihadists to split themselves between Al-Qaïda and Daesh, the two organisations continue their war in the Greater Middle East. Paradoxically, it is now Al-Qaïda which runs a pseudo-State, the governorate of Idlib, and Daesh which organises attacks far from the battle-fields, in the Congo and Sri Lanka.

Doctrinaire Left Lines Up with Trumpists, Calls Overpopulation “Myth”:

For years now I have made it clear that I consider the environmental outlook for this planet very, very bleak.

I have written repeatedly that I believe only a massive, rapid, internationally-coordinated and mandatory program to transform the world economy – involving a fast phase-out of fossil fuels, a ban on the manufacture of most plastics, radical restrictions on industrial agriculture and meat production/consumption, a stop to world deforestation, a shift to regional economies not dependent on worldwide shipping, and much more – that only such a fundamental restructuring of the world’s economic systems might have a chance of preventing probable near-term human extinction and very possibly the end of much other life on Earth as well, which ever more scientific projections envision as increasingly likely by the end of this century.

For a long time, I heard very little opposition to these positions from among my large group of political soul mates and fellow writers in social media and alternative publications.

That changed recently in a big way. The turning point was the publication last year of my article “What Future Awaits the Babies of 2018? The Blissful Oblivion of Today’s Young Parents”, which was greeted in the usual circles of my readers with a resounding silence on the whole, and with outright hostility by at least one former comrade who called it “wrong-headed”, the first big conflict between us after several years of mutual admiration. Another writer I admire has had great difficulty with my questions as well. Both of these writers have elected to have children quite recently, and I expected some tension from those quarters.

I had chosen to address the subject — of bringing children into a world with such an increasingly frightening environmental prognosis – directly and provocatively, because I had tired of watching friends of all political persuasions, like governments of every description, tiptoeing around the issue carefully and often choosing to continue having and encouraging children or grandchildren as if nothing has changed, and as if NOT continuing to have children is unthinkable, regardless of what those babies’ adult lives might be like.

Still, there was not much verbal or written opposition until recently. In Europe, the young activist Greta Thunberg has stirred up a major movement among very young people who, largely through her, have finally begun to understand that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations are selling their future and very possibly selling those young people out personally, because it is simply undoable – or at the very least, far too difficult and complicated – to save the planet and change course in order to give them an assured future. Ms. Thunberg is viewed with great suspicion and mistrust by many on the Left, I have learned. While I agree that greenwashers are hitching a ride, I admire her.

In the USA of all places, a few young Democrats were elected to Congress who have the embarrassing habit of challenging their corrupt party’s establishment on some crucial issues including the approaching climate disaster. One of these politicians quickly began to get a huge amount of mainstream media attention and became the focus of great hope among voters that the US electoral system might, after all, become a vehicle for real change. Like many writers on the radical Left I initially scoffed at that idea, and I still find it unlikely. Her proposals don’t go nearly far enough, in my view, to facilitate the necessary systemic change, and her party will never accept them. However, her willingness to take on sacred cows openly and fearlessly has begun to impress me.

Recently this young US Representative had the admirable temerity to publicly agree with those of us who advocate serious consideration of the future which babies born now are likely to face as adults. This prompted immediate and withering scorn from one of the above-cited writers, who used the word “stupidity” in his attack. My reply that such a position involves no stupidity whatsoever precipitated a big kerfuffle. In short order, the issue had been widened substantially to accommodate attacks on overpopulation theory by a good number of writers and social media contributors, although overpopulation had not been the specific focus of my remarks. With my usual diplomatic aplomb I plunged into that debate as well, because …

… well, because although I am neither a scientist, nor a statistician, nor a soothsayer, nor an intellectual of any stripe, I do follow the latest scientific findings on the worsening environmental situation quite closely, as I have since 1970; and having done so, it is impossible for me to understand how anyone can reconcile this recent finding: “A report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Living Planet Index, has found that human consumption of food and resources across the globe has directly contributed to the extinction of 60 per cent of the world’s vertebrate animals since 1970,” but many other sources have published findings and figures in this range recently) with the view that this planet is not overpopulated, and that the outlook for 10 billion humans on Earth by 2050 is not alarming.

But writers such as my principal opponents in this debate manage taking that position with apparent ease. They refer to some of the scientists most widely known for their work on overpopulation as “neo-Nazis” and, citing Karl Marx and others, suggest darkly that those of us who think the vast number of humans on our planet may be killing it are sliding into a form of nefarious eco-fascism. For years they liked my own definitions of fascism. Now I am suspected of being a fascist. The word is thrown about far too casually, I would say. It is also pointed out that I myself have children, which is certainly true. My response — that the youngest was born in 1993, and that quite a bit has changed since then — is rejected as hypocrisy.

In recent days I have been inspired by the vast and well-planned campaign of civil disobedience conducted by Extinction Rebellion in the UK, Germany and many other countries. For years I rarely saw these issues addressed on any scale with what I consider the proper urgency. That has changed recently in a big way, and such massive civil disobedience is what it will take to generate any real resistance among governments to our approaching extinction. The response of many on the Left has been scorn, a shoot-the-messenger response, and outright rejection. Many of the minds in question have proven far narrower and self-interested than I would ever have imagined.

Some of them assert, in effect, that we must postpone such a great focus on environmental disaster until we have abolished capitalism and militarism, which are allegedly the main problems. I say that those two monstrous “isms” are part of the human condition, as much as they need to be abolished. The idea that “it’s not too many people, it’s capitalism and war” strikes me as evasion par excellence. And the idea that we have that much time to act seems to me purely wishful thinking by those who reject the latest scientific alarm bells, or manage to ignore them.

I can assure everyone reading this that it brings me no pleasure whatsoever to contemplate human extinction, nor to suggest that we approach it consciously, rather than to try to pretend it is all a fascist plot or ignore it altogether – in spite of my former friend’s suggestion that I am psychologically disturbed and that I actually fervently desire omnicide.

For what it’s worth, that’s just bollocks.

Bt Brinjal Illegally Growing in India: Who Is Really Pulling the Strings?

In February 2010, the Indian government placed an indefinite moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal. Prior to this decision, numerous independent scientists from India and abroad had pointed out safety concerns regarding Bt brinjal based on data and reports in the biosafety dossier that Mahyco, the crop developer, had submitted to the regulators.

Campaigner Aruna Rodrigues explains:

The then Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh instituted a unique four-month scientific enquiry and public hearings. His decision to reject the commercialisation of Bt brinjal was supported by advice he received from several renowned international scientists. Their collective appraisals demonstrated serious environmental and biosafety concerns, which included issues regarding the toxity of Bt proteins resulting from their mode of action on the human gut system.

She went on to say that India is a centre of origin of brinjal with the greatest genetic diversity and that contamination was a certainty. Rodrigues added:

In his summing-up of the unsustainability of Bt brinjal and of its implications if introduced, one of the experts involved, Professor Andow, said it posed several unique challenges because the likelihood of resistance evolving quickly is high. He added that without any management of resistance evolution, Bt brinjal is projected to fail in 4-12 years.

Jairam Ramesh pronounced a moratorium on Bt brinjal in February 2010 founded on what he called “a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach.” The moratorium is still in place and has not been lifted.

Despite this, the illegal cultivation of Bt brinjal has recently been discovered in the state of Haryana. In response, the Coalition for a GM Free India held a press conference in Delhi on 25 April 2019 demanding immediate action from state and central governments.

Afsar Jafri, agriculture trade policy analyst, argued that there was good reason why India opted to impose an indefinite moratorium on Bt brinjal and that all the environmental and health hazards acknowledged at the time continue to remain intact.

Kapil Shah, founder of Jatan Trust in Gujarat, said:

This is clearly a failure of concerned government agencies that illegal Bt brinjal is being cultivated in the country. The regulatory body Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee behaves as a promotional body than a regulator and therein lies a major problem.

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) was created as the apex regulatory body to protect the environment, nature and health from the risks of gene technology. Shah added that when illegal GM soy cultivation was discovered in Gujarat in 2017 and a complaint lodged with GEAC, the response was slow and “dangerously lackadaisical”.

Dr Rajinder Chaudhary of Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan in Haryana stated that the discovery of Bt brinjal cultivation demonstrated a failure of departments of horticulture and agriculture to remain vigilant about such hazardous seeds entering seed supply chains:

It is also a failure of the central regulators for not creating extensive awareness about hazards of Bt brinjal and why a moratorium has been placed on the same. If civil society groups can get to know about this, why can’t alert government agencies?

Sridhar Radhakrishnan of Thanal Agroecology Centre in Kerala said that India could not afford to allow this Bt brinjal cultivation to continue or spread. He argued that it represented a bio-hazard that had to be contained and destroyed:

GEAC should ascertain and confirm that illegal Bt brinjal cultivation is indeed happening and find out the full extent of such cultivation… no penal action should be taken against farmers who have been duped into cultivating these illegal seeds… there should be deterrent penal action against seed suppliers and against the crop developer company whose seeds are being illegally spread.

Brief history of GMO contamination in India

In India, five high-level reports have advised against the adoption of GM crops: the Jairam Ramesh Report, imposing an indefinite moratorium on Bt Brinjal (2010); the Sopory Committee Report (2012); the Parliamentary Standing Committee Report (2012); The Technical Expert Committee Final Report (2013); and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment and Forests (2017).

One of the reasons for advising against GM adoption is that India’s GMO regulating bodies lack competency, are riddled with endemic conflicts of interest and lack expertise in GMO risk assessment protocols, including food safety assessment and the assessment of environmental impacts.

India’s first and only legal GM crop cultivation – Bt cotton – was discovered in 2001 growing on thousands of hectares in Gujarat, spread surreptitiously and illegally by the biotech industry. News of large-scale illegal cultivation of Bt cotton emerged, even as field trials that were to decide whether India would opt for this GM crop were still underway. In March 2002, the GEAC ended up approving Bt cotton for commercial cultivation in India: approval-by-contamination.

In 2005, biologist Pushpa Bhargava noted that unapproved varieties of several GM crops were being sold to farmers. In 2008, it was reported that illegally cultivated GM okra was growing in India and poor farmers had been offered lucrative deals to plant ‘special seed’ of all sorts of vegetables.

In 2013, scientists and NGOs protested the introduction of transgenic brinjal in Bangladesh – a centre for origin and diversity of the vegetable – as it would give rise to contamination of the crop in India. In 2014, the West Bengal government said it had received information regarding “infiltration” of commercial seeds of GM Bt brinjal from Bangladesh.

During the press conference in Delhi, trade policy analyst Afsar Jafri said India and other countries are part of the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, which requires prior informed consent for any transboundary movement. He said that India should therefore put pressure on Bangladesh at the highest level to ensure that there is compliance and that their seed producers and others are warned about smuggling into India any transgenic material from Bangladesh.

In 2017, the illegal cultivation of GM Herbicide-tolerant (HT) soybean was reported in Gujarat.

In 2018, there were reports of HT cotton illegally growing in India. In relation to this, a 2017 journal paper reported that cotton farmers have been encouraged to change their ploughing practices, which has led to more weeds being left in their fields. It is suggested that the outcome in terms of yields (or farmer profit) is arguably no better than before. However, it coincides with the appearance of an increasing supply (and farmer demand) for HT cotton seeds.

The authors, Glenn Stone and Andrew Flachs observe:

The challenge for agrocapital is how to break the dependence on double-lining and ox-weeding to open the door to herbicide-based management…. how could farmers be pushed onto an herbicide-intensive path?

They show how farmers are indeed being nudged onto such a path and also note the potential market for herbicide growth alone in India is huge: sales could reach USD 800 million this year with scope for even greater expansion. From cotton to soybean, little wonder we see the appearance of HT seeds in the country.

In 2018, Rohit Parakh of India for Safe Food indicated that GM seeds are being imported into India:

Commerce Ministry’s own data on imports of live seeds clearly indicates that India continues to import genetically modified seeds including GM canola, GM sugar beet, GM papaya, GM squash and GM corn seeds (apart from soybean) from countries such as the USA… with no approval from the GEAC as is the requirement.

In 2018, the Centre for Science and Environment tested 65 imported and domestically produced processed food samples in India. Some 32 per cent of the samples tested were GM positive. Some brands had claims on their labels suggesting that they had no GM ingredients but were found to be GM positive.

We also have bogus arguments about GM mustard being forwarded by developers at Delhi University and the government. And USAID has been pushing for GM in Punjab and twisting a problematic situation to further Monsanto’s (now Bayer) interests by trying to get GM soybean planted in the state.

Given the issues surrounding GM crops (including the failure of Bt cotton in the country), there is good reason to be concerned, not least about the technology placing an economic noose on subsistence farmers for the sake of profits, as we have witnessed with Bt cotton.

A decade ago, rigorous consultations and lawful practices and procedures were adhered to when assessing Bt brinjal. If legitimate outcomes and scientific-based decisions are ultimately to be ignored and flouted at will, then we may ask what is the point of carrying out such assessments?

With regulators who seem to be wilfully “lackadaisical” and compromised, we may also ask: who is really pulling the strings?