Category Archives: Monsanto (now Bayer)

Toxic Corporations Are Destroying the Planet’s Soil

A newly published analysis in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science argues that a toxic soup of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides is causing havoc beneath fields covered in corn, soybeans, wheat and other monoculture crops. The research is the most comprehensive review ever conducted on how pesticides affect soil health.

The study is discussed by two of the report’s authors, Nathan Donley and Tari Gunstone, in a recent article appearing on the Scientific American website. The authors state that the findings should bring about immediate changes in how regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assess the risks posed by the nearly 850 pesticide ingredients approved for use in the USA.

Conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and the University of Maryland, the research looked at almost 400 published studies that together had carried out more than 2800 experiments on how pesticides affect soil organisms. The review encompassed 275 unique species or types of soil organisms and 284 different pesticides or pesticide mixtures.

Pesticides were found to harm organisms that are critical to maintaining healthy soils in over 70 per cent of cases. But Donley and Gunstone say this type of harm is not considered in the EPA’s safety reviews, which ignore pesticide harm to earthworms, springtails, beetles and thousands of other subterranean species. The EPA uses a single test species to estimate risk to all soil organisms, the European honeybee, which spends its entire life above ground in artificial boxes. But 50-100 per cent of all pesticides end up in soil.

The researchers conclude that the ongoing escalation of pesticide-intensive agriculture and pollution are major driving factors in the decline of soil organisms. By carrying out wholly inadequate reviews, the regulatory system serves to protect the pesticide industry.

The study comes in the wake of other recent findings that indicate high levels of the weedkiller chemical glyphosate and its toxic breakdown product AMPA have been found in topsoil samples from no-till fields in Brazil.

Writing on the GMWatch website, Claire Robinson and Jonathan Matthews note that, despite  this, the agrochemical companies seeking the renewal of the authorisation of glyphosate by the European Union in 2022 are saying that one of the greatest benefits of glyphosate is its ability to foster healthier soils by reducing the need for tillage (or ploughing).

This in itself is misleading because farmers are resorting to ploughing given increasing weed resistance to glyphosate and organic agriculture also incorporates no till methods. At the same time, proponents of glyphosate conveniently ignore or deny its toxicity to soils, water, humans and wildlife. With that in mind, it is noteworthy that GMWatch also refers to another recent study which says that glyphosate is responsible for a five per cent increase in infant mortality in Brazil.

The new study, ‘Pesticides in a case study on no-tillage farming systems and surrounding forest patches in Brazil’ in the journal Scientific Reports, leads the researchers to conclude that glyphosate-contaminated soil can adversely impact food quality and human health and ecological processes for ecosystem services maintenance. They argue that glyphosate and AMPA presence in soil may promote toxicity to key species for biodiversity conservation, which are fundamental for maintaining functioning ecological systems.

These studies reiterate the need to shift away from increasingly discredited ‘green revolution’ ideology and practices. This chemical-intensive model has helped the drive towards greater monocropping and has resulted in less diverse diets and less nutritious foods. Its long-term impact has led to soil degradation and mineral imbalances, which in turn have adversely affected human health.

If we turn to India, for instance, that country is losing 5334 million tonnes of soil every year due to soil erosion and degradation, much of which is attributed to the indiscreet and excessive use of synthetic agrochemicals. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research reports that soil is becoming deficient in nutrients and fertility.

India is not unique in this respect. Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization stated back in 2014 that if current rates of degradation continue all of the world’s topsoil could be gone within 60 years. She noted that about a third of the world’s soil had already been degraded. There is general agreement that chemical-heavy farming techniques are a major cause.

It can take 500 years to generate an inch of soil yet just a few generations to destroy. When you drench soil with proprietary synthetic agrochemicals as part of a model of chemical-dependent farming, you harm essential micro-organisms and end up feeding soil a limited doughnut diet of toxic inputs.

Armed with their multi-billion-dollar money-spinning synthetic biocides, this is what the agrochemical companies have been doing for decades. In their arrogance, these companies claim to have knowledge that they do not possess and then attempt to get the public and co-opted agencies and politicians to bow before the altar of corporate ‘science’ and its bought-and-paid-for scientific priesthood.

The damaging impacts of their products on health and the environment have been widely reported for decades, starting with Rachel Carson’s ground-breaking 1962 book Silent Spring.

These latest studies underscore the need to shift towards organic farming and agroecology and invest in indigenous models of agriculture – as has been consistently advocated by various high-level international agencies, not least the United Nations, and numerous official reports.

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Microsoft vs Indian Farmers: Agri-Stacking the System

In April, the Indian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft, allowing its local partner CropData to leverage a master database of farmers. The MoU seems to be part of the AgriStack policy initiative, which involves the roll out of ‘disruptive’ technologies and digital databases in the agricultural sector.

Based on press reports and government statements, Microsoft would help farmers with post- harvest management solutions by building a collaborative platform and capturing agriculture datasets such as crop yields, weather data, market demand and prices. In turn, this would create a farmer interface for ‘smart’ agriculture, including post-harvest management and distribution.

CropData will be granted access to a government database of 50 million farmers and their land records. As the database is developed, it will include farmers’ personal details, profile of land held (cadastral maps, farm size, land titles, local climatic and geographical conditions), production details (crops grown, production history, input history, quality of output, machinery in possession) and financial details (input costs, average return, credit history).

The stated aim is to use digital technology to improve financing, inputs, cultivation and supply and distribution.

It seems that the blueprint for AgriStack is in an advanced stage despite the lack of consultation with or involvement of farmers themselves. Technology could certainly improve the sector but handing control over to powerful private concerns will merely facilitate what they require in terms of market capture and farmer dependency.

Such ‘data-driven agriculture’ is integral to the recent farm legislation which includes a proposal to create a digital profile of cultivators, their farm holdings, climatic conditions in an area, what is grown and average output.

Of course, many concerns have been raised about this, ranging from farmer displacement, the further exploitation of farmers through microfinance and the misuse of farmer’s data and increased algorithmic decision-making without accountability.

The displacement of farmers is not lost on the Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE) which, in a three-part series of articles, explains how neoliberal capitalism has removed peasant farmers from their land to facilitate an active land market for corporate interests. The Indian government is trying to establish a system of ‘conclusive titling’ of all land in the country, so that ownership can be identified and land can then be bought or taken away.

Taking Mexico as an example, RUPE says:

Unlike Mexico, India never underwent significant land reform. Nevertheless, its current programme of ‘conclusive titling’ of land bears clear resemblances to Mexico’s post-1992 drive to hand over property rights… The Indian rulers are closely following the script followed by Mexico, written in Washington.

The plan is that, as farmers lose access to land or can be identified as legal owners, predatory institutional investors and large agribusinesses will buy up and amalgamate holdings, facilitating the further roll out of high-input, corporate-dependent industrial agriculture – which has already helped fuel wide-scale financial distress among farmers and a deep-rooted agrarian and environmental crisis.

By harvesting (pirating) information – under the benign-sounding policy of data-driven agriculture – private corporations will be better placed to exploit farmers’ situations for their own ends: they will know more about their incomes and businesses than individual farmers themselves.

Open letter

Some 55 civil society groups and organisations have written to the government expressing these and various other concerns, not least the perceived policy vacuum with respect to the data privacy of farmers and the exclusion of farmers themselves in current policy initiatives.

In an open letter, they state:

At a time when ‘data has become the new oil’ and the industry is looking at it as the next source of profits, there is a need to ensure the interest of farmers. It will not be surprising that corporations will approach this as one more profit-making possibility, as a market for so-called ‘solutions’ which lead to sale of unsustainable agri-inputs combined with greater loans and indebtedness of farmers for this through fintech, as well as the increased threat of dispossession by private corporations.

They add that any proposal which seeks to tackle the issues that plague Indian agriculture must address the fundamental causes of these issues. The current model relies on ‘tech-solutionism’ which emphasises using technology to solve structural issues.

There is also the issue of reduced transparency on the part of the government through algorithm-based decision-making.

The 55 signatories request the government holds consultations with all stakeholders, especially farmers’ organisations, on the direction of its digital push as well as the basis of partnerships, and put out a policy document in this regard after giving due consideration to feedback from farmers and farmer organisations. As agriculture is a state subject, the central government should consult the state governments also.

They state that all initiatives that the government has begun with private entities to integrate and/or share multiple databases with private/personal information about individual farmers or their farms be put on hold till an inclusive policy framework is put in place and a data protection law is passed.

It is also advocated that the development of AgriStack, both as a policy framework and its execution, should take the concerns and experiences of farmers as the prime starting point.

The letter states that if the new farm laws are closely examined, it will be evident that unregulated digitalisation is an important aspect of them.

There is the strong possibility that monopolistic corporate owned e-commerce ‘platforms’ will eventually control much of India’s economy given the current policy trajectory. From retail and logistics to cultivation, data certainly will be the ‘new oil’, giving power to platforms to dictate what needs to be manufactured and in what quantities.

Those farmers who remain in the system will be tied to contracts and told how much production is expected, how much rain is anticipated, what type of soil quality there is, what type of inputs are required and when the produce needs to be ready – and how much money they will receive.

Handing over all information about the sector to Microsoft and others places power in their hands – the power to shape the sector in their own image.

The data giants and e-commerce companies will not only control data about consumption but also hold data on production, logistics, who needs what, when they need it, who should produce it, who should move it and when it should be moved.

Bayer, Corteva, Syngenta and traditional agribusiness will work with Microsoft, Google and the big-tech giants to facilitate AI-driven farmerless farms and e-commerce retail dominated by the likes of Amazon and Walmart. A cartel of data owners, proprietary input suppliers and retail concerns at the commanding heights of the economy, peddling toxic industrial food and the devastating health impacts associated with it.

And elected representatives? Their role will be highly limited to technocratic overseers of these platforms and the artificial intelligence tools that plan and determine all of the above.

As for farmers, many, if not most, will be forced to leave the sector. Tens of millions unemployed and underemployed ‘collateral damage’ stripped of their means of production.

Centuries’ old knowledge of cultivation and cultural practices passed on down the generations – gone. The links between humans and the land reduced to an AI-driven technocratic dystopia in compliance with the tenets of neoliberal capitalism.

As it currently stands, AgriStack will help facilitate this end game.

The open letter referred to can be read on the website of the Alliance For Holistic and Sustaibable Agriculture. For a summary of the recent farm legislation and the implications see this segment by Colin Todhunter on UK-based KTV.

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Mette Frederiksen, Boris Johnson: Reject Industry PR, Ban Glyphosate, Protect Public Health! 

On 9 April 2021, retired physician and health and environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason wrote to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DEPA). She wanted to draw the agency’s attention to the findings that indicate the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup causes high levels of mortality following contact exposure in bumble bees (glyphosate-formulated herbicides are the most widely used weedicides in agriculture across the globe).

This, Mason argued, has led to a decline of bumblebees in Denmark. She asked the agency why it had used “fraudulent science” on glyphosate from the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency, which in turn take their ‘science’ from Monsanto/Bayer, rather than from the direct observations of The Danish Nature Agency.

Mason’s correspondence focused not only on the destructive environmental impacts of glyphosate but also on the devastating human health aspects.

In relation to sanctioning the continued use of glyphosate in Europe, Mason has previously noted that it was totally unacceptable, possibly negligent or even criminal, for the European Union to have allowed a group of plant scientists on the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) – whose knowledge of human physiology was so lacking that they did not recognise that glyphosate has effects on humans – to make decisions that affect human health.

PAFF’s role was pivotal in the decision to re-licence the use of glyphosate in the EU in 2017.

To date, aside from the DEPA acknowledging receipt of Mason’s letter, there has been no response to the issues raised.

As a follow up, Mason has sent the latest insights to DEPA on the Monsanto-Bayer lawsuits in the US. Three cases brought by Lee Johnson, Edwin Hardeman and Alva and Alberta Pilliod have already gone to trial. In each case, the courts found that Roundup caused their cancers and that Monsanto hid the risks of its product.

Mason also forwarded information to Magnus Hennicke, the health minister, indicating the role glyphosate plays in fuelling cancers and other diseases in Denmark. Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fishery Rasmus Prehn and Special Adviser Casper Steen Petersen also received copies of this information.

Their attention was drawn to the Institute for Responsible Technology claims that cancers caused by Roundup include non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bone cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, melanoma, pancreatic cancer and thyroid cancer.

Mason also quoted Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the renowned environmental attorney, who in 2018 talked of:

… 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, and inflammatory bowel disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts. 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.

Mason concluded her correspondence by saying:

I will leave Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (to whom I have also sent a copy) and other ministers to demand answers from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. Are they or their relatives suffering from any of these diseases – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, etc? Until Roundup is eliminated from food and from drinking water, these conditions will continue to afflict us all. That means that farmers must stop using Roundup.

Rosemary Mason has been writing to officials in the UK and Europe about the effects of Roundup and other agrochemicals for over a decade, documenting the health and environmental impacts as well as the institutional corruption that has led to their continued use. Her many reports are littered with peer reviewed scientific literature to support her claims and can be accessed on the academia.edu website.

New study

It seems that not a month goes by until some new paper or study appears and supports what Mason has been saying for a long time. For example, according to the recent multiple author paper ‘In-depth comparative toxicogenomics and Roundup herbicides’, glyphosate and Roundup changes gene function and causes DNA damage.

The research found that glyphosate and glyphosate-formulated herbicides activate mechanisms involved in cancer development, including DNA damage – and these effects occur at doses assumed by regulators to have no adverse effects. The study found that DNA damage was caused by oxidative stress, a destructive imbalance in the body that can cause a long list of diseases.

Writing on the GMWatch website, Claire Robinson summarises the findings and the policy implications. She states that the findings, according to the EU’s pesticide law, should result in a ban on glyphosate and all its formulations.

The study was led by Dr Michael Antoniou and Dr Robin Mesnage at King’s College London. It builds on the findings of a previous study by the same authors. In that study, the findings showed that glyphosate and Roundup, given at doses that regulators say are safe, result in gut microbiome disturbances and oxidative stress, with indications that the liver is affected and possibly damaged.

In the new follow-up study, the researchers carried out some of the standard tests that regulators require the pesticide industry to conduct to gain market authorisation for their products – namely blood biochemistry and kidney and liver histopathology (microscopic examination of tissue).

They also carried out in-depth tests (molecular profiling) that are not demanded by regulators or typically carried out by the industry. In addition, the researchers undertook tests that can detect direct damage to DNA.

Robinson notes that, worryingly for public health, it was the non-standard molecular profiling tests that are not required by pesticide regulators that were most revealing.

Roundup was found to alter the expression of 96 genes in the liver specifically linked to DNA damage and oxidative stress as well as disruption of circadian rhythms or ‘body clocks’. The findings strongly suggest that the key changes in gene function reflective of oxidative stress and DNA damage was due to glyphosate and not the additional substances (adjuvants) present in the Roundup formulation. Direct DNA damage to the liver was found to increase with glyphosate exposure.

Protect public health

Claire Robinson says that these findings potentially constitute a bombshell that could end the authorisation of glyphosate in the EU because the EU pesticide regulation (1107/2009) has what is known as hazard-based cut-off criteria.

She states:

This means that if a pesticide active ingredient is shown to cause a certain type of harm to health at whatever dose, it must be banned. One of the named types of harm is damage to DNA. The discovery that glyphosate alone damages DNA in a living animal should, if regulators follow the law, result in a ban on glyphosate.

The study indicated that both glyphosate and its commercial formulation Roundup activate mechanisms involved in cancer development, causing gene expression changes reflecting oxidative stress and DNA damage.

The UK is currently pushing for the deregulation of genetically engineered crops and products and the non-regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) derived from newer techniques like gene-editing. This in itself is worrying given the scientific evidence pointing to the health and ecological dangers associated with this technology.

At the same time, however, the government’s proposed strategy would only further serve the bottom line of the agrochemical companies while contributing to the ongoing public health crisis brought about by their products.

For instance, the recent paper ‘Herbicide Resistance: Another Hot Agronomic Trait for Plant Genome Editing’ (in the peer reviewed journal ‘Plants’) says that, in spite of claims from GMO promoters that gene editing will reduce pesticide use, what we can expect is just more of the same – GMO herbicide-tolerant crops and increased herbicide use.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that he wants to “liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules”. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops and food and a continuation of the chemical bombardment of our food, environment and bodies.

It is time for Johnson to serve the public not the bottom line of the government’s corporate masters.

It is time for the EU to ‘follow the science’ and side-line industry influence.

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Four Words Gates and His Pals Despise: Democracy and Minimum Support Price

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an assortment of high-profile figures and policy makers are pushing for unregulated gene-editing technologies, the rollout of bio-synthetic food created in laboratories, the expanded use of patented seeds and the roll back of subsidies and support for farmers in places like India.

These neoliberal evangelists despise democracy and believe that state machinery and public money should only facilitate the ambitions of their unaccountable mega-corporations.

Corporations are jumping on the ‘sustainability’ bandwagon by undermining traditional agriculture and genuine sustainable agrifood systems and packaging this corporate takeover of food as some kind of humanitarian endeavour.

The watchdog organisation Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) notes that the European Commission has committed to a fundamental shift away from industrial agriculture. With a 50 percent pesticide reduction target and a 25 percent organic agriculture goal by 2030, CEO argues that business as usual is no longer an option. In effect, this creates an existential crisis for corporate seed suppliers and pesticide manufacturers like Bayer, BASF, Corteva (DowDupont) and Syngenta (ChemChina).

However, these corporations are fighting back on various fronts, not least by waging an ongoing battle to get their new generation of genetic engineering techniques excluded from European regulations. They do not want plants, animals and micro-organisms created with gene-editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas to be subject to safety checks, monitoring or consumer labelling. This is concerning given the real dangers that these techniques pose.

For example, a new paper published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, authored by Dr Katharina Kawall, indicates the negative effects on ecosystems that can result from the release of gene-edited plants. These unintended effects come from the intended changes induced by genome editing, which can affect various metabolic processes in the plants.

The new paper adds to a growing body of peer-reviewed research that calls into question industry claims about the ‘precision’, safety and benefits of gene-edited organisms.

Recent research by the Greens and the European Free Alliance in the European Parliament indicates that 86 percent of Europeans who have heard of genetically engineered (GE) food want products containing GE organisms to be labelled as such. Some 68 per cent of respondents that have heard of new genetic engineering methods demand that food produced with these techniques, such as CRISPR, to be labelled as GE. Only three percent agreed with the industry’s proposal to exempt these products from safety testing and labelling.

Regardless, with the help of 1.3 million euros from the Gates Foundation, the industry is paving the way for deregulation by widespread lobbying of policy makers and promoting these technologies on the basis of them protecting the climate and ‘sustainability’. Through greenwashing, the industry hopes its ‘save-the-planet’ products can dodge regulation and gain public acceptance in an era of ‘climate emergency’.

Not for the first time, the lobbying that the Gates Foundation is engaging in displays complete contempt for democratic processes or public opinion. In 2018, The European Court of Justice ruled that new genetic engineering technologies should be regulated. As described by Marie Astier and Magali Reinert in the French publication Reporterre, Gates is very much at the centre of trying to bypass this ruling.

Of course, it is not just the European agrifood sector that is being targeted by Bill Gates and global agrifood players. India has very much been in the news in recent months due to the ongoing mass protest involving farmers who want three recent farm acts repealed.

Environmentalist Vandana Shiva has described on numerous occasions how the Gates Foundation through its ‘Ag One’ initiative is pushing for one type of agriculture for the whole world. A top-down approach regardless of what farmers or the public need or want. The strategy includes digital farming, in which farmers are monitored and mined for their agricultural data, which is then repackaged and sold back to them.

Along with Bill Gates, this is very much the agrifood model that Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva and Cargill have in mind. The tech giants recent entry into the sector will increasingly lead to a mutually beneficial integration between the companies that supply products to farmers (pesticides, seeds, fertilisers, tractors, drones, etc) and those that control the flow of data (on soil, weather, pests, weeds, land use, consumer preferences, etc) and have access to digital (cloud) infrastructure. A system based on corporate concentration and centralisation.

Those farmers who remain in the system will become passive recipients of corporate directives and products on farms owned by the Gates Foundation (now one of the largest owners of farmland in the US), agribusiness and financial institutions/speculators.

The three pieces of farm legislation in India (passed by parliament but on hold) are essential for laying the foundation for this model of agriculture. The legislation is The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

The foreign and home-grown (Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani) billionaires who have pushed for these laws require a system of contract farming dominated by their big tech, big agribusiness and big retail interests. Smallholder peasant agriculture is regarded as an impediment to what they require:  industrial-scale farms where driver-less tractors, drones and genetically engineered seeds are the norm and all data pertaining to land, water, weather, seeds and soils is controlled by them.

It is unfortunate that prominent journalists and media outlets in India are celebrating the legislation and have attempted to unjustifiably discredit farmers who are protesting. It is also worrying that key figures like Dr Ramesh Chand, a member of NITI (National Institute for Transforming India) Ayog, recently stated that the legislation is necessary.

When these figures attack farmers or promote the farm acts, what they are really doing is cheerleading for the destruction of local markets and independent small-scale enterprises, whether farmers, hawkers, food processers or mom and pop corner stores. And by implication, they are helping to ensure that India is surrendering control over its food.

They are doing the bidding of the Gates Foundation and the global agrifood corporations which also want India to eradicate its buffer food stocks. Some of the very corporations which will then control stocks that India would purchase with foreign exchange holdings. At that stage, any notion of sovereign statehood would be bankrupt as India’s food needs would be dependent on attracting foreign exchange reserves via foreign direct investment or borrowing.

This would represent the ultimate betrayal of India’s farmers and democracy as well as the final surrender of food security and food sovereignty to unaccountable global traders and corporations.

The farm legislation is regressive and will eventually lead to the country relying on outside forces to feed its population. This in an increasingly volatile world prone to conflict, public health scares, unregulated land and commodity speculation and price shocks.

MSP, malnutrition and helping farmers

Consider that India has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured that, in theory at least, there is enough food available to feed its entire population. Yet hunger and malnutrition are still major issues.

Initial results from the National Family Health Survey round 5 (NFHS-5) released in January indicate a stagnation or deterioration in most factors related to the nutrition status of the Indian population. These findings have not accounted for the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown, which could see severe long-term adverse impacts on poverty, health and nutrition.

The survey findings suggest that people’s ability to access good quality diets has been impacted by the economic slowdown in recent years and a subsequent deterioration in poverty and consumption. Such a conclusion might not be too far off the mark given the findings of the consumption expenditure survey of the National Statistical Office (2017-18).

In a December 2019 article, economist S Subramanian writes:

Employing the modest Rangarajan Committee poverty line… we find that the… proportion of the population in poverty, has climbed up from 31% to 35%, thus inverting a long trend of declining poverty ratios. If the poverty line is raised by 20% to a less modest but still modest level, then we find… [poverty]… rises precipitously from 42% to 52%.

Supporters of the farm legislation are fond of saying the impact will be higher income for farmers and greater efficiency in food distribution. They fail to acknowledge that the neoliberal policies they have backed over the years have driven many farmers out of agriculture, into debt or to the edge of bankruptcy. They are now pushing for more of the same under the banner of helping farmers.

These policies mainly stem from India’s foreign exchange crisis in the 1990s. In return for up to more than $120 billion in World Bank loans at the time, India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange.

The plan involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. We have seen the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, withdrawal of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes. The result is an acute agrarian crisis.

Through the new farm laws, the Modi government is now trying to accelerate the planned depopulation of the countryside by drastically reducing the role of the public sector in agriculture to that of a facilitator of private capital.

There is a solution to poverty, hunger and rural distress. But it is being side-lined in favour of a corporate agenda.

The Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE) notes that minimum support prices (MSP) via government procurement of essential crops and commodities should be extended to the likes of maize, cotton, oil seed and pulses. At the moment, only farmers in certain states who produce rice and wheat are the main beneficiaries of government procurement at MSP.

RUPE says that since per capita protein consumption in India is abysmally low and has fallen further during the liberalisation era, the provision of pulses in the public distribution system (PDS) is long overdue and desperately needed. RUPE argues that the ‘excess’ stocks of food grain with the Food Corporation of India are merely the result of the failure or refusal of the government to distribute grain to the people.

(For those not familiar with the PDS: central government via the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is responsible for buying food grains from farmers at MSP at state-run market yards or mandis. It then allocates the grains to each state. State governments then deliver to the ration shops.)

If public procurement of a wider range of crops at the MSP were to occur – and MSP were guaranteed for rice and wheat across all states – it would help address hunger and malnutritional as well as farmer distress.

Instead of rolling back the role of the public sector and surrendering the system to foreign corporations, there is a need to further expand official procurement and public distribution. This would occur by extending procurement to additional states and expanding the range of commodities under the PDS.

Of course, some will raise a red flag here and say this would cost too much. But as RUPE notes, it would cost around 20 per cent of the current handouts (‘incentives’) received by corporations and their super-rich owners which do not benefit the bulk of the wider population in any way.

Furthermore, if policy makers were really serious about ‘sustainability’ and boosting the rural economy, they would reject the fake high-tech corporate controlled ‘sustainability’ agenda and a reliance on rigged and unstable global markets. They would embrace an approach to agriculture based on agroecological principles, short supply chains and local markets. If the last 12 months have shown anything, it is that decentralised regional and local community-owned food systems are now needed more than ever.

But a solution that would genuinely serve to help address rural distress and malnutrition does not suit the agenda of the Gates Foundation and its corporate entourage.

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The Big Picture is Ignored in the Covid Debate

What is the “Big Picture” of Covid-19, alias SARS-CoV-2 ?  Is it what we could also call the end-game, or what Aldous Huxley called the “Brave New World” (1932), science-fiction – gradually turning into reality in the form of the UN Agenda 2030 – with the implementing tool of the Bill Gates created Agenda ID2020 (see here) ?

We are at the beginning of the end-game. We are in what the 2010 Rockefeller Report calls “The Lockstep” scenario. This is the first one of four scenarios, prompted by an invisible enemy, a virus, a corona virus, akin to the one that was at the origin of the SARS outbreak in China in 2002 to 2004. This virus is to be propagated as a huge deadly danger. It’s a brainwashing fear campaign. The decision for the launch was taken during Event 201, in NYC on 18 October 2019, a few weeks before the actual SAES-CoV-2 outbreak. And it was confirmed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) conference in January 2020 in Davos, Switzerland.

Event 201, hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (funded and created by the  Rockefeller Foundation) and the WEF, was chiefly a computer simulation of a SARS-like pandemic, killing some 65 million people in 18 months and destroying the world’s economy as we know it (see here).

What was foreseen was a bio-warfare against humanity. The virus was called SARS-Cov-2, later for reasons of disguising from its creators, was renamed by WHO to “Covid-19”. The close companion of the virus was FEAR — weaponized Fear.

Together, with a huge propaganda and brainwashing effort, the entire world – 193 UN member countries were called a covid risk – and WHO declared a pandemic — as we later found out, it was a plandemic — on 11 March 2020. Imagine! With only about 4,600 “cases” worldwide, the World Health Organization calls it a pandemic. The world fell in shock. When people are in shock, they are gullible to accept anything – see Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine (2008).

A worldwide lockdown was ordered by an invisible Globalist Cabal to all 193 UN member governments at once, by mid-March 2020. Governments were bought, corrupted, coopted or threatened into behaving as ordered by a worldwide common must-narrative. The entire UN system was, and is as of today, part and parcel of this worldwide fraud. Indeed, those government leaders, who did not follow the narrative, who defied the plandemic, risked severe “punishment”.

The President of Burundi, Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza, died unexpectedly on 8 June 2020 shortly before the official end of his term. He was the longest-ruling president in Burundian history. His death was diagnosed as a heart attack. He was known for defying the official narrative of covid-19, and of kicking WHO out of his country shortly before his death.

Tanzania’s popular President John Magufuli, died on March 17, 2021, from “heart complications”, in a hospital in Dar es Salaam. Mr. Magufuli was one of Africa’s most prominent coronavirus sceptics. He called for prayers and herbal-infused steam therapy to counter the virus. Shortly before his death, he said that he had PCR tests carried out on a papaya and a goat and the tests came back positive, implying that the notorious PCR test kits were pre-tainted with the virus.

The public at large is being kept in the dark about what the Deep State, the corporate, banking and high-tech communication oligarchs, or simply the Globalist Cabal’s real plan is behind the covid fraud.

The so far almost invisible Big Picture, also called The Great Reset, or in the UN Agenda 2030 jargon, “Build Back Better” – consists of a threefold objective:

(i) Taking over total control of humanity, as in One World Order (OWO); by electromagnetic manipulation (that’s where 5G, later 6G come in); by digitizing everything, including all money; by converting humans into transhumans; they – Mr. Klaus Schwab, the co-author of the Great Reset, and his cabal, call it the 4th Industrial Revolution;

(ii) Shifting assets and resources from the middle and the bottom of society to the top few; and,

(iii) Drastically reducing world population, via a eugenist massive depopulation agenda. Eventually, a small globalist elite – all those associated with managing and governing the OWO-tyranny – plus a relatively small world population of serfs – or what Aldous Huxley called the “Epsilon people” (the lowest cast working people) – in today’s world, “transhumans”, would survive. The serfs or Epsilon people would all be electronically controlled and manipulated, so they would not transgress into seeking their erstwhile “freedom” lost.

The Rockefeller-led Bilderberg Society and Rockefeller’s protégé Henry Kissinger, have been propagating a reduced world population for decades. Remember Henry Kissinger’s infamous saying: Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.”

Bill Gates is today’s chief proponent of a reduced world population. He has also recently become the largest private farmland owner in the United States. He reportedly owns 242,000 acres (about 980 square kilometers) of farmland across 18 states. What does he intend to do with this farmland? – Well, who controls the food, controls the people. Gates is also a significant shareholder and partner in (Bayer-)Monsanto’s GMO seed- and pesticides branch.

At this point we can only speculate. But some of the not so farfetched speculations would indicate that Bill Gates, under the guise of environmental protection (i. e. the good-old “climate change agenda”) and the New Green Deal, he may want to produce synthetic food, laboratory produced meat and GMO (genetically modified) grains and vegetables. This synthetic GMO-food, spiked with toxic pesticides, will then compete with ‘real food’ which – under the neoliberal market forces will become ever rarer – affordable only by the elite.

Synthetic food may include all kinds of “health and disease agents” to regulate population. The Epsilon people will, of course, have no clue. As the Great Reset concludes – They will own nothing and be happy.

While this is going on in the shadows, invisible for most people, the media make sure that the debate – official by governments, and unofficial by anti-covid protesters – is entirely focused on covid, the infection, the invisible atrocious enemy, the fear-mongering, plus all the repressive covid-measures, masking, social distancing, semi- versus full lockdowns, travel restrictions, vaxxing or not vaxxing – and the so-called obligatory electronic vaccination passports, akin to the Agenda ID2020.

All are concentrating on the covid-virus. Almost nothing lets you suspect that there is a Big Picture, a much larger, much deadlier agenda behind all this, that the virus and the atrocious Fear it promotes, is but an instrument to reach the larger objectives, those listed above.

Hardly does any public or unofficial debate, even massive anti-covid measures protests, like the “Wake up the World“ demo by the World Freedom Alliance in Copenhagen on February 4, 2021 touch the Big Picture, what awaits us at the end of the UN Agenda 2030: You own nothing and are happy.

We are at war. Not just against an invisible enemy, the corona virus and the weaponized factor of FEAR, but also against our own ignorance and unconsciousness. Plus, against the Global Cabal – the WEF and its Great Reset with its treacherous, fake New Green Deal, a new ultra-neoliberal capitalism, painted green – and intent of swallowing us all under the fakeness of climate change and environmental protection, the rebirth of the Greta-agenda.

The British PM, Boris Johnson, addressed on 8 October 2020 via video his conservative Tory Party with about these words:

We have lost too much, mourned too long and life cannot continue like before. History shows us that events of this dimension  — wars, pandemics — don’t just come and go. Most often they are triggers for social and economic changes. We see these instances as a period to learn and to become better. Hence, this government wants to “build back better” (UN slogan for Great Reset).

Let’s compare this with the words of Klaus Schwab in his “Covid-19 – The Great Reset”:

Many of us ask when will we return to normality? The short answer is NEVER. Nothing will return to the rotten feeling of normality that existed before the crisis, because the corona-pandemic marks a fundamental change in our global development. Many analysts call it a crossroads, others a crisis of biblical dimensions, but in essence this shows us that the world we still knew in the first months of 2020 doesn’t exist anymore. It dissolved in the context of the pandemic.

Wow! This is strong and quite insensitive language for the many people who died on covid-19 and especially for those hundreds of millions, if not billions, who have lost everything — their jobs, their homes, their income, their families and friends, those who suffer from famine, who now live in misery, at the edge of sheer existence, those who are driven to commit suicide.

The grandiose WEF, the Rockefellers, Gates, Prince Charles, the Director General of WHO, the Chief of the IMF, the UN Secretary General, and all those who participated in the planning of this “pandemic” during Event 201, never mention these people. In other words, for this small elite, the planners and organizers of the Great Reset, those who represent the concept: You own nothing and are happy – these dumped-into-poverty “epsilon people” are dispensable.

If we cannot master the covid fraud, put an end to it, even unseating and bringing to justice the 193 lying, cheating and eventually murderous UN member governments, how can we come to grips with, and escape the fangs of, the “Big Picture”, The Great Reset, that eventually will deprive us of our daily nutrition, rendering us infertile and sterile with toxic artificial food with the forced vaccines, and bring about a mass genocide through genome-altering mRNA-type vaccines, pesticide-GMO food – with a soulless, masked life in solitude?

The post The Big Picture is Ignored in the Covid Debate first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Reimagining the World: Agroecology and Post-COVID Plunder

Contingent on World Bank aid to be given to poorer countries in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns, agrifood conglomerates will aim to further expand their influence. These firms have been integral to the consolidation of a global food regime that has emerged in recent decades based on chemical- and proprietary-input-dependent agriculture which incurs massive externalised social, environmental and health costs.

Reliance on commodity monocropping for global markets, long supply chains and dependency on external inputs for cultivation make the food system vulnerable to shocks, whether resulting from public health scares, oil price spikes (the global food system is fossil-fuel dependent) or conflict and war. An increasing number of countries are recognising the need to respond by becoming more food self-sufficient, preferably by securing control over their own food and reducing supply chain lengths.

The various coronavirus lockdowns have disrupted many transport and production activities, exposing the weaknesses of the food system. If the current situation tells us anything, it is that structural solutions are needed to transform food production, not further strengthen the status quo.

Agroecology

During the Disappearing World Forum in 2013, author Arundhati Roy was asked by an audience member, what is the alternative to the mainstream development narrative?

She responded by saying:

You can ask the question of alternatives in two ways. One way is a genuine way and the other is a sort of aggressive way. And the genuine way would take into account that today we are where we are because there has been a series of decisions taken about everything; whether it’s about hybrid seeds, whether it’s about big dams. Whatever it’s about, every time there’s a decision that has been taken, there’s always been an alternative… There was an alternative to every way you chose to develop. When you have a system that’s been created with a layer – with thousands of decisions – and you want me now to tell you an alternative in one sentence, it isn’t possible.

In a world where the ‘good life’ is associated with GDP growth, endless consumption and increasing urbanisation, there is a price to be paid in terms of environmental destruction, devastating resource conflicts, population displacements, a destructive arrogance that sees humans apart from and above nature and the degradation of our most fundamental need – food and our ability to produce it.

The solution cannot be expressed in one sentence, but a vital – perhaps central – component of ‘the alternative’ involves prioritising an agrarian-centric development paradigm based on a wide-ranging shift to agroecology. The agroecological paradigm is not just about growing food; it involves reimagining our relationship with nature and with each other and the type of actions and activities that give meaning to life.

In 2014, UN special rapporteur Olivier De Schutter’s report concluded that by applying agroecological principles to democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and poverty challenges. He argued that agroecological approaches could tackle food needs in critical regions and could double food production in 10 years.

The 2009 IAASTD peer-reviewed report, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. And the recent UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts concluded that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.

Agroecology is based on traditional knowledge and modern agricultural research, utilising elements of contemporary ecology, soil biology and the biological control of pests. This system employs sound ecological management by using on-farm solutions to manage pests and disease without the use of agrochemicals and corporate seeds. It outperforms the prevailing industrial food system in terms of diversity of food output, nutrition per acre, soil health, water table stability and climate resilience.

Academic Raj Patel outlines some of the basic practices of agroecology by saying that nitrogen-fixing beans are grown instead of using inorganic fertilizer, flowers are used to attract beneficial insects to manage pests and weeds are crowded out with more intensive planting. The result is a sophisticated polyculture: many crops are produced simultaneously, instead of just one.

Much has been written about agroecology, its successes and the challenges it faces, not least in the 2017 book Fertile Ground: Scaling agroecology from the ground up, published by Food First. Agroecology can offer concrete, practical solutions to many of the world’s problems. It challenges – and offers alternatives to – the prevailing moribund doctrinaire economics of a neoliberalism that drives a failing system of industrial agriculture.

By creating securely paid labour-intensive agricultural work in both richer and poorer countries, it can address the interrelated links between labour offshoring by rich countries and the removal of rural populations elsewhere who end up in sweat shops to carry out offshored jobs: the two-pronged process of neoliberal, globalised capitalism that has hollowed out the economies of the US and UK and which is displacing existing indigenous food production systems and undermining the rural infrastructure in places like India.

Agroecology is based on food sovereignty, which encompasses the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems. ‘Culturally appropriate’ is a nod to the foods people have traditionally produced and eaten as well as the associated socially embedded practices which underpin community and a sense of communality. But it goes beyond that.

Modern food system

People have a deep microbiological connection to soils, food processing practices and fermentation processes which affect the gut microbiome – up to six pounds of bacteria, viruses and microbes akin to human soil. And as with actual soil, the microbiome can become degraded according to what we ingest (or fail to ingest). Many nerve endings from major organs are located in the gut and the microbiome effectively nourishes them. There is ongoing research taking place into how the microbiome is disrupted by the modern globalised food production/processing system and the chemical bombardment it is subjected to.

Capitalism colonises (and degrades) all aspects of life but is colonising the very essence of our being – even on a physiological level. With their agrochemicals and food additives, powerful companies are attacking this ‘soil’ and with it the human body. As soon as agri-food corporations undermined the capacity for eating locally grown, traditionally processed food, cultivated in healthy soils and began imposing long-line supply chains and food subjected to chemical-laden cultivation and processing activities, we not only lost our cultural connections to food production and the seasons, but we also lost our deep-rooted microbiological connection with our localities. Corporate chemicals and seeds and global food chains dominated by the likes of Monsanto (now Bayer), Nestle and Cargill took over.

Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, neurotransmitters in the gut affect our moods and thinking. 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. In addition, increasing levels of obesity are associated with low bacterial richness in the gut. Indeed, it has been noted that tribes not exposed to the modern food system have richer microbiomes.

To ensure genuine food security and good health, humanity must transition to a notion of food sovereignty based on optimal self-sufficiency, agroecological principles and local ownership and stewardship of common resources – land, water, soil, seeds, etc.

However, what we are seeing is a trend towards genetically engineered and biosynthetic lab-based food controlled by corporations. The billionaire class who are pushing this agenda think they can own nature and all humans and can control both. As part of an economic, cultural and social ‘great reset’, they seek to impose their cold dystopian vision that wants to eradicate thousands of years of culture, tradition and farming practices virtually overnight.

Consider that many of the ancient rituals and celebrations of our forebears were built around stories and myths that helped them come to terms with some of the most basic issues of existence, from death to rebirth and fertility. These culturally embedded beliefs and practices served to sanctify their practical relationship with nature and its role in sustaining human life.

As agriculture became key to human survival, the planting and harvesting of crops and other seasonal activities associated with food production were central to these customs. Freyfaxi marks the beginning of the harvest in Norse paganism, for example, while Lammas or Lughnasadh is the celebration of the first harvest/grain harvest in Paganism.

Humans celebrated nature and the life it gave birth to. Ancient beliefs and rituals were imbued with hope and renewal and people had a necessary and immediate relationship with the sun, seeds, animals, wind, fire, soil and rain and the changing seasons that nourished and brought life. In addition to our physiological connection, our cultural and social relationships with agrarian production and associated deities had a sound practical base.

We need look no further than India to appreciate the important relationship between culture, agriculture and ecology, not least the vital importance of the monsoon and seasonal planting and harvesting. Rural-based beliefs and rituals steeped in nature persist, even among urban Indians. These are bound to traditional knowledge systems where livelihoods, the seasons, food, cooking, processing, seed exchange, healthcare and the passing on of knowledge are all inter-related and form the essence of cultural diversity within India itself.

Although the industrial age resulted in a diminution of the connection between food and the natural environment as people moved to cities, traditional ‘food cultures’ – the practices, attitudes and beliefs surrounding the production, distribution and consumption of food – still thrive and highlight our ongoing connection to agriculture and nature.

If we go back to the 1950s, it is interesting to note Union Carbide’s corporate narrative based on a series of images that depicted the company as a ‘hand of god’ coming out of the sky to ‘solve’ some of the issues facing humanity. One of the most famous images is of the hand pouring the firm’s agrochemicals on Indian soils as if traditional farming practices were somehow ‘backward’.

Despite well-publicised claims to the contrary, this chemical-driven approach did not lead to higher food production according to the paper “New Histories of the Green Revolution” written by Prof Glenn Stone. However, it has had long-term devastating ecological, social and economic consequences as we saw in Vandana Shiva’s book The Violence of the Green Revolution and Bhaskar Save’s now famous and highly insightful open letter to Indian officials.

In the book Food and Cultural Studies’ (Bob Ashley et al), we see how, some years ago, a Coca Cola TV ad campaign sold its product to an audience which associated modernity with a sugary drink and depicted ancient Aboriginal beliefs as harmful, ignorant and outdated. Coke and not rain became the giver of life to the parched. This type of ideology forms part of a wider strategy to discredit traditional cultures and portray them as being deficient and in need of assistance from ‘god-like’ corporations.

Post-COVID plunder

What we are seeing in 2020, is an acceleration of such processes. In terms of food and agriculture, traditional farming in places like India will be under increasing pressure from the big-tech giants and agribusiness to open up to lab-grown food, GMOs, genetically engineered soil microbes, data harvesting tools and drones and other ‘disruptive’ technologies.

This vision includes farmerless farms being manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented GM seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food. What will happen to the farmers?

Post-COVID, the World Bank talks about helping countries get back on track in return for structural reforms. Are tens of millions of smallholder farmers to be enticed from their land in return for individual debt relief and universal basic income? The displacement of these farmers and the subsequent destruction of rural communities and their cultures was something the Gates Foundation once called for and cynically termed “land mobility”.

Cut through the euphemisms and it is clear that Bill Gates – and the other incredibly rich individuals behind the great reset with their ‘white saviour’ mindset – is an old-fashioned colonialist who supports the time-honoured dispossessive strategies of imperialism, whether this involves mining, appropriating and commodifying farmer knowledge, accelerating the transfer of research and seeds to corporations or facilitating intellectual property piracy and seed monopolies created through IP laws and seed regulations.

In India – still an agrarian-based society – will the land of these already (prior to COVID) heavily indebted farmers then be handed over to the tech giants, the financial institutions and global agribusiness to churn out their high-tech industrial sludge?

With the link completely severed between food production, nature and culturally embedded beliefs that give meaning and expression to life, we will be left with the individual, isolated human who exists on lab-based food, who is reliant on income from the state and who is stripped of satisfying productive endeavour and genuine self-fulfilment.

Technocratic meddling has already destroyed or undermined cultural diversity, meaningful social connections and agrarian ecosystems that draw on centuries of traditional knowledge and are increasingly recognised as valid approaches to secure food security, as outlined, for example, in the 2017 article “Food Security and Traditional Knowledge in India” in the Journal of South Asian Studies.

Such a pity that prominent commentators like George Monbiot, who writes for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, seems fully on board with this ‘great reset’. In his 2020 article ‘Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet’, he sees farmerless farms and ‘fake’ food produced in giant industrial factories from microbes as a good thing.

But Vandana Shiva says:

The notion that high-tech ‘farm free’ lab food will save the planet is simply a continuation of the same mechanistic mindset which has brought us to where we are today – the idea that we are separate from and outside of nature… it is the basis of industrial agriculture which has destroyed the planet, farmers livelihoods and our health.

She adds:

Turning ‘water into food’ is an echo from the times of the second world war, when it was claimed that fossil-fuel-based chemical fertilisers would produce ‘Bread from Air’. Instead we have dead zones in the ocean, greenhouse gases – including nitrous oxide which is 300 times more damaging to the environment than CO2 – and desertified soils and land. We are part of nature, not separate from and outside of nature. Food is what connects us to the earth, its diverse beings, including the forests around us — through the trillions of microorganisms that are in our gut microbiome and which keep our bodies healthy, both inside and out.

As an environmentalist, Monbiot supports lab-based food because he only sees a distorted method of industrial farming; he is blind to agroecological methods which do not have the disastrous environmental consequences of chemical-dependent industrial agriculture. Monbiot’s ‘solution’ is to replace one model of corporate controlled farming with another, thereby robbing us of our connection to the land, to each other and making us wholly dependent on profiteering, unscrupulous interests that have no time for concepts like food democracy or food sovereignty.

Moreover, certain lab-engineered ‘food’ will require biomatter in the form of commodity crops. This in itself raises issues related to the colonisation of land in faraway countries and the implications for food security there. We may look no further to see the adverse health, social and environmental impacts of pesticide-dependent GMO seed monocropping in Argentina as it produces soy for the global market, not least for animal feed in Europe.

Instead of pandering to the needs of corporations, prominent commentators would do better by getting behind initiatives like the anti-imperialist Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology, produced by Nyeleni in 2015. It argues for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on genuine agroecological food production. It adds that agroecology requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

It would mean that what ends up in our food and how it is grown is determined by the public good and not powerful private interests driven by patents, control and commercial gain and the compulsion to subjugate farmers, consumers and entire regions to their global supply chains and questionable products (whether unhealthy food or proprietary pesticides and seeds). For consumers, the public good includes more diverse diets leading to better nutrition and enhanced immunity when faced with any future pandemic.

Across the world, decentralised and local community-owned food systems based on short(er) food supply chains that can cope with future shocks are now needed more than ever. But there are major obstacles given the power of agrifood concerns whose business models are based on industrial farming and global chains with all the devastating consequences this entails.

Following the devastation caused by coronavirus-related lockdowns, World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet – on the condition that further neoliberal reforms and the undermining of public services are implemented and become further embedded.

He says that countries will need to implement structural reforms to help shorten the time to recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong:

For those countries that have excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection or litigiousness as obstacles, we will work with them to foster markets, choice and faster growth prospects during the recovery.

For agriculture, this means the further opening of markets to benefit the richer nations. What journalists like George Monbiot fail to acknowledge is that emerging technology in agriculture (AI drones, gene-edited crops, synthetic food, etc) is first and foremost an instrument of corporate power. Indeed, agriculture has for a long time been central to US foreign policy to boost the bottom line of its agribusiness interests and their control over the global food chain.

In the words of economics professor Michael Hudson:

It is by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

It is naïve to suggest that in the brave new world of farmerless farms and lab-based food, things would be different. In the face of economic crisis and stagnation at home, exacerbated by COVID lockdowns and restrictions, whether through new technologies or older Green Revolution methods, Western agricapital will seek to further entrench its position across the globe.

The post Reimagining the World: Agroecology and Post-COVID Plunder first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Agroecology and Post-COVID Plunder

Contingent on World Bank aid to be given to poorer countries in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns, agrifood conglomerates will aim to further expand their influence. These firms have been integral to the consolidation of a global food regime that has emerged in recent decades based on chemical- and proprietary-input-dependent agriculture which incurs massive externalised social, environmental and health costs.

Reliance on commodity monocropping for global markets, long supply chains and dependency on external inputs for cultivation make the food system vulnerable to shocks, whether resulting from public health scares, oil price spikes (the global food system is fossil-fuel dependent) or conflict and war. An increasing number of countries are recognising the need to respond by becoming more food self-sufficient, preferably by securing control over their own food and reducing supply chain lengths.

The various coronavirus lockdowns have disrupted many transport and production activities, exposing the weaknesses of the food system. If the current situation tells us anything, it is that structural solutions are needed to transform food production, not further strengthen the status quo.

Agroecology

In 2014, UN special rapporteur Olivier De Schutter’s report concluded that by applying agroecological principles to democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and poverty challenges. He argued that agroecological approaches could tackle food needs in critical regions and could double food production in 10 years.

The 2009 IAASTD peer-reviewed report, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. And the recent UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts concluded that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.

Agroecology is based on traditional knowledge and modern agricultural research, utilising elements of contemporary ecology, soil biology and the biological control of pests. This system employs sound ecological management by using on-farm solutions to manage pests and disease without the use of agrochemicals and corporate seeds. It outperforms the prevailing industrial food system in terms of diversity of food output, nutrition per acre, soil health, water table stability and climate resilience.

Academic Raj Patel outlines some of the basic practices of agroecology by saying that nitrogen-fixing beans are grown instead of using inorganic fertilizer, flowers are used to attract beneficial insects to manage pests and weeds are crowded out with more intensive planting. The result is a sophisticated polyculture: many crops are produced simultaneously, instead of just one.

Much has been written about agroecology, its successes and the challenges it faces, not least in the 2017 book Fertile Ground: Scaling agroecology from the ground up, published by Food First. Agroecology can offer concrete, practical solutions to many of the world’s problems. It challenges – and offers alternatives to – the prevailing moribund doctrinaire economics of a neoliberalism that drives a failing system of industrial agriculture.

By creating securely paid labour-intensive agricultural work in both richer and poorer countries, it can address the interrelated links between labour offshoring by rich countries and the removal of rural populations elsewhere who end up in sweat shops to carry out offshored jobs: the two-pronged process of neoliberal, globalised capitalism that has hollowed out the economies of the US and UK and which is displacing existing indigenous food production systems and undermining the rural infrastructure in places like India.

Agroecology is based on the principle of food sovereignty, which encompasses the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems. ‘Culturally appropriate’ is a nod to the foods people have traditionally produced and eaten as well as the associated socially embedded practices which underpin community and a sense of communality. But it goes beyond that.

Modern food system

People have a deep microbiological connection to soils, food processing practices and fermentation processes which affect the gut microbiome – up to six pounds of bacteria, viruses and microbes akin to human soil. And as with actual soil, the microbiome can become degraded according to what we ingest (or fail to ingest). Many nerve endings from major organs are located in the gut and the microbiome effectively nourishes them. There is ongoing research taking place into how the microbiome is disrupted by the modern globalised food production/processing system and the chemical bombardment it is subjected to.

Capitalism colonises (and degrades) all aspects of life but is colonising the very essence of our being – even on a physiological level. With their agrochemicals and food additives, powerful companies are attacking this ‘soil’ and with it the human body. As soon as agri-food corporations undermined the capacity for eating locally grown, traditionally processed food, cultivated in healthy soils and began imposing long-line supply chains and food subjected to chemical-laden cultivation and processing activities, we not only lost our cultural connections to food production and the seasons, but we also lost our deep-rooted microbiological connection with our localities. Corporate chemicals and seeds and global food chains dominated by the likes of Monsanto (now Bayer), Nestle and Cargill took over.

Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, neurotransmitters in the gut affect our moods and thinking. 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. In addition, increasing levels of obesity are associated with low bacterial richness in the gut. Indeed, it has been noted that tribes not exposed to the modern food system have richer microbiomes.

To ensure genuine food security and good health, humanity must transition to a notion of food sovereignty based on optimal self-sufficiency, agroecological principles and local ownership and stewardship of common resources – land, water, soil, seeds, etc.

However, what we are seeing is a trend towards genetically engineered and biosynthetic lab-based food controlled by corporations. The billionaire class who are pushing this agenda think they can own nature and all humans and can control both. As part of an economic, cultural and social ‘great reset’, they seek to impose their cold dystopian vision that wants to eradicate thousands of years of culture, tradition and farming practices virtually overnight.

Consider that many of the ancient rituals and celebrations of our forebears were built around stories and myths that helped them come to terms with some of the most basic issues of existence, from death to rebirth and fertility. These culturally embedded beliefs and practices served to sanctify their practical relationship with nature and its role in sustaining human life.

As agriculture became key to human survival, the planting and harvesting of crops and other seasonal activities associated with food production were central to these customs. Freyfaxi marks the beginning of the harvest in Norse paganism, for example, while Lammas or Lughnasadh is the celebration of the first harvest/grain harvest in Paganism.

Humans celebrated nature and the life it gave birth to. Ancient beliefs and rituals were imbued with hope and renewal and people had a necessary and immediate relationship with the sun, seeds, animals, wind, fire, soil and rain and the changing seasons that nourished and brought life. In addition to our physiological connection, our cultural and social relationships with agrarian production and associated deities had a sound practical base.

We need look no further than India to appreciate the important relationship between culture, agriculture and ecology, not least the vital importance of the monsoon and seasonal planting and harvesting. Rural-based beliefs and rituals steeped in nature persist, even among urban Indians. These are bound to traditional knowledge systems where livelihoods, the seasons, food, cooking, processing, seed exchange, healthcare and the passing on of knowledge are all inter-related and form the essence of cultural diversity within India itself.

Although the industrial age resulted in a diminution of the connection between food and the natural environment as people moved to cities, traditional ‘food cultures’ – the practices, attitudes and beliefs surrounding the production, distribution and consumption of food – still thrive and highlight our ongoing connection to agriculture and nature.

If we go back to the 1950s, it is interesting to note Union Carbide’s corporate narrative based on a series of images that depicted the company as a ‘hand of god’ coming out of the sky to ‘solve’ some of the issues facing humanity. One of the most famous images is of the hand pouring the firm’s agrochemicals on Indian soils as if traditional farming practices were somehow ‘backward’.

Despite well-publicised claims to the contrary, this chemical-driven approach did not lead to higher food production according to the paper “New Histories of the Green Revolution” written by Prof Glenn Stone. However, it has had long-term devastating ecological, social and economic consequences as we saw in Vandana Shiva’s book The Violence of the Green Revolution and Bhaskar Save’s now famous and highly insightful open letter to Indian officials.

In the book Food and Cultural Studies (Bob Ashley et al), we see how, some years ago, a Coca Cola TV ad campaign sold its product to an audience which associated modernity with a sugary drink and depicted ancient Aboriginal beliefs as harmful, ignorant and outdated. Coke and not rain became the giver of life to the parched. This type of ideology forms part of a wider strategy to discredit traditional cultures and portray them as being deficient and in need of assistance from ‘god-like’ corporations.

Post-COVID plunder

What we are seeing in 2020, is an acceleration of such processes. In terms of food and agriculture, traditional farming in places like India will be under increasing pressure from the big-tech giants and agribusiness to open up to lab-grown food, GMOs, genetically engineered soil microbes, data harvesting tools and drones and other ‘disruptive’ technologies.

This vision includes farmerless farms being manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented GM seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food. What will happen to the farmers?

Post-COVID, the World Bank talks about helping countries get back on track in return for structural reforms. Are tens of millions of smallholder farmers to be enticed from their land in return for individual debt relief and universal basic income? The displacement of these farmers and the subsequent destruction of rural communities and their cultures was something the Gates Foundation once called for and cynically termed “land mobility”.

Cut through the euphemisms and it is clear that Bill Gates – and the other incredibly rich individuals behind the great reset with their ‘white saviour’ mindset – is an old-fashioned colonialist who supports the time-honoured dispossessive strategies of imperialism, whether this involves mining, appropriating and commodifying farmer knowledge, accelerating the transfer of research and seeds to corporations or facilitating intellectual property piracy and seed monopolies created through IP laws and seed regulations.

In India – still an agrarian-based society – will the land of these already (prior to COVID) heavily indebted farmers then be handed over to the tech giants, the financial institutions and global agribusiness to churn out their high-tech industrial sludge?

With the link completely severed between food production, nature and culturally embedded beliefs that give meaning and expression to life, we will be left with the individual human who exists on lab-based food, who is reliant on income from the state and who is stripped of satisfying productive endeavour and genuine self-fulfilment.

Technocratic meddling has already destroyed or undermined cultural diversity, meaningful social connections and agrarian ecosystems that draw on centuries of traditional knowledge and are increasingly recognised as valid approaches to secure food security, as outlined, for example, in the 2017 article “Food Security and Traditional Knowledge in India” in the Journal of South Asian Studies.

Such a pity that prominent commentators like George Monbiot, who writes for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, seems fully on board with this ‘great reset’. In his 2020 article ‘Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet’, he sees farmerless farms and ‘fake’ food produced in giant industrial factories from microbes as a good thing.

But Vandana Shiva says:

The notion that high-tech ‘farm free’ lab food will save the planet is simply a continuation of the same mechanistic mindset which has brought us to where we are today – the idea that we are separate from and outside of nature… it is the basis of industrial agriculture which has destroyed the planet, farmers livelihoods and our health.

She adds:

Turning ‘water into food’ is an echo from the times of the second world war, when it was claimed that fossil-fuel-based chemical fertilisers would produce ‘Bread from Air’. Instead we have dead zones in the ocean, greenhouse gases – including nitrous oxide which is 300 times more damaging to the environment than CO2 – and desertified soils and land. We are part of nature, not separate from and outside of nature. Food is what connects us to the earth, its diverse beings, including the forests around us — through the trillions of microorganisms that are in our gut microbiome and which keep our bodies healthy, both inside and out.

As an environmentalist, Monbiot supports lab-based food because he only sees a distorted method of industrial farming; he is blind to agroecological methods which do not have the disastrous environmental consequences of chemical-dependent industrial agriculture. Monbiot’s ‘solution’ is to replace one model of corporate controlled farming with another, thereby robbing us of our connection to the land, to each other and making us wholly dependent on profiteering, unscrupulous interests that have no time for concepts like food democracy or food sovereignty.

Moreover, certain lab-engineered ‘food’ will require biomatter in the form of commodity crops. This in itself raises issues related to the colonisation of land in faraway countries and the implications for food security there. We may look no further to see the adverse health, social and environmental impacts of pesticide-dependent GMO seed monocropping in Argentina as it produces soy for the global market, not least for animal feed in Europe.

Instead of pandering to the needs of corporations, prominent commentators would do better by getting behind initiatives like the anti-imperialist Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology, produced by Nyeleni in 2015. It argues for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on genuine agroecological food production. It adds that agroecology requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

It would mean that what ends up in our food and how it is grown is determined by the public good and not powerful private interests driven by patents, control and commercial gain and the compulsion to subjugate farmers, consumers and entire regions to their global supply chains and questionable products (whether unhealthy food or proprietary pesticides and seeds). For consumers, the public good includes more diverse diets leading to better nutrition and enhanced immunity when faced with any future pandemic.

Across the world, decentralised, regional and local community-owned food systems based on short(er) food supply chains that can cope with future shocks are now needed more than ever. But there are major obstacles given the power of agrifood concerns whose business models are based on industrial farming and global chains with all the devastating consequences this entails.

Following the devastation caused by coronavirus-related lockdowns, World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet – on the condition that further neoliberal reforms and the undermining of public services are implemented and become further embedded.

He says that countries will need to implement structural reforms to help shorten the time to recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong:

For those countries that have excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection or litigiousness as obstacles, we will work with them to foster markets, choice and faster growth prospects during the recovery.

For agriculture, this means the further opening of markets to benefit the richer nations. What journalists like George Monbiot fail to acknowledge is that emerging technology in agriculture (AI drones, gene-edited crops, synthetic food, etc) is first and foremost an instrument of corporate power. Indeed, agriculture has for a long time been central to US foreign policy to boost the bottom line of its agribusiness interests and their control over the global food chain.

In the words of economics professor Michael Hudson:

It is by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

It is naïve to suggest that in the brave new world of farmerless farms and lab-based food, things would be different. In the face of economic crisis and stagnation at home, exacerbated by COVID lockdowns and restrictions, whether through new technologies or older Green Revolution methods, Western agricapital will seek to further entrench its position across the globe.

The post Agroecology and Post-COVID Plunder first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Genetic Engineering, Agriculture and Brexit: Treachery in Our Midst

The UK government has launched its public consultation on the deregulation of gene editing in England. To kick things off, somewhat predictably Environment Secretary George Eustice recently spun a staunch pro-industry line at the Oxford Farming Conference by stating:

Gene editing has the ability to harness the genetic resources that Mother Nature has provided in order to tackle the challenges of our age. This includes breeding crops that perform better, reducing costs to farmers and impacts on the environment and helping us all adapt to the challenges of climate change.

In the wake of Brexit, he attacked the EU’s stance on genetic engineering in agriculture by saying:

Its potential was blocked by a European Court of Justice ruling in 2018, which is flawed and stifling to scientific progress. Now that we have left the EU, we are free to make coherent policy decisions based on science and evidence. That begins with this consultation.

Eustice’s statements form part of a long-term pro-genetic engineering-deregulation propaganda campaign. It follows on from Boris Johnson’s first speech to parliament as prime minister in 2019 in which he proclaimed:

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.

The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson advocates forms part of the usual neoliberal evangelism which this time revolves around the adoption of unassessed genetically engineered crops and food, while overseeing the gutting of food safety and environmental standards, especially in light of a potential post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

It is no secret that various Conservative-led administrations have wanted to break free from the EU regulatory framework on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for some time. In 2014, Genewatch exposed collusion between the government and global agribusiness giants to force GMOs into Britain above the heads of a highly sceptical public.

In response to Eustice’s comments, GMWatch stated on its website that deregulation would result in no or few safety checks and probably no labelling for gene-edited products. This is despite dozens of top scientists having warned that they could be dangerous for human health and the environment in a 2017 Statement on New Genetic Modification Techniques.

Commenting on the government’s recent press release sent out to journalists to publicise the consultation process, the Beyond GM campaign group said:

… the mendacious propaganda material on the benefits of genome editing… which was sent to journalists throughout the country… will be widely taken up as fact, preventing any intelligent public debate during the consultation period.

The press release is in GMWatch’s view “a pack of lies from beginning to end” based on unsubstantiated ‘jam tomorrow’ claims that gene editing has the potential to protect the nation’s environment, pollinators and wildlife. These claims ignore the reality that the first gene-edited crop to be commercialised (Cibus’s SU canola) is gene edited to survive being sprayed with toxic herbicides. GMWatch argues that there is no gene-edited crop available anywhere in the world that offers environmental benefits.

It is telling that all the claimed advantages of gene-edited crops of the future are already available in the form of agroecological farming methods and high-performing conventionally bred crops. Agroecology offers system-wide solutions that tackle the now well-documented system-wide health, nutrition, social and environmental problems inherent in the model of industrial agriculture supported by corporations behind the genetic engineering project.

However, the UK government shows no interest in these solutions.

GMWatch notes that the government press release claims that gene editing is not genetic modification. The industry has put much effort into spinning this next generation of genetically engineered crops in this way. It wants at all costs to avoid the bad press and negative public perception that has surrounded the first generation of transgenic GMOs by avoiding the GMO tag.

However, gene editing most certainly falls within the definitions of GMOs from technical, scientific and legal (in the EU) standpoints. In fact, the EU and existing UK definition of a GMO does not depend on whether it contains foreign DNA. EU law defines a GMO as an organism in which “the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination”. Regardless of what the government says, gene-edited organisms fall under this definition.

Moreover, the government is wrong to claim that gene-edited organisms do not contain foreign DNA. This can happen intentionally (in the case of certain types of gene-edited organism) and unintentionally, as a result of the inherent inaccuracy and imprecision of gene-editing procedures. To support this claim, a compilation of peer reviewed evidence has been posted on the GMWatch website in the article ‘Science supports need to subject gene-edited plants to strict safety assessments’.

As for the government’s claim that gene-edited organisms only contain “changes that could be made more slowly using traditional breeding methods”, GMWatch says:

We look forward to their proof that the unintended outcomes of gene editing could happen in traditional breeding. They include large deletions, insertions and rearrangements of DNA, as well as unintended incorporation of foreign DNA and entire genes.

Long-time campaigner Jim McNulty of the Genetic Engineering Network is scathing in his assessment of how the UK government is currently acting. He says:

When we look at this administration, filled to the roof with fraud, corruption and cronyism, we now have Boris Johnson trying to make or break the rules on new gene-editing techniques.

He adds that the Brexiteers in government wasted no time in setting their pro-GMO agenda:

Within a week of leaving the EU, the UK moved quickly to challenge and compete with our former European partners. The US is refusing to regulate the new genetic engineering techniques, just like they did with the first wave of transgenic GMOs. We in Europe, in the mid-90s, were faced with untested, unstable and unregulated GMOs in soy and maize going into two thirds of EU food products.

It was a mammoth task to bring politicians, supermarkets and all government bodies on board to regulate the original wave of GMOs.

McNulty explains:

We succeeded because in the UK, Germany and France campaigners and activists demanded action. The media, retailers and politicians buckled under the massive pressure of public opinion that we created to bring that about.

The US also felt the pressure:

Because the EU and its markets were the prize and there was so much anti-GM sentiment, GMOs were driven out and EU lawmakers have never changed their position. Science and public opinion won.

McNulty argues that we now see treachery in our midst: a former member state has seen fit to bury 25 years of evolving laws and regulations founded on a science-based approach and the precautionary principle.

The consultation will close on Wednesday, 17 March at 23:59 and can be accessed here.

The post Genetic Engineering, Agriculture and Brexit: Treachery in Our Midst first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Imperial Intent: Destroying India’s Farm Sector

Agriculture in India is at a crossroads. Indeed, given that over 60 per cent of the country’s 1.3-billion-plus population still make a living from agriculture (directly or indirectly), what is at stake is the future of India. Unscrupulous interests are intent on destroying India’s indigenous agri-food sector and recasting it in their own image. Farmers are rising up in protest.

To appreciate what is happening to agriculture and farmers in India, we must first understand how the development paradigm has been subverted. Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Today, neoliberal dogma masquerades as economic theory and the subsequent deregulation of international capital ensures giant transnational conglomerates are able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

The deregulation of international capital flows has turned the planet into a free-for-all bonanza for the world’s richest capitalists. Under the post-World-War Two Bretton Woods monetary regime, governments could to a large extent run their own macroeconomic policy without having to constantly seek market confidence or worry about capital flight. However, the deregulation of global capital movement has increased levels of dependency of nation states on capital markets and the elite interests who control them.

Globalisation

The dominant narrative calls this ‘globalisation’, a euphemism for a predatory neoliberal capitalism based on endless profit growth, crises of overproduction, overaccumulation and market saturation and a need to constantly seek out and exploit new, untapped (foreign) markets to maintain profitability.

In India, we can see the implications very clearly. Instead of pursuing a path of democratic development, India has chosen (or has been coerced) to submit to the regime of foreign finance, awaiting signals on how much it can spend, giving up any pretence of economic sovereignty and leaving the space open for private capital to move in on and capture markets.

India’s agri-food sector has indeed been flung open, making it ripe for takeover. The country has borrowed more money from the World Bank than any other country in that institution’s history. Back in the 1990s, the World Bank directed India to implement market reforms that would result in the displacement of 400 million people from the countryside. Moreover, the World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ directives entail opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds and compel farmers to work to supply transnational corporate global supply chains.

The aim is to let powerful corporations take control under the guise of ‘market reforms’. The very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights, thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about ‘price discovery’ and the sanctity of ‘the market’.

What could this mean for India? We only have to look at the business model that keeps these companies in profit in the US: an industrialised system that relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed many small-scale farmers’ livelihoods.

The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies’ taxpayer-subsidised business models are based on overproduction and dumping on the world market to depress prices and rob farmers elsewhere of the ability to cover the costs of production. The result is huge returns and depressed farmer incomes.

Indian agriculture is to be wholly commercialised with large-scale, mechanised (monocrop) enterprises replacing family-run farms that help sustain hundreds of millions of rural livelihoods while feeding the masses.

India’s agrarian base is being uprooted, the very foundation of the country, its (food and non-food) cultural traditions, communities and rural economy. When agri-food corporations like Bayer (and previously Monsanto) or Reliance say they need to expand the use of GMOs under the guise of feeding a burgeoning population or to ‘modernise’ the sector, they are trying to justify their real objective: displacing independent cultivators, food processors and ‘mom and pop’ retailers and capturing the entire sector to boost their bottom line.

Indian agriculture has witnessed gross underinvestment over the years, whereby it is now wrongly depicted as a basket case and underperforming and ripe for a sell off to those very interests who had a stake in its underinvestment.

Today, we hear much talk of ‘foreign direct investment’ and making India ‘business friendly’, but behind the benign-sounding jargon lies the hard-nosed approach of modern-day capitalism that is no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was for English peasants whose access to their productive means was stolen and who were then compelled to work in factories.

The intention is for India’s displaced cultivators to be retrained to work as cheap labour in the West’s offshored plants, even though nowhere near the numbers of jobs necessary are being created and that under the World Economic Forum’s ‘great reset’ human labour is to be largely replaced by artificial intelligence-driven technology under the guise of a ‘4th Industrial Revolution’.

As independent cultivators are bankrupted, the aim is that land will eventually be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation. Those who remain in farming will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Cocktail of deception

A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.

One of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, said:

The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.

The drive is to entrench industrial agriculture, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work. And given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants and soils rapidly degrading to become a mere repository for a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides.

Transnational corporate-backed front groups are also hard at work behind the scenes. 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.

ILSI helps to shape narratives and policies that sanction the roll out of processed foods containing high levels of fat, sugar and salt. In India, ILSI’s expanding influence coincides with mounting rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

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 was led by two ILSI officials.

From India to China, whether it has involved warning labels on unhealthy packaged food or shaping anti-obesity education campaigns that stress physical activity and divert attention from the role of food corporations, prominent figures with close ties to the corridors of power have been co-opted to influence policy in order to boost the interests of agri-food corporations.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes, as occurred in Africa, trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico, the co-option of policy bodies at national and international levels or deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar across the world: poor and less diverse diets and illnesses, resulting from the displacement of traditional, indigenous agriculture by a corporatised model centred on unregulated global markets and transnational monopolies.

For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising their income levels – as valid as this is – the core problems affecting agriculture remain.

Financialisation

Recent developments will merely serve to accelerate what is happening. For example, the Karnataka Land Reform Act will make it easier for business to purchase agricultural land, resulting in increased landlessness and urban migration.

Eventually, as a fully incorporated ‘asset’ of global capitalism, India could see private equity funds – pools of money that use pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, endowment funds and investments from governments, banks, insurance companies and high net worth individuals – being injected into the agriculture sector. A recent article on the grain.org website notes how across the world this money is being used to lease or buy up farms on the cheap and aggregate them into large-scale, US-style grain and soybean concerns.

This process of ‘financialisation’ is shifting power to remote board rooms occupied by people with no connection to farming and who are merely in it to make money. These funds tend to invest for a 10-15 year period, resulting in handsome returns for investors but can leave a trail of long-term environmental and social devastation and serve to undermine local and regional food insecurity.

This financialisation of agriculture perpetuates a model of commercialised, globalised farming that serves the interests of the agrochemical and seed giants, including one of the world’s biggest companies, Cargill, which is involved in almost every aspect of global agribusiness.

Cargill trades in purchasing and distributing various agricultural commodities, raises livestock and produces animal feed as well as food ingredients for application in processed foods and industrial use. Cargill also has a large financial services arm, which manages financial risks in the commodity markets for the company. This includes Black River Asset Management, a hedge fund with about $10 billion of assets and liabilities.

A recent article on the Unearthed website accused Cargill and its 14 billionaire owners of profiting from the use of child labour, rain forest destruction, the devastation of ancestral lands, the spread of pesticide use and pollution, contaminated food, antibiotic resistance and general health and environmental degradation.

While this model of corporate agriculture is highly financially lucrative for rich investors and billionaire owners, is this the type of ‘development’ – are these the types of companies –  that will benefit hundreds of millions involved in India’s agri-food sector or the country’s 1.3-billion-plus consumers and their health?

Farm bills and post-COVID

As we witness the undermining of the Agricultural Produce Market Committees or mandis, part of an ongoing process to dismantle India’s public distribution system and price support mechanisms for farmers, it is little wonder that massive protests by farmers have been taking place in the country.

Recent legislation based on three important farm bills are aimed at imposing the shock therapy 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.

This represents a final death knell for indigenous agriculture in India. The legislation will mean that mandis – state-run market locations for farmers 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; however, as the mandi system is run down completely, these corporations will monopolise trade, capture the sector and dictate prices to farmers.

Another outcome could see the largely unregulated storage of produce and speculation, opening the farming sector to a free-for-all profiteering payday for the big players and jeopardising food security. The government will no longer regulate and make key produce available to consumers at fair prices. This policy ground has been ceded to market players – again under the pretence of ‘letting the market decide’ through ‘price discovery’.

The legislation will enable transnational agri-food corporations like Cargill and Walmart and India’s billionaire capitalists Gautam Adani (agribusiness conglomerate) and Mukesh Ambini (Reliance retail chain) to decide on what is to be cultivated at what price, how much of it is to be cultivated within India and how it is to be produced and processed.  Industrial agriculture will be the norm with all the devastating health, social and environmental costs that the model brings with it.

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-related 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 and insecurity after 30 years of neoliberal ‘reforms’.

Today, there is talk of farmerless farms being manned by driverless machines and monitored by drones with lab-based food becoming the norm.  One may speculate what this could mean: commodity crops from patented GM seeds doused with chemicals and cultivated for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed by biotech companies and constituted into something resembling food.

Post-COVID, the World Bank talks about helping countries get back on track in return for structural reforms. Are even more smallholder Indian farmers to be displaced from their land in return for individual debt relief and universal basic income? The displacement of these farmers and the subsequent destruction of rural communities and their cultures was something the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation once called for and cynically termed “land mobility”.

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 an elite group of powerful interests?

The various lockdowns around the globe have already exposed the fragility of the global food system, dominated by long-line supply chains and global conglomerates. What we have seen underscores the need for a radical transformation of the prevailing globalised food regime which must be founded on localisation and food sovereignty and challenges dependency on global conglomerates and distant volatile commodity markets.

The post Imperial Intent: Destroying India’s Farm Sector first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Crisis, What Crisis? Hypocrisy and Public Health in the UK

On 12 March 2020, British PM Boris Johnson, referring to COVID-19, informed the public:

We’ve all got to be clear; this is the worst public health crisis for a generation.

Since that time, we have seen lockdowns, an ongoing government-backed fear campaign, fundamental rights being stripped away, dissent censored, inflated COVID-19 death numbers and the use of a flawed PCR test to label perfectly healthy individuals as COVID-19 ‘cases’ in order to fit the narrative of a ‘second wave’.

But, just for a moment, consider an alternative scenario.

The government is extremely worried about a substance that could be contributing to a spiralling public health crisis that has been decades in the making. It has been detected in food and in urine. The government has therefore decided to carry out mass urine testing. It has found millions of ‘cases’. The more it tests, the more ‘cases’ it finds. The government and the media promote the message we are all at risk and should get tested. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent to allow for the testing of the entire population.

All cafes, pubs, restaurants and food stores are locked down, aside from those designated to sell only food that is regarded as ‘safe’ by the government. All weddings, parties and get-togethers are banned because contaminated food might be passed around.

Severe restrictions are put in place because this ‘stuff’ is in the air, water, plants, animals, grains, vegetables and meats. And it is in beer and wine, children’s breakfast cereal and snack bars and even in our vaccines. Everyone is under virtual house arrest until this public health crisis is addressed.

Daily government briefings are held on TV with the PM and health officials in attendance. The PM tells everyone that this thing is linked to various conditions, 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.

Imagine that scenario. But the substance being referred to is very real. It is heavily associated with all the conditions mentioned and is present in our urine and food. But the government does nothing. It does not just do nothing but actively facilitates the marketing of this substance and collude with its manufacturers.

And the name of this ‘stuff’? Glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide. The main culprit — Monsanto’s Roundup. But it is not just glyphosate. It is the cocktail of agricultural chemicals that have been in use for decades.

The real public health crisis

Earlier this year, in a 29-page open letter to Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason spent 11 pages documenting the spiralling rates of disease that she says (supported by numerous research studies cited) are largely the result of exposure to health-damaging agrochemicals, including glyphosate-based herbicides.

The amount of glyphosate-based herbicide sprayed by UK farmers on crops has gone from 226,762 kg in 1990 to 2,240,408 kg in 2016, a 10-fold increase. In her letter, Mason discussed links between multiple pesticide residues (including glyphosate) in food and steady increases in the number of cancers both in the UK as well as allergic diseases, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, obesity and many other conditions.

Agrochemicals are a major contributory factor for the spikes in these diseases and conditions. This is the real public health crisis affecting the UK. Each year, there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with treatments not making any difference to the numbers.

While there is much talk of the coronavirus placing immense strain on an underfunded NHS, the health service is already creaking. And people’s immune systems are already strongly compromised due to what Mason outlines. But do we see a ‘lockdown’ on the activities of the global agrochemical conglomerates? Not at all.

We see governments and public health bodies working hand in glove with the agrochemicals manufacturers to ensure ‘business as usual’.

It might seem strange to many that the UK government is seemingly going out of its way (by stripping people of their freedoms) under the guise of a public health crisis but is all too willing to oversee a massive, ongoing one caused by the chemical pollution of our bodies.

Unlike COVID-19, this is a ‘silent’ crisis that actually does affect all sections of the population and causes immense widespread suffering. It is silent because the mainstream media and various official reports in the UK have consistently ignored or downplayed the role of pesticides in fueling this situation.

Hundreds of lawsuits are pending against Bayer in the US, filed by people alleging that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that Monsanto covered up the risks (Roundup is linked to cancers of the bone, colon, kidney, liver, melanoma, pancreas and thyroid).

The WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has declared glyphosate as a 2A carcinogen. In 2017, in a public hearing in Brussels, Dr Christopher Portier and Dr Kate Guyton defended IARC’s position. Portier drew attention to the significance of statistically significant tumour findings that had not been discussed in any of the existing reviews on glyphosate.

Portier concluded that as the regulatory bodies, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency’s analyses were scientifically flawed. These organisations had also used industry studies that were not in the public domain for ‘reasons of commercial confidentiality’ to support their case that glyphosate was not carcinogenic.

Mason has written numerous open letters to officials citing reams of statistical data to support the contention that agrochemicals, especially Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup, have devastated the natural environment and have also led to spiraling rates of illness and disease, not least among children.

Regulators around the world have falsely assumed that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes and the effects of dosing whole regions with chemicals have been largely ignored.

A report delivered to the UN Human Rights Council says that pesticides have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole.

Authored by Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, UN special rapporteur on toxics, the report states:

Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.

The authors argue:

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.

Elver says:

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.

Tuncak states:

Paediatricians have referred to childhood exposure to pesticides as creating a “silent pandemic” of disease and disability. Exposure in pregnancy and childhood is linked to birth defects, diabetes and cancer. Because a child’s developing body is more sensitive to exposure than adults and takes in more of everything – relative to their size, children eat, breathe and drink much more than adults – they are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals.

According to Tuncak, increasing evidence shows that even at “low” doses of childhood exposure, irreversible health impacts can result. But most victims cannot prove the cause of their disability or disease, limiting our ability to hold those responsible to account.

He concludes:

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.

The authors were severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.

Way back in 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring raised the red flag about the use of harmful synthetic pesticides; yet, despite the warnings, the agrochemical giants have ever since been poisoning humans and the planet, raking in enormous profits.

Michael McCarthy, writer and naturalist, says that three generations of industrialised farming with a vast tide of poisons pouring over the land year after year after year since the end of the Second World War is the true price of pesticide-based agriculture, which society has for so long blithely accepted.

Power is now increasingly concentrated in the hands of a handful of transnational agribusiness corporations which put profit and market control ahead of food security, health and nutrition and biodiversity. Due to their political influence and financial clout, these companies are waging a chemical warfare on nature and people, while seeking to convince us that their model of agriculture — based on proprietary seeds and chemicals — is essential for feeding a burgeoning global population.

Consider that 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, in children or in adults.

Theo Colborn’s crucial research in the early 1990s showed that endocrine disrupters (EDCs) were changing humans and the environment, but this research was ignored by officials. Glyphosate is an EDC and a nervous system disrupting chemical.

In the book published in 1996 Our Stolen Future: How Man-made Chemicals are Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival Colborn and colleagues revealed the full horror of what was happening to the world as a result of contamination with EDCs. There was emerging scientific research about how a wide range of these chemicals can disrupt delicate hormone systems in humans. These systems play a critical role in processes ranging from human sexual development to behaviour, intelligence and the functioning of the immune system.

In addition to glyphosate, EDCs include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). DDT, chlordane, lindane, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, toxaphene, heptachlor, dioxin, atrazine and dacthal.

In 2007, 25 experts in environmental health from 11 countries (including from the UK) met on the Faroes and contributed to this statement:

The periods of embryonic, foetal and infant development are remarkably susceptible to environmental hazards. Toxic exposures to chemical pollutants during these windows of increased susceptibility can cause disease and disability in infants, children and across the entire span of human life.

The Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) has residues of 123 different pesticides that impact the gut microbiome. Obesity is associated with low diversity of bacteria in the microbiome and glyphosate adversely affects or destroys much of the beneficial bacteria. Roundup (and other biocides) is linked to gross obesity, neuropsychiatric disorders and other chronic diseases, which are all on the rise and adversely impact brain development in children and adolescents.

Moreover, type 2 diabetes is associated with being very overweight. According to NHS data, almost four in five of 715 children suffering from it were also obese.

Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular health at Queen Mary University of London who is also the chair of the campaign group Action on Sugar, says:

Type 2 diabetes is a disaster for the child and their family and for the NHS. If a child gets type 2 diabetes, it’s condemning them to a lot of complications of that condition, such as blindness, amputations and kidney disease.

He went on to explain that we are in a crisis and that the government does not seem to be taking action. UK obesity levels now exceed those of the US.

The human microbiome is of vital importance to human health yet it is under chemical attack. Glyphosate disrupts the shikimate pathway within these gut bacteria and is a strong chelator of essential minerals.

Many key neurotransmitters are located in the gut. Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, these transmitters affect our moods and thinking. There is strong evidence that gut bacteria can have a direct physical impact on the brain.

Dr Michael Antoniou of King’s College London has found that Roundup herbicide and its active ingredient glyphosate cause a dramatic increase in the levels of two substances, shikimic acid and 3-dehydroshikimic acid, in the gut, which are a direct indication that the EPSPS enzyme of the shikimic acid pathway has been severely inhibited. Roundup and glyphosate affected the microbiome at all dose levels tested, causing shifts in bacterial populations.

A quarter of all food and over a third of fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK contain pesticide cocktails, with some items containing traces of up to 14 different pesticides. 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.

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

Glyphosate 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 a paper published in King’s Law Journal –  ‘The Chemical Anthropocene: Glyphosate as a Case Study of Pesticide Exposures’ – the authors Alessandra Arcuri and Yogi Hale Hendlin state:

As the science against glyphosate safety mounts and lawsuits threaten its chemical manufacture’s profits, the next generation of GMO crops are being keyed to the pesticide dicamba, sold commercially as XtendiMax® – and poised to be the next glyphosate. Regulatory agencies have historically been quick to approve products but slow to reconsider regulations after the decades of accumulated harms become apparent.

They add that the entrenched asymmetries between public and ecological health and fast-to-market new chemicals is exacerbated by the seeming lack of institutionalised precautionary policies.

Britain and the US are in the midst of a barely reported public health crisis. These countries are experiencing not merely a slowdown in life expectancy, which in many other rich countries is continuing to lengthen, but the start of an alarming increase in death rates across all our populations, men and women alike. People are needlessly dying early.

Research by US-based EWG found glyphosate residues on popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars. Almost 75% of the 45 samples tested had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety. Disturbing levels of such residues have been detected in the UK too.

There are shockingly high levels of weed killer in UK breakfast cereals. After testing these cereals at the Health Research Institute in Iowa, Dr Fagan, director of the centre, said:

These results are consistently concerning. The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).

Glyphosate also causes epigenetic changes in humans and animals: diseases skip a generation. Washington State University researchers have found a variety of diseases and other health problems in the second- and third-generation offspring of rats exposed to glyphosate. In the first study of its kind, the researchers saw descendants of exposed rats developing prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, obesity and birth abnormalities.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers say they saw “dramatic increases” in several pathologies affecting the second and third generations. The second generation had “significant increases” in testis, ovary and mammary gland diseases as well as obesity. In third-generation males, the researchers saw a 30% incidence of prostate disease — three times the rate of a control population. The third generation of females had a 40% incidence of kidney disease, or four times the rate of the controls.

More than one-third of the second-generation mothers had unsuccessful pregnancies, with most of those affected dying. Two out of five males and females in the third generation were obese.

Researchers call this phenomenon “generational toxicology” and they have seen it over the years in fungicides, pesticides, jet fuel, the plastics compound bisphenol A, the insect repellent DEET and the herbicide atrazine. At work are epigenetic changes that turn genes on and off, often because of environmental influences.

A study published in February 2019 found glyphosate increased the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 41%. A Washington State University study published in December 2019 found state residents living close to areas subject to treatments with the herbicide are one-third more likely to die an early death from Parkinson’s disease.

Robert F Kennedy Jr, one of the attorney’s fighting Bayer (which has bought Monsanto) in the US courts, has explained 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 says 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.

And yet, as Mason has described in her work, the UK government had colluded with Monsanto for many years.

Boris Johnson, in his first speech to parliament as PM, said:

Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules…

This could mean the irresponsible introduction of genetically modified Roundup Ready food crops to the UK, which would see the amount of glyphosate in British food reaching new levels (levels which are already disturbing).

So much for protecting public health.

Government collusion

David Cameron appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta and former Chairman of CropLife International, to the board of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) in 2010. He became Chairman in 2011. At one time or another, CropLife International´s member list has included BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, FMC Corp, Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta. Many of these make their own formulated glyphosate.

Syngenta is a member of the European Glyphosate Task Force, which sought to renew (and succeeded in renewing) European glyphosate registration. Not surprisingly, the CRUK website denies that there is any link between pesticides and cancer.

In February 2019, at a Brexit meeting on the UK chemicals sector, UK regulators and senior officials from government departments listened to the priorities of the Bayer Crop Science Division. During the meeting (Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum Keynote Seminar: Priorities for UK chemicals sector – challenges, opportunities and the future for regulation post-Brexit), Janet Williams, head of regulatory science at Bayer Crop Science Division, made her priorities for agricultural chemical manufacturers known.

Dave Bench was also a speaker. Bench is a senior scientist at the UK Chemicals, Health and Safety Executive and director of the agency’s EU exit plan and has previously stated that the regulatory system for pesticides is robust and balances the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society.

That statement was merely for public consumption and 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.

But such is the British government’s willingness to protect pesticide companies that it is handing agrochemical giants BASF and Bayer enormous pay-outs of Covid-19 support cash. The announcement came just weeks after Bayer shareholders voted to pay £2.75 billion in dividends. The fact that Bayer then went on to receive £600 million from the government speaks volumes of where the government’s priorities lie.

In Mason’s report, ‘Why Does Bayer Crop Science Control Chemicals in Brexit Britain’, she states that Bayer is having secret meetings with the British government to determine which agrochemicals are to be used after Brexit once Britain is ‘free’ of EU restrictions and becomes as deregulated as the US.

Such collusion comes as little surprise as the government’s ‘strategy for UK life sciences’ is already dependent on funding from pharmaceutical corporations and the pesticides industry.

Syngenta’s parent company was in 2010 AstraZeneca. At that time, Syngenta and AstraZeneca were represented on the UK Advisory Committee on Pesticides and the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Foods, Consumer Products and the Environment. The founder of Syngenta, Michael Pragnell, was the Chairman of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) from 2011-2017. CRUK started by giving money (£450 million a year) to the Government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences and AstraZeneca provided 22 compounds to academic research to develop medicines. AstraZeneca manufactured six different anti-cancer drugs mainly aimed at breast and prostate cancer.

It seems like a highly profitable and cosy relationship between the agrochemical and pharmaceuticals sectors and the government at the expense of public health.

In finishing, let us take a brief look at the Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). Its members have occupied key positions on EU and UN regulatory panels. It is, however, an industry lobby group that masquerades as a scientific health charity.

The ILSI describes its mission as “pursuing objectivity, clarity and reproducibility” to “benefit the public good”. But researchers from the University of Cambridge, Bocconi University in Milan and the US Right to Know campaign assessed over 17,000 pages of documents under US freedom of information laws to present evidence of influence peddling.

ILSI Vice-President, Prof Alan Boobis, is currently the Chairman of the UK Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (CoT).

He was directly responsible for authorising chemicals such as glyphosate, chlorothalonil, clothianidin and chlorpyrifos that are impacting human health and creating a crisis in biodiversity. His group and others have authorised glyphosate repeatedly. He and David Coggon, the previous Chairman of CoT (2008-2015), were appointed as experts on Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA), a group allied with the agrochemical industry and is fighting for higher pesticide exposure.

The reality of the agrochemical industry is masked by well-funded public relations machinery. The industry subverts official agencies and regulatory bodies and supports prolific lobby organisations and (‘public scientists’) which masquerade as neutral institutions.

And for the record, it is possible to farm productively and profitably without the use of synthetic agrochemicals – and to achieve food security. For instance, see the article ‘A Skeptical Farmer’s Monster Message on Profitability’ based on one US farmer’s journey from chemical-dependent farming to organic on his 8,000-acre farm (discussed on the AgWeb site) or ‘The Untold Success Story of Agroecology in Africa’ in the journal Development (2015). From the Tigray region of Ethiopia to various high-level (UN) reports that have recommended agroecology there are many examples, too many to discuss here.

The UK government says it cares so much about the nation’s health (the infection mortality rate for COVID-19 appears to be similar to those of a bad seasonal flu) but has presided over and facilitated a genuine public health crisis for years. And it is now pumping billions of pounds of public money into a track, trace and test regime when it could have used it to boost overall NHS capacity; remember when the government stated that the initial lockdown was implemented to protect the NHS?

In fact, the government is spending the equivalent of 77% of the NHS annual revenue budget on an “unevaluated, underdesigned national programme leading to an insufficiently supported intervention – in many cases for the wrong people” says a recent editorial in the BMJ.

In the meantime, it is investing heavily in a (possibly mandatory) vaccine that based on the design of the trials – according to a recent article in the same journal – may have no discernible impact on saving lives or preventing serious outcomes or the transmission spread of infection.

Readers can access all Rosemary Mason’s reports on the academia.edu site

The post Crisis, What Crisis? Hypocrisy and Public Health in the UK first appeared on Dissident Voice.