Category Archives: Pesticide Toxicity

Pawns with Lawns

The single most irrigated crop in the United States is (drum roll, please) lawn.

Yep, 40 million acres of lawn exist across the Land of Denial — and Americans collectively spend about $40 billion on seed, sod, and chemicals each year.

And then there’s all that water. Lawns in America require nearly 9 billion gallons of (usually drinking-quality) water per day. Nearly a third of all residential water use in the U.S. goes toward what is euphemistically known as “landscaping.”

We have become a robotic nation of pawns with lawns.

As described by Ted Steinberg, author of American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, when it comes to lawns, social and ecological factors often work in coordination.

“Perfection became a commodity of post-World War II prefabricated housing such as Levittown, NY, in the late 1940s,” writes Steinberg. “Mowing became a priority of the bylaws of such communities.”

Lawn mowers produce several types of pollutants, including ozone precursors, carbon dioxide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (classified as probable carcinogens) — adding up to five percent of all air pollution. In fact, operating a typical gasoline mower produces as many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as driving a car 95 miles. However, some folks are legally required to maintain a lawn (more about that shortly).

Besides the air and noise pollution of mechanized mowers, there’s another form of toxicity directly related to America’s lawn addiction.

“Lawns use ten times as many chemicals per acre as industrial farmland,” writes Heather Coburn Flores, author of Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community. “These pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides run off into our groundwater and evaporate into our air, causing widespread pollution and global warming, and greatly increasing our risk of cancer, heart disease, and birth defects.”

“If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials,” wrote Rachel Carson six decades ago, “it is surely because our forefathers could conceive of no such problem.”

We now produce pesticides at a rate more than 13,000 times faster than we did when Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962. The EPA considers 30 percent of all insecticides, 60 percent of all herbicides, and 90 percent of all fungicides to be carcinogenic, yet Americans spend about $9 billion on over 20,000 different pesticide products each and every year.

As mentioned above, maintaining a noxious and unproductive lawn isn’t just a simple case of one-size-fits-all conformity in the face of all logic and evidence; it’s often the law. Here are but two of countless examples of life in the Land of the Free™:

Jim Ficken from Dunedin, Florida was out of town tending his late mother’s estate. Here’s what happened from there: “The handyman he hired to mow his lawn during his absence also died, and the grass exceeded the city’s 8-inch height restriction. Unknown to Finken, he was racking up fines of $500 per day.”

The fines reached $29,000 and the city has attempted to foreclose on his house. At the end of April 2021, a federal judge ruled that Finken must pay the fines, but he isn’t giving up and plans to appeal.

How about Joseph Prudente of Beacon Woods, Florida? He was sentenced to jail for failing to sod his lawn as required by the local homeowner covenants. Before you label Mr. Prudente a modern-day insurrectionist, take note that the reason he failed to live up to his suburban obligation was predictable: he couldn’t afford to replace his sprinklers when they broke.

“It’s a sad situation,” said Bob Ryan, Beacon Woods Homeowners Association board president. “But in the end, I have to say he brought it upon himself.”

I’m guessing Mr. Ryan has never heard of Food Not Lawns.

Imagine each house not with a lawn but instead with a small organic “Victory” garden from which the entire family is fed. Imagine those without a lawn joining their local community garden to re-connect and grow their own.

Be warned: Gardening is now being touted as the cause of all the “sudden deaths” since 2021. After all, what else could possibly be responsible for seemingly healthy people “suddenly” dropping dead?

The sterile lawn — complete with its requisite sprinkler, a cocktail of chemicals needed to “maintain” it, bug zapper, and “keep off the grass” sign — is an ideal symbol for America’s pathetic cookie-cutter culture.

Lawns, writes Ted Steinberg, are “an instrument of planned homogeneity.” He asks: “What better way to conform than to make your front yard look precisely like Mr. Smith’s next door?”

Fuck homogeneity and fuck conformity.

The powers that (shouldn’t) be are dedicated to controlling your mind, destroying your health, and enslaving/dehumanizing you. When will you have the courage to think your own thoughts and stand up to their illegitimate power?

This process goes further than just self-identifying as oppositional to the architects of a global nightmare. Instead, the truest form of rebellion is creation. In this particular example, it’s rejecting the lawn paradigm not because it makes you feel like a badass. But rather, do it because it is the future path you want to carve.

The post Pawns with Lawns first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Pouring Poison and Planting Seeds of Dependency 

Do you remember the iconic Union Carbide image from the 1950s or early 1960s? The one with the giant hand coming from the sky, pouring pesticides onto Indian soil.

The blurb below the image includes the following:

Science helps build a new India – India has developed bold new plans to build its economy and bring the promise of a bright future to its more than 400 million people. But India needs the technical knowledge of the western world. For example working with Indian engineers and technicians, Union Carbide recently made available its fast scientific resource to help build a chemicals and plastics plant near Bombay. Throughout the free world, Union Carbide has been actively engaged in building plants for the manufacture of chemicals, plastics, carbons, gases and metals.

In the bottom corner is the Union Carbide logo and the statement ‘A HAND IN THINGS TO COME’.

This ‘hand of god’ image has become infamous. Union Carbide’s ‘hand in things to come’ includes the gas leak at its pesticides plant in Bhopal in 1984. It resulted in around 560,000 injured (respiratory problems, eye irritation, etc), 4,000 severely disabled and 20,000 dead.

As for the chemical-intensive agriculture it promoted, we can now see the impacts: degraded soils, polluted water, illness, farmer debt and suicides (by drinking pesticides!), nutrient-dense crops/varieties being side-lined, a narrower range of crops, no increase in food production per capita (in India at least), the corporate commodification of knowledge and seeds, the erosion of farmers’ environmental learning, the undermining of traditional knowledge systems and farmers’ dependency on corporations.

Whether it involves the type of ecological devastation activist-farmer Bhaskar Save outlined for policy makers in his 2006 open letter or the social upheaval documented by Vandana Shiva in the book The Violence of the Green Revolution, the consequences have been far-reaching.

And yet – whether it involves new genetic engineering techniques or more pesticides –  there is a relentless drive by the agritech conglomerates to further entrench their model of agriculture by destroying traditional farming practices with the aim of placing more farmers on corporate seed and chemical treadmills.

These corporations have been pushing for the European Commission to remove any labelling and safety checks for new genomic techniques. The European Court of Justice ruled in 2018 that organisms obtained with new genetic modification techniques must be regulated under the EU’s existing GMO laws. However, there has been intense lobbying from the agriculture biotech industry to weaken the legislation, aided financially by the Gates Foundation.

Since 2018, top agribusiness and biotech corporations have spent almost €37 million lobbying the European Union. They have had 182 meetings with European Commissioners, their cabinets and director generals. More than one meeting a week.

In recent weeks, Syngenta (a subsidiary of ChemChina) CEO Erik Fyrwald has come to the fore to cynically lobby for these techniques.

But before discussing Fyrwald, let us turn to another key agribusiness figure who has been in the news. Former Monsanto chairman and CEO Hugh Grant recently appeared in court to be questioned by lawyers on behalf of a cancer patient in the case of Allan Shelton v Monsanto.

Shelton has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is one of the 100,000-plus people in the US claiming in lawsuits that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller and its other brands containing the chemical glyphosate caused their cancer.

His lawyers argued that Grant was an active participant and decision maker in the company’s Roundup business and should be made to testify at the trial.

Why not? After all, he did make a financial killing from peddling poison.

Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018 and Grant received an estimated $77 million post-sale payoff. Bloomberg reported in 2017 that Monsanto had increased Grant’s salary to $19.5 million.

By 2009, Roundup-related products, which include genetically modified seeds developed to withstand glyphosate-based applications, represented about half of Monsanto’s gross margin.

Roundup was integral to Monsanto’s business model and Grant’s enormous income and final payoff.

Consider the following quote from a piece that appeared on the Bloomberg website in 2014:

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant is focused on selling more genetically modified seeds in Latin America to drive earnings growth outside the core US market. Sales of soybean seeds and genetic licenses climbed 16%, and revenue in the unit that makes glyphosate weed killer, sold as Roundup, rose 24%.

In the same piece, Chris Shaw, a New York-based analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co, is reported as saying “Glyphosate really crushed it” – meaning the sales of glyphosate were a major boost.

All fine for Grant and Monsanto. But this has had devastating effects on human health. ‘The Human Cost of Agrotoxins. How Glyphosate is killing Argentina’, which appeared on the Lifegate website in November 2015, serves as a damning indictment of the drive for “earnings growth” by Monsanto. Moreover, in the same year, some 30,000 doctors in that country demanded a ban on glyphosate.

The bottom line for Grant was sales and profit maximisation and the unflinching defence of glyphosate, no matter how carcinogenic to humans it is and, more to the point, how much Monsanto knew it was.

Noam Chomsky underlines the commercial imperative:

 … the CEO of a corporation has actually a legal obligation to maximize profit and market share. Beyond that legal obligation, if the CEO doesn’t do it, and, let’s say, decides to do something that will, say, benefit the population and not increase profit, he or she is not going to be CEO much longer –  they’ll be replaced by somebody who does do it.

Syngenta’s CEO is cut from the same cloth as Grant. While Monsanto’s crimes are well documented, Syngenta’s transgressions are less well publicised.

In 2006, writer and campaigner Dr Brian John claimed:

GM Free Cymru has discovered that Syngenta, in its promotion of GM crops and foods, has been involved in a web of lies, deceptions and obstructive corporate behaviour that would have done credit to its competitor Monsanto.

Some weeks ago, Fyrwald called for organic farming to be abandoned. In view of the food crisis, brought on by the war in Ukraine, he claimed rich countries had to increase their crop production – but organic farming led to lower yields. Fyrwald also called for gene editing to be at the heart of the food agenda in order to increase food production.

He stated:

The indirect consequence is that people are starving in Africa because we are eating more and more organic products.

In response, Kilian Baumann, a Bernese organic farmer and president of the Swiss Small Farmers’ Association, called Fyrwald’s arguments “grotesque”. He claimed Fyrwald was “fighting for sales”.

Writing on the GMWatch website, Jonathan Matthews says the Russian invasion of Ukraine seems to have emboldened Fyrwald’s scaremongering.

Matthews states:

Fyrwald’s comments reflect the industry’s determination to undermine the European Union’s Farm to Fork strategy, which aims by 2030 not just to slash pesticide use by 50% and fertilizer use by 20% but to more than triple the percentage of EU farmland under organic management (from 8.1% to 25%), as part of the transition towards a ‘more sustainable food system’ within the EU’s Green Deal.

He adds:

Syngenta view[s] these goals as an almost existential threat. This has led to a carefully orchestrated attack on the EU strategy.

The details of this PR offensive have been laid out in a report by the Brussels-based lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO): A loud lobby for a silent spring: The pesticide industry’s toxic lobbying tactics against Farm to Fork.

Mathews quotes research that shows GM crops have no yield benefit. He also refers to a newly published report that draws together research clearly showing GM crops have driven substantial increases – not decreases – in pesticide use. The newer and much-hyped gene-edited crops look set to do the same.

Syngenta is among the corporations criticised by a report from the UN for “systematic denial of harms” and “unethical marketing tactics”. Matthews notes that selling highly hazardous pesticides is actually at the core of Syngenta’s business model.

According to Matthews, even with the logistical disruptions to maize and wheat crops caused by the war in Ukraine, there is still enough grain available to the world market to meet existing needs. He says the current price crisis (not food crisis) is a product of fear and speculation.

Matthews concludes:

If Erik Fyrwald is really so concerned about hunger, why isn’t he attacking the boondoggle that is biofuels, rather than going after organic farming? The obvious answer is that the farmers being subsidised to grow biofuels are big consumers of agrichemicals and, in the US case, GMO seeds – unlike organic farmers, who buy neither.

Fyrwald has a financial imperative to lobby for particular strategies and technologies. He is far from an objective observer. And he is far from honest in his appraisal – using fear of a food crisis to push his agenda.

Meanwhile, the sustained attacks on organic agriculture have become an industry mainstay, despite numerous high-level reports and projects indicating it could feed the world, mitigate climate change, improve farmers’ situations, lead to better soil, create employment and provide healthier and more diverse diets.

There is a food crisis but not the one alluded to by Fyrwald –  denutrified food and unhealthy diets that are at the centre of a major public health crisis, a loss of biodiversity which threatens food security, degraded soils, polluted and depleted water sources and smallholder farmers, so vital to global food production (especially in the Global South), squeezed off their land and out of farming.

Transnational agribusiness has lobbied for, directed and profited from policies that have caused much of the above. And what we now see is these corporations and their lobbyists espousing (fake) concern (a cynical lobbying tactic) for the plight of the poor and hungry while attempting to purchase EU democracy to the tune of €37 million. Cheap at the price considering the financial bonanza that its new patented genetic engineering technologies and seeds could reap.

Various scientific publications show these new techniques allow developers to make significant genetic changes, which can be very different from those that happen in nature. These new GMOs pose similar or greater risks than older-style GMOs.

By attempting to dodge regulation as well as avoid economic, social, environmental and health impact assessments, it is clear where the industry’s priorities lie.

Unfortunately, Fyrwald, Bill Gates, Hugh Grant and their ilk are unwilling and too often incapable of viewing the world beyond their reductionist mindsets that merely regard seed/chemical sales, output-yield and corporate profit as the measuring stick of success.

What is required is an approach that sustains indigenous knowledge, local food security, better nutrition per acre, clean and stable water tables and good soil structure. An approach that places food sovereignty, local ownership, rural communities and rural economies at the centre of policy and which nurtures biodiversity, boosts human health and works with nature rather than destroying these.

Fyrwald’s scaremongering is par for the course – the world will starve without corporate chemicals and (GM) seeds, especially if organics takes hold. This type of stuff has been standard fare from the industry and its lobbyists and bought career scientists for many years.

It flies in the face of reality, not least how certain agribusiness concerns have been part of a US geopolitical strategy that undermines food security in regions across the world. These concerns have thrived on the creation of dependency and profited from conflict. Moreover, there is the success of agroecological approaches to farming that have no need for what Fyrwald is hawking.

Instead, the industry continues to promote itself as the saviour of humanity – a hand of god powered by a brave new techno-utopian world of corporate science, pouring poison and planting seeds of corporate dependency with the missionary zeal of Western saviourism.

The post Pouring Poison and Planting Seeds of Dependency  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Localization and Local Futures: The Alternative to the Authoritarian New Normal    

World Localization Day’ will be celebrated on 20 June. Organised by the non-profit Local Futures, this annual coming together of people from across the world began in 2020 and focuses on the need to localise supply-chains and recover our connection with nature and community. The stated aim is to “galvanize the worldwide localization movement into a force for systemic change”.

Local Futures, founded by Helena Norberg-Hodge, urges us to imagine a very different world, one in which most of our food comes from nearby farmers who ensure food security year round and where the money we spend on everyday goods continues to recirculate in the local economy.

We are asked to imagine local businesses providing ample, meaningful employment opportunities, instead of our hard-earned cash being immediately siphoned off to some distant corporate headquarters.

Small farms would be key in this respect. They are integral to local markets and networks, short supply chains, food sovereignty, more diverse cropping systems and healthier diets. And they tend to serve the food requirements of communities rather than the interests of big business, institutional investors and shareholders half a world away.

If the COVID lockdowns and war in Ukraine tell us anything about our food system, it is that decentralised, regional and local community-owned food systems based on short(er) supply chains that can cope with future shocks are now needed more than ever.

The report Towards a Food Revolution: Food Hubs and Cooperatives in the US and Italy offers some pointers for creating sustainable support systems for small food producers and food distribution. Alternative, resilient food models and community supported agriculture are paramount.

Localization involves strengthening and rebuilding local economies and communities and restoring cultural and biological diversity. The ‘economics of happiness’ is central to this vision, rather than an endless quest for GDP growth and the alienation, conflict and misery this brings.

It is something we need to work towards because multi-billionaire globalists have a dystopian future mapped out for humanity which they want to impose on us all – and it is diametrically opposed to what is stated above.

The much-publicised ‘great reset’ is integral to this dystopia. It marks a shift away from ‘liberal democracy’ towards authoritarianism. At the same time, there is the relentless drive towards a distorted notion of a ‘green economy’, underpinned by the rhetoric of ‘sustainable consumption’ and ‘climate emergency’.

The great reset is really about capitalism’s end-game. Those promoting it realise the economic and social system must undergo a reset to a ‘new normal’, something that might no longer resemble ‘capitalism’.

End-game capitalism  

Capital can no longer maintain its profitability by exploiting labour alone. This much has been clear for some time. There is only so much surplus value to be extracted before the surplus is insufficient.

Historian Luciana Bohne notes that the shutting down of parts of the economy was already happening pre-COVID as there was insufficient growth, well below the minimum tolerable 3% level to maintain the viability of capitalism. This, despite a decades-long attack on workers and corporate tax cuts.

The system had been on life support for some time. Credit markets had been expanded and personal debt facilitated to maintain consumer demand as workers’ wages were squeezed. Financial products (derivatives, equities, debt, etc) and speculative capitalism were boosted, affording the rich a place to park their profits and make money off money. We have also seen the growth of unproductive rentier capitalism and stock buy backs and massive bail outs courtesy of taxpayers.

Moreover, in capitalism, there is also a tendency for the general rate of profit to fall over time. And this has certainly been the case according to writer Ted Reese, who notes it has trended downwards from an estimated 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s.

The 2008 financial crash was huge. But by late 2019, an even bigger meltdown was imminent. Many companies could not generate enough profit and falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cashflows and highly leveraged balance sheets were prevalent. In effect, economic growth was already grinding to a halt prior to the massive stock market crash in February 2020.

Fabio Vighi, professor of critical theory, describes how, in late 2019, the Swiss Bank of International Settlements, BlackRock (the world’s most powerful investment fund), G7 central bankers, leading politicians and others worked behind closed doors to avert a massive impending financial meltdown.

The Fed soon began an emergency monetary programme, pumping hundreds of billions of dollars per week into financial markets. Not long after, COVID hit and lockdowns were imposed. The stock market did not collapse because lockdowns occurred. Vighi argues lockdowns were rolled out because financial markets were collapsing.

Closing down the global economy under the guise of fighting a pathogen that mainly posed a risk to the over 80s and the chronically ill seemed illogical to many, but lockdowns allowed the Fed to flood financial markets (COVID relief) with freshly printed money without causing hyperinflation. Vighi says that lockdowns curtailed economic activity, thereby removing demand for the newly printed money (credit) in the physical economy and preventing ‘contagion’.

Using lockdowns and restrictions, smaller enterprises were driven out of business and large sections of the pre-COVID economy were shut down. This amounted to a controlled demolition of parts of the economy while the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Meta (Facebook) and the online payment sector – platforms which are dictating what the ‘new normal’ will look like – were clear winners in all of this.

The rising inflation that we currently witness is being blamed on the wholly avoidable conflict in Ukraine. Although this tells only part of the story, the conflict and sanctions seem to be hitting Europe severely: if you wanted to demolish your own economy or impoverish large sections of the population, this might be a good way to go about it.

However, the massive ‘going direct’ helicopter money given to the financial sector and global conglomerates under the guise of COVID relief was always going to have an impact once the global economy reopened.

Similar extraordinary monetary policy (lockdowns) cannot be ruled out in the future: perhaps on the pretext of another ‘virus’ but possibly based on the notion of curtailing human activity due to ‘climate emergency’. This is because raising interests rates to manage inflation could rapidly disrupt the debt-bloated financial system (an inflated Ponzi scheme) and implode the entire economy.

Permanent austerity   

But lockdowns, restrictions or creating mass unemployment and placing people on programmable digital currencies to micromanage spending and decrease inflationary pressures could help to manage the crisis. ‘Programmable’ means the government determining how much you can spend and what you can spend on.

How could governments legitimise such levels of control? By preaching about reduced consumption according to the creed of ‘sustainability’. This is how you would ‘own nothing and be happy’ if we are to believe this well-publicised slogan of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

But like neoliberal globalization in the 1980s – the great reset is being given a positive spin, something which supposedly symbolises a brave new techno-utopian future.

In the 1980s, to help legitimise the deregulated neoliberal globalisation agenda, government and media instigated an ideological onslaught, driving home the primacy of ‘free enterprise’, individual rights and responsibility and emphasising a shift away from the role of state, trade unions and the collective in society.

Today, we are seeing another ideological shift: individual rights (freedom to choose what is injected into your own body, for instance) are said to undermine the wider needs of society and – in a stark turnaround – individual freedom is now said to pose a threat to ‘national security’, ‘public health’ or ‘safety’.

A near-permanent state of ‘emergency’ due to public health threats, climate catastrophe or conflict (as with the situation in Ukraine) would conveniently place populations on an ongoing ‘war footing’. Notions of individual liberty and democratic principles would be usurped by placing the emphasis on the ‘public interest’ and protecting the population from ‘harm’. This would facilitate the march towards authoritarianism.

As in the 1980s, this messaging is being driven by economic impulses. Neoliberalism privatised, deregulated, exploited workers and optimised debt to the point whereby markets are now kept afloat by endless financial injections.

The WEF says the public will ‘rent’ everything they require: stripping the right of personal ownership under the guise of ‘sustainable consumption’ and ‘saving the planet’. Where the WEF is concerned, this is little more than code for permanent austerity to be imposed on the mass of the population.

Metaverse future 

At the start of this article, readers were asked to imagine a future based on a certain set of principles associated with localization. For one moment, imagine another. The one being promoted by the WEF, the high-level talking shop and lobby group for elite interests headed by that avowed globalist and transhumanist Klaus Schwab.

As you sit all day unemployed in your high-rise, your ‘food’ will be delivered via an online platform bought courtesy of your programmable universal basic income digital money. Food courtesy of Gates-promoted farms manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce crops from patented GM seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be engineered, processed and constituted into something resembling food.

Enjoy and be happy eating your fake food, stripped of satisfying productive endeavour and genuine self-fulfilment. But really, it will not be a problem. You can sit all day and exist virtually in Zuckerberg’s fantasy metaverse. Property-less and happy in your open prison of mass unemployment, state dependency, track and chip health passports and financial exclusion via programmable currency.

A world also in which bodily integrity no longer exists courtesy of a mandatory vaccination agenda linked to emerging digital-biopharmaceutical technologies. The proposed World Health Organization pandemic treaty marks a worrying step in this direction.

This ‘new normal’ would be tyrannical, but the ‘old normal’ – which still thrives – was not something to be celebrated. Global inequality is severe and environmental devastation and human dislocation has been increasing. Dependency and dispossession remain at the core of the system, both on an individual level and at local, regional and national levels. New normal or old normal, these problems will persist and become worse.

Green imperialism  

The ‘green economy’ being heavily promoted is based on the commodification of nature, through privatization, marketization and monetary valuation. Banks and corporations will set the agenda – dressed in the garb of ‘stakeholder capitalism’, a euphemism for governments facilitating the needs of powerful global interests. The fear is that the proposed system will weaken environmental protection laws and regulations to facilitate private capital.

The banking sector will engage in ‘green profiling’ and issue ‘green bonds’ and global corporations will be able to ‘offset’ (greenwash) their environment-degrading activities by, for example, protecting or planting a forest elsewhere (on indigenous people’s land) or perhaps even investing in (imposing) industrial agriculture which grows herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that are misleadingly portrayed as ‘climate friendly’. Imperialism wrapped in green.

Relying on the same thinking and the same interests that led the world to where it is now does not seem like a great idea. This type of ‘green’ is first and foremost a multi-trillion market opportunity for lining pockets and part of a strategy that may well be used to secure compliance required for the ‘new normal’.

The future needs to be rooted in the principles of localization. For this, we need look no further than the economics and the social relations that underpin tribal societies (for example, India’s indigenous peoples). The knowledge and value systems of indigenous peoples promote long-term genuine sustainability by living within the boundaries of nature and emphasise equality, communality and sharing rather than separation, domination and competition.

Self-sufficiency, solidarity, localization and cooperation is the antidote to globalism and the top-down tyranny of programmable digital currencies and unaccountable, monopolistic AI-driven platforms which aim to monitor and dictate every aspect of life.

The post Localization and Local Futures: The Alternative to the Authoritarian New Normal     first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Collapse of Industrial Farming

The most upending event of the past 10,000 years is the advent of engineered food as fermentation farms displace factory farms. “We are on the Cusp of the Fastest, Deepest, Most Consequential Disruption of Agriculture in History.” 1

“Modern foods will bankrupt the cattle industry within a decade.”1

More on that to follow, but first: Industrial farming, alongside global warming, ranks at the top of the list of existential risks this century. And, similar to the dangers attendant to excessive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, industrial farming is dangerously out of control, but in contrast to global warming, it is not followed at all by corporate media, begging the Orwellian question whether media other than corporate media truly exist?

All of which serves to highlight George Orwell’s concerns as expressed in his famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (Secker & Warburg Publishers, 1949) wherein he explained the primary consequences of “media manipulation” described as: (a) “loss of a critical thinking faculty” and (b) “diminished capacity for self-expression.”

More than 70 years post-Orwellian, his words ring true as corporate media skims over the tragic news of a world in such a dangerous state that only the collapse of industrial agriculture itself, along with cutting GHG emissions, can help to stop the pronounced ongoing collapse of ecosystems throughout the world, especially evident at the extreme latitudes, north and south.

According to Forest Trends, as of 2021, clear-cutting of forests for commercial agriculture purposes, principally for beef and soy production, within the past couple of years increased by a rip-snorting +50%, mostly illegal, to 27 million acres a year. 2

That huge acceleration of clear-cutting follows in the footsteps of the New York Declaration on Forests signed in 2014 by 200 endorsers to cut deforestation in half by 2020 (ahem!) and stop it altogether by 2030 (lol).

Industrial farming is destroying the planet’s resources with clear-cutting as well as spewing tons upon tons of toxic chemicals that subtly destroy major ecosystems throughout the world, including wetlands, floral meadowlands, and precious farmland as toxic chemicals turn rich black soils into useless dirt.

The Center for Biodiversity and the World Animal Protection-US orgs in February of 2022 released a major report “Collateral Damage” documenting the deadly harm of toxic chemicals used by factory farms. Clearly, humans are poisoning the planet, and in a mind-blowing “tip of the hat” to Orwell’s prognosis about human dullness, it is legal! Yes, poisoning the planet is legal! Which suggest that Orwell’s concern about “loss of a critical thinking faculty” is uuderstated.

That amazing fact is underscored by the frightening knowledge that within only a few decades industrial farming, assuming it can be called “farming,” displaced thousands of years of family farming that husbanded nature, displaced by rapacious corporate models of stern-minded profit-oriented callous mass slaughter to satisfy the gluttonous fast-food craze that’s unique to the decadent 21st century.

This sudden emergence of CAFOs or concentrated animal feed operations is so gruesome and so powerful and so outlandishly disparate from traditional family farming that only a fantasy comparison can approximate its oddity via the passing of a magical wand that morphs Tinker Bell into Hannibal Lecter.

On the other hand, a turning point may be at hand. Factory farming is about to be disrupted via better foods, tastier foods, cheaper foods, healthier foods, and a much healthier environment. That future, sans institutional slaughterhouses and sans widespread use of chemicals and the end of clear-cutting has been theorized in detail by the independent think tank RethinkX.

The not-so-secret formula to better, tastier, cheaper, healthier, more prevalent food is the production of microorganisms. Already over past centuries humanity has shown the value of controlling microorganisms through fermentation, producing bread, cheese, alcohol, as well as preserving fruit and vegetables.

Moving food production to the molecular level promises a more efficient means of feeding ourselves and the delivery of superior, cleaner nutrients without the unhealthy chemical/antibiotic/insecticide additives required by current industrial means of production. 3

The capability to create foods with exact attributes of nutrition, structure, taste, and texture is advancing whereby ordering food will be similar to installing software on your phone but via databases of engineered molecules, as fermentation farms displace factory farms.

Impossible Foods is an example that utilizes fermented (heme) to create a higher-performing product. 4

According to RethinkX:

By 2035, 60% of the area currently allocated to livestock and food production will be freed for other uses. This is enough land that if it were dedicated to the planting of trees for carbon sequestration, it could completely offset U.S. greenhouse emissions.

Moreover, it is anticipated that rapid uptake of engineered foods means water consumption for cattle will drop by 50% within a decade. And destruction of rainforests for cattle-raising and soy oil production will plummet.

And most importantly for human health concerns, toxic chemicals will be unnecessary. The current industrial food supply chain, from A to Z, is loaded with chemicals. For starters, pesticides used to grow food and livestock end up in human bodies one way or another, and in high enough concentrations proven to influence cancers, brain, nerve, genetic and hormonal disorders, kidney and liver damage, asthma and allergies. 5

In addition to pesticides, some 3,000 chemical ingredients added to food are permitted by the FDA to enhance freshness, taste, and texture. Preservatives, for example, which extend shelf life, are chemicals that poison the bacteria and moulds that cause food to rot:

Common chemical preservatives such as sodium nitrate and nitrite, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sodium benzoate, parabens, formaldehyde and antioxidant preservatives, if over-consumed in the modern processed food diet, may also lead to cancers, heart disease, allergies, digestive, lung, kidney and other diseases and constitute a further reason for avoiding or reducing one’s intake of industrial food.  6

Two hundred million (200,000,000) or more than 50% of Americans have at least one chronic disease. 7 Prompting the query, what causes chronic disease? Answer: Mainstream medical sites blames tobacco, secondhand smoke, poor nutrition, alcohol and lack of exercise, sinful-related stuff. Yet, there are several books and science papers published that point the finger at toxic chemicals in our environment as the cause of chronic diseases.  Here’s one recent publication: 8

Interestingly enough, Europe only permits the use of 400 out of the 3000 food additives permitted in the US (ed.- the EU has only one-half the US rate of chronic diseases). Essentially, Europe has banned 4/5ths of the chemicals allowed in the US food chain. Europe outlaws any chemicals that do not meet its criteria for ‘non-harm to humans or the environment.  9

The Center for Biological Diversity in conjunction with World Animal Protection-US report Collateral Damage (February 4, 2022) studied the impact of an estimated 235 million pounds annually of herbicides and insecticides applied to feed crops for factory farms. The chemicals are applied to corn and soybeans for farmed animal feed in the US. Roughly 50% of toxic pesticide use on a global basis is for corn and soy for factory farms… hundreds of millions of pounds of chemicals are applied to corn and soy crops as pesticides in the US.

If only two out of the thousands of toxic chemicals could be eliminated; i.e., glyphosate (herbicide) and atrazine (pesticide); it would be a major health benefit to complex life and ecosystems.

Glyphosate, the king of toxic chemicals, is the most widely used herbicide worldwide. Already 13,000 lawsuits have been filed claiming it causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. WHO claims it is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Atrazine is one of the most widely used pesticides, especially in the US. To date, thirty-five (35) countries have banned its use, including the EU because of persistent groundwater contamination and dangerous levels of toxicity.

Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor and is linked to a variety of human health issues, including different types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and harm to the reproductive system. After just six hours of exposure an increase in cell death and DNA damage were observed. The same level of damage from exposure to Gamma radiation would take a full 15 minutes. Atrazine also alters the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain and decreases the electrical activity of certain cells in the cerebellum (the region of the brain that controls motor function). As an endocrine disruptor it can interfere with the balance of hormones in the body, significantly impacting overall physiology and development. 10

It’s not at all surprising that 35 countries, including the EU, banned atrazine. But, it’s enormously popular in the US.

Time after time, the brilliance of Orwell’s mass media prognosis of “loss of a critical thinking faculty” shows up on the shores of the United States.

It’s probably a good idea to reread Nineteen Eighty-Four:

IT WAS a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind… at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week… On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran. 11

  2. “Trees Fell Faster in the Years Since Companies and Governments Promised to Stop Cutting Them Down”, Inside Climate News, May 19, 2021.
  3. RethinkX
  4. “A Rainbow of Opportunity: How Fermentation Biotech is Creating ‘Agricultural 2.0’”, Food Navigator, March 25, 2021.
  5. Julian Cribb:  Earth Detox, Cambridge University Press, August 2021.
  6. Earth Detox, p. 70.
  7. Rand Corporation, 2017.
  8. Stephanie Seneff, PhD: “Toxic Legacy: How the Weedkiller Glyphosate Is Destroying Our Health and the Environment”, Chelsea Green Publishing, London, UK, 2021.
  9. Earth Detox, p. 73.
  10. “Collateral Damage: How Factory Farming Drives Up the Use of Toxic Agricultural Pesticides”, World Animal Protection, New York, NY, February 2022.
  11. 1984, p. 1.
The post The Collapse of Industrial Farming first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From Rachel Carson to Monsanto: The Silence of Spring  

Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant is currently in the news. He is trying to avoid appearing in court to be questioned by lawyers on behalf of a cancer patient in the case of Allan Shelton v Monsanto.

Shelton has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is one of the 100,000-plus people in the US claiming in lawsuits that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its other brands containing the chemical glyphosate caused their cancer.

According to investigative journalist Carey Gillam, Former Monsanto CEO files for protective order in Roundup case ( Shelton’s lawyers have argued that Grant was an active participant and decision maker in the company’s Roundup business and should be made to testify at the trial.

But Grant says in the court filings that the effort to put him on the stand in front of a jury is “wholly unnecessary and serves only to harass and burden” him.

His lawyers state that Grant does not have “any expertise in the studies and tests that have been done related to Roundup generally, including those related to Roundup safety”.

Gillam notes that the court filings state that Grant’s testimony “would be of little value” because he is not a toxicologist, an epidemiologist, or a regulatory expert and “did not work in the areas of toxicology or epidemiology while employed by Monsanto”.

Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018 and Grant received an estimated $77 million post-sale payoff. Bloomberg reported in 2017 that Monsanto had increased Grant’s salary to $19.5 million for that fiscal year.

Even by 2009, Roundup-related products, which include genetically modified seeds developed to withstand glyphosate-based applications, represented about half of Monsanto’s gross margin. It is reasonable to say that Roundup was integral to Monsanto’s business model and Grant’s enormous income and final payoff.

But the cancer lawsuits in the US are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the damage done by glyphosate-based products and many other biocides.

Silent killer    

June 2022 marks 60 years since the publication of Rachel Carson’s iconic book Silent Spring. It was published just two years before her death at age 56.

Carson documented the adverse impacts on the environment of the indiscriminate use of pesticides, which she said were ‘biocides’, killing much more than the pests that were targeted. Silent Spring also described some of the deleterious effects of these chemicals on human health.

She accused the agrochemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting the industry’s marketing claims without question. An accusation that is still very much relevant today.

Silent Spring was a landmark book, inspiring many scientists and campaigners over the years to carry on the work of Carson, flagging up the effects of agrochemicals and the role of the industry in distorting the narrative surrounding its proprietary chemicals and its influence on policy making.

In 2012, the American Chemical Society designated Silent Spring a National Historic Chemical Landmark because of its importance for the modern environmental movement.

For her efforts, Carson had to endure vicious, baseless smears and attacks on her personal life, integrity, scientific credentials and political affiliations. Tactics that the agrochemicals sector and its supporters have used ever since to try to shut down prominent scientists and campaigners who challenge industry claims, practices and products.

Although Carson was not calling for a ban on all pesticides, at the time Monsanto hit back by publishing 5,000 copies of The Desolate Year which projected a world of famine and disease if pesticides were to be banned.

A message the sector continues to churn out even as evidence stacks up against the deleterious impacts of its practices and products and the increasing body of research which indicates the world could feed itself by shifting to agroecological/organic practices (see the online article “Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order“, January 2022).

The title of Carson’s book was a metaphor, warning of a bleak future for the natural environment. So all these years later, what has become of humanity’s ‘silent spring’?

In 2017, research conducted in Germany showed the abundance of flying insects had plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. The research data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany and has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture as it seems likely that the widespread use of pesticides is an important factor.

Prof Dave Goulson of Sussex University in the UK was part of the team behind the study and said that vast tracts of land are becoming inhospitable to most forms of life: if we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.

Flying insects are vital because they pollinate flowers and many, not least bees, are important for pollinating key food crops. Most fruit crops are insect-pollinated and insects also provide food for lots of animals, including birds, bats, some mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Flies, beetles and wasps are also predators and important decomposers, breaking down dead plants and animals. And insects form the base of thousands of food chains; their disappearance is a principal reason Britain’s farmland birds have more than halved in number since 1970.

Is this one aspect of the silence Carson warned of – that joyous season of renewal and awakening void of birdsong (and much else)? Truly a silent spring.

The 2016 State of Nature Report found that one in 10 UK wildlife species is threatened with extinction, with numbers of certain creatures having plummeted by two thirds since 1970. The study showed the abundance of flying insects had plunged by three-quarters over a 25-year period.

Campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason has written to public officials on numerous occasions noting that agrochemicals, especially Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup, have devastated the natural environment and have also led to spiralling rates of illness and disease.

She indicates how the widespread use on agricultural crops of neonicotinoid insecticides and the herbicide glyphosate, both of which cause immune suppression, make species vulnerable to emerging infectious pathogens, driving large-scale wildlife extinctions, including essential pollinators.

Providing evidence to show how human disease patterns correlate remarkably well with the rate of glyphosate usage on corn, soy and wheat crops, which has increased due to ‘Roundup Ready’ seeds, Mason argues that over-reliance on chemicals in agriculture is causing irreparable harm to all beings on the planet.

In 2015, writer Carol Van Strum said the US Environmental Protection Agency has been routinely lying about the safety of pesticides since it took over pesticide registrations in 1970.

She has described how faked data and fraudulent tests led to many highly toxic agrochemicals reaching the market and they still remain in use, regardless of the devastating impacts on wildlife and human health.

The research from Germany mentioned above followed a warning by a chief scientific adviser to the UK government, Prof Ian Boyd, who claimed that 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 landscapes with chemicals have been largely ignored.”

Prior to that particular warning, there was a report delivered to the UN Human Rights Council saying that pesticides have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole.

Authored by Hilal Elver, the then special rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, who was at the time 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.

Elver says that the power of the corporations over governments and the scientific community is extremely important: if you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies which deny the damage inflicted by their chemicals as they continue to aggressively market their products

While these corporations falsely claim their products are essential for feeding a burgeoning global population, they also mouth platitudes about choice and democracy, while curtailing both as they infiltrate and subvert regulatory agencies and government machinery.

Whether it is the well-documented harm to the environment or tales of illness and disease in Latin America and elsewhere, the devastating impacts of chemical-intensive agriculture which the agribusiness-agritech corporations rollout is clear to see.

Corporate criminals  

Post-1945 the nutritional value of what we eat has been depleted due to reliance on a narrower range of crops, the side-lining of traditional seeds which produced nutrient-dense plants and modern ‘cost-effective’ food-processing methods that strip out vital micronutrients and insert a cocktail of chemical additives.

Fuelling these trends has been a network of interests, including the Rockefeller Foundation and its acolytes in the US government, giant agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill, the financial-industrial complex and its globalisation agenda (which effectively further undermined localised, indigenous food systems) and the giant food corporations and the influential groups they fund, such as the International Life Sciences Institute.

Included here in this network is the agrochemical-agritech sector which promotes its proprietary chemicals and (genetically-engineered) seeds through a well-developed complex of scientists, politicians, journalists, lobbyists, PR companies and front groups.

Consider what investigative journalist Carey Gillam says:

US Roundup litigation began in 2015 after the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Internal Monsanto documents dating back decades show that the company was aware of scientific research linking its weed killer to cancer but instead of warning consumers, the company worked to suppress the information and manipulate scientific literature.

Over the years, Monsanto mounted a deceitful defence of its health- and environment-damaging Roundup and its genetically engineered crops and orchestrated toxic smear campaigns against anyone – scientist or campaigner – who threatened its interests.

In 2016, Rosemary Mason wrote an open letter to European Chemicals Agency Executive Director Geert Dancet: Open Letter to the ECHA about Scientific Fraud and Ecocide. More of an in-depth report than a letter, it can be accessed on the site.

In it, she explained how current EU legislation was originally set up to protect the pesticides industry and Monsanto and other agrochemical corporations helped the EU design the regulatory systems for their own products.

She also drew Dancet’s attention to the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology and how, in 2016 Volume 46, Monsanto commissioned five reviews published in a supplement to the journal.  Monsanto also funded them. Mason argues the aim was to cast serious doubts about the adverse effects of glyphosate by using junk science. Straight out of the Big Tobacco playbook.

Mason told Dancet:

CEO Hugh Grant and the US EPA knew that glyphosate caused all of these problems. The corporation concealed the carcinogenic effects of PCBs on humans and animals for seven years. They have no plans to protect you and your families from the tsunami of sickness that is affecting us all in the UK and the US.

Meanwhile, on the US Right to Know site, the article Roundup Cancer Cases – Key Documents and Analysis sets out just why more than 100,000 cancer sufferers are attempting to hold Monsanto to account in US courts.

In a just (and sane) world, CEOs would be held personally responsible for the products they peddle and earn millions from. But no doubt they would do their utmost to dodge culpability.

After all, they were ‘just doing their job’ – and they would not want to feel harassed or burdened, would they?

The post From Rachel Carson to Monsanto: The Silence of Spring   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Factory Farms Destroy Ecosystems

Factory farms are the Grim Reapers of civilization, inhumanely penning up and slaughtering cows, pigs, and chickens by the tens of millions, as well as unintentionally, but effectively, poisoning, maiming and/or killing birds, insects, amphibians, mammals, and crucial life-supporting ecosystems that are key to human life. And, it’s legal.

Factory farms have suddenly arisen out of nowhere; e.g., in Iowa “the state’s number of concentrated animal feed operations, known as CAFOs, grew from 722 in 2001 to more than 10,000 in 2017, according to a study on the industry by two retired University of Iowa professors.” 1

The first sentence of the Pew Trust article reads; “Iowa has a poop problem.”

Meanwhile, factory farms are an environmental train wreck gone ballistic. The Center for Biological Diversity in conjunction with World Animal Protection-US released a new report entitled Collateral Damage (February 4, 2022) that studied the impact of an estimated 235 million pounds annually of herbicides and insecticides applied to feed crops for factory farms in the US for the most recent year for which complete information is available. The chemicals are applied to corn and soybeans for farmed animal feed in the US. Roughly 50% of highly hazardous toxic pesticide use on a global basis is for corn and soy for factory farms.

The report describes a brutal process of extremely tight-fitting ill-conforming inhumane penning/feeding of animals to fatten‘em up as quickly as possible for slaughter to satisfy the world’s addiction for fast food. The entire process from A-to-Z uses assembly line techniques to get food from pesticide/herbicide enriched mono-crop farm plantings into the grubby hands of stretched-wide-open-mouth humanoid creatures, eating and sweating like stuffed pigs, as the death knell of the Wet Bulb Syndrome –WBS- (95°F/90% wet) starts ringing its bell above and below the equator. Global warming has brought the onset of this deadly event that can kill a person within 6 hours, if they cannot escape the deadly combination of heat and humidity.

The Collateral Damage report describes the impact of widespread use of highly toxic chemicals, specifically herbicides and insecticides, applied to feed crops for factory-farmed animals.

According to the study – “Collateral Damage: How Factory Farming Drives Up the Use of Toxic Agricultural Pesticides” by World Animal Protection, New York, NY, February 2022:

High levels of meat consumption are driving the decline in wild animal populations via the ever-increasing intensification of monoculture feed crop cultivation to feed the farmed animals raised in the factory farming systems that produce the majority of meat consumed in the US today. This is best evidenced by the hundreds of millions of pounds of hazardous chemicals applied to corn and soy crops as pesticides in the US. These toxic chemicals are impeding the ability of insects, birds, fish, and other taxa to survive and thrive as well as destroying the diversity of native plants on which they rely for shelter and food.

That’s a mouthful. In other words, the life cycle of entire ecosystems are put at risk so humans can stuff food down their throats. That entire process is loaded with moral issues, and even plain ole common sense says “something is not right.” Prompting the question of whether humanity is trapped within a toxic chemical world for its survival. That paradox is beyond the pale, but real.

Glyphosate, which is the most widely used herbicide worldwide, is used extensively in factory farming. This is a nightmarish chemical that literally hangs over society like a hangman’s noose. Studies show that glyphosate reduces overall biodiversity by 22%. According to a 2020 EPA study, “it harms, injures or kills 93% of plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act,”2 That’s in line with total extinction numbers. Meaning that one chemical is accomplishing over the course of a few decades what the Permian Triassic extinction event, aka: the Great Dying, of 252 million years ago accomplished over a period of a few million years.

As for human health, already more than 13,000 lawsuits claim the pesticide causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The WHO “Research on Cancer” claims that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

“Scientific studies show a strong correlation between glyphosate and serious health hazards including disruption of the hormonal system and beneficial gut bacteria, damage to DNA, developmental and reproductive toxicity, birth defects, other cancers, and neurotoxicity,”2

Other than glyphosate, atrazine is one of the most widely used, and toxic, agricultural pesticides in the US, primarily used on corn, sorghum, and sugarcane. According to Collateral Damage: “The vast majority applied in the US, some 87%, is applied solely to corn and an estimated 60-70% of all corn is treated with atrazine.”

Moreover, as stated in the report and of heightened concern, and nearly beyond belief:

Despite its popularity in the US and the Asian-Pacific region, atrazine has been banned in 35 countries. It was banned in the EU due to persistent groundwater contamination. It is relatively mobile, regularly entering water bodies via runoff and rainfall, and has been detected in rain or air in Europe and the US more than any other currently used pesticide. According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) assessments, atrazine has been detected in streams at levels of 200 micrograms per Liter (μg/L) and repeatedly detected at above 100 μg/L. In waters adjacent to treated fields atrazine was found in concentration as high as 1000 μg/I. 2

For comparison purposes of the impact: “Atrazine is highly toxic to algae in culture at concentrations ≥100 μg liter.”.3

According to the report, atrazine is a known endocrine disrupter with high toxicity, for example:

Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor and is linked to a variety of human health issues, including different types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and harm to the reproductive system. After just six hours of exposure an increase in cell death and DNA damage were observed. The same level of damage from exposure to Gamma radiation would take a full 15 minutes. Atrazine also alters the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain and decreases the electrical activity of certain cells in the cerebellum (the region of the brain that controls motor function). As an endocrine disruptor it can interfere with the balance of hormones in the body, significantly impacting overall physiology and development. 2

It’s not at all surprising that 35 countries, including the EU, banned atrazine. But, it’s enormously popular in the US.

The aforementioned citations from Collateral Damage only scratch the surface of the 50-page in-depth analysis of the “toxic cost of industrial agriculture.” See the full report here.

The report does provide three pages of specific recommendations for governments and intergovernmental orgs and businesses and institutions and individuals. And, as a general approach, the report calls for individuals and institutions to opt for healthier diets and menus that prioritize plant-based foods to “lower impact on animals and the planet.”

It’s also worth noting that only recently a major international study on the impact of chemicals on the planet was released. It substantiates Collateral Damage, to wit: 4

The study states that chemicals have exceeded the limits of safety for the planet: “We have overwhelming evidence of negative impacts on Earth systems, including biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles.”

In total, three hundred fifty thousand chemicals are now altering the composition of the surface of the planet. Switzerland’s Institute of Environmental Engineering only recently compiled the quantity, surprisingly finding the quantity of chemicals to be three times more than prior estimates.

In similar fashion, greenhouse gases alter the composition of the atmosphere. All in, Earth has become an artificial chemically charged planet. Consequently, nobody knows what’ll happen next with the biggest chemistry experiment of all time. But, how could it possibly be good?

  1. “Environmentalists Make Long-Shot Attempt to Ban New Factory Farms”, Pew Trust, February 19, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kyle D. Hoagland, et al, “Effects of Organic Toxic Substances”, Algal Ecology, 1996.
  4. Marc Préel, “Plastic, Chemical Pollution beyond Planet’s Safe Limit Study”,, February 15, 2022.
The post Factory Farms Destroy Ecosystems first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Right to Healthy Food: Comorbidities and COVID-19

In early 2020, we saw the beginning of the COVID-19 ‘pandemic’. The world went into lockdown and even after lockdowns in various countries had been lifted, restrictions continued. Data now shows that lockdowns seemingly had limited, if any, positive impacts on the trajectory of COVID-19 and in 2022 the world – especially the poor – is paying an immense price not least in terms of loss of income, loss of livelihoods, the deterioration of mental and physical health, the eradication of civil liberties, disrupted supply chains and shortages.

The mortality rate for COVID-19 patients is linked to their comorbid conditions. In the US, the Center for Disease Control provides a list of comorbid conditions in COVID-19 patients, which includes cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, Down syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Research conducted in a German hospital shows that for those who died after SARS-CoV-2 infection the median number of chronic comorbidities was four and ranged from three to eight. Arterial hypertension was the most prevalent chronic condition (65.4%), followed by obesity (38.5%), chronic ischemic heart disease (34.6%), atrial fibrillation (26.9%) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (23.1%). Of all patients, 15.4% had diabetes type II and chronic renal failure was noticed in 11.5%. The data suggests severe chronic comorbidities and health conditions in the majority of patients that had died after COVID-19.

The meta-analysis Prevalence of comorbidities in patients and mortality cases affected by SARS-CoV2: a systematic review and meta-analysis (2020) found that hypertension was the most prevalent comorbidity (affecting 32% of patients). Other common comorbidities included diabetes (22%) and heart disease (13%). The odds ratio of death for a patient with a comorbidity compared to one with no comorbidity was 2.4. The higher the prevalence of comorbidities the higher the odds that the COVID-19 patient will need intensive care or will die, especially if the pre-existing disease is hypertension, heart disease or diabetes.

In 2020, just 1,557 people aged 1-64 with no underlying co-morbidities were listed as having died from COVID in England and Wales out of a population of about 59 million. For the tens of thousands who were categorised as dying with COVID, co-morbidities were a major factor. UK data for 2020 shows that for ages 1-64 years, those who died with COVID had on average 1.71 co-morbidities. For those aged 65 and over, the figure is 2.02.

Patients with rare autoimmune rheumatic diseases have a 54% increased risk for COVID-19 infection and more than twice the risk for COVID-19 death, versus the general population, according to data published in the journal Rheumatology (2021).

In the paper ‘COVID-19 in patients with autoimmune diseases: characteristics and outcomes in a multinational network of cohorts across three countries’ (2021), which also appeared in Rheumatology, researchers compared influenza with COVID-19 and concluded that the latter is a more severe disease for people with these conditions, leading to added complications and higher mortality.

Of deaths in England and Wales where COVID-19 is listed, official government data shows the most common pre-existing condition recorded on the death certificate is diabetes (July to September 2021). This was identified in almost a quarter (22.5%) of ‘COVID deaths’.

Emerging data also suggests that obesity is a big risk factor for the progression of major complications such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), cytokine storm and coagulopathy in COVID-19.

A paper posted on the Center for Disease Control website provides an overview of factors associated with Covid-19 deaths for a 12-month period. The study, Underlying Medical Conditions and Severe Illness Among 540,667 Adults Hospitalized with COVID-19, March 2020–March 2021, looked at records of hospitalised adults and found that 94.9% had at least one underlying medical condition. The authors conclude that certain underlying conditions and the number of conditions were associated with severe COVID-19 illness. Hypertension and disorders of lipid metabolism were the most frequent, whereas obesity, diabetes with complication and anxiety disorders were the strongest risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness.

Based on the findings, Dr Peregrino Brimahdata (a molecular biologist, medical doctor, college professor and a published researcher) notes that obesity by itself gave a 30% increased death risk, anxiety disorders gave a 29% increased risk of death and diabetes led to a 26% increased risk of death.

Brimahdata concludes that about two thirds of ‘COVID deaths’ were patients who may be regarded as grossly unhealthy.

From the data presented above, it is clear that the vast majority of ‘COVID deaths’ (dying with COVID) are people who has serious, ongoing health conditions, the prevalence of which among the population has been rising year on year for decades and accelerating.

Food system

Although hereditary factors are involved, scientists at the Francis Crick Institute in London believe the growing popularity of Western-style diets is a major reason why autoimmune diseases are rising across the world by around 3% to 9% a year.

Professor James Lee from the institute recently told The Observer newspaper that human genetics has not altered over the past few decades, so something is changing in our environment that is increasing predisposition to autoimmune disease. His research team found that Western-style diets based on processed ingredients and with a lack of fresh vegetables can trigger autoimmune diseases.

Lee says that numbers of autoimmune cases began to increase about 40 years ago in the Western countries but are now also emerging in countries that never had such diseases before. These diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis.

It is estimated that approximately four million people in the UK have an autoimmune disease.

A Western-style diet is characterised by highly processed and refined foods with high contents of sugars, salt, and fat and protein from red meat. It is a major contributor to metabolic disturbances and the development of obesity-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease – the top comorbidities where ‘COVID deaths’ are concerned.

But it goes beyond that because a lot of the health-related problems we see can also be traced back to modern farming methods and how food is cultivated, not least the toxic agrochemicals used. 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.

Professor Carola Vinuesa, who heads another research team at the Francis Crick Institute, argues that fast-food diets can negatively affect a person’s microbiome – gut microorganisms which play a key role in controlling various bodily functions.

The gut microbiome can contain up to six pounds of bacteria and agrochemicals and poor diets are disturbing this ‘human soil’. Many important neurotransmitters are located in the gut. Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, these transmitters affect our moods and thinking.

Findings published in the journal ‘Translational Psychiatry’ provide strong evidence that gut bacteria can have a direct physical impact on the brain. Alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome have been implicated in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression and Parkinson’s Disease. Gut bacteria are also important for cognitive development in adolescence.

Changes to the gut microbiome are also linked to obesity. 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. Environmental campaigner Rosemary Mason lays the blame squarely at the door of agrochemicals, not least the use of the world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate.

Mason has written to the two professors from the Francis Crick Institute mentioned above, making it clear to them that it would be remiss to ignore the role pesticides play when it comes to the worrying rates of disease we now see. She brings their attention to concerning levels of glyphosate in certain cereals in the UK.

Based on an analysis of these cereals, Dr John Fagan, director of Health Research Laboratories, has concluded:

The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals… is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).

Mason also refers the two academics to the paper Genetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the United States of America in Journal of Organic Systems (2014)

It notes:

The herbicide glyphosate was introduced in 1974 and its use is accelerating with the advent of herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops. Evidence is mounting that glyphosate interferes with many metabolic processes in plants and animals and glyphosate residues have been detected in both. Glyphosate disrupts the endocrine system and the balance of gut bacteria, it damages DNA and is a driver of mutations that lead to cancer.

The researchers searched US government databases for GE crop data, glyphosate application data and disease epidemiological data. Correlation analyses were then performed on a total of 22 diseases in these time-series data sets. The Pearson correlation coefficients were highly significant between glyphosate applications and a wide range of diseases, including hypertension, stroke, diabetes prevalence, diabetes incidence, obesity, Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal infections, end stage renal disease, acute kidney failure and various cancers. The Pearson correlation coefficients were also highly significant between the percentage of GE corn and soy planted in the US and most of the conditions listed above.

In 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, said:

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.

Consider that little is being done to address the food-related public health crisis which, according to the data on co-morbidities, seems to be a major contribution to increased risk where COVID is concerned. Then consider that governments are going all out to vaccinate children for a virus that poses minimal or virtually no risk to them. There is no logic to this approach.

While there is currently much talk of the coronavirus placing immense strain on the NHS, the health service was already creaking due to spiralling rates of disease linked to the food we eat. But do we see a clampdown on the activities or products of the global agrochemical or the food conglomerates? Instead, we see that successive governments in the UK have worked hand in glove with them to ensure ‘business as usual’.

The UK government is going out of its way under the guise of a health crisis to undermine the public’s rights in order to manage risk and to ‘protect’ the NHS but is all too willing to oversee a massive, ongoing health crisis caused by the chemical pollution of our bodies.

The unvaccinated are being cast as irresponsible or much worse if we listen to the recent reprehensible outbursts from leaders like Macron or Trudeau (concerning a disease that is as risky as the flu for the vast majority of the population) for having genuine concerns about vaccine safety, waning efficacy and the logic behind mass vaccination across all ages and risk groups.

Given that underlying health conditions substantially increase risk where COVID-19 is concerned, it is clear where the real irresponsibility lies – with government inaction for decades in terms of failing to tackle the corporations behind the health-damaging food they produce.

The post The Right to Healthy Food: Comorbidities and COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Key Body Demands Complete Ban on Glyphosate in India

In October 2020, Pesticide Action Network India and PAN Asia Pacific released the report ‘State of Glyphosate Use in India’. It concluded that the use of the world’s most widely used herbicide is rampant. Despite this, it noted that its disturbing effects on the environment and the health of farmworkers and the public are not being addressed (see: State of Glyphosate Use in India).

Although Punjab, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and several other states have moved towards banning glyphosate due to their concerns for consumers, farmers and environment, the report – based on a field survey in seven states (300 respondents – 30 retailers, 270 farmers/farmworkers) – noted at least 20 non-approved uses of glyphosate, with 16 of them in food crops.

It concluded:

In the light of mounting evidences on the unacceptable health and environmental outcomes of glyphosate, the ground reality of its use in India is seen as an ‘anarchic’ scenario. This would have undesirable impacts on soil health, farm productivity, food safety, agriculture trade, public health as well as environmental wellbeing in the country. The scenario of glyphosate use thus necessitates the urgent need of eliminating it from India.

The report documented many disturbing features of glyphosate use, not least in terms of its impacts on farmers and farmworkers.

Now in December 2021, the influential Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) has demanded a complete ban on the use of glyphosate in India, arguing it is carcinogenic and damages ecology and that it adversely impacts cultivators and their livelihoods.

The SJM has close ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has consistently adopted a critical stance on the government’s pro-foreign direct investment policies and the ‘globalisation’ (dependency) agenda.

National Co-convenor of the SJM Ashwani Mahajan recently submitted a petition with 201,609 signatures of people favouring a complete ban on glyphosate to Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar.

The organisation argues that the government’s stated intent to restrict (not ban) the use of glyphosate (see Government moves to restrict use of glyphosate – The Hindu BusinessLine) is meaningless.

The SJM informed the agriculture minister that, though there is a restriction on the use of glyphosate (aside from on tea plantations and non-crop areas), the weedicide is blatantly being used for illegally grown genetically engineered herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton. It added that this has been going on for years with the full knowledge of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee and the state governments.

The minister was informed that, at present, some “miscreant seed companies” are trying to illegally spread HT Bt cotton, on hundreds of thousands of acres of land, to promote the use of glyphosate.

The SJM says glyphosate is being used both for weed control and to desiccate crops prior to harvesting and there is a strong opposition to this as the weedicide and its adjuvants are absorbed by the plant and consumed by humans.

Glyphosate is a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor and is linked with several serious illnesses. The SJM informed the minister that there are more than 100,000 cases pending against Monsanto/Bayer company for damages by the users of its glyphosate based herbicide after they (the litigants) developed 10 different types of cancer, including non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The herbicide has been declared carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Despite this, the push to get illegal HT genetically engineered crops into Indian fields persists. In 2017, for instance, the illegal cultivation of HT soybean was reported in Gujarat. There are also reports of HT cotton illegally being cultivated in the country.

In a 2017 paper in the Journal of Peasant studies, Glenn Stone and Andrew Flachs show how cotton farmers have been encouraged to change their ploughing practices, which has led to more weeds being left in their fields. The authors suggest the outcome in terms of yields (or farmer profit) is arguably no better than before. However, it (conveniently) coincides with the appearance of an increasing supply of HT cotton seeds.

Stone and Flachs observe:

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

They show how farmers are indeed being nudged onto such a path via the change in practices and also note the potential market for herbicide growth alone in India is huge. Writing in 2017, the authors note that sales could soon reach USD 800 million with scope for even greater expansion. Little wonder we therefore see the appearance of HT seeds in the country. These seeds are designed to be used with glyphosate or other similar toxic argrochemicals such as glufinosate.

A report in the Indian press (June 2021) (Sale of illegal HT Bt cotton seeds doubles – The Hindu) states that the illegal cultivation of HT Bt cotton has seen a huge jump over a 12-month period, with seed manufacturers claiming that the sale of illegal seed packets had more than doubled. Industry lobbyists had been openly encouraging farmers to plant the seeds in violation of government regulations.

Industry lobbyists and industry-funded scientists often refer to regulatory agencies across the globe which have approved the use of glyphosate in their attempts to invalidate calls for imposing a ban. But if we turn to Europe, long-time campaigner against glyphosate Dr Rosemary Mason says:

The only reason it has to date remained on the market in Europe is because of the companies behind the European Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG).

The GRG is a collection of companies seeking the renewal of the EU authorisation of glyphosate in 2022. Its current members are Albaugh Europe SARL, Barclay Chemicals Manufacturing Ltd., Bayer Agriculture bvba, Ciech Sarzyna S.A., Industrias Afrasa S.A., Nufarm GMBH & Co.KG, Sinon Corporation and Syngenta Crop Protection AG.

In the run up to the decision on whether to relicense glyphosate in 2022, Mason adds:

These member companies joined forces to prepare a dossier with scientific studies and information on the safety of glyphosate. This dossier was submitted to the evaluating member states and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as part of the EU regulatory procedure to continue the authorisation of glyphosate and glyphosate-containing products on the EU market.

It is telling that researcher Claire Robinson (see: Glyphosate: EU assessment report excludes most of the scientific literature from its analysis ( now notes that the preliminary EU report on glyphosate prepared by the Dutch, Hungarian, French and Swedish (the states tasked with evaluating glyphosate) regulators, failed to take into account the overwhelming majority of studies published in the scientific literature.

Robinson notes that of the 1,550 studies on the toxicity of glyphosate that the organisation Générations Futures found had been published in the literature over the last ten years, only 11 were deemed reliable by the evaluating states. Of the 1,614 ecotoxicity studies identified, once again only 11 were considered reliable. The rate is even lower for endocrine disruption effects: out of 4,024 published studies, only eight are considered reliable by the evaluating states.

Générations Futures notes that the studies presented by the manufacturers were treated with greater leniency and ended up forming the basis of their (the evaluating member states) assessment – in spite of there being “significant methodological flaws”.

Key studies indicating the toxicity of glyphosate from Asia or South America were not accounted for in the evaluation.

Robinson asks:

Are the studies provided by pesticide manufacturers in support of the glyphosate re-authorisation application subject to the same scrutiny?

She goes on to explain that this has not been the case. The system is designed to favour the manufacturers.

Rosemary Mason has been compiling data and citing official and peer reviewed reports on glyphosate for more than a decade. In her dozens of reports (on the website), she has been documenting the devastating health and environmental impacts of glyphosate.

In an era defined by the notion of ‘protecting public health’ and ‘flattening the curve’ to reduce the strain on health services, it must be asked why the agrochemical companies are granted free rein to continue to roll out their health damaging products that – as Mason and many others show – are fuelling a decades-long spiralling public health crisis and result in burdening health services.

The post Key Body Demands Complete Ban on Glyphosate in India first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet? 

The UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team helped to push the public towards accepting the COVID narrative, restrictions and lockdowns. It is now working on ‘nudging’ people towards further possible restrictions or at least big changes in their behaviour in the name of ‘climate emergency’. From frequent news stories and advertisements to soap opera storylines and government announcements, the message about impending climate catastrophe is almost relentless.

Part of the messaging includes blaming the public’s consumption habits for a perceived ‘climate emergency’. At the same time, young people are being told that we only have a decade or so (depending on who is saying it) to ‘save the planet’.

Setting the agenda are powerful corporations that helped degrade much of the environment in the first place. But ordinary people, not the multi-billionaires pushing this agenda, will pay the price for this as living more frugally seems to be part of the programme (‘own nothing and be happy’). Could we at some future point see ‘climate emergency’ lockdowns, not to ‘save the NHS’ but to ‘save the planet’?

A tendency to focus on individual behaviour and not ‘the system’ exists.

But let us not forget this is a system that deliberately sought to eradicate a culture of self-reliance that prevailed among the working class in the 19th century (self-education, recycling products, a culture of thrift, etc) via advertising and a formal school education that ensured conformity and set in motion a lifetime of wage labour and dependency on the products manufactured by an environmentally destructive capitalism.

A system that has its roots in inflicting massive violence across the globe to exert control over land and resources elsewhere.

In his 2018 book The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequalities and its solutions, Jason Hickel describes the processes involved in Europe’s wealth accumulation over a 150-year period of colonialism that resulted in tens of millions of deaths.

By using other countries’ land, Britain effectively doubled the size of arable land in its control. This made it more practical to then reassign the rural population at home (by stripping people of their means of production) to industrial labour. This too was underpinned by massive violence (burning villages, destroying houses, razing crops).

Hickel argues that none of this was inevitable but was rooted in the fear of being left behind by other countries because of Europe’s relative lack of land resources to produce commodities.

This is worth bearing in mind as we currently witness a fundamental shift in our relationship to the state resulting from authoritarian COVID-related policies and the rapidly emerging corporate-led green agenda. We should never underestimate the ruthlessness involved in the quest for preserving wealth and power and the propensity for wrecking lives and nature to achieve this.

Commodification of nature

Current green agenda ‘solutions’ are based on a notion of ‘stakeholder’ capitalism or private-public partnerships whereby vested interests are accorded greater weight, with governments and public money merely facilitating the priorities of private capital.

A key component of this strategy involves the ‘financialisation of nature’ and the production of new ‘green’ markets to deal with capitalism’s crisis of over accumulation and weak consumer demand caused by decades of neoliberal policies and the declining purchasing power of working people. The banking sector is especially set to make a killing via ‘green profiling’ and ‘green bonds’.

According to Friends of the Earth (FoE), corporations and states will use the financialisation of nature discourse to weaken laws and regulations designed to protect the environment with the aim of facilitating the goals of extractive industries, while allowing mega-infrastructure projects in protected areas and other contested places.

Global corporations will be able to ‘offset’ (greenwash) their activities by, for example, protecting or planting a forest elsewhere (on indigenous people’s land) or perhaps even investing in (imposing) industrial agriculture which grows herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that are misleadingly portrayed as ‘climate friendly’.

FoE states:

Offsetting schemes allow companies to exceed legally defined limits of destruction at a particular location, or destroy protected habitat, on the promise of compensation elsewhere; and allow banks to finance such destruction on the same premise.

This agenda could result in the weakening of current environmental protection legislation or its eradication in some regions under the pretext of compensating for the effects elsewhere. How ecoservice ‘assets’ (for example, a forest that performs a service to the ecosystem by acting as a carbon sink) are to be evaluated in a monetary sense is very likely to be done on terms that are highly favourable to the corporations involved, meaning that environmental protection will play second fiddle to corporate and finance sector return-on-investment interests.

As FoE argues, business wants this system to be implemented on its terms, which means the bottom line will be more important than stringent rules that prohibit environmental destruction.

Saving capitalism

The envisaged commodification of nature will ensure massive profit-seeking opportunities through the opening up of new markets and the creation of fresh investment instruments.

Capitalism needs to keep expanding into or creating new markets to ensure the accumulation of capital to offset the tendency for the general rate of profit to fall (according to writer Ted Reese, it has trended downwards from an estimated 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s). The system suffers from a rising overaccumulation (surplus) of capital.

Reese notes that, although wages and corporate taxes have been slashed, the exploitability of labour continued to become increasingly insufficient to meet the demands of capital accumulation. By late 2019, the world economy was suffocating under a mountain of debt. Many companies could not generate enough profit and falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cashflows and highly leveraged balance sheets were prevalent. In effect, economic growth was already grinding to a halt prior to the massive stock market crash in February 2020.

In the form of COVID ‘relief’, there has been a multi-trillion bailout for capitalism as well as the driving of smaller enterprises to bankruptcy. Or they have being swallowed up by global interests. Either way, the likes of Amazon and other predatory global corporations have been the winners.

New ‘green’ Ponzi trading schemes to offset carbon emissions and commodify ‘ecoservices’ along with electric vehicles and an ‘energy transition’ represent a further restructuring of the capitalist economy, resulting in a shift away from a consumer oriented demand-led system.

It essentially leaves those responsible for environmental degradation at the wheel, imposing their will and their narrative on the rest of us.

Global agribusiness

Between 2000 and 2009, Indonesia supplied more than half of the global palm oil market at an annual expense of some 340,000 hectares of Indonesian countryside. Consider too that Brazil and Indonesia have spent over 100 times more in subsidies to industries that cause deforestation than they received in international conservation aid from the UN to prevent it.

These two countries gave over $40bn in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuels sectors between 2009 and 2012, some 126 times more than the $346m they received to preserve their rain forests.

India is the world’s leading importer of palm oil, accounting for around 15% of the global supply. It imports over two-­thirds of its palm oil from Indonesia.

Until the mid-1990s, India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils. Under pressure from the World Trade Organization (WTO), import tariffs were reduced, leading to an influx of cheap (subsidised) edible oil imports that domestic farmers could not compete with. This was a deliberate policy that effectively devastated the home-grown edible oils sector and served the interests of palm oil growers and US grain and agriculture commodity company Cargill, which helped write international trade rules to secure access to the Indian market on its terms.

Indonesia leads the world in global palm oil production, but palm oil plantations have too often replaced tropical forests, leading to the killing of endangered species and the uprooting of local communities as well as contributing to the release of potential environment-damaging gases. Indonesia emits more of these gases than any country besides China and the US, largely due to the production of palm oil.

The issue of palm oil is one example from the many that could be provided to highlight how the drive to facilitate corporate need and profit trumps any notion of environmental protection or addressing any ‘climate emergency’. Whether it is in Indonesia, Latin America or elsewhere, transnational agribusiness – and the system of globalised industrial commodity crop agriculture it promotes – fuels much of the destruction we see today.

Even if the mass production of lab-created food, under the guise of ‘saving the planet’ and ‘sustainability’, becomes logistically possible (which despite all the hype is not at this stage), it may still need biomass and huge amounts of energy. Whose land will be used to grow these biomass commodities and which food crops will they replace? And will it involve that now-famous Gates’ euphemism ‘land mobility’ (farmers losing their land)?

Microsoft is already mapping Indian farmers’ lands and capturing agriculture datasets such as crop yields, weather data, 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).

Is this an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who find themselves ‘land mobile’? This is a major concern among farmers and civil society in India.

Back in 2017, agribusiness giant Monsanto was judged to have engaged in practices that impinged on the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health. Judges at the ‘Monsanto Tribunal’, held in The Hague, concluded that if ecocide were to be formally recognised as a crime in international criminal law, Monsanto could be found guilty.

The tribunal called for the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law. However, it was also careful to note that an existing set of legal rules serves to protect investors’ rights in the framework of the WTO and in bilateral investment treaties and in clauses in free trade agreements. These investor trade rights provisions undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human rights and the environment and represent a disturbing shift in power.

The tribunal denounced the severe disparity between the rights of multinational corporations and their obligations.

While the Monsanto Tribunal judged that company to be guilty of human rights violations, including crimes against the environment, in a sense we also witnessed global capitalism on trial.

Global conglomerates can only operate as they do because of a framework designed to allow them to capture or co-opt governments and regulatory bodies and to use the WTO and bilateral trade deals to lever influence. As Jason Hickel notes in his book (previously referred to), old-style colonialism may have gone but governments in the Global North and its corporations have found new ways to assert dominance via leveraging aid, market access and ‘philanthropic’ interventions to force lower income countries to do what they want.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ and its ongoing commitment to an unjust model of globalisation is an example of this and a recipe for further plunder and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few.

Brazil and Indonesia have subsidised private corporations to effectively destroy the environment through their practices. Canada and the UK are working with the GMO biotech sector to facilitate its needs. And India is facilitating the destruction of its agrarian base according to World Bank directives for the benefit of the likes of Corteva and Cargill.

The TRIPS Agreement, written by Monsanto, and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, written by Cargill, was key to a new era of corporate imperialism. It came as little surprise that in 2013 India’s then Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accused US companies of derailing the nation’s oil seeds production programme.

Powerful corporations continue to regard themselves as the owners of people, the planet and the environment and as having the right – enshrined in laws and agreements they wrote – to exploit and devastate for commercial gain.

Partnership or co-option?

It was noticeable during a debate on food and agriculture at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that there was much talk about transforming the food system through partnerships and agreements. Fine-sounding stuff, especially when the role of agroecology and regenerative farming was mentioned.

However, if, for instance, the interests you hope to form partnerships with are coercing countries to eradicate their essential buffer food stocks then bid for such food on the global market with US dollars (as in India) or are lobbying for the enclosure of seeds through patents (as in Africa and elsewhere), then surely this deliberate deepening of dependency should be challenged; otherwise ‘partnership’ really means co-option.

Similarly, the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) that took place during September in New York was little more than an enabler of corporate needs. The UNFSS was founded on a partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum and was disproportionately influenced by corporate actors.

Those granted a pivotal role at the UNFSS support industrial food systems that promote ultra-processed foods, deforestation, industrial livestock production, intensive pesticide use and commodity crop monocultures, all of which cause soil deterioration, water contamination and irreversible impacts on biodiversity and human health. And this will continue as long as the environmental effects can be ‘offset’ or these practices can be twisted on the basis of them somehow being ‘climate-friendly’.

Critics of the UNFSS offer genuine alternatives to the prevailing food system. In doing so, they also provide genuine solutions to climate-related issues and food injustice based on notions of food sovereignty, localisation and a system of food cultivation deriving from agroecological principles and practices. Something which people who organised the climate summit in Glasgow would do well to bear in mind.

Current greenwashed policies are being sold by tugging at the emotional heartstrings of the public. This green agenda, with its lexicon of ‘sustainability’, ‘carbon neutrality’, ‘net-zero’ and doom-laden forecasts, is part of a programme that seeks to restructure capitalism, to create new investment markets and instruments and to return the system to viable levels of profitability.

The post Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet?  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Address the Global Public Health Crisis: Ban Glyphosate Now! (Part 2)

Environmentalist and campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason recently wrote an open letter to the head of the Pesticides Unit at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Jose Tarazona.

(Since this article was written, Jose Tarazona has stepped down from his position and the letter has been forwarded to his successors, Manuela Tiramani and Benedicte Vagenede.)

Mason wrote to Tarazona  because the licence for glyphosate is up for renewal in the EU in 2022 and the Rapporteur Member States (France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden), tasked with risk assessing glyphosate and appointed by the European Commission in 2019, said in June 2021 that there was no problem with glyphosate-based herbicides, the world’s most widely used weedkillers in agriculture.

Mason informs Tarazona that the European Commission has colluded with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow Bayer to keep glyphosate on the market. A substance that is toxic to both human health and the environment.

To set out her case, Mason enclosed a 5,900-word report informing Tarazona of the malfeasance and corruption that have resulted in environmental devastation and a severe, ongoing public health crisis. Her report brings together key research and analyses into the toxicity of glyphosate and industry dominance over regulatory processes.

What appears below is the second part of an article based on Mason’s report. Part one can be read here. This second part questions why a proven toxic substance like glyphosate is still sanctioned for use in the EU.

Industry PR and reality

Although the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Committee for Risk Assessment agreed that glyphosate causes serious eye damage and is toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects, in December 2017 the then European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker still reauthorised glyphosate use in the EU for five more years.

The European Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG) has lobbied hard to ensure that the licence for glyphosate will again be renewed in 2022. The GRG is a collection of companies that have prepared a dossier with scientific studies and information on the supposed safety of glyphosate. This dossier was submitted to the evaluating member states and the EFSA as part of the EU regulatory procedure to evaluate whether glyphosate and glyphosate-containing products should be kept on the market in the EU.

Current members of the GRG are Albaugh Europe SARL, Barclay Chemicals Manufacturing Ltd., Bayer Agriculture bvba, Ciech Sarzyna S.A., Industrias Afrasa S.A., Nufarm GMBH & Co.KG, Sinon Corporation and Syngenta Crop Protection AG.

Cristina Alonso is the chair of the GRG and is also the head of Regulatory Affairs Crop Protection at Bayer AG. On the GRG website, Alonso writes:

As GRG Chairman, I am personally committed to ensuring the decisions made during the regulatory process are based on sound science and supported with transparent, honest and cooperative dialogue among all stakeholders, while also respecting different viewpoints.

Based on what is set out in this article, it could be concluded that Alonso’s notion of “sound science” has little to do with the regulatory process that she refers to.

Bayer CropScience was also part of the European Glyphosate Task Force (GTF) which lobbied for the reauthorisation of glyphosate in the EU back in 2017. Mason argues that the GTF conveniently overlooked many critical papers from South America in its submission as part of the EU glyphosate reapproval process. She fears that what we are currently seeing is a repeat of the previous process which led to the reauthorisation of glyphosate.

It raises the question, do sound science, honesty and transparency really govern how Bayer et al act in general and, more specifically, where the glyphosate regulatory process is concerned?

A pertinent question given the situation described by the Declaration of the 3rd National Congress of Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns of Argentina in late 2015:

In the last 25 years, the consumption of pesticides increased by 983%, while the cultivated area increased by 50%. A production system based on the systematic application of agricultural poisons means, inevitably, that nature responds by adapting, forcing farmers to apply greater quantities of pesticides in the field to achieve the same objectives. Over the years, a system has been created by and for sellers of pesticides, who every year increase their net sales (in 2015, the increase was 9%) while our patients, too, year after year are being exposed to this pesticide pollution more and more.

The doctors stated that the massive and growing exposure to pesticides has changed the disease profile of Argentine rural populations and that cancer is now the leading cause of death. They noted that exposure to glyphosate or agricultural poisons in general leads to increases in spontaneous abortions and birth defects as well as increased endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, neurological disorders or cognitive development problems and soaring of cancer rates to a tripling of incidence, prevalence and mortality.

The physicians warned about the toxic nature of modern agriculture which results from the immense influence of large multinational pesticide companies.

As explained in part one of this article, this public health crisis is not limited to South America. People elsewhere, not least in the US and UK, are experiencing the devastating health impacts because of the huge increase in glyphosate-based herbicides being sprayed on food crops in recent decades.

The agrochemical conglomerates are more concerned with increasing their sales regardless of the damage to the environment and public health. No number of sound-bites about sound science or transparency can disguise their genuine motives and the impacts of their actions.

Glyphosate is a multi-billion-dollar cash cow for these companies and protecting that revenue stream is their priority. In 2015, for example, Monsanto made nearly $4.76 billion in sales and $1.9 billion in gross profits from herbicide products, mostly Roundup.

Sound science?

A new scientific analysis confirms the dominance of industry in driving policy and its reliance on selective science and dubious studies when lobbying to keep glyphosate on the market.

‘Evaluation of the scientific quality of studies concerning genotoxic properties of glyphosate’, by Armen Nersesyan and Siegfried Knasmueller of the Institute of Cancer Research at the Medical University of Vienna, concludes that the claim of glyphosate not being genotoxic cannot be justified on the basis of manufacturers’ studies. (Genotoxic substances induce damage to the genetic material in cells through interactions with the DNA sequence and structure.)

Of the 53 industry-funded studies used for the EU’s current authorisation of glyphosate in 2017, the evaluation concluded that some 34 were identified as “not reliable”, with another 17 as “partly reliable” and only two studies as “reliable” from a methodological point of view.

In response to this new research, Angeliki Lyssimachou, environmental scientist at the Health and Environment Alliance, says:

This new scientific analysis shows yet again that the European Union’s claim to having the most rigorous pesticide authorisation procedure in the world has to be taken with a heavy grain of salt. The authorisation procedure in place is evidently not rigorous enough to detect errors in the execution of the regulatory studies that are blindly considered the gold standard. Yet these were at the heart of the 2017 EU market approval of glyphosate, and they have now been submitted again in an effort to water down scientific evidence that glyphosate may cause cancer and is a danger to human health.

Helmut Burtscher, biochemist at GLOBAL 2000, argues that if you subtract from the 53 genotoxicity studies those studies that are not reliable and those studies that are of minor importance for the assessment of genotoxicity in humans, then nothing remains. He asks on what basis are the EU authorities claiming that glyphosate is ‘not genotoxic’?

According to Peter Clausing, toxicologist at Pesticide Action Network Germany, in 2017, EU authorities violated their own rules to ensure an outcome that pleased the chemical industry.

A point reiterated by Nina Holland, researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, who argues that national regulators and EU authorities alike do not seem to pay close scrutiny when looking at the quality of industry’s own studies.

Holland states that regulators exist to protect people’s health and the environment, not serve the interests of the pesticide industry.

Eoin Dubsky, Campaigner at SumOfUs, goes a step further by saying that people are sick of glyphosate and of being lied to.

Dubsky asks:

How could EFSA give glyphosate a thumbs-up based on such shoddy scientific studies when IARC warned that it is genotoxic and probably cancer-causing too?

The IARC is the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Unsound studies aside, there is sound scientific research that should be driving the risk assessment but which seems to have been overlooked. A point not lost on Dr Mason.

She asks why key scientific studies have been side-lined, especially those from Latin America where  Monsanto has grown GMO Roundup Ready crops since 1996 (glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedicide).

She also asks why was a 2010 groundbreaking study showing that Roundup causes adverse impacts on embryonic development and produces birth defects side-lined? Why have scientific studies that show that glyphosate is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that causes infertility been overlooked? Why have papers that show that glyphosate causes cancer been missed? And why have the effects of exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides on the brain not been properly considered?

Some key studies documenting the adverse effects of glyphosate are listed at the end of this article.

Ban Glyphosate Now!

In April 2017 (before Bayer purchased Monsanto), Bart Elmore, assistant professor of environmental history at Ohio State University, wrote a telling piece for Dissent Magazine that pointed out some of the real costs of producing glyphosate. These included radioactive waste piles, groundwater pollution, mercury emissions and poisoned livestock.

Glyphosate is derived from elemental phosphorous extracted from phosphate rock buried below ground. Monsanto got its phosphate from mines in Southeast Idaho near Soda Springs, a small town. The company has been operating there since the 1950s.

Elmore visited the site and watched as trucks dumped molten red heaps of radioactive refuse over the edge of a mountain of waste. The dumping happened about every 15 minutes. Horses grazed in a field just a few dozen yards away and rows of barley waved in the distance.

When phosphate ore is refined into elemental phosphorous, Elmore explains, it leaves a radioactive by-product known as slag. Monsanto’s elemental phosphorous facility, situated just a few miles from its phosphate mines, produces prodigious quantities of slag that contains elevated concentrations of radioactive material.

In the 1980s, the EPA conducted a radiological survey of the community and warned that citizens might be at risk from elevated gamma ray exposure and thus cancer.

Of course, the cancerous effects of glyphosate are not restricted to the community of Soda Springs. Due to its prevalence in agriculture and its use by municipal authorities, glyphosate is in our food and in our bodies. Marius Stelzmann of the Coordination gegen BAYER-Gefahren (CBG), refers to the ongoing court cases in the US regarding glyphosate use and cancer.

Marius says:

… despite more than a year and a half of negotiations for a settlement in the glyphosate affair, the global player (Bayer) still cannot present a solution. It still has not reached agreements for compensation with all of the 125,000 US plaintiffs who accuse the herbicide of being responsible for their cancers. As a response to these actions, the CBG has launched the campaign ‘Carcinogen. Climate killer. Environmental toxin. Ban glyphosate now!

In a recent press release, the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) demanded an immediate ban on glyphosate. It also called for more investments in the promotion of alternatives to the use of glyphosate and other harmful pesticides and urges a clear governance in charge of a smooth transition with the involvement of trade unions.

The EFSA, ECHA and the European Commission should carry out their current assessment of glyphosate in a transparent and reliable way. Instead, it seems that, as in 2017, the agrochemical industry is still manipulating and driving the process.

The EFFAT says that alternatives to the use of glyphosate and other harmful chemicals already exist and must be further promoted, not least appropriate agronomic practices, mechanical and biological weed control, animal grazing and natural herbicides.

Readers can access Rosemary Mason’s new report, with all relevant references, here.  All of Dr Mason’s previous reports can be accessed here.

Selected key studies documenting serious adverse health impacts of glyphosate: 1

  1. Avila-Vazquez, M. et al (2017). Association between Cancer and Environmental Exposure to Glyphosate. International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8, 73-85; Carlos Javier Baier, C.J. et al. (2017). Behavioral impairments following repeated intranasal glyphosate-based herbicide administration in mice, Neurotoxicology and Teratology 64:63–72; Cattani, D. et al. (2014). Mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicity induced by glyphosate-based herbicide in immature rat hippocampus: Involvement of glutamate excitotoxicity, Toxicology 320:34–45; Nardi, J. et al. (2017). Prepubertal subchronic exposure to soy milk and glyphosate leads to endocrine disruption, Food and Chemical Toxicology 100:247262; Lesseur, C. et al (2022). Urinary glyphosate concentration in pregnant women in relation to length of gestation. Environmental Research 203, January 2022, 111811. Martínez, M. A. et al. (2018), Neurotransmitter changes in rat brain regions following glyphosate exposure, Environmental Research, 161:212–219. Mesnage, R. et al (2021), In-depth comparative toxicogenomics of glyphosate and Roundup herbicides: histopathology, transcriptome and epigenome signatures, and DNA damage, bioRxiv; Paganelli, A. et al (2010). Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signalling. Chem. Res. Toxicol., August 9.
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