*Kakistocracy is government by the very worst, least principled, and most incompetent people. You will be forgiven for thinking that the word, kakistocracy, perhaps derives from the word, “caca”, itself derived from the Latin, “cacare”. In fact, kakistocracy derives from the Greek, kakos, meaning “bad”.)
(NaturalNews) I recently received great news from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) that after a long fourteen year battle between OCA, public interest and family farmer groups against Monsanto’s Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), Monsanto has announced on August 6th that they will sell off their controversial rBGH. This is very good news since rBGH has been fed to cattle since the early 1990’s and has been implicated in a wide array of health issues, some very serious ones for both the animals themselves and anyone who consumes anything from the animals who are fed rBGH.
rBGH is said to be responsible for a number of health issues ranging from premature puberty in children to colon, prostate and breast cancer to increased antibiotic residues and elevated levels of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-1.
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rBGH is a genetically engineered variant of the natural growth hormone produced by cows. It is manufactured by Monsanto and sold to dairy farmers under the trade name Posilac. This hormone forces cows to increase milk production by about 10%, but it also increases the incidences of mastitis, lameness as well as reproductive issues.
– Exposed: the great GM crops myth
Companies accused of ‘profiteering’ as they attempt to patent crop genes
Giant biotech companies are privatising the world’s protection against climate change by filing hundreds of monopoly patents on genes that help crops resist it, a new investigation has concluded.
The study – by the authoritative Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), based in Ottawa, Canada – has found that nine firms have filed at least 532 patents around the world on about 55 different genes offering protection against heat, drought and floods. If granted, the companies would be given control of crucial natural raw material needed to maintain food supplies in an increasingly hungry world.
Last week, as world leaders met in Rome to discuss the food crisis, GM companies promoted their technologies as the answer to hunger. On Thursday, Monsanto – the biggest and most controversial firm – announced a “commitment” to increase food production, partly by developing crops that need less water.
“Together we must meet the needs for increased food, fibre and energy, while preserving the environment,” said the company’s head, Hugh Grant. “These commitments represent the beginning of a journey that we will expand on and deepen in the years ahead.”
The ETC Group calls this “an opportunistic public relations strategy”, adding: “Monsanto’s business is selling patented seeds for industrial agriculture – not addressing a humanitarian food crisis.”
The report of its investigation shows that Monsanto and BASF – which last year announced a $1.5bn “collaboration” to develop new GM crops, including “ones more tolerant to adverse environmental conditions such as drought” – have between them filed patents for 27 of the 55 genes. Others had been filed by companies such as Bayer, Syngenta and Dow.
The reports says some of the applications are sweeping. One would cover more than 30 crops from oats to oil palms, triticale to tea, and potatoes to perennial grass – “in other words, virtually all food crops”.
It says the “corporate grab on climate-tolerant genes” means that “a handful of transnational companies are now positioned to determine who gets access to key genetic traits and what price they must pay”.
Small farmers in developing countries will be particularly hard hit by such “climate-change profiteering”. Patenting will make the crops expensive and ensure that poor farmers have to buy them every year, by prohibiting them from saving seeds from one harvest to grow for the next.
According to the report, conventional, non-GM breeding techniques are making remarkable progress in developing crops that can tolerate heat, floods and drought. A new Asian rice, due to go on the market next year, can stand being submerged for two weeks without affecting yields, while a new African one flowers early in the morning, escaping the heat of the day.
But, it says, “the patent grab is sucking up money and resources that could be spent on affordable, farmer-based strategies for survival”.
It concludes: “These patented technologies will ultimately concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds”.
But Croplife, which represents the world’s plant-science industry, retorts; “Patenting is very important. That is how we protect intellectual property and ensure we continue to bring new innovations to the marketplace.” It denies that biotechnology companies are seeking to monopolise world food supplies.
May 29 (Bloomberg) — Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical maker, may not be the last to raise prices this year because of soaring raw materials costs.
Monsanto Co., Hershey Co., General Mills Inc. and Avery Dennison Corp. may follow suit, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. They’re among 11 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that increased their so-called LIFO reserve, which captures rising inventory costs, by at least 20 percent over the past four quarters.
With oil and commodity prices at record highs, companies will be forced to pass on higher costs, analysts said after Dow Chemical announced yesterday it will raise prices by the most in its 111-year history. That will contribute to inflation, and may prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates for the first time in four years.
“We are going to see a cascading of higher prices through the system,” said Steve Hoedt, who helps manage $34 billion, including Dow Chemical shares, at National City Corp. in Cleveland. “Companies that are able to push prices through to their customers are the ones that are going to be successful.”
Exposed: the great GM crops myth:
“Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.”
Heather Meek leafs through the seed catalogue she wrote on the family computer, on winter nights after the kids went to bed.
There are Kahnawake Mohawk beans and Painted Mountain corn; Tante Alice cucumber and 40 varieties of heritage tomatoes.
Selling seeds is more than just an extra source of income on this organic farm an hour northwest of Montreal.
For Meek and partner Frederic Sauriol, propagating local varieties is part of a David and Goliath struggle by small farmers against big seed companies.
At stake, they believe, is no less than control of the world’s food supply.
Since the dawn of civilization, farmers have saved seeds from the harvest and replanted them the following year.
But makers of genetically modified (GM) seeds — introduced in 1996 and now grown by some 70,000 Canadian farmers, according to Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company — have been putting a stop to that practice.
The 12 million farmers worldwide who will plant GM seeds this year sign contracts agreeing not to save or replant seeds. That means they must buy new seeds every year.
Critics charge such contracts confer almost unlimited power over farmers’ lives to multinational companies whose priority is profit. They say GM seeds are sowing a humanitarian and ecological disaster.
But Trish Jordan, a Canadian spokesman for Monsanto, explains that requiring farmers to sign “technology use agreements” allows companies to recoup the cost of developing products.
“Farmers choose these products because of benefits they provide,” Jordan says. “That’s why we’re successful as a company.”
The debate over GM seeds has come into sharp focus as the world faces a food-price crisis that threatens to push millions into starvation.
BONN, May 22 (IPS) – Seeds were once for ever. After harvest, a few from the crop would be planted for the following year, and so it went on.
Now, biochemical industry giants are making seeds themselves infertile. You sow them this year, and that’s it. For next year’s crop, you need brand new seeds — you would have to buy them, of course.
Twenty-five years ago, there were at least 7,000 seed growers worldwide, and none of them controlled more than one percent of the global market. Today, after a takeover spree, 10 major biochemical multinationals, including Monsanto, DuPont-Pioneer, Syngenta, Bayer Cropsciencie, BASF, and Dow Agrosciences, control more than 50 percent of the seeds market.
“The goal of these companies is, of course, to make profits,” Benedict Haerling, researcher at the German non-governmental organisation Future of Agriculture, told IPS. “In order to improve their profits, they all apply one strategy to increase their control of the market: they impose upon farmers worldwide the so-called vertical integration of inputs, from seeds to fertilisers to pesticides, all from one brand.” Compulsory customer loyalty, you might call it.
And through biochemical manipulation, including genetic modifications, many companies have made sure the harvest you obtain cannot be sown again.
Such “vertical integration of agricultural inputs” has transformed agriculture in developing countries into a two-class business, Angelika Hillbeck, researcher on bio-safety and agriculture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich told IPS.
“In the developing countries there is a class of farmers with large plantations and enough money who can afford to buy all inputs from the major biochemical companies, from seeds and fertilisers to pesticides and conservatives.” But there are small farmers for whom the biochemical markets are out of reach.
Hillbeck and Haerling are scientific counsellors to non-governmental organisations and associations of small farmers in developing countries who are attending the UN conference on biological diversity in Bonn.
The conference aims at reviewing international compliance with the targets adopted in 2002 to significantly reduce the rate of decimation of species at the global and national level by 2010. It is also set to formulate binding international rules on legal measures to stop the loss of biodiversity.
We need to overturn food policy, now!
For some time now the rising cost of food all over the world has taken households, governments and the media by storm. The price of wheat has gone up by 130% over the last year. Rice has doubled in price in Asia in the first three months of 2008 alone, and just last week it hit record highs on the Chicago futures market. For most of 2007 the spiralling cost of cooking oil, fruit and vegetables, as well as of dairy and meat, led to a fall in the consumption of these items. From Haiti to Cameroon to Bangladesh, people have been taking to the streets in anger at being unable to afford the food they need. In fear of political turmoil, world leaders have been calling for more food aid, as well as for more funds and technology to boost agricultural production. Cereal exporting countries, meanwhile, are closing their borders to protect their domestic markets, while other countries have been forced into panic buying. Is this a price blip? No. A food shortage? Not that either. We are in a structural meltdown, the direct result of three decades of neoliberal globalisation.
Farmers across the world produced a record 2.3 billion tons of grain in 2007, up 4% on the previous year. Since 1961 the world’s cereal output has tripled, while the population has doubled. Stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years, it’s true, but the bottom line is that there is enough food produced in the world to feed the population. The problem is that it doesn’t get to all of those who need it. Less than half of the world’s grain production is directly eaten by people. Most goes into animal feed and, increasingly, biofuels – massive inflexible industrial chains. In fact, once you look behind the cold curtain of statistics, you realise that something is fundamentally wrong with our food system. We have allowed food to be transformed from something that nourishes people and provides them with secure livelihoods into a commodity for speculation and bargaining. The perverse logic of this system has come to a head. Today it is staring us in the face that this system puts the profits of investors before the food needs of people.
For decades, wheat was king on the Great Plains and prices were low everywhere. Those days are over.
At Stephen Fleishman’s busy Bethesda shop, the era of the 95-cent bagel is coming to an end.
Breaking the dollar barrier “scares me,” said the Bronx-born owner of Bethesda Bagels. But with 100-pound bags of North Dakota flour now above $50 — more than double what they were a few months ago — he sees no alternative to a hefty increase in the price of his signature product, a bagel made by hand in the back of the store.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in 20 years,” he said. “It’s a nightmare.”
Fleishman and his customers are hardly alone. Across America, turmoil in the world wheat markets has sent prices of bread, pasta, noodles, pizza, pastry and bagels skittering upward, bringing protests from consumers.
But underlying this food inflation are changes that are transforming U.S. agriculture and making a return to the long era of cheap wheat products doubtful at best.
Half a continent away, in the North Dakota country that grows the high-quality wheats used in Fleishman’s bagels, many farmers are cutting back on growing wheat in favor of more profitable, less disease-prone corn and soybeans for ethanol refineries and Asian consumers.
“Wheat was king once,” said David Braaten, whose Norwegian immigrant grandparents built their Kindred, N.D., farm around wheat a century ago. “Now I just don’t want to grow it. It’s not a consistent crop.”
In the 1980s, more than half the farm’s acres were wheat. This year only one in 10 will be, and 40 percent will go to soybeans. Braaten and other farmers are considering investing in a $180 million plant to turn the beans into animal feed and cooking oil, both now in strong demand in China. And to stress his hopes for ethanol, his business card shows a sketch of a fuel pump.
Speculators blamed for driving up price of basic foods as 100 million face severe hunger
Giant agribusinesses are enjoying soaring earnings and profits out of the world food crisis which is driving millions of people towards starvation, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. And speculation is helping to drive the prices of basic foodstuffs out of the reach of the hungry.
The prices of wheat, corn and rice have soared over the past year driving the world’s poor – who already spend about 80 per cent of their income on food – into hunger and destitution.
The World Bank says that 100 million more people are facing severe hunger. Yet some of the world’s richest food companies are making record profits. Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn.
Cargill’s net earnings soared by 86 per cent from $553m to $1.030bn over the same three months. And Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world’s largest agricultural processors of soy, corn and wheat, increased its net earnings by 42 per cent in the first three months of this year from $363m to $517m. The operating profit of its grains merchandising and handling operations jumped 16-fold from $21m to $341m.
Similarly, the Mosaic Company, one of the world’s largest fertiliser companies, saw its income for the three months ending 29 February rise more than 12-fold, from $42.2m to $520.8m, on the back of a shortage of fertiliser. The prices of some kinds of fertiliser have more than tripled over the past year as demand has outstripped supply. As a result, plans to increase harvests in developing countries have been hit hard.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that 37 developing countries are in urgent need of food. And food riots are breaking out across the globe from Bangladesh to Burkina Faso, from China to Cameroon, and from Uzbekistan to the United Arab Emirates.
Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.
The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields.
Professor Barney Gordon, of the university’s department of agronomy, said he started the research – reported in the journal Better Crops – because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had “noticed that yields are not as high as expected even under optimal conditions”. He added: “People were asking the question ‘how come I don’t get as high a yield as I used to?'”
He grew a Monsanto GM soybean and an almost identical conventional variety in the same field. The modified crop produced only 70 bushels of grain per acre, compared with 77 bushels from the non-GM one.
The GM crop – engineered to resist Monsanto’s own weedkiller, Roundup – recovered only when he added extra manganese, leading to suggestions that the modification hindered the crop’s take-up of the essential element from the soil. Even with the addition it brought the GM soya’s yield to equal that of the conventional one, rather than surpassing it.
The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska, which found that another Monsanto GM soya produced 6 per cent less than its closest conventional relative, and 11 per cent less than the best non-GM soya available.
The Nebraska study suggested that two factors are at work. First, it takes time to modify a plant and, while this is being done, better conventional ones are being developed. This is acknowledged even by the fervently pro-GM US Department of Agriculture, which has admitted that the time lag could lead to a “decrease” in yields.
But the fact that GM crops did worse than their near-identical non-GM counterparts suggest that a second factor is also at work, and that the very process of modification depresses productivity. The new Kansas study both confirms this and suggests how it is happening.
A similar situation seems to have happened with GM cotton in the US, where the total US crop declined even as GM technology took over. (See graphic above.)
Monsanto said yesterday that it was surprised by the extent of the decline found by the Kansas study, but not by the fact that the yields had dropped. It said that the soya had not been engineered to increase yields, and that it was now developing one that would.
Critics doubt whether the company will achieve this, saying that it requires more complex modification. And Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington – and who was one of the first to predict the current food crisis – said that the physiology of plants was now reaching the limits of the productivity that could be achieved.
A former champion crop grower himself, he drew the comparison with human runners. Since Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile more than 50 years ago, the best time has improved only modestly . “Despite all the advances in training, no one contemplates a three-minute mile.”
Last week the biggest study of its kind ever conducted – the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development – concluded that GM was not the answer to world hunger.
Professor Bob Watson, the director of the study and chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when asked if GM could solve world hunger, said: “The simple answer is no.”
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Source: The Independent