Orin Langelle responds to Rolling Stone article, “Green Going Gone: The Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco”

Orin Langelle, Board Chair, Global Justice Ecology Project

I am impressed to see attention being given to the Chaco region by Christine MacDonald’s Rolling Stone article.  I also witnessed some of the tragedy of the Chaco and Paraguay itself.

In 2009 I traveled to the Chaco with Dr. Miguel Lovera, my friend and the chairperson of Global Forest Coalition and part of the Ayoreo support group, Iniciativa Amotocodie.

Dr. Lovera became National Secretary for Plant Safety for Paraguay during Fernado Lugo’s presidency. In her article, MacDonald writes that “Lugo was swept from office in 2012 [by] an impeachment carried out by the Paraguayan Congress.” My colleagues in Paraguay would disagree with the term “impeachment.” To them it was a coup that forced Lugo out of office in 2012.

Because of the coup, Dr. Lovera lost his job as National Secretary for Plant Safety for Paraguay.  While National Secretary, Lovera was in constant battle with the soy mafia and tried to stop the introduction of GMO cotton. Lovera had armed guards in his home due to his ongoing campaign to stop GMOs. No doubt Paraguay’s agribusiness leaders and their friends at Monsanto celebrated the fact that Lovera was removed from office.

 When I was in the Chaco in 2009 it was evident that things were bad and were going to get worse.  One of the tragic realities is the ongoing hostilities against the indigenous Ayoreo People of the Chaco. I was invited by the Ayoreo community to photograph Campo Lorro, where some of the first Ayoreo People captured were sent when Mennonite farmers established settlements on their land.

Below is one of photos I shot in Campo Lorro for the photo essay “Sharing the Eye.”


There are still uncontacted Ayoreo living in the Gran Chaco. They do not want contact with “civilization” and wish to remain in their forest home. Today, however, cattle ranches, expansion of genetically modified soybean plantations for biofuels, hydroelectric dams and mineral exploitation threaten the forests of the Chaco.

The Rolling Stone article by Christine MacDonald definitely documents the ongoing tragedy of the Chaco. A subtitle in her article, “Animal Cruelty is the Price We Pay for Cheap Meat,” highlights the policies of US-based agribusiness giants Cargill Inc., Bunge Ltd., and Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Besides reading the Rolling Stone article, you can also see more from Global Forest Coalition on the negative impact of unsustainable livestock production in South America, the continent with the highest deforestation rates on earth: Redirecting Government Support for Unsustainable Livestock Production key to Biodiversity Conservation, Claim New Report and Briefing Paper.

Read the Rolling Stone Article:  Green Going Gone: the Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco, by Christine MacDonald

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Land Grabs, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, South America, Uncategorized

GMO corn fails in Brazil; farmers blame Monsanto, Syngenta, etc.


corn-nightA long-time friend in Vermont, Chris Hendel, sent us this story from Reuters: BT corn seeds, hyped as being resistant to pests, have largely failed to do that in Brazil, and have led to bug resistant crops and greater farmer dependence on toxic chemicals.

This maps onto resistance identified in Iowa.

The Brazilian farmers, though, are going after the pesticide corporations.

According to Caroline Stauffer:

Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state.

The companies involved are Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.

At the same time that farmers are fighting GMO corn in Brazil, timber corporation Suzano and their subsidiary Futuragene are seeking permission for the first ever GMO trees in Brazil–genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

There is also an application pending here in the US to legalize highly toxic, flammable and water greedy GE eucalyptus trees for industrial plantations.

To support the effort to stop GE trees, sign our petition calling for a ban.

By Caroline Stauffer,  Jul 28, 2014.

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Genetically modified corn seeds are no longer protecting Brazilian farmers from voracious tropical bugs, increasing costs as producers turn to pesticides, a farm group said on Monday.

Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state.

“The caterpillars should die if they eat the corn, but since they didn’t die this year producers had to spend on average 120 reais ($54) per hectare … at a time that corn prices are terrible,” he said.

Large-scale farming in the bug-ridden tropics has always been a challenge, and now Brazil’s government is concerned that planting the same crops repeatedly with the same seed technologies has left the agricultural superpower vulnerable to pest outbreaks and dependent on toxic chemicals.

Experts in the United States have also warned about corn production prospects because of a growing bug resistance to genetically modified corn. Researchers in Iowa found significant damage from rootworms in corn fields last year.

Read more here.

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Three arrested blockading train tracks in Pacific Northwest, protesting oil-by-rail expansion

Three Seattle area resident blockade train tracks at the Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery. Photo credit: @SeattleActivist

Three Seattle area resident blockade train tracks at the Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery. Photo credit: @SeattleActivist

On Monday, July 28th, three locals locked themselves onto train tracks in Anacortes, Washington to protest oil-by-rail shipments.

The protesters blocked the tracks at an oil refinery owned by Tesoro, which is planning to expand.

They were particularly inspired to act after an train full of Bakken field crude oil headed to the Anacortes refinery derailed in Seattle last week, another in a series of such accidents that have been devastating throughout the US and Canada.

According to EcoWatch:

The protestors were demanding an immediate end to the shipment of Bakken oil through Northwest communities, all new oil-by-rail terminals proposed for the Northwest and Clean Air Act violations by oil refineries.

The protest lasted four hours and stopped one train. They were later arrested.

Two of the protesters are part of Rising Tide Seattle, including Ahmed Gaya. At a recent protest, Gaya described the current expansion of fossil fuels and coastal refineries in the Pacific Northwest: “Our region is under attack from thousands of tank cars carrying bombs rolling through our communities.”




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Filed under Actions / Protest, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Oil, Tar Sands

Isolated Amazon Tribe endures acts of violence by non indigenous attackers.


Source: FUNAI-Brazil National Indian Foundation -2008- Isolated indigenous people near Envira River in Brazil, near the border with Peru.

Source: FUNAI-Brazil National Indian Foundation -2008- Isolated indigenous people near Envira River in Brazil, near the border with Peru.

Source: Vincent Bevins, July 25, 2014. Los Angeles Times

The Brazil National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) recently announced that it had made contact with an isolated indigenous tribe in the Amazon region bordering Brazil and Peru. The tribe reportedly initiated the contact after disease and violent attacks by non-indigenous people at the head of the Envira River in Peru. FUNAI said that this was the first significant contact with an isolated tribe since 1996

FUNAI has a policy of avoiding unwanted contact and preserving the land rights of indigenous groups. The suggestion that violence and disease in these fragile communities recently forced them off of their land and into contact with authorities, is troubling, indigenous rights groups say.

It’s extremely rare for the tribes to move into other groups’ land unless there is serious trouble, said Fiona Watson, research director at Survival International, an indigenous rights organization.

“This is extremely worrying,” said Watson, who added that her group had found evidence of logging, coca cultivation and drug trafficking near the indigenous-occupied region on the Peruvian side of the border.

“The most immediate question is of the flu. People who have had no contact for so long have no immunity to things like the flu or the common cold, and we know from past experience that it wasn’t uncommon after forced contact for half of the tribe to die,” she said.

For more on this subject see Orin Langelle’s The Unconquered, in search of the Amazon’s last uncontacted tribes-A Review  from Climate Connections, October 24, 2011

Read More

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A question of local bans: Two accounts of the South Portland, Maine block on tar sands


Citizens in favor of the ban during the South Portland City Council meeting. Logan Werlinger/Portland Press Herald

Last week, there was quite a bit of coverage on the ordinance passed by the South Portland, Maine city council, blocking Canadian tar sands oil from its port.

The measure would prevent ExxonMobil from reversing the flow of its current pipeline, which now brings oil into Canada, so that it could bring Alberta tar-sands oil to the port for export on a global market.

The block is called the ‘Clear Skies’ ordinance, as a response to the local environmental damage that would be caused by processing the tar sands to be ready for export. As Katherine Bagley reports in Inside Climate News:

The council and allies fought the pipeline plan because of the risk of toxic spills and air pollution [...]. Dozens of heavy chemicals are added to bitumen extracted from tar sands to help the peanut butter-like substance flow through pipes. Before the mixture can be loaded onto tankers, these chemicals must be burned off, releasing toxins including benzene, a human carcinogen, into the air. The export hub in South Portland would be located just steps from an elementary school, a popular waterfront park and residential neighborhoods.

While many see this as a successful local response, others take up the broader context: In particular, Katherine Bagley quotes financial and oil industry insiders who point out that the oil corporations can simply find other ports.

But these insiders have a real vested interest in downplaying the effectiveness of local resistance. Bagley’s article also indirectly shows how resistance starts stacking up:

With access to the Gulf of Mexico and the West Coast limited because of delays with the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, the East Coast is largely seen as the remaining option to export Alberta’s oil sands via pipeline—and the Portland-Montreal line is the only existing route connecting Alberta to Maine.

While Bagley’s article includes important questions about efficacy, having so many industry insiders declaring the South Portland victory “hollow” might just be a sign of their own fears, which is good.

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Neonicotinoids making toxic for aquatic life Midwest US rivers and streams

sites in Iowa sampled for neonicotinoids in 2013A recent US Geological Survey, Insecticides Similar to Nicotine Widespread in Midwest, has found neonicotinoids (neonics) in rivers and streams throughout the Midwest, due to their use in corn and soybean production. The USGS says that this survey is the first of its kind in the US, and notes an increase in neonic use in the Midwest:

Effective in killing a broad range of insect pests, use of neonicotinoid insecticides has dramatically increased over the last decade across the United States, particularly in the Midwest.  The use of clothianidin, one of the chemicals studied, on corn in Iowa alone has almost doubled between 2011 and 2013.

Neonics do not break down quickly in the environment: “This means they are likely to be transported away in runoff from the fields where they were first applied to nearby surface water and groundwater bodies.”

The highest concentrations happen in the spring, when seeds are first treated with the neonics. The report argues that during this time especially the water may become toxic to aquatic life.

A recent report has shown the devastation caused by neonics to the lower rungs of the food chain, calling it the new DDT, and connected its use to the colony collapse of bees.

In 2013, The EU banned neonic use throughout the continent for three years, and there’s some rumblings in Washington about regulation. That said, Minnesota’s recent actions suggest ways that states can act.

The use of neonics is directly linked to corn and soybean industrial agriculture, which already strangles much of the Midwest; this is just more evidence for just how unsustainable and toxic this production has become.





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Spoken word on Palestine: “We teach life, sir.”

The following video was sent to us via a great friend and long-time volunteer for GJEP. Razeef Ziadah is also a friend of one of our board members.

Our friend and volunteer from VT said, “This poem made me think of your [GJEP's] work.”

RAFEEF ZIADAH is a Canadian-Palestinian spoken word artist and activist. Her debut CD Hadeel is dedicated to Palestinian youth, who still fly kites in the face of F16 bombers, who still remember the names if their villages in Palestine and still hear the sound of Hadeel (cooing of doves) over Gaza.


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by | July 26, 2014 · 3:20 PM

Mexican judge bans Monsanto GMO soybean crops

2013 Monsanto protests in Mexico. Photo: cipamericas

2013 Monsanto protests in Mexico. Photo: cipamericas

A federal judge in Mexico overturned a permit that allowed Monsanto to plant GMO soy when evidence proved that the frankenplants endangered native honeybee colonies.

Victory is sweet!

In his article, “Monsanto in Mexico: Court rules against the Gene Giant in Yucatan,” Devon G. Pena explains the situation:

According to reports appearing in the Mexican print media, a federal district court judge in Yucatán yesterdayoverturned a permit issued to Monsantothe U.S.-based multinational corporation that is a leading purveyor of genetically modified crops (GMOs). The permit, which had been issued by the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food on June 6, 2012, allowed the commercial planting of GM soy bean in YucatánThe ruling was based on consideration of scientific evidence demonstrating (to the judge’s satisfaction) that GMO soy crop plantings threaten Mexican honey production in the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán. (Read More)

Across the globe, governments backed by corporate cash call for scientific evidence that GMOs are harmful, but when that proof is placed before them, they dodge reality and keep on pushing their agendas. Mexico revoking Monsanto’s permit shows other governments that it is not too late to turn away from Big Ag and back to the people.


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by | July 25, 2014 · 3:00 PM