Category Archives: Commodification of Life

Agent Orange Crops Poised for Commercial Use

Dow, Monsanto, Dupont.  Who ever thought it would be a good idea to put huge chemical companies in charge of our food supply?  Oh yeah, the US Department of Agriculture.  Time to end this industrial agriculture nightmare of poisoned air, water, land and food and get back to organics–better for the climate, for our health, for pollinators and for the planet.  For more on why industry now needs more toxic pesticides, see yesterday’s blog post: The Predicted Impacts of Monsanto’s Chemical Warfare.

‘Outrage’ Follows USDA’s Advancement Of New Genetically Engineered Crops

By Andrea Germanos | August 8, 2014 Source: Mintpressnews.com

‘We need to get off the pesticide treadmill,’ said George Naylor, farmer and Center for Food Safety Board Member

GMO corn in Yellow Springs, Ohio. (Photo/Lindsay Eyink via Wikimedia Commons)

Watchdog groups are denouncing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendation on Wednesday to approve new varieties of genetically engineered corn and soybeans as a path towards more toxic pesticides that threaten the environment and public health.

“We are outraged,” stated Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network, adding that the “USDA has turned its back on America’s farmers and rural communities.”

The new crops are Dow AgroScience’s 2,4-D- and glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans. They are made to be used with Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide, which contains 2,4-D and glyphosate and is also under review by the USDA.

The decision to advance the crops towards full deregulation flies in face of warnings by food and environmental groups, doctors, scientists, 50 members of Congress, as well as thousands of public comments to the USDA.

For the entire article, click here

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Filed under Biodiversity, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture, Pollution, Uncategorized, Vietnam War

Earth Minute: Anne Petermann on Green Products Re-Branding Genetic Engineering

Image from SynBioWatch

Image from SynBioWatch

Earth Minute is written and recorded by GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann in partnership with KPFK. 

Listen to Anne Petermann’s Earth Minute for this week:

Transcript

Synthetic biology, or “extreme” genetic engineering, is, without any warning, on its way to a supermarket or coop near you. Yeast and algae have been bioengineered to produce vanilla, stevia and saffron, palm and coconut oil substitutes.

“Green” Companies like Ecover are moving to incorporate this controversial new technology into everyday products even though truly natural alternatives–like coconut oil–are readily available and can be sustainably sourced.

So what is synthetic biology?  According to Friends of the Earth, “Synbio involves stripping organisms of their natural genes and replacing them with digitally created DNA codes to create new forms of life.”

Learning from the anti-GMO movement, however, food and biotechnology companies are attempting to replace the terms “synthetic biology” and “synbio” with words like “nature-identical” and “sustainable.”

But with companies like Monsanto, DuPont, BP, Chevron, Cargill and others in the mix–calling synthetic biology sustainable or natural is not only dangerous, it is just plain ridiculous.

For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann, from Global Justice Ecology Project.

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Filed under Commodification of Life, Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Genetic Engineering

Privatization of Communal Lands for Energy, Agriculture, and Strategic Geo-Political Control Driving Indigenous Peoples Resistance

A detailed article published this week in Truthout makes a clear case for the link between privatization and commodification of lands, U.S. military and geopolitical goals, and indigenous peoples resistance and struggles in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Privatization of lands for giant energy farms such as wind, and large agricultural developments including biomass, and genetically modified organisms including food products and trees are deep concerns of the Global Justice Ecology Project.

In Oaxaca, a caravan of activists arrives to support those resisting the construction of the wind farm, in the face of more than 500 policemen attempting to take control of the territory. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

In Oaxaca, a caravan of activists arrives to support those resisting the construction of a giant wind farm, in the face of more than 500 policemen attempting to take control of the territory. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

 “Communal Lands: Theater of Operations for the Counterinsurgency”

By Renata Bessi, Santiago Navarro F. and Translated by Miriam Taylor, Truthout  

In 2006, a team of geographers from the University of Kansas carried out a series of mapping projects of communal lands in southern Mexico’s Northern Sierra Mountains. Coordinated by Peter Herlihy and Geoffrey B. Demarest, a US lieutenant colonel, the objective was to achieve strategic military and geopolitical goals of particular interest for the United States. The objective was to incorporate indigenous territories into the transnational corporate model of private property, either by force or through agreements. Demarest’s essential argument is that peace cannot exist without private property.

According to researcher and anthropologist Gilberto López y Rivas, “The agents on the expeditions consider the types of communal property in these lands, both collective and autonomous, to be an obstacle for the development plans currently being very aggressively executed, where there is capital from mining companies, pharmaceuticals, energy companies, among others,” he told Truthout. This is despite the fact that these communal lands in Mexico, for example, were recognized after the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and are lands that indigenous communities have possessed since time immemorial.

As the ideologue of these expeditions, Demarest considers collective land ownership to be the birthplace of delinquency and insurgency, and thus believes that collective property must be destroyed. He graduated from the School of the Americas, which is under the administration of the US Army and was founded in 1946 in Panama, with the objective of training Latin American soldiers in war and counterinsurgency tactics. In recent years, graduates from the School of the Americas have participated in assassinations in Colombia, formed part of the drug trafficking organization The Zetas, in Mexico, and were involved in the coup in Honduras in 2009, as was demonstrated by activists through a School of the Americas Watch lawsuit against the Department of Defense in February 2013. “Demarest is one of the coordinators of these expeditions. He was trained in the School of the Americas, later served as military attaché for the United States Embassy in Guatemala in 1988 and 1991, where a counterinsurgency project was implemented that caused terrible massacres of indigenous populations,” says López.

Read the full Truthout article here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, Uncategorized

Nestlé Subsidiary Fights a town trying to protect its own water

Published in Natural Society News and Nation of Change August 6, 2014 by Christina Sarich a

Poland Spring Water, a Nestlé  subsidiary, continues its efforts to control the water supply of Freyburg, Maine (and probably your town), but residents are fighting back. When the water began to dry up in Freyburg a small town along the New Hampshire- Maine border, residents suspected that Poland Spring, was the culprit. The company had tapped into the communities pristine aquifer and was sucking the water dry. Residents first noticed that their streams were going dry, and ponds and lakes were shrinking.  Residents spoke out and Poland Spring launched a legal assault trying to shut down the conversation. An article in Natural Society News and republished by Nation of Change takes it from there:

It turns out, in its continued efforts to privatize water, the company was pumping the aquifer, and then selling the water back to town residents in bottles. The corporation sued the town, almost bankrupting several water advocacy activists, and worked with the city board members to ensure their ongoing access to the town’s water. Nestlé took the case all the way to the Supreme Court when Freyburg wouldn’t just lay down and take it. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the Chairman and CEO of Nestlé, has stated publicly that he doesn’t think that drinking water is a human right.  Furthermore, Nestlé also set up a Poland Spring shop for outreach, and established the Fryeburg Business Association staffed by a Nestlé employee.

More from the article:

What this corrupt company is trying to do is get people to accept this as the norm: water they have to pay a corporation for, even though it was abundant and free prior to Nestlé’s interference. Activists have taken up a new plan to try to defeat Nestlé, launching an education campaign to try to get residents to reclaim their water rides and pride of ownership in what was already theirs before a corporate monopoly moved to town. They are passing out re-usable water bottles to Fryeburg residents stamped with the message, “we don’t want your bottled water!” Activists have also set up a website, called StopNestleWaters.org, to help oust this greedy behemoth from their town. Freyburg has won suits brought against them five times (and appealed) by Nestlé. Nestlé’s lost all four (one is still pending), and in one instance, the company’s lawyers argued in front of the Maine Supreme Court that their right to grow market share superceded the town’s right of control.

Watch Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck discusses access to clean water and declare it is not a human right and that privatization of water is the solution.

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by | August 8, 2014 · 4:00 PM

Obama/Bloomburg Africa Business Summit Promotes False Solutions

Source- Photo by James Oatway/Panos/ActionAid "Julio Ngoene, a farmer in Mozambique

Source- Photo by James Oatway/Panos/ActionAid “Julio Ngoene, a farmer in Mozambique”

U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the US/Africa (Business) Summit earlier this week which included “Signature Events” such as “Civil Society Forum,” and Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate.

The Summit was co-hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Touted as the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Summit, focus areas included Finance and Capital, Infrastructure, Power and Energy, Agriculture, Consumer Goods, and Information Communication Technology.

Visit the Bloomberg webpage on the event here.

In an op-ed in Forbes Magazine on August 5 by Michael Bloomberg and Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, two of the keynote speakers at the Forum declared that “Africa is open for business.” The article said that the forum will catalyze $14 billion in business deals.

According to the article:

For decades, the U.S.-Africa economic relationship has too often taken a back seat to other pressing issues and priorities. Yet right now, our commercial partnership—between governments, among businesses, in markets on both sides of the Atlantic—is as important as ever. Strengthening and deepening that pillar of our alliance will prove a net gain for workers, entrepreneurs, and communities in the United States and across Africa. The continent’s economic potential is enormous. Africa is home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies. Its GDP is expected to rise six percent annually over the next decade. Real income has increased more than 30% over the last 10 years, and many African governments are making investments in infrastructure, education, and health care that are improving millions of lives. Yet investment by U.S. companies in Africa remains too low.

In a Bloomberg News article with the headline “GE Doubling Jobs in Africa as Ford Plans Eventual Surge,”  Jim Benintende, Ford’s head of operations in the Middle East and Africa who was interviewed during the forum, said:

Everything is pointing toward a surge in the African economy. We’re really focused on this region like never before.

It was also announced at the forum that there will be a doubling of private investment for the New Alliance for Good Security and Nutrition.

Responding to the forum’s announcement to double private sector funding for food security, ActionAid International Africa issued the following comments:

Response to Private-Sector Funding Announcement for African Agriculture

President Obama has missed the mark when it comes to agriculture in Africa. The ‘New Alliance’ is fundamentally flawed. Handing over the future of farming in Africa to big agribusinesses will only hurt people living with poverty and hunger. Poor farmers need investment from US and African governments to help their farms flourish. Companies should be part of Africa’s agricultural future but profit must not be prioritised over people’s rights.”

Western companies are already taking land that’s being used to produce food from African farmers, pushing them further into poverty. Under the New Alliance, this will only get worse. The US and African governments must invest in the farmers producing food for the continent, not big businesses growing crops for export. The New Alliance will put more money into the pockets of a few wealthy businessmen who are clearly not concerned with the food security of Africa’s most vulnerable people.

 

Obama’s Agricultural Vision for Africa Will Push Poor Farmers off Their Land and Further into Poverty

The administration’s current agricultural vision for Africa is misguided. It will only benefit the American agricultural industry with no real benefit to the poorest in Africa, who will be left without land to grow food.

Land is already being grabbed at an alarming rate in many African countries to meet the world’s demand for food and biofuels. Policies like the US biofuels targets are already increasing demand for land. Obama’s vision for Africa will only put more money into the pockets of a few wealthy businessmen. Programs like the ‘New Alliance’ are driving a system that robs the poor to pay the rich and will only result in more land being grabbed.

List of US Companies attending Summit

List of African Companies attending Summit

Climate Connections thinks that the commodification of African markets, land, and people is a false solution for climate change and human rights. We want to know what you think. Please comment!

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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Forests and Climate Change, Land Grabs, Pollution

USDA signals approval of Dow’s 2,4-D-resistant seeds

Our good old friends at the US Department of Agriculture show once more whose side they are really on.  Not to worry, though, 2,4-D only composed 50% of Agent Orange…

On August 6th, the USDA announced final plans to give Dow the greenlight to begin marketing its controversial 2,4-D-resistant seeds. After 30 days, the  USDA decision will become official. At the same time, the agency announced its preliminary decision to also approve Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant seeds.

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network, released the following statement:

We are outraged. Today USDA has turned its back on America’s farmers and rural communities. For over two years, farmers from Iowa to California have been urging USDA to reject Dow’s 2,4-D seeds. Because the seed is designed to be used with 2,4-D, a highly toxic and drift-prone herbicide, farmers risk losing their crops, their farm businesses and livelihoods, as well as their families’ health. The surge in 2,4-D use that even USDA acknowledges will accompany commercialization of Dow’s seed is also expected to intensify the spread of ‘superweeds’ resistant to the chemical.

Yet USDA’s final EIS on Dow’s 2,4-D-resistant crops states its unchanged intention to deregulate these crops, demonstrating the Agency’s stunning indifference to farmers’ concerns. More than half a  million farmers, scientists, health professionals and concerned individuals have voiced their concerns regarding the risks that accompany Dow’s pesticide-seed technology, but to no avail.

Despite this public outcry, today’s announcements show that USDA is much more interested in working with Dow and Monsanto and getting their products to market than in protecting the well-being of our farmers and rural communities.

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Commodification of Life, Industrial agriculture, Pollution, Uncategorized, Vietnam War

Unprecedented global land grab mania for development characterizes first decade of 21st Century

 

Photo by Jay Burney

Photo by Jay Burney

The Inter Press Service News Agency  published an analysis of the global land rush by Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, this week.

The first years of the twenty-first century will be remembered for a global land rush of nearly unprecedented scale.An estimated 500 million acres, an area eight times the size of Britain, was reported bought or leased across the developing world between 2000 and 2011, often at the expense of local food security and land rights.When the price of food spiked in 2008, pushing the number of hungry people in the world to over one billion, it spiked the interest of investors as well, and within a year foreign land deals in the developing world rose by a staggering 200 percent. Today, enthusiasm for agriculture borders on speculative mania. Driven by everything from rising food prices to growing demand for biofuel, the financial sector is taking an interest in farmland as never before.

Mittal points out that while the land rush is certainly global,  the U.S. has a rising interest inside investor groups as they expand their holdings based on speculation surrounding food security and biomass markets.

Although media coverage tends to focus on land grabs in low-income countries, the opposite side of the same coin is a new rush for U.S. farmland, manifesting itself in rising interest from investors and surging land prices, as giants like the pension fund TIAA-CREF commit billions to buy agricultural land.

One industry leader estimates that 10 billion dollars in institutional capital is looking for access to U.S. farmland, but that figure could easily rise as investors seek to ride out uncertain financial times by placing their money in the perceived safety of agriculture.

In the next 20 years, as the U.S. experiences an unprecedented crisis of retiring farmers, there will be ample opportunity for these actors to expand their holdings as an estimated 400 million acres changes generational hands. And yet, the domestic face of this still unfolding land rush remains largely unseen.

The Oakland Institute has released a new report, Down on the Farm, which is designed to increase awareness of issues enabling the new American land rush. The report also identifies motives and practices of some of the most powerful players involved including: UBS Agrivest, a subsidiary of the biggest bank in Switzerland; the Hancock Agricultural Investment Group (HAIG), a subsidiary of the biggest insurance company in Canada; and the Teacher Annuity Insurance Association College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), one of the largest pension funds in the world.

Only by studying the motives and practices of these actors today does it become possible to begin building policies and institutions that help ensure farmers, and not absentee investors, are the future of our food system.

Mittal concludes:

“Nothing is more crucial than beginning this discussion today. The issue may seem small for a variety of reasons – because institutional investors only own an apparently tiny one percent of all U.S. farmland, or because farmers are still the biggest buyers of farmland across the country. But to take either of these views is to become dangerously blind to the long-term trends threatening our agricultural heritage. Consider the fact that investors believe that there is roughly 1.8 trillion dollars’ worth of farmland across the United States. Of this, between 300 and 500 billion dollars is considered to be of “institutional quality,” a combination of factors relating to size, water access, soil quality, and location that determine the investment appeal of a property. This makes domestic farmland a huge and largely untapped asset class. Some of the biggest actors in the financial sector have already sought to exploit this opportunity by making equity investments in farmland. Frequently, these buyers enter the market with so much capital that their funds are practically limitless compared with the resources of most farmers.

Although they have made an impressive foothold, this is the beginning, not the end, of a land rush that could literally change who owns the country and our food and agricultural systems. Not only is there space in the market for institutional investors to expand, but there are also major financial incentives for them to do so.

How is this land rush affecting your community. Climate Connections wants to know. Please post your comments.

 

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Uncategorized

Censored News site retires, replaced by great new site named Indigenous Resistance

 

Source- Censored News, July 29, 2014

Source- Censored News, July 29, 2014

It appears that Brenda Norrel’s excellent Censored News blog is now over, but the work is carried on by Indigenous Resistance, a new blog which represents a collective of writers. Indigenous Resistance came to the internet in early July.  Norell continues her posts there. Climate Connections has long followed and been a big fan of Censored News.

The final post on Censored News, dated  July 29, 2014 “Thank-you the journey was never my own” is a beautifully written reflection of some of Brenda’s and the Censored New’s turning points.  She writes:

Today, between a hospital stay and fight for my life in May, and a journey to the Zapatista Stronghold in Chiapas in August, I’m especially thankful for this road I’ve been on, which was never really my own. I’ve never spoken in public about journalism over the past 32 years, because, for me, it was a matter of following my inner voice, and what some call the Spirit or Creator.

There were turning points along the way, and today, I will remember a few of those. The first turning point came when Louise Benally of Big Mountain on Black Mesa shared the truth with me about Peabody coal. “The corporations lie,” she said. At the time, I was a new reporter for Navajo Times and living in a log cabin in the Chuska mountains on Navajoland. During those years, my friends took me to the home of Chief Frank Fool’s Crow on Pine Ridge. While on Hopi land, Dan Evehema, more than 100 years old, told me, “Don’t ever apply for grants, or they will own you.” (And I didn’t.)

Orin Langelle, Chair of the Board of Global Justice Ecology Project, which publishes Climate Connections, shared the description of Brenda Norell which appears on the final Censored News blog post:

Brenda Norrell has been a reporter in Indian country for 32 years, beginning with Navajo Times during the 18 years that she lived on the Navajo Nation. She was a correspondent for AP and USA Today while living on Navajoland. Then, she served as a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today. In 2006, she was censored and terminated by ICT, under new ownership, and created Censored News as a result. Censored News was published for eight years as a labor of love with no advertising or grants. Censored News exposed what is being censored in Indian country and provided a publishing platform for grassroots voices. Censored News archives continue to be read around the world by thousands of readers each week in countries circling the earth. Today, the new Indigenous Resistance, a collective of writers, continues this work.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Chiapas, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Independent Media, Indigenous Peoples, Media, Political Repression, Uncategorized