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Forum Post: Monsanto March October 12th.. Global Day of Action

Posted 10 years ago on Oct. 10, 2013, 8:06 a.m. EST by HCHC4 (-28)
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[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Monsanto, Rural Debt and the Suicide Epidemic in India

Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00 By Belén Fernandez, Seven Stories Press | Book Excerpt


Belén Fernandez's Project Censored 2014 winning article, "Dirty White Gold: Monsanto's Claim That It's a 'Sustainable Agriculture Company' Doesn't Hold Water," exposes the myriad ways Monsanto destroys lives rather than "improves" them, as it boasts.

Since 1976, Project Censored has been identifying articles and topics ignored or inadequately covered by the mainstream corporate press. This October, it just released its latest edition of the top 25 stories that merit more public attention in Censored 2014. In fact, Truthout's Mike Ludwig was one of the winners for his article, "Millions Go Hungry as Congress Considers Food Stamp Cuts and Drought Threatens Crops."

Another journalist recognized by Project Censored is Belén Fernandez, whose book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work was selected as a Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week. In the spirit of Truthout's coverage, learn more about stories the corporate mainstream media doesn't cover. Get your copy of Censored 2014 with a contribution to Truthout by clicking here.

The following is Belén Fernandez's Censored 2014 winning article: Dirty White Gold: Monsanto's Claim That It's a "Sustainable Agriculture Company" Doesn't Hold Water

The website of US-based biotech giant Monsanto boasts that the corporation qualifies as "a sustainable agriculture company." Given Monsanto's legacy as a producer of the lethal defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, Southeast Asian agriculture would presumably beg to differ with this characterization.

Sustainability is also not the first word that comes to mind when contemplating Monsanto's policy of sowing the earth with genetically modified seeds that destroy soil and are designed with nonrenewable traits so as to require constant repurchase as well as acquisition of a variety of other company products like fertilizers and pesticides.

Nor would the term appear to define a situation in which nearly 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995 after being driven into insurmountable debt by neoliberal economics and the conquest of Indian farmland by Monsanto's Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton.

In tragic irony, many kill themselves by imbibing pesticides intended for their crops.

As for Monsanto's shameless claim that one of its primary objectives is "to improve lives," we might similarly conclude that butchers aim to improve the lives of cows and pigs and that two plus two is 86.

Suicide Economy

Writing in 2009, physicist and author Vandana Shiva outlined Monsanto's contributions to a "suicide economy" in India, such as an increase in the price per kilogram of cotton seeds from 7 to 17,000 rupees. Shiva lists additional complications:

"Indigenous cotton varieties can be intercropped with food crops. Bt-cotton can only be grown as a monoculture. Indigenous cotton is rain fed. Bt-cotton needs irrigation. Indigenous varieties are pest resistant. Bt-cotton, even though promoted as resistant to the bollworm, has created new pests, and to control these new pests, farmers are using 13 times more pesticides then they were using prior to introduction of Bt-cotton. And finally, Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1500/kg/year when farmers harvest 300-400 kg/year on an average."

There are a couple of reasons why mass farmer suicides have not generated the international attention that should ostensibly accompany such a phenomenon. For one thing, the image of desperate peasants killing themselves by the hundreds of thousands does not mesh particularly well with the portrait of India fabricated by free market pundits, who hallucinate rampant upward economic mobility among the country's citizens thanks to globalization. According to filmmaker Leah Borromeo, director of the forthcoming Dirty White Gold about cotton and fashion, the dearth of international concern over the issue is also a result of the fact that "people haven't made the connection between our consumer habits and the lives and deaths of farmers."

The objective of the film, which shines a light on the entire cotton supply chain, is to help force legislation that will "make ethics and sustainability the norm in the fashion industry." As Borromeo wrote in a recent article for the New Statesman:

"I'm exploring science and the idea of open-sourcing technology to take power away from corporations and anyone who makes a killing out of suicides."

Borromeo's definition of ethics and sustainability - which includes providing living wages to farmers and factory workers and preventing the destruction of ecosystems - is far more persuasive than Monsanto's definition of sustainable agriculture.

Engineering Humanity

The very practice of tinkering with the genetic makeup of seeds in ways detrimental to consumers and the environment alike underscores the total estrangement of Monsanto and similar outfits from life itself.

How, then, does one go about injecting humanity into a system that systematically expunges it?

As Borromeo has explained, one of her primary tasks in Dirty White Gold is to combat the dehumanization of "the Other" - an age-old tradition that has in contemporary times handily justified civilian slaughter in Arab/Muslim lands and helped ensure that thousands upon thousands of dead Indian farmers remain nothing more than an emotionally neutral statistic.

The humanization campaign consists not only of conveying the personal stories of Indian farming families but also pinpointing the direct link between those of us who buy certain clothes and those of us who perish in the clothes-making process.

By linking individual narratives to relevant narratives of activism, meanwhile, Borromeo demands more than a bout of feel-good sympathy from viewers. As she remarked in an interview with Urban Times:

"I wanted to take an approach that wasn't, to borrow a phrase from [filmmaker] Adam Curtis, 'oh-dearism,' which is when people watch a documentary, see all the misery and say, 'Oh dear, isn't that awful?' and then do nothing. I wanted this film to be the antithesis of oh-dearism - for them to think, 'Isn't this awful. . . but here's what I can do about it, this is how we can change it'."

Borromeo's film constitutes a thoughtful and self-critical exploration of options for revising operating structures in the cotton and fashion industries via the elimination of corporate middlemen and promotion of direct trade. A vital antidote, no doubt, to the cheery optimism exuded by Monsanto as it poisons the earth and mankind.

In the spirit of Truthout's coverage, learn more about stories the corporate mainstream media doesn't cover. Get your copy of Censored 2014 with a contribution to Truthout by clicking here.

Copyright of Al Jazeera. Not to be reprinted without the permission of the publisher and author.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

The Mainstream Corporate Media and the US Government Shill for Toxic Monsanto

Thursday, 17 October 2013 00:00 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview


Recently Truthout reposted an article by Belén Fernández that reported on "Monsanto, Rural Debt and the Suicide Epidemic in India" to focus on just one of the stories featured in Censored 2014. Truthout followed up with an interview with Fernández on Monsanto, the corporate mainstream media under-reporting stories such as the suicide epidemic in India and buffoonish commentary on GMOs by the likes of Thomas Friedman.

MARK KARLIN: What is the role of Monsanto's patented GMO cotton seeds in the epidemic of small farmer suicides in India?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: Since 1995, nearly 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide after being driven into insurmountable debt courtesy of neoliberal economic policy in India, one component of which was the unleashing of Monsanto's Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton on the country's farmland. Although marketed as a sort of miracle crop certain to boost harvests and profits, Bt cotton has contributed to what respected physicist and author Vandana Shiva has termed a "suicide economy" - founded on an exponential increase in the price of cotton seeds and other unhelpful arrangements outlined by Shiva in 2009:

"Indigenous cotton varieties can be intercropped with food crops. Bt-cotton can only be grown as a monoculture. Indigenous cotton is rain fed. Bt-cotton needs irrigation… [F]armers are using 13 times more pesticides then they were using prior to introduction of Bt-cotton. And finally, Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1500/kg/year when farmers harvest 300-400 kg/year on an average."

Apparently seeing no other way out of debt-induced hell, many farmers take their own lives.

MARK KARLIN: In your Al Jazeera article, you mention the horrifying irony that many of the cotton farmers who commit suicide drink the toxic Monsanto pesticides that are paired with the Monsanto seeds. These types of pesticides, such as Roundup for corn in the US, have resulted in nature rebelling with new kinds of resistant weeds, haven't they?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: Indeed, although Monsanto's PR machine has naturally waged war on the distribution of such information. A surprisingly straightforward Reuters article from 2011 noted Monsanto's role in bringing about a situation in which an "estimated 11 million acres [of US farmland] are infested with 'super weeds,' some of which grow several inches in a day and defy even multiple dousings of the world's top-selling herbicide, Roundup."

Meanwhile, in a 2011 Mother Jones article on Monsanto's reality-denial campaign - facilitated by none other than the oxymoronic Environmental Protection Agency - Tom Philpott discussed the appearance in the US of "corn rootworms (a ravenous pest that attacks the roots of corn plants) that can happily devour corn plants that were genetically tweaked specifically to kill them."

Similarly, the introduction of Bt cotton to India has spawned new varieties of pests.

Of course, the creation of new problems also creates new opportunities for corporate profit - to the detriment of human health and the environment.

MARK KARLIN: Although other alternative outlets have discussed the farmer suicides in India in relation to Monsanto, I haven't seen any coverage in the mainstream corporate media - although it may be out there somewhere. Needless to say, hasn't the corporate media - in general - adopted the "conventional wisdom" that GMOs are representative of progress in feeding the world?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: The mainstream media has reported extremely sporadically on aspects of the disaster in India but obviously hasn't offered the sort of relentless coverage that such a phenomenon should merit. A 2006 New York Times article called "On India's Farms, a Plague of Suicide," for example, recounts the suicide of one particular farmer in central India and in doing so paints a picture of individual and collective tragedy.

However, in addition to containing inaccuracies such as that Bt cotton is "resistant to bollworm infestation, the cotton farmer's prime enemy," the article also refrains from explicitly assigning blame where it is due, instead relying on tame language about how modified seeds have "nudged many farmers toward taking on ever larger loans."

So why has the suicide epidemic been drastically underreported in the corporate media? Because the corporate media by definition functions as the mouthpiece of the elite, who have nothing to gain from associating neoliberalism with human and environmental catastrophe.

As I note in my article, "the image of desperate peasants killing themselves by the hundreds of thousands does not mesh particularly well with the portrait of India fabricated by free market pundits, who hallucinate rampant upward economic mobility among the country's citizens thanks to globalization."

Investigative journalist Christian Parenti, whose book Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence includes a section on Bt cotton and Indian farmer suicides, remarked in a recent email to me:

"Part of why the mainstream media is uncritical of GMO crops is because these crops are the property and products of extremely powerful and wealthy corporations which buy ads in the media, endow chairs at universities, and have huge lobbying operations in Washington. The leaders of agribusiness are also integrated with the leaders of other key institutions in the society; they sit on university boards and foundation boards, cycle in and out of government, and generally help influence opinion."

As for the idea that GMOs are, as you say, "representative of progress in feeding the world", this relies on the assumption that genetic modification indicates control over nature - something superweeds and other GMO byproducts have demonstrated is dangerously untrue.

It's also useful to consider Vandana Shiva's observation that "[o]ne billion people are without food because industrial monocultures robbed them of their livelihoods in agriculture and their food entitlements."

MARK KARLIN: How is Monsanto representative of neoliberal economic policies at their worst?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: For one thing, messing with genetics in a way that is detrimental to people and the environment indicates a total estrangement from life - the essence of neoliberal capitalism, which teaches us that things that are bad for us are actually good for us, such as neoliberalism itself.

In Argentina, for example, campesinos have been driven off their land to clear space for soya plantations, while soaring rates of birth malformations and cancer have accompanied the introduction of Monsanto's seeds to the country.

In sanctifying profit at the expense of humanity, meanwhile, Monsanto has benefited hugely from free-trade deals and from US government reluctance to impose regulations on the GMO industry or to require labeling of genetically modified products.

MARK KARLIN: One of the revelations from the WikiLeaks cables that have been revealed thus far is that the US State Department shills for Monsanto overseas. Is the US government then indirectly complicit in the suicides of the farmers in India?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: As Christian Parenti notes, "the State Department's multimillion-dollar, publicly funded international campaign to promote genetically modified crops involved bringing scientists to Europe, staging pro-GMO conferences and other forms of persistent lobbying and propagandizing on behalf of GMO-pushing US agribusiness firms like Monsanto."

As WikiLeaks revealed, US embassy personnel abroad have sometimes functioned as veritable representatives of the biotech industry.

The shameless lack of separation between corporation and state means that the US government is without a doubt complicit in the fallout from Monsanto's machinations in India.

MARK KARLIN: Do we, as consumers of cotton products, bear any responsibility for not focusing more on the human crisis created by Monsanto?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: To some extent, although the lack of focus is in part due to consumer alienation from the supply chain and the origins of the products we use, as well as to the fact that many consumers of cotton products are themselves struggling to survive in a system of neoliberal oppression and can't spare much empathy for the plight of others - even if this empathy might ease the struggle for all involved.

MARK KARLIN: There's that old cliché that "kill one person and it's murder; kill a million and it's a statistic." Are these dead farmers just a statistic as Monsanto continues to increase its control of the world's agricultural output?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: Not if filmmaker Leah Borromeo has anything to say about it.

In her forthcoming film, Dirty White Gold, which aims at forcing legislation that will "make ethics and sustainability the norm in the fashion industry," Borromeo endeavors to combat the dehumanization of "the Other" - a tradition that has, as I point out in my article, "helped ensure that thousands upon thousands of dead Indian farmers remain nothing more than an emotionally neutral statistic."

After all, recognition of a common humanity is a vital step if we are to achieve any victories against a system that thrives on the severance of inter-human ties.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

MARK KARLIN: Do you draw any hope from the European Community having recently halted any new GMO seeds from being introduced in Europe, at least for the time being?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: Well, judging from Monsanto's pronouncements earlier this year justifying its decision not to seek approval of new GM seeds in Europe, the corporation doesn't consider the case closed.

The Wall Street Journal quoted the firm's German spokeswoman Ursula Luettmer-Ouazane as explaining that "[i]t's obvious that Europe needs more time, while other regions have embraced our concepts more readily." Indeed, we should all be thankful that there are plenty of other lands to poison while recalcitrant Europe struggles to adapt to modernity.

Anyway, it's not as though Monsanto hasn't already penetrated the European market. The [Wall Street Journal] notes that Europe accounts for "roughly 12% of Monsanto's global sales."

I do, however, find some reason for hope in Luettmer-Ouazane's statement: "As long as there's not enough demand from farmers for these products and the public at large doesn't accept the technology, it makes no sense to fight against windmills." In the very least, it's a testament to the potential power of a well-informed public, even if said public is written off by Monsanto as windmills.

MARK KARLIN: Shifting the focus a bit, Truthout picked your book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work as its progressive choice of the week awhile back. How does someone like Friedman symbolize the role of the corporate mass media in being boosters for corporate and military empire?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: The question about GMOs in Europe is incidentally an appropriate segue into this matter.

Dining at the Hotel Schweizerhof in Davos, Switzerland, in 2003, Friedman was peeved to find an asterisk on the menu denoting the potential presence of GMOs in meat imported from the US. He found the experience worthy of analysis in an op-ed: "Europeans, out of some romantic rebellion against America and high technology, were shunning U.S.-grown food containing G.M.O.'s - even though there is no scientific evidence that these are harmful."

He went on to reason that, since Europeans continued to smoke cigarettes while being hysterically opposed to GMOs, this meant that arguments against the Iraq war by the leaders of Germany and France were "deeply unserious" and that these countries were merely "trying to be whatever the Americans are not." According to Friedman, such behavior is "stupid."

So this is a pretty transparent example of Friedmanian corporate-military boosting. (Another, of course, is when he announced to Charlie Rose that the nation of Iraq should "suck. On. This.") Despite constant travels to India over the years, Friedman has somehow managed not to utter a peep about the suicide epidemic and prefers to swoon over the instructions he received at a golf course in Bangalore: "Aim at either Microsoft or IBM."

Indeed, anything having to do with the free market or American corporate influence abroad generally sends Friedman into fits of ecstasy, and he casts India as a democratic oasis of interreligious harmony despite the small matter of massacres of Muslims and other such events.

To add to all of this, the former CEO of Monsanto used to star in Friedman's writings as a humble, principled and environmentally conscious businessman.

MARK KARLIN: Do you think alternative reporting such as yours is breaking through the biased prism of the mainstream media?

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ: I think alternative reporting definitely helps publicize certain issues, especially among certain sectors sometimes puts issues on the radar for the general public. But it's still often difficult to challenge the authority that the mainstream media commands. One can only hope that the media scene will continue to evolve as the process of reconciling reality with mainstream reporting becomes more and more impossible.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Monsanto reply to this latest action:

"The St. Louis based company said in a statement, “The 21,000 people at Monsanto are proud of our efforts to help improve farm productivity and food quality. Among the challenges facing agriculture are producing food for our growing population and reducing agriculture’s footprint on the environment. We believe we are making a contribution to improving agriculture by helping farmers produce more from their land while conserving natural resources such as water and energy.”

Ha! Gotta love em.

[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

No mention that all of their propaganda has been proven to be a lie.

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

We finished our march about three hours ago, and for a city of fifty thousand, to have a hundred turn up, and to march right through the main street, handing out brochures on the way, and to have people approaching us for information, was a great outcome.

Excellent result.

[-] 2 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Wonderful, the Police 5k Bike-a-thon is meeting and ending at the same spot. This outta be interesting. Talk to ya later this evening.

[-] 1 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Very empowering, isn't it? Nothing beats that feeling of marching down...

Whose Streets? Our Streets!

Awesome job Builder, and thank you helping in the organizing aspect of it. Thats the hardest part, getting people to help.


[-] 0 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

Thanks. I had to ride on an electric scooter, and a young lad with the mobile PA system in tow walked up front with me. Co-organiser Barbie spoke a running commentary for the whole walk, rather than a dirge chant, and we all chimed in with support on key points.

Had an excellent informative guest speaker share her story with us all, and it was heartening how many people tagged along as we went. Kids on skateboards followed us back, asking questions. Was good.

[-] 1 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Awesome day over here as well! Not as many as in May, but a ton regardless. Cops left us alone for the most part. I always enjoy the meetings afterwards to see what went right, and what was a bad move, organizing wise.

Overall, another great global day of action


[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (23789) 10 years ago

Solidarity against Monsanto!

Some nice photos on this link:


And, http://occupy-monsanto.com/tag/march-against-monsanto/

Occupy Monsanto! Never give up the fight!

[-] -1 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

Photos are starting to roll in from the US of A. Las Vegas looks huge.

I wonder if any of the faux news services will cover it this time.

Our local rag refused to even run an advertisement for us.

Going to bombard their editor with questions why.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (23789) 10 years ago

I've had the news on for a few hours here and not one word of the March Against Monsanto. I still can't get RT in either!

[-] 0 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

That's such a shame bw. Have you tried a proxy server?


There's heaps of videos and updates there. Thanks for the heads up. I'll post that in a few other places.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (23789) 10 years ago

No, I'm not that computer savvy, but maybe I can figure it out. It's really annoying. I went to Canada a few weeks ago and RT came in just fine on the same laptop. That says a lot, I think, and I'm still reeling over it. Free, we're not.

[-] -1 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

Do you have an industry ombudsman you can complain to about that? Or your ISP has a complaints line? I'd be bloody furious if it was happening to me.

Though I do have trouble with some sites just shutting down my connection, it only takes about twenty seconds to kick it back up again. Still trying to find out what's going on with that.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (23789) 10 years ago

I have emailed RT but got no reply. Not sure who I'd write to, but it's an idea. I have a feeling about this, and it's not good, if you know what I mean.

[-] 0 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

Yes, I know what' you mean.

A close friend who did the speaking for our march tried to call me, and got someone else. I called her cell, and got someone else.

Our phones have obviously been hacked, I'd say.

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (23789) 10 years ago

It's crazy and they've got people convinced it's for our "safety."

[-] -1 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Yes, the people are incapable of handling their business. We neeeeeed them to protect us. We neeeeeed them to do things like appoint Monsanto Executives to head up the FDA!! Holy fuckin shit are we fucked!!

[-] -1 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

If there's someone listening to my calls, they'd be bored to death. I might make three calls a week, if that many.

[-] -1 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Gotta keep tabs on those busy little beeeeees.

[-] -1 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Ha that what I was saying during the RNC. Hope they got a lot of coffee :)

[-] -1 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

When I started posting regularly to this forum, both of my email accounts were getting hacked. Apart from the odd invoice, most of my emails are from ebay, gumtree, or paypal.

[-] -2 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

All part of the cause :)

[-] 0 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Prob about 400-500 marched in Tampa. We took the streets for a little bit, until about 12 cop cars charged in and pushed everyone back to the sidewalks.

Of course, 12 cop cars blocked all the traffic anyways. The irony.

[-] 0 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

Can't be seen to lose control though.

We had permission to assemble, but we marched about two miles through the lagoon precinct, which was packed with families, and then back through the main street cafe precinct, which was packed with diners.

Saw one cop, and he just smiled as we went past him.

[-] 1 points by doitagain (234) from Brooklyn, NY 10 years ago

For those who have no Facebook, Tell us please, where is the action taking place in October 12th NYC???


[-] 0 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

Very cool video here about GMO non-foods


[-] 1 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

OMG that is wild. Honestly anything with MJ in it gets an A from me haha.

[-] 0 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago


Solidarity from city to city, state to state, country to country.

[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

Solidarity @ Global MAM - 'March Against MONSATAN' & for some further important information :

ipsa scientia potestas est ...

[-] 1 points by gladiator55 (14) 10 years ago

Lots o links tiger! U R Occupying me!