agri subsidies budget gm crop monsanto

Subsidies and GM Crops Back on Food Policy Menu
hawaii monocrop taro

The Struggle to Reclaim Paradise From Big Bio-Tech

Food has become expensive, so growing more has become an attractive investment and an opening for genetically modified (GM) crops -- which enjoy limited liability and zero land dues. These two 2013 excerpts are from (1) IRIN, Apr 9, on subsidies by J. Kindra and (2) WNV, Apr 10, on Monsanto by I. Altemus-Williams.

by Jaspreet Kindra and by Imani Altemus-Williams

Countries like Malawi, caught in a trap of cyclical droughts, have provided subsidized fertilizer to boost food production but have come under attack for promoting unsustainable support to their farmers.

Subsidies can “sometimes distort both the market and production in ways that impact global hunger and poverty rates". If rich countries are providing subsidies, it does not mean poor countries should emulate their bad example.

The US Congress adopted a clause in its 2013 agriculture budget bill that effectively bars the department of agriculture from any attempt to halt planting or harvesting a GM crop, even if the call comes from the judiciary. The clause was nicknamed the “Monsanto Protection Act”.

India imposed a 10-year moratorium on field trials of GM crops in 2012. In Africa some countries have banned GM maize as food aid.

GM crops purported to be weed- and insect-resistant are actually failing.

To read more

A spirited march was the last of a series of protests on the five Hawaiian islands that Monsanto and other biotech companies have turned into the world’s ground zero for chemical testing and food engineering. Similar to the environmental and land sovereignty protests in Canada and the continental United States, the movement is influenced by indigenous culture.

The island chain’s climate and abundant natural resources have lured five of the world’s largest biotech chemical corporations: Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and BASF.

Monsanto has a long history of making chemicals that bring about devastation. The company participated in the Manhattan Project to help produce the atomic bomb during World War II. It developed the herbicide “Agent Orange” used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War, which caused an estimated half-million birth deformities. Most recently, Monsanto has driven thousands of farmers in India to take their own lives, often by drinking chemical insecticide, after the high cost of the company’s seeds forced them into unpayable debt.

Human studies have not been conducted on GMO foods, but animal experiments show that genetically modified foods lead to pre-cancerous cell growth, infertility, and severe damage to the kidneys, liver and large intestines. Additionally, the health risks of chemical herbicides sprayed onto GMO crops cause hormone disruption, cancer, neurological disorders and birth defects. In Hawaii, some open-field testing sites are near homes and schools. Prematurity, adult on-set diabetes, and cancer rates have significantly increased in Hawaii in the last ten years.

Monsanto’s agricultural procedures also enable the practice of monocropping, which contributes to environmental degradation, especially on an island like Hawaii. Monocropping is an agricultural practice where one crop is repeatedly planted in the same spot, a system that strips the soil of its nutrients and drives farmers to use a herbicide called Roundup, which is linked to infertility. Farmers are also forced to use pesticides and fertilizers that cause climate change and reef damage, and that decrease the biodiversity of Hawaii.

At anti-GMO protests people speak of Hawaiian sovereignty and independence. The strategy is connecting with the land; people planted taro before the march, and also at the state capitol rally, where hundreds participated in the traditional process of pounding taro to make poi, a Polynesian staple food.

Ancient Hawaii operated within the Ahupua’a system, a communal model of distributing land and work, which allowed the islands to be entirely self-sufficient.

Private land ownership was unknown, and public, common use of the ahupua’a resources demanded that boundaries be drawn to include sufficient land for residence and cultivation, freshwater sources, shoreline and open ocean access.

The presence of Monsanto and the other chemical corporations is eerily reminiscent of the business interests that led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Throughout the 19th century, the Hawaiian Kingdom was recognized as an independent nation. That reality changed in 1893, when a group of American businessmen and sugar planters orchestrated a U.S. Marine’s armed coup d’etat of the Hawaiian Kingdom government.

Five years later, the U.S. apprehended the islands for strategic military use during the Spanish-American War despite local resistance. Even then-President Grover Cleveland called the overthrow a “substantial wrong” and vowed to restore the Hawaiian kingdom. But the economic interests overpowered the political will, and Hawaii remained a U.S. colony for the following 60 years.

The current presence of the five-biotech chemical corporations in Hawaii mirrors the political and economic colonialism of sugarcane-manufacturing companies in the early 20th century -- particularly because Monsanto has become the largest employer on Molokai. The earlier Big Five: Alexander & Baldwin, Amfac (American Factors), Castle & Cooke, C. Brewer, and Theo H. Davies. Most of the founders of these companies were missionaries who were actively involved in lobbying for the annexation of the Hawaiian islands in 1898. After the takeover, the Big Five manipulated great political power and influence in what was then considered the “Territory of Hawaii,” gaining unparalleled control of banking, shipping and importing on the island chain. The companies only sponsored white republicans in government, creating an oligarchy that threatened the labor force if it voted against their interests. The companies’ environmental practices, meanwhile, caused air and water pollution and altered the biodiversity of the land.

At the opening of this year’s legislative session on January 16, hundreds of farmers, students and residents marched to the state capitol for a rally. Now there are about a dozen proposed bills pushing GMO regulation, labeling and a ban on all imported GMO produce.

To read more

JJS: Monsanto enjoys limited liability from government, costing them only the payment of a small filing fee. And they enjoy not having to pay society Land Dues or an Ecology Security Deposit or Restoration Insurance or Emission Fees for airborne chemical drift or Fines when violating even low standards. But politics follows economics. Redirect land values -- a big stream of spending conveying much power -- away from the Monsantos, to the community, and government will shift from protecting Monsanto to protecting the public.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Hunger Haunts Many in Africa While

In Los Angeles, on Iowa farms, rents mean hardship

After Zimbabwe Took over Land, a Payoff?

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