May 27

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. Continue reading »

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May 01

Life running out of control – consequences of genetically modified plants and animals:


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Mar 30

The increasing costs of production and the falling farm prices that go hand in hand with globalisation and corporate hijack of seed supply, combined with the decline in farm credit is putting an unbearable debt burden on farmers. The lure of huge profits linked with clever advertising strategies evolved by the seeds and chemical industries are forcing farmers into a chemical treadmill and a debt trap. It has been witnessed that across the country, farmers are taking the desperate step of ending their life. The pesticides, which had created debt, also became the source of ending indebted lives. More than 150,000 farmers have committed suicide in India due to distortions introduced in agriculture as a result of trade liberalisation. More than 20,000 farmers have committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh alone.

seed1.jpg Continue reading »

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Mar 07

Monsanto doesn’t want consumers to know the truth about the milk they’re drinking. The corporation’s monopoly is at stake.

“There are some corporations that clearly are operating at a level that are disastrous for the general public … And in fact I suppose one could argue that in many respects a corporation of that sort is the prototypical psychopath, at the corporate level instead of the individual level.”

–Dr. Robert Hare, The Corporation

Since 1901, Monsanto has brought us Agent Orange, PCBs, Terminator seeds and recombined milk, among other infamous products. But it’s currently obsessed with the milk, or, more importantly, the milk labels, particularly those that read “rBST-free” or “rBGH-free.” It’s not the “BST” or “BGH” that bothers them so much; after all, bovine somatrophin, also known as bovine growth hormone, isn’t exactly what the company is known for. Which is to say, it’s naturally occurring. No, the problem is the “r” denoting “recombined.” There’s nothing natural about it. In fact, the science is increasingly pointing to the possibility that recombined milk is — surprise! — not as good for you as the real thing.

“Consumption of dairy products from cows treated with rbGH raise a number of health issues,” explained Michael Hansen, a senior scientist for Consumers Union. “That includes increased antibiotic resistance, due to use of antibiotics to treat mastitis and other health problems, as well as increased levels of IGF-1, which has been linked to a range of cancers.” Continue reading »

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