From the October 2004 Idaho Observer:
Gene-engineered seeds of destruction—
A new danger to basic human freedom
by F. William Engdahl
I would like to address the issue of genetically modified foods, or "GM crops," as it is often called in English. The right and ability of every country to produce food to feed its population is under attack.
Here the nature of the threat is deliberately obscured by concerted efforts of governments, international organizations such as the IMF, World Bank and WTO, as well as a handful of powerful agribusiness corporations.
Much has been written on the subject of GM plants and food. What is little-discussed is the geopolitical, or more precisely, the geo-economical strategic significance of the recent spread of GM crops from the United States, now to Asia, Africa, Latin America and the EU itself.
First, though, what GM foods are not: They are not a miracle variety of crops that will end world hunger or malnutrition. They are not a safe alternative to the use of chemical pesticides to make food safer for human diets. Nor has there been any serious, independent scientific long-term studies to determine the human safety of a diet based on GM plants and animals fed with GM soybeans, corn and other plants.
Dr. Arpad Pustzai, the world’s leading scientist doing research on GM effects on animals at Scotland’s Rowett Institute, found alarming evidence of danger to their organs, including the brain. He was fired in 1997 for saying so, on the direct intervention of Tony Blair and Monsanto.
Few scientists today dare to risk their career by speaking out. And too many take large university financial research grants from Monsanto and the other GM giants to produce "friendly" research. The arguments in favour of using GM foods are based on lies, fraud and political intimidation. Today the U.S. State Department AID program refuses emergency famine aid in Africa except in the form of GM crops.
GM plants as they are spread to every corner of our planet, are being spread with virtually no regulation of their health or other consequences. Most information about effects of GM foods comes from Monsanto and companies with an interest in promoting their use. The few independent studies that exist and testimony of farmers suggest GM crops need significantly more pesticide and typically produce lower yields, even harvest failure in cases of various cotton crops in India.
GMs are not "wonder food." So what is the issue of GM crops? Why did President Bush, in June 2003, just after the fall of Baghdad, make GM crops a strategic priority?
Today, fewer than half a dozen giant multinational companies control the world market in GM seeds—Monsanto, Cargill and DuPont of the USA, Syngenta of Switzerland and one or two other smaller players. Monsanto is by far the dominant player, selling some 91 percent of all GM seeds and most herbicide, with a total monopoly of GM seeds for certain crops like soybeans.
Since the Thatcher Revolution in England in the 1970s and the Reagan era, what is called "free market" economics has been raised to the level of religious dogma in the industrial world, starting with Britain and the U.S. With the spread of GM seeds, this "marketization" process has taken on a dangerous new dimension: Everything is being made into a commodity and priced according to its "market," even fresh water.
As a result of the genetic engineering revolution, for the first time in mankind’s history the entire planet is threatened with the commercial control of most of world food supply by a handful of private corporations—most of which are controlled by U.S. or UK financial groups.
The stakes here are so high that British Environment Secretary Michael Meacher was fired by Prime Minister Tony Blair in June, 2003, for refusing to endorse GM crops without long-term government studies of the possible effects on humans, animals and the environment.
What’s new and alarming about GM crops is the fact that a handful of private corporations, led by Monsanto, have used their influence in Washington, D.C. and in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to patent and claim monopoly rights on the basic food seed supply of humankind.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman is a former director of a Monsanto subsidiary. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s old company, G.D. Searle is part of Monsanto. Monsanto enjoys a status in Washington, D.C., that few corporations outside Halliburton enjoy.
Be very clear. This is not an issue of the private sector engaging in free competition. Governments, starting with the U.S., have enabled the creation of these staggering monopoly rights over human food production. This is a perverse anti-competitive policy being spread in the name of "free market," against governments or independent farmers trying to control their own food independence.
The U.S. Supreme Court, the same court which gave George Bush the presidency, ruled in December, 2001, that a private company, Pioneer Hi-Bred seeds of DuPont, had the right to patent plants based on a genetically modified alteration, and prohibit others from selling seeds of any related varieties without paying a royalty fee to DuPont. That was an ominous ruling.
Genetic engineering, or biotech, became a large growth industry in the U.S. after 1986. That year, vice-President George Bush, the father of today’s Bush, hosted a private White House meeting with the heads of Monsanto to discuss the "deregulation" of biotechnology, on the argument it would stimulate growth and create jobs. As president in 1991, the same Bush issued an executive ruling declaring that GM products need not have any special control for health or safety. Bush ruled that GM corn or other plants were "substantially equivalent" to normal soybeans or corn and, hence, should "not be hampered by unnecessary regulation."
This executive order meant GM products have no effective regulation today. The U.S. government refuses even to label foods having GM. This opened the floodgates to Monsanto, Cargill, Syngenta and the agribusiness multinationals.
Monsanto Canada vs.
This past May, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling which will greatly advance the corporate control of the world’s future food supply for the GM lobby. The court ruled in favour of Monsanto and against a Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser.
In 1997, Schmeiser, a life-long family farmer, discovered herbicide-resistant rapeseed growing wild in a ditch next to his field. The seeds came from a nearby Monsanto-planted GM field.
In 1998 Monsanto sued Schmeiser in a million dollar suit demanding he pay Monsanto royalties for the unwanted plants! He took the case to the Supreme Court. Finally on May 21, in a ruling applauded by Monsanto and the agro-industry, the Court ruled against Schmeiser claiming he infringed on Monsanto Patent monopoly, even though Monsanto admitted in court he had not planted its seeds or used its herbicide. The contamination was carried by wind.
The Court cited the WTO principle of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPs, as its grounds. The polluted not the polluter, must pay in this ruling.
Now Monsanto and other major GM agro-companies are hiring private Pinkerton detectives to spy on farmers. Monsanto offers a free leather jacket as reward for anyone informing on neighbor farms thought to be contaminated with Monsanto GM crops. Former Canadian Mounted Police are hired by Monsanto to threaten farmers unless they agree to buy seeds and herbicides from Monsanto.
Monsanto has a free "hotline" to report suspected cases of GM contamination. North American farmers are being forced to sign with Monsanto and others for their GM seeds. They are forbidden to use seeds for replanting. They must buy new seeds from Monsanto each year, also paying a technology license fee.
The significance of this Canada ruling, in wake of U.S. Supreme Court and government rulings, is enormous. Look closer at the WTO TRIPs.
Free trade in agriculture is today at the heart of the WTO. Under the treaty of the World Trade Organization, created by the GATT Uruguay trade round in the early 1990s, multinational corporations now have the right, enforced by WTO sanctions, to collect royalty payments for "intellectual property."
The Uruguay agreement, ratified by all GATT member countries under enormous U.S. pressure, allows a corporation for the first time, to patent a specific plant variety, even though that plant might have been in the public domain in say, Pakistan or Peru or Mexico for thousands of years. The WTO term is Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The U.S. pushed the controversial TRIPs agreement through GATT, accusing developing countries of "piracy" in not paying due royalties to multinationals, claiming U.S. companies were losing hundreds on millions in unpaid fees for their fertilizer and seeds. Mickey Kantor, the U.S. trade representative who negotiated those Uruguay round TRIPs, today sits on the board of Monsanto.
The TRIPs WTO agreement includes patent rights on GM plants. In 2002, the Swiss agri-tech company Syngenta announced successful sequencing of the rice genome and took patents on parts. Under TRIPs, Syngenta claims as its "intellectual property" what may potentially be most of the rice grown in Pakistan, India and Asia.
Using TRIPs, Syngenta tried to take control of the entire gene bank of Indira Gandhi Agricultural University with its 24,000 rice samples held in trust for Indian farmers. It was prevented in India only by mass protests.
Monsanto dominates patents on soybeans, corn, cotton and other major crops. Early this year Monsanto filed a patent in Munich, and won, giving it exclusive ownership of Nap Hal, the special wheat used to make Indian Chapati, the flat bread staple of north India.
Monsanto’s major problem is how to collect royalty payments from millions of small peasant farmers. Collecting patent payments for GM seeds in developing countries is difficult.
Not so, if terminator seeds, or GURTs, are sold. Terminator technology, which Monsanto paid $1.6 billion to acquire, allows introduction of a "suicide gene" into plants such as corn or cotton or soya or potentially, even wheat.
A farmer using terminator seeds no longer will be able to share seeds with other farmers or plant his own in following years. He will be forced to turn to Monsanto each season to buy his existence, in the form of more suicide seeds, as well as the special herbicides Monsanto has developed to be used with them.
The original developers of terminator technology, Delta & Pine Land Seed, which Monsanto bought in 1998, specifically noted that the rice and wheat markets of China, India, Pakistan and such major population countries was the target of terminator. The political implications of such a development are easy to imagine.
The Monsanto public relations maneuver "not to commercialize" terminator seeds was clearly designed to defuse growing opposition to proliferation of GM seeds, to buy time while allowing them to spread GM crops to the world’s largest growing areas—North America, Argentina, Brazil and now, the EU since this April. Once GM crops are spread, it would be simple to shift to terminator.
In February 2003, at a meeting of the International Seed Federation in Lyon, France, Monsanto released a paper titled, "The Benefits of GURTs." It argued that terminator, in fact, would benefit poor farmers. Monsanto argues, in a new ploy, that terminator would hinder spread of unwanted GM genes to non-GM plants, promoting the same idea in new clothes as a "biosafety" tool. Clearly they believe opposition to terminator and GM is waning. Reports are that Monsanto would be ready to introduce commercial terminator seeds in 3-4 years.
Overall, Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and a few other private giants have world rice control in their sights. This would be equal to gaining control over the basic food supply of all Asia.
The Trojan horse of
The giant GM seed companies use the WTO to demand that a country accept their rights to control patents on their own rice! In most cases, the U.S. or foreign seed company developed the GM variety patent based on seeds obtained from Asian seed banks such as that of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Rockefeller Foundation funds financed the deal.
Using TRIPs rights of WTO, patents and pressure from WTO, Monsanto and others are forcing Asian countries to draft new laws to mandate payment of royalties to the companies for seed and to prohibit farmers from using other seeds or hybrid seeds, arguing their corporate R&D costs need to be paid! National scientists, often trained on Rockefeller Foundation grants at Monsanto in the U.S., are sent back to push GM seeds in Thailand, Philippines or other developing countries.
Over the past 18 years, the Rockefeller Foundation has played a decisive role worldwide in spreading the acceptance of radical practices of genetic modification to countries and laboratories where a direct U.S. government research program would be greeted with greatest suspicion. The Rockefeller Foundation is, in effect, the Trojan horse of GM proliferation.
Rockefeller has acquired key scientists from select developing countries to be educated and trained in the U.S. or other industrial countries under its auspices. It has done this by funding GM research and by using its influence in government and other agencies and NGOs. To date more than 400 leading scientists from the Philippines to Thailand to Kenya to China have been trained and cultivated by the foundation.
The Rockefeller Foundation has a murky past since its creation in 1914 out of the Rockefeller Standard Oil Trust. Well before 1945, the foundation had been a leading funder of eugenics research, work made infamous by the Nazi race purity experiments. This included Rockefeller support to the American Eugenics Society and the Population Council. After the war, Rockefeller shifted profile to champion the causes of environment, resource scarcity and over-population. The policy remained one of global population reduction. At the same time the foundation promotes GM crops to "solve world hunger" it supports WHO research on inserting abortion chemicals into Tetanus vaccines for Third World mothers.1
Kissinger and NSSM 200
In 1972 President Nixon named John D. Rockefeller III, to chair the Presidential Commission on "Population and the American Future." The same Rockefeller created the Population Council in 1952, and called for "zero population growth."
Rockefeller’s Commission on Population and the American Future laid the foundation for Henry Kissinger’s National Security memorandum (NSSM) 200, "Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests "of 1974. NSSM 200 cited how population growth, where it may impact access to mineral resources in developing countries, becomes a U.S. national security concern of the highest priority.
NSSM 200, which was made policy by President Ford in 1975, made population control and birth reduction official U.S. foreign policy. It stated, "World population growth is widely recognized within the (U.S.) government as a current danger of the highest magnitude calling for urgent measures."2
NSSM200 was officially revoked as U.S. policy in face of heavy Vatican pressure. It continues to this day, unofficially, as U.S. foreign policy, enforced via third agencies, such as the IMF and World Bank, as their "conditionalities" for emergency financial aid through the World Health Organization and other "humanitarian" organizations.
In an April, 2002 article in Australia’s The Age, Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist Sir Macfarlane Burnet advocated biological warfare as a form of population control. It would appear that the proliferation of GM seeds for every vital crop is part of such a biowarfare strategy.
"We’re tempted to say that nobody in their right mind would ever use these things," Stanford biology professor Steven Block stated in another context. Block hastened to add, "But not everybody is in their right mind!"
Block, a consultant to the U.S. government, warned, "Any technology that can be used to insert genes into DNA, can be used for either good or bad."
Genetic engineering can create rice with enhanced vitamin A, but can just as well create seeds containing highly toxic bacteria. U.S. researchers first did this in 1986.
The Bush Administration has repeatedly refused to back a legally binding Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, arguing it needs the freedom to develop defense against biowarfare. Freedom can work both ways however.3
Genetic manipulation opens the possibilities in the hands of a malevolent power, to unleash untold harm on the human species. Even were GM plants to increase crop yields, this potential for control of the food supply of entire nations is too much power to give to any single corporation or government. Essential foods, like fresh water, are no ordinary commodities to be sold under rules of an imposed free market. They are basic human rights as the right to breathe or drink fresh water. We should not tempt any government with the power that present GM strategists advocate over our food security.
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