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Guest Post: Trans-Pacific Partnership and Monsanto

Posted: July 20th, 2013 | Filed under: Research | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Trans-Pacific Partnership and Monsanto

by Barbara Chicherio

Something is looming in the shadows that could help erode our basic rights and contaminate our food. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history, both in economic size and the ability to quietly add more countries in addition to those originally included. As of 2011 its 11 countries accounted for 30% of the world’s agricultural exports. Those countries are the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Recently, Japan has joined the negotiations.

Six hundred US corporate advisors have had input into the TPP. The draft text has not been made available to the public, press or policy makers. The level of secrecy around this agreement is unparalleled. The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark while representatives of US corporations are being consulted and privy to the details.

The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique. If ratified the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.
There appears not to be a specific agricultural chapter in the TPP. Instead, rules affecting food systems and food safety are woven throughout the text. This agreement is attempting to establish corporations’ rights to skirt domestic courts and laws and sue governments directly with taxpayers paying compensation and fines directly from the treasury.

Though TPP content remains hidden, here are some things we do know:

· Members of Congress are concerned that the TPP would open the door to imports without resolving questions around food safety or environmental impacts on its production.

· Procurement rules specifically forbid discrimination based on the quality of production. This means that public programs that favor the use of sustainably produced local foods in school lunch programs could be prohibited.

· The labeling of foods containing GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) will not be allowed. Japan currently has labeling laws for GMOs in food. Under the TPP Japan would no longer be able to label GMOs. This situation is the same for New Zealand and Australia. In the US we are just beginning to see some progress towards labeling GMOs. Under the TPP GMO labels for US food would not be allowed.

· In April 2013, Peru placed a 10-year moratorium on GMO foods and plants. This prohibits the import, production and use of GMOs in foods and GMO plants and is aimed at safeguarding Peru’s agricultural diversity. The hope is to prevent cross-pollination with non-GMO crops and to ban GMO crops like Bt corn. What will become of Peru’s moratorium if the TPP is passed?

· There is a growing resistance to Monsanto’s agricultural plans in Vietnam. Monsanto (the US corporation controlling an estimated 90% of the world seed genetics) has a dark history with Vietnam. Many believe that Monsanto has no right to do business in a country where Monsanto’s product Agent Orange is estimated to have killed 400,000 Vietnamese, deformed another 500,000 and stricken another 2 million with various diseases.

Legacies of other trade agreements that serve as a warning about the TPP. Trade agreements have a history of displacing small farmers and destroying local food economies. Ten years following the passage of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) 1.5 million Mexican farmers became bankrupt because they could not compete with the highly subsidized US corn entering the Mexican market.

In the same 10 years Mexico went from a country virtually producing all of its own corn to a country that now imports at least half of this food staple. Mexican consumers are now paying higher prices for Monsanto’s GMO corn.

With little or no competition for large corporations Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta now control 57% of the commercial food market.

While the TPP is in many ways like NAFTA and other existing trade agreements, it appears that the corporations have learned from previous experience. They are carefully crafting the TPP to insure that citizens of the involved countries have no control over food safety, what they will be eating, where it is grown, the conditions under which food is grown and the use of herbicides and pesticides.
If the TPP is adopted the door will be open wider for human rights and environmental abuse. Some of the things we should expect to see include:
· more large scale farming and more monocultures;
· destruction of local economies;
· no input into how our food is grown or what we will be eating;
· more deforestation;
· increased use of herbicides and pesticides;
· more industrial pollution;
· increased patenting of life forms;
· more GMO plants and foods; and
· no labeling of GMOs in food.

Together these are a step backwards for human rights and a giant step towards Monsanto’s control of our food.

Please pass the word to others about the TPP as most Americans are unaware of this trade agreement or its ominous effects if passed.

Barbara Chicherio is treasurer of the Gateway Green Alliance and National Committee member of the Green Party USA.

The Real News Network: Mexican Farmers Protest the Entrance of GMO Corn

Posted: February 25th, 2013 | Filed under: Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

NARRATOR: This week, the United States Supreme Court is hearing a symbolic case concerning a small farmer’s lawsuit against agribusiness giant Monsanto concerning their pesticide-resistant soybean seeds.

Since its introduction of genetically modified crops, Monsanto has generated a sea of controversy among small farmers across the U.S., and the company is now trying to expand south into Mexico. After years of trying to penetrate the Mexican market, Monsanto, Dupont, and Dow had a breakthrough when outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderón granted them the right to cultivate GMO corn in various northern Mexican states.

Protesting the influx of genetically modified crops in their country, activists, farmers, and academics all across Mexico have been mobilizing to urge the new Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to reject these permissions. In early February, UNORCA, the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations, held a week-long fest with 50 campesino farmers from all over the country participating in Mexico City.

FRANCISCO JIMÉNEZ MURILLO, MEXICO CITY COORDINATOR, UNORCA (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): So we believe that the only relation that we have left, us the growers, with mother nature is specifically with the natural seeds. And we have to remember something. Mexico has 60 distinct varieties of corn that we have cared for over the last 10,000 years, and with this the world has been nourished. We will fight to the end. This is a struggle that we have started for life, the healthy life of our country.

NARRATOR: At the conclusion of their fast, thousands of people marched in central Mexico, uniting their voices against the introduction of GMO corn and urging President Peña Nieto to take a stand against these crops.

LUÍS PINEDA, UNORCA MORELOS (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What does Peña Nieto do? Peña Nieto lies to the people. Look at how he is now inventing things. This will result in sickness. They conducted studies at the Autonomous University and also conducted studies in France with rats consuming GMO corn to see what results it would yield. The results in France were that the rats had tumors. The rats had cancer. What will happen with Mexican citizens here? We can’t take it anymore. Leave, Monsanto! This is what we ask, all of us Mexicans who eat tortillas made with native maize.

NARRATOR: A delegation of hundreds of farmers from the northern states where the GMO corn will be planted traveled a whole day to arrive at the march.

GERARDO GARCIA, UNORCA DURANGO: I believe [corn] is the plant and seed that is most consumed in our country, our native seed, native to Mexico. It is important to have movements and peaceful protests like this in support of food sovereignty, and healthy production of corn that can nourish all of our families.

NARRATOR: Mexico has one of the highest per capita consumption rates of corn in the world. In 2005, Mexico occupied the fourth place for maize production. But this has since dropped to seventh place, largely due to importation of corn from the U.S. that has driven the crop’s prices down in Mexico.

DEYANIRA NAVARRETE, ASSEMBLY OF ENVIRONMNETALLY AFFECTED PEOPLE (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We have distribution problems, because here in Mexico it seems that we produce enough corn and beans, yet many corn farmers do not have a way of distributing their products to cities and centers of consumption and it’s not moving. Current policies merely increase foreign imports every year. So now they say: you know what, not enough corn is arriving to Mexico City; we must increase production by increasing the external supply. And a solution they are questioning is to increase the production of genetically modified corn instead of relying on the local ancestral knowledge of indigenous communities.

NARRATOR: In the United States, 86 percent of corn is grown from Monsanto genetically modified seed. And since its introduction, seed prices have grown 259 percent. For already impoverished small farmers in Mexico, this increase in prices will have devastating effects. Mexican President Peña Nieto has declared a war on poverty and hunger. Protesters decried this initiative as hypocritical, believing that GMO corn will increase hunger and poverty.

MARIA GUADALUPE BENITEZ, PROTESTER FROM MORELOS (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): [GMO corn] is going to cause more hunger because we don’t even know how it grows because it is different. The people who are used to cultivating one type of corn are angered because they are paid a very low price. Therefore hunger will just continue. Peña Nieto says things just so people in other countries will believe him without knowing the truth.

NARRATOR: Monsanto commonly sues farmers who have not purchased their seeds but have GM seeds present in their fields due to contamination or cross-pollination. Hugh Bowman, a seventy-five-year-old soybean farmer from Indiana is countersuing Montsanto in the Supreme Court after they sued him for over $84,000 for planting and reusing seeds from GMO soybeans, which he purchased at a grain elevator. It appears that many of the justices, including Clarence Thomas, who was formerly a lawyer for Monsanto, are in favor of the corporation’s position. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked, quote, why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one, anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?

The result of this lawsuit could have very strong repercussions in Mexico if GMO crops are introduced.

PETER ROSSET, LA VÍA CAMPESINA ADVISER: Well, I have to say, I was just reading the transcript of the hearings today, and I was somewhat disappointed that the attorney who was challenging Monsanto didn’t actually call into question the right to patent life, but was really only arguing about something called patent exhaustion doctrine, which is whether or not the second or third generation would still be the property of the patenting company. It’s kind of nibbling around the edges, because as far as I’m concerned and farmer, indigenous peoples’ organizations are concerned, there should never be any law that allows property rights over living things. And that we would like to see that challenged.

Of course, if Bowman loses and Monsanto wins, it means that any GMO seed that’s found because of contamination, because of accidental planting, whatever, in a farmer’s field means that Monsanto or any other company who owns that patent could sue those farmers and recover damages from them. Of course, that’s very bad. But it doesn’t really get at the larger issues around GMOs and around patents on life.

NARRATOR: In the coming days, the Supreme Court will make their decision on the Bowman v. Monsanto case. Mexicans say they will continue to mobilize to prevent the introduction of genetically modified corn in their country.

Andalusia Knoll with Christiane Rasguado for The Real News Network in Mexico City.


Source: The Real News Network