cross-posted at annoyedomnivore.wordpress.com
Prince Charles, of all people, and I applaud him for it, was one of the first to proclaim against Monsanto’s practice of forcing farmers in India to purchase genetically modified seeds. A result of this was that small farmers were unable to pay the company when their crops failed and committed suicide. The number of suicides are estimated at 270,000 since 1995. As our government and others increase their ties to agribusiness, GM seeds are often the only purchasing option since non-GM varieties are then banned at seed banks. It happened in India, and it happened in Iraq, where the U.S. essentially wiped out local, native agricultural practices, which were primarily sustainable, and replaced them with a Monsanto business plan.
And now the U.S. government is threatening to withhold $277 million in aid to El Salvador unless “specific” economic and environmental policy reforms are enacted. A U.S. government agency, the Millenium Challenge Corporation, has put forth a compact for aid, and this compact contains a condition for purchasing GM seeds from Monsanto. The Millenium Challenge Corporation’s intent is to provide economic assistance to “developing nations that demonstrate positive performance in three areas: ruling justly, investing in people, and fostering economic freedom.” With Michael Taylor in charge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a former V.P. of Public Policy at Monsanto and appointed by Obama, the compact with El Salvador became one in which Monsanto’s business goals trump any concerns about “investing in people.”
Taylor has been instrumental in establishing governmental policies that benefit agribusiness and Monsanto in particular. He colluded with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to open up African markets for GM seeds and chemicals, even though it had already been shown that this misguided policy had been a failure in India. Obama has expressed frustration that the fundamentals of the Green Revolution had not been introduced in Africa, but clearly he has not paid attention to what this revolution has wrought in India, where the farmers are in dept, are forced to pay high costs for seeds and pesticides, are committing suicide, (and often by drinking the same pesticides they were forced to buy) and resulting in a depleted water table and a poisoned environment. Human health concerns include rising rates of cancer and autism as well.
Latin America, however, like much of the world, is slowly realizing that markets for GM food are shrinking. Mexican judges recently banned GM corn and China has rejected the import of U.S. GM corn. The President of the El Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technologies (CESTA), Richard Navarro, has demanded that the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte, stop pressuring the government to buy Monsanto’s seeds rather than non-GM seeds from local suppliers. “I would like to tell the U.S. Ambassador to stop pressuring the government…to buy ‘improved GM seeds,’…which only benefit U.S. multinationals and is to the detriment of local seed production.” El Salvador also announced last year that they planned to ban the use of glyphosate (Roundup) and 52 other toxic chemicals, a result of an increase in occurrence of a rare type of chronic kidney disease that’s killing agricultural workers. The Pan American Health Organization evidently decided that the health risks to workers were important enough to ban certain pesticides until evidence could be amassed as to the link between the high levels of cadmium and arsenic, heavy metals that are toxic to the kidneys, and the pesticides associated with GM crops. Glyphosate sales are the main money maker for Big Ag, and this chemical provides the base of the entire system that allows GM crops to be grown.
“There is a harmful corporation on the planet called Monsanto…It is truly disturbing that the U.S. is trying to promote them,” says Navarro. Monsanto, in its oblivious concern for human suffering and environmental destruction, continues, with the help of our government, on its singular path for more profit.
Recipe of the Week
I’ve mentioned Panzanella before, but it’s worth repeating, especially as a base for a summer meal, or as a pleasing contribution to a pot luck.
1 French baguette, cut into 1″ pieces
3 medium tomatoes
1/2 lb of provolone
1 cup olives, chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar to taste
Mix all ingredients. This salad will last for at least a couple of days in the refrigerator. For a main meal, mix the panzanella with lightly dressed greens and top with grilled chicken.