Posts Tagged ‘Monsanto’

extreme weatherBusiness as Usual

It was news to me but apparently something that passes for normal practice these days is the buying and selling of weather derivative contracts, financial products bought and sold by industrial corporations and the financial services industry for the purpose of making a profit out of climate instability.

These aren’t just fly-by-night insurance scams but standard, widely used products designed and marketed by energy companies and industrial giants such as Enron and Koch Industries.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

So when for example, representatives of the energy industries in Britain stand in front of a Parliamentary Select Committee and argue that taxes on their products, those “Green Levies” designed to be redirected into renewable energy sources should be scrapped, we need to realise that they do so in the knowledge that for them, and their brothers in globalised industry, it doesn’t matter if the climate further destabilizes – they’re going to make huge profits from selling insurance products to those on the front line (those who can afford them, of course), then trading said products on the “free” market.

Caught in the StormA Vested Interest

Why bother then to confront and grapple with the causes of climate instability? All you need to do to stay in business is to analyse, predict, then profit from climate change and the worldwide imperative to adapt.

To put it another way these are companies – including energy companies – that have a vested financial interest in continued climate change. Some might even call this an incentive to keep fear of the consequences of weather instability in the forefront of people’s minds, (fear after all is the most effective tool to apply when selling insurance) without actually having to do anything about it.

Big Data

Technically weather derivatives are financial products rather than insurance policies and like any other comparable construction can be traded on the derivatives market. Given the way in which such products are structured, and the fact that payouts are triggered based on observed weather conditions rather than specific losses, information and data analysis are at the core of this expanding market. Whoever has first access to the most refined data is going to be streets ahead of their competitors. So it’s no surprise to hear that the first significant “big data” acquisition has been made by agricultural giant Monsanto, with its purchase of data science company Climate Corporation.

14rain6Another Day, Another Dollar

Scarcely a day goes by without reading of some new way that corporations have found to infiltrate the legislative process, corrupt the path of scientific impartiality, or influence the flow of information reaching the public. These people never sleep it seems.

By binding farmers to an inescapable genetically modified merry-go-round in which the company at the centre receives cash flow from all directions Monsanto makes virtual serfs of its clients. Blinding them with modified science and a vast body of data that only they control adds another link to the chain of dependency Monsanto has “creatively” engineered to tighten its grip on the world’s food production and save us all from starvation.


We need to forget about the fantasy of globalised business producing creative, innovative solutions to the climate crisis and helping us out of this mess. Their creativity has been solely in the service of protecting and maximizing profit margins whatever the weather, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Politics has sold its soul, lured by the dangling carrot of limitless economic growth, seeming to spend most of its time justifying the appropriation of common resources for the benefit of private organisations and facilitating the destruction of Nature by non-sustainable development.

We know that big changes are coming, that some will be within our powers to manage and many won’t. Genuinely creative ideas, techniques, strategies and solutions are arising, often quite literally, from the ground up, as fledgling organisations such as the Transition Network, the Occupy movement and many others bypass the established chain of command and take matters into their own hands. Such groups are at least offering a body of fresh ideas, and a blueprint or framework for a sustainable alternative. But those who believe that we can buy, sell, or bargain our way out of trouble are living in an absurd dream.

For a concise and readable analysis of so-called weather derivatives see the article below.


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Nine 9

Agrochemical crop spraying in Argentina has increased ninefold, from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today. Yet the South American nation has a hodgepodge of widely ignored regulations that leave people dangerously exposed, and chemicals contaminate homes, classrooms, and drinking water. Doctors and scientists are warning that uncontrolled spraying could be causing health problems across the nation.


Residents gather to speak on health concerns they have about agrochemicals in the main square of Alvear, in Santa Fe province, Argentina on March 9. In the heart of Argentina’s soybean business, house-to-house surveys of 65,000 people in farming communities found cancer rates two to four times higher than the national average, as well as higher rates of hypothyroidism and chronic respiratory illnesses. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)

See the original article here:  Potential effects of agrochemicals in Argentina      (17 photos)

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Things you should know about Glyphosate

1. It is the best-selling herbicide in the world and the most widely used in Europe. Some 650,000 tonnes of glyphosate products were used globally in 2011.

2. The global market for glyphosate was worth US$6.5 billion in 2008

3. Glyphosate is toxic to all plants – unless they have been genetically modified to resist it.

4. Independent studies of glyphosate have suggested that the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) should be 12 times lower than the level in force in the EU.

5. Studies have shown that glyphosate may be linked to changes in the human hormone system, birth defects and cancer.

6. Glyphosate is combined with other chemicals in weed killer – and these alter the toxicity of the final product, making it as much as 150 times more toxic.

7. The evidence used in the glyphosate approval process in 2002 relied entirely on studies paid for by the pesticides industry, many of which have not been published. Indeed the industry has asked that 130 studies be kept secret.

8. In some parts of Europe (eg UK), glyphosate is sprayed on to crops before they are harvested – to dry the crop out and make it easier to harvest.

9. There are 14 applications for GM glyphosate tolerant crops currently awaiting approval in the European Union. Glyphosate use is predicted to increase by as much as 800% by 2025 if GM glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet, maize and soybean are grown in the EU.

10. Industry studies focus almost exclusively on short-term, high dose animal trials – but real life exposure occurs over the long-term, at low or fluctuating doses.

11. Monsanto produced more than half of the world’s glyphosate in 2012.

12. Maximum Residue Levels in food and feed have been steadily increased – not because of scientific evidence, but because of the growing use of glyphosate in agriculture.

Source: Friends of the Earth, Europe  June 2013

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In one single year, 2006, 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate (Roundup)was sprayed on soybeans alone in the US.

Despite industry claims to the contrary glyphosate herbicides have long been linked to health problems in humans.

This scientific study, first published in 2003 and available on the Science Direct website on the effects of Roundup and other glyphosate based products on humans (and other living things) indicates a clear link between the use of glyphosate-based herbicides and pesticides and cell-cycle dysregulation, a hallmark of tumor cells and human cancers: Glyphosate-based pesticides affect cell cycle regulation

See also: Friends of the Earth EuropeGlyphosate briefings: reason for concern

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Using a litany of lame and hackneyed justifications British Environment Minister Owen Paterson gave the GM industry a big boost yesterday by stating that the UK was prepared to “lead the World” in implementing a more relaxed regulatory framework for GM experimentation. Clearly, following the recent G8 summit US corporations and politicians have decided that what’s needed in Europe is a compliant mouthpiece to act  in their stead.

The statement elicited a number of reactions from some wiser heads and even a stinging rebuttal from Joanna Blythman in the Daily Mail, no less. Below are a few highlights:

salogo“Owen Paterson’s GM dream will make it harder to feed the world. The British Government constantly claim that GM crops are just one tool in the toolbox for the future of farming. In fact GM is the cuckoo in the nest. It drives out and destroys the systems that international scientists agree we need to feed the world. We need farming that helps poorer African and Asian farmers produce food, not farming that helps Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto produce profits.”

~ Peter Melchett, Soil Association Policy Director

new_friendsoftheearth_logo“Paterson remains blinkered by the unfulfilled promises of GM crops. GM technologies have consistently under-performed, despite claims from the biotech industry. Where GM crops have been planted they are locking farmers into buying inputs and costly seed, while encouraging resistant weeds and insects and not delivering the increased yields as promised. The main causes of hunger – poverty and global inequalities in the distribution of food cannot be resolved by GM crops,”

~ Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth

gw_logo“Paterson appears to [ignore] any science not peddled by big corporations. Only industry-funded research shows any benefits from GM crops, which do not increase yields and are having harmful effects on the environment in North and South America,”

 ~ Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK

greenpeace_logo“Paterson should be asking what works rather than blindly following agribusiness propaganda. The international consortium of research centres …. has used non-GM techniques to produce dozens of varieties of drought-tolerant maize, increasing African farmers’ yields by 20 to 30%. A host of other successes include blight-resistant potatoes and crops enriched with vitamin A, iron and other essential nutrients.” 

Doug Parr, chief scientist, Greenpeace UK


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the approximate percentage of soy in the US genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup.

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The Corporation (film)

The Corporation (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Corporation (2003)

Based on Joel Bakan‘s book “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power”, and directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, this is the bigger picture – the reason why.

This eye-watering documentary looks at the history and development of the modern corporate entity, while concurrently evaluating its “personality” using a similar methodology to that of a psychiatrist evaluating a patient (in US law a corporation is seen as being a single individual with the same rights and responsibilities).


Looming large throughout the film is chemical giant Monsanto. From the production of the infamous herbicide Agent Orange and its use in the Vietnam war, to the introduction of rBST/Posilac, a chemical designed to stimulate milk production, into a US market already awash with excess milk, to their creation of so-called “terminator technology” – seeds that are designed to produce a crop for one season, destroying themselves after that function has been fulfilled, Monsanto appears to epitomise the predatory, “psychopathic” species of corporate capitalism, ideologically committed to the private ownership of everything, including the essence of life itself.

Never Enough

This documentary, using an array of academics, journalists, whistleblowers, and business analysts, shows with sometimes alarming precision how and why the corporate mindset functions in the way that it does. If anything, and in light of developments during the last ten years, it is even more relevant now than it was on its release in 2003.

As filmmaker Michael Moore remarks at one point: for these corporations there’s no such thing as “enough”.

Selected quotes:

“Corporations were given the rights of persons, but then special kinds of persons; persons who had no moral conscience. These are special kinds of ‘persons’ which are designed by law to be concerned only for their stockholders.”
Noam Chomsky 

“It was more or less as if we’d created a doom machine. In our search for wealth and prosperity we’d created the thing that’s going to destroy us.”
Robert Monks
Corporate Governance Advisor

“With deregulation, privatization, free trade, what we’re seeing is yet another enclosure and private taking of the commons. One of the things I find very interesting in this debate is this concept of ‘who creates wealth’ – that wealth is only created when it’s owned privately. What would you call clean water; fresh air; a safe environment; are they not a form of wealth? And why does it only become wealth when some entity puts a fence around it and declares it private property? That’s not ‘wealth creation’, that’s wealth usurpation.”
Elaine Bernard
Executive Director, Trade Union Program, Harvard

“This is a war against evolution.”

Vandana Shiva

Environmental activist, author

The Corporation Film – the official website

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