by Jake Johnson
Despite India's law barring genetically modified (GM) foods from being produced or sold in the country without government approval, a study by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found that thanks to lax enforcement, a deeply flawed labeling system and corporate deception, Indian supermarkets are inundated with GM foods.
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In an another legal blow to Monsanto, India's Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the Delhi High Court's ruling that the seed giant cannot claim patents for Bollgard and Bollgard II, its genetically modified cotton seeds, in the country.
Monsanto's chief technology officer Robert Fraley, who just announced that he and other top executives are stepping down from the company after Bayer AG's multi-billion dollar takeover closes, lamented the news.
For many people, the holidays are rich with time-honored traditions like decorating the Christmas tree, lighting the menorah, caroling, cookie baking, and sipping from the unity cup. But there's another unofficial, official holiday tradition that spans all ages and beliefs and gives people across the world hope for a better tomorrow: the New Year's resolution.
Benefits of Chamomile Tea<p><strong>Sleep More Soundly</strong></p><p>Pick your grandmother's brain about the best way to fall asleep, and she might tell you to down a nice glass of warm milk. But if you consult with science, research shows that chamomile might be a better option. That's because it contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia and other sleep problems</a>.</p><p>Two research studies even confirmed the power of chamomile throughout the day and before bed. In one of those studies, postpartum women who drank chamomile for two weeks <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26483209" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">experienced better sleep quality than the control group who didn't</a>. Another research effort measured how fast people could fall asleep. Those results illustrated that participants who consumed 270 milligrams of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198755/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fell asleep 15 minutes faster than the control</a>. The chamomile group also had considerably fewer sleep disruptions. </p><p><strong>May Be Able to Keep Your Gut Healthy</strong></p><p>Though the following studies used rats as the subjects, research shows that chamomile can potentially play a beneficial role in digestive health. According to that research, the anti-inflammatory properties in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24463157" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chamomile extract may be able to protect against diarrhea</a>. Additionally, chamomile may be an effective way to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177631/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop the growth of bacteria in our stomachs that contribute to ulcers</a>.</p><p><strong>Reduces Stress and Anxiety</strong></p><p>Few things are more relaxing than curling up with a good cup of tea, so it's logical that chamomile tea can serve a stress reducer. While it lacks the potency of a pharmaceutical drug, long-term use of chamomile has been shown to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27912875" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">"significantly" reduce general anxiety disorders</a>. In general, chamomile can act almost like a sedative, and many people enjoy the tea because it puts them in a calm and relaxed state almost immediately. </p><p><strong>Boosts Immune Health</strong></p><p>Vitamin C and zinc are common over-the-counter supplements that people often turn to when they're hoping to avoid becoming sick. While scientists admit that more research must take place to prove chamomile's impact on preventing ailments like the common cold, the existing studies do show promise in this area. </p><p>One study had 14 participants drink five cups of the tea every day for two consecutive weeks. Throughout the study, researchers collected daily urine samples and tested the contents before and after the consumption of the tea. Drinking chamomile resulted in a significant increase in the levels of hippurate and glycine, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">both of which are known to increase antibacterial activity</a>. Inhaling steam from a pot of freshly brewed chamomile tea may also ease the symptoms of nasal congestion.</p><p><strong>Minimizes Menstrual Cramps</strong></p><p>This one may come as a surprise, particularly to readers who have tried every possible over-the-counter treatment to reduce period pain. Several research studies have proven that chamomile tea may be able to minimize the pain and cramps that occur during menstruation. Women in that same study also dealt with lower levels of anxiety that they typically felt because of menstrual cramps.</p><p><strong>Help Diabetes and Lower Blood Sugar</strong></p><p>For people with diabetes, regulating blood sugar levels can be a matter of life or death. And while chamomile will never replace prescription-strength drugs, it's believed that it can prevent an increase in blood sugar. A 2008 study on rats showed that chamomile could have a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf8014365" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">moderate impact on the long-term risk of diabetes</a>.</p><p><strong>Might Improve Your Skin</strong></p><p>Ever wondered why there's been an influx of chamomile-infused cosmetic products? The reason why so many manufacturers now include chamomile in their lotions, soaps, and creams is because it <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5074766/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acts as an anti-inflammatory on our skin</a>. That means it may be able to soothe the puffiness that plagues us as we age. Those same anti-inflammatory properties can be vital in restoring skin health after we've received a sunburn. </p><p>Before discarding your used chamomile tea bags, try chilling them and placing them over your eyes. Not only will this help with the puffiness, but it can drastically light the skin color around the eye.</p><p><strong>Help With Heart Health</strong></p><p>Some of the most beneficial antioxidants we put into our bodies are what are known as flavones, and chamomile tea is chock full of them. Flavones have the potential to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which, when elevated, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4814348/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">can lead to heart disease</a>.</p>
Why Everyone Is Drinking Chamomile Tea<p>Now that you know so much about the wonders of chamomile, it shouldn't come as a surprise why the tea is so popular with people of all ages. In addition to tasting great, chamomile offers up benefits that boost the health of body parts both inside and out. As you ponder your own New Year's resolutions, think about how healthy and natural vitamins, supplements, plants, and oils can help guide you on your own personal path to improvement. Happy New Year!</p>
By Elliott Brennan
Food Tank has collected 20 of the best new books in food and agriculture to celebrate spring. Our favorite reads this season cover critical topics including the paradox of obesity and malnutrition, building strong communities through socially-conscious food systems and the essential link between food and health.
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By Eva Perroni
Film is an incredible tool for effecting change in the food system with its unique ability to educate, inspire and grow the movement for sustainable food and farming. Film can transport viewers to unseen territories, from Colombian coffee-growing regions to the bottom of the ocean, and unveil the stories, struggles and triumphs of those working in the hidden fabric of the food system.
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By Paul Brown
The food industry and big agricultural concerns are driving climate change and at the same time threatening to undermine efforts to feed the world's growing population, according to GRAIN, an organization that supports small farmers.
Particularly singled out for criticism are the large chemical fertilizer producers that have gained access to the United Nations talks on climate change. GRAIN accuses them of behaving like the fossil fuel companies did in the 1990s, pushing false information in the hope of delaying real action on climate change.
From authors to chefs, business owners to activists, this list is a collection of change makers in every industry working to fix inequalities and problems in the food system all over the world. Their examples have inspired movements and changed minds. We hope their stories and work will inspire you as much as it has inspired us here at Food Tank.
Jane Goodall: How Can We Believe It Is a Good Idea to Grow Our Food With Poisons? https://t.co/PNhk0eKvif @OrganicConsumer @JaneGoodallInst— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489098262.0
1. Vandana Shiva
Scientist and activist Dr. Vandana Shiva is at the forefront of the sustainable food movement. Fighting against the spread of industrial agriculture, she believes high-yield production is hurting more than helping problems of nutrition and hunger in the world. Her non-governmental organization, Navdanya, has been a proponent of biodiversity since 1991 and is currently fighting the development of Golden Rice, a Vitamin A-rich variety, claiming it's not as beneficial as it seems and could have a heavy impact on the environment.
2. Frances Moore Lappe
The revolutionary Diet for a Small Planet was just the beginning of Moore Lappe's contributions to changing the food system. Her contributions to building a sustainable food system since the book's release in 1985 are numerous, including more books, academic positions and the founding of several organizations. Her most recent endeavor is the Small Planet Institute, an organization that hopes to inspire people around the world through its research on democracy, power, culture and food.
3. Doug Rauch
Rauch is connected to one of the most popular health foods stores in the U.S.—Trader Joe's. After 31 years with the company, including 14 as President, Rauch left in 2008 and in 2012 he founded Daily Table. The not-for-profit store offers fresh produce, as well as healthy, to-go meals at affordable prices for a diverse and economically disadvantaged Boston neighborhood.
4. Christopher Bradshaw
Bradshaw is the founder of Dreaming Out Loud and an advocate for an equitable food system. In DC's most marginalized neighborhoods, Bradshaw introduced new concepts of healthy eating through West African cultural values and symbols. By instilling a sense of cultural belonging, the group hopes to empower communities to make more conscious decisions about health and provide more economic opportunities.
5. Leah Lizarondo
New solutions to food waste are popping up everywhere. Lizarondo's 412 Food Rescue is a go-between for food retailers and community organizations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They aren't a food bank; instead, they deliver fresh food that would otherwise be wasted to organizations that work with food-insecure populations. They fill a vital gap in the food production system. Lizarondo also writes about food and food policy at The Brazen Kitchen and for Pittsburgh Magazine.
6. Amber Stott
Fresh garden produce was an important part of Stott's childhood and with the Food Literacy Center, she is fighting childhood obesity with her enduring love of veggies. To bring healthy eating habits to low-income neighborhoods, Stott and the literacy center teach nutrition and cooking classes where they aim to change the negative attitudes children have toward vegetables. Bringing them closer to the growing and cooking process is the first step.
7. Emile Frison
Frison is plant pathologist at the cutting edge of research in agricultural biodiversity and its contribution to nutrition and the work of smallholder farmers. He is currently the chair of the International Scientific Committee of the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation and is a member of the International Advisory Board for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
8. Ruth Richardson
With Richardson at the fore, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food strives for equity, sustainability and security in the food system. The alliance, where Richardson is executive director, focuses on the economics of food—how much do we really spend as a society on food—and advocates for solutions to our lopsided system. "I cannot stress enough how important it will be to our future well-being to fix the economic distortions in the food system," Richardson told Food Tank.
9. Nikiko Masumoto
Masumoto recently assumed the responsibility of her family's 80-acre organic peach farm in California. But she's more than just a farmer. She calls herself an "agrarian artist" and last year she published her second book, Changing Season: A Father, A Daughter, A Family Farm, in which she shares her story and experiences as a queer, mixed-race woman in the industry. A gifted speaker, she offers a new vision for a radically changed and more open farming landscape through her work as farmer, woman, artist and activist.
10. Edie Mukiibi
Mukiibi is an agronomist from Uganda and vice president of Slow Food International since 2014. He learned early on that something wasn't working for the farming communities he worked with in his country. As a student in Kampala, he found the modern agronomy practices ignored many of the traditional methods and crops with which small-scale farmers were familiar. He eventually discovered the Slow Food movement and started a convivium to connect people and share information about crop diversity and traditional farming knowledge. His current project is to create 10,000 food gardens in Africa.
11. Lindsey Shute
Touted as a "Champion for Change" by the White House, Shute is a farming revolutionary. Her family farm, Hearty Roots, is part of a Community Supported Agriculture program. Members support the work of the farm in growing organic produce and in return receive access to its freshest products as well as other benefits of its work and location. She is a proponent of young farmers' influence on the future of farming and as such, she started the National Young Farmers Coalition.
12. Pedro Diniz
It might seem difficult to find a straight line between Diniz's former career as a Formula 1 racing driver and his current role as an organic farmer and agroforester. But the link is in the land of his family, on which he currently operates a 2,300 hectare organic produce and dairy farm, Fazenda da Toca, alongside his wife Tatiana Diniz. The operation is a major influence on the environmental stage in São Paulo state and in Brazil. The farm shares its mission to revolutionize agriculture through sustainable cultivation at its on-site learning center, Instituto Toca.
13. Pavan Sukhdev
Environmental economist Sukhdev sees a green future, green in its health and wealth. He was the special adviser and head of United Nation's Environment Program's Green Economy Initiative and study leader for the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study from G8+5, which looked to place a financial value on what we gain from nature and more specifically, its biodiversity. "I began my life as a markets professional and continued to take an interest, but most of my recent effort has been looking at the value of what comes to human beings from nature and which doesn't get priced by the markets," he said in his TED talk from 2011.
14. Miraci Pereira Silva
Miraci Pereira Silva is an organic farmer from the Roseli Nunes settlement in western Brazil. For years, members of her community have grown crops, such as lettuce, beans and papaya to sell locally. But their land is increasingly threatened by encroaching biofuel-linked sugarcane farms and their use of pesticides.
15. Miriam Miranda
Miranda assumed the role of feminist leader as a student in Tegucigalpa, where she also worked with women in poverty. She is of the Garifuna, an indigenous community in Honduras who have been forced off land by land grabs and resort development. The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, of which Miranda is coordinator, are fighting legal battles against the state for protection of their land and rights. Despite threats on her life and even being kidnapped once, she strides forward in the fight for her people.
16. Geum-Soon Yoon
Geum-Soon is a farmer in South Korea and president of the Korean Women's Peasant Association, which seeks to empower South Korean women farmers. She is an unwavering advocate for thousands of women in communities with high rates of domestic abuse and a lack of female control over the land despite their contributions to cultivation. The association seeks to improve agricultural policies, bring back seed diversity and provide gender equality education programs.
17. Ben Burkett
Southern-Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett knows what it takes to keep a farm afloat in the deep south. While managing his family's four-generation old vegetable farm, he also serves as an advocate for several communities in the region. As president of the National Family Farm Coalition and director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, he supports underserved black farmers, family farms and cooperative farming, a necessity for small-scale farmers in the south, he said. In 2014, he was awarded the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award.
By Watcharapol Daengsubha
Last weekend, farmers, scientists and activists from all over the world gathered at the Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, to present the case against destruction caused by one of the corporate giants that promotes industrial farming.
Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague on Oct. 15.Greenpeace
The symbolic Monsanto Tribunal aimed to hold Monsanto—the giant agrochemical company—to account for its alleged atrocities against humanity and the environment. This event is far from over. It will echo back through the food system as the tribunal's participants bring home lessons, solutions and renewed hope for change.
First day of the tribunal, judges Tulkens (left) and Dior Fall Sow.Greenpeace
Five internationally renowned judges heard 30 witnesses. Experts gave their accounts of the environmental damage wrought by Monsanto. One testimony described how monoculture has caused a great loss to seed variety. They compared the patenting of seeds to a new form of colonization.
Seng Channeang, Cambodian small-scale farmer.Greenpeace
These testimonies will give people all over the world a well-documented legal brief to be used in lawsuits against other similar corporations.
"Although this is not legally binding, it is legally sound," said Arnaud Apoteker, member of the steering committee of the tribunal. "The witnesses were presenting real cases to real judges. The lessons from this event can be used in ensuing local battles."
One of the 30 witnesses, Feliciano Ucam Poot, a Mayan farmer from Mexico, submitted evidence to support his allegations that glyphosate and other chemicals are linked to children's sickness.
"Before the introduction of glyphosate and other agrochemicals, I did not see our people suffer from sickness like this," he said. "A lot of people are suffering like us and this tribunal will ensure that our stories will be heard around the world."
Scene from the Monsanto Tribunal Press Conference on Oct. 15.Greenpeace
Do we need these agrochemicals to feed the world? A question asked of Hans Herren, a renowned scientist and president of the Millennium Institute at the Monsanto Tribunal. "By producing less waste we can feed 10 million people. We need to make more health per acre, not calories per acre," he said.
Running parallel to the tribunal hearings was a People's Assembly, where people from around the world discussed solutions to the impacts caused by industrial agriculture. As many of the witnesses pointed out, one of the greatest challenges they face is to make their voices heard. This assembly provided a much needed forum for communities to come together and find sustainable solutions to common problems.
The People's Assembly, The Hague.Greenpeace
"We should fight for ourselves. Nobody is free from danger if our food is toxic," said Farida Akhter of UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternatives), Bangladesh.
The stories of people like Feliciano and the concerns of Farida are echoed by millions of voices from across the world; from beekeepers in Mexico to small scale producers in France and farmers in India.
The judges of the tribunal will assess these allegations, examine all evidence put forth and publish their findings in December.
Judges at the Monsanto Tribunal.Greenpeace
These issues aren't limited to farmers and environmentalists—they concern us all. We all have a choice: As citizens and consumers, we can all make decisions to shape the future we want.
Here are 12 things you can do to start the eco-food revolution.
Watcharapol Daengsubha is a food and ecological agriculture campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Starting tomorrow, 30 witnesses and legal experts from five different continents will testify before five international judges at the three-day Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Their testimonies will attempt to hold the agrochemical giant accountable for their alleged "crimes against humanity" and destruction of the environment, or "ecocide."
This symbolic trial, which will be live streamed from Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. GMT+2 on the tribunal website, will follow guidelines of the United Nations's international court of justice and will have no legal standing. Rather, its purpose is to gather legal counsel from the judges as well as legal grounds for future litigation.
"The aim of the tribunal is to give a legal opinion on the environmental and health damage caused by the multinational Monsanto," the tribunal organizers state on their website. "This will add to the international debate to include the crime of Ecocide into international criminal law. It will also give people all over the world a well documented legal file to be used in lawsuits against Monsanto and similar chemical companies."
Monsanto, which is inching closer to a $66 billion takeover from German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has faced a never-ending slew of health and environmental controversies over its products since, well, the beginning of the twentieth century.
Monsanto's historical line-up of products includes banned and highly toxic chemicals such as 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant Agent Orange); PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl); and Lasso, a herbicide banned in Europe. Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto's best-selling weedkiller RoundUp, is the most widely used pesticide in the world. Monsanto is also the world's largest genetically modified (GMO) seed maker, giving them a major hand over the world food supply.
6 Questions for Monsanto https://t.co/gK8OkFfqpg @Green_Europe @ClientEarth @OhioEnviro— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1465161312.0
The trial, which will proceed on the same weekend as World Food Day, is organized by Organic Consumers Association, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) Organics International, Navdanya, Regeneration International, Millions Against Monsanto as well as dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups.
Tribunal organizer Vandana Shiva is an outspoken critic of Monsanto. "Monsanto has come to be seen as one of the most dangerous corporations on the planet," the physicist, author, activist and founder of Navdanya said in a statement.
"It has earned this reputation through a history of producing products toxic to humans and the environment, as well as well-documented manipulation of scientific evidence, disingenuous PR efforts and applying relentless political pressure worldwide to promote its products. Life, society and democracy are under threat. We refuse to allow this future to unfold."
Andre Leu, president of IFOAM, said, "Monsanto is able to ignore the human and environmental damage caused by its products, and maintain its devastating activities through a strategy of systemic concealment: by lobbying regulatory agencies and governments, by resorting to lying and corruption, by financing fraudulent scientific studies, by pressuring independent scientists, and by manipulating the press and media. Monsanto's history reads like a text-book case of impunity, benefiting transnational corporations and their executives, whose activities contribute to climate and biosphere crises and threaten the safety of the planet."
Monsanto will not be present at the trial, calling it a "staged" event organized by the organic food industry "where the outcome is pre-determined."
"As this is a stunt staged and supported by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM)—an umbrella organization of organic agriculture organizations, and their associates such as Navdanya and others who are fundamentally opposed to modern agriculture—we will not participate," states an open letter signed by the company's Human Rights Steering Committee.
"To address these ever increasing challenges collaboratively and advance our commitment to human rights, we welcome a genuine constructive conversation with diverse ideas and perspectives about food and agriculture production," the letter also states. "These conversations are much needed to help find sustainable solutions to those challenges."
This weekend, the people are taking on Monsanto. Join them: https://t.co/p8xC38qr0m #MonsantoTribunal https://t.co/srRS3kXI1i— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace)1476360906.0
Tribunal organizers have responded to Monsanto's allegations of a mock court. "Other similar tribunals have found both for and against corporations," Damien Short, director of the Human Rights Consortium at London University, told The Guardian. "This is a test of international law. It has moral force and the tribunal's decision will be evidence-based. Peoples' tribunals are testing the law."
"Under existing [international] law, it is impossible to bring criminal charges against a company like Monsanto or its management, for possible crimes against human health and the integrity of the environment," Lucy Rees, speaking on behalf of End Ecocide on Earth, also told the publication.
Greenpeace has been a vocal supporter of the tribunal. "The industrial scale of agriculture today has broken our food system," the environmental group said. "Giant agri-businesses fail to take into account the health of the environment and the communities who depend on it. Monoculture and dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides are taking its toll on the planet, animals and us."
According to a tribunal newsletter, witnesses and experts who will be present at the trial includes health experts, "victims" and representatives from communities affected by the spraying of pesticides in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Sri Lanka and Paraguay; farmers and seed savers from Australia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Canada, France; beekeepers from Yucatan, Mexico; and scientists from Brazil, Germany, France, the UK and the U.S. Former UN special rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter will also testify.
By Katherine Paul
It's been about a week since Monsanto and Bayer confirmed their intention to say "I do"—ample time for media, lawmakers, consumer and farmer advocacy groups, and of course the happy couple themselves, to weigh in on the pros and cons.
Reactions poured in from all the usual suspects.
Groups like the Farmers Union, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth and others didn't mince words when it came to condemning the deal. (Organic Consumers Association tagged it a "Marriage Made in Hell" back in May, pre-announcement, when the two mega-corporations were still doing their mating dance.)
Predictably, the corporate heads of state last week promoted the proposed $66 billion deal as an altruistic plan to improve "the lives of growers and people around the world." Last week, they told Senate Judiciary Committee members that the merger "is needed to meet a rising food demand."
Is anyone out there still buying the line that Monsanto and Bayer are in the business of feeding the world? When the evidence says otherwise?
Even if that claim weren't ludicrous, who thinks it's a good idea to entrust the job of "feeding the world" to the likes of Bayer, a company that—as part of the I.G. Farben cartel in the 1940s—produced the poison gas for the Nazi concentration camps, and more recently sold HIV-infected drugs to parents of haemophiliacs in foreign countries, causing thousands of children to die of AIDS?
.@DrVandanaShiva: #Monsanto and the Poisonous Cartel of #GMOs in #India https://t.co/4Mahmqj9cr @NonGMOProject @GMWatch @GMOTruth— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1473445039.0
The sordid, unethical, greedy, monopolizing and downright criminal histories of both Monsanto and Bayer have been well documented. Does allowing them to merge into the world's largest seed and pesticide company pose what two former Justice Department officials call "a five-alarm threat to our food supply and to farmers around the world?"
In a press release, Pesticide Action Network senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman said:
Just six corporations already dominate worldwide seed and pesticide markets. Additional consolidation will increase prices and further limit choices for farmers, while allowing Monsanto and friends to continue pushing a model of agriculture that has given us superweeds, superbugs and health-harming pesticides. Instead, we need to invest in agroecological, resilient and productive farming.
Without question, this deal, which strengthens the ties between Big Pharma, Big Food and Big Biotech, will hurt farmers and consumers—not to mention an ecosystem already on the brink.
But for those of us committed to ridding the world of toxic pesticides and hideous factory farms, to restoring biodiversity, to cleaning up our waterways, to revitalizing local economies, to helping small farmers thrive, to reclaiming and regenerating the world's soils so they can do their job—produce nutrient-dense food while drawing down and sequestering carbon—the marriage of Bayer and Monsanto doesn't change much.
As we wrote when the deal was announced, Monsanto will probably pack up its headquarters and head overseas. The much-maligned Monsanto name will be retired.
But a corporate criminal by any other name—or size—is still a corporate criminal.
Merger or no merger, our job remains the same: to expose the crimes and end the toxic tyranny of a failed agricultural experiment. #MillionsAgainstMonsanto will simply morph into #BillionsAgainstBayer.
a katz / Shutterstock.com
Feed the world? Or feed the lobbyists?
Bayer and Monsanto had plenty of time to perfect their spin on the merger before the big announcement. Yet even some of the most conservative media outlets saw through it.
A Bloomberg headline read: "Heroin, Nazis, and Agent Orange: Inside the $66 Billion Merger of the Year."
From the article:
Two friends making dyes from coal-tar started Bayer in 1863, and it developed into a chemical and drug company famous for introducing heroin as a cough remedy in 1896, then aspirin in 1899. The company was a Nazi contractor during World War II and used forced labor. Today, the firm based in Leverkusen, Germany, makes drugs and has a crop science unit, which makes weed and bug killers. Its goal is to dominate the chemical and drug markets for people, plants and animals.
Monsanto, founded in 1901, originally made food additives like saccharin before expanding into industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and agriculture products. It's famous for making some controversial and highly toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, now banned and commonly known as PCBs, and the herbicide Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. It commercialized Roundup herbicide in the 1970s and began developing genetically modified corn and soybean seeds in the 1980s. In 2000, a new Monsanto emerged from a series of corporate mergers.
A skeptical Wall Street Journal reporter suggested that the merger, one of three in the works in the agricultural industry, is a sign of trouble. "The dominance of genetically modified crops is under threat," wrote Jacob Bunge on Sept. 14.
Bunge interviewed Ohio farmer Joe Logan who told him, "The price we are paying for biotech seed now, we're not able to capture the returns."
This spring, Mr. Logan loaded up his planter with soybean seeds costing $85 a bag, nearly five times what he paid two decades ago. Next spring, he says, he plans to sow many of his corn and soybean fields with non-biotech seeds to save money.
Nasdaq took the merger announcement as an opportunity to highlight numbers published by OpenSecrets.org showing that Monsanto and Bayer are not only the two largest agrichemical corporations in the world, they're also two of the biggest spenders when it comes to lobbying.
Together, according to OpenSecrets, Bayer and Monsanto have spent about $120 million on lobbying in the last decade. Monsanto's spending has been largely focused on the agricultural industry, while Bayer has spent heavily in the pharmaceutical arena.
Both Monsanto and Bayer forked over millions to keep labels off of foods that contain GMOs, according to OpenSecrets.
A big issue for both companies has been labeling of genetically modified foods, which both companies oppose. That put them in support of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599), which was signed into law this summer. The law permits corporations to identify products made with genetically modified organisms in ways that critics argue will be hard for consumers to interpret, while superseding state laws that are sometimes tougher, like the one in Vermont.
To be clear, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act was just an intentionally misleading description of a bill intended to protect corporations from having to reveal the GMO ingredients in their products.
A criminal by any other name
Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague made a big announcement of its own. For the first time in history, the ICC will "prioritize crimes that result in the 'destruction of the environment,' 'exploitation of natural resources' and the 'illegal dispossession' of land," according to a report in The Guardian.
The announcement came within the same two-week period as three new reports on the sad state of our ecosystem, all of which implicate industrial agriculture:
- Researchers at the University of Virginia University of Virginia reported that widespread adoption of GMO crops has decreased the use of insecticides, but increased the use of weed-killing herbicides as weeds become more resistant, leading to "serious environmental damage."
- Mother Jones magazine reported that "A Massive Sinkhole Just Dumped Radioactive Waste Into Florida Water. The cause? A fertilizer company deep in the heart of phosphate country."
- NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that when it comes to global warming, "even the records themselves are breaking records now" after reporting that Earth just experienced its hottest August on record. What's that got to do with Bayer and Monsanto? Industrial, chemical, degenerative agriculture is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic regenerative agriculture, by contrast, holds the greatest promise for drawing down and sequestering excess carbon from the atmosphere.
It's Official: August Was the 16th Consecutive Record-Breaking Hottest Month https://t.co/qfedIwojYw @Climate_Rescue @EUClimateAction— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1474535715.0
Whether or not regulators approve the Bayer-Monsanto merger, these companies will continue their rampage against nature. Governments and courts have a lousy track record when it comes to holding these, and other, corporations accountable for the damage they've inflicted, over decades, on human health and the environment.
The ICC has signaled that this may change. In the meantime, frustrated with the lack of action and fed up with paying the price for making corporations like Bayer and Monsanto filthy rich, the grassroots are fighting back.
On Oct. 15-16, a panel of distinguished international judges will hear testimony from 30 witnesses and scientific and legal experts from five continents who have been injured by Monsanto's products. This grassroots-led international citizens' tribunal and People's Assembly (Oct. 14-16) will culminate in November with the release of advisory opinions prepared by the judges. The tribunal's work, which includes making the case for corporations to be prosecuted for ecocide, is made all the more relevant by the ICC's announcement.
The International Monsanto Tribunal is named for Monsanto, the perfect poster child. But the advisory opinions, which will form the basis for future legal action, will be applicable to all agrichemical companies—including Bayer.
In the meantime, we encourage citizens around the world who cannot participate in the official tribunal and People's Assembly, to show solidarity by organizing their own World Food Day "March Against Monsanto."
Monsanto. Bayer. The name doesn't matter, and though size does matter when it comes to throwing weight around, the crimes perpetrated by the companies remain the same. It's time to stop them.
Monsanto has finally agreed to be purchased by Bayer AG in a historic $66 billion all-cash takeover. The agreement, which both corporations have confirmed, will form the largest seed and pesticide company in the world.
Today we reached an agreement w/ @MonsantoCo to create an industry leader #AdvancingTogether https://t.co/zFRZrCDvU7 https://t.co/SIq6iwDPFn— Bayer AG (@Bayer AG)1473852089.0
The German pharmaceuticals and chemicals giant had been courting the St. Louis-based seed maker for roughly four months, with the aspirin-maker sweetening the pot with
ever-growing sums of money. Bayer finally plans to pay $128 a share for Monsanto, up from its initial May offer of $122 a share.
Not only is this the largest foreign corporate takeover ever by a German firm, it's the largest cash bid on record, as Reuters reported. A successful merger would create the world's largest agrichemical firm, which will control more than one-fourth of the combined global market for seeds and pesticides.
According to Bloomberg, "The deal gives Bayer more than 2,000 varieties of seeds for crops such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. Adding that portfolio to its own vegetable, rice, cotton and oilseed offerings give Bayer a virtually unassailable position at the head of the market."
The Monsanto-Bayer combination is yet another example of the rapidly consolidating agricultural industry, with only a handful of companies controlling the sector. Alongside slumping crop prices, DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. have agreed to merge, as did China National Chemical Corp. and Syngenta AG.
Together, Monsanto and @Bayer will build on our shared values and respective track records of innovation: https://t.co/eMRWGFWa0x— Monsanto Company (@Monsanto Company)1473862768.0
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant, appeared in a joint announcement of the proposed combination on their "Advancing Together" website. In their statements, both chiefs echoed Big Ag's oft-repeated sentiment that biotechnology helps increases crop yields in an environmentally friendly way and is one solution to feeding a growing global population.
"We are fully committed to helping solve one of the biggest challenges of society, and that is how to feed a massively growing world population in an environmentally sustainable manner," Baumann said. "What we do is good for consumers. We help produce efficient, safe, healthy and affordable food. It is also good for our growers because they have better choices to increase yields in a sustainable way."
Dave Murphy, the executive director of Food Democracy Now!, refutes this belief. "Agricultural biotechnology has never been about 'feeding the world,' but enriching the bottom line of toxic chemical corporations that have had a long history of producing chemicals that are deadly to human populations and the environment," he told EcoWatch.
Monsanto, the world's largest producer of genetically modified (GMO) crops and maker of the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, has faced mounting controversy and numerous lawsuits in recent years over the health and environmental impacts of its products.
Bayer has also been subject to criticism over its widely used insecticide, imidacloprid, which belongs to a controversial class of chemicals called neonicotinoids that's linked to widespread deaths of pollinators.
On today's landmark news, Murphy said: "Now the most evil company in Europe has absorbed the most evil company in America. Monsanto and Bayer's new corporate motto should be 'Killing bees and butterflies for fun and profit.'"
10 States Report Crop Damage From Illegal Dicamba Use on Monsanto's GMO Seeds https://t.co/KcqhwWoSq3 @GMOTruth @GMWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1472867707.0
The Monsanto takeover is an interesting move for the German company. Although GMOs are widely grown in the U.S. and in other countries, the topic is fraught with contention in Europe. Many European Union countries have strict laws against GMOs due to public health and environmental concerns. Germany itself discourages the cultivation of GMO crops.
The BBC reported that farming groups are concerned that the deal could lead to fewer choices and higher prices for farmers.
"Bayer's acquisition of 'Frankenstein' crop producer Monsanto could be a horror story for both Bayer and its customers: the farmers," professor John Colley of Warwick Business School in England told the publication. "The farmers will lose out as product ranges are rationalized and attempts are made to increase prices."
Several consumer advocates and environmental organizations have denounced the acquisition for similar reasons.
"Today, Bayer announced it has agreed to buy Monsanto, another devastating merger that's bad for farmers, the environment and consumers," Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch, said. "Consolidation in the agrochemical industry means that farmers get paid less for their crops, more pesticides are used and there are fewer options for consumers at the grocery store. It's past time for the Department of Justice to do its job and enforce anti-trust measures to support healthy competition in the ag industry."
"With this deal Big Biotech gets bigger; it means monopoly power for Bayer-Monsanto, just like the previous mergers of Dow and DuPont and Syngenta and ChemChina," Ken Roseboro, the editor and publisher of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, told EcoWatch. "These three companies will dominate the global seed and pesticide markets and will likely drive up costs for farmers. The Justice Department should stop these mergers because they are bad farmers, bad for agriculture, and bad for consumers."
Critics of the tie-up have noted that Monsanto's poor image was a factor in its decision to be bought.
"The merger of Bayer and Monsanto should make the connection between Big Pharma, Big Biotech and Big Food all the more apparent to consumers," Ronnie Cummins, the international director of the Organic Consumers Association, told EcoWatch. "This may be a move to take pressure off the manufacturer of glyphosate, the most profitable pesticide in the world. But it really doesn't matter who manufactures or sells glyphosate, or any other dangerous chemical. The damage to human health and the environment remains the same, as does our commitment to getting these chemicals out of our food system."
"MoBay supplied ingredients for Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Around 20 million gallons of MoBay defoliants and herbicides were sprayed over South Vietnam. Children are still being born with birth defects, adults have chronic illnesses and cancers, due to their exposure to MoBay's chemicals," she wrote. "Monsanto and Bayer's cross-licensed Agent Orange resistance has also been cross-developed for decades. Wars were fought, lives lost, nations carved into holy lands — with artificial boundaries that suit colonization and resource grab—while Bayer and Monsanto sold chemicals as bombs and poisons and their brothers provided the loans to buy those bombs."
Monsanto and the Poisonous Cartel of GMOs in India https://t.co/TVafdAlArx @justlabelit @NonGMOProject— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1473457206.0
"More recently, Bayer CropScience AG and Monsanto are believed to have entered into a long-term business relationship," Shiva continued. "This gives Monsanto and Bayer free access to each other's herbicide and paired herbicide resistance technology. Through cross-licensing agreements, mergers and acquisitions, the biotech industry has become the I.G. Farben of today, with Monsanto in the cockpit."
Monsanto and Bayer intend to file relevant materials with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Analysts are now turning their attention to the legality of the purchase and whether or not it could escape regulatory hurdles. Bayer, which expects to close the deal by the end of 2017, will pay Monsanto a break-up fee of $2 billion if the deal is not completed.
According to Reuters, Bernstein Research analysts believe that the merger has only a 50 percent chance of securing regulatory clearance. However, they cited a survey among investors that pushed the likelihood to roughly 70 percent.
"We believe political pushback to this deal, ranging from farmer dissatisfaction with all their suppliers consolidating in the face of low farm net incomes to dissatisfaction with Monsanto leaving the United States, could provide significant delays and complications," they wrote in a research note.
Meanwhile, Monsanto's tribunal at The Hague next month is still on deck. The Organic Consumers Association, IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International and Millions Against Monsanto, joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups are putting the transnational corporation on trial for crimes against nature and humanity and ecocide.
"The proposed buyout of Monsanto by Bayer does nothing to alter or weaken the upcoming Monsanto Tribunal, which will take place Oct. 15-16 in The Hague," Cummins said. "The buyout won't be completed by then. More important, the advisory opinions that will be issued by the five international judges will be applicable to all agribusiness companies, including Bayer."
India is steeped in a synthesized controversy created by Monsanto on the first GMO crop supposedly approved for commercialization. Engaged in litigation on many fronts, Monsanto is trying to subvert India's patent laws: Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, Essential Commodities Act and Competition Act. It is behaving as if there is no Parliament, no democracy, no sovereign laws in India to which it is subject. Or it simply doesn't have any regard for them.
Light Brigading / Flickr
In another theatre, Monsanto and Bayer are merging. They were one as MoBay (MonsantoBayer), part of the poison cartel of I.G. Farben. The controlling stakes of both corporations lie with the same private equity firms. The expertise of these firms is in war. I.G. Farben, Adolf Hitler's economic powerhouse and pre-war Germany's highest foreign exchange earner, was also a foreign intelligence operation. Hermann Schmitz was president of I.G. Farben, Schmitz's nephew Max Ilgner was a director of I.G. Farben, while Max's brother Rudolph Ilgner ran the New York arm as vice-president of Chemnyco.
Paul Warburg, brother of Max Warburg (board of directors, Farben Aufsichtsrat), founded the U.S. Federal Reserve System. Max Warburg and Hermann Schmitz played a central role in the Farben empire. Other "guiding hands" of Farben Vorstand included Carl Bosch, Fritz ter Meer, Kurt Oppenheim and George von Schnitzler. Each of them was adjudged a "war criminal" after World War II, except Paul Warburg.
Monsanto and Bayer have a long history. They made explosives and lethally poisonous gases using shared technologies and sold them to both sides in the two world wars. The same war chemicals were bought by the Allied and Axis powers, from the same manufacturers, with money borrowed from the same bank.
MoBay supplied ingredients for Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Around 20 million gallons of MoBay defoliants and herbicides were sprayed over South Vietnam. Children are still being born with birth defects, adults have chronic illnesses and cancers, due to their exposure to MoBay's chemicals. Monsanto and Bayer's cross-licensed Agent Orange resistance has also been cross-developed for decades. Wars were fought, lives lost, nations carved into holy lands — with artificial boundaries that suit colonization and resource grab — while Bayer and Monsanto sold chemicals as bombs and poisons and their brothers provided the loans to buy those bombs.
More recently, Bayer CropScience AG and Monsanto are believed to have entered into a long-term business relationship. This gives Monsanto and Bayer free access to each other's herbicide and paired herbicide resistance technology. Through cross-licensing agreements, mergers and acquisitions, the biotech industry has become the I.G. Farben of today, with Monsanto in the cockpit.
The global chemical and GMO industry—Bayer, Dow Agro, DuPont Pioneer, Mahyco, Monsanto and Syngenta—have come together to form the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) to try and become bigger bullies in this assault on India's farmers, environment and democratically-framed laws that protect the public and the national interest. This is in addition to Association of Biotechnology-Led Enterprises (ABLE), which tried to challenge India's seed price control order issued under the Essential Commodities Act in the Karnataka high court. The case was dismissed.
The new group is not "seed industry;" they produce no seeds. They try to stretch patents on chemicals to claim ownership on seeds, even in countries where patents on seeds and plants are not allowed. This is the case in India, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and many other countries.
All Monsanto cases in India are related to Monsanto un-scientifically, illegally and illegitimately claiming patents on seed, in contempt of India's laws, and trying to collect royalties from the Indian seed industry and farmers. The FSII is an "I.G. Farben 100-Year Family Reunion," a coming together of independent and autonomous entities.
The Farben family chemical cartel was responsible for exterminating people in concentration camps. It embodies a century of ecocide and genocide, carried out in the name of scientific experimentation and innovation. Today, the poison cartel is wearing G-Engineering clothes and citing the mantra of "innovation" ad nauseam. Hitler's concentration camps were an "innovation" in killing; and almost a century later, the Farben family is carrying out the same extermination—silently, globally and efficiently.
Monsanto's "innovation" of collecting illegal royalties and pushing Indian farmers to suicide is also an innovation in killing without liability, indirectly. Just because there is a new way to kill doesn't make killing right. "Innovation," like every human activity, has limits—set by ethics, justice, democracy, the rights of people and of nature.
.@DrVandanaShiva: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger & #Farmers Commit #Suicide http://t.co/nXJDEugLaP http://t.co/Jef9K9TkAt— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1439574016.0
I.G. Farben was tried in Nuremberg. We have national laws to protect people, their right to life and public health, and the environment. India's biosafety and patent laws and the Plant Variety Act are designed to regulate greedy owners of corporations with a history of crimes against nature and humanity.
Industry is getting ready to push its next "gene," the GMO mustard (DMH-11). The GMO mustard, being promoted as a public sector "innovation," is based on barnase/barstar/gene system to create male-sterile plants and a bar gene for glufosinate resistance. In 2002, Pro-Agro's (Bayer) application for approval of commercial planting of GM mustard based on the same system was turned down.
Although banned in India, Bayer finds ways to sell glufosinate illegally to Assam's tea gardens and the apple orchards of Himachal Pradesh. Sales agents show the sale of glufosinate under the "others" category to avoid regulation. These chemicals are finding their way into the bodies of our children without government approval. Essentially, all key patents related to the bar gene are held by Bayer Crop Science, which acquired Aventis Cropscience, which itself was created out of the genetic engineering divisions of Schering, Rhone Poulenc and Hoechst. Then Bayer acquired Plant Genetic Systems and entered into cooperation agreement with Evogene, which has patents on genome mapping.
Before any approval is granted to genetically-engineered mustard, the issue of limits to patentability needs to be resolved on the basis of Indian laws and patents on plants and seeds and methods of agriculture must not be allowed. Deepak Pental, a retired professor and GMO-Operative, will not commercialize GMO mustard seed. His officers at Bayer/Monsanto/MoBay will.
Given our experience with GMO cotton, The Ministry of Environment & Forests is considering the option of putting in place guidelines for socio-economic assessment to judge proposed GMO varieties on the basis of factors such as the economy, health, environment, society and culture.
At the core of socio-economic assessment is the issue of monopolies and cartels, and their impact on small farmers. Even though patents on seeds are not allowed, for more than a decade and a half, Monsanto has extracted illegal royalties from Indian farmers, trapping them in debt and triggering an epidemic of farmers' suicides. Monsanto's war on India's foot soldiers—farmers—is a war being waged by the Farben family, on our Earth family.
By Alexandra Rosenmann
Did you know that American companies are legally permitted to manufacture dangerous pesticides for export—even after the chemicals have been banned in the U.S.? There are policies that create a "circle of poison"; toxic chemicals traveling around the world, ironically imported back to the U.S. through foodstuffs we eat.
Circle of Poison, a groundbreaking documentary by Nick Capezzera, Evan Mascagni and Shannon Post, unveils the unrelenting corruption of this cycle. The film features interviews with Jimmy Carter, Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Patrick Leahy and the Dalai Lama, as well as footage from India, Mexico, Argentina, Bhutan and the U.S., in order to illustrate the global impact of the pesticide trade and how communities are fighting back.
"A standard argument against a healthy environment and other regulations in the country or for export is that it's harmful to business, which of course it is," Noam Chomsky said in the film. "If business can kill people freely, it's a lot more profitable than if you have to pay attention to what you're producing and look at the effects on people and so on."
Watch: Exclusive clip from Circle of Poison:
"Major industries in this country ... lead, asbestos, tobacco, have often succeeded for decades poisoning people quite consciously. They knew perfectly well that children are going to die of lead poisoning, but 'you gotta make profit,'" Chomsky continued.
"And they're right. It's a system where you're supposed to make profit ... Like a CEO of a corporation is actually required by law to increase profit so they're doing exactly what they have to do and, well, if the population suffers, that's the cost of doing business. Although, by the time you get to export ... the domestic population has become organized enough and active enough so they're saying 'you can't kill us,'" Chomsky said.
"We sought out to take on a political issue that people from all walks of life, regardless of political affiliation, could agree was an important one and that needs to be addressed," Director Evan Mascagni told AlterNet. "I was blown away by the fact that we would allow companies to continue to manufacture and export products that those companies could not safely and legally sell to customers within the United States."
Circle of Poison will be available for streaming and download this fall.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.