Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The power of one

FIVE MILLION Brazilian Farmers have sued biotech giant Monsanto

NEW DELHI: Five million Brazilian farmers have taken on US based biotech company Monsanto  through a lawsuit demanding return of about 6.2 billion euros taken as royalties from them. The farmers are claiming that the powerful company has unfairly extracted these royalties from poor farmers because they were using seeds produced from crops grown from Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds, reports Merco Press.

In April this year, a judge in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, ruled in favor of the farmers and ordered Monsanto to return royalties paid since 2004 or a minimum of $2 billion. The ruling said that the business practices of seed multinational Monsanto violate the rules of the Brazilian Cultivars Act (No. 9.456/97). Monsanto has appealed against the order and a federal court ruling on the case is now expected by 2014.

Read more here.

So ... the judge tells Monsanto, "You violated the rules.  You have to pay."

Monsanto immediately protests.
"We'd like to appeal," they say.

Which gives the judge the opportunity to re-think the original judgment and possibly change his or her mind, right?.

This constitutes, in effect, a postponement for defendant Monsanto, whereby it's determined that:

 "a ruling on the case is expected by 2014."  


They don't say when in 2014.

(Why does it take at the minimum  a year and a half to rule on an appeal?  That judge must have some busy schedule!)

Meanwhile, as one commenter wryly notes, this lengthy postponement provides more than enough "time for Monsanto to bribe some of the persons involved in the ruling and get off scot-free."  Wouldn't be the first time an entity escaped accountability for gross misconduct.

The numbers are interesting, though.

Five million farmers.
One corporation.
One judge.

Except the power hierarchy is wrong here.  Let's reshuffle that a bit to reflect reality:

Odds are, if prevailing opinion is any measure [Monsanto is considered by more than a few to be the "most evil corporation on the planet"], it'd come out:

1 + 1
 - 5,000,000
 = 1

where the final winner is one of the 1's":
                                       (you guessed it:)      Monsanto.

The power of one.
The powerlessness of millions


Then there's this:

"In what has been called the single largest wave of recorded suicides in human history, Indian farmers are now killing themselves in record numbers. It has been extensively reported, even in mainstream news, but nothing has been done about the issue. The cause? Monsanto’s cost-inflated and ineffective seeds have been driving farmers to suicide, and is considered to be one of the largest — if not the largest — cause of the quarter of a million farmer suicides over the past 16 years.

"According to the most recent (provided by the New York University School of Law), 17,638 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2009 — about one death every 30 minutes. In 2008, the Daily Mail labeled the continual and disturbing suicide spree as ‘The GM (genetically modified) Genocide’. Due to failing harvests and inflated prices that bankrupt the poor farmers, struggling Indian farmers began to kill themselves. Oftentimes, they would commit the act by drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto supplied them with — a gruesome testament to the extent in which Monsanto has wrecked the lives of independent and traditional farmers.

"To further add backing to the tragedy, the rate of Indian farmer suicides massively increased since the introduction of Monsanto’s Bt cotton in 2002."   [Source]


Five million angry farmers in Brazil, millions of farmers in India suiciding themselves on account of Monsanto - that's a lot of farmers. 

Whatever side of the fence you're on regarding GMOs, doesn't it seem a tad unbalanced --  that one corporation should have this much power to ruin so many farmers' lives and livelihoods?

The year 2014 is a long way away.  A lot could happen between now and then.

Meanwhile, Monsanto is off the hook, so to speak, for having to cough up at least $2 billion to pay those farmers, as ordered by the judge.  What a cut into this year's profit that would entail.  Meanwhile there are other farmers, other countries, to market those GMO seeds to.  Life goes on.  (For some.)

Farmers suiciding themselves.  Reminded me of those monks in Tibet.  People with hope for the future don't suicide themselves. 

Inform yourself.

Don't have time to watch the video?

Read Wikipedia's entry on the history, practices, complaints and concerns about Monsanto,
and judge for yourself.

(Just for the heck of it, google the words "evil" and "Monsanto" and see what comes up.)

(Jeffrey Hollender, a  leading authority on corporate responsibility, sustainability and social equity, curious about the application of the word "evil", by so many people, to this single corporation,  decided to investigate.  While he hesitated to join the others in calling Monsanto "evil", he did conclude that in his opinion, Monsanto certainly qualified as a candidate for his list of the World's 10 Worst Companies.) [1]

You mean for activities such as this?:

"Monsanto is big. You can’t win. We will get you. You will pay"
"As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the 'seed police' and use words such as 'Gestapo' and 'Mafia' to describe their tactics" Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear.

Whatever its reputation and practices, I'm more interested here in Monsanto as an example of greed gone global, whose octopus-like spread covers the globe, and whose products, supposed to "help" farmers, often in fact does quite the opposite.  How did that one company get to be so dominant?

For one, they spend a lot on lobbying; plus it helps to have friends in high places.  (Monsanto spent $8,831,120 million in 2008 lobbying the federal government; a whopping $2 million in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone) pleading for less regulations and more fast-tracking of approval for its GMO products. It is perhaps fortunate that Monsanto has friends in  strategic positions, e.g., Clarence Thomas (current U.S. Supreme Court Justice), Michael F. Taylor (senior advisor to the FDA on food safety); Dr. Michael A. Friedman (former Deputy Commissioner of the FDA); Linda J. Fisher (Deputy Administrator of the EPA); and Donald Rumsfeld (former Secretary of Defense), all have or had work connections with Monsanto.) [2], [3], [4]. 

And these:

This is  not just about desperate farmers, unhappy consumers, corporate lobbying or government corruption.  It's about a lack of  choice.  It's about an attempt to monopolize the  world's food supply.  It's about Control ... of the very many, by a select few.  

Awhile back the media was all over the Occupy Wall Street movement, whereby representatives of "the 99 percent" attempted to confront the 1 percent with the unfairness of the equation.  They were promptly ridiculed, arrested and/or marginalized.   So much for the Power of the People, to effect lasting change.

Change takes time.  The above equation could change. Perhaps sooner rather than later.  Five million rising up to demand accountability today, an entire country tomorrow.  All it takes is to keep saying No.  No to the bullying.
      No to the monopoly.
             No to the control. 

~ ~ UPDATE ~ ~

June 21, 2012
Biotech giants Monsanto were awarded a victory by lawmakers in Washington this week after a congressional panel voted to let farmers plant genetically modified crops made by the agriculture company despite pending legal proceedings.

Although the USDA has previously authorized Monsanto-created biocrops to be planted, an array of legal appeals have left the major agriculture company combating with opponents as of late. Questions over the safety of the lab-made crops on human health and the environment, as well as opposition from small time farmers constantly being fought by Monsanto, has slowed the federal agency from fully approving some crops. Now after the latest vote, Monsanto and its competitors will be able to offer seeds even as the Justice Department determines the legitimacy of the appeals.

Monsanto has garnered their fair share of opponents as of late, a result that many will argue comes from the company’s heated stance against small-time farmers. The corporation has threatened lesser farms with hundreds of lawsuits for using genetically modified crops patented by Monsanto that have been carried onto their farms by wind and other elements of nature. Recently, the corporation threatened to sue the entire state of Vermont because lawmakers there were considering a bill that would force manufacturers to label products that are created either partially or in full from a GMO.

'Bolded' segment #1 =  and the winner is:  MONSANTO!!!

'Bolded' segment #2 =   how is this not "bullying"?    (as in "Don't you DARE legislate on this!").

The power of one.

I rest my case.

This blog is a Free Speech Zone.