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Monsanto leaves farmers ‘enslaved in a new kind of serfdom’

William Engdahl is an award-winning geopolitical analyst and strategic risk consultant whose internationally best-selling books have been translated into thirteen foreign languages.

Published time: July 23, 2013 20:14
AFP Photo / Alain Guilhot

Monsanto will no longer be pursuing approval for the cultivation of new biotech crops in Europe but will instead focus on the import of existing crops. The easing of pressure is tactical, political analyst and author William Engdahl told RT.

The world’s largest seed company has been on a losing streak, especially in India and the Philippines. At the end of last week, Monsanto said that it was due to widespread opposition that it dropped its bid to get more genetically modified crops onto the European market – despite using tricks attempting to secure necessary political backing for their success.

RT:  Does the decision mean a victory for the anti-GMO movement in Europe?

WE:
In a word, no. If you look at the fine print of the interview that the European managing director (MD) for Monsanto, Jose Manuel Madero, gave to Reuters, what he said is that they’re withdrawing a request for new approvals in the EU Commission here in Europe, but at the same time they’re going to increase their pressure to import GMO products from the US and other countries into Europe. So this is a tactical move – it’s not a strategic defeat or rollback by Monsanto in any way shape or…beans.

RT:
What are the human and environmental risks?

WE:
Well, the Mon810 is primarily being planted in Spain right now and the agri-multinationals have dominated the agriculture in Spain for the last 25 years, so they’ve managed to get a foothold in that country. In most other countries there’s a broad-based grassroots opposition to any and every sort of GMO crop – so they just haven’t been able to do it. In France, you have independent scientists in the universities who have come out with studies of Mon810, showing the indications of severe side effects that weren’t reported by Monsanto. So the popular outcry against that in France, Germany, and other countries is such that Monsanto’s unable to get it pushed through. So what they’re doing is resorting to a back doorway of proliferating their GMO in Europe by increasing the emphasis on imports of GMOs - because there they have a loophole in the European laws of labeling. The power feed – the animal feed that’s GMO corn and soy from Monsanto and other companies - is not required to be labeled as containing GMO. 

Protesters stand on the Meir in Antwerp on May 25, 2013 during a protest against the American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto. (AFP Photo / Jonas Roosens)

RT:  Monsanto though stressed that this does not mean the firm's withdrawing its application to renew the approval for its GM corn MON810. What does that tell us about the company's real intentions?

WE:
Well, it’s a pragmatic and tactical move by Monsanto. After Monsanto had a closed-door meeting with the president of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1999, it announced that it was not going to commercialize terminator technology that would have seeds that commit suicide after one harvest, to make sure that farmers would have to come back to Monsanto every year. Seven years later, they acquired the company that had the patent - together with the US government - on terminator or GROTS technology. But by then, the opposition had been disarmed. They thought they’d won a victory. All the anti-GMO NGOs were either sleeping at the switch or looking elsewhere, and there wasn’t a peep of protest. So I suspect they’re trying to do something similar here.

First of all, let’s take the songbook that Monsanto and other GMO companies are using. That GMO crops are the solution to world hunger. Fact is, there is absolutely no patent on GMO crop that increases harvest yield. Long term studies in the US and other countries show that after one or two slight gains in harvest yield – if any at all - the actual yield per hectare or per acre begins to drop. Number two [of the songbook] is that they use less pesticides or herbicides. Well, in fact there’s weed resistance that develops after three or four harvest years of Monsanto roundup spraying, meaning that superweeds grow up and need more – not less - chemicals. So you’re losing on both counts. The thing is a marketing fraud. It’s designed to lock farmers into long-term contracts for their seeds. Once they get that, [farmers] can’t plant normal seeds for at least seven years after they’ve planted GMO and sprayed heavily with roundup. The soils become toxic. So you’re more or less enslaved in this new kind of ‘serfdom,’ as I call it in my book.

RT: 
MON-810 maize is the only gene crop currently being commercially cultivated in the EU. However, France, Germany, and Poland have imposed national bans on it. Why are only a few governments siding with the people's push against GM food?

WE: I don’t think it’s supplying cheaper food at all. I don’t think the profit motive is really the key thing in GMO. It’s the idea of a monopoly. The model is developed by the Rockefeller Foundation. Interesting bit of background history: Back in the 1970s they decided to try – even going back to World War II – with Nelson Rockefeller and Norman Borlaug, who was a scientist at the Rockefeller University then - to develop a model for agri-business that they had developed for oil. Namely a globalization cartel control - a quasi-monopoly of the market for food, and that’s the history of the last 30 years worldwide in the food chain. I was just recently in Moscow. The Russian supermarkets are overflowing with imported foods, whereas Russia has some of the best unspoiled topsoil on the planet today. Russia should be growing natural food for its own citizens and avoiding the import bill - but the power of these agri-business multinationals after the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago was such that they managed to get a foothold. You go in, you see Nestle on the shelf, you see Kellogg’s cornflakes – all using GMO corn from the US and so forth. So it’s this  of food that’s really the agenda behind GMO, the patenting of seeds. 

Employees of a farm complex on the edge of a cornfield in the Kaliningrad Region, Russia (RIA Novosti / Igor Zarembo)

 
RT: A recent poll showed that 95 per cent of EU citizens are against GMO crops - so do they have a future in Europe?

WE:
I would sincerely hope not. I think fortunately there’s a very strong grassroots movement in Europe. Monsanto and co. – the four companies – have done everything imaginable, including backing appointees to the European Food Safety Administration in Brussels - the so-called neutral scientists that are supposed to rule on citizens’ food safety. The majority of the members of that board are affiliated with Monsanto-financed NGOs. They get their research grants from Monsanto-related cut-outs and so forth. So the tricks and manipulations that Monsanto & co. have used to get GMO into Europe have been enormous, and they haven’t succeeded. I think they’re tactically trying to ease up on the opposition because it’s really growing like a groundswell. Also in the US - for the first time in the last six months, since the worldwide march on Monsanto in May - at least according to the reports I get. But it’s interesting. Monsanto is really not this European thing so much – but worldwide on a losing streak, as I see it. They’ve lost a major court decision in India from the patent office appeals court that denies them the right to pursue patents on certain weather modification traits in all of their seeds for India. They lost a similar appeal when they tried to do it through the back door in the Philippines. In other countries now in the EU, there’s this growing opposition – it’s locked in. The name ‘Monsanto’ means something very bad. Most people don’t have time to research these things as you and I do, but they’ve locked into that message - that soundbite - and with that in mind, anything GMO is verboten.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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