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Pretend what you will read below is from a Krimi because otherwise you may not believe it. A company which manufactures agricultural pesticides and herbicides as well as selling seeds for major crops announces it will buy a small all-but-unknown seed company in Mississippi, Delta & Pine Land of Scott Mississippi. The event passed un-remarked in major media. With the takeover, the world’s largest producer of Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs), Monsanto Corporation of St. Louis Missouri , emerges with world patent rights to what is known as ‘Terminator’ seed technology.
To appreciate the significance of the merger, we have to go back some forty or more years to the dawn of what is ‘agribusiness.’ In the early 1960’s two Harvard Business School professors, one a former US Department of Agriculture high official, set out to revolutionize world food production. Publicly their goal was to raise farmer yields and make the business of food and fiber growing just as efficient as that of making cars or radios.
The two professors, Ray Goldberg and John Davis, coined the word agribusiness to describe their quiet revolution. They argued that farming, which is subject to seasonal growing cycles, was too focused on the small farmer. He was the ‘weak link’ in their chain. When he couldn’t grow corn or wheat, he would raise dairy cows, chickens a few pigs and sell the products to his local market. We called him the family farmer.
Slowly, beginning with citrus farmers in Florida and Sunkist orange juice producer, Goldberg and Davis began to transform the face of American farming. Next came chickens. Instead of a few free-roaming chickens feeding in the open farm, Perdue Farms, later Arkansas-based Tyson Farms introduced the methods of Davis and Goldberg—chicken farming would become industrialized. Time-motion methods were applied like in a car assembly line. Key was the mass production of tons of chicken meat per hour. Feed, vaccination and slaughter were mechanized in what came to be called factory farms. Tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of small birds were crammed in cages never to see daylight. They were pumped with antibiotics because it made them grow fatter faster. Time was money.
Stepwise, agribusiness spread across US family farming. The energy crisis of the 1970’s gave a major push to ‘cost reduction.’ Farmers had to borrow to survive and hundreds of thousands didn’t. Then ‘economy of scale’ took over. Huge cattle feedlot operations like Iowa Beef Processors, Cargill Beef and others cartelized the production of beef in the USA by the late 1980’s. The US Department of Agriculture, created during the 1860’s by President Lincoln to defend the interests of family farmers, had been transformed into a policy agency of the large agribusiness groups. Farmers slowly were forced, as their debts increased, to hire out their labor on a contract basis to the new agribusiness firms like Tyson Foods or Cargill Beef. The traditional face of rural America was changing radically.
By the beginning of the 1990’s, in the USA a series of mergers and acquisitions led to a cartel in which over 80% of the 35 million beef cattle slaughtered annually were in the hands of four huge corporations. The same held for most other major food areas.
For the new corporate agribusiness giants, the transformation was quite profitable. Family farmers’ income plunged as they lost control of their market entirely to the agribusiness giants by the end of the 1990’s. The average annual return on stockholder equity for the industrialized food processing sector rose to 23% by 1999 from 13% in 1993. Hundreds of thousands of independent family farmers were forced out of business with the spread of agribusiness and their large operations. They simply couldn’t compete. Traditional farming was labor intensive, while factory farming was capital intensive. Farmers who did manage to raise the money for animal confinement systems quickly discovered that the small savings in labor costs were not enough to cover the increasing costs of facilities, energy, caging, and drugs.
The increase in factory farms led to a decrease in the price independent farmers got for their animals, forcing thousands out of business. The number of US farmers dropped by 300,000 between 1979 and 1998.
A report to the US Secretary of Agriculture in the late 1990’s described the enormous social costs of the destruction of the American family farm by agribusiness as the economic basis of entire rural communities collapsed and rural towns became ghost towns. The USDA report was buried.
As farmers abandoned their family land in droves during the 1980’s and 1990’s, agribusiness moved in to fill the void. Municipalities, often desperate to attract jobs in regions of rural depression, offered the new agribusiness giants attractive concessions, tax benefits and others, to locate their industrial farms in the region, hoping to create new jobs and economic growth. The main growth in the huge animal concentrations created was in fecal matter—animal waste in unimagined volumes.
This process of concentration, done by well-financed political lobbying of Congress to lift decades-old laws forbidding such monopolies in food production, was paralleled by a similar trend in seeds. Without seeds today, no farmer can plant crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans, rapeseed (raps) or rice.
The control of the global seed supply had been a target of the powerful elite interests driving the monopolistic agribusiness concentrations of power in the USA and the EU. Essentially three or four grain companies, all US-based, control the overwhelming bulk of soybeans, wheat, and other feeds moved internationally. Cargill, Bunge, ADM and until recently Continental Grain determined the world price of grains.
Their top executives moved from industry to government to control legislation, implement policy in the USDA and key EU agriculture ministries. However, so long as farmers were able to take a portion of their own seeds and use them to replant in the next harvest independent of paying annual fees to the giant seed companies such as Pioneer HiBred, Syngenta or Monsanto, there was a gaping hole in the total cartelization and control of food as a global commodity.
The missing piece of the agribusiness coup has been the perfection of patented seeds which would automatically commit suicide after only one harvest, forcing the farmer buying the seeds to pay a new fee each year or lose his harvest entirely. The trade name for such seeds is GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies). The popular name for these genetically modified seeds is Terminator, in honor of the Hollywood film character who murders with abandon.
An old Chinese proverb says, ‘To boil a frog you first must put it into a pot of cold water, then, as the frog sits in blissful comfort, very very slowly turn the heat up to boiling until it is too late for the frog to jump out.’
Similarly with the cartelization of world food supply. Over the past four decades, first in the United States and Canada, then, owing to enormous political pressure from Washington on the European Commission, across EU lands, agriculture has been transformed from a stable, sanitary, family enterprise into giant, globalized industrial enterprises whose food product is increasingly contaminated and of ever more dubious nutrition value. Now the acquisition of the terminator patent by Monsanto marks the beginning of an ominous new phase in the global monopolization of our food supply.
The decision of Monsanto Corporation of St. Louis Missouri, the world’s largest holder and seller of genetically manipulated seeds and agrichemicals paired to their GMO seeds, now to buy Delta & Pine Land is all about putting the missing link into place for total control by a tiny elite of private companies of the global seed supply for essential animal feed and human foods. Perhaps another decade off if people don’t wake up to the obvious soon, that control over the total global food supply in the hands of perhaps three or four giant private corporations, agribusiness giants, three with close ties to the Pentagon war machine, is a power over human life never before achieved by even the most power mad elites.
Most shocking is the fact that Terminator patents held by Delta & Pine Land were developed jointly with the United States government and its USDA which had worked with Delta & Pine since 1983 to pérfect Terminator technology in genetic manipulation of seeds.
What exactly is Terminator and why is it so dangerous?
While most of us don’t bother to reflect on where the corn in the box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes or the rice in a box of Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice come from when we grab it from the supermarket shelf, they all must originate with seeds. Seeds can either be taken by a farmer from his previous season’s seeds, and planted to produce the next harvest. Or, seeds can be bought new each harvest season, from the companies which sell their seeds commercially.
The advent of commercial patented GMO seeds in the early 1990’s allowed companies like Monsanto, DuPont or Dow Chemicals to go from supplying agriculture chemical herbicides or pesticides like Roundup, to patenting genetically altered seeds for basic farm crops like corn, rice, soybeans or wheat.
There has been much hue and cry, correctly so, that this process, patented ‘suicide’ seeds, officially termed GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), is a threat to poor farmers in developing countries like India or Brazil , who traditionally save their own seeds for the next planting. In fact, Terminator seeds represent a threat to the food security as well of Europe , North America , Japan and anywhere Monsanto and its elite cartel of GMO agribusiness partners enters a market.
Terminator’ plants are genetically engineered to produce sterile seed. By inserting a series of ‘promoter’ and ‘marker’ genes and gene switches, it is possible to switch on or off the sterility of crops at the molecular level by applying chemicals to the plant. Seed can be harvested but not saved as a source for the next planting without the repeated use of a hemical inducer.
In the first ‘Terminator’ patents from Delta & Pine Land and USDA in 1998, a specific chemical triggers a genetically engineered suicide mechanism. The trigger is an antibiotic called tetracycline applied to the seeds. The result is that the next generation of seeds is dead.
Harry Collins, vice president of Delta & Pine Land Company, gave the PR marketing version for Terminator back in 1998. He argued, ‘The centuries old practice of farmer-saved seed is really a gross disadvantage to Third World farmers who inadvertently become locked into obsolete varieties because of their taking the ‘easy road’ and not planting newer, more productive varieties.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Crucible Group, which includes the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute puts ‘Terminator’ into a wider context: ‘The monopoly control afforded by ‘Terminator Technology’ goes far beyond patents and threatens national sovereignty. A patent is a time-limited, legal monopoly granted by a government in exchange for societal benefits. In the case of the ‘Terminator’, the biological monopoly is not time-limited, and is not necessarily approved by national governments.’
Now the diverse threads of four decades of industrialization and cartelization of agribusiness begin to come together at the node of Terminator technology and GMO seeds. But for Terminator to get proliferated on skeptical countries already hostile and nervous about GMO plants, a police enforcement mechanism was needed.
The key enforcer of the Monsanto, Syngenta and the handful of GMO seed patent giants is a secretive and very powerful institution created in the mid-1990’s and headquartered in Geneva—the WTO or World Trade Organization.
The negotiations of world trade since the establishment of the Bretton Woods postwar monetary system at the end of World War II, had been made through a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a series of multi-nation trade rounds on specific issues between specific member countries of the GATT. In September 1986, on US-led pressure, the Uruguay Round of GATT was launched in Punta del Este Uruguay . The result was creation of a new, powerful private international agency, the WTO. US policy circles and agribusiness already knew of the intense research underway in GMO by Monsanto, Delta & Pine and DuPont and other biotech companies.
Finally, just as the first major commercialization of GMO crops began in the USA , in late 1994 the US Congress voted to join the WTO, the new permanent trade body established by the GATT Uruguay Round. There was almost no debate. It was clear in Washington the US and its allies would dominate the new body.
Unlike GATT, the WTO would be given tough sanction and enforcement powers. More important, how it reached decisions was to remain secret, with no democratic oversight. The most vital issues of economic life on the planet were to be decided behind closed doors in Geneva WTO headquarters. It could choose its ‘experts’ as it saw fit and ignore what evidence it saw fit. In the EU GMO dispute, three of four initial scientific experts chosen were from either US or UK institutions, two countries most in favour of GMO. (1)
Two years earlier, in 1992, at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Rio, 175 UN governments signed a convention to on the safe handling and treatment of GMOs, a major vote of the world community to examine the health and economic impacts of GMO agriculture before it could be allowed in a country. The US Government of President George Bush Sr. aggressively opposed the CBD, arguing that a Biosafety Protocol was ‘unnecessary.’ Under the CBD agreement, a country could prohibit GMO imports.
The GMO industry, led by Monsanto, DuPont and Dow of the US , sabotaged this CBD agreement. A group of six countries controlling the world Biotech or GMO market— Canada , Argentina , Uruguay , Australia Chile and USA-- forced a clause into the CBD text which would subordinate the Biosafety Protocol to the WTO. They argued that limiting trade based on ‘unproven’ biosafety concerns should be considered a ‘barrier to trade’ under WTO rules!
Traditional liability law holds that a new product must first be proven safe before being allowed on market. This WTO rule placing the burden of proof not on the producer of a new GMO product, but on the potential victims, turned prudence and health safety issues on its head. In the end the US destroyed the Biosafety Protocol by refusing to include soybeans and corn, 99% of all GMO products, making the Protocol near worthless regarding GMO health issues.
The WTO serves as the weapon for the powerful coalition of Washington and the powerful private GMO agribusiness giants, led by Monsanto. Earlier in 1992, Bush, on advice of Monsanto and the emerging US GM giant companies, ruled that GM organisms were ‘substantially equivalent’ to ordinary seeds for soybeans or corn and such. As ‘substantially equivalent,’ GM seeds required no special testing or health controls before being put on the market. This was crucial to the future of Monsanto and the GMO lobby. Under US law it is illegal to label a food product that contains GMO!
By Presidential Executive Order, the US had defined GMO seeds as not needing to be regulated for health and safety. It made sure this principle was carried over into the new WTO in the form of the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS), which stated, ‘Food standards and measures aimed at protecting people from pests or animals can potentially be used as a deliberate barrier to trade.’ The US charge against the EU brought by President G.W. Bush in 2003 over allegations of a de facto EU ban on GMO charged the EU with violation of the SPS agreement of WTO.
WTO rules in the Agreement to Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) forbid member countries from using domestic standards or testing, food safety laws, product standards, calling them an ‘unfair barrier to trade.’ In short, the power of the privately-controlled undemocratic WTO is superior in international law to that of sovereign governments over the health and safety of its citizens.
In 1983, well before creation of WTO, Delta & Pine Land (D&PL) joined with the US Department of Agriculture in a project to develop Terminator seeds. It was one of the earliest experiments with GMO. It was also a long-term project.
The US Government has been serious about Terminator beginning more than two decades ago. With a Pentagon openly advocating a military policy of Total Spectrum Dominance, and a Washington administration apparently out to control major world.
energy supplies by military occupation or other means, the idea that the same US Government might now be close to realization of de facto control over the major seed supplies of the planet ought to give us a few sleepless nights.
In March 1998 the US Patent Office granted Patent No. 5,723,765 to Delta & Pine Land for a patent titled, Control of Plant Gene Expression. The patent is owned jointly, according to Delta & Pine’s Security & Exchange Commission 10K filing, ‘by D&PL and the United States of America , as represented by the Secretary of Agriculture.’
The patent has global coverage. To quote further from the official D&PL SEC filing, ‘The patent broadly covers all species of plant and seed, both transgenic (GMO-ed) and conventional, for a system designed to allow control of progeny seed viability without harming the crop’(sic).
In a manner reminiscent of Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel, 1984, D&PL boasts, ‘One application of the technology could be to control unauthorized planting of seed of proprietary varieties…by making such a practice non-economic since non-authorized saved seed will not germinate, and, therefore, would be useless for planting.’
D&PL calls the thousand-year-old tradition of farmer-saved seed by the pejorative term, ‘brown bagging’ as though it is something dirty and corrupt. Millions of Germans and other war-devastated European citizens would have starved in the postwar hunger winter had they not been able to ‘brown bag.’
As D&PL puts it, their patent gives them ‘the prospect of opening significant worldwide seed markets to the sale of transgenic technology in varietal crops in which crop seed currently is saved and used in subsequent seasons as planting seed.’
Instead, the farmer or the country whose farmers depend on Monsanto patented GMO seeds must pay a license fee to Monsanto each year to get new seeds. ‘No tickee, no laundy,’ as the old Brooklyn poet would say.
Terminator is the answer to the agribusiness dream of controlling world food production. No longer will they need to hire expensive detectives to spy on whether farmers were re-using Monsanto or other GMO patented seed. Terminator corn or soybeans or cotton seeds could be genetically modified to ‘commit suicide’ after one harvest season. That would automatically prevent farmers from saving and re-using the seed for the next harvest. The technology would be a means of enforcing Monsanto or other GMO patent rights, and forcing payment of farmer use fees not only in developing economies, where patent rights were, understandably, little respected, but also in industrial OECD countries.
With Terminator patent rights, once a country such as Argentina or Brazil or Iraq or the USA or Canada opened its doors to the spread of GMO patented seeds among its farmers, their food security would be hostage to a private multinational company, a company which, for whatever reasons, e special ly given its intimate ties to the US Government, might decide to use ‘food as a weapon’ to compel a US-friendly policy from that country or group of countries.
Sound far-fetched? Go back to what then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger did in countries like Allende’s Chile to force a regime change to a ‘US-friendly’ Pinochet dictatorship by withholding USAID and private food exports to Chile . Kissinger dubbed it ‘food as a weapon.’ Terminator is merely the logical next step in food weapon technology.
The role of the US Government in backing and financing Delta & Pine Land ’s decades of Terminator research is even more revealing. As Kissinger said back in the 1970’s, during the first oil crisis and a world grain shortage, ‘Control the oil and you can control entire lands. Control food and you control people…’
In a June 1998 interview, USDA spokesman, Willard Phelps, defined the US Government policy on Terminator seeds. He explained that USDA wanted the technology to be ‘widely licensed and made expeditiously available to many seed companies.’ He meant agribusiness GMO giants like Monsanto, DuPont or Dow. The USDA was open about their reasons: They wanted to get Terminator seeds into the developing world where the Rockefeller Foundation had made eventual proliferation of genetically engineered crops the heart of its GMO strategy from the beginnings of its rice genome project in 1984.
USDA’s Phelps stated that the US Government’s goal in fostering the widest possible development of Terminator technology was ‘to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by US seed companies and to open up new markets in Second and Third World countries.’
Under WTO rules on free trade in agriculture, countries are forbidden to impose their own national health restrictions on GMO imports if it is deemed to be an ‘unfair trade barrier.’ It begins to become clear why it was the US Government and US agribusiness which during the late 1980’s pushed at the GATT Uruguay Round for creation of a World Trade Organization, with its supranational arbitrary powers over world agriculture trade. It all fits into a neat picture of patented seeds, forced on reluctant WTO member nations, under threat of WTO sanctions, and now of Terminator or suicide seeds.
The entire agribusiness and GMO revolution in food control, for that’s what it is, was the product of decades of activity and hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants from private US-led foundations. One in particular stands above all others- The Rockefeller Foundation, founded in 1913 by the world’s first billionaire, oil monopolist, John D. Rockefeller to hide his vast fortune from taxation.
The original project on agribusiness at Harvard was financed by a grant from a powerful private family foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation. The original research on genetics and eugenics before the Second World War was financed by Rockefeller Foundation including the race genetics of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute up to outbreak of war in 1939.
The earliest research in mass birth control and population reduction beginning the 1950’s was financed by the Rockefeller Foundation. Henry Kissinger, now advisor to the Vatican , was a protégé of the Rockefeller Foundation as were most US Secretaries of State in the post-war era.
The funder of the misleading Green Revolution in agriculture, today discredited as a ploy to push agrichemicals and petroleum products on developing nation agriculture in Mexico , India and elsewhere, including the research of Nobel Peace Laureate Norman Borlaug, was the Rockefeller Foundation.
Since the 1980’s it has also been the Rockefeller Foundation which has catalyzed the GMO Revolution and its consequences globally. At the end of World War II, Nelson, David and John D Rockefeller III, the three most powerful people in the world’s most powerful nation then, set about to do in agriculture what they so successfully had done in world oil: control it. If Monsanto’s Terminator project is allowed to proceed, their dream—our nightmare—will have been realized some six decades later.