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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 4/3/09

GMO Proliferation Bills

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Linn Cohen-Cole calls HR 875 "monstrous on level after level - the power it would give to Monsanto (and other Ag giants), the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hour GPS tracking of animals, the easement on their property to allow for warrantless government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition (of) "industrial" standards, (and) planned elimination of (independent) farmers through all (the above) means."

It's no secret that Ag giants want all foods to be GMOs so they have total control. It's an agenda going back decades that Engdahl explained in his book. The science came out of US research labs in the 1970s when no one noticed or paid attention. It became apparent when the Reagan administration decided to make America dominant in a friendly unregulated environment, unmindful of safety and public health concerns, that's persisted ever since under Republican and Democrat administrations.

Monsanto is the dominant producer, a company with a long record of fraud, cover-up, bribery, deceit, and disdain for the public interest, yet it has enormous clout in Washington. In the 1980s, and especially under GHW Bush, it got unregulated free reign for its operations. A Bush Executive Order assured it. It ruled GMO plants and food to be "substantially equivalent" to ordinary ones of the same varieties, such as corn, wheat or rice. "Substantial equivalence" became the standard for the GMO revolution by sweeping away all regulatory restraints in spite of early concerns about safety that were confirmed overwhelmingly later on.

PASA says don't be fooled by the bill's deceptive language that hides its true intentions. Code words like "traceability, source verification, and best farming practices with proven scientific results" will force farmers to tag every animal (the requirement for industrial farms is one per 800,000) and use drugs, pesticides and GM seeds.

Already an Ohio state agricultural department swat team raided an organic food coop. The same thing happened to Pennsylvania Mennonite farmers and Wisconsin Amish ones. Other independents have been terrorized by home break-ins, burglaries, and treetop helicopter over-flights scaring animals to death. Conventional seed farmers like North Dakota's Rodney Nelson have been sued by Monsanto for infringing on its patent rights because wind currents landed GM seeds on his land. In Poland, pro-agribusiness laws eliminated 60% of small farmers. Ones in the UK led to 60 suicides and in India to over 180,000.

From 1996 - 2004, worldwide GMO plantings expanded to 167 million acres, a 40-fold increase on 25% of global arable land. Over two-thirds of US farmland grows GMOs, more than 106 million acres. Argentina has 34 million acres, and production is expanding in Brazil, China, Canada, South Africa, Indonesia, Spain, Eastern Europe, and wherever else Ag giants have clout. They want it all, everywhere, and have complicit government allies to help them, here and abroad.

In Iraq, Paul Bremer's Order 81 covers patents, their duration, and stated: "Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any (designated) variety." It gave Ag giants absolute control over farmers' seed usage for 20 years. They're now GMO, owned by the transnationals, and Iraqi farmers had to sign an agreement to pay a "technology fee" as well as an annual license fee. Plant Variety Protection (PVP) made seed saving and reuse illegal, and even "similar" seed plantings can result in severe fines and imprisonment. Agribusiness wants the same rights everywhere, including in America. If they get it, the future of organic and independent farming will be threatened.

PASA says HR 875 doesn't regulate, prohibit or penalize private gardens or farmers markets directly. It focuses solely on ensuring supermarket food safety. But it regulates seeds, harvesting, transporting, seed storage facilities, and seed cleaning equipment under "food safety" provisions to prevent contamination - from agricultural water and manure, not pesticides, fertilizers, or unsafe GM seeds.

Seed cleaning equipment is crucial as it's how organic seed is saved. It's used after plants "go to seed" to separate them from plant material so farmers can harvest and store them for future plantings. HR 875 doesn't mention seeds but PASA believes its intent is to criminalize their banking through code language and bill provisions. Already, some areas of the country ban seed cleaning. Monsanto is likely involved, and the scheme is to claim the equipment produces contamination.

To prevent it, Ag giants want provisions that require expensive storage facilities, per line of seed. Organic farmers can't afford them, and this has nothing to do with food safety. But HR 875 claims it does.

PASA says FDA and USDA targeted organic and other independent farmers for years, at least since the early 1980s when high interest rates drove many out of business. Today, pro-industry laws have the same effect because Ag giants like Monsanto demand them. If they succeed, biodiversity and organic farming are at risk along with public health and safety to a greater degree than already given the amount of tainted and dangerous foods allowed, not addressed in HR 875.

While bill language doesn't prohibit organic or independent farming, that's the likely aim. Its provisions are Ag business-friendly, but destructive to small competitors by establishing heavy fines, imprisonment, onerous rules, and letting regulators interpret them as they wish.

Bill language also doesn't mandate a national animal ID system (NAIS) but does it by claiming it's in current law. It's so deceptive that Congress and consumer and food safety groups support it. But some are industry funded so look the other way when they should know better.

HR 875 and its companion bills are under consideration in committees, not yet voted into law. Activists feel now is the time to stop them before it's too late. Agribusiness wants total control over every step in the production, processing, distribution, storage, and marketing of foods to consumers.

Using the ruse of food safety and security, they aim to eliminate competition to have it all and replace wholesome foods with unsafe GMOs. Congress is willing to go along. And why not. Representatives like DeLauro get large Ag business contributions. In return, they assure bills like HR 875 are passed. It's for concerned people to stop them.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Center of Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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