MONSANTO'S DESTRUCTION OF SEED CLEANERS AND THE IMMENSE THREAT TO HUMAN ACCESS TO SEEDS
I have been reporting on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's raids on Mennonite dairy farmers, on the recent Ohio Department of Agriculture SWAT team raid on an organic coop, on the USDA's terrible weapon against all farmers with animals (NAIS - the National Animal Identification System) - trying to give an idea of the destructive forces being used intentionally against non-corporate farming.
But unless one sees what is happening to seeds themselves, one misses the scope of things.
Life itself depends on seeds.
Multinational biotech corporations such as Monsanto have been genetically engineering them, promoting GE-seeds as producing better yields, helping the starving of the world, using less pesticides and as a boon to small farmers.
Independent studies already show crop failures
and a link between GE-crops and organ damage and various
and it's clear they are designed to require petroleum-based pesticides and the use of pesticides has gone up with their use.
But even if the GE-seeds were wonderful and all that was promised, the real problem with them are the patents they come with. The biotech companies are monopolizing seeds themselves, actually privatizing the DNA of life. They sell the GE-seeds at many times the price of normal seeds. In India, where Bt-cotton farmers have been committing suicide in huge numbers because of debt, Monsanto sells Bt-cotton seed at 1000% higher than normal seeds. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/...
And the seeds come with a contract that must be signed, preventing farmers from collecting seeds off their own land at the end of the season - an historic rupture of humankind's free access to natural growth. For it is important to notice that the biotech multinationals are not just claiming a patent on their process of altering the seeds but claim to own growth itself.
As astounding a move as that is on human resources of survival, they are doing more. They are removing actively and aggressively and thoroughly removing access to normal "open pollinated" seeds, the ones we have known since the beginning of time, that farmers have collected and saved and shared among each other.
In the Midwest, where Monsanto sells GE-corn and GE-soy and now owns most of it, it also bought up the "normal seed" companies so farmers no longer have places to go for normal corn or soy. And though GE-corn cross pollinates over miles and miles with normal corn so maintaining organic corn is nearly impossible now, if its GE-crop is found on a farmer's land, Monsanto sues. It's a rare farmer who can stand up them, even if the farmer has done nothing wrong.
Having bought up the normal seed companies, having locked farmers in the Midwest (only an example, it is true worldwide) into patent contracts that remove their right to collect seeds anymore, having set loose a biotechnology that contaminates normal seeds of farmers who do not buy into the patented seeds, having made plain it will sue if even a volunteer plant comes up, Monsanto is now working to eliminate the last man standing between humans and corporate privatized seeds - the seed cleaner.
The farmers has had three choices - to buy normal seed (now almost gone), to buy GE-seeds at huge cost (and going
or to collect their own seeds and use them the next season. If a farmer has even 10 acres, collecting and cleaning those seeds is a huge task. If he has 1000, it would be an impossible task without the seed cleaner whose equipment can separate out seed in just a few hours and whose costs are 1/3 that of buying normal seed.
Thus, the move to eliminate seed cleaners.
The seed cleaner is the man who makes sustainable agriculture possible.
So, Monsanto is picking off seed cleaners now across the Midwest, in Missouri,
and now in Illinois where they are going after Steve Hixon.
Shortly after someone broke into Mr. Hixon's office and he found his account book on his truck seat where he would never have left it, and every one of his remotely located and very scattered customers had three men (described as goons with "no necks") arrive at their farm, going out onto it without permission. They appear to have serving over 200 farmers. Mr. Hixon and state police who were called in, believe a GPS tracking device may have been put on Mr. Hixon's mobile seed cleaning equipment. All of his customers being sued are being intensely pressured to settle, with men coming back again and again and with daily calls and letters. It appears they are being given a choice between being sued or settling out of court or testifying against Mr. Hixon that he encouraged them to clean GE-seeds.
Monsanto has made a fortune on these kinds of Mafia extortion settlements since no farmer has the money to stand up to them, so paying them off some huge amount even if the farmer has done nothing, saves them from legal costs they can't possibly manage and a potentially worse fate if they hire some little local lawyer to go up against not one but multiple legal teams working for Monsanto and present in court. And almost always the case is set in St. Louis where Monsanto is based).
The first words out of the judge's mouth when Moe Parr, a seed cleaner in Indiana, was sued, were "It's a honor to have a fine company like Monsanto in my courtroom."
In addition to the personal attacks on seed cleaners, Monsanto is getting laws put into place in state after state that themselves are overwhelming and destructive of seed cleaners and all those who save normal seeds.
A bill has been introduced in the Ohio state legislature (United States) that would require registration and state-level regulation of anyone who cleans or conditions self-pollinated seed. According to the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), the proposed legislation is part of Monsanto's aggressive corporate strategy to police rural communities and intimidate seed-saving farmers.
"The proposed legislation is part of a dangerous trend to eliminate or restrict the right of farmers to save and exchange seed - all in the name of increasing seed industry profits" explains Hope Shand, Research Director of RAFI. "We weren't surprised to learn that Monsanto is behind the bill, because the company is already waging a ferocious campaign against seed-saving farmers and it's actively developing the controversial suicide seeds - or Terminator technology," said Shand. Terminator is a technique for genetically altering a plant so that the seeds it produces are sterile.
According to the Ohio Seed Improvement Association, the proposal to amend Ohio's seed law originated with agribusiness giant Monsanto last year. Monsanto is the world's largest seller of genetically modified seed. Under US patent law it is illegal for farmers to save patented seed. To enforce its exclusive monopoly, Monsanto has aggressively prosecuted farmers for what the company calls "seed piracy." But seed saving is illegal only if the farmer is saving or re-using patented seed. Farmers who grow soybeans and wheat, for example, typically save seed from their harvest to re-plant the following year. An estimated 25% of North American soybean seed is farm-saved seed.
Monsanto has waged an aggressive, Draconian campaign against seed-saving farmers in North America. The company has hired Pinkerton investigators to root-out seed-saving farmers and it is using radio ads and telephone "tiplines" in farming communities to identify and intimidate farmers who might save or re-use the company's patented seed. Under Monsanto's gene licensing agreement, the company reserves the right to come onto the farmer's land and take seed samples to insure that the farmer is not violating patent law.
"It appears that Monsanto's newest strategy is to shift the expense and burden of policing rural communities to the seed cleaners and state governments. If the bill becomes law, Monsanto's "gene police" will ultimately become state regulators who are working on behalf of Monsanto," explains Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI.
"The Ohio legislation is unfair to farmers because it places an onerous regulatory burden on all seed-saving farmers and seed cleaners - not just farmers who buy Monsanto's patented seed," explains Shand. If the bill becomes law, it would require seed cleaners to keep detailed records on every seed cleaning transaction, to document the name of the farmer, seed variety names and whether or not the seed is protected by patents or breeders' rights. "In essence, the bill discriminates against farmers who are lawfully saving and re-planting open-pollinated seed varieties," asserts RAFI's Shand.
Ohio farmer and custom seed cleaner Roger Peters opposes the proposed bill to regulate open-pollinated seed cleaners. "Why should any farmer be forced to keep records on law-abiding farmers who clean their own seed?" asks Peters. "And why should public tax dollars be used to protect the patents of private seed companies like Monsanto?" questions Peters.
"State-level seed laws are supposed to protect farmers, not penalize them," asserts Sean McGovern, Executive Administrator of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farmers Association, a Columbus, Ohio-based organization that promotes sustainable agriculture and certifies organic farmers. "I can't imagine any use for this bill accept to enforce Monsanto's patents," concludes McGovern.
If Monsanto can eliminate seed cleaners, they would have accomplished a TOTAL monopoly in the Midwest, the bread basket of the world, and they would control world food, feed and now bio-fuel prices at will. They would, as well, have broken the fragile dam that seed cleaners and seed bankers now provide against the insanely-fast and just plain insane on-coming tide genetic engineering.
And Monsanto is working closely with the FDA in redefining seeds as a potential health hazard, subject to bioterrorism, and under that rubric to create rules for importation (controlling access)
rules for registering acceptable facilities (setting up corporate standards for the storage seeds, threatening small farmers)
rules for talking police control of the seeds (allowing for raids on farmers)
and rules for a level of record keeping almost impossible for small farmers and ordinary people to achieve.
Upcoming final rule on Establishment and Maintenance of Records.
"These new rules will allow FDA to better identify potentially dangerous foods, as well as respond more quickly to new threats and to handle foodborne illness outbreaks more efficiently."
Using the Bioterrorism Act and the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), the FDA now has a focus on seeds which includes
- Prevention (federal and state surveillance sampling programs to monitor the food supply)
- Preparedness (strengthen laboratory capacity and capabilities)
- Response (surge capacity to handle terrorist attacks or a national emergency involving the food supply), and
- Recovery (support recalls, seizures, and disposal of contaminated food or feed to restore confidence in the food supply).
For those of you painfully familiar with what is happening to real milk dairy farmers and the government use of false "contamination" reports to raid farms, steal products ad equipment and terrorize and destroy farmers, it will be important to see how "bioterrorism" has now moved control over normal food even more tightly into the hands of government/corporate agencies, giving them national reach, crushing regulations for farmers, immense policing power over food, and the use of an emergency to be able to seize and destroy anything they choose.
At the level of seeds, it is important note that Monsanto is promoting every part of this.
"Good morning, thank you Jim (Jim Tobin, Monsanto, Vice-Chair of ASTA) for your kind introduction. I’m pleased to meet with you this morning, and to participate in this historic joint meeting of ASTA and the Association of Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA).
I congratulate ASTA on its distinction of being one of the oldest trade organizations in the US, (founded in 1883). Both ASTA and AOSCA (established in 1919) are organizations with a long and distinguished history of working together in the development, production, preservation, distribution, and quality assurance of plant seeds. Certainly seeds are the foundation for both human and animal life on earth, providing food, fiber for clothing, and many industrial products that we all use every day."
The laboratories that FERN uses represent the FDA, FSIS, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Agency. Other federal members of the FERN include the Agricultural Research Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security, the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN).
The FDA talks about "a safety net" for human health but it is one defined by corporations and one that is closing on our small farmers' existence.
And even the FDA's basic food safety is being "set" in a way aimed to destroy seed cleaners and (if you will notice in the short list below) organic farming itself.
FDA's guidance on good agricultural practices (GAPs) can be found in the
where the key sources of contamination in seed production include:
Agricultural water sources
Use of manure as fertilizer
Harvesting, transportation, and seed-cleaning equipment
Seed storage facilities
Please note the FDA does not include Monsanto's petroleum-based fertlizers or pesticides, or GE-labs, as potential sources of contamination.
In addition to buying on seed companies, suing farmers, eliminating seed cleaners, putting laws against seed cleaning and saving into place, influencing the FDA and Homeland Security regulations on seeds that set farmers up to lose theirs in "food safety" or "bioterrorism" raids, a law in Canada pushed by the FDA, USDA and the WTO (all heavily involved with Monsanto) would criminalize all natural substances. Thought it initially seems to be "only" an attack by the pharmaceutical industry on all natural health substances, it would include seeds and seed banking. And it would become law in the US - and without any ability to vote against it - if the North American Union is passed.
"What if, just for taking vitamin C, you could be thrown in jail for up to 2 years and fined up to $5,000,000?
That scenario could very well soon become a reality in Canada. The Canadian Government is trying to pass a bill known as Bill C51. According to some interpretations of the bill, it would remove all supplements from over-the-counter availability, by only allowing MD’s to prescribe them as they see fit.
This would mean that if you wanted to take a multivitamin, you would have to book an appointment with your doctor and try to convince your doctor that you are in need of these supplements. If your doctor decides a certain drug would be better for you, then you won‘t have access to your supplements anymore.
Consequences of the bill could include:
- No more supplement stores
- Supplements made illegal unless obtained through a prescription; 70 percent of all current supplements on the market could be removed
- Fines of up to $5,000,000.00 and/or 2 years in jail per incident of being caught breaking this law
We need to understand that the effort to defend Steve Hixon, a seed cleaner, is an effort to defend the right of all of us and of our farmers worldwide to OPEN access to normal seeds. We must protect those who collect and clean them and we must roll back the massive corporate efforts to utterly control them - by criminalizing any aspect of owning, growing, collecting, storing and re-using of them.
Seeds are life and survival itself and our human right to access to them is being taken over. That is why people are coming together now to help defend Steve Hixon, a seed cleaner.
For those interested in joining FarmOn, a list aimed at providing funds to support the legal teams gathering to help Hixon, go to email@example.com and request to sign on.