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Thursday, May 08, 2008

World According to Monsanto: A Film all must watch, with links

Shocking World by Monsanto is a well made documentary which exposes the company comprehensively. I don't know whether the movie is available in full anywhere, but, it is available in 12 parts as short clips of approximately 8-9 minutes each in You Tube. It completely destroys our faith in the regulatory system in USA and shows how the system could be bought over, subverted or just subjugated by a greedy corporate which wants to have its way. Needless to say, it follows everywhere else across the world including India. The movie follows the journey of Monsanto across the US, in Washington among the power brokers, in research institutions and the few scientists who dared to protest against it, in farm lands where farmers have been sued by this company and among regulatory agencies which seem to have succumbed with no resistance in front of the company. The movie later follows the journey of Monsanto to India and Mexico to show how the Bt Cotton farmers in India and Corn farmers in different parts of Latin America meet similar fate when the MNC that employs over 16,000 people in about 50 countries decides to have its way.

We in India need to be aware of this story because we are getting big-time into GM now. Bt Cotton made an illegal entry (in Gujarat) and was pushed as a political decision on us a few years back while the decision was still being made by the government (some Latin American governments seem to have gone through a similar situation). The story of the continuing suicides among the cotton farmers after Bt Cotton has almost become 100% across the country today is appearing in our newspapers everyday. With the Bt Brinjal up for commercial approval and other products on the pipeline, we need to know how this control has come about.

Here under I provide with a short summary of each of these clips along with a link to the same. Please take time to view it if you care to know what is it that you are eating and are likely to eat made of. It only takes about a couple of hours.

Part - I: Starts with the history of the company of Monsanto, how it hid for decades the toxic PCB dumping it was doing in USA. Also talks about how it had to withdraw the word, 'biodegradable' from its 'Roundup' herbicide.

Part -II: More on the status of victims of the PCB dumping, horrible to watch the victims who are helpless in the most powerful consumer movement country, USA. How the company settled its suit with the community after decades with pittance in compensation. The clip ends with classified documents that show that the company was not willing to forego even a dollar of loss and would rather the public suffer and ends with question, 'how could you believe a company that lies like this?'

Part - III: further investigation on Roundup Ready Soybean. Admitting by the former Secretary of Clinton administration how it was not a scientific decision but a political decision to approve biotech products and even at the highest levels when he attempted to suggest stricter regulations for biotech engineered foods,he was 'slapped around'. Also admission by an executive of FDI regarding how it was a political decision to keep GM food at par with the non-GM food.

Part - IV: Uncovers how the person especially recruited by FDA to formulate the GM Food policy was till then working with Monsanto and had just finished drafting for them as to how should a industry favourable regulatory regime be. Also interesting to watch the video footing of the Vice President of George Bush Sr. announcing the de-regulation policy in biotechnology because, 'we have been leaders and want to continue to be so', clearly the USA unleashed on itself and the world this technology as a ego ride for a 'de-reg' fancy President. Ends with an investigation of the Bovine Growth Harmone and how it was introduced. The scientist from FDA who questioned the data was side tracked and later fired, threatened by the Monsanto lawyer that if he were to reveal any company secrets in his defence, he will be sued.

Part - V: '...we got 44,000 documents from the FDAs own files and it shows that the FDA has been lying since 1992 to the world...claiming that the genetically modified foods are as safe as their non-GM counterparts', statement by a lawyer who asked for and examined FDA documents on GM Food.

Part - VI: Starts with Dr. Arpad Putszai, Scientist from Britain saying how he found that the problem was, 'not with the transgene, but, with the technology'. He was fired for saying on BBC interview based on his own scientific understanding that, 'it is unfair to use your fellow citizens as guinea pigs' the day after the interview. This part goes on to question the sheer power with which Monsanto steam-rolls its opponents including on the issue of dioxine exposure and the deadly 'agent orange' which the company produced and was used by US Army in the Vietnam War. There is shocking clipping of preserved child emroyos severely deformed.

Part - VII: 'They had all the data and then decided how they wanted to interpret it, this is never done', says a lawyer in the context of Monsanto's lies on the issue of dioxine exposure. He states that in a series of studies they where the same set of people with cancer appeared under 'exposed to dioxine' in one study appeared under, 'not exposed to dioxine' in another study and then these studies were used to prove that cancer occurs equally among those exposed or un-exposed to the dioxine. Many were denied compensation because of this.
An Eurpoean Scientist who reviewed the Monsanto paper on effects of GM feeding by animals (which according to him became the 'base for substantial equivalence') says how the paper contained many ambiguous terms. He says, 'lot of data that they should have shown, they didn't...if there was nothing to hide there you should be willing to share'.
It examines the claims of Monsanto on the issue of intellectual property and presents a US Government report that documents more than '100 lawsuits and many bankarapcies' due to the agressive stand of the company in dealing with farmers in whose fields the traits of their products appear.

Part - VIII: About the Gene Police and how they destroy farmer families in America. As the documentary progresses, it switches to India, Warangal district in Andhra Pradesh which is a large cotton growing area. Here two agronomists debunk the claims of Monsanto both about higher yields and Bollworm pest resistance. It also tells the story of how the cotton seed price has now shot up now by 400% and how there is almost no other seed available for the Indian farmer today. This clip ends with the funeral processing of a 25 year old farmer, who relied on the company's promise and bought Bt Cotton after borrowing heavily and suffered huge loss. He committed suicide by drinking a litre of pesticide.

Part - IX: This clip starts with the Vidharbha situation and has two of the known farmer activists of that region, Kishore Tiwary and Dr. Tarak Kate profiling the entire region and showing how the spread of Bt Cotton has also been the spread of suicide among farmers. There is a typical cotton market scene where farmers are protesting against the dropping prices for cotton. This is followed by an interview with Dr. Vandana Shiva where she spells out the difference between the first and second Green Revolution, she says that there are two major differences, the first one had a hidden agenda to promote chemical inputs consumption however the primary state goal being higher food production, food security, this one has only one objective, to promote the return of investment for Monsanto. The first one was imposed by a coalition of government and international agencies, the second one is just imposed by one company, Monsanto, this is what she calls, 'Monsanto revolution'. This is followed by an interview with Scientist Chapela in Mexico about how they were shocked to realize that now all varieties of corn are contaminated by the GM ones corn in the most corn diverse part of the world, Mexico.

Part - X: This part continues to investigate how the Mexican diversity is under severe threat thanks to the gene-transfer through the pollens carried through the wind from transgenic corn crops to traditional ones. Though Mexico has banned the GM Corn, thanks to treaty signed between Mexico with USA and Canada, it cannot avoid the entry of GM Corn into its territory. The heavily subsidised GM Corn from the US costs lesser than the locally grown indigenous varieties. This clip shows how farmers are troubled and already abnormal occurances and diseases are observed among the corn crops across Mexico. Farmers are afraid that in future they may have none of their ancestral varieties and may have to buy seeds, pesticides and fertilizers from Monsanto.

Part - XI: When Chapela came up with his findings, there was an internet based war to ensure that almost anything can be written to defame him. The Norfolk based GM Watch shows how fake (non-existent) scientist names appeared in the web in networking sites and biotech promoting sites with articles defaming the study and trying to initiate hate against anyone who dared to stand against the company, Monsanto. As the GM Watch executive says, 'it shows the determination of a company that wants to push its products in every part of the world and it will destroy the reputation of anyone who stands in its way'. Then the scene moves to Paraguay, where a helpless government had to legalise GM Soya in 2005 because the gene-transfer from the GM crops that had illegally entered the country had contaminated their entire non-GM crops and thereby rendering their exports no longer possible. The Agricultural Secretary of the country opines that Monsanto very well could have been involved with the 'unorthodox' entry of the crop. It shows how the small farmers in this country are fighting a losing battle against Monsanto and against their lands being turned into 'Green Deserts', as they put it, where the entire area is covered with a single mono-crop and no other crop grows there at all.

Part - XII: The last of the clips shows the helpless small farmers in Paraguay and how even small children and farm animals get affected by the large scale usage of the Round-up herbicide in their farms. Of course, Monsanto would not like this video and it is unlikely that this video will be viewed by many who are already under the influence of this company globally.

The film ends with the audio recording of a Monsanto representative refusing to meet the team that made the movie. Sure, one can almost see a PR initiative coming from Monsanto globally defaming the team that made this movie, everyone who featured in it, (most of them have already been defamed enough)and also you tube for retaining these clips.

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