The death dance of Roundup and GMO corn

The very ugly story of corporate greed and aggression and government and judicial corruption known as corn genetically modified to resist the herbicide glysophate is coming round to the truths so long shouted down by high-paid, soulless flaks, politicians and other rotten grifters riding that grand “high-tech, bio-tech engine for growth” gravy train so deafeningly, vulgarly and lyingly broadcast locally by the University of California, Merced as it browbeat the local population into submission for the benefit of the local finance, insurance, and real estate speculating congregation. And, of course, the larger University of California, as the first article shows, is one of the nation’s leading shills for any pesticide.

The story is at once too vast and too sick and it was from its inception so fractured with long, wide, and deep fissures of lies, that it defies what is fashionably  called a “narrative.” For those who wish to continue, here are a few reflective shards.



Badlands Journal

Ideas that won't be discussed at this weekend's California Women For Agriculture/UC Merced/Great Valley Center gala

 Below are two lengthy reviews of William Enghahl's Seeds of Destruction, a critical look at the political, economic and scientific history behind the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Once again they come to us through an indespensible website for people concerned with agribusiness science and the political economy behind it, For those of us trying to understand the complex relationships between agriculture, the environment, economics and science in order to better understand the San Joaquin valley, Engdahl's Seeds of Destruction sounds like a must companion book to Jeffrey Smith's Seeds of Deception. The recurring image of the American population acting as "lab rats" for a gigantic, unregulated, insanely greedy corporate experiment on the long-term impacts to health of a diet full of GMOs is daunting, as are the stories of corporate thuggery against scientists who have dared to raise any alarm. The specter of world domination of patented seed by a handful of gigantic corporations is chilling and should be of the highest interest in the San Joaquin Valley, where many of the political, economic, agricultural and chemical forms of agribusiness originated and where they constantly interact and coalesce for the profit of fewer, larger, and less responsible enterprises, which are pumping the aquifers dry and killing the bees while exuding the most horrible whine you can imagine. Lo, the poor farmer, victim of so many political, social, and economic plots against him even the federal government can’t quite backfill all his losses.


Badlands editorial board

F. William Engdahl's 'Seeds of Destruction'

Review By Stephen Lendman - 1-2-8

Part I of "Seeds of Destruction"

In 2003, Jeffrey Smith's "Seeds of Deception" was published. It exposed the dangers of untested and unregulated genetically engineered foods most
people eat every day with no knowledge of the potential health risks.
Efforts to inform the public have been quashed, reliable science has beenburied, and consider what happened to two distinguished scientists.

One was Ignatio Chapela, a microbial ecologist at the University ofCalifornia, Berkeley. In September, 2001, he was invited to a carefullystaged meeting with Fernando Ortiz Monasterio, Mexico's Director of theCommission of Biosafety in Mexico City. The experience left Chapela shaken and angry as he explained. Monasterio attacked him for over an hour. "First he trashed me. He let me know how damaging to the country and how problematic my information was to be."

Chapela referred to what he and a UC Berkeley graduate student, David Quist, discovered in 2000 about genetically engineered contamination of
Mexican corn in violation of a government ban on these crops in 1998. Corn is sacred in Mexico, the country is home to hundreds of indigenous varieties
that crossbreed naturally, and GM contamination is permanent and unthinkable - but it happened by design.

Chapela and Quist tested corn varieties in more than a dozen state of Oaxaca communities and discovered 6% of the plants contaminated with GM corn. Oaxaca is in the country's far South so Chapela knew if contamination spread there, it was widespread throughout Mexico. It's unavoidable because NAFTA allows imported US corn with 30% of it at the time genetically modified. Now it's heading for nearly double that amount, and if not
contained, it soon could be all of it.

The prestigious journal Nature agreed to publish Chapela's findings, Monasterio wanted them quashed, but Chapela refused to comply. As a result,
he was intimidated not to do it and threatened with being held responsible for all damages to Mexican agriculture and its economy.

He went ahead, nonetheless, and when his article appeared in the publication on November 29, 2001 the smear campaign against him began and
intensified. It was later learned that Monsanto was behind it, and the Washington-based Bivings Group PR firm was hired to discredit his findings
and get them retracted.

It worked because the campaign didn't focus on Chapela's contamination discovery, but on a second research conclusion even more serious. He learned
the contaminated GM corn had as many as eight fragments of the CaMV promoter that creates an unstable "hotspot." It can cause plant genes to fragment, scatter throughout the plant's genome, and, if proved conclusively, would wreck efforts to introduce GM crops in the country. Without further
evidence, there was still room for doubt if the second finding was valid, however, and the anti-Chapela campaign hammered him on it.

Because of the pressure, Nature took an unprecedented action in its 133 year history. It upheld Chapela's central finding but retracted the other one. That was all it took, and the major media pounced on it. They denounced Chapela's incompetence and tried to discredit everything he learned including his verified findings. They weren't reported, his vilification was highlighted, and Monsanto and the Mexican government scored a big victory.

Ironically, on April 18, 2002, two weeks after Nature's partial retraction, the Mexican government announced there was massive genetic contamination of traditional corn varieties in Oaxaca and the neighboring state of Puebla. It was horrifying as up to 95% of tested crops were genetically polluted and "at a speed never before predicted." The news made
headlines in Europe and Mexico. It was ignored in the US and Canada.

The fallout for Chapela was UC Berkeley denied him tenure in 2003 because of his article and for criticizing university ties to the biotech industry.
He then filed suit in April, 2004 asking remuneration for lost wages, earnings and benefits, compensatory damages for humiliation, mental anguish,
emotional distress and coverage of attorney fees and costs for his action.
He won in May, 2005 but not in court when the university reversed its decision, granted him tenure and agreed to include retroactive pay back to
2003. The damage, however, was done and is an example of what's at stake when anyone dares challenge a powerful company like Monsanto…




Impact Fund

Native corn in Mexico takes on big ag in epic environmental justice battle, trailblazing a path for collective actions

David Nahmias, Law Fellow

In Mexico, an epic battle wages in the courts—a broad coalition of farmers, scientists, and consumer advocates is taking on four multinational agrochemical giants and the Mexican government to protect native corn from genetic contamination and modification.

For the Mexican people, corn is a defining feature of their cultural heritage, history, and cuisine. Nobel Prize Winner and famed Mexican poet Octavio Paz once said that, “the invention of corn by Mexicans is only comparable to the invention of fire by man.”

Indigenous peoples in what is now Mexico cultivated the first strains of corn thousands of years ago. The principal ingredient for tortillas, tamales, pozole, and dozens of other culinary staples, corn is now the country’s largest crop in terms of production and consumption, and Mexicans will consume some 44.7 million metric tons of it this year. Corn also figures prominently as a major factor in the U.S.-Mexico trade and immigration debates.


Indigenous peoples in what is now Mexico cultivated the first strains of corn thousands of years ago.

Yet, despite native corn’s enormous importance, in 2009 the Mexican government began granting permits to multinational corporations to cultivate genetically modified corn. Environmental, health, and social justice advocates denounced the move. In 2013, a diverse coalition made up of fifty-three individuals and non-governmental organizations representing scientists, small farmers, beekeepers, consumers, and human rights activists banded together to file an innovative class action lawsuit to halt further genetically modified corn cultivation. Their case, the Collective Action Protecting Native Mexican Corn From Genetic Modification, will make critical law for environmental and social justice in Mexico.

The plaintiff coalition alleges that introducing genetically modified corn into Mexican agriculture threatens the diversity and integrity of native corn strains, which could in turn endanger the livelihoods of low-income family farmers, small producers, and beekeepers who depend on selling native corn and its derivative products. They also argue that genetically modified corn cultivation harms the ability of consumers and the general Mexican public to continue enjoying Mexican cuisine with its myriad corn products—a tradition that UNESCO has recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.


The collective is suing Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, and Pioneer/DuPont.

The plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit seek a court order declaring that large-scale introduction of genetically modified corn violates Mexico’s 2005 Genetically Modified Organism Safety Law, the fundamental rights to nourishment and health, and the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as assorted international laws. The suit also seeks an injunction forbidding the future planting of genetically modified corn and rejecting all future permit application to allow the cultivation and spread of such corn. They named as defendants the multinational corporations Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, and Pioneer/DuPont, along with the federal Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development and the federal Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources.

The Impact Fund is pleased to have awarded two grants to support this collective action, most recently through our Just Earth funding initiative. The non-profit organization Alternativas y Procesos de Participación Social A.C. (Alternatives and Processes for Social Participation), one of the members of the plaintiff coalition, serves as our local partner in the case. The organization’s executive director, Raúl Hernández Garciadiego, praised the lawsuit and the work of the plaintiff coalition. “Given that genetically modifying corn will cause irreversible contamination of our thousand-year-old genetic patrimony, preserving it requires judicial action so that our next generations can enjoy their rights to food, health, and a healthy environment.” 


“Given that genetically modifying corn will cause irreversible contamination of our thousand-year-old genetic patrimony, preserving it requires judicial action so that our next generations can enjoy their rights to food, health, and a healthy environment.” - Raúl Hernández Garciadiego

This class action is one of the few known environmental justice-oriented suits initiated to date under Mexico’s relatively new collective action law. As part of major judicial and rule of law reforms, in 2012 Mexico enacted new legal procedures that enabled certain kinds of plaintiffs to file collective actions in federal court. Many of the rules were modeled after the U.S. class action mechanism, but with some key differences. Only certain federal government entities, non-profit member-based organizations, and coalitions with at least 30 members may bring collective action lawsuits, and the suits may only allege consumer, antitrust, or environmental harms. Because of these restrictions, few collective actions have been filed—meaning that the decisions in the Collective Action Protecting Native Mexican Corn From Genetic Modification are especially crucial for future environmental impact litigation in Mexico. 


A few months after filing the case in federal court in Mexico City, the judge issued a temporary injunction halting approval of future permits for genetically modified corn cultivation. The case is now slogging its way through the Mexican court system. To date, the parties have filed at least 140 motions, petitions, and appeals to different aspects of the litigation, and the parties are disputing over 150 discrete legal questions. The corporate defendants initially tried to overwhelm the plaintiff coalition through expensive appeals and delays. Yet their hard-nosed litigation tactics have failed to exhaust the collective, which has continued to prosecute its case without worrying about any new or ongoing threats to biodiversity because of the court’s favorable ruling enjoining permits. 

The case is pioneering many untested questions around Mexico collective actions. Currently, the parties are litigating discrete procedural questions in the Mexican Supreme Court, and they are awaiting a momentous decision by an appellate court in their constitutional challenge to a decision about the scope of discovery in collective actions. They are also engaging in lengthy evidence gathering.


“This case will set important judicial precedent about the risks and harms to agriculture, biodiversity, and the lives of farmers and consumers posed by using genetically modified organisms.” - René Sánchez Galindo

At its heart, though, the collective action seeks to vindicate the rights of all people in Mexico who consume corn. “This case will set important judicial precedent about the risks and harms to agriculture, biodiversity, and the lives of farmers and consumers posed by using genetically modified organisms,” said René Sánchez Galindo, the lead attorney working on the case.

“Moreover, it will help protect native Mexican corn strains and the biogenetic diversity of corn in its place of origin from all kinds of genetic modification and contamination, ensuring that present and future generations can use and enjoy it.” 

The recent change in government in Mexico under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and a more progressive Congress could pose new opportunities for the collective action. Some lawmakers and agency administrators have indicated their willingness to strengthen Mexican law around genetically modified crops. Mindful of the inherent difficulties in adopting legislation and the power and influence of the defendant private corporations, the plaintiffs are nevertheless continuing their lawsuit. 

The Impact Fund is grateful to stand with the dozens of plaintiffs in this powerful collective action to ensure the fundamental rights of all small producers and consumers of Mexican corn.


Additional references


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