Promoting Monsanto and their Superbugs

by douglas reeser on August 30, 2011

We have written and shared about issues regarding Monsanto numerous times over the years, and this week they have continued to make the news in less than flattering ways. First, I came across a piece on Democracy Now, which reported on the newly released WikiLeaks cables documenting how the US government has been involved in pushing the genetically engineered seeds created by Monsanto on governments in Europe, Africa and Latin America. From Democracy Now:
Dozens of newly released cables detail how the United States has instituted so-called "bio-technology outreach programs" throughout Africa, Asia and South America in order to establish a foothold for the biotech agriculture industry. U.S. efforts have been particularly robust in Europe, where there is a strong anti-GE food movement.
Looking for a little more information, I found that journalist Mike Ludwig had written on the story a few days before on Truthout. Ludwig describes how the US has put pressure on countries where resistance to GMOs is greatest (Spain and France in particular) to speed up their biotech approval process to more quickly allow corporate seeds on the market. US tax dollars are involved too, as the documents reveal that US diplomats have requested government funds to fly industry representatives around the globe to promote biotech agriculture. Further cementing the reality that the US government is working hand in hand with biotech giants such as Monsanto and DuPont, Ludwig reveals:
Front groups supported by the US government, philanthropic foundations and companies like Monsanto that are working to introduce pro-biotechnology policy initiatives and GE crops in developing African countries, and several cables released this week confirm that American diplomats have promoted biotech agriculture to countries like Tunisia, South Africa and Mozambique.
This all becomes problematic when we read later in the week that Monsanto has made the news yet again. This time it is the Wall Street Journal reporting on the development of "superbugs" that are attacking (and killing) widely grown genetically engineered corn crops in the American midwest. Western corn rootworms, the very pest the GE corn was developed to resist, have evolved to resist the pesticide present in the Monsanto corn. The article explains rather well why this is a problem:
These insect-proof and herbicide-resistant crops make farming so much easier that many growers rely heavily on the technology, violating a basic tenet of pest management, which warns that using one method year after year gives more opportunity for pests to adapt. 
Monsanto is already at the center of this issue because of its success since the 1990s marketing seeds that grow into crops that can survive exposure to its Roundup herbicide, a glyphosate-based chemical known for its ability to kill almost anything green. 
These seeds made it so convenient for farmers to spray Roundup that many farmers stopped using other weedkillers. As a result, say many scientists, superweeds immune to Roundup have spread to millions of acres in more than 20 states in the South and Midwest.
The picture that emerges then, is one in which the US government is using resources and money to throw its weight around in countries across the globe to support and promote a corporate technology that may backfire before it has any real chance to do anything good. It must be asked why the US is in the business of deepening the coffers of corporations that time and again show their true interest is in profit over people.

Email us to read the WSJ article in full.
Image courtesy of the mother nature network

First Friday Picture Show: People of Guatemala

A Recycled Minds Picture Show
by douglas reeser on August 25, 2011

Here at Recycled Minds, we're fans of photography and photographs. We've been working behind the scenes for the last few months to bring that love closer to the forefront of the site. We began with the Picture Show page, where we have been sharing photos of our own and those of our friends and colleagues. Now, we are introducing slideshow features that offer a space for our collaborators to share their photos. Our photographers come from diverse backgrounds ranging from artists to anthropologists, and professionals to amateurs. We hope you will enjoy our slideshows as much as we have enjoyed putting them together.

This featured slideshow is comprised of photos taken by Recycled Minds columnist dooglas carl during a trip to Guatemala in August of 2011. They are candid shots of people living their daily routines, and reflect the vivid colors of Guatemala and the strength and warmth of the people that call the country their home.

Urban Farming in New York City

by douglas reeser on August 21, 2011

This short documentary by Petrina:TV provides a nice overview of the burgeoning scene of urban gardening in New York City. Just five years ago, urban gardening was a rarity, and questioned over its viability. As seen in this video however, a group of dedicated and industrious people have worked hard to make growing food in the city a productive reality.

And if you like tilt-shift miniature photos, this video also has some great tilt-shift video footage, which makes it interesting to watch for multiple reasons! Enjoy!

The Best Monsanto Can Do

by lana lynne on August 19, 2011

Curious about Monsanto's contributions to society over the past century? Oliver Lee from Takepart compiled a list of the agri-giant's five "most dubious contributions to the planet," a list both disturbing and enlightening. Here is an abbreviated version, but be sure to check out the whole story here.

1. Saccharin. Monsanto's earliest foray into messing around with the food system started way back in 1901. 70 years later, the FDA found it caused cancer in test animals. 30 years after that, in 2001, Monsanto was able to reverse the FDA's decision to require the sugar replacement to have a warning label.

2. Polystyrene. Long after we're gone, Monsanto's legacy will still be haunting the planet in the form of tiny pieces of non-biodegradable, toxic styrofoam.

3. Agent Orange. The death and destruction from this Monsanto product just manifested more quickly than the rest, with 400,000 deaths and disfigurements and 500,000 babies born with birth defects. And that's just the human toll.

4. Bovine Growth Hormone. Banned in many other countries, rBST milk is found to have lower nutritional content and cancer causing properties. At least the U.S. now allows separate labeling for rBST-free milk.

5. Genetically Modified Seeds. Monsanto finally got to the heart of the food supply system by locking farmers in developing countries into seed serfdom. Interestingly, and much to Monsanto's chagrin we hope, farmers are continuing to resist the company's attempts at tyranny.

Now, with the extent of technology and brainpower that went into these inventions, could you imagine the world if all of these were for the good of the planet and its people?


Higher Education, Corporate Funding & Language Extinction

by lana lynne on August 13, 2011

Noam Chomsky recently gave a speech at the University of Toronto at Scarborough about the increasing privatization of the public education system, the transcript of which was posted on Alternet. As universities receive less and less funding from the state, and more from tuition, the issue of funding becomes increasingly precarious, which becomes a convenient window of opportunity for increasing corporate funding. "The funding issue raises many troubling questions," Chomsky points out, "which would not arise if fostering independent thought and inquiry were regarded as a public good, having intrinsic value." However, "in a corporate-run culture, the traditional ideal of free and independent thought may be given lip service, but other values tend to rank higher," more specifically, short-term profits without much thought about the future, which can threaten both the integrity and the independence of research and education.

As corporate colonization takes hold, higher education can become more about producing commodities for the job market, and, with corporations increasingly meddling in the affairs of personal values, their influence on universities becomes even more troubling. As Chomsky notes, he walks by on a daily basis the Koch Building, named after the Koch brothers, the money behind the Tea Party.

This corporate take-over has many far-reaching implications, but one that comes to mind stems from another recent essay found on Survival about the extinction of languages. "You Can't Google it and Get it Back: Why the Death of Tribal Languages Matters," by Joanna Eede, discusses the implications of having, on average, one language die every other week -- a rate that exceeds species extinction yet garners little attention in the mainstream.
"In the end, the death of tribal languages matters not only for the identity of its speakers...but for all of us, for our common humanity. Tribal languages are languages of the earth, suffused with complex geographical, ecological and climatic information that is rooted in locale, but universally significant. ...But languages are also rich in spiritual and social insights–ideas about what it is to be human; to live, love and die. Just as natural cures to humanity’s illnesses are waiting to be found in plants in the rainforest, so many ideas, perceptions and solutions about how humans engage with each other and with the natural world already exist, in the tribal languages of the world. Languages are far more than mere words: they amount to what we know, and who we know ourselves to be. Their loss is immeasurable."
Being concerned about the loss of languages requires a long-range perspective, one that steps outside of the moment and takes in the big picture -- both the past and the future. It is one with which a corporate-run education system would probably have little concern, unless, maybe, the temporary preservation turned a profit.

Consumption Junction: The Pursuit of Happiness, Part II

by lana lynne on August 9, 2011

A recent Al Jazeera article written by James Ridgeway opens with the question, "Has America become a nation of psychotics?," and goes on to explain how antipsychotic drugs have become the best-sellers in the U.S. in the therapeutic drug class.

Following the drug industry's creation in the 1990s of a new group of medication termed "atypical antipsychotics," touted as more effective with less side effects than their predecessors, the prescription of these new anti-psychotics has also grown enormously. While once reserved for diagnoses of schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, the new class, reportedly, is prescribed for chronic depression, anxiety, insomnia, dementia, and more -- and all at steadily increasing rates.

One of the more unsettling issues accompanying the rise in the number of people diagnosed with a mental disorder and prescribed anti-psychotics is its effect on children. According to a New York Times article cited by Ridgeway, there has been a 35-fold-increase from 1987 to 2007 in the number of children diagnosed with a mental disability that qualifies them for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). And incarcerated kids aren't beyond the reach of the industry either. Ridgeway cites a startling expose in the Palm Beach Post that explored the use of anti-psychotics in youth detention centers in Florida, finding that some centers purchased twice as much of an anti-psychotic as ibuprofen.

Once upon a time, drug stores weren't the number one choice for commercial development (they pay the most rent), and normal health conditions weren't turned into diseases in order to market a drug to treat them. Pharmaceuticals are so prominent in daily life in the U.S., it's somehow not shocking to hear that anti-psychotic drugs have become so prevelant. The drug industry's $4.8 billion yearly advertising budget seems to fits especially well in an advertising culture obsessed with an unattainable happiness.