"WHEN THERE IS NO COMING AND GOING,
NO GIVING AND TAKING,
BUT ONLY TAKING, THERE COMES DEATH"
In the weeks since September 11, as American's stand bewildered , uncertain and asking why they are being "terrorized" there has been few if any voices providing an analysis so trenchant and compelling as the commentary that appears below by the Progressive Review's Sam Smith
Although my colleague and friend Smith does not specifically speak of agriculture in his remarks one cannot help but think of those "conventional wisdom " agricultural economists, Farm Bureau leaders, and USDA bureaucrats when he talks about the "servants of technocratic systems," or that corporate agribusiness research paid for by the nation's tax-payers when he refers to "colleges and universities that purport to be citadels of free thought but which, in fact, are now mainly technical schools indoctrinating pupils into a closed logical loop." It is no accident that the very term "agribusiness" came from a faculty member of the Harvard Business School.
In its process of substituting capital for efficiency and technology for labor, corporate agribusiness, the realm in which our modern merchants of greed rule, have turned family farmers not only in the U.S., but throughout the world, into technological "junkies," endangering their own and their families' and their communities health and safety, converting "stewards" of the land into "miners" of the land, creating an elite class of corporate "welfare cheats" living off taxpayer dollars, and basing farm survival not on earned farm income but on borrowed capital and so-called "rural development." The human toll, however, of such tactics is and continues to be staggering.
By deifying, for example, "cost benefit analysis" at the expense of the "common good" corporate agribusiness has also managed to annul the positive dimensions of the family farm system and eliminate its economic and environmental advantages, particularly as they relate to building genuine communities.
As social anthropologists Patricia L. Allen and Carolyn E. Sachs point out, any system built upon a foundation of structural inequities "is ultimately unsustainable in the sense that it will result in increasing conflict and struggle along the lines of class, gender, and ethnicity." Corporate agribusiness has become just such a system.
Thus, in the grand scheme of history the 20th century may well be remembered as the point in the evolution of humanity when those corporations that trade, process, manufacturer, pack, ship and sell the world's food successfully removed the culture from agriculture and in the name of "efficiency" and in the pursuit of a globalized industrialization of the world's food supply reshaped agri-culture into an agri-business.
By attempting to deify their own myopic view of efficiency throughout the 20th century, however, corporate agribusiness has brought family farming, the democratic control of the peopleís food supply, and a wholesome and healthy natural environment to the brink of global disaster which unless immediately recognized, confronted and thwarted will inevitably lead to worldwide economic, political, social and environmental chaos unlike any seen in human history.
For in measuring efficiency in strictly quantitative and economic terms, such as is currently being practiced by corporate agribusiness and its merchants of greed, the qualitative aspects of an agri-culture and a family farm food production structure are rapidly being discarded on the scrap heap of history as mere impediments to improving the "bottom line" of the unaccountable corporations that process and manufactured our food.
Insidiously, corporate agribusiness has relentlessly, in the name of self-serving "efficiency," managed to sell farmers and the consuming public on the idea that unless it mechanizes, accepts expensive technologies, and increases in size it is inefficient and has no right to survive.
Thus, as corporate agribusiness seeks to meta-morphize agriculture from a culture based upon the traditional family farm system of agriculture into a business where capital is substituted for genuine economic, social and environmental efficiency, and where expensive technology is substituted for labor we see a standardization of our food supply through an industrial manufacturing process based on the creation of synthetic foods, such as is now taking place through the use of genetic engineering.
Considering those characteristics by which corporate agribusiness has become identified with and comparing them with the historical characteristics of the family farm/peasant system of agriculture we begin to see more clearly how corporate agribusiness is the antithesis of family farm agriculture and how incompatible the two systems are in a democratically structured society.
Whereas family farming/peasant agriculture has traditionally sought to
nurture and care for the land, corporate agribusiness, exclusive by nature,
seeks to "mine" the land, solely interested in monetizing its natural wealth and
thus measure efficiency by its profits, by pride in its "bottom line." Family
farmers, meanwhile, see efficiency in terms of respecting, caring and
contributing to the overall health and well-being of the land, the environment,
the communities and the nations in which they live.
While corporate agribusiness stresses institutionalized organization, hierarchical decision making, volume, speed, standardization of the food supply and extracting as much production from the land as quickly and impersonally as possible, family farmers and peasants strive through order, labor, pride in the quality of their work, and a certain strength of character and sense of community to take from the land only what it is willing to give so as not to damage its dependability or diminish its sustainability.
But the so-called "conventional wisdom" in agriculture historically has been that through the continual substituting of capital for efficiency and technology for labor "inefficient" farm operators are eliminated by "market forces" while those who survive manage to thrive.
Such "wisdom" also perpetuates the myth that the world's agricultural system is still dominated by independent family-operated farms and with the ever-increasing elimination of "inefficient producers" --- "excess human resources" --- we will witness a never-ending expansion of production to feed the world.
Nowhere has this "conventional wisdom" been more apparent and become the driving force of a nation's agricultural and food policy than in the United States. Today, such policies derived from such "wisdom" are being exported globally by the U.S. by way of corporate agribusiness and its merchants of greed's self-serving trade policies. Thus, it is imperative that farm and food policy makers, family farmers, peasants, workers and consumers world wide understand the implications and dire consequences of such "conventional wisdom," for to ignore or dismiss corporate agribusiness's inefficiencies as merely anti-capitalist rhetoric is to do so at their own future peril.
Yet this mania --- that through technological innovation family farmers are going to not only survive, but prosper --- continues to dominate agricultural policy discussions as witnessed in a speech that U.S.Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave to a March, 1999 Independent Bankers Association convention in San Francisco, California.
"I cannot stress too much the overwhelming importance of technical change as
a primary force that will likely be reshaping farm supply conditions --- as it
has been doing for a long time. As a consequence of each producer's striving to
become more efficient and thereby to contain costs, successive waves of
innovation have swept through the farm sector over the decades. Crop producers,
in stages, have implemented increased mechanization, heavier uses of
fertilizers, new higher-yielding varieties of seeds, low-tillage methods of
production that have enabled producers to economize on energy inputs, and
heavier reliance on chemicals and pesticides to reduce crop losses."
Greenspan, in his talk to some 2000 small town and rural bankers, also heralded the ability of U.S. agricultural producers "to economize on energy inputs," yet between 1987 and 1997 the cost to farmers of seeds, fertilizer and agricultural chemicals alone increased 86%. Thus, while farmers received $123 billion for their animal and crop products they paid out $185.1 billion in production expenses.
Greenspan, outlined to the bankers some of the "still further technological advances that appear to be coming on line in farming or are waiting closely in the wings," e.g., wider use of combinations of electronic sensors, computers, and communications equipment and biotechnology. He stressed that "the general direction of change is clearly toward more precision and control of farm production processes. Over time, those changes surely will lead to a further lowering of real production costs as well.
"For the most part, the successive waves of technical innovation have tended to give farmers who are able to reduce costs the most a leg up in expanding their operations. These low-cost farmers are the ones best positioned to acquire additional acreage or finance the investments that can foster still further reductions in unit costs. Over time, farms thereby become fewer in number but are larger and, in most cases, more efficient, with strengthened ties to nonfarm businesses that supply inputs that are essential to improved technologies.
"The new technologies," he adds, "seem destined to integrate farming operations still more tightly into our complex modern economy. This increased integration does not necessarily impinge on family farming as a way of life, but it does alter the image of the independent farmer that remains so deeply rooted in the American psyche, even as the percentage of our labor force that is engaged in farming has fallen from more than 35% a century ago to a little less than 2-1/2% today."
While Greenspan concedes that "farm cost containment depends not only on technical efficiency but also on the prices of inputs, which farmers do not control," he also acknowledges that "the range of financial circumstances across individual farming operations is considerable, and although producers in general appear to have remained profitable, some producers, plagued by higher costs or adverse weather, are having to make financial adjustments.
"The severity of those adjustments," he concludes, "are compounded for producers who are more heavily dependent on debt. In some cases, farmers and farm lenders are reworking" financial arrangements "to help producers get through what presumably is a transitory --- though by no means abbreviated --- period of softness in the demand for farm products. Even when export demand improves, some producers may find it a struggle to stay competitive with farmers whose real costs per unit of output are being pushed ever lower by technical advance and innovation."
Clearly, Greenspan and his adoring fans in the financial and corporate agribusiness community have embraced technology as the abiding theism, despite the reality what is taking place on the farms and ranches of America and throughout the world.
In the process of becoming keenly aware and understanding of the current structure of agriculture it is likewise vital that both farmers and the consuming public keep in mind not only the priorities of corporate agribusinessís merchants of greed, but how they have managed to concentrate their power.
As the brilliant scholar Cornel West reminds us, we have in recent modern times witnessed "tremendous social movements able to gain some limited access to natural resources, some power and wealth" nevertheless for the most part "the deeply conservative character of American civilization is still in place, that character being twofold . . . economic growth by means of corporate priorities, which corporate elite's and banking elite's, not simply having a disproportionate lot of power and influence, but at the same time such power and influence rarely being part of a public discussion such that we can question it and interrogate it in a concrete way,and on the other hand the very, very deep seat forms of xenophobia."
The economic and political inability of family farmers and people living and working in the rural countryside to question and interrogate those corporate priorities emanating from both the steel n' glass palaces of the city and business parks of suburbia in "a concrete way" lies in great measure to the fact that urban centers have historically sought to dictate the way people who reside outside their boundaries should live.
Speaking to a National Council of Churches conference on the urban/rural land connection in November, 1986 the eminent Protestant theologian Dr. Walter Brueggemann explained how historically society's minds and hearts have been shaped by the city.
"We begin our analysis by observing that all those who thought they own -ed the land, who said they owned the land, who chanted liturgies that assured them that they owned the land, they are all the people who lived in the city. The urban power elite imagined that they owned the land and on that presupposition they conducted their politics and their liturgy; and so I submit that this conference which confesses that the land is owned by Yahweh, is a doxology against urban pretensions. The fact of the city is at the center of the land crisis. It was so in ancient Israel and it is so in our farm crisis because the city is not simply a place, the city is a way of thinking about social reality."
". . . the city is a place of monopoly where everything important and valued is gathered and stored and administered and owned. The city exists by the concentration of what is valued in the hands of a few. Indeed, the city exists for the sake of concentration.
"The concentration of wealth and value is the cause of the city and the city is the result of that concentration. When the city is healthy it exists in a respectful coming and going with the country. But when the city arrives at a pathological self-importance and an imagined self-sufficiency, it fails to respect the country."
Dr. Brueggemann concludes:
"When there is no coming and going, no giving and taking, but only taking, there comes death."
Unless we take the time and effort to expose, study and dismantle these
merchant of greed the "death" of the family farm, indeed the "death" of economic
and political democracy is inevitable while they continue to unrelentlessly seek
to demand that we worship the icons of technology, acquiesce to their lust for
financial and political power, and resign ourselves to the disastrous social,
economic and environmental consequences of their greed.
IN TECHNOCRATS WE TRUST
SAM SMITH, UNDERNEWS, PROGRESSIVE REVIEW: The American response to the current crisis illustrates well the degree to which technocracy has replaced Christianity as our favorite religion. Americans only profess Christianity, but increasingly and in a deeply fundamentalist manner they practice technocracy, relying unquestioningly upon the systems that make it work.
Almost without exception, the reaction centers on technocratic solutions of
security, warfare, propaganda, and surveillance. At every level academic, media,
and government such issues are considered stripped of moral,
philosophical, ethical, historical, or anthropological content. One need look no
further than your own TV screen to observe this. The "experts" on the network
news and talk shows are invariably those of technocratic skill rather than those
who have demonstrated wisdom, foresight, or human
understanding. They exemplify a quality that John Ruskin called "intricate bestiality."
These experts, like so many American leaders of the day in virtually every field, are products, propagandists, and servants of technocratic systems that are not only amoral but are designed to keep out anyone and anything that might question their validity, value, or decency.
The closed nature of these systems is fostered not just by the rules of the professions. It starts at colleges and universities that purport to be citadels of free thought but which, in fact, are now mainly technical schools indoctrinating pupils into a closed logical loop not unlike that self-justify religious fundamentalists and brutal cops.
Once graduated from Yale Tech or the Georgetown School of Technology they move into fields such as law, media, and politics largely immune to any ideas or challenges alien to the closed logic of their systems.
The results have become increasingly absurd. The Hillary Clinton health plan,
the mania for standardized testing, and the war against drugs are just a few
examples of what can happen in a society in which honest analysis, moral
considerations, and natural skepticism are not encouraged or, in many cases,
even allowed. This closed loop is maintained by the servility of institutions
such as the media and universities that control the rhetoric of
the time and limit the range of, and participants in, discussion.
Eric Fromm called the technocrat homo mechanicus, "attracted to all that is mechanical and inclined against all that is alive." It is an apt description of American leadership today. We have now reached the point where not even NPR or the New York Times can find much time to consider how we can hope to get along with one billion Muslims absent endemic air power and extinct democracy.
Unlike your average American politician, journalist, or academic, Osama bin Laden understood this. The assaults have been pinpointed with almost satiric precision against the very icons of America's supposed technological superiority. This is not only war, it is ridicule. Yet because the technocratic mind can't escape its rigid curriculum, the only way we know how to respond is with a further demonstration of our supposed technological superiority.
We now have about a century's experience with the technocratic fetish. One of the main intellectual spirits was Frederick Winslow Taylor, who sought to improve production through "scientific management" of workers, including time and motion studies as well as performance-based pay. Taylor not only had a huge impact on American industrialists such as Henry Ford, but he was part of the inspiration for the Harvard Business School and its case study approach. Peter Drucker ranks Taylor with Darwin and Freud as the top thinkers of modernity. Ford he dismisses as just someone who knew how to use Taylor's principles.
Not long after this death in 1915, Taylor's ideas found their way to Nazi Germany. The concentration camp has been described as an extreme example of Taylorism at work. Richard Rubenstein, writing in "The Cunning of History," notes that "I.G. Farben's decision to locate at Auschwitz was based upon the very same criteria by which contemporary multinational corporations relocate their plants in utter indifference to the social consequences of such moves." Among those enthralled with Taylorism was Albert Speer. John Ralston Saul credits the efficiency expert's ideas with helping Germany hold out against superior Allied forces later in the war.
But Taylor had other fans as well, including Lenin, who learned about Taylorism while in exile. He returned to Russia determined to "Taylorize Communism." Saul writes: "The First Five Year Plan was written largely by American Taylorists and directly or indirectly they built some two-thirds of Soviet industry. The collapse of the Soviet Union was thus in many ways the collapse of Scientific Management."
And the ironies continued: "The Russian government immediately hired a Harvard professor of economics, Dr. Jefrey Sachs, to help them out of the crisis. His methods --- filled with complete abstract systems --- were strangely reminiscent of Taylor's . . . These brilliant financial and structural reforms lacked only one element: a recognition that several hundred million people live in Russia, that they must eat every day. Or at least every second day."
The same is true of one billion Muslims. Sooner or later we will have to face
up to the fact that technocratic solutions to our current crisis will only make
matters worse. We will then have to ask what is the right, sensible, moral, and
practical thing to do not according to the sort of closed technocratic
rules that created the Final Solution but according to a
warehouse of common sense and common decency that has been placed in dead storage by America's myopic elite. And then we may be both safe and human again.
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ON THE CENTENARY OF A FAMINE
ACTION GROUP ON EROSION, TECHNOLOGY AND CONCENTRATION: Progress since the World Food Summit of 1996 will now be reviewed by Heads of State in 2002. Perhaps it is nothing more than a footnote of history but the same span of years a century earlier (1896-1902) encompassed one of the worst famines in history. At least 30 million lives were lost because the colonized countries were denied national food security in favour of international commodity trade.
On the eve of a new global trade round within which agriculture will top the menu and in preparation for the Food Summit review next year, small farmers' and civil society organizations are calling for Food Sovereignty --- the supremacy of food production and consumption over trade and economic policies. History shows that their demands are justified..
At the end of the 19th century --- while Great Britain and the United States advanced the untried virtues of laissez-faiire capitalism, industrial technologies, and the draconian triumph of colonialism --- the newly-constituted "Third World" suffered through the most awful series of calamities since the Black Death smothered the globe five centuries before.
From Northeast Brazil to Southern Africa, Central India and Northern China, no fewer than 30 million people died in a world with barely one-sixth of today's population. In Morocco and in the Horn of Africa, one-third of the people perished. One million were lost in Brazil's Northeast. Ten million died in China. Nineteen million starved to death in India. Though the disaster remains unparalleled in modern history, the tragedy went virtually unnoticed in the salons of London and the saloons of Washington.
The calamities took place during an astonishing era of trade liberalization ("globalization") that began with the repeal of Britain's Corn Laws and ended with the onset of World War I. This was a time of massive economic growth, enormous progress in steamship and rail transport, labour migration, and the establishment of global commodity and capital markets. The ascendancy of laissez-faire capitalism in 1846 also coincided with the Great Hunger in Ireland and its demise in 1914 heralded the beginning of the end of colonial empires.
According to the politicians of the era, the rural poor died of "natural causes." A blistering sequence of El Nino/La Nina events battered the tropics and reverberated even into the farmlands of Europe and North America. The closing quarter of the century witnessed two horrific global famines (connected by a string of smaller or regional events) between 1876-79 and from 1896 to 1902. Unlike earlier El Nino cycles, however, the peasants found their traditional coping mechanisms dismantled by remote imperial bureaucracies.
The new steam and communications (telegraph and cable) technologies that had promised to bring relief were used instead to suck food stocks from the fields of the hungry to the larders of their rulers oceans away. Without their bidding or understanding, farmers became part of the Nineteenth century's global market economy.
Exactly 100 years after the last great famine cycle --- in a period framed by the first Food Summit of 1996 and the Summit's rescheduled review in 2002, the poor are confronted with a new era of globalization, corporate colonialism, the first shocks of Global Warming, and a set of new technologies promising, once again, to feed the hungry. The comparisons are depressingly familiar...
Full text available through Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (formerly RAFI)
IMPOSING NEW FORM OF COPORATE SERFDOM
ON NORTH AMERICAN FARMING PRACTICES
NICK PAPADIMITRIOU, INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE IN SOCIETY (ISIS): Giant agbiotech companies such as Monsanto are aggressively imposing a new form of serfdom on North American farming practices. By patenting both naturally occurring gene sequences and genetically modified forms of life, Monsanto can use aggressive lawsuits to ward off any potential rival. At the same time, insidious forms of surveillance and barely concealed threats are whittling away any options farmers have for getting seeds from other suppliers.
In April, Monsanto secured a "torpedo" patent designed to sink all rivals on antibiotic resistant marker genes used in practically all GMO crops. This immediately resulted in court battles and a requirement for everyone who has made use of the technology to pay Monsanto royalty fees. Monsanto has now launched another torpedo.
A patent is pending on the complete genome of Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The bacterium is used in a vector system to insert new genetic material into crop plants and is a staple of the agricultural biotechnology sector. The patent has been pending for 18 years, as challenges were made by rival companies claiming to have invented the same. But the original technology was actually developed by non-industry academics on government funds.
Monsanto stipulated in its "New Monsanto Pledge," announced last November, that it was committed to sharing knowledge and technology in order to benefit people and the environment. Working with a research team from the University of Richmond, the company purports to have placed the genome of Agrobacterium tumerfaciens onto a "public" database. However a perusal of the terms and conditions reveals that access is strictly limited to non-profit groups willing to enter into a licensing contract with Monsanto. . . . .
That is only half the story so far. Monsanto has become renowned for throwing its weight about in the farming community. Several hundred lawsuits are pending following the successful prosecution of Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser for alleged illegal possession of Monsanto's Round Up Ready canola. Schmeiser has now launched an appeal citing seventeen instances of the judge having erred or judged contrary to law.
Amongst these are the determination that a farmer who inadvertently grows Roundup Canola has no right to grow or sell any such seeds or plants regardless of how they came to be there. Another crucial ground for appeal is that Justice McKay placed the onus on Schmeiser to prove how the seeds came to be in his field whether by contamination or otherwise. Monsanto subsequently set up a "snitch" line, advertised on radio stations in western Canada, to encourage reports on other alleged "malpractices." Following protests, this has been dropped.
Now Monsanto is suing another Saskatchewan farmer for allegedly growing Round Up canola without a license. Kelly Ryczek is accused of obtaining Round Up seeds from a source other than Monsanto. Ryczek allegedly planted some of these seeds and sold others on. Monsanto is insisting Ryczek surrenders the seeds, and is demanding a penalty for breach of their patent rights. . . .
It gets worse. The selling point behind Roundup Ready is that it is a glyphosphate-resistant strain. Spray on the herbicide and you're left with nothing but Monsanto crops. However, after two years application, glyphosphate-resistant volunteer corn plants begin to flourish. This has led to the most bizarre Monsanto patent yet awarded. US patent # 6,239,072 covers the practice of mixing glyphosphate with other herbicides, and any premixture thereof.
This patent has been awarded despite the fact that mixing herbicides is what any sensible, thinking farmer would naturally do, and has been doing, in the event of resistant plants emerging. The patent also serves as a "de facto" admission of the GM "superweed" problem and that Roundup technology lacks efficacy and predictability.
Fortunately, Monsanto doesn't always get its way. Monsanto was subject to a US Department of Justice Antitrust Division inquiry back in 1998 regarding their acquisition of DeKalb Genetics Corporation. Similarly, when Monsanto attempted to acquire Delta & Pine Land Co in 1999 to gain control of that company's terminator seed technology, the Antitrust Division indicated that it was prepared to sue to prevent the transaction.
In a recent speech . . . . in Nashville, Douglas Ross, Special Counsel for Agriculture at the Antitrust division outlined the basis on which prosecution for antitrust regulations can be brought. Amongst others, he cited conspiracies to deny market access or otherwise suppress competition, the use of predatory and/or exclusionary conduct to hold on to a monopoly in the market and mergers that are likely to lessen competition in the market. Monsanto is guilty on all three counts.
CANADIAN ORGANIC CANOLA GROWERS PLAN LAW SUIT
COULD CREATE A HUGE LEGAL PRECEDENT
BY ATTACHING LIABILITY TO MONSANTO GM PRODUCTS
SEAN PRATT, SASKATOON NEWSROOM, THE WESTERN PRODUCER:The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate plans to sue chemical giant Monsanto and possibly others "responsible for introducing" GM canola into the province because it has spoiled markets for Canadian organic canola.
University of Saskatchewan law professor Martin Phillipson said if the organic producers win the case, it would create a huge precedent by attaching liability to the producers of GM technology. That's in sharp contrast to the case in the summer of 2000, in which Bruno, Sasketchewan.farmer Schmeiser was found guilty in Federal Court of growing Roundup Ready canola without a licence.
"(Schmeiser) was a simple case of Monsanto alleging he had infringed on their intellectual property rights. The court said he had. End of story. It had nothing to do with the wider social, legal and environmental implications of this," said Phillipson.
A spokesperson for Monsanto said the company has no comment on the suit because nothing has been filed with the courts and it hasn't been officially named as a defendant. "I'm not clear on whether it involves Monsanto or not," said Trish Jordan.
The lawyer for the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate said the group is awaiting the proclamation of a pertinent piece of provincial legislation before filing documents. That is expected to occur early next year. Directorate administrator Debbie Miller said Monsanto will be the primary defendant listed on the documents once papers are filed.
Canola Council of Canada president Dale Adolphe said organic canola represents less than 0.4 percent of total canola acreage. He said a small force wants to destroy GM canola, which made up 61% of the canola seeded in 2001.Adolphe said organic growers have lost the markets themselves by drafting certification standards that call for zero tolerance of GM material. "They don't have zero tolerance on pesticides," said Adolphe. "But they were short-sighted enough to put in a zero tolerance for GMOs."
He also said growers and creators of GM canola have done nothing illegal because the products have passed food, feed, environmental and safety regulations and have made it through the variety registration system. "If the class action should be targeted at anybody, it would be targeted at the regulatory systems that allowed that."
Saskatchewan Organic Directorate officials said the federal government and other parties may be included in legal action, but the main target will be Monsanto. Phillipson figures the organic growers have a good case if they pursue legal action under provincial environmental legislation, where they may be able to prove that GM canola is a pollutant.
"The crucial issue is whether or not you can tie it back to the actual producer of the technology itself as opposed to the farmer who planted it down the road." He thinks Monsanto will be facing a tougher battle than it did with Schmeiser if the suit is launched under Saskatchewan legislation and heard in a provincial court rather than the federal arena where Schmeiser's case played out. The professor said if the organic growers are successful, it would set a huge precedent.
"Theoretically it could be very damaging for (Monsanto), particularly if this
sort of finding spreads to the United States, for example, where they could be
in line for big, big payouts."
THE AFGHAN FAMINE EQUATION
MARY MCGRORY, THE WASHINGTON POST: . . . But if we wait too long with a solution, we could face a humanitarian catastrophe, the deaths of millions of Afghans by famine or freezing in the harsh Afghan winter. We could win our battles --- we own the skies --- and lose a prime aim in the war against terrorism, which is to persuade the Muslim world that our quarrel is not with them, only with grotesque offshoots like Osama bin Laden.
The initial effort to convey the double message was in the early bread-and-bomb drops, which reached less than one percent of the population. Subsequent food drops were snatched or disparaged by the Taliban. Ken Bacon, the erstwhile Pentagon spokesman who now runs Refugees International, wishes that high officials of the Bush administration would talk more about the peril of the refugees and the urgency of their plight.
The only official so far to mention a bombing pause is Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. She spoke informally about the possibility at the time that President Bush offered a "second chance" to the Taliban. There was no response.
Sen. Paul Wellstone (Dem.-Minnesota.) held a news conference on Tuesday to
push a sense-of-the-Senate resolution calling on the president to make an
"aggressive assault" on the problem, figuring out a way to organize the massive
truck convoys that remain the best way of getting food to people in remote
places. Estimates from relief organizations put the number of internally
displaced Afghans at approximately 7 million. . . . .
HUMANITARIAN FEEDING IN A NO LONGER
"FORGOTTEN COUNTRY AND A FORGOTTEN PEOPLE
CAUGHT UP IN A FORGOTTEN WAR"
ROBERT JAMES PARSONS, LE COURIER (GENEVA): From the start, the United States has tried to present the military offensive in Afghanistan as a move not simply to punish the Taliban but to liberate the Afghan people from the Taliban's repressive regime. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly said the United States was parachuting humanitarian aid to the oppressed.
It did not take long for one of the world's most prestigious aid organizations, Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), to level sharp criticism at the U.S. air drops. Jean-Herve Bradol, president of the organization, speaking from Islamabad, deplored what he called "PR," focusing his criticism on three main points.
First, he said, airdrops are a huge waste of money. The packages, containing enough to feed an adult for a day, land all over the place, with no guarantee that any, or even most, will be retrieved. And 37,500 rations per night are mere drops in the bucket in a country where seven or eight million are starving. The money ($25 million for the duration of the bombing, according to U.S. government sources) would be better spent provisioning the regular aid convoys already in action.
Second, since Afghanistan is one of the most mined countries in the world, haphazard drops like these, if noticed by the local population, could easily lure people into mine fields.
Finally, Bradol's main grievance is that much of the local population will associate --- reasonably --- the planes dropping the food with the planes dropping the bombs. According to Bradol, there is already a strong tendency on the part of many people in the region to lump together all Westerners, regardless of why they are there. From that, it is just one short step to associating all international aid staff with the newly arrived military.
"We do not," he stated emphatically, "want to be confused with people conducting a military operation!"
The Swiss-based humanitarian group, Terre des Hommes, has condemned the airdrops point-blank as "dangerous and badly targeted," calling instead for the opening of a humanitarian corridor to avoid what they denounce as "the deliberate confusion between military operations and humanitarian aid."
Last May, when the various international aid agencies operating in the field
under United Nations auspices launched an international appeal for Afghanistan,
"a forgotten country and a forgotten people caught up in a forgotten war,"
nobody was interested. With almost no response to the appeal, aid agencies had
to borrow from their own budgets to keep the
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: In 1980, median income in the richest 10% of countries was 77 times greater than in the poorest 10%; by 1999, that gap had grown to 122 times. Inequality has also increased within many countries. Over the same period, any gains in poverty reduction have been relatively small and geographically isolated. The number of poor people rose from 1987 to 1998, and the share of poor people increased in many countries --- in 1998 close to half the population were considered poor in many parts of the world. In 1980, the world's poorest 10%, or 400 million people, lived on 72 cents a day or less. The same number of people had 79 cents (nominally) per day in 1990 and 78 cents in 1999.
While many social, political, and economic factors contribute to poverty, the evidence shows that unregulated capital and trade flows contribute to rising inequality and impede progress in poverty reduction. Trade liberalization leads to more import competition and to a growing use of the threat to move production to lower-wage locales, thereby depressing wages. Deregulated international capital flows have led to rapid increases in short-term capital flows and more frequent economic crises, while simultaneously limiting the ability of governments to cope with crises. Economic upheavals disproportionately harm the poor, and thus contribute to the lack of success in poverty reduction and to rising income inequality.
The world's poor may stand to gain from global integration, but not under the unregulated version currently promoted by the World Bank and others. The lesson of the past 20 years is clear: it is time for a different approach to global integration, whereby living standards of the world's poor are raised rather than jeopardized.
TOM TURNIPSEED, COUNTERPUNCH: This week the U.S. House of Representatives will take up an economic stimulus package that indicates just how much the House has sold out to the big corporate and wealthy interests at the expense of poor and working class people . . .
According to a New York Times editorial on October 20, the bill has $54 billion in accelerated tax cuts with every penny going to the top 30% of taxpayers and half going to the top five percent. 80% of the benefits from the capital gains tax cuts would go to the top twp percent of households, and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, only $2.3 billion of the $100 billion stimulus for 2002 would be spent on benefits for unemployed workers who would be the most likely to spend it to stimulate the economy.
It is also poor economics because it would lower rates on capital gains held more-than-one but less-than-five years and if investors took advantage of the lower rates to raise cash, share prices would drop. Elimination of the corporate alternative minimum tax would cost $25 billion in 2002 and would not guarantee any new investment, but would give a windfall to companies that usually find a way to elude taxes anyway. Such corporate tax breaks would reduce their taxes on the state level and force states to reduce spending, hindering economic recovery . . .
For the past decade or so, the increasing income disparity between the wealthy and the poor and working class has been unprecedented in U.S. history. If the average pay for production workers had risen at the level as CEO pay, the annual workers salary would be $120,491 --- not $24,668. The wealthiest one percent of Americans control about 38% of America's wealth. The bottom 80% control 17% of America's wealth. The top one percent of stock owners have 48% of stock holdings.
MIKE SCHULTZ, KANSAS CATTLEMENíS ASSOCIATION: Warren Staley, CEO of
Cargill, will be presenting a lecture at the Kansas State University Union
(Forum Hall) at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, October 26th. Mr. Staley is going to talk
about "his world market" and a good question to ask would be why is it
that the farm income is DOWN 46% and the Cargill profits are up 67% this year
and farm real estate debt has risen from $82,971,225,000 in 1994 to over
$100,381,473,000 in 1999! Then the operating loans are up from $24,870,048,000
in 1994 to over $44,203,079,000 almost doubling (according to USDA Economic
Research Service statistics).
WTO HOPEFULLY EXPECTS INTERNATIONAL TRADE
TO SHOW ONLY 2% INCREASE IN GROWTH
COMPARED WITH 12% IN 2000
ASSOCIATED PRESS: The World Trade Organization (WTO) said Thursday it expects growth in international merchandise trade to slow to 2% in 2001 compared with 12% last year, but the group warned that its figures still might be too optimistic. "There is great uncertainty about trade and growth developments in the fourth quarter of 2001, particularly in light of the tragic events of September 11," the WTO said in its International Trade Statistics report.
Michael Finger, director of the WTO's economic research and analysis division, said the 2% figure is probably "at the upper range of our estimates." However, he said that estimates from the United Nations suggesting zero trade growth this year were too pessimistic.
According to the 219-page study, which looked at trade figures for 2000 and the first six months of 2001, Japan will see a decline in the volume of imports, while North America will have trade growth below the global average. The WTO expects Western Europe to see above-average trade of about four percent. The merchandise-trade figures exclude services such as banking and insurance. . . .
According to the report, Asian countries were hit the worst, largely because they are major traders in office and telecommunication products. But the exception was China, which recorded a 9% increase in exports the first half of 2001.
"The relative strength of China's trade developments . . . can be attributed to its strong domestic demand growth, the stability of its currency [compared with] the U.S. dollar and a relatively small share of office and telecom products in its merchandise trade," the WTO said in its study. The most successful region was Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, boosted by a 20% increase in imports into Russia.
Latin America's trade also expanded by about five percent, despite sharply slower growth in trade in Mexico, the WTO said. The volume of exports from developing countries as a whole increased by 15% -- three times the increase in gross domestic product.
The increase in exports was partly because of increased oil prices but
because developing countries were able to expand their role in exports of
manufactured goods, the most dynamic part of world trade. "Developing countries
accounted for 27% of world exports of manufactures in 2000, a remarkable
increase from their 17% share in 1990," the WTO said.
POST-SEPTEMBER 11 HERITICAL U.S. "CAPITALISM":
AMAZES AND TROUBLES EUROPEANS
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES SEE
"MASSIVE POTENTIAL FOR DOUBLE STANDARD"
ALAN COWELL & EDMUND L. ANDREWS, NEW YORK TIMES: For decades, the United States' economic prescription to friend and foe was almost a mantra in its consistency: leave it to the market. State intervention was out. Subsidies were a nonstarter. Government should be limited, trade should be free, and regulation should be minimal.
It was a creed that grated on many, but it found fervent believers in Britain and, as the booming economy seemed to validate the American model, a growing number of grudging supporters across Europe.
Now, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the roles have reversed. The United States is spending billions to help airlines and considering billions more for insurance companies. But the European Commission in Brussels has been miserly, if not hostile, toward similar pleas from European companies. . . .
On trade, the United States has angered European and Asian leaders by edging toward new antidumping fines on imported steel. And on intellectual property rights, Washington --- after long arguing that patents for AIDS drugs should be sacrosanct in the developing world --- threatened to cast aside Bayer's patent for Cipro to extract a lower price for Americans desperate to have protection against anthrax.
"The Americans had been teaching us the gospel of free markets," said Elie Cohen, a leading economist and adviser to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin of France. "But when it turns out the Americans are facing the same problems, they seem to forget the universal laws of the market" . . . . .
"It's a huge wake-up call about economic policy," said Will Hutton, a prominent British author and chief executive of the Industrial Society, a left-leaning advocacy group in London. "This validates people who have always argued yes to capitalism but no to the concept that all you have to do is let it rip." Mr. Hutton says the United States seems to be returning to the prescriptions of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who advocated vigorous public investment and deficit spending in hard times.
And that is exactly what worries conservative European politicians. For years, they have cited the United States as the model for reducing government spending and limiting regulation. "These are all things that the Americans have been advocating, but now the people who are advocating them are doing things differently," said Hermann Otto Solms, a leader in Germany's pro-business Free Democratic Party. "It is a dangerous influence. The change in direction in the United States is falling on very fertile ground in a negative sense" . . . .
European business leaders are acutely aware that it took them years to win support for free market changes, most of them driven by the European Commission and resisted by national governments. These include the privatization of government-owned airlines, utilities and manufacturing companies; the elimination of trade barriers within Europe; and a steep reduction in government subsidies for business. . . . . .
Perhaps the biggest debate now raging through Europe is whether to imitate the United States by using fiscal and monetary policy to try to spark an economic recovery. Big spending programs or new tax cuts are difficult because all 12 countries that adopted the euro as their currency are supposed to keep their budget deficits low and strive for balanced budgets within a few years. But with growth slowing and unemployment rising, many leaders are pushing to relax the requirements.
One of the most startling shifts in American attitudes since September 11 has been toward pharmaceutical patents. The United States and other Western nations have adamantly supported the rights of drug companies, which contend that they need years of exclusive rights to recoup vast research and development outlays. That has led to years of passionate debates in nations like Brazil and South Africa, where patented drugs are seen as just too expensive for most victims facing AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.
Yet this week, as the number of anthrax attacks mounted, the White House abruptly warned Bayer that it might declare an emergency override of the company's Cipro patent unless it lowered the price. Bayer, which charges pharmacies more than $4 a tablet, reached an agreement today with the government on a price of just under $1 each.
That move came right after Bayer agreed to give the Canadian government a similarly low price to keep Canada from buying supplies from a generic manufacturer.
To people who have quietly sided for years with poorer countries that fought to escape the high prices allowed by patents, both moves seem cynical.
"Here you have a health emergency in Canada and you override the patent when
people have been telling developing countries not to do this," said Sophia
Tickell, an official of Oxfam, a British charity. "What this has highlighted is
that there's massive potential for double standards."
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