Posts Tagged ‘Monsanto’

Follow Ups

October 29, 2016

This past week found numerous news items easily subsumed by those dealing with the run up to the election. Among these were two dealing with matters Analysis has covered recently. 10-26-16 Financial Times headlines “Renewables overtake coal as world’s largest source of power capacity Though coal still generates more electricity, wind and solar installations hit record”. Notable is: “Two wind turbines went up every hour in countries such as China, according to International Energy Agency officials who have sharply upgraded their forecasts of how fast renewable energy sources will keep growing. “We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the global energy advisory agency. Part of the growth was caused by falls in the cost of solar and onshore wind power that Mr Birol said would have been “unthinkable” only five years ago.” “Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed. The Paris-based agency thinks costs are likely to fall even further over the next five years, by 15 per cent on average for wind and by a quarter for solar power.” A power plant’s capacity is the maximum amount of electricity it can potentially produce. The amount of energy a plant actually generates varies according to how long it produces power over a period of time. Because a wind or solar farm cannot generate constantly like a coal power plant, it will produce less energy over the course of a year even though it may have the same or higher level of capacity. Coal power plants supplied close to 39 per cent of the world’s power in 2015, while renewables, including older hydropower dams, accounted for 23 per cent, IEA data show. But the agency expects renewables’ share of power generation to rise to 28 per cent by 2021, when it predicts they will supply the equivalent of all the electricity generated today in the US and EU combined. It has revised its five-year forecasts to show renewables’ capacity will grow 13 per cent more than its estimate made just last year, mostly because of stronger policy backing in the US, China, India and Mexico. Here in Ohio, AEP has successfully pressured the legislature to call a “time out” on a previously legislated percent requirement for energy generated from renewables. AEP has unsuccessfully obtained a consumer paid subsidy for its unneeded coal fired power plants (to be kept in service as “back ups”). Failing that, they are now in the process of try to divest ownership of these power plants (selling them). Analysis finds Tim Bubb’s embrace of this corporation for its “investment” in the County subsidized Pastakala Corporate Park to be short sighted and uninformed. In an Analysis post entitled “On An Aspirin Regimen” (9-16-16) another, this time global corporate activity, was considered. Residual amounts of glyphosate are found in much of the basic food people have available to eat – even “organic” mountain honey. Studies of this resulted from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) finding glyphosate (the major toxic component of Monsanto’s Round Up) to be a likely carcinogenic. Now in true Donnie Trump style we have this Reuters exclusive “WHO cancer agency asked experts to withhold weedkiller documents” by Kate Kelland (10-25-16). In the mode of suing the sources of criticism, and historically in the foot prints of the tobacco industry’s suppression/intimidation of research on the effects of nicotine (as well as energy industries’ like behavior in regard to global warming), “The World Health Organization’s cancer agency – which is facing criticism over how it classifies carcinogens – advised academic experts on one of its review panels not to disclose documents they were asked to release under United States freedom of information laws. In a letter and an email seen by Reuters, officials from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cautioned scientists who worked on a review in 2015 of the weedkiller glyphosate against releasing requested material. The review, published in March 2015, concluded glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic,” putting IARC at odds with regulators around the world. Critics say they want the documents to find out more about how IARC reached its conclusion.” “Its critics, including in industry, say the way IARC evaluates whether substances might be carcinogenic can cause unnecessary health scares. IARC assesses the risk of a substance being carcinogenic without taking account of typical human exposure to it. Glyphosate is a key ingredient of the herbicide Roundup, sold by Monsanto. According to data published by IARC, glyphosate was registered in over 130 countries as of 2010 and is one of the most heavily used weedkillers in the world. Pressure has been growing on the experts who worked on IARC’s glyphosate review in part because other regulators, including in the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, say the weedkiller is unlikely to pose a cancer risk to humans.” The article primarily turns on the ownership of the research and the legality of its disclosure. IARC researchers work in various institutions and facilities worldwide, some of them government affiliated (like universities). Global corporate interests are also world wide and utilize individual national laws to force disclosure of findings while sanctioning their own research results as “private”, trade secrets. “Monsanto’s vice president of strategy, Scott Partridge, told Reuters he considered IARC’s actions “ridiculous.” “The public deserves a process that is guided by sound science, not IARC’s secret agendas,” he said. Responding to Reuters’ questions about the letter and email, IARC said it had been previously informed by experts on the panel who “had been approached by interested parties, including lawyers representing Monsanto . . . and asked to release private emails as well as draft scientific documents.”” Despite the quaint attraction of Newark’s Canal Street Market, Analysis finds this news to be further indication of corporate efforts to legally obfuscate what is in food and where it comes from. Analysis finds it hard to imagine vendors like the Byrd Farm informing their buyers that “Oh, by the way, what you just bought includes a healthy dose of glyphosate.” Glyphosate free? Not.

On An Aspirin Regimen

September 16, 2016

The appeal that Donnie Trump has for many voters is that he is a businessman, ostentatiously big business. Repeatedly, in media street and diner interviews one hears “it would be a good thing to have a businessman in the White House (not a politician).” In Newark, Grow Licking County, a public/private partnership administered by the Licking County Chamber of Commerce (the largest such in central Ohio) but funded by the county government, is lauded as the success driver for attracting “jobs” to this area (business knows business!). Another public/private partnership in Newark is the Canal Market District Farmers Market, an updated enhanced version of a previous Chamber sponsored market. The new Farmers Market is touted as a success by the Market, the Chamber and local politicians. Customers are reassured that all the vendors have been thoroughly checked out by the Market master and can be trusted to provide safe and reliable products. Central Ohio consumers like to know where their food is coming from, we are told (by the same market master). After all the Dole produce recalls, Chipotle contamination and Jeni’s Ice Cream repeated shut downs, it is heartening to hear that someone is being stringent in requiring that food be handled properly. After all, food is a very BIG business. 9-15-16 Carey Gillam posted “FDA Finds Monsanto’s Weed Killer In U.S. Honey” (Huffington Post). Some excerpts: “In examining honey samples from various locations in the United States, the FDA has found fresh evidence that residues of the weed killer called glyphosate can be pervasive – found even in a food that is not produced with the use of glyphosate. All of the samples the FDA tested in a recent examination contained glyphosate residues, and some of the honey showed residue levels double the limit allowed in the European Union, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the United States. Glyphosate, which is the key ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s Roundup herbicide, is the most widely used weed killer in the world, and concerns about glyphosate residues in food spiked after the World Health Organization in 2015 said its cancer experts determined glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.” “In addition to honey, the records show government residue experts discussing glyphosate found in soybean and wheat samples, “glyphosate controversies,” and the belief that there could be “a lot of violation for glyphosate” residues in U.S. crops.” “In the records released by the FDA, one internal email describes trouble locating honey that doesn’t contain glyphosate: “It is difficult to find blank honey that does not contain residue. I collect about 10 samples of honey in the market and they all contain glyphosate,” states an FDA researcher. Even “organic mountain honey” contained low concentrations of glyphosate, the FDA documents show.” “The FDA routinely looks for residues of a number of commonly used pesticides but not glyphosate [an herbicide]. The look for glyphosate this year is considered a “special assignment” and came after the agency was criticized by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2014 for failing to test for glyphosate.” “Like the FDA, the USDA has dragged its feet on testing. Only one time, in 2011, has the USDA tested for glyphosate residues despite the fact that the agency does widespread testing for residues of other less-used pesticides. In what the USDA called a “special project” the agency tested 300 soybean samples for glyphosate and found more than 90 percent – 271 of the samples – carried the weed killer residues.” “Both the USDA and the FDA have long said it is too expensive and is unnecessary to test for glyphosate residues. Yet the division within the USDA known as the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) has been testing wheat for glyphosate residues for years because many foreign buyers have strong concerns about glyphosate residues. GIPSA’s testing is part of an “export cargo sampling program,” documents obtained from GIPSA show. Those tests showed glyphosate residues detected in more than 40 percent of hundreds of wheat samples examined in fiscal 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.” Monsanto, the business, markets Roundup in conjunction with Roundup ready seeds as intellectual property, requiring a signed contractual agreement to abide by company terms for its use (much as software is sold). Too many instances have been recorded of transgressions, intentional or unintentional (like the wind blowing pollen unto a neighbor’s field producing traceable varieties in violation of the intellectual property agreement), where Monsanto, the business, has sued to protect their brand. Where have we seen that before? Currently Monsanto is being bought out by Bayer, the aspirin folks.

Economics And Democracy II

September 28, 2013

            It was recently mentioned (Columbus On The Record 9-27-13) how the recent sales tax increase in Franklin County has met such public indifference. The same was said with regard to the state sales tax increase earlier this summer. A previous post pointed out the recent actuality of income distribution within the US; that 10 percent of the population account for 48 percent of the income, 90 percent for 52 percent of the income. That 90 percent in turn spends (consumes) most of its earnings. The economists’ critique is that this is not a “progressive” tax (based on wealth or actual dollars in hand), but a “regressive” tax (based on head count. If you dwell in the kingdom, you must pay the king’s tax collector). Whether regressive or progressive, according to Robert Reich, the tax is a rule or regulation that our democracy formulated in order to institute an economy. The outcome (or consequences) of that tax IS our economy. Formulate it differently (through the democratic process) and you arrive at a different economy. Currently, just such thinking dominates the national headlines with one group of our legislative representatives threatening to inflict damage on the entire country’s economy if the rules are not to their liking. Of course, changing those rules, according to Mr. Reich, is what makes for an economy. Indifference follows this entire scenario, much as it does central Ohio’s tax increases. One could speculate that we, as a people, have become so inured (desensitized) to the aesthetics and strategies of terrorism over the last 20 years that we simply have incorporated its approach into our everyday. Mr. Reich was upbeat about economics, knowing that in a democracy a difference could be made.  A 9-27-13 Wall Street Journal article materializes Reich’s economics approach while at the same time questioning our “democracy”. In The Hidden Biotech Provision in Budget Showdown, Alicia Mundy states: “Tucked into the House version of the bill that would have funded the government—in addition to the high-profile language designed to defund the health-care law—was an overlooked provision dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act by critics. Supported by the genetically modified food industry and Monsanto Co., the Farmer Assurance Provision would allow farmers to grow genetically modified crops even if a court had blocked their use. It was first passed into law as part of the 2012 Senate-House agreement that kept the government running that time around. More recently, it was inserted into the stop-gap funding bill that Republicans in the House passed Sept. 20.” Outcry has been made that although the various practices that brought the near total meltdown of the financial sector in 2008 were illegal at most, unethical at least, no upper level executives or managers have been prosecuted. In a famous 60 Minutes interview, the reasoning given by the head Federal Justice Department prosecutor was that it would have threatened the national economy. What Reich promotes seems to make the prosecutor’s rationale quite legitimate and necessary; pass laws (which were passed) that allow a practice while a court of law blocks that practice makes it incredibly difficult to know what is illegal, let alone enforce a rule, form an economy. At the end of her article, Alicia Mundy exposes why Reich may not have been so upbeat and positive had Bill Moyers asked him how he felt about democracy. Mundy writes: “The rider isn’t likely to resurface in any continuing resolution this year, said a Republican House aide. “The rider is toxic,” he said.  No one in the House wants to claim it as their own, he said.” A representative democracy legislating laws, rules and regulation authored by anonymous legislators produces the kind of economy we now find ourselves roiling in.


July 4, 2013

            “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is engrained in the American psyche. This is a bedrock of our constitutional law (the right to a speedy trial, by one’s peers, bail, “Innocent until proven guilty”, etc.). It is woven into the fabric of American jurisprudence. To say it is part of our culture is a redundancy. We all have our pet “show” trials where the jury was hung, the defendant acquitted, or the prosecution really stretched to convict someone “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Mention of these cases inflames great passions on either side, so examples are not worth listing here. Besides, that’s not the point. The emphasis here is on the “beyond a reasonable doubt” as a basis for maintenance of the status quo, good or bad, beneficial or destructive.


            The July 4, 2013 Advocate has run an op/ed entitled Food Prize Goes Too Far In Honoring Monsanto by Rekha Basu (Des Moines Register 7-3-13). In it Rekha says a lot of things to bolster the case as to why Monsanto should not have been given the World Food Prize.  These reasons are as scientifically grounded and referenced as any provided by Monsanto itself with regard to the marketing of the wonderfulness of their technology. However, along with the scientific discourse Monsanto and other such businesses play the American culture card, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” one (although completely outside any court of law). This culture card allows the status quo of business as usual to be maintained. Monsanto is not the first business to make use of this cultural weapon to continue its practices, and profit from our self-governing malaise. The makers of DDT, the nuclear energy industry, lead and asbestos product manufacturers, and the tobacco industry (and others) pioneered playing this card quite effectively over 50 years ago. Today, Monsanto is just one of many to do so. For late night horror to rival any story by Steven King, research the history of Meth, its relation to ephedrine and the pharmaceutical industry that produces it. But is this narrative “beyond a reasonable doubt”?


            Harrison Ford is coming out with a narrative of his own, a new “infomercial” documentary on global warming (with penguins!). We will all be soothed by Mr. Ford’s familiar authoritative voice (hey, he played Indiana Jones, who better would know?). It will be interesting, and tragic. Nothing will be done. Along with Al Gore, Harrison will cash in on our concern. While watching and listening, we will all be more than well aware that those with the most chips also hold the “beyond a reasonable doubt” card, and will waste no time in playing it (“Do you own an oil well? Of course you do.”). In the bowels of Basu’s well written piece is the line, “The very fact that Monsanto money has flowed to the World Food Prize Foundation should make one of its own ineligible for the prize.” Gandhi is said to have taught that freedom can be reclaimed only by refusing to cooperate with unjust, immoral laws (something Dr. King also emphasized).   This is something Newark community organizers should bear in mind when promoting programs of change, that promise change, change for the better. Monsanto promises just such change, and uses their enormous financial muscle and the “beyond reasonable doubt” culture card to ensure cooperation and compliance with its unjust and immoral policies. For this it was awarded the World Food Prize, reinforcing its ownership of this valuable token of cultural capital.