Poisoning the World: The Companies that Profit Big from Exporting Banned Chemicals

Circle of Poison

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This documentary is about the US export of toxic pesticides that are banned in the US. This is ironic. Despite these domestic bans, heavy dependence on food imports means that most Americans end up ingesting these toxins in imported produce. In fact the only way Americans can avoid pesticide-laden food is to buy certified organic food from local farmers.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order banning the export of toxic pesticides. The order was revoked by Reagan a few months after his inauguration.

The US controls 75% of the global pesticide market via five notorious companies: Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow and BSAF. Although Bayer, Syngenta and BSAF are European companies, they produce their toxic pesticides in the US, where export regulations are more lax (ie non-existent). The pesticide industry has one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. Thanks to the courage of Democratic Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate has passed several bills banning pesticide exports. However because members face re-election every two years, they have no hope whatsoever of winning in House.

Most of the film concerns the epidemic of cancer and horrendous birth defects in India, Mexico, Argentina and other countries that continue to use US-produced pesticides that are banned in the global North.

Surprisingly it ends on an optimistic note with news about the growing organic food movement in Argentina, Kerala India and Bhutan. Rather than pressuring their governments to ban toxic pesticides, activists are learning chemical-free organic soil building techniques. In doing so, they also significantly increase their yields. In replacing monoculture techniques with crop diversity, organic farming methods are far more productive per unit land than traditional agriculture.

The full video can be viewed for free at the Al Jazeera website: Circle of Poison

The General Motors Conspiracy to Destroy Public Transportation in the US

Taken for a Ride

Directed by Jim Klein (2014)

Film Review

Taken for a Ride is about a conspiracy initiated by General Motors to destroy America’s public transit system. At a time when only one out of ten Americans owned an automobile, the first president of General Motors Alfred P Sloan started National City Lines (NCL), with the explicit goal of shutting down the country’s popular, world class electric trolley lines.

With the financial support of Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum, Firestone and Mack Truck, NCL bought up every trolley company in the US s systematically shut them down. This was despite widespread public opposition – the NCL buses that replaced the trolleys were far slower and more polluting than the trolleys.

Once they had a monopoly on city transit, NCL gradually raised fares and cut services until city buses were so unprofitable they had to be taken over by city government.

In 1946, after intensive investigation, the Justice Department filed suit against GM for conspiracy to monopolize public transportation. After finding them guilty, the court fined them a mere $5,000.

GM Also Behind Interstate Construction Conspiracy

In 1932, Sloan also founded the National Highway Users Conference, a consortium of oil and auto companies that would ultimately become the Highway Lobby – for decades the most powerful lobby in Washington. When Eisenhower was elected in 1952, GM president Erwin Wilson became his Secretary of Defense (and convinced of the need for superhighways – to move tanks as Hitler had done in Germany) and Francis DuPont (DuPont was the largest GM shareholder) as the Commissioner of Public Roads. Under Eisenhower, Congress enacted a federal gas tax to pay for the massive federal Interstate highway system his administration created.

There was strong public opposition in many cities to Interstate construction that threatened to displace entire neighborhoods and close down businesses, schools and churches. A national coalition – blocking urban Interstate extensions in 50 cities – but most went ahead as planned.

Sam Alito Exposes GM Conspiracy

In the 1970s, a strong grassroots environmental movement formed to address the growing problem with superhighway gridlock* and auto-related air pollution. A high point of this film is footage of a 1974 Senate Antitrust Committee hearing in which Los Angeles mayor Sam Alito reminds senators of the GM conspiracy to shut down LA’s public transit system.

Following the hearing, Congress relented and allowed cities to use federal gasoline taxes to rebuild their public transport networks. This would enable Washington and San Francisco to build subway systems and Baltimore, Portland, Seattle and other cities to begin plans for light rail (the modern term for electric trolleys) systems.

When this documentary was made in 2014, public transportation was in major crisis in most cities, due to budget cuts stemming from the 2008 global economic crash. At the time, Congress had just passed a bill to build a new national highway network four times the size of the current Interstate system.

Fortunately this plan has been shelved due to federal budgetary problems and the wholesale rejection of the private automobile by the millennial generation.


*Did you ever notice that TV ads never depict their cars stuck in highway gridlock – but on lonely stretches of country road?

 

Dupont: A Textbook Case in Corporate Criminality

DuPont Dynasty: Behind the Iron Curtain

Gerald Colby

Prentice Hall (1984)

Book Review

If you want a precise understanding of how a major corporation sets out (and succeeds) in corrupting all aspects of democratic government, Behind the Nylon Curtain is for you. If it doesn’t convince you that democracy is impossible in a capitalist economy, I don’t know what will. This 800+ page book traces every bribery and corruption scandal; every flagrant violation of labor, environmental and trading with the enemy laws; every frivolous lawsuit (eg challenging the EPA’s ability to regulate air and water pollution); every instance of war profiteering and gouging the US taxpayer; and every case of electoral fraud the DuPont company has engaged in their 215-year history.

DuPont’s Role in Potting 1934 Coup Against Roosevelt

In addition, Colby details the prominent role DuPont played in the formation of the American Liberty League and the 1934 fascist coup the group plotted to remove Roosevelt from the residency; in re-arming the Third Reich prior to World War II; in arming private vigilante groups to attack union organizers and strikers; and in secretly building the nuclear facilities supplying uranium and plutonium to the Manhattan Project. In the mid-seventies (when DuPont workers and Delaware residents began dying of cancer in unprecedented numbers), they successfully blocked a bill to require safety testing on all new chemicals before they could be marketed.

Colby also enumerates numerous efforts by Congress, unions and consumer advocates like Ralph Nader to challenge DuPont’s overtly criminal behavior. Owing to the company’s long time control over local and national media, the Delaware State government and the executive, legislative and judicial branch of the federal government, it has been virtually impossible to sanction DuPont for their illegal activities.

How DuPont Came to Own Delaware

Historically the DuPonts have totally controlled Delaware (government, newspapers, radio, TV, colleges and newspapers).  Thanks to DuPont, Delaware has the lowest business tax in the country and the lowest cost of incorporation. It’s also the only state allowing Delaware corporations to hold out-of-state stockholder and board meetings. The majority of Americans largest corporations are incorporated in Delaware.  In 1980 governor Pierre DuPont successful introduced a law enabling Delaware banks to circumvent other states’ usury laws by setting credit card interest rates that are binding on out-of-sate residents. (see How Banks Use Credit Cards to Rip Us Off )

Roosevelt: More Pro-Corporate than Pro-Labor

I found Colby’s revelations about Franklin D Roosevelt – a significant departure from the pro-labor image promoted by the Democratic Party – the most illuminating. Prior to reading this book I had no idea that Roosevelt

  • imposed wage freezes during a period that prices increased by 45%
  • tried to pressure sit-down strikers at General Motors (then owned by DuPont) to settle with GM on management’s  terms
  • vetoed a law authorizing World War I veterans to be paid the Bonus Bond they were promised (the military assault Hoover ordered on Bonus Army protestors was instrumental to his defeat in 1932).
  • triggered a new economic depression in 1937 by implementing across the board austerity cuts.

*DuPont also blocked distribution of this book for 40 years. Although initially published by Prentice Hall in 1974, DuPont fought Colby in the courts for 30 years to block its distribution (Colby describes his legal ordeal in the introduction). In 2014, he finally released the 1984 edition as an ebook. Although Prentice Hall still owns the print rights, the author retains electronic rights. Used print editions are available from Amazon. The Kindle edition is $9.99.

 

 

Robbing From Nature and People to Produce Profit

 

Eco Social Justice on the Global Frontlines

Vendana Shiva (2017)

The following is a compelling Earth Day presentation by Indian activist Vendana Shiva linking ecocide and genocide to the brutal “free market” drive to rob from nature and people to produce profit.  This wide ranging talk combines a unique perspective on the violent British colonization of both India and North America, the more recent role of major chemical and food companies (eg Dow, Dupont and Monsanto) in imposing free trade treaties such as GATT and the TPP, and the growing anti-corporate resistance movement in India and elsewhere.

Vendana begins by describing an agricultural conference she attended in 1987, at which the major chemical manufacturers laid out plans to increase their profits by introducing GMO seeds and lobbying for laws and treaties that would prohibit seed saving by farmers. She goes on to talk about Navdanya, the nonprofit organization she founded in 1984 to resist the so-called “Green Revolution” that imposed industrial farming on Indian farmers. In promoting seed saving and other traditional organic farming methods, Navdanya was influenced by Gandhi’s use of sustainable self-reliance as a weapon against colonialism.

At the 1987 conference, the chemical companies bragged the entire world would be growing GMO crops by 2000. Thanks to strong global citizens movements, this never happened. Ninety percent of the world’s food is GMO-free, thanks to wholesale rejection of this technology in Europe, Africa and Asia. Likewise only 30% of the world’s food production is industrialized.

Vendana maintains the primary purpose of industrial farming isn’t to produce food but to increase profit. Due to the massive energy input it requires, factory farming is an extremely inefficient method of food production. Traditional farms producing a diversity of crops will always provide more nutritional output than an industrial farm producing a single monoculture crop.

She blames the forced introduction of industrial farming for India’s high level of malnutrition – 1/4 of the general population and 1/2 of Indian children lack adequate nutrients in their diet.


*GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was the international treaty that created the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 (under President Bill Clinto)n.

The Wall Street Elites Who Financed Hitler

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States – Prequel B

Directed by Oliver Stone

Film Review

Prequel B starts with the period of social repression that followed the return of GIs from World War I. US leaders were extremely concerned they would spread the oral sex techniques they had learned from French women. Alcohol prohibition, a crackdown on prostitution, rampant antisemitism (even Harvard restricted Jewish admissions) and anti-immigrant sentiment, and the eugenics movement (accompanied by forced sterilization of convicts, the “feeble minded” and promiscuous women) were all typical of this intense repression.

During the same period, Wall Street banks greatly reduced their investment in agriculture and manufacture, preferring the easier profits to be had from cheap credit and speculation. In 1929, a disastrous decision by central banks to increase interest rates triggered a deadly global depression, setting the stage for the rise of fascism in Europe.

Back in the US, Generals MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton charged 40,000 World War I veterans and their families with infantry and tanks and burned their tents. The latter, calling themselves the Bonus Army, were demanding immediate payment of the bonus they had been promised for serving in World War I.

Stone describes the 1930s as a radical period of social experimentation, in part due to Roosevelt’s sweeping New Deal social reforms (including Social Security, unemployment insurance, agricultural subsidies, aid to dependent children and Federal paid work schemes), and in part due to aggressive industrial unionization and intense interest on the part of American intellectuals in Russia’s experiment with communism. Hundreds of thousands of Americans would join the Communist Party, while numerous prominent writers (including Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Sinclair Lewis, Richard Wright, Clifford Odets, and Sherwood Anderson) were communist sympathizers.

During the same period, the America’s wealthy elites were more inclined to support Hitler. Key individuals who helped finance the Third Reich include Henry Ford, Prescott Bush, William Randolph Hearst, the Morgan brothers, Allen Dulles (first CIA director) and John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State under Eisenhower). The key US banks involved were Bank of International Settlements, Chase Manhattan, JP Morgan and United Banking Corporation (Brown Brothers Harriman). Specific US companies that provided Hitler with armaments, military vehicles, aircraft, oil and other material support include Kodak, ITT, Dupont, Westinghouse, Standard Oil, Singer, GE, Pratt and Whitney, United Fruit, Singer, Douglas Aircraft and International Harvester.

In 1933, some of these same industrialists would also try to instigate a coup – foiled by General Smedley Butler – to remove Roosevelt from office.

 

Fluoridegate

Fluoridegate: An American Tragedy

Directed by Dr David Kennedy DDS (2012)

Film Review

Fluoridegate is about the blatant corruption in Washington DC, particularly the EPA, that allows the continued poisoning of local water supplies with the industrial toxin hydrofluorosilic acid (aka “fluoride”).

The last decade has produced an abundance of peer reviewed research establishing unequivocally that chronic exposure to fluoridated water causes osteoporosis, decreased IQ and other neurodevelopmental problems, hypothyroidism, birth defects, cancer and dental and skeletal fluorosis. All the pertinent federal agencies (EPA, FDA, CDC) acknowledge that 1) using fluoridated water in kidney dialysis can be lethal and 2) using fluoridated water to dilute formula causes serious fluoride toxicity in infants. Yet there is absolutely no effort to warn the public of these dangers.

The documentary highlights the case of Dr William Marcus, the former chief toxicologist at the EPA’s Office of Drinking Water. In 1994, Marcus was fired after a colleague leaked one of his reports to the media identifying fluoride as a probable carcinogen. In the wrongful dismissal suit Marcus filed, he established that the EPA had engaged in perjury, forgery and witness tampering in their efforts to destroy his career and reputation. The court rescinded the dismissal and awarded him back pay, damages and all legal fees.

Last year the US Department of Health and Human Services reduced their maximum recommended fluoride level for drinking water from 1.2 parts per million to 0.7 parts per million. This despite volumes of research indicating there is no safe level of chronic fluoride exposure – just as there is no safe level of lead or mercury exposure.

The primary source of fluoride used in public drinking water is hydrofluorosilic acid, a toxic byproduct of the fertilizer industry. Prior to the decision to add “fluoride” to drinking water in the 1950s, exposure of this extremely toxic chemical was a major headache for car makers and the aluminum and chemical industry. For more background on the conspiracy Alcoa, Dupont, GM and propaganda specialist Edward Bernays cooked up to dump it in our water (by telling us it was good for our teeth) see Ending Water Fluoridation: One We Can Win

Nearly all of Europe, except for the UK, has banned the use of fluoride in drinking water. In 2011, I and 60 other members of Fluoride Free New Plymouth successfully campaigned to have fluoride removed from our water.

Residents of over 100 US communities have successfully ended water fluoridation. For a full list see link.

The Politics of Hemp

3-types-cannabis2

The farm bill Obama signed in February 2014 included an amendment to legalize industrial hemp production for research purposes. The amendment allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp (defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis) for academic or agricultural research purposes. However it only applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

As of September 15, 2014, nineteen states had passed laws to provide for hemp pilot studies and/or for production as described by the Farm Bill stipulations.

Six states (Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Tennessee and South Carolina) have gone even further, with legislation nullifying the longstanding federal ban on hemp cultivation. All six states allow farmers to produce hemp for the commercial market.  A year ago, the Obama Justice Department quietly signaled that they wouldn’t prosecute marijuana use in states that had legalized the drug for recreational and/or medical use. Thus far the same hands-off policy seems to apply to states that have legalized hemp production.

The Fiber Modern Synthetics  Replaced

Hemp cultivation is big business. Even though it hasn’t been grown in the United States for decades, America is one of the fastest-growing hemp markets.  In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of legal hemp products (mainly from China), up from $1.4 million in 2000. With the recent anti-smoking movement and declining tobacco exports, hemp is high on the list replacement crops for tobacco farmers.

Industrial hemp is one of the most versatile plants known to man. Hemp fiber is used in the production of paper, textiles, rope, sails, clothing, plastics, insulation, dry wall, fiber board and other construction materials; while hempseed oil is used as a lubricant and base for paints and varnishes, as well as in cooking and beauty products.

Hemp: Proven Alternative to Petroleum-Based Synthetics

hemp

Hemp-based paper, textiles, rope, construction materials and plastics are the tried and true low tech alternative to modern synthetics that consume large quantities of fossil fuel during manufacture. Prior to the industrial revolution, the vast majority of textiles, clothing, canvas (the Dutch word for cannabis), rope and paper was made of hemp.

Before the invention of the cotton gin in the 1820s, 80% of the world’s textiles, fabrics, and clothing were made of hemp. During the nineteenth century, hemp was the main ingredient of 75% of the world’s paper. Until the US government passed a crippling hemp tax in 1937, most bank notes and archival papers were made of hemp (owing to its greater durability) and most paints and varnishes were made from hemp seed oil.

The Conspiracy to Kill Hemp

Hemp first began losing ground in 1850 to cheaper substitutes made of cotton, jute and sisal. Prior to 1917, hemp had to be processed by hand, involving huge labor costs incompatible with mass commercial production. After George W Schlicten automated hemp processing in 1917 with a new machine called the hemp decorticator, Henry Ford set up the first biomass fuel production plant in Iron Mountain Michigan. His intention was to run his Model T on hemp-based ethanol.

ford_quote_about_use_of_hemp_product_smart_marijuana_use

All this was happening at the precise moment that the munitions company DuPont was patenting synthetic fibers (nylon, rayon, Dacron, etc) and plastics derived from petroleum. Hemp posed a major threat to DuPont’s ability to market these synthetic fibers for fabrics, rope and other products because hemp was so cheap and readily available. The chemical giant also had a commercial interest in replacing hemp-based paper with paper produced from wood chips (they held the patent on the sulfates and sulfites used to produce paper pulp) and in replacing ethanol with gasoline as the major fuel source in automobiles (they held the patent on tetraethyl lead, which allowed gasoline to burn more smoothly in the internal combustion engine Ford designed to run on ethanol).

The main co-conspirators in the plot to kill hemp included DuPont, William Randolph Hearst (who owned a logging company and a paper manufacturing plant) and Andrew Mellon, president of Mellon Bank and DuPont’s major financier.

In 1930, Mellon, as US Secretary of the Treasury, created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and appointed his nephew Henry Anslinger to run it. Between 1935 and 1937, Anslinger and a handful of DuPont’s cronies in Congress secretly wrote a bill to tax hemp production.

Meanwhile Anslinger and Hearst orchestrated a massive media campaign demonizing a dangerous new drug called marihuana that supposedly turned Mexicans and black jazz musicians into crazed killers. Anslinger and his cronies rushed through the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 on a Friday afternoon before any lawmakers had a chance to read it. Only a handful realized the crippling effect the new law, which would also tax hemp, would have on the hemp industry.

In 1970 the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act was declared unconstitutional and replaced with the Controlled Substances Act. The latter official equated hemp with the drug marijuana (even though they come from very different plants*) and enacted an official prohibition against hemp cultivation.


*Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa, variety sativa) is a tall, skinny plant with few major branches below the primary branches at the top. It has seven long thin leaflets and is grown in rows a foot apart. It produces good quality fiber and has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of 1% or less. Marijuana plants (Cannabis sativa, variety indica), in contrast, are short and bushy and must be spaced six feet apart for optimum growth. They have five leaflets, with three of them nearly twice the width of hemp leaflets. They produce negligible usable fiber and have a THC concentration of 4-20%. See image above.

photo credit: arbyreed via photopin cc

Also posted at Veterans Today