Fighting Globalization by Rebuilding Local Economies

White Widows

Directed by David Straub (2019)

Film Review

This documentary concerns work by the Indian-German Peace Foundation to assist rural Indian villages in diversifying their economies. The goal is to make them less vulnerable to exploitation by the global commodities market. The village featured in the film is Dahnoli, which produces cotton. The Foundation is assisting local farmers in constructing a textile facility based on hand looms.

Most of Dahnoli’s current economic problems stem from the introduction, in the 1990s, of Monsanto’s BT resistant cotton seed. Although this genetically engineered seed initially increased yields, over time the cotton plants lost their resistance to BT and other pests and required increasingly heavy application of pesticides. As yields plummeted, farmers sought to return to traditional cotton seed, but it was no longer available.

Owing to the higher costs of patented seed and pesticides, many farmers became indebted to money lenders. Nationwide more than 300,000 farmers committed. Thousands of others have died from pesticide related health problems.

At present 65% of India’s population works in agriculture. When crops fail, many move to the big cities – where a total of 8 million live in slavery.

 

Monsanto Papers

The Monsanto Papers: The Secret Tactics Monsanto Used to Protect Roundup – Its Star Product

Four Corners (ABC) 2018

Film Review

This is an Australian documentary about a long history of deceptive tactics by Monsanto to conceal the link between the herbicide Roundup and non-Hodgkins lymphoma – known in Australian medical circles as farmer’s lymphoma.

The film centers around Dwayne Johnson’s $289 million award in a California lawsuit against Monsanto. Johnson was a groundskeeper who developed aggressive (and fatal) non-Hodgkins lymphoma after two years of routine spraying with Roundup. Legal analysts believe his victory stemmed mainly from secret documents the court ordered Monsanto to release. They reveal that Monsanto knew that Roundup was potentially carcinogenic and did everything possible to cover it up.

In her book Whitewash, investigative journalist Carey Gillam documents two instances in the 80’s and 90’s in which labs Monsanto used were caught falsifying data about Roundup’s alleged safety. When the EPA followed up with studies showing Roundup to be “possibly” carcinogenic, Monsanto lobbyists forced them to Alter their findings to “not likely” carcinogenic.

Then in 2003, Monsanto’s own chief toxicologist sent an email to his superiors maintaining the company couldn’t rightly assert that Roundup was non-carcinogenic because they had failed to undertake the appropriate studies. At the same time Monsanto lobbyists effectively blocked EPA efforts to conduct an independent review of Roundup’s potential link to cancer.

The saddest part of the film is the various Australian and US farmers interviewed who believe all the PR hype Monsanto (now Bayer-Monsanto) has been spouting and continue to risk their own lives and those of their families and consumers who eat the crops they produce. Bayer-Monsanto’s slick PR team (featured in the film) have totally convinced them the lawsuit they lost in California was merely a fluke, thanks to the state’s “treehugging” juries.

At present Bayer-Monsanto faces more than 9,000 lawsuits for cancer and other serious health problems related to Roundup.

 

 

 

Corruption, Federal Farm Subsidies and the False Economy of Cheap Processed Food

Food Fight: How Corporations Ruined Food

Real Stories (2017)

Film Review

This is a documentary about the rise of the organic/local food movement in the late sixties and early seventies and the ongoing battle to end a corrupt federal food subsidy program. The latter plays a major role in the US epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

The film depicts the organic food movement as arising out of a 1960s hippy counterculture that viewed America’s growing system of industrial agriculture as intimately linked to the military industrial complex waging the war in Vietnam.*

Ironically the organic food movement began to take off just has the Nixon administration was repealing New Deal agricultural subsidies that supported small family farms and redirecting USDA subsidies to corporations producing the cheap commodities used in processed foods, such as corn, wheat and soy.

The activists interviewed decry the federal emphasis on cheap food as a false economy – we will never save enough to cover skyrocketing medical costs related to processed food diets.

Despite the rapid growth of small organic farms across the US, food activists face an uphill battle without major changes to the USDA farm subsidy program which makes cheap processed food the only affordable option for many low income families.

The high level of corporate-financed corruption becomes clear as the film follows Representative Ron Kind’s efforts to get his Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment added to 2016 Farm Bill.


*Monsanto and Dow, the corporations producing Agent Orange and Napalm also produce the toxic pesticides and herbicides used in industrial agriculture.

 

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

Raw Milk and Civil Disobedience.

Milk?

Real Stories (2017)

Film Review

An over-the-top campaign by the FDA to arrest and intimidate US producers and distributors of raw milk has led the sale and consumption of raw milk to be the third most common form of civil disobedience, after marijuana possession and tax evasion. See The Federal Campaign Against Local Health Food

This is the first time I’ve seen the issue of raw milk portrayed as a form of civil disobedience, which it clearly is. Otherwise I had a problem with the way this documentary was divided into pro-milk and anti-milk camps. People who wish to consume milk need clear and accurate information about some of the health risks. Unfortunately this film leaves viewers  with the sense that milk-related health risks are far too complex for consumers to reach any clear conclusion.

The Powerful Dairy Lobby

Owing to billions the dairy lobby has spent on marketing (and a fair amount of bribery and corruption at the US Department of Agriculture) the supposed health benefits of milk, milk and dairy product are the most consumed food on earth. Milk and dairy products account for 46% of the average American’s diet.

The filmmakers interview a host of independent researchers, government scientists, dairy farmers and industry lobbyists. Some of the research presented is highly concerning, such as the 27-year China study linking casein (milk protein) to liver cancer and studies linking Monsanto’s genetically engineered growth hormone (given to US cows and excreted in their milk) to prostate cancer. This dangerous Monsanto product is banned in everywhere but the US.

Among other significant facts filmmakers omitted is that many from specific ethnic groups (especially those of African or East Asian origin) become ill when they drink milk. This is either because they lack the enzyme necessary to digest lactose (milk sugar) or the enzymes needed to digest casein (milk protein).

The Raw Milk/Pasteurization Debate

I was also irritated by the portrayal of the pasteurization/raw milk issue as a matter of conflicting opinion. Numerous studies have documented that pasteurization doesn’t destroy micobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP), the organism linked with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic, severely debilitating and sometimes fatal intestinal condition (see Mycobacterium Avium Tuberculosis).

What pasteurization does accomplish very effectively is the destruction of all the beneficial enzymes and bacteria in raw milk. Raw milk is used therapeutically in Europe for a number of health conditions related to dysfunctional gut bacteria (irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, diabetes, autism, mental illness, depression, anxiety, immune deficiency, Parkinson’s Disease, eczema and psoriasis).

 

Why Growth is the Main Cause of Poverty

Growth Equals Poverty

Vendana Shiva (2013)

In this presentation, environmentalist and anti-globalization activist Vendana Shiva challenges the Wall Street mythology that economic growth reduces poverty. Using her own country India as an example, she demonstrates how poverty (and inequality) increase in direct correlation to GDP increases.

The examples she offers clearly apply to the US, UK and New Zealand. All three countries are experiencing alarming increases in poverty and inequality as GDP increases. As in India, the quality and availability of health, education and other public services have declined steeply as “growth” has increased.

She goes on to demonstrate what GDP growth really represents: the privatization (ie theft) of natural and public resources by a small number of elites.

In India at present, 1/4 of the population lives in abject poverty and 1/2 of children are malnourished. Vendana blames the increase in hunger on the forced adoption of industrial agriculture and GMO crops. Monsanto and GMO advocates like Bill gates argue that GMOs will decrease world hunger. In India, where Monsanto has successfully lobbied to make it illegal for farmers to save seed, just the opposite has happened.

This due partly to Monsanto’s seed monopoly, which has caused an 8,000% increase in the cost of seed; partly to the high cost of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides GMO crops require; and partly to the destruction of soil, bees and biodiversity caused by industrial agriculture and GMO crops.

Anatomy of Modern Corruption: The Clinton Foundation and the Superdelegates

What Hillary Clinton Really Represents

Empire Files (2016)

Film Review

This early 2016 documentary is a virtual encyclopedia of Clinton family corruption. Based entirely on publicly verifiable information, it reveals how Hillary, especially, has based her political career on supporting legislation that specifically benefits her corporate and foreign donors. It also explores the identity of some of the 700 Democratic “superdelegates” who helped deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination – despite overwhelming support he received from voters.

The Clinton Foundation was founded in 1997 with the alleged purpose of providing humanitarian relief after international disasters. Its real purpose, however, was to engage in “crisis capitalism,” a term coined by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. Following a disasters, such as the 2001 earthquake in India, the Clinton Foundation would waltz in and create a variety of for-profit projects enabling further exploitation of third world resources and labor by Clinton Foundation donors.

Major donors to the Clinton foundation included Exxon, Walmart, Pfizer, Dow, Monsanto, General Electric (GE), Fox News, the Soros Foundation, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. As senator, Clinton rewarded the latter two donors by supporting deregulation that would lead to their bankruptcy in 2008 and a massive taxpayer bailout.

As Secretary of State, Clinton would grant similar favors to Boeing and GE by facilitating overseas sales of their military hardware and to Exxon by heavily promoting the spread of fracking throughout the world.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Republic and Qatar were also big donors to the Clinton Foundation. In all 181 Clinton Foundation donors lobbied Clinton as Secretary of State and most were successful in getting the policies they advocated enacted.

Many of the 700 superdelegates appointed by the Democratic National Committee (to help ensure their hand picked candidates won the Democratic primary) were also corporate lobbyists hoping to benefit financially from a Clinton presidency: among others, the corporate lobbies represented included the Excel pipeline, the private prison industry, Big Pharma and the four main Wall Street banks (City Group, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase).

Social Enterprise in North Carolina: Building Local Communities

Real Value

Directed by Jesse Borkowski (2013)

Film Review

Real Value is about the reform potential of “social enterprise” – a business model in which local entrepreneurs pursue profit while delivering tangible benefits that strengthen their local communities.

The film profiles four North Carolina businesses:

TS Designs – an organic T-shirt manufacturer that morphed out of a vibrant textile industry destroyed by the North American Free Trade Act. In addition to growing organic cotton an manufacturing T-shirts, TS Designs, which is entirely solar powered, grows organic vegetables to ensure their employees have access to healthy local feed.

Sow True Seeds – an heirloom seed company dedicated to preserving crop diversity (in contrast to companies like Monsanto and Cargill that aim to increase profits by promoting monopoly ownership of monoculture* crops). Sow True Seeds donates leftover seed to schools and community gardens and allows local residents to trade their labor for free seeds.

Piedmont Biofuels – a cooperative that produces biofuels from locally sourced food waste.

Redwoods Group – an insurance company working to keep kids safe by gathering actuarial data and educating local businesses how they can reduce their insurance costs.

The film also explores the general theory of social enterprise (as taught by Harvard Business School). The model challenges the conventional wisdom that big and centralized is always better for the economy. They give the energy industry as an example – how the consolidation of control among a handful of corporate CEOs has resulted in a system of energy production that is enormously inefficient and environmentally destructive – mainly because the end users have no voice in how it operates.

It also explores one of the major hurdles social enterprises face at present, namely educating consumers about their purchasing habits, eg the value of paying slightly more for a T-shirt that doesn’t fall apart after three months or purchasing biofuel that doesn’t result from the destruction of Indonesian rainforests.


*Although they are extremely profitable for Food Inc, the major drawbacks of monoculture crops are their need for massive inputs of synthetic fertilizers that destroy the soil and their heightened susceptibility to pests.

** In Indonesia, thousands of acres of rainforest are destroyed every year to plant palm oil plantations for biofuel. This wholesale rainforest destruction is a major factor in creasing atmospheric CO2 levels.

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.

Monsanto Has Known Since 1981 that Glyphosate Promotes Cancer

Great interview with researcher Dr Anthony Samsel from Dr Mercola’s website.

mercola
Researcher Reveals Monsanto Has Known Since 1981 That Glyphosate Promotes Cancer

Dr Anthony Samsel has obtained copies from Monsanto’s original glyphosate studies from the 1970s. After reviewing thousands and thousands of pages of data, this is what he found:

What amazed me was that Monsanto knew in 1981 that glyphosate caused adenomas and carcinomas in the rats that they’ve studied… The highest incidence of tumorigenic growth occurred in the pituitary gland… the second highest levels were in the breasts of the female rats, in the mammary glands… Thirdly, the next highest tumorigenic growth was found in the testicles of male rats.

How did Monsanto and Biodynamics—the company doing the research—hide these inconvenient facts?

According to Dr. Samsel, they cancelled out the controls and the damning findings by using historical control data from unrelated studies. It’s also worth noting that these negative findings were never published in the peer-reviewed literature or submitted to the EPA or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cancer was clearly shown in their 26-month long feeding study, but the only studies Monsanto has published are studies done in less than three months, which hides the consequences of eating glyphosate and genetically engineered foods over the course of a lifetime.

Read more here.