How Monsanto and other Corporate Interests Killed the Baby Jesus…


A Pre-Christmas Reflection

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 

Leviticus 19:9
Food, Inc. Movie Poster – Magnolia Pictures, 2008

Back in 2008 documentary film maker Robert Kenner went on a journey throughout America to document the ways in which massive corporate interests had taken control of the agriculture industry and control nearly all aspects of the food chain from family farms, to grocery stores, restaurants and everything in between.  The resulting film, “Food, Inc.”  made $4.6 million at the box office (a huge success for a documentary) and was nominated for Best Documentary Film at the 2009 Academy Awards.

One segment of the film told how the production of grains had been transformed into a biochemical science dominated by the massive chemical technology firm Monsanto.  Beginning in the 1970s, Monsanto developed genetically engineered strains of plants that could resist drought and produce higher crop yields.  They also developed pesticides and fertilizers.  Monsanto is perhaps best known as the maker of the weed killer RoundUp which basically kills every green plant it touches and was recently proven to cause Cancer in humans who handled large quantities of it.  They were also one of the manufacturers of Agent Orange, the chemical the U.S. Military weaponized to defoliate the jungle during the Vietnam war. 

The segment focused mostly on Monsanto’s development of hybrid seed technology and their efforts to protect their patents by forcing farmers to purchase only their seed every spring.  Why is that important?  Because by doing so Monsanto was attempting to eliminate the ancient agricultural practice of seed drying.

A farmer spreads seed on a tarp to dry for later use.

Seed drying is as old as agriculture itself.  Also known as using heirloom seeds, it is the act of taking a portion of the harvest, drying and storing it over the winter to plant again the next season.  These heirloom seeds create generations of the same strain of plants again and again in an endless sustainable cycle.  Over several generations these plants create local characteristics that are unique to their environment sometimes creating flavors and strains of plants not found anywhere else.  But Monsanto, and other massive corporations view this as a threat to their brand.  They believe that by drying and replanting seeds from plants originally purchased from Monsanto farmers are stealing their intellectual property and have attempted to sue farmers who practice seed drying for trademark and copyright infringement. 

What made this story even more absurd was the fact that Monsanto successfully sued one farmer and forced him to shut down his seed drying operation even though he had never purchased a single seed from Monsanto.  The judge in the case ruled that since neighboring farms did purchase Monsanto seed there was no way for the farmer to prove that any of the seed from those neighboring farms hadn’t inadvertently blown into his field.  The fact that there was no way Monsanto to prove that it had happened notwithstanding.

The case illustrates two very important points.  First, that corporate interests have taken such complete control of our daily lives that there is simply no going back.  Even if you think you are being counter cultural and non-conformist, the corporations have so completely infiltrated our lives that we simply cannot escape them even if we try.  Case in point Amazon’s 2017 purchase of Whole Foods Market.  Second, it is becoming increasingly difficult and even illegal to follow God’s law.  Now to be fair I am not a legalist when it comes to taking on a Christian walk but when God says in Leviticus to leave a portion of your harvest behind, he means us to do so to take care of the poor and landless.  It’s through this act of charity that Ruth, the great-grandmother of Jesus, was able to remain alive.  By lobbying to outlaw seed drying Monsanto has effectively killed the Baby Jesus. 

Hyperbole?  Maybe, that’s for you to decide – Merry Christmas.

Quote of the Day – 11/22/2016


The abundance of life depends on its ability to both share and conserve energy and matter, and to freely share information in order to grow the potential of the whole. Unrestrained growth based on competitive expropriation is the ideology of cancer cells and alien species. – @dkorten David C. Korten; The Great Turning, From Empire to Earth Community

G20 Finance Minister’s Meeting 2013


 

So amid all the crazy news surrounding asteroids and meteors did anyone notice that some of the most powerful politicians in the world were meeting in Moscow that past few days to discuss the trivial matter of the world economy? 

 

Yes, once again these 20 or so men (I count just 3 women in the official photo op) met behind closed doors in Moscow on February 15, 16 to eat caviar, sample fine Russian vodka and chat about making internationally binding agreements that effect the everyday lives of billions for people with nary a whimper from the international news media.   Economists and accountants in suits just aren’t as sexy has space junk falling from the sky I guess. 

 

Two major resolutions came out of this year’s meeting.

 

First, it was agreed that corporations that shift profits overseas to avoid paying tax are bad.  Second, it was agreed that countries that intentionally devalue their currencies in order to attract investment are also bad. 

 

Both resolutions however stopped short of enacting any kind of meaningful policy to actually prevent these practices. 

 

On the corporate taxation front, many companies, mostly multinationals based in the US have been accused of reporting profits in jurisdictions with lower tax rates, while at the same time reporting losses in jurisdictions that have higher taxes or generous write off provisions for expenses.   For instance, Facebook recently reported a total of $1bn in profits but managed to pay no corporate income tax in the US.  Instead they shifted most of the money to their international operating divisions and reported a loss to the internal revenue agency in the US, claiming a $451m refund on taxes paid there.  The net effect of taxes paid in one jurisdiction versus refunds claiming in others was $0. 

 

For the G20 to crack down on this practice seems like a good idea but I fear that the counter argument made by corporations, that lower taxes help create jobs, will hold sway in the United States and other capitalist jurisdictions and nothing will happen to prevent this practice from continuing.  Facebook has already made a statement in their defense saying that their employees have paid the equivalent of $2.86bn in income taxes and that this should more than offset the lack of corporate taxes that have been paid.  I say hogwash!  This is the result of so called trickle-down economics and it’s nothing more than the shifting of the tax burden from the highest wage earners to the lowest.  If history is any indication, sadly the Facebook argument will prevail to some degree and the burden of taxes that the rich continue to refuse to pay will fall squarely on the shoulders of the middle class. 

 

On the currency manipulation front countries that intentionally keep their currency low in order to attract investment are being singled out as somehow preventing free trade.  Competitive Devaluation as it is called is seen by many as an unfair practice designed to make one country easier to invest in than another.  If the Yen for instance is worth less than the Pound and I have to decide which country to build a factory in I am more likely to covert my dollars to yen and build my factory in Japan than I am to build it in the UK.  This is just basic math but for some reason it’s seen as unfair and counter to free trade. 

 

Why? 

 

If Japan wants to take whatever steps they can to attract foreign investment and make their exports more attractive to the world market while at the same time making imports more expensive in their domestic economy why shouldn’t they?  This is exactly the same tactic that has been used by the United States, the United Kingdom and other economies throughout history as a way to build up their domestic economies and help them become more competitive on the world stage.  But when the tables are turned, somehow it’s viewed as unfair? 

 

This is a double standard on an epic scale and it’s not just Japan that is being singled out here, this is exactly the same tactic that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund write punitive provisions against into every one of the loans they make to emerging markets in Africa, Latin America and Asia.  That’s right; in order to receive economic assistance developing economies must agree that they will allow the free flow of cheap foreign imports into their economies.  The net effect is the rich countries that dominate organizations like the G20 are forcing smaller economies to open their markets before they are strong enough to compete adding to and prolonging their economic dependence.

 

The bottom line is that the G20 is beholden to corporate interests and neither of these resolutions if they ever grow into real binding agreements will be done to help the average citizen.  Welcome to the new age of corporate mercantilism.