13th October 2006 |
WAKE UP! IT'S YER DEEPLY ROOTED...
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Of The Earth | Crap Arrest Of The Week
| Big Ben Pig Pen | It's
A Gas! | Not Available in Cannes | SchNEWS
in Brief | News Whiteout | ...and
OF THE EARTH
SchNEWS digs the dirt on resistance to the GM / Biotech takeover
Although a consumer boycott and loads of direct crop-trashing
action has seen off genetically modified foods in the UK (for now),
last year the area used for worldwide GM crops rose by more than
2004 saw the biggest increase in GM planting since 1998, with the
US, Argentina, China, India and Spain leading the pack. The corporate
PR has shifted slightly from the earlier spin that GM can
feed the world; agribusiness now flogs the idea of nutrigenomics
- arguing that food should be thought of like a drug offering a
solution to a prescribed disease. As basic science advances
and converges with e-commerce, comments one industry leader,
new opportunities will emerge to provide consumers, whose
genetic susceptibility to specific diets and diseases are known,
with products tailored to individual dietary needs. Oh yes,
Biotech business is booming; profits are stable and revenues increased
tenfold between 1990 and 2005.
Worse still, heavyweight economies like Japan and the US have successfully
stalled attempts by developing counties to wrestle back control
of their indigenous genetic resources, paving the way for the continued
privatisation of our ecosystem.
Although UK plc is actively considering allowing crop trials for
GM spuds next spring, the real cash to be made is from looting developing
countries so poor theyll even borrow from loan sharks like
the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The loans come with
the usual strings in the tail, such as forcing borrowers to open
their borders to foreign investment i.e privatise everything. Countries
are then forced to export cash crops to earn hard currency needed
to meet repayments on the loans. Big bucks are made in boom crops
like winter greens, mainly exported to the US, which cause countries
to switch from cultivating subsistence foods to these money-makers.
Argentina, for example, has increased its production of GM Roundup
Ready Soya by more than 50% and exports more than 90% of the stuff.
The growth of the soya bean has led to a fall in the growing of
other staples, which are increasingly being imported. In what was
once the 7th richest country in the world, the number of people
going hungry has doubled since 2001.
Now able to invest freely, the corporations are putting local farmers
out of business as farmers are unable to compete with such technologically
advanced (and state subsidised) multinationals. Unemployed farmers
head to the cities to look for work; ironically the very people
who once grew their own food are now starving. In a world of food
surplus another 37 million people were added to the official
number of hungry during the 1990s. Whilst almost 60 percent of the
population of Central Africa is undernourished, in 2004 consumers
in the UK threw away between 30 and 40 percent of the food they
bought or grew, worth up to £16bn.
And Biotech is not going away - its the approach which can
maintain the corporate stranglehold on a food production system
in crisis. By the mid 1970s it was already taking one calorie of
energy to produce one calorie of food. 30 years later and it can
take ten times the amount of fossil fuel. And if you like to chow
on cow its gonna cost 300 calories for every one calorie of
beef munched. Energy consumption is on the increase, partly because
our lust for out of season exotic fare means that winter aubergine
has travelled a long carbon-wasting journey to get into your ratatouille.
But the real problem is the growing demand for the fertilizers and
pesticides which are derived from dwindling oil supplies. And its
a pointless arms race - pests become resistant to the effects of
pesticides, agribusiness develops new and more potent poisons, to
which pests eventually become resistant as well... This toxic spiral
degrades the soil, pollutes the water supply and is causing cancer
amongst the poor farmers who spray crops and nearby downwind residents.
But the fightback is scoring some victories.
CUBA SQAURES OFF
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, Cuba (SchNEWS favourite
police state) lost three quarters of its subsidised chemical and
pesticide imports. When the oil ran dry, tractors rusted in the
fields and crops went unharvested. The average Cuban lost 20lbs
in weight. Local farmers responded by adopting low energy organic
food production techniques more in tune with nature, such as companion
planting, natural pest controls and composting on a monstrous scale.
At community level there has been a boom in urban agriculture that
now sees up to half of Havanas vegetable consumption grown
in the city. Now Cubans are amongst the best fed in Latin America
with a bigger boost in calorie consumption during the 1990s than
just about any other country in the world, including the gutbustin
ol US of A.
In 2004, Bayer Crop Sciences finally pulled out of India. US farmers
launched an action against the same company in August for failing
to prevent its GM rice, which has not been approved for human consumption,
from entering the food chain. Similar class actions are taking place
in Australia against secret GM trials that threaten to contaminate
non-GM crops. Ethiopia has been making real progress on tackling
hunger, not thanks to the antics of Gob Beldof and Bono Inc., but
because of the boom in small localised self-sufficient production.
Zambia, meanwhile, has declared itself to be a GM free zone, as
have municipalities in Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia.
Such successes would not have been possible if it were not fo local
communities ability and determination to resist agribusiness. Perhaps
this is why there is such a fight going on within the World Trade
Organisation to prevent the greedy multinationals extending their
grip even fuither. For some time farmers in poorer countries have
been arguing that agreements on Trade Related aspects of Intellectual
property (TRIPS see SchNEWS 420) should
not interefere with their right to grow whatever food they want
Responding to complaints about multinationals bioprospecting
around the globe, the UN introduced the Convention on Biological
Diversity. This meant there had to be prior informed consent
and benefit-sharing when a multinational tried to exploit local
genetic resources. But the US and Japan disagree. Theyve been
busy opposing the plan, and at the most recent Convention meeting
managed to stall proposals to regulate the patenting of natural
resources - persuading delegates that the most pressing issue worthy
of discussion was how to proceed with the negotiations
which wont now start until gone 2010.
Turning the screw a little tighter, US Trade Representative Susan
Schwab declared in August that the US would also be reviewing its
trade-incentive scheme and is considering cutting the benefits for
a list of countries; a list that curiously reads like a whos
who of the larger economies that have been battling US negotiators
at the WTO.
The consequences of not keeping informed are clear; in the US,
according to a 2003 study by Food Policy Institute, only half of
respondents were aware that GM foods were on sale and almost two
thirds didnt really know what biotechnology was. The US grows
50m hectares of GM crops, three times more than the next biggest
grower, Argentina. keep up with the latest info at www.geneticsaction.org.uk
* Check the Soil Associations Green Directory at www.soilassociation.org
for how to eat locally. Tim Langs and Michael Heasmans
Food Wars is good on Biotech philosophy and the green
fight-back (Earthscan press, 2005) and Angus Wrights classic
exposure of pesticide misuse, The Death of Ramón González
was re-released last year by the University of Texas Press.
ARREST OF THE WEEK
For not into-furring
Three anti-fur protesters were arrested in Gloucestershire by confused
cops brandishing the SOCPA laws. These laws deal specifically with
Seriously Organised Criminals, as opposed to Seriously Against Fur
The section of SOCPA used for arrest was 145, and it took a long
four hours for cops to recognise that they werent actually
Interfering with contractual relationships so as to harm animal
research organisations...er, oops. No apology was forthcoming.
BEN PIG PEN
Monday 9th of October was the much publicised Sack Parliament
action, an unauthorised demonstration in the heart of the new exclusion
zone created by the 2005 Serious and Organised Crime and Punishment
(SOCPA) act, which specifically makes a no-go area of the Mother
of all Parliaments and seeks to ban protest and demonstration
generally (See SchNEWS 483).
It was ominous from the outset. Demonstrators leaving from Brighton
noticed an heavy police presence some 60 miles outside the SOCPA
zone, cops armed with mugshots of known activists at Brighton station.
More cops were waiting at Victoria, pouncing on people, claiming
to have intelligence (not that weve never seen
much evidence of it) and conducting stop and searches. Using aggressive
and intimidating tactics police forcibly restrained people. Suspected
troublemakers were then followed around central London on the grounds
that they might be thinking of protesting.
In Parliament Square itself, hundreds of police lined the entrances
to parliament and dozens more formed a kettle around the hundred
or so peaceful demonstrators who waved banners and chanted slogans
at parliament. The irony of such a uniformed army outside the centre
of our democracy was surely lost only on the police
and politicians inside.
At around two oclock a number of people futilely tried to
push their way out. The police cordon then closed in, pushing and
kicking - trapping the demonstrators and assembled press into an
increasingly smaller circle. One card-carrying journalist was brutally
hurled to the ground. He later collapsed and was taken away by an
ambulance. Strangely enough his fellow NUJ members did little to
publicise this attack on one of their own, preferring to talk only
Meanwhile Superintendent Terry took great delight in broadcasting
the polices shiny new SOCPA powers over a megaphone
Everyone learnt they were to be repressed under section 132
of the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
Having got the protesters where they wanted them, the police then
began grabbing targets in the crowd. Police snatch squads would
point out a particular person and then rush in, fists waving, faces
distorted from venomous swearing as they stamped on anyone who fell
to the ground, grabbed their target and retreated back to the police
Having arrested many people within the circle, they then spoke
over the megaphone specifically to one member of the crowd. Would
the man with the beard and shaved head, wearing a black top, please
step forward and be arrested. If you do not do so we will use force
to arrest you, and anyone who intervenes will be charged with obstructing
the police in the conduct of their duty. The crowd responded
by linking arms around this unfortunate person, who looked more
surprised than anyone else, and holding for dear life. This tactic
seemed to work, as the police were not able to arrest him (until
At 4.30pm, street parliamentarian Brian Haw started talking on
his megaphone, first explaining that he was not allowed to use a
megaphone to bear witness to the deaths in Iraq until after office
hours (See SchNEWS 543). He gave his regular
speech about peace and the suffering of innocents that seems to
be the kind of dangerous talk that appears so threatening to the
21st century British State (SchNEWS wonders how long before well
be all be notching up our trusty totalitarian-o-meters for
the uninitiated see SchNEWS 534).
Some time later, police told people they would only be let go once
theyd given their name and addresses and waited for it to
be verified. Letting people out in threes, people were then processed
by a line of smug looking cops who kindly explained that demonstrations
permits were needed because of the trouble that an unruly element
could cause. If only. See www.sackparliament.org.uk
A GAS! - Irish Resistance to Shell Continues...and Spreads!
their dead-pan sponsorship of the Natural History Museums
Wildlife photographer of the year *, Shells been
showing its true colours in County Mayo, Ireland this week. Always
glad of a helping fist, they must have been delighted when cops
came steaming in to support the toxic multinational as it seeks
to build a new gas pipeline (See SchNEWS 549).
last Monday, police have begun to forcibly assist the construction
workers through the blockade at Ballinaboy site. The media have
been doing their bit by trying to link the blockaders with the IRA,
despite the latters disbandment. There have been a number
of arrests and injuries, as daily confrontations with the protesters
continues. The gettin-heavy approach has done nothing to break spirits
or determination, and pickets and blockades have been organised
by regional Shell to Sea groups in Dublin, Cork, Derry,
Limerick and Galway all last week.
actions took place all over the UK and Ireland on Wednesday 11th.
Activists in Dublin occupied the rooftop of Shells national
HQ. Petrol stations were occupied in Manchester, Leeds, London and
Bristol The afternoon in Brighton saw four of the usual riff-raff
occupying the roof of a Shell-hole near Preston Park. Covering the
S in Shell to reveal the true nature of the beast, around
20 people shut down the stations pumps whilst the attendant
tried in vain to figure out how to turn them back on again! Drivers
turning up for a fill-up were leafleted about Shells dodgy
antics and after an hour and a half on the roof protesters came
down and left without being arrested. Up in the north-east meanwhile,
a solidarity action successfully blockaded Shells Jarrow Distribution
depot in Tyneside for an hour, before the protesters got bored and
went off to spend the day causing merry mischief at stations all
week, protests in Rossport have continued, with police checkpoints
being set up to take campers details and generally intimidate.
There was a sit down protest on the road to the refinery site and
a march to the gates, which ended up in a scrum with a large squad
of cops and three residents nicked. There is to be a national day
of action at Ballinaboy on Friday 20th October.
updates and more see www.indymedia.ie
* A counter-exhibition
of Shell-inspired artwork will be held at the London Action Resource
Centre (LARC), 62 Fieldgate St, London E1 1ES (Whitechapel tube)
on Monday, Oct 16th at 7pm. See www.artnotoil.org.uk
Available in Cannes
Cinemas are packin em in to see the new Children of
Men movie, a portrayal of resistance against a super-heavy authoritarian
near-future Britain with zero tolerance for immigrants.
Meanwhile back on this side of the silver screen, refugee communities
in Glasgow have been under attack over the last few weeks with unprecedented
numbers of violent dawn raids, as cops seek to round up the non-desirables
for deportation. But communites have been putting up fierce resistance
and on Tuesday 10th up to 100 local residents of Kingsway Court
in west Glasgow helped prevent a raid on one refugee family living
in the high rise.
This week children in Cardonald were throwing themselves in front
of a police van after a Kurdish refugee from Turkey was arrested
for threatening to kill himself when the snatch squad came. A woman
pushed over by police was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital.
A crowd gathered, one local Glaswegian was arrested for shouting
racial abuse and the Scottish press labelled it all as an asylum
seeker riot. Art imitating life anyone? For more see www.openborders.org.uk
SchNEWS in brief
- Protest against the death of Lisa Ann Woodhall, who died
on 8 October 2006 while in the care of Eastwood Park
Prison, Gloucestershire. Demo from 1pm on Weds 18th October outside
HMP and YOI Eastwood Park, Gloucestershire.
- 21st Oct is the annual London Anarchist Bookfair. 25
years of all things anarchisty including books, pamphlets, t-shirts
and other paraphernalia. Well be there! 10am-7pm, at the
Voluntary Sector Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Rd, London, N7
6PA. (Tube - Holloway Road). www.anarchistbookfair.org
- The 21st is also Stop The Oxford Animal Lab National March
And Rally. 12pm, Oxpens park, Oxpens rd, Oxford Call 0845
330 7985 or see www.speakcampaigns.org.uk/diary.php#national
One story that didnt blow up in the mainstream media this
week was, on 6th October, the discovery of the largest amount of
chemical explosives of its type ever found in the country. Normally
this would be the cue for screaming tabloid front pages about the
enemy within, wild allegations about those arrested and the appearance
of the Home Secretary to warn us all of the need for further crackdowns
in the War on Terror. However, unluckily for the government
propaganda machine, this time round its white supremacists
with BNP links. In other words when were supposed to be focussing
on the clash of civilisations with Islam damn,
its the wrong kind of bombers. Robert Cottage, 49, of Talbot
Street, Colne, appeared before Burnley magistrates charged with
possession of an explosive substance and was remanded in custody.
Inexplicably the story didnt even make the national news.
For more www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/828
One would be sacker of Parliament got nicked on Monday for throwing
what? Rocks? Bricks? Empty brew cans? No.. bottles of chocolate
soya milk. This particular gack attack saw our hero under arrest
for violent disorder. In fact he was just trying to roll the bottles
in to feed the crowd trapped in a police pen, but the Met showed
the usual short shrift for the (soya) milk of human kindness.
SchNEWS warns all readers... understand that agriculture
will always be a growth industry. Honest!
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