December 22, 2010
Biotech Versus the “Common Interest”

Like a teacher fresh out of ideas who resorts to requiring memorization of material, the American intelligence community, so called, has often resorted to accusations involving sexual misconduct in attempts to silence, or at least strike back at, critics of the imperial policies.

Not that the accusations are always baseless; it seems that those adventurous enough to join the game are also adventurous in other areas of life, sometimes reprehensibly so. Witness the story of Scott Ritter, for one. But realistically, and without excusing such behavior, sexual escapades are nothing new in the annals of the great game. Not infrequently, the most publicly moralistic are found to act quite differently in private.

But such accusations are becoming rather transparent, a sort of playground vengeance, calling names when no straightforward denial or defense is available. The Secret Government, as Bill Moyers called it in his famous documentary, does not like its methods laid bare to public view. Not only does scrutiny displease the players, whose activities proceed more efficiently outside the spotlight; it seriously embarrasses the officeholders, past and present, who appear as salaried government employees, thus on the taxpayer’s dime, acting as agents of corporations attempting to take over foreign markets. Even more-or-less friendly countries are subject to corporate invasion assisted by all the wiles and strategies of American diplomacy.

Summary: Mission Paris recommends that that [sic] the USG reinforce our negotiating position with the EU on agricultural biotechnology by publishing a retaliation list when the extend “Reasonable Time Period” expires. In our view, Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the Commission. In France, the “Grenelle” environment process is being implemented to circumvent science-based decisions in favor of an assessment of the “common interest.” Combined with the precautionary principle, this is a precedent with implications far beyond MON-810 BT corn cultivation. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices. In fact, the pro-biotech side in France — including within the farm union — have told us retaliation is the only way to begin to begin to turn this issue in France. End Summary.


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For the non-agriculturally minded like me, MON 810 turns out to be a genetically modified maize from Monsanto. The cable never actually mentions the company by name, but each of the first four paragraphs includes a mention of MON 810, and the remaining three discuss the anti-GMO movement in Europe. Unless my untrained eye has overlooked something, no other product or corporation is mentioned directly, though the term “science-based decision-making” is used to obscure the reality of corporations deciding on diets rather than people choosing their own. Do we get to eat what we want, or will we eat what corporations tell us to eat? Will we let Monsanto eliminate traditional farming and force every farmer to buy seeds for each new crop every year from now on?

The cable refers derisively to the “common interest” as the alternative to science-based decisions, putting quotes around the term. Then it proceeds to a consideration of possible action.

Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory.

The final sentence of the cable stipulates a variance between US-French cooperation with respect to many foreign policy objectives, and the conflict over what the cable calls “ag biotech”.

We can manage both at the same time and should not let one set of priorities detract from the other.

Foreign policy objectives should not detract from governmental assistance for Monsanto’s attempts to introduce GMO corn to a wary or unwilling population.

Interestingly, the New York Times website produces a page in response to searches for news on Monsanto whose last entry is dated October 7 of this year, and is entitled “Monsanto Income Drops by Nearly Half”. Most likely the Times article on the new revelations from Wikileaks is still in preparation.

Searching the Washington Post website for Monsanto turns up two articles in the last sixty days, the first an obituary for a former employee and the second an AP report explaining that Monsanto’s chairman, president, and CEO Hugh Grant — apparently a different person than the well-known actor, but even more egotistical — has taken a 2.2 percent pay cut this year, mainly because his incentive compensation is down $1.1 million. His salary and “stock-related rewards” climbed.

The article notes that Monsanto is trying to move away from its less profitable herbicide business into the more lucrative area of genetically engineered crops. If that’s such a wonderful thing that the government is engaged in retaliating against EU countries who resist its introduction, then why do people resist its introduction? It’s not just a debate over whether you can trust corporations to tell you what you must eat; it’s a fight over whether corporations will control humanity’s access to food.

If crops worldwide become dependent on new batches of seeds from Monsanto, what’s the point of governments?

[h/t Mike Ludwig at truthout]

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at December 22, 2010 12:49 AM
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There's one positive thing about patents. They end. As will the patents on all of Monsanto's crop varieties. We are also getting more and more seed banks that keep alive old seeds that go way back so Monsanto has no real lock except perhaps on corn, although they do have competitors.

Of course their patent just ended on their selective weed killer and suddenly it's not working so well. Is that a surprise or just a happenstance? I don't know but they don't have a replacement that I know of.

Posted by: Buck on December 24, 2010 1:11 AM
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