Monsanto Brings Agro-Slavery to Africa

Activists of the online network 'Campact' protest outside the administrative court in Braunschweig, Germany, April 28, 2009, against a request by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto.(NIGEL TREBLIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Activists of the online network 'Campact' protest outside the administrative court in Braunschweig, Germany, April 28, 2009, against a request by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto.(NIGEL TREBLIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Activists of the online network ‘Campact’ protest outside the administrative court in Braunschweig, Germany, April 28, 2009, against a request by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto.(NIGEL TREBLIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Millions of people worldwide are against food products grown with genetically modified organisms (GMO). In May, two million people voiced their distaste of GMO products during demonstrations in 50 countries, according to a Natural News article in August, which states:

Monsanto, the most hated corporation in the world, has a deceptive message for you

Generally speaking, many of the biggest bio-tech companies in the world would have us believe that GMOs are ‘perfectly safe’ and designed to ‘more efficiently’ feed the world. But, GMOs do not generate greater yields; effectively resist drought conditions; have greater nutritional value or any other consumer benefit.

In fact, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights. The unforeseen consequences of altering the natural growth cycle of our food may be staggering. The following is just a sample of what the experts say:

“The process of genetic engineering always involves the risk of altering the genetics and cellular functioning of a food organism in unanticipated ways. These unanticipated alterations can result in GE foods being allergenic, toxic, or reduced in nutritional value”. - Professor John Fagan, award-winning Geneticist, Maharishi University of Management, Iowa, USA.

Back in 1998, Bob Shapiro (the eventual CEO of Monsanto) even admitted that the effects of GMOs are unknown when he said:

“But we realize that with any new and powerful technology with unknown, and to some degree unknowable – by definition – effects, then there necessarily will be an appropriate level at least, and maybe even more than that, of public debate and public interest.”

Since its inception, Professor Richard Lacey, a microbiologist, medical doctor, and Professor of Food Safety at Leeds University has been strongly against the introduction of genetically engineered foods because of the health risks. Professor Lacey make an important point:

“The fact is, it is virtually impossible to even conceive of a testing procedure to assess the health effects of genetically engineered foods when introduced into the food chain, nor is there any valid nutritional or public interest reason for their introduction.”

Facing demonstrations, especially in Western countries, where many people don’t believe that GMO products are safe for human consumption, Monsanto Co. is searching for new markets.

According to the Natural News, Monsanto sent out “‘Biotech ambassadors’ [who are] engaging in massive Monsanto-backed PR operations to push GMOs into Africa.”

Monsanto does not deny its interest in Africa and states on its website that it provides maize germplasm, which is genetic resources for an organism, to develop maize hybrids in Africa. It also donates to the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, which provides valuable research for growing drought-tolerant and insect-protected products.

The Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation is the leader of the WEMA project, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and USAID provide funds.

According to Monsanto, “The project is in its sixth year and is approaching a significant milestone as the first WEMA conventional maize hybrid will be available for commercial planting in Kenya by the end of 2013.”

Expenditures and Profits Mushrooming

Nevertheless, “the genetic modification of crops is a lengthy and obscenely expensive business,” states a report from the African Center for Biosafety, released this month.

Monsanto's failed M810 maize in South Africa. acbio.org.za

Monsanto’s failed M810 maize in South Africa. acbio.org.za

Research and development plus getting regulatory approval is rather costly, and the companies need to recoup the funds they expended before their move into Africa.

In 2012, Monsanto claimed that it “invests more than $500 million annually to identify and develop new solutions for growers.”

As far back as 2002, the GMO producing companies built into their sales prices the costs to develop, produce, and market their products, according to another report by the African Center for Biosafety, released this month.

Before genetically modified food hit the market, seed expenditures for farmers growing corn increased $0.30 per acre annually. Costs increased to $1.34 per acre annually for the GMO seeds.

“The impact of the Bt [bacillus thuringienis] corn premium on seed industry profits has been remarkable,” the African Center report states.

Earnings for Syngenta AG, a global Swiss chemical company that markets seeds and pesticides and produces GMO products, increased by more than 18 percent between 1998 and 2000. During the same period, Monsanto’s earnings increased by 9 percent, and DuPont Pioneer’s (formerly Pioneer Hi-Bred) increased by 7.3 percent.

Greed and Agricultural Dominance

The Future of farming is safer in farmers' hands

The Future of Farming is safer in farmers’ hands

With profits earned in the developed nations, Monsanto is going into Africa, providing its services for free, according to the African Center report.

However, the cost of going into Africa needs to be recouped within time. At this time, the push toward producing GMO products, mainly maize, is done free of charge to the African farmers. This looks very charitable, especially with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and USAID involved.

It gets problematic in the future, because the farmer has to continue to buy seeds from Monsanto instead of returning to the age-old way of growing maize, which is saving and reusing seeds.

The problem lies in the fact that the chemicals that entered the ground when using the GMO products take years before they are completely gone, while the land lies fallow and can’t be used.

“It is about power, control and greed,” according to a September Natural News article. Quoting the Motley Fool, the article concludes, “A new era of agricultural colonialism will be born where the local farmer ends up becoming enslaved to the global profit demands of corporate agriculture.”

 

Petition | #HumanRights Org: Stop misconduct of mining companies in #Mauritania

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Please sign the petitions on change.org here:

https://www.change.org/petitions/mauritanian-human-rights-organization-stop-the-misconduct-of-mining-companies-in-mauritania

and on Avaaz here: http://www.avaaz.org/fr/petition/Sauver_la_Mauritanie_de_la_Pollution_Miniere_de_KINROSS_TAZIAZET

We need to urge the government to make these mining companies sustain the environment and preserve the landscape for the future generations. These corporation need to assume social responsibility and take a hand into developing the local communities instead of devastating them…

We aspire to break the government’s shameful silence and indifference towards the atrocities caused by corporations such as KINROSS, MCM and PETRONAS…

By Elycheikh Ahmed-Tolba

KINROSS, the Canadian gold mining corporation (monster) which is leading the Gold Exploitation in Mauritania, has displayed its interest in expanding industrial hegemony over the Tasiast facility. Kinross is considered to be one of the worst mining companies working in Mauritania along with MCM and PETRONAS.  It has no respect for the local people. It has been contributing in the degradation of the environment…

Monday, 04/29/2013, Kinross revealed its decision to expand gold production in Tasiast-Mauritania which will produce 830,000 ounces of gold annually – undoubtedly enough to exhaust gold reserves in the desert. Kinross is acting beyond the limits and mandate of the Mauritanian government…

Our silent military government has turned into deaf ears and blind eyes to Kinross atrocities due the percentages given under the table to the military junta and their lead generals…

Kinross is using these attitudes in Mauritania because of the government’s corruption and involvement in the process of demeaning the Mauritanian population. Kinross has no sense or consideration for CSR: corporate social responsibility…

It’s the burden of intellectuals in RIM to stand up against this monster and disclose its awful intent to ruin the potential richness of the country. We need to work together hand-in-hand to preserve the sustainability of the Mauritanian environment for future generations. —

KINROSS, the Canadian  gold mining corporation (monster) which is leading the Gold Exploitation in Mauritania, has displayed its interest in expending the industrial hegemony over Tazyazet factory. Kinross is considered to be one of the worst mining companies working in Mauritania among MCM and PETRONASS. It has no respect for the local people; It has been contributing in the degradation of the environment... </p> <p>Today 04/29/2013, Kinross revealed its decision to build up a new factory of gold in Tazyazet-Mauritania which will produce 830000 ounces of gold annually which will be undoubtedly enough to dry up the refinery of the gold in the desert. Especially, that Kinross is acting beyond the limits and observations of the Mauritanian government...</p> <p>Our silent military government has turned into deaf ears and blind eyes to Kinross’s atrocities due the percentages given from beneath the table to the military junta and their lead generals...Kinross is using these attitudes in Mauritania because of the government’s corruption and involvement in the process of demeaning the Mauritanian population. Kinross has no sense or consideration for CSR: corporate social responsibility...</p> <p>It’s the burden of the intellectuals in RIM to stand up against this monster and disclose its awful intent to ruin the potential richness of the country. We need to work all together and hand-in-hand to preserve the sustainability of the Mauritanian sole and environment for the future generations.

Will Mauritania’s Project Zazou Encourage Vegetarianism?

Cows in Mauritania are found mainly on the plain, not the pavement
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Getting rid of plastic, which accounts for 10% of total waste and uses 8% of the global oil supply annually, is a great idea, as long as it is done in a sensible, sustainable way. It’s not difficult to make compelling arguments for saving scarce resources and protecting the planet and all forms of life. Yet Mauritania seems to have missed the mark by a mile with a poor choice of material for its Project Zazou (2013) press announcement.

No shortage of foraging donkeys in Nouakchott

No shortage of foraging donkeys in Nouakchott. And goats. Sheep, cows, not so much.

There was a lot of interest when BBC Africa reported on the new ban on plastic bags, informally known as “Zazou” in Mauritania. They highlighted a quote from the Environment Ministry spokesman, who apparently claimed that 70% of cows & sheep that die in the capital Nouakchott are killed by plastic bags. Nouakchott has plenty of donkeys and goats, but is not known for its herds of cows or sheep. How many are being killed in a year? What about goats, donkeys or even camels?

The claim that 80% of all cows slaughtered for food were found to have plastic in their stomachs is another sensational conundrum, as once again they did not say how many head of cattle were involved. But this factoid also leads to the conclusion that more than 80% of cows are not being cared for properly, if they are being left to forage for food in city garbage like wild animals.

Cows in Mauritania are found mainly on the plain, not the pavement

Cows in Mauritania are found mainly on the plain, not the pavement

Did I miss something, and the feed in the Emel 2012 food security programme that killed hundreds of head of livestock and made others sick actually contained plastic? Probably not, as these deaths occurred in the rural areas where the majority of livestock are located. So if this news story conjured visions of Serengeti-sized herds of feral cows roaming the streets of Nouakchott or Nouadhibou, sorry to disappoint.

Plastic makes up 25% of 56,000 tonnes of waste produced annually in Nouakchott, according to the statement issued for this occasion. It is not clear whether that includes the far heavier containers used for liquids like water, soft drinks and oil, hundreds of thousands of which are discarded every year – these are not part of the ban. The detailed SweepNet report on Sold Waste Management in Mauritania [PDF] from July 2010 gives a figure of 20% for all plastics (and 16% for sand!) in 2009. This would indicate a rather different statistic for plastic bags, even allowing for the 6% overall annual growth in solid waste predicted by SweepNet.

Mauritania Solid Waste Breakdown 2009 - SweepNet Report

Mauritania Solid Waste Breakdown 2009 – SweepNet Report

Mauritania’s spokesman also admitted that almost all plastic waste is available to animals because it is not being collected or sent to landfill sites. SweepNet tells us that only 5% of waste is collected in rural areas, and just 30% in cities, of which almost 55% is dumped in the open, including any medical waste that is not incinerated. The small amount of recycling that happens in Mauritania is done by private small-scale craft enterprises or occasional informal projects. If the mythical hordes of urban livestock have just been replaced by new images which result from thinking about livestock feasting on medical waste, I recommend a vegetarian diet.

The most enlightening information in the SweepNet report concerns the financial data and sources of funding for waste management, including a previous “Zazou” project, which I quote here, with my emphasis on the budget figure:

The international NGO, GRET, has completed the ZAZOU Project with funding from the Commission (EC), the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), the Italian NGO LVIA, the “Fondation Ensemble” and VEOLIA to the amount of 787,000 Euros. This had to do with building and fitting a plastic waste recycling center. The center has become operational in the last few months.

This fact raises some interesting questions, about funding and project risk management for starters. Actually, I have a lot of questions about this ban, and how the overall campaign is being managed and funded. I put some of them to the campaign manager three days ago but he had not responded at the time of writing this post. I’ll post an update if he provides more information.

In Toronto, which also introduced a total ban on single-use plastic shopping bags from 1 January 2013, the move was seen by some as a pointless and flawed exercise that would not yield significant benefits.  One estimate said plastic bags represented less than 1% of total waste in landfills. The lack of consultation on the ban in Toronto heightened concerns but a motion to re-open the debate in Canadian parliament failed to win the vote, to the chagrin of Councillor John Parker:

https://twitter.com/johnparker26/statuses/253579417970962433

So Canada has its doubters, but can Mauritania lead the way for environmental protection? Despite the obvious advantages, we should not get our hopes up too soon. 2009′s “Project Zazou” fizzled out after 3 months, so they will need to apply the lessons learned from that time to make this effort a massive success. There is a lot of popular support for the idea, but people will need sustained help and guidance to establish new habits. A stable political, economic and social environment would also be a huge help, but stability would be much more likely with a legitimate government and genuinely democratic system, neither of which exists in Mauritania at the moment.

What about us, you and me? There’s lots we can do as individuals, such as these 16 simple ways to reduce plastic waste. More tips and information in the links below.

#Mauritania’s MCM: Digging for minerals, burying the truth

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High on the very long list of taboo subjects in Mauritania is any shadow of doubt or suspicion concerning the cash cows of the mining industry. A recent post highlighted just some of the issues with Canada’s Kinross Gold. Now it’s time to put First Quantum Minerals‘ subsidiary Mauritania Copper Mines (MCM) under the spotlight. The Guelb Moghrein copper-gold operation near the town of Akjoujt in Mauritania, 250 kilometres north-east of the nation’s capital, Nouakchott,  is 100% owned by MCM.

Buried Truth

Friends transport murdered mining worker Mohammed Ould Machdhoufi’s shrouded body

The problem is not that no one dares to speak out about the unfair recruitment practices, inadequate labour conditions, low rates of pay, corrupt financial dealings or environmental pollution; it is that whenever anyone does try to confront these issues, they are ignored or silenced. And that includes being killed in cold blood, which is what happened to Mohamed Ould Machdhoufi, when the national guard staged a dawn raid on a peaceful sit-in by MCM copper mining workers, killing Ould Machdhoufi and wounding several others. The authorities infuriated people by declaring the cause of death to be “unknown”.

Mining workers’ union rep Ethmane Ould Kreivit

First Quantum Minerals of Canada, then aggravated the situation by issuing a press release that made no mention of the death or injuries, and claiming the strike was illegal. Several workers, including union leader Ethmane Ould Kreivit, were attacked in a subsequent protest, and jailed for several days. On his release, the union leader was prevented from entering the workplace. When agreement to return to work was finally reached, MCM deducted more days’ pay than had been lost. Mr Krevit was then sidelined from official meetings and unfairly dismissed. He is now in the process of taking legal action against MCM and remains one the most active and engaged union leaders in the country.

Health Scares

Injured MCM mine worker Mohamed Ould Khatari

A general and persistent lack of concern for worker health and safety is illustrated by the case of MCM mine worker Mohamed Ould Khatari, who developed painful skin lesions after being exposed to a powdered chemical at work, and was told to take a couple of painkillers. Additional risks to the environment and the health of the local population and livestock can not be ignored. There are reports of elevated incidence of maternal and child heath problems, including miscarriages, infant deaths, asthma, headaches and other debilitating illness, among the population close enough to the mine to be affected by soil, water or air-borne toxins. Several herds of camel have been wiped out by sudden and mysterious fatal diseases. The typical response to these problems is to repeat benevolent-sounding statements reminding us that MCM has built a hospital or that the government has plans for veterinary care provision. But the hospital stands empty, and the sparse veterinary care is restricted to vaccination programs against cattle disease, not treatment for arsenic, cyanide or other chemical poisoning.

Conspiratorial Cover-up

Typical scene from the MCM mining dump near Akjoujt

As an example of the system’s obvious compliance in covering up valid concerns, I cite the example of an unresolved court case brought against MCM five years ago for creating an environmental hazard. The court ordered an investigation by three experts but mandated the plaintiff to bear the entire cost – an unprecedented situation. According to the lawyer for the case [ar], Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lemine, the medical expert refused to prepare a report at all, and was openly supportive of the defendant,  MCM. However, the agricultural expert presented his findings, which established the presence of contamination in the region, and negligence on MCM’s part to enact safeguards to limit the spread of toxins, but his report was ignored by the authorities. The lawyer points out that this report also reveals that there is no environmental strategy or plan in place, despite claims that US$925,000 has been allocated to post-operation restoration.

The third expert identified risks from industrial wastes but required further laboratory analysis which is not available in Mauritania. No further action was taken because no one is willing to bear the costs. The president of MCM, Philippe Pascal, had promised in June 2012 that an environmental study would be published within two months. The report has not materialised. As I write, the 2nd Mauritanian Mining & Oil and Gas Conference & Exhibition opens at the Palais des Congrès in Nouakchott. I hope the delegates from MCM and Kinross will attend Wednesday’s sessions on the importance of health and environmental safety.

Silenced Voices

Consider the current campaign initiated by activists wishing to bring these issues to the attention of the country, the region, and the world. They devised a week-long “blogathon” which has received numerous mentions from certain news sites in Mauritania, but not in the sites that carry advertising paid for by MCM or Kinross, and none from sites owned or operated by the “big tent” elites who also benefit from patronage of these major foreign companies.

Al Jazeera, Radio France International and Reuters have all confided in Mr Lemine that the state refused to grant them permission to visit either MCM in Akjoujt or Kinross Gold in Tasiast. He regards this as significant and potential proof, not only of the existence of problems and scandals, but of collusion between the mining companies and the state.  As for rest of the international media, it’s the same as any other week. If it doesn’t concern a terrorist threat or a Libyan fugitive from justice like Al Senussi, no one is interested. But from an ecology, environment, or labour activist standpoint, these mining companies are also terrorists and fugitives from justice in their own way.

 

News from Iran – Week 27 – 2012

Iranian nationals Sayed Mansour Mousavi, left, and Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad, right, are seen in this June 27, 2012 file photo in the Nairobi magistrates court in Nairobi, Kenya. (Khalil Senosi/AP)
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News of the Prisoners

A- Transfers

  • After 3 months in Intel detention, cultural activist Jabar Yebari has been moved to Karoon prison in Ahvaz.
  • Amin Zargarnezhad transferred to solitary in Tabriz prison.

B- Arrests/Incarcerations

  • Idris Kaveh, Bohran Keyvanpour, Hamid Parhizkar, Kurdish villagers, arrested in Nei, and Shamzin Ahmadnezhad, Shahoo Partavi, Mohammad-Amin Salimi , Mohammad Savarkar, Asad Soleimannezhad, Khalil Zibaei recently arrested in Mahabad.
  • After 3 days on medical leave Baha’i professor Farhad Sadeghi returned to prison.
  • Student activist Navid Gorgin was arrested in Esfahan last week.
  • Ahmad Hashemi former president Khatami’s Inspector General at the Interior Ministry started serving 5 years sentence.
  • Greens supporter journalist Ali Moslehi was arrested in Kashan.

C-Liberations

  • Journalist/civil activist Aref Darvish was released from prison after completing 1 year sentence.
  • Cyrus Fatehi, workers’ rights activist, released on bail.
  • Mitra Homayouni, workers’ rights activist, released on bail.
  • Journalist Nazanin Khosravani released for one week after posting bail.
  • Blogger/Human Rights activist Hossein Ronaghi Maleki has been released on bail on medical furlough.
  • Saeed Marzban, workers’ rights activist, released on bail.
  • Labor activist Maziar Mehrpour has been released on bail.
  • Farhad Sadeghi released from Rejaei Shahr on medical furlough.
  • Temporary release of imprisoned Christian convert Mehrdad Sajjadi on high bail.
  • Masoud Salimpour, workers’ rights activist, released on bail.

D-Other News

  • Cleric blogger Arash Honarvar Shojaei has started a hunger strike upon return to Evin after expiry of Medical furlough. He fell unconscious on the 4th day and was transferred to clinic.
  • In protest against transfer from ward 12 to ward 10 in Rajaei Shahr prison, 53 prisoners refuse food rations; 40 announce hunger strike


News of injustice in Iran

  • Samin Ehsani, Baha’i children’s rights activist, sentenced to 5 years in prison.
  • Semnan Court of Appeals has sentenced Elham Roozbehei to 24 months in prison.
  • Court of Appeals in Semnan has sentenced Baha’i Taraneh Torabi to 20 months in prison.
  • The two men sentenced to death following their two previous convictions for alcohol consumption have had their death sentences commuted and each received 80 lashes.
  • One public hanging in Ahar on Sunday.
  • 4 hangings on Monday, 1 publicly and 3 in Semnan.


University – Culture

  • The Jameh Mosque and Gonbad-e Qabus Tower have been approved as World Heritage sites.
  • Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi has been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  • 1070 satellite dishes seized in Northern Iran.
  • Tehran International puppet theater festival kicks off.
  • Modernist Iranian painter Mansureh Hosseini dies at 86.
  • Mahmoud Dowlatabadi ‘s “The Colonel” just published in the US.
  • Police raided and disrupted the Pen Society meeting held by Dr. Khazali and prevented Mohammad Nourizad from entering the meeting.
  • Another concert cancelled because men and women were not separated.
  • Misagh Afshar, Student in Beheshti University expelled because he is Baha’i.


Protests

  • Activists protest in support of Abr Forest.
  • Families of detained workers’ rights activists meet to protest
  • Disabled people demonstrated in front of the General Health Organization of Iran’s offices to protest the non-payment of disability benefits.
  • Telecom workers to strike and protest working conditions in Shiraz.


Economy in Iran

  • Ministry of industry and mines raises interest rates on loans to industry from 11% to 21%.
  • Iran discovers 6 billion barrels of new oil reserves.
  • Iran automobile production drops 40% this year.
  • 4,000 Iranian brick workers lose jobs after plant closure.
  • No Iranian crude imports for Japan in July.
  • Sanctions cut Iran’s July oil exports to near 1 million barrels per day.


Iran  abroad

Iranian nationals Sayed Mansour Mousavi, left, and Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad, right, are seen in this June 27, 2012 file photo in the Nairobi magistrates court in Nairobi, Kenya. (Khalil Senosi/AP)


  • Salehi, Iran Foreign Minister briefly detained by Lanarca airport security last week in Cyprus.
  • U.N. publishes report on Iran arms trade with Syria.
  • Iran calls for extraordinary OPEC meeting.
  • Qatar frees 8 jailed Iran fishermen.
  • Saudi Arabia has not resumed issuing visas to Iranian pilgrims following the suspension on the death of the Crown Prince
  • Iran summons Afghan diplomat.
  • Saudi decided not to execute Iranian prisoners. Sentences commuted to 15 years in jail.
  • Iran proposes opening of bank branch in Mumbai, India.
  • The 2 Iranians arrested in Kenya with 15 kgs of explosives are members of IRGC Qods force which executes terror attacks against targets outside Iran.
  • Iran arrests two men on charges of spying for Azerbaijan; Iranian ambassador to Baku recalled.
  • Frankfurt prosecutor office: Iran’s Vice Consulate is accused of sexually molesting children.
  • Iran invites Egypt’s new Islamist president to non-aligned summit in Tehran in August.


Politics in Iran

  • Iranian authorities ban selling food and transport services 2 foreign (read Afghan) citizens without residence permit.
  • Foreign Ministry rejects anti-Semitic remarks of first Vice President Rahimi.
  • The government retreats from implementing the second phase of targeted subsides.
  • Iran dismisses militia commanders involved in the British embassy attack.
  • Speaker of Syrian parliament to visit Iran.
  • Tehran to host conference on ‘women and Islamic awakening’ next week.
  • Reza Taghipour, Minister of Communications, admitted surveillance and illegally intercepting citizens’ conversations.


Miscellaneous

  • One hour “temporary marriage” (Islamic prostitution contract) in Iran at $35-$50/hour.
  • 63% of Iranians vote to stop Uranium-enrichment in online poll on Iran’s national TV’s website.