Sunday, July 15, 2012
British GM crop scientists win $10M grant from Gates
July 15, 2012
A team of British plant scientists has won a $10m (£6.4m) grant from the Gates Foundation to develop GM cereal crops.
It is one of the largest single investments into GM in the UK and will be used to cultivate corn, wheat and rice that need little or no fertiliser.
It comes at a time when bio-tech researchers are trying to allay public fears over genetic modification.
The work at the John Innes Centre in Norwich is hoped to benefit African farmers who cannot afford fertiliser.
Agricultural fertiliser is important for crop production across the globe.
But the many of the poorest farmers cannot afford fertiliser - and it is responsible for large greenhouse gas emissions.
The John Innes Centre is trying to engineer cereal crops that could get nitrogen from the air - as peas and beans do - rather than needing chemical ammonia spread on fields.
If successful, it is hoped the project could revolutionise agriculture and, in particular, help struggling maize farmers in sub-Saharan Africa - something the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is keen to do.
Monday, July 2, 2012
Congress’ big gift to Monsanto
By Tom Philpott
July 2, 2012
Big Ag’s big bucks get results on GMO labeling
If you want your crops to bear fruit, you have to feed the soil. Few industries understand that old farming truism better than ag-biotech—the few companies that dominate the market for genetically modified seeds and other novel farming technologies. And they realize that the same wisdom applies to getting what you want in Washington, DC.
According to this 2010 analysis  from Food & Water Watch, the ag-biotech industry spent $547.5 million between 1999 and 2009. It employed more than 100 lobbying firms in 2010 alone, FWW reports, in addition to their own in-house lobbying teams.
The gusher continues. The most famous ag-biotech firm of all, Monsanto, spent $1.4 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2012, after shelling out $6.3 million total last year, “more than any other agribusiness firm except the tobacco company Altria,” reports  the money-in-politics tracker OpenSecrets.org. Industry trade groups like the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Croplife America have weighed in with $1.8 million and $524,000, respectively.
What fruits have been borne by such generous fertilizing of the legislative terrain? It’s impossible to tie the fate of any bit of legislation directly to an industry’s lobbying power, but here are two unambiguous legislative victories won on the Hill this month by Monsanto and its peers.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
The fifth horseman of the apocalypse: G8 corporate power
By Glenn Ashton
South African Civil Society Information Service
June 27, 2012
A dangerous international game is being played in the name of assisting Africa to feed itself. What is portrayed as charitable largesse has more in common with reinvigorating neo-colonialism than feeding Africans. This is in fact a misanthropic, multi-pronged raid by the G8 to control African commodities, land and seeds.
Africa presently occupies an interesting niche amongst the emerging, tripartite global realpolitik. First are longstanding, yet waning, relationships between Africa and its European colonial powers – Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Italy and most particularly France and England. Second is the expanding post Second World War relationship between Africa and the global superpower of the USA. Thirdly there is the increasingly important influence of the rapidly emerging BRICS alliance, with South Africa posing as regional superpower along with Brazil, India and China. These three blocs often have conflicting, and conflicted, roles in the development and exploitation of Africa.
Nowhere else is this more apparent than in the field of agriculture. African agriculture remains in the doldrums, beset by twin curses. On the one hand lies its huge vulnerability to climatic variability, which will be exacerbated by climate change. On the other are the market-disrupting impacts of food subsidies amongst the developed world. These combine to render the precarious business of farming in Africa even more treacherous than it needs to be.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Obama’s ‘poverty-relieving’ plan for Africa a profit boon for giant agribusiness
May 18, 2012
$3 billion investment from BigAg leaves sustainable agriculture, small-scale farmers’ voices behind
President Obama’s announcement today of $3 billion in private investments in a poverty- and hunger-relieving plan for Africa is set to be a boon for giant agribusiness, a move critics say leaves small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods in the dust.
The pledged investments come from agricultural behemoths including Dupont, Monsanto and Cargill.
The G8, now meeting in Maryland, has presented a view of private investments as a way of solving poverty.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
How your college is selling out to Big Ag
By Tom Philpott
May 09, 2012
Major universities have become de facto R&D and marketing outposts for companies like Monsanto
Last week, the University of Illinois’ College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) in Champaign-Urbana made a momentous announcement: it has accepted a $250,000 grant from genetically modified seed/agrichemical giant Monsanto to create an endowed chair for the “Agricultural Communications Program” it runs with the College of Communications.
The university’s press release quotes Monsanto’s vice president of technology communications giving a taste of its vision for the investment:
A cynic might translate that statement this way: In order to maintain our highly profitable and hotly contested business model, we’ll need a new generation of PR professionals to construct and disseminate our marketing message.