Wikileaks and GMO/GM food, More cables, more fun!

Recently our own Grayslady posted an excellent article about Wikileaks, Monsanto and GMO Corn. She discussed a cable sent in late 2007 from our then Ambassador to France, Craig Stapleton, in which he discusses ways to force France and the EU to be more favorable towards the adoption of Monsanto’s GM BT enhanced, Roundup Ready corn. Other aspects of the information in that Wikileaks cable has been discussed in other places, for instance at Huffington Post by Jeffery Smith and at Truthout by Mike Ludwig.

Pendleton, Oregon, 2007

Wheat and Hay Fields near Pendleton, Oregon

What the cable suggested, in part, was publishing a ‘retaliation’ list of places, down to the actual fields, growing GMO foods in Europe in the hopes the fields and crops would be destroyed by activists, ’cause pain’ for officials and hopefully swing GMO acceptance in Europe around. The Ambassador went on to say that France was particularly culpable because scientists in France were attempting to change ‘knowledge’ by studying the effects of GMO products (even the ‘good’ GMO like BT enhanced products). These studies show that the effects of GMO food on those eating it may be more pronounced and drastic than the limited studies done by the FDA and USDA suggest (see for example the studies of Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini, Professor Andrés Carrasco, and others). And for more, see this interview of Jeffery Smith on Democracy Now.

This is very interesting, because a cable sent in 26 October 2007 is the subject of French President Sarkozky’s first visit to the USA, and his meetings with American business leaders, including pushers of GM foods. The cable suggests that the President’s support of more restrictive rules on GM products in France might be politically based and therefore, changeable.

But Wait, There’s more! The cable to France, although receiving a lot of attention because it suggests undercutting the rightful government of our supposed allies and creating civil unrest and ‘pain’, is not the only released cable to mention GMOs and Monsanto’s needs across the world. Over at Eats, Shoots and Leaves there’s a good rundown by Richard Brenneman of some of the cables.

For example, in a cable from 9 April 2009 concerning, in part, African development, one of the points of intelligence to be gathered is the African governments’ and peoples’ reactions to growing and using GM crops. Brenneman rightly asks, why would this be a concern of our State Department, unless our government is actively pushing and supporting Monsanto and the company’s GM stable of crops?

I’m going to drop a final h/t to Rady Ananda at the Food Freedom blog. She wrote about GMO and Wikileaks several weeks ago, and has been right on top of things. She brings forth the case of the food crisis of 2007-08 which wraps up some of the things we at Sky Dancing discuss into a tidy bundle.

In a January 2008 meeting, US and Spain trade officials strategized how to increase acceptance of genetically modified foods in Europe, including inflating food prices on the commodities market, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

Some of the participants thought raising food prices in Europe might lead to greater acceptance of biotech imports.

It seems Wall Street traders got the word. By June 2008, food prices had spiked so severely that ‘The Economist announced that the real price of food had reached its highest level since 1845, the year the magazine first calculated the number,’ reports Fred Kaufman in The Food Bubble: How Wall Street starved millions and got away with it.

The unprecedented high in food prices in 2008 caused an additional 250 million people to go hungry, pushing the global number to over a billion. 2008 is also the first year ‘since such statistics have been kept, that the proportion of the world’s population without enough to eat ratcheted upward,’ said Kaufman.

Remember back in 2007/08 when food prices, especially bread prices, suddenly shot up? I remember being astounded when the price of a bag of hot dogs went from 99 cents to 1.29$ overnight. I figured maybe it was the result of the rise in oil costs going on about then, and perhaps it was, in part. But after reading the article by Kaufman I’m not so sure. There was no crisis in food production at this time. It was simply a manufactured bubble. About that time there were terrible food riots in Mexico amongst 29 other countries, because the price of tortillas had gone up so much people couldn’t afford to buy them. I note that the Mexican government has recently taken steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again, by buying corn futures to guarantee a flat price.

So, I wonder, how are the big fat cats and the government diddling in our food today? Surely food, at least food, should be relatively safe from bubbles, like electricity, water, and sewage service? Oh wait, those are being commoditized too. Ahd I would like to point out, the price of the bag of hot dogs has not come back down, although the bubble burst… makes ya wonder, doesn’t it?

Note: I’m going to be in and out all today, so consider this something of an open thread. I’m really keen to know what everyone thinks of the Kaufman article. When I read it I was stunned by the lengths to which the greedy people of Wall Street will go to make money.

24 Comments on “Wikileaks and GMO/GM food, More cables, more fun!”

  1. fiscalliberal says:

    Sima – do you get Acres Magazine? They have a interesting article on “Seeds of Sustainability”.

    I am realy torn on the GMO topic – just do not trust the big Ag companies. Just like I do not trust the Finance Companies

    • Sima says:

      I don’t get the magazine, although I have gotten it in the past and I do enjoy their articles. I had to cut back on my subscriptions when I realized I couldn’t read everything I was getting. No time! The article you mention is really quite good.

      I don’t trust big Ag at all. If they are for it, I’m automatically against it until I have a chance to really do some research.

      I think eventually GMO may have applications and be beneficial. But that can only happen if there is a true continuing assessment of its effects and side-effects. And that’s not going to happen when it’s controlled by big Ag. The side-effects include pricing, environmental detriments, starvation and famine.. It’s damned scary.

      So far, none of the ‘advances’ of GMO have amounted to a hill of beans, really. In every case, traditional breeding methods have proven to be more flexible and to produce better strains of vegetables, grains and legumes. The improvements in amount of food production that have gone on in the last 20 years have been from these traditional methods not from GMO.

      Anyway, that’s my short take on GMO. Scares the bejeebers out of me because of all the horrible side effects, including having the likes of Monsanto control our food.

  2. blitzen says:

    Matt Taibbi goes into some detail on the 2008 food bubble in Griftopia. It’s bad enough if we’re triggering worldwide hunger and starvation through the “savvy business” of “bad bankers.” The wikileaks memos lead one to wonder just how far down this rabbit-hole goes. Exactly where does Monsanto marketing + US Government policy stop and the Goldman Sachs trading tactics begin?

    • dakinikat says:

      Definitely something that needs to be further investigated. I know we actually created many of the famines in Africa during the 1960s and 1970s by exporting inappropriate models of agriculture. A lot of these were based more on the interests of selling seed, tractors, and irrigation equipment than creating viable farmers there. We also moved mountains of our food surpluses from farm subsidies around the world and crashed world food prices driving many subsistence farmers off their lands. Our development policy and money has done a lot of damage in the name of American Enterprise Inc.

      • Sima says:

        Hear hear!

        We are still doing this to Africa and it drives me nuts. The big thing now is to make them self-sustainable, which means the country doesn’t feed itself, but exports its produce into the world market. So we end up with farmers pushed to every limit to produce enough, with farmers growing crops that are inappropriate for their locales, with people starving while an abundance of food is grown all around. It makes me want to scream.

        Kaufman, I think in his article, says that America is the Saudi Arabia of wheat. We need to accept that and do right with it.

        • dakinikat says:

          We created a monster over in the Sudan, Somalia, etc. We forced them into Cotton and out of sustainable local crops. It caused a horrible drought because of the land grabs. It’s gotten worse since they privatized it. We might as well have exported slavery back to Africa. These huge corporate farms go burn out a small farmer, steal the fertile land, drive the farmer to a refuge camp, then the use the land until it becomes a desert, leave it and move on to raiding the next farmer. Horrible horrible HORRIBLE development policies of our
          free-market,comparative advantage theoretical hand in the sand idiots working through the World Bank. We’ve now made most of that nation’s people refuges and victims of roving bands of armies. There are too many people there to force the us agriculture model on countries. We’ve got land in Kansas and one farmer and one tractor. They have very little land, huge numbers of farmers that can at least feed their families with no use for tractors. All we did was sell them the Kansas model. Complete mismatch of factors of production with production methodology.

  3. 0utis says:

    Here is what happens when GMO food crops are pushed: 125,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide because their GMO crops have failed and they are so indebted to the corporation. Prince Charles spoke out against this.

    The Europeans did a good job of insisting that GMOs not be sold. They did it with their pocket books and public opinion. The fact that the US government is trying to push them through devious means shows how low our government has gone and why it deserves its bad worldwide reputation. United States of Cleptocracy.

    For those that are interested, here is a non-GMO shopping guide:

    • Sima says:

      The scandals of the farmers in India are now being replicated in other places, like Africa. It’s so shaming what our country’s big business is doing to others.

      We Americans were screwed out of the gate in the fight against GMO because our government refused to allow/require labelling of GMO products. So we couldn’t use our purchasing power to say no.

      Only Organic can get away with the labelling, and even then, since the government controls the word and the regulations, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out GMO products get slipped through ‘from hardship’. Bah.

    • grayslady says:

      Thanks for the heads-up on the Indian suicides, Outis. I wasn’t aware of that. This article ( explains that pink bollworm developed resistance to Monsanto’s Bt cotton seed because someone didn’t bother to explain to Indian farmers about the need to establish refuges for non-exposed bollworms.

      What Monsanto is doing in India is totally morally bankrupt. Pity it isn’t illegal, as well. These Indian farmers are not sophisticated, and the seeds are being sold as a “magic” cure for pests. Of course, they don’t bother to tell the farmers that if their region has prolonged drought it doesn’t matter what seeds they use. Shameful, just shameful.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I remember that story. Good lord, this is creepy. It’s making me tempted to start believing in the conspiracy theories of people like Alex Jones!

      Great post, Sima. I’m shocked, I must admit. And I consider myself a cynic about politics. It’s hard to believe there are people so evil and corrupt that they would starve people in order to increase profits for big business.

  4. cwaltz says:

    Speaking of commodity pricing, did everyone see this article?

    While our government ought to be innovating solutions to oil, instead they’ve hung our futures on wringing every last penny of profits off this particular commodity.

  5. Thanks Sima, extra important topic and glad we have you and grayslady on the beat. I remember reading that Kaufman article when Dakinikat posted about it back in summer. I’m going to try to refresh my memory soon and add some thoughts if this thread is still open.

  6. dakinikat says:

    Here’s more psuedointellectual stupidity surrounding the blame it on the wikileaks article at The Atlantic. Like Mugabe was going to reform with or without that cable? That’s like thinking Kim Jong Il is going to give up his nuclear stock pile because some one said pretty please. I’m going to see if this guy wants to buy the Brooklyn bridge. Wanna bet the writer’s post doc career plans include the CIA or the State Department?

    Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D candidate at U.C. Davis specializing in the relationship between armed conflict and public health.

    I’ll bet you he winds up one place or the other? Any takers?

  7. grayslady says:

    Thanks for all the extra resources, Sima. One thing that strikes me in some of the research you linked to is the likelihood that very little, if any, explanation is given to international farmers on how to use these seeds. Clearly, a company like Monsanto doesn’t want the question to be *whether* to use these seeds. To be fair, I also blame the individual agricultural ministries for not doing a better job of educating their citizens on these products. In the U.S., we have university extension agents in every state that are available to answer farmers’ questions; although, sadly, a lot of agricultural university research is now being funded by large corporations rather than neutral parties.

    • dakinikat says:

      It’s the same pattern as Big Pharma funding research grants for Medical Research at Universities, and on and on. We’ve made our best and our brightest sell their souls to the profit motive to do their research. This is research with a clear Public Benefit. To be neutral and objective, the public should fund it. I just don’t get all this defunding of public goods to force them to private interests. It’s completely connected to getting every single institution indebted to interests that bias the outcomes. It’s just sad. Then we wonder why we’re slipping down all the best of scales … can any of these politicians just buy a clue?

      • dakinikat says:

        You know, I’m just thinking about Salk and the Polio Vaccine. That was done in nonprofit institutes and medical schools. What ever happened to that model of letting academic researchers have funds to do things for the public good. We’d get far less erectile dysfunction drugs and a lot more antibiotics with that model.