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Canadian Beekeepers Launch Class Action Suit Against Pesticide Makers

By Andrea Germanos - Common Dreams, September 4, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Beekeepers in the Canadian province of Ontario have launched a class action lawsuit against makers of a class of pesticides linked to the decline of bees.

The claim (pdf) filed Tuesday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeks $450 million in damages going back to 2006 for the "chronic effects of the use of the Neonicotinoids [...] felt by Canada’s Beekeepers annually."

The effort targets agribusiness giants Bayer and Syngenta, whom the claims states were "negligent in permitting or failing to prevent the damages caused by the Neonicotinoids to the Beekeepers."

The claim, led by two Ontario-based honey producers and filed by Siskinds LLP, charges that agribusiness giants Bayer and Syngenta's "continued production, marketing and sale of the Neonicotinoids" poses "ongoing" damage. "Beekeepers have suffered, and will continue to suffer, devastating economic hardships as a result of the continued use of Neonicotinoids," it states.

The damages they say are caused by these pesticides, also known as neonics, include: bee deaths; impaired reproduction; immune suppression; behavioral abnormalities resulting in hive loss ; reduced honey production; impacts on the quality of honey; contamination of hive equipment; loss of Queen Bees; breeding stock; and difficulties fulfilling honey product or pollination contracts.

People v. Dole

By Susanna Bohme - Boston Review, July 14, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

It was easy to find Antonio Hernández Ordeñana’s office in Chinandega, Nicaragua. Although the city is Nicaragua’s fourth largest, Hernández is well known, and the locals had no problem pointing the way. 

When I visited in 2006, the building looked newly painted in a bright green, with large letters on the front declaring, “Legal Offices for Banana Workers.” Twenty or thirty men waited in a lobby just as hot as the day outside. The men, most of them in their sixties, no longer labored in the fields—the banana industry had faded decades before. They had come to Hernández for reasons documented in scores of newspaper clippings tacked to the waiting room wall. Headlines announced the meetings, protests, and legal struggles of los afectados—former banana workers made sterile by exposure to the pesticide dibromochloropropane, also known as DBCP, Fumazone, or Nemagon.

Beyond the lobby, offices and storerooms were arranged around a leafy central courtyard. Hernández took me to a room crammed with files, where he explained the strategy he and Los Angeles–based attorney Juan José Domínguez were pursuing. Like a handful of other Nicaraguan and U.S. firms, theirs were filing cases against fruit and chemical companies in both countries in hopes of securing compensation for banana workers exposed in the 1970s and early ’80s, when DBCP was widely used to control soil-dwelling nematodes that fed on the roots of banana plants. Along with volumes of paper, the offices held objects that spoke to the pesticide’s history and legacy. One, a metal barrel, dull and rusty with age, bore Dow Chemical’s diamond-shaped logo and its Fumazone brand name. The label included no warning of serious health effects, and, in any case, was in English, which wasn’t much use to the rural laborers who dispensed its contents. Across the courtyard was a modest laboratory, used by a visiting technician to measure sperm counts. Warning me not to be shocked, Hernández brought me to the threshold of a small room adjacent to the lab. I could see through the doorway that the walls were hung with soft-core porn. This is where would-be plaintiffs were sent to provide semen samples. 

One of Hernández’s most controversial cases—originally known as Tellez—has travelled a roller coaster route between his offices and the doorstep of the California Supreme Court in San Francisco, more than 3,000 miles northwest of Chinandega. What seemed the height of victory for plaintiffs—a 2007 Los Angeles jury verdict in favor of six Nicaraguans—was transformed into defeat when that decision was reversed by Judge Victoria Chaney in 2010. The case—now in the hands of California appellate lawyer Steve Condie—ground to a halt this spring when the California Supreme Court refused a petition to review Chaney’s reversal.

Tellez is only the latest chapter in decades of tumultuous transnational DBCP litigation. The first Central American DBCP plaintiffs filed in Florida in 1983. Then, tort lawyers representing banana workers had every reason to be hopeful: after U.S. chemical production workers had conclusively linked their sterility to DBCP in 1977, they won up to $2 million each in their own lawsuits. Plaintiffs also had a nice assortment of “smoking gun” documents, including toxicological evidence of testicular effects dating to 1956 and an agreement between Dow and Dole to continue DBCP sales to banana plantations after DBCP was undisputedly understood to cause human sterility. Perhaps most damning, one 1978 Dole memo gave instructions to ignore safety precautions because they were “not operationally feasible.”

Read the entire article here.

Monsanto: the Toxic Face of Globalization

By Alexander Reid Ross - Earth First! Journal, May 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. 

The Stuff of Coups

To the rhythms of drums and chants, concerned people took to the streets across 436 cities in 52 countries yesterday. The message was clear: smash Monsanto. With thousands marching from coast to coast, Canada to Argentina, and around the world, the day of protest has emerged as one of the largest global events—and it has only been around for two years. However, more than small hopes for a mandatory labeling of genetically modified products, smashing Monsanto entails a larger transformation of the modern relationship between people and food.

It is not only GM products, but the continuing economy of globalization, that Monsanto represents. Thanks to major seed companies and agricultural conglomerates like Monsanto and Cargill, the very definition of farmer has changed throughout the world—from a person or group of people in a given community who specialized in producing food to a corporate, land-owning entity comprised more of machines, technological assemblages, and inputs than of people who work the land. Thus, the target of protest is not only GMs, although GMs are a central aspect, but also the supply chain of multinational corporations that transforms food into a commodity that many throughout the world cannot afford.

In the context of today’s historical epoch—the Global Land Grab, in which farmland is being grabbed by multinational corporations from vulnerable populations like small farmers, campesin@s, and Indigenous peoples throughout the world—the March Against Monsanto has taken on a particularly sharp edge. In Ethiopia, where Monsanto has taken up shop through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, reports have emerged of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people flooding the streets of the capital city, Addis Ababa, to demonstrate against land grabbing.

Trees, Trash, and Toxins: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal

By Mary S. Booth, PhD - Partnership for Policy Integrity, April 2, 2014

The biomass power industry is undergoing a new surge of growth in the United States. While bioenergy has traditionally been used by certain sectors such as the paper-making industry, more than 70 new wood-burning plants have been built or are underway since 2005, and another 75 proposed and in various stages of development, fueled by renewable energy subsidies and federal tax credits. In most states, biomass power is subsidized along with solar and wind as green, renewable energy, and biomass plant developers routinely tell host communities that biomass power is “clean energy.”

But this first-ever detailed analysis of the bioenergy industry reveals that the rebooted industry is still a major polluter. Comparison of permits from modern coal,biomass, and gas plants shows that a even the “cleanest” biomass plants can emit > 150% the nitrogen oxides, > 600% the volatile organic compounds, > 190% the particulate matter, and > 125% the carbon monoxide of a coal plant per megawatt-hour, although coal produces more sulfur dioxide (SO2). Emissions from a biomass plant exceed those from a natural gas plant by more than 800% for every major pollutant.

Biomass power plants are also a danger to the climate, emitting nearly 50 percent more CO2 per megawatt generated than the next biggest carbon polluter, coal. Emissions ofCO2from biomass burning can theoretically be offset over time, but such offsets typically take decades to fully compensate for the CO2rapidly injected into the atmosphere during plant operation.

Compounding the problem, bioenergy facilities take advantage of gaping loopholes in the Clean Air Actand lax regulation by the EPAand state permitting agencies, which allow them to emit even more pollution. Electricity generation that worsens air pollution and climate change is not what the public expects for its scarce renewable energy dollars.

Read the report (PDF).

Reinventing the Wheel - The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

By x356039 - August 12, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the discussions of climate change one item often overlooked is one of the most surprisingly obvious: food. Without any doubt the modern industrial food system is incredibly destructive to the environment. The carbon emissions, runoff from feedlots, use of pesticides and other toxins, and the impact of genetically manipulated frankenfood on ecosystems are all proven environmental consequences of factory farming. In spite of these factors industrialized food is often very far down on the list of mainstream environmental activists' priorities.

The relative lack of emphasis is not surprising. When it comes to climate change the first targets of efforts are usually the fossil fuel industry and rightfully so. It is thanks to their activities we are facing a climate crisis in the first place. On top of that agribusiness and their supporters have for decades made the case their methods are what the world needs to keep everyone fed. These claims often go unchallenged with food activists focusing more on the health consequences and nutritional benefits of natural, organic food over factory food. Thanks to these factors the mainstream discourse is not whether or not we should ditch fake food but seeking the best balance between factory food & real food.

This status quo suit agribusiness just fine for a very simple reason. Contrary to their most strident claims organic farming can not only feed the entire world, In some cases it can do it better. According to a report released by the United Nations FAO in 2007 organic farming techniques, when implemented in a comprehensive fashion, are capable of yielding as much in terms of crops as “traditional” factory farming. Quite contrary to the claims by more moderate voices it is very possible to do this without the use of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetically mutilated crops, or any of the other dubious hallmarks of fossil fuel farming. Even more impressively organic farming performs up to 60% better in drought-prone areas like Ethiopia than high cost, high maintenance, highly destructive factory farming.

What is a Just Agriculture System and Why Does it matter?

By Elizabeth Henderson - The Prying Mantis, November 13, 2012

Panel discussion at the Annual Meeting of the Domestic Fair Trade Association with Nelson Carrasquillo, Michael Sligh, and Elizabeth Henderson, November 13, 2012

My presentation:The current cheap food system coupled with Free Trade makes it difficult to keep family-scale farms afloat. Over the years since WWII, family scale farms have been going out of business at a steady and alarming pace until very recently. In 1943, the year I was born, there were over 6 million farms. There are only 2.2 million today. The local foods movement has reversed the trend and the number of small farms is actually growing. Nevertheless, something like 84% of the existing farms are in debt. Prices do not cover farmers’ costs of production. Many of the farms that do not have labor do have a family member who works off the farm so that the farmer can have health insurance or the farmer works a regular job and spends evenings and weekends doing farm work. While there are some outstanding examples of farms that do not have labor and are doing well financially, most of the family scale farms I know about are struggling to make ends meet, or are run by people who have chosen to live “simply.” Often, farmers are so discouraged about the money aspects of their farms that they do not even try to calculate costs accurately. They farm for the love of it, and either eek out a living that would qualify as below the poverty line or make money doing something else to support their farming habit. Family-scale farmers are a marginal population in the US and all of North America. These are fragile small businesses.

Taking a market-based approach, domestic fair trade seeks to pay farmers enough to allow them to use sustainable farming practices, to earn a living wage for themselves and their families and to pay living wages for the people who work on their farms. The Agricultural Justice Project hasassembled farmers, farm workers and other stakeholders to compose high bar standards for fair pricing, and decent working conditions for people who work throughout the food system. The goal is to change relationships so that everyone benefits. The reality is that family-scale farmers as well as farm workers in this country are in desperate need of fair trade.

Our society as a whole looks down on jobs that get people dirty. Vocational studies are for youngsters who do poorly at academic courses. We call picking vegetables “stoop labor,” and the majority of the people who do this work are undocumented migrant farm workers whose average annual wages amount to less than $13,000 a year, according to the United Farm Workers. NYS law requires farmers to pay hired helpers minimum wage, soon to rise to $7.65 an hour, and federal law requires paying legal H2A “guest workers” $9.60 an hour, but there is no requirement for time and a half for work over 40 hours a week, and even if you work 60 hours aweek year round, minimum wage is poverty pay.

And there is no protection for farm workers who want to organize. The National Labor Relations Act excludes two groups of workers – farm workers and domestics. Farm workers are not covered by the limited protections afforded to other workers by the National Labor RelationsAct, particularly the right to form unions that is so much under attack these days. And protections for farmers in negotiating contracts with buyers are lacking too.

Since 911, the Department of Homeland Security has increased its operatives along the NY northern border from 341 to 2000, and farms complain bitterly about raids and arrests. There is a critical need for immigration reform and passage of the AgJobs bill.

A major squeeze or speed up has been underway that has been especially hard on dairy farms and farms that produce commodity crops. Rising costs, global warming (droughts, floods) and low prices due to concentration in markets that reduces the number of possible buyers. Contracts, including those given by organic processors, are poor. Most farms are not profitable, and many are in debt.

A fair food system would pay high enough prices for farm products that farmers could pay themselves and everyone working on the farm true living wages – that cover shelter, high quality, culturally appropriate food, health care, education, transportation, savings, retirement,self-improvement and recreation.

Crisis in California: Everything Touched by Capital Turns Toxic

By Gifford Hartman - January 2010

In California toxic capitalist social relations demonstrated their full irrationality in May 2009 when banks bulldozed brand-new, but unsold, McMansions in the exurbs of Southern California.

Across the United States an eviction occurs every thirteen seconds and there are at the moment at least five empty homes for every homeless person. The newly homeless are finding beds unavailable as shelters are stretched well beyond capacity. Saint John’s Shelter for Women and Children in Sacramento regularly turns away 350 people a night. Many of these people end up in the burgeoning tent cities that are often located in the same places as the ‘Hoovervilles’—similar structures, named after then President Herbert Hoover—of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Read More - Download the PDF version of this document.

Gunkist Oranges

By Gustavo Arellano - Orange County Weekly, June 8, 2006

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

BITE ON

Seventy years ago this week, Orange County’s most brutally suppressed strike began with a bite.

On June 15, 1936, at the break of dawn, about 200 Mexican women gathered in Anaheim to preach the gospel of huelga—strike. Four days earlier, about 2,500 Mexican naranjeros representing more than half of Orange County’s crucial citrus-picking force dropped their clippers, bags and ladders to demand higher wages, better working conditions and the right to unionize.

The women spread across the groves of Anaheim, the heart of citrus country, urging workers to let the fruit hang. Twenty Anaheim police officers confronted the women; they refused to disperse. At some point there was an altercation, and 29-year-old Placentia resident Virginia Torres bit the arm of Anaheim police officer Roger Sherman. Police arrested Torres, along with 30-year-old Epifania Marquez, who tried to yank a strikebreaker—a scab—from a truck by grabbing onto his suspenders.

Little else is known about the Fort Sumter of Orange County—newspaper accounts say only that Torres and Marquez received jail sentences of 60 and 30 days, respectively. But Orange County responded with an organized wrath years in the planning. Growers enlisted the local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion to guard fields. They evicted families of strikers from their company-owned houses. The English-language press became a bulletin board for the growers—The Santa Ana Register, for instance, described the 200 Mexican women in Anaheim as “Amazons with fire of battle in their eyes.”

Orange County Sheriff Logan Jackson deputized citrus orchard guards and provided them with steel helmets, shotguns and ax handles. The newly minted cops began arresting strikers en masse, more than 250 by strike’s end. When that didn’t stop the strike, they reported workers to federal immigration authorities. When that didn’t work, out came the guns and clubs. Tear gas blossomed in the groves. Mobs of citrus farmers and their supporters attacked under cover of darkness.

What county residents tried to dismiss as a fruitless strike quickly escalated into a full-fledged civil war in which race and class were inseparable. The Mexicans of Orange County, the county’s historical source of cheap labor, were finally asking for better working conditions; their gabacho overlords wouldn’t hear it. And so both sides fought for a month until the lords of Orange County won.

Wonder why Orange County trembles whenever its Mexicans protest? Welcome to the Citrus War of 1936, the most important event in Orange County history you’ve never heard of.

The Mutants are Coming

By Steve Hastings - June 29, 1999

The development of the technology of Genetic Modification (G.M.) stretches back decades but most people have started to become aware of its implications during the 90’s.First in the mid 90’s Monsanto introduced rB.S.T. a G.M. growth hormone designed to increase milk yields in the U.S. After some controversy the E.U. decided to ban its import into Europe, a decision which is likely to be overturned by the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) soon. Then in 1996 shipments of soyabeans genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup started to arrive in this country prompting the first major signs of public disquiet. More recently the sacking of Dr Puzstai from the Rowett Institute for claiming that consuming G.M. potatoes harmed rats provoked quite a food scare frenzy in the capitalist media. Pictures of a green faced Tony Blair with bolts through his neck under the headline "The Prime Monster" probably made all but the hardest of us chuckle but the whole "Frankenstein Foods" paranoia tended to obscure the environmental and social disasters which will follow if the corporations carry out their plans to introduce G.M. on a large scale.

"LET THEM EAT OIL".

G.M. is only the latest stage in the the industrialisation of food production which has been going on throughout the whole post war period under the control of the petro-chemical-pharmaceutical multinationals that have come to dominate the global economy. More powerful than many nation states (in 1995 of the 100 most powerful ‘economies’ in the world 48 were multinational corporations) they, along with the international financial institutions (IMF, World Bank, W.T.O. etc) constitute the economic side of the New World Order with N.A.T.O. taking on the role of political centralisation.

The process of industrialising food production which they have been imposing on us over the last few decades consists of destroying subsistence and organic farming and replacing it with a system based on:

  • Massive inputs of petro-chemicals in the form of fuel for machinery, artificial fertilisers and biocides (herbicides and pesticides).
  • Production for a global market rather than for direct consumption (subsistence) or local markets.
  • More dependence on animal products and the intensification of animal exploitation (factory farming).
  • The concentration of land ownership into fewer hands.
  • Dependence on multinational corporations for seed. Major chemical, pharmaceutical and oil multinationals have taken over more than 120 seed companies since the 60,s. The top 5 seed producers now control 75% of the world market. Hybrid, so-called ‘High Yielding Varieties’, have yields 20-40% lower in the second generation if replanted and are hence economically sterile’.
  • The replacement of mixed cropping systems suitable to local conditions with monocultures.

The results of this process (sometimes known as the ‘Green Revolution’) have been landlessness, poverty & starvation for many in the so-called ‘Third World’ as well as massive degradation of the natural world through chemical pollution and loss of biodiversity.

Radical Agriculture

By Murray Bookchin - Anarchist Library, 1972

Agriculture is a form of culture. The cultivation of food is a social and cultural phenomenon unique to humanity. Among animals, anything that could remotely be described as food cultivation appear ephemerally, if at all; and even among humans, agriculture developed little more than ten thousand years ago. Yet, in an epoch when food cultivation is reduced to a mere industrial technique, it becomes especially important to dwell on the cultural implications of "modern" agriculture—to indicate their impact not only on public health, but also on humanity's relationship to nature and the relationship of human to human.

The contrast between early and modern agricultural practices is dramatic. Indeed, it would be very difficult to understand the one through the vision of the other, to recognize that they are united by any kind of cultural continuity. Nor can we ascribe this contrast merely to differences in technology. Our agricultural epoch—a distinctly capitalistic one—envisions food cultivation as a business enterprise to be operated strictly for the purpose of generating profit in a market economy. From this standpoint, land is an alienable commodity called "real estate," soil a "natural resource," and food an exchange value that is bought and sold impersonally through a medium called "money." Agriculture, in effect, differs no more from any branch of industry than does steelmaking or automobile production. In fact, to the degree that food cultivation is affected by nonindustrial factors such as climatic and seasonal changes, it lacks the exactness that marks a truly "rational" and scientifically managed operation. And, lest these natural factors elude bourgeois manipulation, they too are the objects of speculation in future markets and between middlemen in the circuit from farm to retail outlet.

In this impersonal domain of food production, it is not surprising to find that a "farmer" often turns out to be an airplane pilot who dusts crops with pesticides, a chemist who treats soil as a lifeless repository for inorganic compounds, an operator of immense agricultural machines who is more familiar with engines than botany, and perhaps most decisively, a financier whose knowledge of land may be less than that of an urban cab driver. Food, in turn, reaches the consumer in containers and in forms so highly modified and denatured as to bear scant resemblance to the original. In the modern, glistening supermarket, the buyer walks dreamily through a spectacle of packaged materials in which the pictures of plants, meat, and dairy foods replace the life forms from which they are derived. The fetish assumes the form of the real phenomenon. Here, the individual's relationship to one of the most intimate of natural experiences—the nutriments indispensable to life—is divorced from its roots in the totality of nature. Vegetables, fruit, cereals, dairy foods and meat lose their identity as organic realities and often acquire the name of the corporate enterprise that produces them. The "Big Mac" and the "Swift Sausage" no longer convey even the faintest notion that a living creature was painfully butchered to provide the consumer with that food.

This denatured outlook stands sharply at odds with an earlier animistic sensibility that viewed land as an inalienable, almost sacred domain, food cultivation as a spiritual activity, and food consumption as a hallowed social ritual.

Read the report (PDF).

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