Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Antibiotic resistant bacteria, courtesy of the National Institute of Health Study Links Widely Used     Pesticides to Antibiotic Resistance

Glyphosate, 2,4-D, and dicamba found to affect bacteria in ways that could promote resistance to common antibiotics.

This has not been a good week for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides. On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it had classified glyphosate, the United States’ most widely-used pesticide, as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Now, the chemical has another strike against it. A study published today by theAmerican Society of Microbiology’s journal mBio has linked glyphosate and two other widely-used herbicides–2,4-D ( ~50% of Agent Orange) and dicambato one of the most pressing public health crises of our time: antibiotic resistance.
This study found that exposure to these herbicides in their commercial forms changed the way bacteria responded to a number of antibiotics, including ampicillin,ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline–drugs widely used to treat a range of deadly diseases.
Dicamba, 2,4-D, and glyphosate have been in use for decades, so why have their antibacterial-resistance effects not been documented before? As the study’s lead author, Jack Heinemann, professor of genetics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, explains, when pesticides are tested for adverse effects, “it’s the lethal toxicity that people focus on.” In other words, how much of the chemical will kill an organism.
“What makes our study different, is that it is looking at a sub-lethal effect,” says Heinemann. “The effect we see requires that the bacteria stay alive.”
Previous studies done by other researchers have found that substances chemically similar to dicamba and 2,4-D can cause antibiotic resistance, Heinemann explains. So he and his colleagues decided to investigate whether these herbicides would produce similar effects. They added glyphosate to the study because it is chemically unlike the other two. But, to their surprise, it also produced some antibiotic resistance.
Heinemann explains that because these herbicides are not “supertoxic” to the bacteria the study tested–E. coli and Salmonella–they are not killed outright at levels typically used to kill weeds. Instead, the bacteria stay alive while activating proteins known asefflux pumps in order to rid themselves of toxins. And this defense mechanism can make the bacteria develop resistance to the threat from which it is defending itself.
Scientists know that overuse of antibiotics in humans can decrease their effectiveness. In the same way, says Heinemann, “exposure to these pesticides make the pathogens stronger.”
Although this study only looked at two laboratory strains of human pathogens, the antibiotics examined represent what he calls “broad classes” of drugs we’ve come to depend on to fight infections and the herbicides are three of the most-used worldwide.
Heinemann also notes that the different pesticides produced a variety of responses. While all three produced an antibacterial-resistant response to some of the antibiotics, some of the combinations his team tested produced no response and some increasedthe antibiotic’s effect.
Although the study is likely to be seen as controversial by some, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth assistant professor of biology, Dr. Mark Silby says it “followed established protocols” and the existing scientific literature supports its findings.
“This is a very carefully-designed study,” says Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior staff scientist at Consumers Union. “It’s incredibly important work showing the complexity of an effect that hadn’t been thought about before.” The mechanisms by which the bacteria respond to toxics–in this case herbicides–are already well-known, Hansen explains. What’s new and important is looking at non-lethal levels of exposure in combination with the antibiotics.
The weed-killers used in the study were purchased at a local store and were used at levels specified in use directions, which means the scientists were testing chemicals actually in use worldwide rather than a special laboratory sample of the active compound.
How could any of this affect people?
“These herbicides are now used at such a scale that we can almost use the term ubiquitous,” says Heinemann. For one, glyphosate is used on about 94 percent of the soybeans and 89 percent of the corn grown in the U.S, while 2,4-D is the third-most widely used herbicide in the U.S., while dicamba ranks fifth in use worldwide.
The levels at which the researchers saw effects were higher than the residues allowed on food, but below what is often used in rural settings, says Heinemann.
The results of Heinemann’s study suggest there is probably a small chance that exposure through food would produce these effects, but they could be a concern in areas where the pesticides are being applied, says Hansen. Thus, the people most likely to be affected are farmers, farmworkers, and other people who live in agricultural communities.
Also to consider is the approval earlier this year of a new pesticide that combines glyphosate and 2,4-D and soybean and cotton seeds genetically engineered to resist dicamba, all of which are expected to increase use of these pesticides.
Pesticide-induced antibiotic resistance could also affect honeybees since many commercial hives are now being treated with antibiotics. It’s possible, Heinemann says, that “comingling of antibiotics and herbicides could be compromising the effectiveness of those antibiotics,” and thus honeybee health.
Meanwhile, Monsanto says it disagrees with WHO’s announcement on glyphosate. “All labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health and supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product,” the company says in a statement on its website.
Neither Monsanto nor other pesticide manufacturers have had the opportunity to respond to the new mBio study. But the Council for Biotechnology Information said on its website “GMO Answers” last month, that glyphosate had once been considered for use as an antibiotic but that “levels needed to kill microbes are relatively high, and resistance can develop readily.” In other words, the phenomenon Heinemann and colleagues observed is not entirely unexpected.
“A jigsaw puzzle is a good metaphor,” for how these effects fit together, says the scientist.
The next steps in this research will be to test additional bacteria and pure samples of the pesticides. But for now, it’s clear that “further work is needed,” says Hansen. “This is something we need to look at as we expand the use of these herbicides.”

Friday, March 20, 2015


BREAKING: Glyphosate is “probable human carcinogen” – WHO’s cancer agency      IARC’s verdict comes as glyphosate "RoundUp" is set to be re-approved in Europe this year

The World Health Organisation’s cancer agency has declared the world’s most widely used weedkiller a “probable human carcinogen” in a move that will alarm the agrochemical industry and amateur gardeners.

The assessment by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of glyphosate, which is used in herbicides with estimated annual sales of $6bn, will be of special concern to Monsanto, the company that brought glyphosate to market under the trade name Roundup in the 1970s.

Over 80% of GM crops worldwide are engineered to be grown with the herbicide.

The IARC has no regulatory role and its decisions do not automatically lead to bans or restrictions, but campaigners are expected to use them to put pressure on regulators.

The IARC reached its decision based on the view of 17 experts from 11 countries, who met in Lyon, France, to assess the carcinogenicity of 5 organophosphate pesticides.

The IARC’s assessment of the 5 pesticides is published in the latest issue of The Lancet Oncology.

Europe is set to re-approve glyphosate this year.

The IARC assessment is here (register to gain free access):

Financial Times article behind paywall: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8b79a572-cf14-11e4-893d-00144feab7de.html#axzz3UxYNKYO6

The response by the pesticide industry association, the Glyphosate Task Force, is here:
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Pakistan farmers most affected by new seed law

Organisations representing farmers strongly oppose the Pakistan seed act as a a violation of farmers’ fundamental rights
While Pakistan was still reeling from the suicide attacks on churches in Lahore, the government quietly pushed through the seed bill.
EXCERPT: Under this law, farmers would be fined and imprisoned for preserving, selling and exchanging seeds.

Farmers most affected by new law on seeds

Faiza Ilyas
Dawn.com (Pakistan), 18 Mar 2015
Organisations representing farmers have strongly opposed the Pakistan Amended Seed Act, 2014 that, they said, is a violation of farmers’ fundamental rights and has been passed by the National Assembly at the behest of American multinational seed manufacturing companies.

The act was passed by the National Assembly a day earlier.

“Under this law, farmers would be fined and imprisoned for preserving, selling and exchanging seeds, a tradition that has been in vogue for centuries. It’s a grave injustice to millions of small and landless farmers whose food insecurity would be aggravated by this law,” said Raja Majeed, national coordinator of Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek, an alliance of small and landless farmers.

The law, he said, made it mandatory for farmers to buy seeds from a licensed company or its agent and that they had to do so every time they cultivated a new crop. This, he said, would create a monopoly of companies and make farmers dependent on them.

According to him, the experience of growing genetically modified (GM) crops, for instance Bt cotton, has been disastrous in the country and the government’s intention to promote them through this law is unfortunate.

“It’s a failure because it a water demanding crop meant for colder areas and is ready for harvest near November. That means we can’t grow wheat on time. Many European countries have banned GM crops because of their severe adverse impact on the environment and we should have done the same,” he said.

Reiterating the farmers’ stance on the matter, he said they stood firm and would take legal action against this new act.

The Joint Director of Roots for Equity, Wali Haider, said how the National Assembly could pass such a law when the subject of agriculture had been passed to provinces.

“The draft of this law was first presented in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and later in the Punjab Assembly. In both provinces, the governments had to face strong resistance from farmers and it was decided that the matter would be forwarded to the National Assembly,” he said.

Citing newspaper reports, he added that farmers’ resistance forced all provincial assemblies to pass a special resolution authorising the federal government to amend the seed act and retain it as a federal subject.

“In 1995, the extremely anti-people, anti-farmer World Trade Organisation (WTO) was formed much against the will of the people, globally. A major reason for people protesting against the formation of the WTO was the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) which demanded patent rights on seeds as well as all other new technologies.

“Today, just over 20 years later, Pakistan has amended its seed laws to comply with the monopolistic demands of mega agro-chemical corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer and others,” he explained.

The cost of the seed, he said, would be borne by small and landless farmers who were already burdened by huge agricultural production costs such as of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and other market-driven agricultural inputs.

“Billions of farmers across the globe are suffering from aggressive neo-colonial legislation imposed by the WTO and corporate agriculture monopolistic giants. Policies range from allowing corporate land grab in Pakistan to aggressive imports of agriculture related technologies ranging from genetic engineering, animal husbandry and the so-called green economy,” he said.

Mr Wali believed that the legislation had been enacted to appease the US whose agriculture department had been complaining about the lack of intellectual property rights for its genetically modified seeds in the country and had urged the government to amend its seed and other intellectual property rights laws.

“No doubt today, with the passing of the seed amendment act, the country has lost an important pillar of its sovereignty. The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act is also pending in the National Assembly and it appears that it would also be passed by the house,” he regretted.

Expressing similar reservations, Nasir Aziz, a policy officer on sustainable livelihood with ActionAid Pakistan said that it was strange that the government had given a free hand to companies under the law while farmers had been threatened with fines and imprisonment if they were found to have seeds.

“Farmers’ right to conserve, sale and exchange seeds has been taken away under this law. It is silent on guarantees on seed germination and has no mechanism for taking legal action against a company if its seeds fail to produce desired results,” he said, raising questions over the law’s implementation in provinces.

Upon contact, Mehmood Nawaz of the Sindh Abadgar Board expressed ignorance over the recent enactment of the law and said the government couldn’t deprive farmers of their fundamental rights.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015


52 House Democrats tell Obama the chief cause of decline of monarch butterflies is GMO crops

52 Democrat Members of the US Congress have written to President Obama telling him that the chief cause of the 90% decline in monarch butterfly populations is GM herbicide-tolerant crops. Glyphosate herbicides sprayed on the GM crops have wiped out the monarchs’ food, milkweed.
The letter says, “With the advent of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered crops, the use of herbicides like glyphosate has increased from less than 20 million pounds per year in 1992 to over 250 million pounds per year in 2011.

“As a result, researchers now estimate that more than half of milkweed has been wiped out in the Midwestern Farm Belt since 1999, and more than 98% of milkweed has been wiped out from corn and soybean areas in Iowa due to the widespread overuse of glyphosate.”

The Members of Congress say that they appreciate efforts by farmers and others to plant milkweed, but warn that “without a sea-change in how the federal government address the use of herbicides, especially as applied to herbicide-resistant crops, vital monarch habitats will simply continue to disappear.”

The letter recommends bringing monarchs – which were plentiful before GM herbicide-tolerant crops were widely planted – under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This would give legal muscle to attempts to protect the monarchs and enable sanctions against those who kill or endanger them.

It’s hard to imagine that anything short of a phase-out of herbicide-tolerant crops will save the monarch.

The letter is available here:
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The Geopolitics of GMOs    

Seeds of Power
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not essential for feeding the world (see this and this), but if by some massive stretch of the imagination  they were to lead to increased productivity, did not harm the environment and did not negatively impact biodiversity and human health, would we be wise to embrace them anyhow?
The fact is that GMO technology would still be owned and controlled by certain very powerful interests. In their hands, this technology is first and foremost an instrument of corporate power, a tool to ensure profit. Beyond that, it is intended to serve US global geopolitical interests. Indeed, agriculture has for a long time been central to US foreign policy.
“American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.” Professor Michael Hudson.
The Project for a New American Century and the Wolfowitz Doctrine show that US foreign policy is about power, control and ensuring global supremacy at any cost. Part of the plan for attaining world domination rests on the US controlling agriculture and hijacking food sovereignty and nations’ food security.
In his book ‘Seeds of Destruction’, William Engdahl traces how the oil-rich Rockefeller family translated its massive wealth into political clout and set out to capture agriculture in the US and then globally via the ‘green revolution’. Along with its big-dam, water-intensive infrastructure requirements, this form of agriculture made farmers dependent on corporate-controlled petroproducts and entrapped them and nations into dollar dependency and debt. GMOs represent more of the same due to the patenting and the increasing monopolization of seeds by a handful of mainly US companies, such as Monsanto, DuPont and Bayer.

In India, Monsanto has sucked millions from agriculture in recent years via royalties, and farmers have been compelled to spend beyond their means to purchase seeds and chemical inputs. A combination of debt, economic liberalization and ashift to (GMO) cash crops (cotton) has caused hundreds of thousands of farmers to experience economic distress, while corporations have extracted huge profits. Over 270,000 farmers in India have committed suicide since the mid to late nineties.

In SouthAmerica, there are similar stories of farmers and indigenous peoples being forced from their lands and experiencing violent repression as GMOs and industrial-scale farming take hold. It is similar in Africa, where Monsanto and The Gates Foundation are seeking to further transform small-scale farming into a corporate controlled model. They call it ‘investing’ in agriculture as if this were an act of benevolence.

Agriculture is the bedrock of many societies, yet it is being recast for the benefit of rich agritech, retail and food processing concerns. Small farms are under immense pressure and food security is being undermined, not least because the small farm produces most of the world’s food. Whether through land grabs and takeovers, the production of (non-food) cash crops for export, greater chemical inputs or seed patenting and the eradication of seed sharing among farmers, profits are guaranteed for agritech corporations and institutional land investors.
The recasting of agriculture in the image of big agribusiness continues across the globe despite researchers saying that this chemical-intensive, high-energy consuming model means Britain only has 100 harvests left because of soil degradation. In Punjab, the ‘green revolution’ model of industrial scale, corporate dominated agriculture has led to a crisis in terms of severe water shortages, increasing human cancers and falling productivity. There is a global agrarian crisis. The increasingly dominant corporate-driven model is unsustainable.

More ecological forms of agriculture are being called for that, through intelligent crop management and decreased use of chemical inputs, would be able to not only feed the world but also work sustainably with the natural environment. Numerous official reports and scientific studies have suggested that such policies would be more appropriate, especially for poorer countries (see this, this and this).

When on occasion the chemical-industrial model indicates that it does deliver better yields than more traditional methods (a generalization and often overstated), even this is a misrepresentation. Better yields but only with massive chemical inputs from corporations and huge damage to health and the environment as well as ever more resource-driven conflicts to grab the oil that fuels this model. Like the erroneous belief that economic ‘growth’ (GDP) is stimulated just because there becomes greater levels of cash flows in an economy (and corporate profits are boosted), the notion of improved agricultural ‘productivity’ also stems from a set of narrowly defined criteria.
The dominant notions that underpin economic ‘growth’, modern agriculture and ‘development’ are based on a series of assumption that betray a mindset steeped in arrogance and contempt: the planet should be cast in an urban-centic, ethnocentric model whereby the rural is to be looked down on, nature must be dominated, farmers are a problem to be removed from the land and traditional ways are backward and in need of remedy.
“People are perceived as ‘poor’ if they eat food they have grown rather than commercially distributed junk foods sold by global agri-business. They are seen as poor if they live in self-built housing made from ecologically well-adapted materials like bamboo and mud rather than in cinder block or cement houses. They are seen as poor if they wear garments manufactured from handmade natural fibres rather than synthetics.” Vandana Shiva
Western corporations are to implement the remedy by determining policies at the World Trade Organization, IMF and World Bank (with help from compliant politicians and officials) in order to  depopulate rural areas and drive folk to live in cities to then strive for a totally unsustainable, undeliverable, environment-destroying, conflict-driving, consumerist version of the ‘American Dream’.
It is interesting (and disturbing) to note that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80% of world population, but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5% of the world’s population, but consume 24% of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians.
Despite the environmental and social devastation caused, the outcome is regarded as successful just because business interests that benefit from this point to a growth in GDP. Chopping down an entire forest that people had made a living sustainably from for centuries and selling the timber, selling more poisons to spray on soil or selling pharmaceuticals to address the health impacts of the petrochemical food production model would indeed increase GDP, wouldn’t it? It’s all good for business. And what is good for business is good for everyone else, or so the lie goes.
“Corporations as the dominant institution shaped by capitalist patriarchy thrive on eco-apartheid. They thrive on the Cartesian legacy of dualism which puts nature against humans. It defines nature as female and passively subjugated. Corporatocentrism is thus also androcentric – a patriarchal construction. The false universalism of man as conqueror and owner of the Earth has led to the technological hubris of geo-engineering, genetic engineering, and nuclear energy. It has led to the ethical outrage of owning life forms through patents, water through privatization, the air through carbon trading. It is leading to appropriation of the biodiversity that serves the poor.” Vandana Shiva
The ‘green revolution’ and now GMOs are ultimately not concerned with feeding the world, securing well-rounded nutritious diets or ensuring health and environmental safety. (In fact, India now imports foods that it used to grow but no longer does; in Africa too, local diets are becoming less diverse and less healthy). Such notions are based on propaganda or stem from well-meaning sentiments that have been pressed into the service of corporate interests.

Biotechnological innovations have always had a role to play in improving agriculture, but the post-1945 model of agriculture has been driven by powerful corporations like Monsanto, which are firmly linked to Pentagon and Wall Street interests. Motivated by self-interest but wrapped up in trendy PR about ‘feeding the world’ or imposing austerity to ensure prosperity, the publicly stated intentions of the US state-corporate cabal should never be taken at face value.

In India, Monsanto and Walmart had a major role in drawing up the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture. Monsanto now funds research in public institutions and its presence and influence compromises what should in fact be independent decision and policy making bodies. Monsanto is a driving force behind what could eventually lead to the  restructuring and subjugation of India by the US. The IMF and Monsanto are also working to ensure Ukraine’s subservience to US geopolitical aims via the capture of land and agriculture. The capture of agriculture (and societies) by rich interests is a global phenomenon.

Only the completely naive would believe that rich institutional investors in land and big agribusiness and its backers in the US State Department have humanity’s interests at heart. At the very least, their collective aim is profit. Beyond that and to facilitate it, the need to secure US global hegemony is paramount.
The science surrounding GMOs is becoming increasingly politicized and bogged down in detailed arguments about whose methodologies, results, conclusions and science show what and why. The bigger picture however is often in danger of being overlooked. GMO is not just about ‘science’. As an issue, GMO and the chemical-industrial model it is linked to is ultimately a geopolitical one driven by power and profit.

Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.

Source:  http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/03/13/the-geopolitics-of-gmos/

New Database: Big Business TAX EVADING WELFARE QUEENS Dominate Federal Subsidies

New Database Shows Big Business Dominates Federal Subsidies

Federal "Corporate Welfare" Database Now Online

Study: Large Corporations Dominate Federal Subsidy Awards; Banks, Foreign-Owned Energy Firms and Federal Contractors Among the Biggest Recipients

Washington, DC, March 17, 2015--Two-thirds of the $68 billion in business grants and special tax credits awarded by the federal government over the past 15 years have gone to large corporations. During the same period, federal agencies have given the private sector hundreds of billions of dollars in loans, loan guarantees and bailout assistance, with the largest share going to major U.S. and foreign banks.

These are key findings of Uncle Sam's Favorite Corporations, a study with accompanying database released today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit and non-partisan research center on economic development accountability based in Washington, DC. They derive from the first comprehensive compilation of company-specific federal subsidy data. The study and database are available at www.goodjobsfirst.org.

The database, which collects more than 160,000 awards from 137 programs, expands Good Jobs First's Subsidy Tracker, which since 2010 has posted economic development data from states and localities. The federal data was enhanced with Good Jobs First's proprietary subsidiary-parent matching system, enabling users to see individual entries linked to more than 1,800 corporate parents, along with each parent's total subsidies.  

"For more than 20 years, so-called corporate welfare has been debated widely with little awareness of which companies were receiving most of the federal assistance," said Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy.  

"We now see that big business dominates federal subsidy spending the way it does state and local programs," said Philip Mattera, principal author of the study and creator of Subsidy Tracker. "Our hope is that the new Subsidy Tracker will serve as a resource in the ongoing debates over federal assistance to business," Mattera added.    

Other key findings:
  • Six parent companies have received $1 billion or more in federal grants and allocated tax credits (those awarded to specific companies) since 2000; 21 have received $500 million or more; and 98 have received $100 million or more. Just 582 large companies account for 67 percent of the $68 billion total.

  • The largest recipient of grants and allocated tax credits is the Spanish energy company Iberdrola, which acquired them by investing heavily in U.S. power generation facilities, including wind farms that have made use of a renewable energy provision of the 2009 Recovery Act. Iberdrola's subsidy total is $2.2 billion. Other top grant/allocated tax credit recipients include NextEra Energy (parent of Florida Power & Light), NRG Energy, Southern Company, Summit Power and SCS Energy, each with more than $1 billion. The results exclude the numerous corporate tax breaks that cannot be attributed to individual companies.

  • Mainly driven by the massive programs launched by the Federal Reserve in 2008 to buy up toxic securities and provide liquidity in the wake of the financial meltdown, the total face value of loans, loan guarantees and bailout assistance run into the trillions of dollars. These include numerous short-term rollover loans, so the actual amounts outstanding at any given time, which are not reported, were lower but likely amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars. Since most of these loans were repaid, and in some cases the government made a profit on the lending, we tally the loan and bailout amounts separately from grants and allocated tax credits.

  • The biggest aggregate bailout recipient is Bank of America, whose gross borrowing (excluding repayments) is just under $3.5 trillion (including the amounts for its Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial acquisitions). Three other banks are in the trillion-dollar club: Citigroup ($2.6 trillion), Morgan Stanley ($2.1 trillion) and JPMorgan Chase ($1.3 trillion, including Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual). A dozen U.S. and foreign banks account for 78 percent of total face value of loans, loan guarantees and bailout assistance.

  • A small number of companies have obtained large subsidies at all levels of government. Eleven parent companies among the 50 largest recipients of federal grants and allocated tax credits are also among the top 50 recipients of state and local subsidies. Six of the 50 largest recipients of federal loans, loan guarantees and bailout assistance are also on that state/local list. Five companies appear on both federal lists and the state/local list: Boeing, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors and JPMorgan Chase.

  • Foreign direct investment accounts for a substantial portion of subsidies. Ten of the 50 parent companies receiving the most in federal grants and allocated tax credits are foreign-based; most of their subsidies were linked to their energy facilities in the United States.
  • The Federal Reserve aided a large number of foreign companies in its efforts to stabilize banks that had acquired toxic securities originating mainly in the United States. Thanks largely to those programs, 27 of the 50 biggest recipients of federal loans, loan guarantees and bailout assistance were foreign banks and other financial companies, including Barclays with $943 billion, Royal Bank of Scotland with $652 billion and Credit Suisse with $532 billion. In all cases these amounts involve rollover loans and exclude repayments.

  • A significant share of companies that sell goods and services to the U.S. government also get subsidized by it. Of the 100 largest for-profit federal contractors in FY2014 (excluding joint ventures), 49 have received federal grants or allocated tax credits and 30 have received loans, loan guarantees or bailout assistance. Two dozen have received both forms of assistance. The federal contractor with the most grants and allocated tax credits is General Electric, with $836 million, mostly from the Energy and Defense Departments; the one with the most loans and loan guarantees is Boeing, with $64 billion in assistance from the Export-Import Bank.

  • There is also a link to the current debate over so-called tax "inversions." Federal subsidies have gone to several companies that have reincorporated abroad to avoid U.S. taxes. For example, power equipment producer Eaton (reincorporated in Ireland but actually based in Ohio) has received $32 million in grants and allocated tax credits as well as $7 million in loans and loan guarantees from the Export-Import Bank and other agencies. Oilfield services company Ensco (reincorporated in Britain but really based in Texas) has received $1 billion in support from the Export-Import Bank.

  • Finally, some highly subsidized banks have been involved in cases of misconduct. In the years since receiving their bailouts, several at the top of the recipient list for loans, loan guarantees and bailout assistance have paid hundreds of millions, or billions of dollars to U.S. and European regulators to settle allegations such as investor deception, interest rate manipulation, foreign exchange market manipulation, facilitation of tax evasion by clients, and sanctions violations.

Thank you for your interest.

Greg LeRoy, Good Jobs First

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Thousands of protesters join forces to say no to GMOs and reclaim their livelihoods

Farmers in Poland have risen up against Big Ag and GMOs in one of the biggest demonstrations of its kind the country has ever seen. They are demanding: the right to sell their produce directly to the people, a total ban on GMO sales and production, the regulation of land-grabs by biotech corporations like Monsanto, the implementation of a compensation scheme for farmers whose livelihoods have been damaged, and a change to inheritance laws which currently prohibit farmers from leaving land to their heirs.

'Illegal' produce at a protest stall in WarsawA convoys of tractors blocked roads in late February as demonstrations occurred in hundreds of towns across the country.
‘Illegal’ produce at a protest stall in Warsaw
Later, more than 6000 farmers marched on the capital of Warsaw to demand the restoration of their basic rights. Many Polish farmers use traditional methods of farming, meaning that their crops are organic (although uncertified) and pesticide-free. At the moment, these small family farms simply cannot compete with corporations in the marketplace, and many have been made bankrupt as a result.

Protests took place throughout February and into March. They are co-ordinated by the farmers’ branch of the Solidarity Union and the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC) and have been supported by striking bee-keepers, nurses and coalminers. A basket of ‘illegal‘ farm foods was taken to the Prime Minister’s office, while a table was set up outside to display these items and highlight the absurdity of Polish agriculture laws.

Jadwiga Lopata, a family farmer and co-director of the ICPPC said: “The health and welfare of the nation depends on consumers and farmers having access to traditional seeds and good quality food. The Polish government does not accept this and is destroying the roots of Polish agriculture by listening to corporations rather than the Polish people.”

In 2012 Polish environmentalists surrounded the Prime Minister’s office and banged a giant drum to demand a ban on GMO maize. Similar protests also took place in 2009 and 2010, but none have been as damaging to the government as the latest spate of demonstrations. Farmers vow to keep up the pressure until their demands are met, but whether they will win the war against Big-Ag remains to be seen.