War Over Monsanto Gets Ugly, by Mike Ludwig

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: War Over Monsanto Gets Ugly, by Mike Ludwig

Postby admin » Fri Jan 29, 2016 8:12 am

Andres Carrasco vs Monsanto
By Ezequiel Adamovsky
1 October 2014

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Professor Andres Carrasco gained himself several enemies in a country heavily dependent on agriculture, most of it by now dominated by GM crops, soybean in particular.

When Professor Andres Carrasco, aged 67, died in May this year, the Washington Post immediately ran an article entitled “Argentine Scientist who Challenged Monsanto dies”. Other newspapers in the US and across the world, from The Times of India to Mexico’s La Jornada, and dozens of websites (including Fox News and Salon), published similar stories. Until a few years ago, Carrasco, a molecular biologist at the University of Buenos Aires and past-president of Argentina's science council (CONICET), was well known only among experts in embryonic development, his field of expertise. After 2009, however, he had gained world notoriety due to his study on glyphosate -– one of the world's most widely used weed killers, manufactured by Monsanto. Carrasco’s research had shown that very small amounts of glyphosate can cause neurological damage in frog embryos, which suggested a possible reason for human birth defects reported in farming communities. Not surprisingly, his discovery had become a serious public relations problem for Monsanto, increasingly concerned by the mounting amount of scientific evidence pointing in the same direction.

Contrary to the international attention it stirred, the readers of Argentina’s most widely read newspaper -– Clarín -– were not even informed of Carrasco’s death (to this day Clarín has reported absolutely nothing). La Nacion, the second most-read Argentinean daily, only published an extremely brief obituary four days after the decease. Half of the text was dedicated to discrediting Carrasco’s findings, a rather strange thing to do in an obituary. Both newspapers belong to companies with direct links to agribusiness and have consistently under-reported all critical information and opinions related to Monsanto’s activities in Argentina. Indeed, Carrasco gained himself several enemies in a country heavily dependent on agriculture, most of it by now dominated by GM crops, soybean in particular.

The first version of GM soybean -– the variety that tolerates glyphosate -– was approved by the Argentinean state in 1996, during the second term of the neoliberal Carlos Menem. The process of approval was surprisingly quick; the only surveys of toxicity consulted were those provided by Monsanto. Since then, the proportion of Argentine agricultural land occupied by GM soybean grew dramatically, until it reached today’s peak of over 50%. As all that land requires glyphosate fumigations, its toxic effects became more and more evident. After a few years, rural communities started to notice more cases of usually rare malformations and of cancer, neuronal and respiratory diseases. But their voice was not heard: as a large part of the State revenues comes from the tax on agricultural exports (soy in particular), none of the following presidents did much to seriously analyze the situation, while governors and mayors of all political persuasions were not particularly keen on challenging the power of tax-paying local farmers and corporations. The current president, Cristina Kirchner, seems to have become one of the biggest fans of Monsanto, a corporation she has mentioned in her speeches in a friendly manner, as a valuable investor of money and technology. Thus, reports by common people were once and again dismissed by the authorities as mere expressions of paranoia or environmentalist exaggerations. As the main newspapers and TV channels are also part of agricultural interests, the press also tended to ignore them.

In the small aircraft hangar hall a wiry man stood waiting for our pilot -- it was his flight pupil. Julio Molnar introduced him as a doctor from the region. I'm not allowed to reveal his name, because what he had to tell us could cost him his job: "I'm seeing more and more villagers who are victims of the crop dusting. The most dangerous toxin, from a medical perspective, is Glyphosat, the main ingredient of Roundup. The hospitals around here are experiencing many stillbirths and babies born with severe deformities."

Official health department data confirmed a fourfold increase in birth defects in the Chaco soy zone. The number of cancer deaths had also risen significantly. Monsanto continued to claim that Roundup was no more dangerous than conventional herbicides, but no one had verified this assertion -- except Monsanto itself.

That changed, however, in 2010, when the US scientific journal 'Chemical Research in Toxicology' published the results of a groundbreaking study by Argentine molecular biologist Prof. Andres Carrasco. At his Institute of Cell Biology and Neurosciences the professor had conducted laboratory tests with Glyphosat on amphibians. Carrasco was so shocked by his own results that he decided to leave the safe confines of his scientific ivory tower and to make his discoveries available for use as ammunition against Monsanto. I met the feisty man, who was not afraid of a heated debate, at an anti-GMO conference in the Belgian city of Gent. He told me about the comprehensive study he had carried out on amphibians, which are very close to humans in their genomic structure. He had injected the test animals with a very low dose of Glyphosat. The result was spontaneous miscarriages and birth defects. The scientist was alarmed: "There is most definitely a correlation between the Roundup deployments in the countryside and the rising number of birth defects. I was very concerned, and wrote as much to our president. I know Mrs. Kirchner personally because we were at university together. She didn't even answer. The government is closing its eyes to this ticking time bomb and is conducting no systematic epidemiological surveys whatsoever. They're afraid it would mean the end of the entire soy model."

Carrasco found himself in the crosshairs of Monsanto and the US embassy in Buenos Aires. According to documents published by Wikileaks, they conducted undercover investigations against him, and sections of the Argentine government along with the national mainstream press began an orchestrated campaign to undermine Carrasco's reputation as a serious scientist. Monsanto proponents were up in arms because Carrasco shed doubt on Argentina's position as a ''green superpower"; in a conversation with me the former WWF President Dr. Hector Laurence even berated him as a "charlatan", motivated by ideological issues. Prof. Carrasco laughed when I told him that, but it was obvious that the attacks were really getting to him; it took an enormous amount of energy to defend himself against them. He said that a series of university colleagues had also stabbed him in the back. On the other hand -- his eyes lit up at this -- "reality" was stronger than lies. "The health crisis in the soy zones is such that even the GMO fanatics can no longer deny it."

Prof. Andres Carrasco's scientific theses have given encouragement and a voice to the growing movement of fumigated people all over Latin America. Carrasco also mentored the organization of rural Argentine doctors against fumigation. The worldwide protest movement against GMOs was deeply shocked to hear of the death of the courageous and dedicated scientist. Professor Andres Carrasco died on May 10th, 2014.

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Prof. Andres Carrasco (RIP 2014)

-- Panda Leaks: The Dark Side of the WWF, by Wilfried Huismann


Enter Andres Carrasco. As a leading scientist, he had a strong sense of ethical responsibility before society. In his opinion, the scientist’s role is to work for the general welfare; he was a fierce critic of the idea that science should be at the service of companies or of economic growth per se. As he became aware of the worries of rural communities, he decided to focus his research on the possible effects of glyphosate on human health, by conducting tests on frogs. As he discovered the effects to be massive, he decided to release his results to the public. He contacted Darío Aranda, one of the few journalists who were paying attention to rural communities, and in April 2009 his story made it to the front page of Página 12 –- Argentina’s main progressive newspaper. As that happened, his relatively quiet life as a scientist changed forever. Almost immediately, the lawyers of CASAFE (an association that gathers together the main agrochemical corporations, including Monsanto) literally stormed his laboratory looking for the documents and proofs of his research. A bold and famously strong-tempered man, Carrasco managed to quick them out. Then there followed anonymous threats and intimidations on the telephone. But the worst part, for him, was the attacks on his integrity and reputation as a scientist. None less than the Minister of Science and Technology, Lino Barañao, publicly declared that Carrasco’s investigation was flawed and deserved no credibility. Furthermore, the Minister sent a private email to the head of the National Committee of Ethics in Science and Technology, suggesting that they should evaluate Carrasco’s behavior on ethical grounds. As the email leaked to the press, the Committee backed down. Carrasco nevertheless defended himself, by arguing that his alleged ethical breach –disclosing scientific information before it was published in a serious academic journal– was actually an ethical act. The importance of his discovery demanded urgent action, which could not wait for the long process of academic publishing. He then announced that his research was under consideration in a well-reputed international journal (and he was not lying, as later on it was published in the US in the peer-reviewed Chemical Research in Toxicology). Argentine state officials were not his most powerful enemies. As Carrasco found out thanks to the Wikileaks affair, the US embassy in Argentina had also lobbied against him. Other forms of harassment followed in the next couple of years. In August 2010 he was almost lynched by a mob of rural businessmen and local political brokers while he was about to give a talk in the province of Chaco. The last insult came in 2013, when a board of CONICET declined his petition to be promoted to the highest category of the public research system (something he had more than enough qualifications for).

And yet, Carrasco also made many good friends during these years. After 2009, social movements, peasants’ organizations, associations of fumigated neighbors, indigenous people evicted from their lands due to the expansion of agribusiness, activists and like-minded scholars, students and journalists became interested in his work. From 2009 onwards he was invited to dozens of universities and scientific conferences to present his findings, both in Argentina and abroad, but also to rural schools and neighbors assemblies throughout the country. He kept on profiting from every opportunity to warn people of the effects of glyphosate, even when his health was declining. From a little known scientist, in few years he became a public figure and, for some, a hero.

Last June, the School of Medicine of the University of Rosario (Argentina’s third biggest city) established the 16th June –- Carrasco’s birthday -– as the “Día de la Ciencia Digna” (“Day of Dignity in Science”), to celebrate the role of knowledge and of scientists in the service of the community (and not in the service of profit). Other Argentine universities already agreed on the commemoration day. Considering that universities and scientists from all over the world are under pressure to become appendixes to corporations that provide cheap research (and ask few questions), it would be a great opportunity to make the Day of Dignity in Science a global commemoration.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:
"http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Andres-Carrasco-vs-Monsanto-20141001-0090.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. http://www.teleSURtv.net/english
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Re: War Over Monsanto Gets Ugly, by Mike Ludwig

Postby admin » Sat Apr 09, 2016 3:34 am

Mob violence halts speech by Monsanto critic
by Richard Brenneman
August 17, 2010

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Glyphosphate, better know by its Monsanto trademark brand name Roundup, has become the linchpin of modern agriculture, with genetically modified [GM] crops designed to resist the powerful herbicide.

Between its patented plant killer and its GM “Roundup Ready” crops, Monsanto has emerged as a giant in the global agricultural industry, effectively controlling much of the globe’s farmlands.

So when a scientists raises troubling questions that Roundup may bear a responsibility for the global die-off of amphibians and could threaten developing embryos, he is threatening a multinational power drawing billions of dollars a year from the world’s farmers and their customers.

Andres Carrasco is a scientist and physician, a professor of embryology who serves as principal investigator for Argentina’s National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) and directs the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the Buenos Aires University Medical School.

Last year Carrasco told journalist Dario Aranda that he’d discovered that glyphosphate [N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine to you readers of a scientific bent] “is devastating to amphibian embryos. Even at doses far below those used in agriculture it causes many and varied deformations.”

So in addition to plant cells, it also affects organisms composed of animal cells. Our experiments warn that the cocktail sold as “pure” or harmless causes animal cells to generate developmental abnormalities in the embryo. Therefore glyphosate in the cell alters embryonic cell function, as in the plant cells of weeds. Moreover, it is already proven that herbicides are moved by wind. In reality, the suffering of families in camps near field boundaries and neighborhoods close to the spraying is incontrovertible. Therefore, glyphosate can be crossing respiratory barriers and / or entering placental and embryonic cells. There are even scientific advances in this direction, as there are records of glyphosate and possible metabolites in pregnant women. This could be correlated with potential effects including malformation. Therefore, if the degrading pure glyphosate which has been ingested has an effect on the behavior of embryonic cells in animals during development, it is essential that we examine this in a proper experimental strategy.


After Aranda reported on the findings of Carrasco’s 15-month research project last year, he wrote

Companies like Monsanto went ballistic and and began to issue press releases, alarmed by the possible negative impact on their profits. Five days later, on Monday 20, the Defense Ministry banned Soybean planting in their fields, citing the harmful effects of pesticides. This was an unprecedented political event, a national body warning of the evils of agrochemicals. At that time, businesses, chambers of industry, media communication operators and politicians declared the highest alert. Never before have multinational agribusiness and their spokesmen reacted so violently. During a full week they mounted a campaign in defense of the pesticides, and at the same time, they sought to discredit their critics.


Scheduled talk leads to violence

News of Carrasco’s findings spread rapidly through Argentina’s agricultural and farmworker communities, and activists began gathering data on birth defects and cancer rates among people exposed to the chemical.

The attacks on Carrasco’s research have gone well beyond verbal violence, as evidenced by events of earlier this month in a northern Argentinian town where he’d been invited to speak by local agrarian activists.

Amnesty International reports on what happened next:

On Saturday 7 August, community activists from La Leonesa, a small town located within an area of large scale rice production in the Argentinian Chaco Department, went to attend a talk that was to be given by Professor Andres Carrasco, a scientist and doctor from the Buenos Aires University Medical School. A delegation of two provincial deputies, a former public official and members of the neighbouring community of Resistencia also came to La Leonesa to hear the talk. Professor Andres Carrasco’s research, concluded in 2009, highlighted the negative effects of glyphosate, a commonly-used agro-chemical, on embryos.

On arrival in La Leonesa at around 4pm, the delegation headed for the school where the talk was due to take place. However, the talk was suspended because the delegation was attacked by a group of around 100 people who threatened them and beat them. One person has since suffered from lower body paralysis after being hit on his spine, and another is undergoing neurological examinations after receiving blows to the head. The former provincial Sub-Secretary of Human Rights, Marcelo Salgado, was struck in the face and left unconscious. Dr Carrasco and his colleague shut themselves in a car, and were surrounded by people making violent threats and beating the car for two hours. Members of the community were injured and a journalist’s camera equipment was damaged.

Members of the community who witnessed the incident have implicated local officials in the attack, as well as a local rice-producer and his workers and security guards. They strongly believe that the violence was promoted by them, and motivated by the powerful economic interests behind local agro-industry. Despite calls to local authorities asking for help, the police were slow to respond and failed to send sufficient reinforcements to stop the violence.


The human rights organization has urged supporters to:

• Call for an impartial investigation of the violence in La Leonesa on 7 August and prosecution of all those responsible, with particular focus on the possible involvement of local authorities in instigating or encouraging the violence and/or failing to prevent or halt violence by third parties;
• Call for swift action to ensure the safety and security of the residents of La Leonesa and neighbouring communities;
• Urge local authorities to protect the right to freedom of information and expression in order to allow the communities living in agro-industrial areas to seek, receive and disseminate information, including in public forums, around the possible effects of widespread spraying of crops;
• Where credible evidence regarding the negative health impact of spraying of agro-chemicals exists, health authorities must carry out monitoring and investigations in line with their responsibility to respect the right to health.

Deja vu, but without physical violence

While the reports don’t attribute the violence to Monsanto, the company has demonstrated its ruthlessness in attacking critics in the academic publishing forum, as UC Berkeley professor Ignacio Chapela discovered.

As Sourcewatch reports:

Dr Ignacio Chapela, Associate Professor at UC Berkeley and graduate student David Quist were the target of attack by Monsanto after publishing a paper in the science journal Nature telling of contamination of indigenous Mexican maize [corn] with GMOs. The lead-up to the incident, however, is downright spooky. Still Chapela was determined to publish what they found. So Monsanto employed the services of a firm called Bivings Group which used a phony e-mail campaign to persuade the prestigious science journal Nature to retract the paper, the first time in the publication's 133 year history that it had ever retracted a paper. . . The architect of the deception is thought by some to have been Monsanto's Jay Byrne who was also active in attempts to shut down web sites critical of Monsanto. . . “It shows an organization that is determined to push its products into countries around the world and it’s determined to destroy the reputation of anybody who stands in their way,” said GM Watch’s Jonathan Matthews in The World According to Monsanto.


After the controversy broke, Chapela was denied tenure in a controversial set of actions upheld by then-Chancellor Robert Berdahl. Only after filing legal action did Chapela win permanent tenured status at the university.

Monsanto has emerged as a major player in the business of developing crops to be converted into fuels, and Chapela’s university now houses the largest agrofuel program in the nation, funded by BP. The program’s director is a multimillionaire scientist who made his fortune developing GM crops and selling them to Monsanto.
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