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Companies Like Monsanto and Dupont Practically Own the Meal on Your Plate


Corporations have been given the power to own seeds. And they are eliminating competing varieties and crowning their own patented seeds as the only choice in the marketplace.

Seeds. They seem like such a small thing when compared to the big, complex problems the world is facing — climate change, poverty, war, famine, peak oil and an exploding population. They’re so small, in fact, that most will fit easily under your thumb.

But stop and think again. Without those tiny grains, what would be left on Earth?

Seeds are the bedrock of our food chain, the basic element of our sustenance. If they were to disappear tomorrow, we would follow them into oblivion with lightning speed. And, the most pressing issue people are often unaware of is that they are currently under grave and direct threats.

Sounds ominous, huh? Wondering why? Well, the answer is two-fold. First, we have witnessed a staggering loss of genetic diversity. In the past century, world agriculture has lost 75% of its genetic diversity to globalization, standardization and monoculture farming; 95% of the tomato varieties that existed in 1909 have become extinct; 91% of corn – gone. In addition, 95% of the cabbage varieties your great-great grandma grew have been consigned to oblivion. And though this may not seem on the surface to be a big deal, in reality it could mean the difference between full bellies and famine.

Genetic diversity in the food plants we grow is more than just the number of tomatoes listed in your favorite seed catalog. Diversity ensures that there are sufficient, genetically diverse and well-adapted varieties of any given plant to respond to any given situation. When a crisis arises, such as a new fungal disease or a severe drought, diverse genetics ensure that some varieties will naturally have genes that enable them to resist the threat and grow on, passing their genetic strengths on to the next generation. Without that diversity, with a significantly narrower gene pool to draw upon, crops and plants become susceptible to complete annihilation when these new threats arise. Such a disaster is not unprecedented.

The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840’s had such a devastating effect on Ireland’s population not only because they depended so heavily upon that one crop, but because they relied on only one variety. When the fungus hit, the one variety in wide cultivation was extremely susceptible and the mainstay of the Irish diet was destroyed within two seasons. Even as recently as the United States corn blight of the 1970’s, when 80% of American corn was of a similar genetic heritage and some 10 million acres of the crop were lost in a single season, we have seen the perils of lack of diversity.

The second threat to our seeds comes from industrial agriculture’s relative recent access to patents, as well as genetically modified organisms and seed company acquisitions, resulting in significant industry consolidation. Understanding this requires just a little micro-course in plant patent history (For a more complete history, check out the three-part series at Cooking Up A Story). In 1930, the Plant Patent Act was passed, which allowed plant breeders, a relatively new profession, to patent a single, specific plant that they had bred themselves. Patents were limited to only that specific plant and any asexual propagations of said plant. Seeds, as the result of sexual reproduction, were specifically barred from patent. Fast-forward to 1970 and the passage of the Plant Variety Protection Act. This legislation gave plant breeders the right to patent an entire variety of genetically similar plants, as well as their seeds and all subsequent generations. Fast-forward again, this time to 1980. The United States Supreme Court decision of Diamond v. Chakrabarty, a 5-4 split decision, gave individuals, and corporations acting as individuals, the right to a utility patent for laboratory engineered organisms, including seeds, under the 1952 Patent Act. Yes, that’s a bunch of gobblety-gook.

via Companies Like Monsanto and Dupont Practically Own the Meal on Your Plate | Alternet.

via Companies Like Monsanto and Dupont Practically Own the Meal on Your Plate | Alternet.

Proving the Irish Famine was genocide by the British — Tim Pat Coogan moves Famine history on to a new plane


The most significant section of Tim Pat Coogan’s new book on the Irish Famine is not his own writing, but his printing of the United Nations definition of genocide.

“The Famine Plot”, published by Palgrave MacMillan, was released in America last week and Coogan should have been here to launch it but in a separate but equally confounding plot he was denied a visa to come here by the American Embassy in Dublin.

The conclusion from his book is unmistakable. Ireland’s most prominent historian, who has previously created definitive portraits of both Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera, has now pointed the finger squarely at the British during the Famine and stated it was genocide.

It is a big charge, but Coogan is a big man, physically, intellectually, and in every sense and makes a very effective accusation. Coogan has painted a portrait of devastating neglect, abuse, and mismanagement that certainly fits the genocide concept.

I mean if we go back to that time, Ireland was the equivalent of Puerto Rico or Samoa, massive dependencies on the United States today.

If there were a massive food shortage in either of those two countries, we know the US would step up to the plate, literally.

Back in Famine time, the same potato crop disease occurred most heavily in Scotland, outside Ireland, yet there were relatively few casualties as the landowners and government ensured, for their own sakes as much as anything, that there was no mass death.

That was not the case in Ireland, where a very different mentality prevailed. The damned Irish were going to get what they deserved because of their attachment to Catholicism and Irish ways when they were refusing to toe the British line.

As Coogan painstakingly recounts, every possible effort by local organizations to feed the starving were thwarted and frustrated by a British government intent on teaching the Irish a lesson and forcing market forces on them.

Charles Trevelyan, the key figure in the British government, had foreshadowed the deadly policy in a letter to the “Morning Post”, after a trip to Ireland, where he heartily agreed with the sentiment that there were at least a million or two people too many in the benighted land and that the eight million could not possibly survive there.

“Protestant and Catholic will freely fall and the land will be for the survivors.”

Shortly after, he was in charge of a policy that brought that situation about.

One Trevelyan story and one quote suffice.

“British Coastguard Inspector-General, Sir James Dombrain, when he saw starving paupers, ordered his subordinates to give free food handouts. For his attempts to feed the starving, Dombrain was publicly rebuked by Trevelyan…”

The Trevelyan quote is “The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people.”

Tim Pat Coogan has done an enormous service with this book.

Read it and weep.

Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/story/news/periscope/proving-the-irish-famine-was-genocide-by-the-british—-tim-pat-coogan-moves-famine-history-unto-a-new-plane-181984471.html#ixzz2E9uQpsiN

Follow us: @IrishCentral on Twitter | IrishCentral on Facebook

via Proving the Irish Famine was genocide by the British — Tim Pat Coogan moves Famine history on to a new plane | Periscope Niall O’Dowd | IrishCentral.

via Proving the Irish Famine was genocide by the British — Tim Pat Coogan moves Famine history on to a new plane | Periscope Niall O’Dowd | IrishCentral.

Barring of writer Tim Pat Coogan from U.S. is an absolute disgrace


The barring of Tim Pat Coogan from coming to America for a book tour is disgraceful. He was refused a visa when he applied for one for his new book tour.

It is one in a clear pattern of a number of recent clueless decisions at the American Embassy in Dublin at the consular level that defy logic.

Ambassador Dan Rooney is clearly unable or unwilling to use his own discretion in some of these cases.

Ever since Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith played a stellar role in the Irish peace process by running her embassy with an iron fist, the functionaries have done their very best to keep incoming ambassadors powerless.

Never mind that Kennedy’s role stand suit like a beacon in the annals of American diplomacy in Ireland. An ambassador the bureaucrats cannot control is a dangerous person indeed it seems.

They did not succeed in the Bush era where excellent appointments ensured that many political issues were retained at the ambassadorial level.

That does not seem to be the case today. The Tim Pat Coogan case is a travesty but senior Irish government officials have told me it is by no means the only strange decision emanating from the embassy in recent times.

There seems to be a hardening attitude there to make it as difficult as possible for people to come to the U.S. from changes in how the J1 one year visa program is being administered to several high profile turndowns.

Blink and you might think you were back in the McCarthy era.

Put simply, there was no greater defender of America in Ireland for the past few decades than Tim Pat Coogan, especially at times when the anti-American sentiment there was at its highest.

His pro-American stances, both in his Irish Press newspaper and his writing about the power of the Irish Diaspora were major factors in keeping the American flag flying in Ireland.

He played a key behind the scenes role in the Irish peace process, especially in the early days when his contacts with Father Alex Reid, the unsung hero of the entire process, were vital.

He was deeply trusted by the Kennedy family and it was a famous meal in Dublin he had with Senator Edward Kennedy convincing him of the need for a visa for Gerry Adams that swayed the Massachusetts senator as well as helping bring President Clinton into the loop.

Visiting Irish Americans are always assured of a hearty welcome from Tim Pat and his backing for America and stance against the anti-American rhetoric so often spouted in Ireland made him this country’s prime defender.

Yet this is the 77-year-old man who the American Embassy just refused a visa to come to America too and humiliated him in the process?

Is there no institutional memory whatever at the embassy that can separate and remember a friend? No one who was able to realize the deep insult they had just inflicted on America’s greatest journalistic ally there?

Where was Ambassador Rooney in all this, as we know he was personally aware of the case?

There are so many questions but one undeniable fact. It will be a blot forever on the Dublin embassy that it humiliated one of its greatest supporters and Ireland’s leading historian by refusing a visa to launch his new book on the Irish famine.

Disgraceful is the word for it.

via Barring of writer Tim Pat Coogan from U.S. is an absolute disgrace – America’s greatest friend in Ireland insulted by the U.S. Embassy | Periscope Niall O’Dowd | IrishCentral.

via Barring of writer Tim Pat Coogan from U.S. is an absolute disgrace – America’s greatest friend in Ireland insulted by the U.S. Embassy | Periscope Niall O’Dowd | IrishCentral.

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