Category Archives: 04. biopiracy

a. A Silent Forest


Ed Schehl, narrated by Dr. David Suzuki
2011, 45 min 25 sec

Silent Forest explores the growing global threat of genetically engineered trees to our environment and to human health. Geneticist David Suzuki explores the unknown and possibly disastrous consequences of improperly tested GE methods. The film includes an interview with Percy Schmeiser, who lost the rights to his own crops to Monsanto, when Monsanto seeds contaminated his fields. As Schmeiser says in the film: “It doesn’t matter how it gets there, destroying your crop. All of your crop, becomes Monsanto’s ownership and they can lay a lawsuit on top of it against you. Even if the contamination rate is 1%, all your other 99% of your crop goes to Monsanto. And that’s what startled the world, how farmers can lose their rights overnight, an organic farmer can lose his seeds and his rights overnight, and get subject to a lawsuit.” The film shows how farmers like Schmeiser and indigenous people may lose their way of life and belongings in the face of new biotech friendly science and legislation.

b. The World According to Monsanto


Marie-Monique Robin, Paris, France
2008, 109 min

“Call me, we’re in the dereg business, maybe we can help…”
—George H.W. Bush, 1987

There’s nothing they are leaving untouched: the mustard, the okra, the bringe oil, the rice, the cauliflower. Once they have established the norm: that seed can be owned as their property, royalties can be collected. We will depend on them for every seed we grow of every crop we grow. If they control seed, they control food, they know it – it’s strategic. It’s more powerful than bombs. It’s more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world. The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers via the “revolving door”. One example is Michael Taylor, who worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the company’s vice president for public policy.

Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government agencies, the US adopted GE foods and crops without proper testing, without consumer labeling and in spite of serious questions hanging over their safety. Not coincidentally, Monsanto supplies 90 percent of the GE seeds used by the US market. Monsanto’s long arm stretched so far that, in the early nineties, the US Food and Drugs Agency even ignored warnings of their own scientists, who were cautioning that GE crops could cause negative health effects. Other tactics the company uses to stifle concerns about their products include misleading advertising, bribery and concealing scientific evidence.

c. GMO: Global Alert


François Le Bayon, Paris, France
2012, 12 min 49 sec

French researchers studied for two years 200 rats fed with transgenic maize. This study focused on determining the potential harm done to animals and humans from consuming GMO corn NK603. The most telling discovery is that rats fed GMO had a 600 per cent increase in death over the control group. Rats formed large tumors and suffered premature death and organ damage when given levels of GMO feed claimed to be safe by EU regulatory authorities. Experts across the spectrum have weighed in to discuss these shocking findings. Equally disturbing are the findings surrounding the world’s leading herbicide, Roundup. It is a combination that now can be conclusively called pure poison.

e. Vandana Shiva: The Future of Food and Seed


Organicology Conference; Portland, USA
2009, 59 min 54 sec

Scientist, activist and author, Vandana Shiva, talks about the importance of saving non-GMO seeds and her concept of Earth Democracy. “The desire to save seeds comes from an ethical urge to defend life’s evolution”, says Vandana Shiva.

As the world begins to digest the implications of intellectual property for online censorship, another intellectual property issue threatens an even more fundamental part of our daily lives: our food supply. Backed by legal precedent and armed with seemingly inexhaustible lobbying funds, a handful of multinationals are attempting to use patents on life itself to monopolize the biosphere.

In India, tens of thousands of farmers per year committed suicide in an epidemic labeled the GM Genocide. Sold as a story of magic seeds that would produce immense yields, farmers around the country were driven into ruinous debt by a combination of high-priced seeds, high-priced pesticides, and crop failure. The GM seeds had been engineered with so-called terminator technology, meaning that seeds from one harvest could not be replanted the following year. Instead, farmers were forced to buy seeds at the same exorbitant prices from the biotech giants every year, insuring a debt spiral that was impossible to escape. As a result, hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide in the Indian countryside since the introduction of GM crops in 1997.

Vandana Shiva has detailed at great length, the effect of the invocation of intellectual property in enabling the monopolization of the world’s most fundamental resources was not accidental or contingent. On the contrary, this is something that has been self-consciously designed by the heads of the very corporations who now seek to reap the benefit of this monopolization. The monumental nature of their achievement has been obscured behind bureaucratic institutions like the World Trade Organisation and innocuous sounding agreements like the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

Although the deck appears to be stacked in favor of the giant multinationals and their practically inexhaustible access to lobbying and legal funds, the people are by no means incapable of fighting back against this patenting of the biosphere. In India itself, where so much devastation has been brought by the introduction of genetically engineered crops, the people are fighting back. The country’s National Biodiversity Authority has enabled the government to proceed with legal action against biotech companies for so-called biopiracy or attempts to develop a GM crop derived from local varieties of eggplant, without the appropriate licences.

Despite the fact that resistance to the patenting of the world’s food supply should be applauded in all its forms, what is needed is a fundamental transformation in our understanding of life itself. From a patentable organism to a common property of all of the people who have developed the seeds from which these novel GM crops are derived.

In response to this, community seed banks were created to collect, multiply and distribute seeds according to the farmers’ needs. This concept, known as open seeds, is being promoted by organizations around the globe, including Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya organization. To be sure, it will be a long and arduous uphill battle to bring this issue to the attention of a public that seems to be but dimly aware of what genetically modified foods are, let alone the legal ramifications of the ability to patent life. But as the work of such organizations continues to educate people about the issues involved, the numbers of those opposed to the patenting of the biosphere likewise increases. From seed-saving and preservation projects to an increased awareness of and interest in organic food, people around the globe are beginning to take the issue of the food supply as seriously as the companies that are quite literally attempting to ram their products down the consumers’ throats. As always, the power lies with the consumers, who can win the battle simply by asserting their right to choose where and how they purchase food.

f. Seeding Deep Democracy


Vandana Shiva, Ecological Options Network, India
2008, 5 min 59 sec

Scientist, activist and author, Vandana Shiva, talks about the importance of saving non-GMO seeds and her concept of Earth Democracy. “The desire to save seeds comes from an ethical urge to defend life’s evolution”, says Vandana Shiva. “In India 150.000 farmers have committed suicide in areas where they have to buy seeds every year from Monsanto at a very high cost.” In response to this, community seed banks were created to collect, multiply and distribute seeds according to the farmers’ needs. She explains what Earth Democracy entails: “It’s a democracy that is related to the earth. It’s practiced best close to the earth, where you live, in your everyday life. We are first citizens of the earth.”

g. Ilha das Flores (Isle of Flowers)

Ilha das Flores

Jorge Furtado, Brazil
1989, 12 min 31 sec

The ironic, heartbreaking and acid “saga” of a spoiled tomato: from the plantation of a “Nisei” (Brazilian with Japanese origins); to a supermarket; to a consumer’s kitchen to become sauce of a pork meat; to the garbage can since it is spoiled for the consumption; to a garbage truck to be dumped in a garbage dump in “Ilha das Flores”; to the selection of nutriment for pigs by the employees of a pigs breeder; to become food for poor Brazilian people.

h. Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs


Jeffrey M. Smith, directed by Gary Null, USA
2012, 79 min 37 sec

Whistleblowers were fired, threatened, and gagged. Warnings by FDA scientists were ignored. Apparently studies now link genetically modified organisms (GMOs) with toxins, allergies, infertility, infant mortality, immune dysfunction, stunted growth, cancer, accelerated aging, and death. This movies touches upon all topics related to GMOs. From the history, the science, the human, animal and plant effects, the technology, the money trail, the dominating industry, government involvement and what major media refuse to disclose. Expert Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, and Genetic Roulette, presents evidence why these gene-spliced crops may lead to health and environmental catastrophes.

i. Indian Farmer Suicide

2011, 4 min 51 sec

In what has been called the single largest wave of recorded suicides in human history, Indian farmers are now killing themselves in record numbers. It has been extensively reported, even in mainstream news, but nothing has been done about it. Monsanto’s inflated costs and ineffective seeds have driven farmers to suicide and is considered to be one of the largest – if not the largest – cause of the quarter of a million farmer suicides over the last 16 years.

According to the most recent figures provided by the New York University School of Law, 17.638 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2009 – about one death every 30 minutes. In 2008, the Daily Mail labeled the continual and disturbing suicide spree as the GM Genocide. Due to failing harvests and inflated prices that bankrupt the poor farmers, struggling Indian farmers killed themselves. Oftentimes, they would commit the act by drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto supplied them with – a gruesome testament to the extent in which Monsanto has wrecked the lives of independent and traditional farmers.

The rate of Indian farmer suicides massively increased since the introduction of Monsanto’s Bt cotton in 2002. It is no wonder that a large percentage of farmers who take their own lives are cotton farmers, the demographic that is thought to be among the most impacted. Many families are ruined by the loss of their loved ones and struggle to fight off starvation. “We are ruined now,” says a 38-year-old widow. “We bought 100 grams of Bt Cotton. Our crop failed twice. My husband had become depressed. He went out to his field, laid down in the cotton and swallowed insecticide.” In India, around 60 per cent of the population -currently standing at 1.1 billion- are directly or indirectly reliant on agriculture. Monsanto’s intrusion into India’s traditional and sustainable farming community has clearly become an issue bigger then a solely health-related one.

j. Fox News Kills Monsanto Milk Story


2006, 9 min 59 sec

Fox News reporters Steve Wilson and Jane Akre uncovered the fact that most of the milk in the USA and across some parts of the world is unfit to drink, due to Monsanto’s rBGH or POSILAC, which has proved to be a cancer-causing growth hormone. The story was killed after pressure from the corporation that developed it – Monsanto – which is affiliated with top Fox advertisers. The station asked the journalists to change the story. When they refused, Fox offered to pay them to keep quiet before finally firing them and refusing to air their report.