from CounterPunch Website
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.
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 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.
The process of side-stepping traditional agriculture moved forward in 2010 through the IMF-mandated privatization of La Compagnie malienne pour le développement du textile against the organized opposition of farmers who petitioned through the People’s Forum.
A year after the coup, the USDA announced that Malian farmers are,
The biosafety law is to be removed,
because it restricts the ability of researchers to run field tests.
Monsanto, however, is taking the opposition’s accession to power in stride, having announced plans last summer to build a $150 million non-GM seed plant in the strife-ridden country (part of a drive to spend more than half a billion dollars updating and expanding plants in, France, Romania, Hungary, and Turkey).
Dupont already has a seed plant in
Ukraine, and Cargill has jumped into the agricultural business in
Ukraine as well, purchasing a 5 percent share in the largest
agricultural company worth $200 million.
It is unlikely that the new neoliberal regime will lift Ukraine’s recent GM ban, but Monsanto’s shift to non-GM seeds in Europe has allowed them to avoid the negative attention that such a move would draw.
China, too, has banned GM products, and
their significant investment in agricultural land throughout Central
and Southeast Asia has caused consternation in their North Atlantic
Deposed Prime Minister Yingluck made bold statements demanding that the free trade area encompassed in the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership consider Thai farmers. The Red Shirt support for Prime Minister Yingluck came largely from the farmers of Thailand - considered "Asia’s rice bowl" - who enjoy economic protections under the Thai government.
On the other side, the Yellow Shirt
opposition, led by Sondhi, demonstrated against free trade,
consumer-oriented society. When the military took power, they
produced a list of arrestees including both Yingluck and Sondhi,
along with a number of academics and activists.
The counterinsurgency operations and operators in Thailand are closely linked to the US, and have mirrored US interests since Thailand acted as a staging point for US incursions into Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
In the 1970s, the US-backed military regime instilled what George Katsiaficas calls, "repressive measures befitting a Pinochet," but decided to undermine guerilla fighters by winning "hearts and minds" through amnesty to activists - this was the beginning of a new neoliberal politics in Thailand, which paved the way for a 1982 IMF package.
Yet with the IMF crisis of 1997 coming on the heels of a new, hard-fought Constitution, political and economic restructuring ushered Thaksin into power.
While Thaksin, a billionaire telecom
industry mogul, and his business elites took power over much of the
military, many within the military remained uneasy about the
popularly elected Prime Minister.
In a position paper written in 2010 for the US Army War College, Colonel Siriphong Patcharakanokkul of the Royal Thai Army outlined the shifting goals of counterinsurgency in Thailand from Thaksin’s hard-line policies to a return to the good old days of "hearts and minds"-style military guidance.
The economic goal is explained clearly:
Transformations of COIN strategy has not actualized an incumbent transformation in territorial exploitation - i.e., a transformation of the large percentage of small scale fisher folk and farms in the South into larger monocrop plantations that utilize North-centered agricultural practices - and perhaps cannot do so without the necessary economic restructuring that would come about through a free trade agreement like,
As China’s historic North-South Economic Corridor with Thailand portends stronger economic ties through coming regional trade agreements (particularly among the farmers of Thailand’s northern region where the Sinawatra’s power-base lies), US policy makers worry about significant challenges to trade hegemony - in particular, the dreaded "barriers to trade," which would give comparative advantage to China.
This North-South Economic Corridor connects Laos, Burma, China, and Thailand - four countries that do not have free trade agreements with the US.
Yingluck’s proximity to China via her support base in the North and her development of border economic zones and infrastructure networks along the North-South Economic Corridor, together with her administration’s denial of involvement with the TPP, may have contributed to her alienation from the US and vulnerability to coup forces.
The US’s suspension of just over one
third of its military aid to Thailand - a light slap on the wrist
based more on US laws that force the severance of aid to illegal
coup governments than on moral groundings - will be followed by
renewed efforts to fortify US interests in Southeast Asia by pushing
through the TPP, or at least pivoting the country’s economic and
political orientation away from China.
It is no small irony that the crown prince of Thailand is waiting out the storm in fine style with the British - former Imperial overlords of the Malay Peninsula. All signs suggest that the coup serves the royalty, which reflects the North Atlantic’s determination to tighten its grip over the Global South through the "pivot to Asia."
It is only a matter of time, however, before the profound impulse to freedom and democracy stirs another mass revolt against the systems of control that are destroying the world.
March Against Monsanto, in its third
year, already shows these sparks flying.