On 3/25/2008, the Morrison County Record printed an article written by columnist Peter Graham in Farming and Your Freedom with the headline Can Iraq Rebuild its Ag Economy? 

In his article Graham refers to a story published in the High Plains/Midwest Journal and writes, “it will take millions to put them back on their feet and help them become productive again. It will also take enlightened government policy-on the part of the Iraq and the U.S. governments.”

The operative words being enlightened government policy.

 Unfortunately, in his 400 day stint as administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) (the American body that ruled the “new Iraq” in the early days of the U.S. invasion) Paul Bremer issued a series of directives known as the “100 Orders”. These orders established the blueprint for the new Iraq.  Among the items contained in the 100 Orders relevant to Graham’s original question is Order # 81, officially titled: Amendments to Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law.*** (Enacted by Bremer on April 26, 2004.)

Order 81 is a legal tweak establishing strong intellectual property protections on seed and plant products that a company like Monsanto (producers of genetically modified (GM) seeds and other patented agricultural goods) required prior to moving into new markets like Iraq.  

In a nutshell, Order 81  mirrors the business conditions created years earlier in India, conditions leading Monsanto to highly profitable success within that region while simultaneously unleashing a pandemic proportioned onslaught of suicides among Indian farmers, the subject of the PBS documentary The Dying Fields.  

While the U.S. stopped short of mandating Iraqi farmers to purchase from corporations like Monsanto, basic laws of nature coupled with Order 81 could quickly and easily leave American agribusiness claiming rights on Iraqi farm fields regardless of where they obtain their seed supply.

Percy Schmeiser, a Saskatchewan farmer found himself tangled with Monsanto in a lawsuit after a few rogue GM seeds blew from a truck passing by his land. Monsanto didn’t care how the Roundup® Ready plants got there, as far as the company was concerned, Schmeiser was in possession of an agricultural product whose intellectual property belonged to them and they didn’t care how it happened. Monsanto sued Scheimer for $400,000.00 .  

 

In 2005 the Centre for Food Safety(CFS) reported that Monsanto had a 10 million dollar budget and a staff of 75 devoted to investigating and prosecuting farmers. Monsanto admits to aggressively investigating farmers it suspects and according to the CFS report, evidence suggests that the number of farmers investigated reachs into the thousands.

Prior to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq it was illegal to patent seeds. Now, under U.S. decree all that is necessary to obtain a patent is to be the first to “describe” or “characterize” the plants.*

While technically, Iraqi farmers are not being stopped from saving and sharing seed from their traditional crops as they have always done, there is now nothing stopping Monsanto, Cargill, Dow, Bayer and other multinationals from “describing” or “characterizing” Iraq’s traditional seeds. Once this is done Iraqi farmer will be prohibited from saving and sharing the very seeds that have been cultivated and passed down in their country for generations and they will be forced  to buy them from who ever owns the patent.   Also, Iraqi farmers can be sued by companies like Monsanto if they discover their non-GMO crops polluted by GMO crops planted in their vicinity like Percy Schmeiser did.

It is important to note that prior to Abu Graib’s infamous tabloid debut that the city was once host to Iraq’s seed bank. In 1996, Iraqi botanists packed up 200 kinds of seed and sent them to Syria for safekeeping. When the Iraq war began the Abu Graib seed bank was looted, all that remains of Iraq’s long, rich agricultural heritage are the seeds held by its farmer and those shipped to Syria.

While it would be nice to think that the intentions of the U.S. government are honorable, the broader U.S. plan appears to be geared more towards incorporating Iraqi agriculture into the massive web of U.S. agribusiness, leaving Iraq to grow a few high-yield cash crops for export instead of growing basic crops to feed the Iraqi people. Subsequently, under the U.S. policy the state-run food companies (who had traditionally provided a food basket to every Iraqi household rich or poor), will be privatized under the policy, farm subsidies will be eliminated and the traditional Iraqi food baskets assured to every household, will only be provided to the poorest of Iraq’s people.

While Graham’s article insinuates that the U.S. is working to ensure that Iraq regains its capacity to feeds its own people, exporting high-yield cash crops has not proven to be a successful mean of reaching this objective.

Graham ends his column with, “Root suggested that we make our research available to Iraqi farmers and where practicable send experts over to help. He believes, though, that there may be more value in bringing the Iraqis to America to be trained and then to be sent back to revitalize their agriculture and begin feeding their own people. Who wants to see an Extension specialist blindfolded and awaiting execution for helping farmers to farm?” 

If Graham is truly that naïve it is perhaps time he retire his column. It took nothing more than a cursory glance at the sources used by the High Plains Midwest Journal to see that the universities commenting on Iraq were departments notorious for being heavily financed by the multinational corporations who stand to profit from Order 81.

In the end maybe extension specialist will find themselves blindfolded and awaiting execution in Iraq because the 100,000 Indian’s who committed suicide between 1993 and 2003, some of whom died in their fields after ingesting their last bottle of Roundup, failed to capture any real attention.

*The Hague Regulations requires that an occupying power “re-establish and insure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.” The imposition of major structural economic reforms is viewed by legal scholars around the world as a violation of international law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

I’m sad to see Joyce Moran leave the Morrison County Record, sad and maybe a little dismayed. For the short time I worked at the Record Joyce was one of my supervising editors and I appreciated the qualities she brought to the Record. While my other editor was busy sanitizing everything I wrote to make local officials look good sponging out direct quotes from public meeting that he didn’t want the public to read, it was Joyce who ultimately went to bat to retain the integrity of stories that were published. 

With Joyce Moran gone maybe Tom West can just turn the paper over to the GOP make a few minor changes in their lit pieces and add his name to it …errr, or did he already do that?

Silly,

Olive Rockfish

The 2/15/ 2008 headline for the guest editorial in the Morrison County Record read Every Child Deserves a Chance to Succeed in a Global Economy.  What it was really saying is every American child deserves a chance to succeed in a global economy. Dedicated funding for education is a no-brainer and raising the academic standards to that of other countries should go without saying. There are a few issues and assumptions within the article that warrant careful scrutiny.

The article says “all citizens will need to have a higher level of knowledge and skill to earn a living wage.” While stated as a fact, I think the fundamental question should be, why?

To answer that you have to go back to the signing of trade agreements like NAFTA and the extension of permanent normal trading status to China along with its inclusion to the World Trade Organization (WTO), all signed during the Clinton administration. After the signing of the initial agreements the U.S. enacted so many subsequent trade agreements that the flurry of acronyms looks like a game of Boggle.

In the early 1990’s consumer groups and environmentalist warned of the potential adverse effects these trade agreements could have on American jobs as well as the American standard of living. In short; if the trade agreements were enacted without setting standards for the environment, working conditions in foreign countries and human rights, Americans stood to loose more than jobs and more than entire industries;  over time the American standard of living would have to equalize with that of the other participating countries.

Consumers groups weren’t preaching isolationism, they were merely pointing out that the trade agreements should estabished a baseline standard for business conduct in order to be included as a trading partner. Free trade would mean fair trade and it would act in best interest of all people as well as the environment thereby establishing a system that discourages the sweatshop culture and egregious polluting rather than one that fosters its growth and development in foreign countries.

The reality is that the standards we allow for our trade participants will ultimately determine how good or how poor our own standards will be. If the baseline standards allow for sweatshops or even worse employs children then America will forfeit those business sectors to other countries thereby creating a need for Americans to have a higher degree of skill and a higher level of education in order to earn a living wage, as Heinzman suggests.  

The question we should be asking right here and right now while we still have a choice is this;  is this what we want?

 American school children should have an education that matches the best education systems in the world, this does not mean that America would be prudent to continue to forfeit its low skill business sectors to foreign countries who pollute the planet and violate fundamental human rights. Even if we were to succeed in ensuring every American child a world class education someone will have to serve up fast food and work at Wal-Mart, how much poorer are we willing to allow our poor to become?

Another less evident change ushered in by the succession of trade agreements is this; for the first time in history American businesses forged a unprescidented alliances with the American government so the U.S could compete in global  markets, a de facto, pseudo partnership that has allowed U.S. products like pharmaceuticals to be rushed market at breakneck speeds. 

The question we forgot to ask is where does that leave American consumer protections within US government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)?

Today the consequences are too obvious to be ignored but perhaps we have been slow to identify one significant root to the problem. In quick succession Americans watched in horror as tainted dog food, tainted tooth paste and lead paint arrived in US markets. Gaping infraction discovered despite the fact that only a minuscule percentage of the goods imported to the US are ever inspected.

While this article only serves to touch upon a few issues,  review the list of promises made by NAFTA’s corporate proponents prompting its Congressional approval in 1993:

200,000 new NAFTA jobs in the first 2 years, higher wages, increasing middle class consumer demand in Mexico, an increasing U.S. trade surplus with Mexico, greater economic and social stability in Mexico, improved environmental and health conditions in the U.S.-Mexico border region, thorough border inspection, as trade volumes increased, inhibiting shipments of unsafe food or contraband such as illegal drugs, and better relations with Mexico on issues from immigration to promotion of democratic elections. 

While the articles title was Every Child Deserves a Chance to Succeed in a Global Economy what Heinzman is really saying is American children deserve a chance to succeed in a global economy. 

I must agree with his original wording “every child.” Americans should demand a complete review of all trade agreements  and ask if they’ve lived up to any of their promises. Are these agreements good for Americans of just good for filthy rich shareholder? While insider trading is illegal for you, me and obviously Martha Stewart, it isn’t for those we elect to the U.S. House and Senate, they profit from these agreements and their subsequent investments.

America should  set standard education, but we should also set the standards for human rights and environmental stewardship. If we don’t we will be forced to continue gutting standards Americans once enjoyed, in order to compete.

 ***In the model discussed by Heinzaman article,  there must be a large consumer base requiring good paying jobs in order for globalization to work.  Which nations have that base will be the next question.

In this week’s issue of the Morrison County Record, there is a long article on page 12 of section A about preventing identity theft.  There’s some good advice in the article, although in some instances of identity theft, I’m not sure how people can really protect themselves more than they already are.  I mean, if the State Department of Motor Vehicles is allowed to sell our names and addresses and an identity thief gets hold of one of these lists, there’s not much we can do about that now, can we?

Anyway, I made it through to the end of the article and discovered these final words:

“For more information, go to”

That’s it.  Empty space.  Nowhere to go to.  Apparently, identity thieves have stolen the end of the sentence and don’t want us to learn any more about their tricks.

Where did I put my eel-skin wallet?

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

P.S.  The identity thieves didn’t get to the online version of the story, where the sentence comes to this conclusion:  “the Minnesota Attorney General’s Web site at www.ag.state.mn.us.”

Yes, you could read your Morrison County Record – we’ve been known to do it ourselves here at Fish Wrap – but there’s great fun to be had in imagining new uses for the local newspaper.  Without much adieu, I present ten of those alternative uses.  You can use the Morrison County Record . . .

1.  To potty train your puppy.

2.  To line your bird cage.

3.  To catch pumpkin goo when carving pumpkins.

4.  To wrap up useless meat scraps after skinning and butchering the deer you shot during deer hunting season.

5.  As a drop cloth for painting.

6.  For making impressions in Silly Putty.

7.  As a fire starter (when used in crumpled balls) or as kindling (when the whole paper is rolled tightly).

8.  As a coaster for your drink.

9.  For wrapping dishes and knick-knacks when moving.

10.  As a lap throw for your favorite homeless person.

Pondering underwater uses for soggy newspaper,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

This weeks edition of the Morrison County Record and a previous edition, reported on a sizable fat spill at a Jennie-O feed mill that entered the cities sewer system in Swanville. According to the Records initial report in the October 5th, 2007 edition “2 truckloads had to be pumped out of the system. It was 4 feet deep at the lift station.”

The Record went on to report the following: When asked if it had happened before, Zapzalka said, “This is the worst it’s been yet. They are saying it was only 10 gallons. It was a lot more than that. They have been asking for reduced sewer rates. I would suggest upping the rates. I would suggest the city require them to put in a grease trap. The lines are all coated with grease now and the aeration valve is getting plugged. We may have future equipment problems from this.”

When asked if Minnesota Pollution Control had been notified, City Engineer Mark Hallen of Widseth Smith Nolting said, “It never got out of the plant. It was not discharged so the MPCA did not have to be notified.

On November 11th, 2007 the Record reported the following:  

Wipf said one load of fat was removed by American Septic the day of the incident, and showed to be a minimal amount based on inventory the company had taken. “It was between $7,000 and $8,000 worth of product,” Wipf said.

City Engineer Mark Hallan of Widseth Smith Nolting talked about the city’s sewer system, and reviewed the repair of the clarifier. Brian Zapzalka, the city’s maintenance person, was present to provide his input. There had been some difficulty in locating the replacement part, and even if a replacement part was found, it would cost approximately $12,500. Zapzalka has been able to repair some parts, which have helped the system run better.

The sewer project has been put on the priority list for Morrison County. The city also is no longer operating well number two for water supply for the city. “The Department of Health has been notified of this,” said Hallan.

What a big fat mess. MPCA”s fact sheet and documentation on Minnesota Statute 115.016 states: Anyone who spills is required to report.  EVERY person who has “any substance or material under its control” must report spills and leaks. Report spills that may cause pollution, such as spills of toxic, flammable, corrosive and dangerous industrial chemicals. Also report spills of environmentally damaging materials, including milk, coal, animal parts,batteries, etc. Reportable quantities Minnesota has a reporting threshold of greater than five-gallons for petroleum spills. Spills of any quantity of all other chemicals or materials should be reported.

The Health Department was contact? Does that mean there was a water quality issue?

When the paper reports that “the sewer project” was bumped up the priority list…does that mean that the damage is being paid for by taxpayers of the county,  the city or the plant?

Chewing the Fat with Fish Lips,

Brooke Trout

About a week and a half ago I toured St. Gabe’s new emergency room with my clumsy guppy girl. While we were there I overheard family members talking about a SWAT team of about 13 … a civilian was shot but it wasn’t apparent who the shooter was.

Whatever it was that happened, the person next to us in the brand new E.R…destroyed the hospital room. Broken equipment was in the hall and one nurse told another that the walls were gouged and that the room was destroyed. Since this is mostly overheard information, I made a point of checking last weeks Record and this weeks looking for the whole story on what happened and what the total cost of the damage to the property was but I didn’t find anything.

If I had time I’d make some calls and publish the story myself but I’m booked this week. So, I was wondering, can someone at the Record find out what happened because I’m really curious?

Brooke Trout

Question: How many dead deer photo’s does it take to gag a newspaper?