Friday, July 24, 2009


We talk about decreasing war and crime, pollution and discrimination, starvation and the nuclear brink, but if we do not recognize that we are the source of our problems and change our ways, we will meet disaster.

We need an agreement between people who believe in human rights and the fragility of our planet's thin halo of life, that a respectful society is a pragmatic necessity for human survival. Some might choose to call belief in this necessity respectism. Once this initial consensus is achieved, there are at least three steps to take towards building a respectful society.

First, respect for others, self and place must be universally promoted. In other words, respect must be widely and constantly advertised urging each person to respect others, themselves and the world around us, and to fully expect the same from all institutions and leadership.

Second, respect must be based on listening dialogue, honest negotiation, fair settlement and the avoidance of violence whenever possible to settle differences. While every individual and society has the right to true self-defense, the success of a respectful society will ultimately be measured in the scarcity of all types of violence

Third, it is essential to keep the disrespectful from having power over others. Throughout history, certain types of people have siezed power for their own cruel self-gain using violence, lies, fear and subversion of ideals. We must break this cycle, by educating the public to recognize such persons and work together to remove or isolate them from power, be it big or small.

If you think these ideas too simplistic or too idealistic, please ask yourself these questions. Is it better to treat one disease or countless symptoms? Can a promotional campaign succeed with simple messages that resonate? Can we survive without changing our behavior?

If you believe this proposal to be worthy of sharing, please feel free to distribute this text. Ultimately, a respectful society will depend on having enough people working together to build a web of respect. Discussion among those seeking to be respectful is the first step.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Seed Cleaner

We went to see Food Inc the other night. It's really quite good.

Here's the trailer. And here's the opening of a decent review from the Boston Globe:

"As you might gather from the title, Rob Kenner’s documentary “Food, Inc.’’ is, in part, concerned with the extent to which industrial food production has replaced farming in America. It’s part activism, part school-assembly lecture.

If you’re told where most fast-food chains’ ground beef comes from, how much E. coli is in it, how much ammonia has been added to kill the E. coli, and how many illegal immigrants the meatpacking companies recruit, underpay, and leave prey to police raids, will you still want to eat that double cheeseburger?

The filmmakers are guessing no." more

But the part that got me was the part about seed and Monsanto. Monsanto has developed seeds that are "Round Up" ready and they want you to pay to plant them every year. They own it and you can only use their seed once.

And, if you don't plant or use their seed, and your neighbors do, and you end up with some of their seed in your fields, you as the farmer have to prove that you didn't use their seed. It's not exactly the kind of thing that farmers are real good at.

Ultimately, even though you are planting the same seed strain you've been planting for years, you may be pulled into court by Monsanto. Monsanto is not very happy about the way the movie portrays them. They are so unhappy, they have dedicated a lot of their web site to setting the truth straight.

Monsanto says:

In agriculture, plants and seeds with enhanced traits or genetics may be patent protected. This is true in the U.S. for plant varieties as well as biotech innovations. Monsanto is one of many seed companies that patent their innovations. Growers who purchase our patented seeds sign a Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement — an agreement that specifically addresses the obligations of both the grower and Monsanto and governs the use of the harvested crop. The agreement specifically states that the grower will not save or sell the seeds from their harvest for further planting, breeding or cultivation.

In Food Inc, there is an older man call Maurice Pharr, and he has a machine that cleans seeds for replanting. Monsanto doesn't have much use for that.

Food, Inc. Fiction: Maurice Parr, a seed cleaner against whom Monsanto took legal action, claimed he settled with Monsanto because he could not afford the legal costs of going up against the company.

Truth: Maurice Parr operates a seed cleaning business in Indiana. Mr. Parr had received many clear communications about the patent law around Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready® soybeans, and he knowingly disregarded this information. Mr. Parr confused farmers about the law regarding patents, which led to some of his customers breaking their contracts by saving seed as well. Mr. Parr did not “settle with Monsanto.

Rather, Mr. Parr took his case to court, and the U.S. District Court in Lafayette, Indiana issued a permanent injunction against Mr. Parr prohibiting him from cleaning Roundup Ready soybeans."

However in the next paragraph, Monsanto discloses their settlement:

"Monsanto has agreed not to collect the damages awarded against Mr. Parr as long as Mr. Parr honors the terms of the court order."

And or course, Mr. Parr did not take Monsanto to court as their language implies, Monsanto WAS the plaintiff.

Mr. Parr was leaning on his HISTORICAL understanding that farmers have rights to their seeds. But in Monsanto's world, that right should just as well be gone. So they must destroy the seed cleaners.

There is something beyond evil with Monsanto's behavior.

Like the railroad tycoons of 120 years ago, or the oil tycoons of 80 years ago, they have gained a monopoly in the fields of our farmers.

And when the Seed Cleaners are gone,

Farming will be in their hands.

There is a saying about never eating your seed corn.

These folks are making it the law.


rape seed field art courtesy of adam dabrowski art

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