Friday, June 5, 2009

New York Times on the UAW’s corporatism: a rewriting of history

New York Times on the UAW’s corporatism: a rewriting of history

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On June 2, the New York Times published a column by writer Steven Greenhouse describing the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) as a long-time antagonist of the Big Three US automakers, only temporarily reined in by a tenuous harmony of interests among union, business, and government.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Far from defending the interests of auto workers, the UAW has conspired with the Obama administration and its Auto Task Force to shift the crisis onto the backs of the workers it falsely claims to represent through plant closures, layoffs, wage and benefits cuts, and the gutting of workplace rules.

Greenhouse admits that the UAW will now be a corporate owner—he refers to this delicately as “a novel dual role.” He acknowledges that the “union” will “help management increase profitability—with the goal of pushing up the automakers’ stock prices”; that it has outlawed strikes against Chrysler and GM; and that in recent years “the union has worked with management to assure labor peace, raise productivity and...push down labor costs.”

Yet at the same time Greenhouse depicts the UAW as an unpredictable fighting force for workers, struggling to balance the interests of its membership with the survival of the auto industry. The columnist wonders whether the new contracts can end the “antagonistic relationship between union and management” or if instead the UAW “will stick to its traditional truculence.” The UAW has been, he claims, “by turns, hard-charging adversary and strategic partner.”

Summing up his false presentation of the UAW, Greenhouse declares, “For decades the United Automobile Workers had a simple strategy for getting what it wanted from carmakers—it would go out on strike.”

This presentation of the UAW begs the question: On what planet has Greenhouse resided for the past four decades? In fact, the UAW has long cultivated a corporatist policy of close collaboration with the auto companies.

The Times labor columnist’s interpretation of the UAW and its methods might have made a modicum of sense in 1970, the last time a major strike gripped the US auto industry. The 1970 GM strike, involving nearly 400,000 workers, shocked the bureaucracy. Though it ended in limited gains for rank-and-file auto workers, the two-month-long struggle nearly exhausted the UAW strike fund. From that moment on, top UAW officials sought to prevent, at all costs, long industry-wide strikes.

Since 1979, the UAW’s history is an unbroken chain of concessions and betrayals. That year, the UAW agreed to give up major concessions from Chrysler workers in order to secure government money for Chrysler’s bailout. In the midst of the negotiations, orchestrated by the Carter administration, Chrysler closed down its massive Dodge Main plant in Hamtramck, near Detroit. The UAW stifled worker opposition to Dodge Main’s destruction, and then forced through the concession demands of the government.

The Chrysler bankruptcy and the shutdown of Dodge Main set the pattern for the next thirty years. Beginning in the 1980s, the UAW sought to isolate and smother strikes of union locals, including at auto parts makers. At the same time, it moved to strip locals of their ability to authorize their own work actions. The bureaucracy oversaw the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs, even as its own income and privileges continued to grow, all the while veiling its complicity by scapegoating auto workers in Japan, Germany, and elsewhere.

The UAW’s two-day strike “against” GM in 2007 was in fact a public relations stunt, orchestrated by union executives with the aim of preparing the rank-and-file for a massive concessions contract that included the establishment of a multi-billion dollar retiree health fund (the voluntary employees’ beneficiary association or VEBA) which the bureaucracy would control, giving it a direct monetary interest in the impoverishment of auto workers.

During a three-month long strike in 2008 by workers at American Axle, a major parts supplier with factories in Michigan and New York, the UAW forestalled solidarity action from other auto workers. It offered striking workers a measly $200 per week from its misnamed strike fund, which is currently estimated at nearly $900 million.

Through its enormous assets—$1.2 billion according to a recent Wall Street Journal estimate—and other streams of revenue, the UAW has effectively insulated itself from the massive job losses it has overseen. In 1979, the UAW had 1.5 million members. By 2008, this had fallen to 431,000, with job losses accelerating in recent months. Even though membership in the UAW declined by 40 percent between 2000 and 2008, UAW officials increased their combined salaries by more than $11 million.

The fate of the UAW is the outcome of long historical processes bound up with the fortunes of American capitalism. When it was built in the 1930s, the rank-and-file leadership of the union was dominated by socialists—including Trotskyists—and militants. Even Walter Reuther (UAW president, 1946-1970) in the 1930s presented himself as a socialist.

However, Reuther and the UAW—and the American trade unions as a whole—made a pact with American capitalism, agreeing not to challenge the profit system and eschewing all earlier demands for expanding democratic control of the production process. This was closely bound up with a political marriage to the Democratic Party.

During WWII, the UAW subordinated workers to the US war effort through the no strike pledge. Reuther promised that Detroit’s auto factories would be the “arsenals of democracy.” In the early post-war period Reuther and the UAW bureaucrats purged the socialists and militants from the unions, and in 1955 he led the industrial unions of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) back into the arms of the reactionary American Federation of Labor (AFL).

Reuther wagered that the UAW would maintain its power, and win some concessions for workers, based on the global dominance of the American Big Three. The union’s fortunes, Reuther proclaimed, were not separate from the Big Three and American imperialism.

The failure of this perspective was demonstrated with the sharp decline of the Big Three’s global market share beginning in the late 1960s. But the bureaucracy’s nationalist perspective remained. Its role was to make “its workers” competitive in the global market by joining with the Big Three in wringing concessions and overseeing factory shutdowns.

The UAW’s efforts have failed to stem the crisis of profitability in the US auto industry. Now that the UAW has become the major owner of Chrysler and the second largest owner of GM, it has a direct interest in driving down the wages of auto workers in order to drive up the stock value of the Big Three.

The UAW, Inc. rejects the notion, once an a-b-c of even the most tepid trade unionism, that workers have interests independent of their employers. Indeed, it is the UAW’s interests that are now diametrically opposed to those of the workers from whom it continues to collect dues.

Greenhouse’s falsification of the UAW and its history is no accident. That is precisely his beat at the Times. He is paid to write tributes to the union bureaucracy in order polish its credentials for the newspapers’ upper middle class readership.

Though the trade unions can no longer claim to represent workers, these organizations have not exhausted their usefulness. In addition to wresting concessions from and policing workers on behalf of business, the ex-unions play a critical role in suppressing the political independence of the working class. It is for this reason that Greenhouse paints the UAW in false colors.

Wall Street, Obama administration conspire to block financial regulation

Wall Street, Obama administration conspire to block financial regulation

By Barry Grey

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In the guise of enhanced regulation, the Obama administration is working with major Wall Street banks to sanction a continuation of the speculative practices that precipitated the financial meltdown and deepest economic slump since the Great Depression.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has, according to a detailed exposé published May 1 by the New York Times, adopted a proposal drawn up by a group of big Wall Street firms for new regulations on the lucrative trade in derivatives such as credit default swaps. Geithner headed the New York Federal Reserve Bank and played a key role in the Bush administration’s bank bailout program before being named to his present post by Obama. His recently issued proposal on derivatives regulation, in opposition to measures backed by certain corporate interests, such as agribusiness firms and the congressmen who represent them, would exempt most trading in credit default swaps from any serious public exposure or government regulation.

Credit default swaps are contracts agreed to between corporations in which the seller insures the buyer against the default of specific corporate bonds or securities. The transactions are “over the counter,” i.e., arrived at privately without being listed on any public exchange. Since the passage of a law in 2000 supported and signed by then-Democratic President Bill Clinton, they have been unregulated.

The 2000 law sparked an explosive growth of this form of financial gambling. According to the Times, “The market now represents transactions with a face value of $600 trillion, up from $88 trillion a decade ago. JPMorgan, the largest dealer of over-the-counter derivatives, earned $5 billion trading them in 2008, according to Reuters, making them one of its most profitable businesses.”

Trading in credit default swaps played a major role in the subprime mortgage bubble that imploded in August of 2007, leading to the financial crash of 2008. The collapse of insurance giant American International Group, which has to date received $170 billion in government funds, was the result of the firm’s massive holdings in credit default swaps tied to subprime mortgage-backed securities and other dubious assets. AIG bet that the underlying mortgages would not default. It lost its bet and was required to come up with huge amounts of cash as collateral, which it did not have.

AIG’s imminent failure threatened to bankrupt thousands of “counterparty” banks and other financial firms around the world, provoking a panic that was stanched only by the infusion of hundreds of billions of taxpayer funds into its coffers and those of scores of other financial firms.

The Times reports that in November of 2008, only a month after receiving billions of dollars in government cash infusions, the nine biggest participants in the derivatives market—including JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Bank of America—set up a lobbying organization, the CDS Dealers Consortium, to counter calls for serious regulation of credit default swaps and other forms of derivatives speculation.

The new lobby hired a “longtime Washington power broker” who had helped push through the 2000 law, Edward J. Rosen, a partner at the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. The Times reports that it has obtained a copy of a confidential memo drafted by Rosen in February that was “shared with the Treasury Department and leaders on Capitol Hill” and played “a pivotal role in shaping the debate over derivatives regulation.”

According to the Times, Rosen opposed proposals that derivatives be traded on open exchanges, akin to stock markets, and instead argued that they should be traded through “clearinghouses” that would be run by private firms closely affiliated with the banks. He further proposed that the derivatives trade continue to be overseen by the Federal Reserve Board, which has a long record of giving the banks free rein to engage in this form of speculation.

Moreover, he argued that a special dispensation be given to so-called “customized” derivatives, a vague term that encompasses most credit default swaps, which would shield them from public scrutiny or government regulation.

The Times article indicates that all of these suggestions were incorporated into the proposal for “increased” oversight released by Geithner. The newspaper notes that Treasury officials “say that their proposal was arrived at independently...” But the article makes clear that the Obama administration’s plan for derivatives was basically drafted by the big Wall Street banks.

The article further reports that the big banks’ clearinghouse firm of choice is ICE US Trust, “an entity closely affiliated with banks that are also members of Mr. Rosen’s group, the CDS Consortium.” The Obama administration also favors this firm, according to the Times. Citing Brad Hintz, a brokerage firm analyst at Bernstein Research, the article states, “ICE seems to be the clearinghouse of choice, especially among policy makers in Washington.”

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, a state with large agribusiness interests that are pressing for tougher regulation of derivatives, is quoted as saying, “The swaps and derivatives people are all over the place up here. ... A lot of money is on the line.”

The article also quotes Collin C. Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat and the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, who is sponsoring a bill that would bar derivatives trading in a clearinghouse, such as ICE, regulated by the New York Federal Reserve. He calls the New York Fed, Geithner’s former home, “a tool of the big banks” which “wouldn’t do much” to regulate credit default swaps or other derivatives.

Peterson is blunt about the domination of Congress by Wall Street. “The banks run the place,” he says. “I will tell you what the problem is—they give three times more money than the next biggest group. It’s huge the amount of money they put into politics.”

The article provides some figures: “Through their political action committees and their own employees, securities and investment firms gave $152 million in political contributions from 2007 to 2008, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission data.

“The top five companies—Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Credit Suisse—gave $22.7 million and spent more than $25 million on lobbying activities in that period, according to election data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

“All five companies are members of the CDS Dealers Consortium, the lobbying group formed in November.”

The Times quotes Yra Harris, an independent commodities trader, who sums up the situation as follows: “The banks want to go back to business as usual—and then some. And they have a lot of audacity now that everyone has bailed them out. But we have to begin with the premise that Wall Street doesn’t want transparency because more transparency means less immediate profits.”

The instrument through which the banks are resuming at full throttle the criminal methods that have brought the US and world economy to its knees and inflicted growing social misery on the working class, is the Obama administration.

US Fed Chairman demands plan to cut social programs

US Fed Chairman demands plan to cut social programs

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Testifying Wednesday before the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke demanded that Congress and the Obama administration map out a program of austerity measures to bring down record budget deficits. Bernanke made clear that the heart of this program should be sharp cuts in social spending, including basic entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

“Maintaining the confidence of the financial markets,” Bernanke said in prepared remarks to the committee, “requires that we, as a nation, begin planning now for the restoration of fiscal balance.”

The phrase “confidence of the financial markets” is a euphemism for the interests of Wall Street and major international banks and investors. In demanding the preparation of austerity measures to be imposed on the American people, Bernanke was speaking in behalf of the financial elite whose massive taxpayer subsidies have been the major cause of the explosive growth over the past year of the federal deficit and the US national debt.

Even as he called for plans to slash social programs, Bernanke said that the economic “recovery,” which he predicted would begin later this year, would be preceded by a continued surge in unemployment that would last for a protracted period. Acknowledging that nearly 6 million jobs in the US have been lost since the beginning of 2008, he said “sizable job losses and further increases in unemployment are likely over the next few months.”

Even when the economy stops shrinking—currently at an annual rate of 6 percent—“businesses are likely to be cautious about hiring, and the unemployment rate is likely to rise for a time,” he said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the fiscal 2009 federal deficit will top $1.8 trillion, more than four times the deficit for 2008. Bernanke told the committee that the ratio of federal debt held by the public to the gross domestic product (GDP) will likely rise from 40 percent before the onset of the financial crisis to 70 percent in 2011.

Warning that a continuation of such levels of debt could drive up the cost of government borrowing—a disastrous prospect for an economy dependent on a continuous stream of loans from China, Japan and other countries—Bernanke said that the deficits would have to be reduced substantially either through tax increases or budget cuts. “The Federal Reserve will not monetize the debt,” he declared.

He made clear that his prescription for “fiscal balance” was dramatic cuts in what remains of social programs, rather than tax increases. He zeroed in on the basic programs upon which tens of millions of Americans depend—Social Security and Medicare.

Noting projections of rising outlays for these entitlement programs as millions of baby boomers retire, he said “we will not be able to continue borrowing indefinitely to meet these demands.” Speaking of “difficult choices,” he said, “Congress, the administration and the American people must confront how large a share of the nation’s economic resources to devote to federal government programs, including entitlement programs.”

He said that if these programs were not reined in, taxes would have to be raised, and then made clear his preference, calling for “spending and budget deficits” to be “well controlled.”

Bernanke’s call for austerity policies is entirely in line with the program of the Obama administration. Obama has pledged to slash the budget deficit by half by the end of his term, placing a reduction in health care costs and entitlement “reform” at the center of his fiscal policy. This week, his treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, in a two-day visit to China, pledged to reduce the US budget gap from the current 12.9 percent of GDP to 3 percent. In a speech at Peking University, he spoke of a permanent reduction in the “discretionary spending” of the American people.

At Wednesday’s Budget Committee hearing, the ranking Republican, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, articulated even more openly than Bernanke the ruthless policy of the US ruling elite toward the working class. He said he was concerned about political pressure on the Fed to delay tightening credit in the face of long-term high unemployment, and urged the Fed chairman to adhere to the central bank’s “commitment to price stability”—in other words, to pursue a deliberate policy of keeping unemployment high in order to bludgeon the working class into accepting wage cuts and other concessions.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, speaking for the Democrats, sounded a similar note. He told reporters that Bernanke is “absolutely right, we need to be very concerned about incurring additional indebtedness.” He said the Democratic-controlled House planned to pass legislation before its July 4 recess to establish “pay-as-you-go” rules, which, he said, would require that any increase in spending be offset by cuts in other programs.

In addition, he said, “We need to address entitlements.”

OAS Votes to Readmit Cuba After 47 Years

OAS votes to readmit Cuba after 47 years

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The Organization of American States voted Wednesday to revoke the 1962 measure suspending communist Cuba, overturning a landmark of the Cold War in the hemisphere.

"The Cold War has ended this day in San Pedro Sula," said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya immediately following the announcement. "We begin a new era of fraternity and tolerance."

The action doesn't mean Cuba will return to the 34-member body that helps coordinate policies and mediates disputes throughout the Americas.

Cuban officials have repeatedly insisted they have no interest in returning to an organization they consider a tool of the United States.

If Cuba changes its mind, the agreement calls for "a process of dialogue" in line with the OAS' "practices, proposals and principles" — a veiled allusion to agreements on human rights and democracy.

"This is a moment of rejoicing for all of Latin America," Ecuador's Foreign Minister Fander Falconi told reporters after the session.

The decision was taken by consensus, meaning the United States accepted it, though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had lobbied personally for requiring Cuba to make democratic reforms and improve respect for human rights.

The decision seemed to catch State Department officials in Washington off guard.

Spokesman P.J. Crowley, briefing reporters before the vote, said an agreement Wednesday was unlikely and he called that "a clear sign of how the president's approach to relations in the Americas is paying dividends."

He said the main support from Cuba's return came from "countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela; they're the ones who have been trapped in the past" while the United States was celebrating "that the OAS is, in fact, a community of democracies."

Clinton herself left the meeting before the final vote, saying that the organization had been unable to reach consensus on Cuba.

The meetings dragged on so long Tuesday night that she did not even have time to deliver a prepared speech of 1,500 words before flying out of Honduras to join U.S. President Barack Obama in Egypt.

The U.S. won Cuba's suspension from the hemispheric body in 1962 as Fidel Castro's government veered into the Soviet bloc at a moment of intense global tension.

But in recent years, with the Cold War fading and left-of-center governments spreading in the Americas, Cuba's isolation melted away. Every country in the hemisphere except for the United States has re-established relations with Cuba and the U.S. embargo of Cuba is deeply unpopular throughout the region.

Membership in the OAS gives a country a voice in hemispheric agreements on major issues. The OAS has often tried to mediate solutions to political conflicts and it has offshoots that coordinate health policies and protect human rights.

Cuba's government, has repeatedly said it has no interest in returning to the 34-member organization, which it calls a tool of the United States.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro wrote in state newspapers on Wednesday that OAS should not exist and historically has "opened the doors to the Trojan horse" — the U.S. — to wreak havoc in Latin America.

The Obama administration has hoped its recent overtures to the Cuban government would overcome widespread resentment in the Americas over Washington's long history of isolating Havana.

U.S. officials have lifted restrictions on money transfers and travel to the island by Americans with family there and are resuming long-stalled immigration and postal service talks.

In her prepared statement for Tuesday's closed session, Clinton acknowledged that "in the past, the U.S. has sometimes taken a counterproductive approach to domestic affairs within the hemisphere that created mistrust and suspicion," according to a copy given to reporters.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said the United States is continuing to use the OAS as "an instrument of domination" and that Cuba's suspension was due to the support of former conservative Latin American dictators who were "used by the Yankees."

At a news conference the Sandinista leader accused the Obama administration of being no different from previous administrations. "The president has changed, but not American policy," Ortega said.

Israelis Say Bush Officials Agreed to Settlement Building

Israelis Say Bush Agreed to West Bank Growth

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Senior Israeli officials accused President Obama on Wednesday of failing to acknowledge what they called clear understandings with the Bush administration that allowed Israel to build West Bank settlement housing within certain guidelines while still publicly claiming to honor a settlement “freeze.”

The complaint was the latest in a growing rift between the Obama administration and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how to move forward to achieve peace in the Middle East. Mr. Obama was in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and is scheduled to address the Muslim world from Cairo on Thursday.

The Israeli officials said that repeated discussions with Bush officials starting in late 2002 resulted in agreement that housing could be built within the boundaries of certain settlement blocks as long as no new land was expropriated, no special economic incentives were offered to move to settlements and no new settlements were built.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity so that they could discuss an issue of such controversy between the two governments.

When Israel signed on to the so-called road map for a two-state solution in 2003, with a provision that says its government “freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements),” the officials said, it did so after a detailed discussion with Bush administration officials that laid out those explicit exceptions.

“Not everything is written down,” one of the officials said.

He and others said that Israel agreed to the road map and to move ahead with the removal of settlements and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 on the understanding that settlement growth could continue.

But a former senior official in the Bush administration disagreed, calling the Israeli characterization “an overstatement.”

“There was never an agreement to accept natural growth,” the official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. “There was an effort to explore what natural growth would mean, but we weren’t able to reach agreement on that.”

The former official said that Bush administration officials had been working with their Israeli counterparts to clarify several issues, including natural growth, government subsidies to settlers, and the cessation of appropriation of Palestinian land.

The United States and Israel never reached an agreement, though, either public or private, the official said.

A second senior Bush administration official, also speaking anonymously, said Wednesday: “We talked about a settlement freeze with four elements. One was no new settlements, a second was no new confiscation of Palestinian land, one was no new subsidies and finally, no construction outside the settlements.”

He described that fourth condition, which applied to natural growth, as similar to taking a string and tying it around a settlement, and prohibiting any construction outside that string.

But, he added, “We had a tentative agreement, but that was contingent on drawing up lines, and this is a process that never got done, therefore the settlement freeze was never formalized and never done.”

A third former Bush administration official, Elliott Abrams, who was on the National Security Council staff, wrote an opinion article in The Washington Post in April that seemed to endorse the Israeli argument.

The Israeli officials acknowledged that the new American administration had different ideas about the meaning of the term “settlement freeze.” Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have said in the past week that the term means an end to all building, including natural growth.

But the Israeli officials complained that Mr. Obama had not accepted that the previous understandings existed. Instead, they lamented, Israel now stood accused of having cheated and dissembled in its settlement activity whereas, in fact, it had largely lived within the guidelines to which both governments had agreed.

On Monday, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel “cannot freeze life in the settlements,” calling the American demand “unreasonable.”

Dov Weissglas, who was a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an opinion article that appeared Tuesday in Yediot Aharonot, a mass-selling newspaper, laying out the agreements that he said had been reached with officials in the Bush administration.

He said that in May 2003 he and Mr. Sharon met with Mr. Abrams and Stephen J. Hadley of the National Security Council and came up with the definition of settlement freeze: “no new communities were to be built; no Palestinian lands were to be appropriated for settlement purposes; building will not take place beyond the existing community outline; and no ‘settlement encouraging’ budgets were to be allocated.”

He said that Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser at the time, signed off on that definition later that month and that the two governments also agreed to set up a joint committee to define more fully the meaning of “existing community outline” for established settlements.

In April 2004, President Bush presented Mr. Sharon with a letter stating, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

That letter, Mr. Weissglas said, was a result of his earlier negotiations with Bush administration officials acknowledging that certain settlement blocks would remain Israeli and open to continued growth.

The Israeli officials said that no Bush administration official had ever publicly insisted that Israel was obliged to stop all building in the areas it captured in 1967. They said it was important to know that major oral understandings reached between an Israeli prime minister and an American president would not simply be tossed aside when a new administration came into the White House.

Of course, Mr. Netanyahu has yet to endorse the two-state solution or even the road map agreed to by previous Israeli governments, which were not oral commitments, but actual signed and public agreements.

In his opinion article in The Washington Post, Mr. Abrams, the former Bush official who was part of negotiations with Israel, wrote: “For the past five years, Israel’s government has largely adhered to guidelines that were discussed with the United States but never formally adopted: that there would be no new settlements, no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements and no new construction except in already built-up areas. The clear purpose of the guidelines? To allow for settlement growth in ways that minimized the impact on Palestinians.”

Mr. Abrams acknowledged that even within those guidelines, Israel had not fully complied. He wrote: “There has been physical expansion in some places, and the Palestinian Authority is right to object to it. Israeli settlement expansion beyond the security fence, in areas Israel will ultimately evacuate, is a mistake.”

Is Bill O'Reilly Spawning Killers?

Is Bill O'Reilly Spawning Killers?

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The killing of Dr. George Tiller is, of course, the second recent politically-motivated church shooting. The first occurred in the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on July 27th of last year. And although one was targeted at a doctor, and the other at liberals in general, both share a common element: Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly had targeted Tiller repeatedly on his show, claiming he ran a "death mill" and quoting a description of him as "Tiller the Baby Killer." And as for the Unitarian killing, the shooter infamously had a copy of O'Reilly's book in his home, and wrote a vitriolic screed about his hatred for liberals.

Of course, the factors motivating each killing cannot be boiled down simply to the influence of Mr. O'Reilly. However, Mr. O'Reilly bears a unique responsibility for this kind of violence, not only because his show and opinions reach millions of viewers, but also because he is a figure who not only disagrees with but dehumanizes his opponents. Using words like "evil" and "villain" to describe his targets, O'Reilly turns political spats into sweeping moral crusades.

A large part of The O'Reilly Factor's success can be attributed to this righteous anger and the creation of villains for the audience to despise. Bill O'Reilly has a spectacular ability to create caricatures out of cherry-picked details and heavily edited interviews, and to portray himself as a noble warrior against the forces of injustice. Whether it's a small-town mayor or a circuit judge, whoever O'Reilly feels has committed a sin is professionally and personally demonized. Of course, anyone who has ever spent a minute watching the show knows this, and it can usually be written off as a sensationalistic ratings-grabbing act. But when events like today's happen, it is important to examine the damage that this relentless pursuit of viewers can create.

As someone who worked at Planned Parenthood for a large part of the last year, I have driven past screaming protesters on my way into work numerous times. And the main problem with these activists has not been their mere presence, or the fact that they disagree with me, but their clear view of me as less than human. These groups often see doctors who perform abortions not only as wrong, but as seething, forceps-wielding, murderous Harold Shipmans or Josef Menegles. Barack Obama was prescient at Notre Dame when he claimed that the greatest obstacle to progress on abortion was the tendency to ignore the humanity of opponents.

And so, when crimes like the shooting of Dr. Tiller occur, Mr. O'Reilly bears a strong responsibility. He has used his great influence to create a climate of hatred in the parts of the American right, a hatred which is naturally likely to bubble over into extreme violence now and then. The Tiller and Tennessee shootings are the logical consequences of buying into O'Reilly's dehumanizing rhetoric. If those that disagree with us politically become monsters and murderers, shooting them can seem an act of great heroism. And it is O'Reilly, more than any other conservative host, who crafts the images of liberals and "abortionists" as monsters.

I am not suggesting that Bill O'Reilly should be brought up on charges. In my home country of Great Britain, leaders of the far right are occasionally arrested and convicted of attempting to incite violence, a measure which is deplorable and despotic. Freedom for the speech we hate is essential. But I am astounded that Mr. O'Reilly can sleep at night knowing the terror and hostility his words create. Until he softens his tone, and convinces his followers to demonstrate respect for those they disagree with, murders like George Tiller's are likely to continue.

Climate bill a giveaway to big business

Climate bill a giveaway to big business

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After months of posturing and several days of intense negotiation, the US House of Representatives put forth a climate change bill that contained weak greenhouse gas reduction targets and huge concessions to big business. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, was passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee May 21 by a vote of 33-25, which split largely along party lines.

The bill would establish a cap on greenhouse gases, amounting to a 17 percent reduction in 2020 compared to 2005 levels. The emissions sources covered, which collectively account for 85 percent of the nation’s inventory, include oil refineries, electricity producers and large industry. The government would distribute to these sources allowances, which are essentially permits to release one ton of emissions into the atmosphere. The allowances would be tradable, allowing businesses that under-emit to sell their allowances to those that over-emit.

One major point of controversy was how to allocate the allowances—whether to sell them at auction or give them away for free based on existing emission rates. Driven by concerns for the profitability of industry, the House Committee drew up a plan to give away 85 percent of the allowances for free in the first year. Not until 2030 would all allowances be auctioned. This compromise was necessary to gain support from Democratic Congressmen from the Rust Belt and coal producing regions.

As the Congressional Budget Office noted in 2007, giving away allowances for free “would transfer income from energy consumers—among whom lower income households would bear disproportionately large burdens—to shareholders of energy companies.” Such a strategy also sets the stage for windfall profits by those industries with enough political influence to score excess allowances.

Another concession to big business involved amending the bill to include more international offset credits. These offsets would allow US companies to pay for emission reduction projects elsewhere, usually in developing countries, and in turn receive credits to use in meeting their emissions requirements.

But as the European Union’s carbon trading system has demonstrated, this system is notoriously corrupt. Projects are frequently manipulated and overpriced by a factor of ten or even 100, while remaining still cheaper than cutting emissions at home. The process yields tremendous profits for factory owners and consultants, while the actual greenhouse gas benefit is often dubious.

Waxman and Markey originally sought to reduce emissions by 20 percent in 2020 (with a reference year of 2005). Once again they were forced to compromise, lowering it to 17 percent. The level, which exceeds President Obama’s latest goal of only 14 percent, still falls well short of consensus scientific opinion.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change posited in their latest report that developed countries would need to collectively reduce their emissions by 10 to 40 percent by 2020 in order to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations at a level likely to avoid the worst consequences (450-550 ppm). However, these percentages are compared to a reference year of 1990. In the intervening years between the IPCC’s reference year of 1990 and Waxman/Markey’s of 2005, emissions in the US increased by 17 percent. The Waxman/Markey bill would barely bring emissions back to 1990 levels.

While ineffectual at shrinking US emissions to a safe and equitable level, the cap-and-trade mechanism, regardless of the details, serves to enrich certain layers of business at the expense of the general population. Apparently oblivious to the economic crisis, the cap-and-trade proponents in the House remain wedded to the free market nostrums, replete with the financial speculation, that plunged the economy into the current disaster.

In the European experience, the speculation on carbon trading led to wild fluctuations in the price of allowances, fluctuations that may actually have discouraged investment in greenhouse gas mitigating technologies, counteracting any theoretical incentive to cut emissions beyond the cap.

Nonetheless, the scheme garners support as billions of dollars stand to be made—or rather siphoned off—by the bankers, lawyers and brokers dealing in financial transactions. The working class, already ravaged by attacks on its living standards, will necessarily shoulder a disproportionate burden in the form of price increases on fuel and energy-intensive goods.

The major international investment bank HSB, issued a report criticizing the measure from the standpoint of its impact on international negotiations for a global climate change agreement.

The bill, the “watered-down,” the bank noted, “falls a long way short of Obama’s election promises on most scores.” It continued, “If the best that the US can bring to the negotiating table ahead of the talks on a new post-Kyoto emissions treaty is a 3 percent cut in emissions versus 1990 baseline, then this may not be enough to tickle out an agreement from China and India.”

There is still quite a ways to go before Waxman/Markey or any other climate bill becomes law. Passing the Energy and Commerce Committee required a significant effort, but several other committee chairmen, including Representative Charles Rangel of the Ways and Means Committee and Representative Collin Peterson of the Agriculture Committee, are reportedly keen on marking up the bill in their respective committees. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to indicate exactly how she will proceed, saying only that she wants to act this year.

Obama, for his part, has taken a decidedly hands-off approach to the climate bill. This is despite apparent disagreements between the White House and Congress over important details, especially over the auctioning provisions. The free allocation of allowances would deal a blow to Obama’s 2010 budget proposal that contained $624 billion over 10 years in revenues from auctioning the emissions allowances.

The president has not been entirely inactive on climate policy. On May 19 he ordered more stringent fuel economy standards for new cars and light trucks. The fleetwide average will increase roughly 5 percent per year to 35.5 miles per gallon (6.6 liters/100km) in 2016. The order, driven by corporate interests and impending court action, effectively reverses a Bush-era ruling denying California the authority to implement their own greenhouse gas standards, a decision that was most certain to be reversed in the courts.

The new rules match California’s, thereby maintaining a single national vehicle standard, as demanded by the auto industry, rather than a “patchwork” of regulations among the states. However, by themselves the standards will have only a minor effect on climate especially in the short term.

While Congress and the President are busy drafting half-measures and handouts to business, the compelling need for robust action is ever more apparent. The Global Humanitarian Forum, a non-governmental organisation headed by Kofi Annan, released a study May 29 attributing more than 300,000 deaths each year to climate change. By 2030 the total is projected to increase to nearly 500,000.

Oxfam’s chief executive, Barbara Stocking, remarked recently, “Climate change is set to overload the humanitarian system and destroy the lives and livelihoods of people today and into the future. The system can barely cope with the current level of disasters and could be overwhelmed.”

In face of these catastrophic implications of climate change, the lax attitude and tepid action of the US government are striking. The Waxman-Markey measure is one more demonstration of the incapacity of the present system, dominated by profit interests and economic rivalry between nations, to confront this immense global problem.

Obama offers nothing to states, cities devastated by GM plant closures

Obama offers nothing to states, cities devastated by GM plant closures

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Plant closings resulting from Monday’s forced bankruptcy of General Motors will cause spiraling unemployment and deep cuts in social services in many cities and states across the country. The Obama administration, whose Auto Task Force dictated the terms of the bankruptcy, has offered no serious aid to the affected workers and their communities.

GM is carrying out at least 21,000 job cuts and the closure of 14 plants and warehouses in eight states. In addition, the company has announced its intention to dump franchise agreements with 2,300 dealerships by the end of next year. Many of these will be forced to close, eliminating as many as 100,000 jobs in all 50 states.

The gutting of GM, once the most powerful corporation in the world and a symbol of US industrial might, will send shock waves through the economy, cascading into more layoffs at parts suppliers and financial ruin for thousands of small businesses.

The bankruptcy will immediately result in state and local cuts in social services, health care and education, with city and state workers targeted for layoffs, wages cuts and other concessions. It will accelerate the foreclosure crisis and further drive down home prices, as tens of thousands of workers are no longer able to meet their mortgage payments.

The Obama administration is using the concessions and layoffs, agreed to by the United Auto Workers, to attack the wages and benefits of the entire working class. Corporations will take the concessions imposed on auto workers as a signal for similar measures against their own workers.

Pontiac AssemblyPontiac Truck & Bus plant

The state of Michigan, which already has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 12.9 percent, will bear the brunt of the closures, with 42 percent of all national GM layoffs taking place there. Nearly 9,000 jobs will be lost in Michigan from Monday’s announced plant closures. The shutdowns are concentrated in southeast Michigan. They will be carried out in Flint, Livonia, Orion Township, Pontiac and Ypsilanti Township. On Friday, 700 workers were laid off when GM shuttered a stamping plant in Grand Rapids, in southwest Michigan.

It is estimated that since 2000, Michigan has lost 17 percent of its jobs—about three quarters of a million in all—as a direct result of the crisis in the auto industry. Now the state anticipates 520,000 job losses this year and next.

The consequences for the state’s limited social welfare system will be disastrous. According to one estimate, Michigan could lose an additional $18.3 billion in income. It already faces a $3 billion two-year budget shortfall, and officials recently revised downward their revenue estimate for the 2010 fiscal year by $1.7 billion, calling for an across-the-board spending cut of 8 percent.

“It’s clearly going to impact the safety net,” Governor Jennifer Granholm warned. “People, who are hurting, need services more, and we have fewer dollars.” Michigan has already carried out $300 million in budget cuts for the current fiscal year.

Oakland County in suburban Detroit will lose three factories and 6,600 jobs, the most of any county. Oakland County was already in difficult financial straits due to declining property tax revenue, a result of layoffs and the foreclosure crisis. The loss of GM-related tax revenue will result in layoffs for county workers and sharp cuts in social programs, said Bob Daddow, Oakland County’s deputy executive. “I will be going to war,” Daddow told the Detroit News. “We will need to make cuts in all departments. We have been doing these cuts all along...but the worst is yet to come on governmental revenues.”

The closure of the GM Truck and Bus plant will deepen the social crisis in impoverished Pontiac, Michigan. About 1,100 workers will lose their jobs, and the city will lose 20 percent of its current tax base, or $10 million, said Fred Leeb, the city’s emergency financial manager. Leeb made clear that Pontiac’s working class would pay the price for the shutdown. “We fear that we are going to have to cut even more deeply,” he told the Detroit News. “And there will be concessions to ask from the (city) unions.”

Flint, Michigan has lost about 50,000 GM jobs in 30 years. One thousand more were added to the grim tally when GM said Monday it would close its Powertrain Flint North plant. Monday night, the Flint City Council met to enact a series of measures to bridge a $13 million budget deficit, including the layoff of about 90 firefighters and police and the shuttering of a fire station.

The city of Livonia, an inner-ring suburb of Detroit, will lose its GM engine plant, and with it $474,000 in annual tax revenue, about 1 percent of its total. City workers have already been asked to accept pay cuts. The Detroit-Livonia-Warren area had an unemployment rate of 14 percent as of May.

Ypsilanti’s Willow Run transmission plant laid off 600 workers on Monday, and 500 more jobs will be shed by December 2010. The township will lose 4.4 percent of its tax revenue, and Washtenaw County will see a loss of $3.8 million in tax receipts. The Ypsilanti Public Schools confront a $1.4 million deficit, which will be met primarily through teacher layoffs. The city faces a budget deficit of almost a half million dollars.

In Livingston County, Michigan, the GM bankruptcy may lead to a number of parts suppliers shutting down. Already hundreds of auto parts workers have lost their jobs in recent months, according to the county’s Economic Development Council director, Fred Dillingham. Metaldyne, which employs 100 workers in the county, last week filed for bankruptcy protection. “We have a number of companies with as much as 90 percent of their business from GM. We have an awful lot of trickle-down effect from GM,” Dillingham told Livingston Community News.

The closure of GM Mansfield in Ontario, Ohio is likely to result in the elimination of city jobs and pay cuts for municipal employees. With revenues already down a quarter million dollars, the city is bracing for disaster.

Spring Hill, Tennessee, which has seen its Saturn plant idled, most likely to be closed permanently, was a single-industry town. When GM opened the plant in 1990, fewer than 1,500 people lived there. Now it has 24,000 inhabitants.

The collapse of the Big Three has brought with it a sharp decline in funding for the arts and culture. The General Motors Foundation, which contributed $31.4 million to the arts in 2007, has told many art and cultural organizations, “mostly in Detroit,” not to count on any contributions this year, the Financial Times reported last week. Toledo, Ohio, recently announced that its three-day jazz festival, the Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Festival, would be cancelled this year after Chrysler said it would no longer provide $100,000 in annual funding.

In the face of this mounting social crisis, President Barack Obama has offered little more than rhetorical palliatives, telling workers that their “sacrifices” will ensure the future for coming generations. But for the auto workers’ children, the future foretells poverty amidst a crumbling social safety net.

On Tuesday, Obama sent Edward Montgomery, his director of recovery for auto communities and workers, along with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, to tour a Romulus, Michigan GM plant that thus far has not been slated for closure. This was followed by Solis’ appearance at a “worker round table” at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, the ostensible purpose of which was to discuss the retraining of workers for new jobs in the “green economy.”

The meeting was little more than a media stunt organized by the Democratic Party and UAW executives to present the Obama administration as a defender of jobs and divert working class anger along nationalist lines.

In her remarks, Solis outlined a series of “job training” programs that will supposedly equip workers for new high-tech and environmentally-friendly industries. But as Solis and Obama well know, these token programs cannot possibly provide decent employment for the vast majority of the workers who are losing their jobs as a result of the administration’s auto industry policy.

In what is shaping up as the worst job market since the Great Depression, even college graduates—many with degrees in engineering, computer science, robotics and management—face the highest rate of unemployment for those with a four-year degree in decades.

Among the Obama administration initiatives Solis outlined was $49 million in assistance to Michigan workers who have lost jobs due to “international trade,” federal assistance for the weatherization of homes, and summer youth programs. These are already existing programs. She could not announce any new programs to deal with the social crisis created by the bankruptcy of GM because the Obama administration has no plans for such programs.

After Solis spoke, the panel discussion was turned over to a number of local Democratic Party politicians and union officials. Don Skidmore, the Willow Run UAW local president, set the “America first” tone, declaring, “We’ve got to stop the bleeding of American jobs south of the border!” Another speaker demanded to know why Toledo, Ohio was able to keep its GM engine plant open.

UAW official Donnie Enersen denounced immigrant workers. “They’re coming into America, not paying taxes, not paying into Social Security,” he said.

The union officials are seeking to divide workers along national and even regional lines, in order to deflect attention from their real enemies—the Obama administration and the Wall Street financiers who are behind the carve-up of GM.

WorkerGM worker in Ypsilanti, Michigan

The World Socialist Web Site spoke with a small number of workers, most of whom were recently retired, who came to the meeting to demonstrate against the closure of the Willow Run plant. Corky, a GM worker with 12 years, said, “We thought we were going to stay open until 2010. On Friday when we walked out of work we thought we would be coming back in mid-July. I got a call from a fellow worker that night saying we were no longer going to work there.

“It’s unfair. We’ve made enough sacrifices. I’m tired of it. This was my seventh GM plant. For two-and-a-half years I was driving down to Toledo, Ohio to work, even when gas was $4 a gallon. I’ve made sacrifices. My dad is a retired GM worker and his benefits are being cut. I put my blood and sweat into every transmission that comes off the line.

“Yesterday when they announced the bankruptcy and plant closing I was all tears and emotions. Now I’m angry.”

The assassination of Dr. George Tiller

The assassination of Dr. George Tiller

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The assassination of Dr. George Tiller by a right-wing anti-abortion fanatic is both a personal tragedy and a savage attack on basic democratic rights. It has exposed the pathological state of political life in America and the absence of any commitment to democracy within the country’s ruling elite.

Dr. George Tiller, who wore a bulletproof vest at all times in public, was killed by one shot to the head outside his church on Sunday. He was the medical director of one of the few clinics in the country offering late-term abortions. Sixty-seven at the time of his death, he leaves behind his wife Jeanne, three daughters—two of them physicians—a son, and ten grandchildren.

A statement released by the family read, “George dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence. We ask that he be remembered as a good husband, father and grandfather and a dedicated servant on behalf of the rights of women everywhere.”

The alleged gunman, Scott Roeder, 51, appeared Wednesday in a Wichita, Kansas, courtroom via video from jail and was charged with one count of murder in connection with Dr. Tiller’s murder. He was also charged with aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two people who tried to stop him.

Roeder has a long record of anti-abortion fanaticism and connections to extreme-right and fascistic organizations. A former envelope factory worker, lately he was doing odd jobs.

He has been involved in the anti-tax Freemen movement as well as a group called One Supreme Court, which claimed its members were “sovereign citizens” not subject to federal and state laws.

Roeder was well known to the employees of Dr. Tiller’s Wichita clinic, where anti-abortion zealots appeared daily shouting “Killer Tiller!,” “Babies Killed Here!” and “Tiller’s Slaughter House!”

The anti-abortion hysteria personified by Scott Roeder and his murderous actions has been cultivated by a network of religious fanatics, right-wing media personalities, and leading figures within the Republican Party.

Following Dr. Tiller’s murder, Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, described the doctor as a “mass murderer” and declared, “He reaped what he sowed.” He said Tiller would be remembered as “one of the villains of history.”

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News has ranted against Dr. Tiller dozens of times on his talk show, declaring him guilty of “Nazi stuff” and warning ominously that he would face “Judgment Day.”

O’Reilly defended his attacks on Tiller in the aftermath of the doctor’s murder. Dismissing his critics, he wrote, “Every single thing we said about Tiller was true.”

The services provided by the Women’s Health Care Services clinic where George Tiller was medical director are protected by law and have been upheld by the US Supreme Court.

Before the doctor’s murder last Sunday, his Wichita clinic was one of only three facilities in the US where women, often facing the agonizing decision of terminating their pregnancy after the 20th week due to horrible fetal deformities or the danger the pregnancy posed to their lives, could seek medical assistance. Women from across the country were referred by doctors and hospitals to Tiller’s clinic only to be terrorized—as at other women’s clinics nationwide—by anti-abortion protesters, who hurl obscenities and hold placards displaying grisly photos.

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the US, these clinics have been targeted by anti-abortion vigilantes. Doctors and other clinic employees have been wounded and killed in numerous violent attacks organized by members of “pro-life” groups:

• March 10, 1993: Dr. David Gunn was gunned down outside a Pensacola, Florida, clinic.

• Dec. 30, 1994: Two receptionists at two Boston-area clinics were killed, and another five wounded.

• Oct. 23, 1998: Dr. Barnett Slepian was fatally shot in his home in a Buffalo, New York, suburb.

• Dr. George Tiller was himself the victim of an assassination attempt on August 19, 1993, when he was shot in both arms outside his Wichita clinic.

Dr. Warren Hern, a Boulder, Colorado, physician, spoke about the threat exposed by the murder of his friend and colleague. “I’m profoundly sad and I’m furious and I think the American people need to understand that we have a fascist movement in this country,” Hern told the Colorado Independent last Sunday. “We don’t have to invade Iraq to find terrorists. They’re right here killing abortion doctors.”

He struck out in particular at the Republican Party’s exploitation of this campaign of intimidation, which it has utilized as a political prop for decades.

“Dr. Tiller is dead by an anti-abortion assassin, and this is the absolutely inevitable consequence of 35 years of anti-abortion fanatic rhetoric and intimidation and assassination violence and exploitation by the Republican Party of this movement.”

Hern’s forthright description of the political realities underlying this heinous crime stands in stark contrast to the cowardice and complicity of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

President Obama issued a mealy-mouthed two-sentence statement on the killing: “I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.”

Reprising in a perfunctory manner the theme he presented in his commencement address at Notre Dame University last month, he drew an equal sign between the legally protected rights of women and the medical professionals providing them services and those who would seek to deny them their rights by means of intimidation and, in this case, assassination.

He condemned neither the murderer nor those forces in the Christian right, the right-wing media and the Republican Party who promote such violence.

Like the Democratic Party as a whole, Obama is cowed by these forces. He is unwilling and unable to state the obvious: this noxious combination of political, religious and media organizations is incubating a home-grown fascist movement in America.

These forces bear political and moral responsibility for fomenting violent acts that—outside of the 9/11 attacks—have produced the overwhelming majority of deaths and destruction caused by terrorism within the United States over the past 30 years. Yet they are treated with kid gloves by the political establishment and the media.

Today, demented elements like the Wichita assassin are encouraged to strike at women’s clinics and their personnel. Tomorrow, they can be directed against a movement of the working class against the attacks on jobs and living standards.

The tepid reaction of the Democrats and Obama to the heinous murder of Dr. Tiller underscores the fact that they will only accommodate these fascistic elements, because they are being cultivated by significant sections of the American political establishment.

The defense of democratic rights—including the legal right to abortion—can be carried out only through the independent mobilization of the broad mass of working people, guided by a socialist and internationalist perspective, in the struggle against capitalism and the reactionary political forces that it engenders.

The far-right's violent return

The far-right's violent return

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The murder of George Tiller is a chilling reminder that the violent extremism of America's far-right hasn't gone away

When Barack Obama was elected president last year, pro-choice activists were elated, but there was an undercurrent of anxiety. In the past, the extremist fringe of the anti-abortion movement has responded to political disempowerment with violence.

In 1993, not long after Bill Clinton was inaugurated, the United States saw its first murder of an abortion provider, when Dr David Gunn was shot outside his clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Five months later Dr George Tiller was shot in both arms. They kept coming: seven shootings that culminated in the 1998 murder of Dr Barnett Slepian in his suburban kitchen, felled by a sniper as he made soup.

Even the bombing of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games turns out to have been motivated by fanatical opposition to abortion. When he was finally sentenced in 2005, perpetrator Eric Rudolph said in a written statement that the attack was meant "to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the word for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand."

Then, during the Bush administration, the killings stopped. Many believed this was due to a triumph of law enforcement, but in the reproductive health field, people couldn't help but fear that maybe the violence had been halted because the anti-abortion movement was making progress by other means. That meant it could resurface. After the 2008 election, the National Abortion Federation, an organisation of abortion providers, sent out an alert asking members to be on guard. Clinic staff nationwide talked of beefing up their security.

So when Dr Tiller was assassinated in church on Sunday morning, it was a hideous shock, but it was also, in some ways, predicted.

This April, a leaked report from the Department of Homeland Security warned about a possible outbreak of right-wing violence. "Paralleling the current national climate, right-wing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members," the report said, mentioning opposition to gun control, free trade, abortion and same-sex marriage, as well as racial antagonism.

Then, as now, there was a Democratic president regarded as illegitimate and amoral by many on the far right. There was economic upheaval and a proliferation of apocalyptic rhetoric about liberal tyranny and the need for patriotic individuals to stand up and take action.

Conservatives howled in protest, complaining that the government was demonising their ideology. But the DHS was on to something. Experts who study the far right saw the rhetoric in various extremist movements ratcheting up. Brian Levin, director of the centre for the study of hate and extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, is a former cop who often consults with law enforcement. For the far right, he said, Obama's election signaled that "the country has now become the cesspool that they've been warning about. When people feel so disenfranchised, or an event has taken place that for an extremist is considered so pivotal, it makes sense that we look at what these extremists are saying, because someone is listening."

Someone like Tiller's alleged killer, Scott Roeder, who was almost exactly the kind of person the DHS was warning about. His ideology, such as it was, appeared to combine an extreme paranoia about the federal government with an Old Testament fundamentalism and an obsessive focus on abortion. He had connections to the "sovereign citizen" movement, which rejects all government authority above the local level, and, according to Levin, is full of white supremacists. In the 1990s, police found bomb-making materials in Roeder's car, although he was only sentenced to probation, and eventually his conviction was overturned on a technicality.

Right now there is no way to know why Roeder, like other similar figures, laid low during the Bush years. But it's chilling how quickly the febrile, frustrated milieu of the Obama-era right produced its first killer. We can pray he'll be the last. But we shouldn't count on it.

Western Media Propagandize Iran’s Missile Test

Western Media Propagandize Iran’s Missile Test

by Jeremy R. Hammond

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Iran announced on Wednesday that it had successfully tested its Sejil 2 surface-to-surface missile, and Western media sources took the opportunity to portray the Middle Eastern nation as a threat to world peace and, specifically, as a threat to Israel.

The Seijl 2 missile has a range of about 1,200 miles, and thus would be capable of hitting Israel, but Iran’s President Ahmadinejad announced in a speech following what he deemed a successful test that the missile’s purpose was to protect Iran from the threat of aggression.

Still, media accounts in the U.S. and other Western nations portrayed Iran’s test as a threatening provocation and linked it to an Iranian nuclear weapons program there is no evidence actually exists.

The London Times’ headline alarmingly read “Ahmadinejad claims Iran’s new missile is capable of hitting Israel”.

But the paper failed to produce a quote of the Iranian president actually specifying Israel as being within range of the missile. Instead, the text of the article only states that Ahmadinejad merely announced that a missile with a range of 1,200 miles had been successfully tested.

The headline claim that the “missile is capable of hitting Israel” is simply a corollary drawn by the Times, but falsely attributed to Ahmadinejad himself in a not atypical demonizing media account.

“I was told that the missile is able to go beyond the atmosphere then come back and hit its target. It works on solid fuel,” Ahmadinejad said in his speech.

“The defense minister told me today that we launched a Sejil-2 missile, which is a two-stage missile and it has reached the intended target.”

He also talked about the insistence of Western countries that Iran end it’s enrichment of uranium for its nuclear program. “They said if you don’t stop, we will adopt resolutions…. They thought we would retreat but that will not happen.”

The U.S. has used its influence in the Security Council to oversee the passage of a series of U.N. resolutions implementing sanctions against Iran for failing to cease enrichment activities. Iran insists that its right to enrich uranium is guaranteed under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

The NPT in fact states that nothing may prejudice the rights of member nations to enrich uranium for nuclear energy.

The U.N. watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has continued to verify that Iran has enriched only low-grade uranium, not the highly-enriched uranium necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

“I told them you can adopt 100 sets of sanctions, but nothing will change”, Ahmadinejad said.

In an apparent reference to the Obama administration’s declarations that it would be willing to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said, “All want dialogue with Iran, and we prefer this. But it should be in the framework of justice and respect.”

The lead sentence in the Washington Post’s account of the missile launch employed a similar device as that used in the London Times‘ headline.

“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday”, the Postarticle read, “that his country had successfully test-fired a medium-range solid-fuel missile apparently capable of striking Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf region.”

While acknowledging that “arms-control experts debated its significance”, the Postadded that the launch demonstrated “an increasing sophistication in its missile program” from a liquid to a solid fuel system. “Solid-fuel rockets can be launched faster and are more mobile,” the Post reported.

The Post quoted Ahmadinejad as saying, “The rocket went into space, returned to Earth and hit its target” to a cheering crowd in a soccer stadium in Semnan province.

The article continued on to say, “Ahmadinejad has long said Iran’s nuclear program has strictly peaceful civilian purposes. But on Wednesday, he linked the missile test with that program, calling it an important scientific achievement and a blow to those trying to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

The implication is that Ahmadinejad himself suggested that the missile test was related to Iran’s nuclear program, with the further corollary from that supposed linkage being that the missile is intended to deliver a nuclear warhead.

Having established this ostensible context for its readers, the Post account continued, providing a quote of Ahmaedinjad referencing the nuclear issue.

“‘In the nuclear case, we send them a message: Today the Islamic Republic of Iran is running the show,’ Ahmadinejad said in his speech. ‘We say to the superpowers, “Who of you dare to threaten the Iranian nation? Raise your hand!” But they all stand there with their hands behind their backs.’”

The Post’s implication was that Ahmadinejad had acknowledged Iranian intentions to produce nuclear weapons, deliverable by a missile such as that tested in Semnan on Wednesday. But a second look at Ahmadinejad’s actual remarks and reconsideration of the context reveals the propaganda device employed by thePost here.

The “link” Ahmadinejad was clearly making between the missile test launch and the nuclear program isn’t that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but that Iran now has a non-nuclear deterrent to U.S. or Israeli aggression.

“Today Iran has the power to turn any base that fires a bullet at Iran into hell,” Ahmadinejad also said in his speech. “In the past some threatened Iran but today they cannot threaten Iran with their military power,” he said. “Today we declare that no country has the power to threaten Iran”.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to launch military strikes against Iran to destroy its nuclear program. And U.S. President Barack Obama said recently, echoing remarks from his predecessor, President George W. Bush, that a military attack against Iran was “on the table”.

The linkage between the missile launch, therefore, and the nuclear program isn’t nuclear weapons, but the U.S. and Israeli threats to launch attacks to destroy that program.

But by employing such propaganda devices and spinning Ahmadinejad’s remarks in such a manner, Western media accounts manage to portray Iran as a nation deliberately flaunting its designs on obtaining a nuclear weapon and directly threatening Israel with the possibility of a nuclear attack.

It was through the use of not dissimilar propaganda devices that the U.S. mainstream corporate media managed to convince the as much as 70 percent of the American public prior to the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein was involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon responded to Iran’s missile test by saying that “In terms of strategic importance, this new missile test doesn’t change anything for us since the Iranians already tested a missile with a range of 1,500 kilometers, but it should worry the Europeans”.

“If anybody had a doubt, it is clear the Iranians are playing with fire”, he said.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported last week that Israel had agreed with the U.S. not to launch military strikes against Iran without giving the Obama administration advance notice of its intentions.

The U.S. has cited the alleged threat from Iran to justify a missile defense system in Europe that has antagonized Russia. A joint analysis by U.S. and Russian scientists, however, concluded that the system “would be ineffective against the kinds of missiles Iran is likely to deploy,” according to the Washington Post’s report on their analysis.

“The missile threat from Iran to Europe is thus not imminent,” the Post quoted the report as saying on Tuesday.

That’s quite the understatement. “And if Iran attempted such an attack, the experts say, it would ensure its own destruction”, the Post also noted.

Throughout the entire debate over the missile defense system, the question of why Iran would ever launch missile strikes against Europe has never been satisfactorily addressed, and the claim that it is designed to deter Iran, rather than that it is designed to contain Russia, as Russia itself fears, is difficult to take seriously.

The New York Times’ report on Iran’s launch asserted that it added “to concerns that Iran’s weapons-development program is fast outpacing the American-led diplomacy that President Obama has said he will let play out through the end of the year.”

The Times quoted the Obama administration’s top official for arms control and security, Gary Samore, who has been labeled by the media as Obama’s “weapons of mass destruction ‘czar’”, as expressing his hope that the administration “‘will be able to capitalize on this launch to strengthen our case’ on the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program.”

But the most blatant piece of propaganda in the Times‘ account followed its observation that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Iran has made progress on two of three technologies necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

“The first”, the Times states, “is enriching uranium to weapons grade, now under way at the large nuclear complex at Natanz.”

This statement goes beyond the boundaries of deceptive spin into the realm of outright lying. The IAEA, as already noted, has verified that Iran is enriching only low-grade uranium at Natanz, not weapons grade uranium as falsely claimed here by the Times.

Iran’s uranium has been enriched to less than 5 percent U-235, whereas it is necessary to enrich uranium to consist of 90 percent or more of the U-235 isotope in order to be able to produce a nuclear weapon.

“The second”, the Times continued, “is developing a missile capable of reaching Israel and parts of Western Europe,” again implying that Iran’s Sejil-2 missile might be related to nuclear weapons development.

The third technology is warhead design, which is the “greatest mystery” about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, according to the Times, which added, “Asked Wednesday whether he had seen additional evidence to indicate that the weaponization program had been restarted, Mr. Samore declined to comment.”

By using the adjective “additional”, the Times asserted as fact that there is evidence Iran had been working on a warhead design until 2003, when, according to a 2007 CIA National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iran halted its work on weaponization.

But the actual evidence supposedly backing this assessment has never been made public. The source for this claim is apparently a laptop computer that was obtained by U.S. intelligence that allegedly belonged to an Iranian scientist and contained documents showing Iran’s work on technology related to weaponization.

Only a select number of these documents have been handed over to the IAEA, which refers to them in its reports as “the alleged studies” and which has so far been unable to verify their authenticity. Iran claims that the documents are forgeries.

The U.S. used fabricated documents during the run-up to the Iraq war in an effort to bolster its claim that Saddam Hussein had attempted to obtain yellowcake uranium from Africa.

The Times fails to discern between an assessment and actual evidence, a mistake it should have learned after its atrocious reporting prior to the invasion of Iraq, when it helped to propagate false claims about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

In that case, intelligence estimates similarly claimed that Iraq possessed WMD, but such assessments were not backed by any credible evidence and the CIA was forced to acknowledge after the invasion that Iraq had unilaterally destroyed its undeclared WMD in 1991.

Jeremy R. Hammond is the Editor of Foreign Policy Journal, an online source for news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy from outside the standard framework as defined by political officials and the mainstream corporate media. His articles have also been featured and cited in numerous other print and online publications. He has appeared in interviews on the GCN radio network and on Press TV’s Middle East Today program.

Biopiracy, GM Seeds & Rural India

Biopiracy, GM Seeds and Rural India

by Priya Kumar

Go To Original


The reality for the average Indian remains the same: agricultural cultivation and the ability to farm is the bedrock of rural living. With its historical practices, values, and communal sentiments of respect, cultivation and the practice of farming has embedded roots. Farming for Indians is not only a source of income – it is a source of culture and identity. Since the late 1990s however, Indian governmental officials have wilfully compromised this sentiment for the ‘bright lights’ associated with the West.

After over a decade of trade liberalization and free market reforms, mainstream economic development has left rural India to fend for itself. Amidst great levels of industrialization and growth, the vast majority of Indians have been left behind. Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for some 70% of Indians[1].Considering the fact that only 1% of Americans and 2-3% of Europeans derive their livelihood from agriculture, this is a huge level of dependence[2].

India’s desire to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the adoption of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs) specifically has compromised the livelihood of farmers. With the adoption of such neo-liberal policies, the sovereignty of rural India has been threatened. TRIPs in particular has created a gateway for agro-business conglomerates to engage in biopiracy and GM seed monopolization, effectively marginalizing rural communities. Through the manipulation of intellectual property rights (IPRs), conglomerates such as Monsanto have put rural farmers on the defensive. This paper highlights the manipulative nature and destabilizing affects of patents, IPRs and agro-business conglomerates in the context of rural India. Special focus is placed upon the infamous Basmati rice case, and Bt cotton, the first GM seed made available to Indian farmers.

Through these case studies, this paper will illustrate both the intent and impact of agro-business conglomerates and the associated costs incurred by farmers. Centuries of indigenous knowledge, tradition cultivation practises and sharing techniques are being compromised. Many farmers have lost their right to cultivate and control the agricultural production cycle. As a result, farmers increasingly find themselves indebt, disempowered and most alarming, suicidal. With approximately one in every four farmers globally being Indian, the rural lifestyle – the cultural origins of India are being threatened[3]. Agro-business conglomerates are promoting a cycle of dependence, which, if not stopped will carry with it disastrous affects for the entire country.

Key Events and Considerations in History

From its colonial roots to present day, India’s history is chequered with multiple patent law structures and IPR debates. Dating back to 1852, under British rule, India adopted (unwillingly so), a specific patent-like structure within its legislative structure[4]. For rural India, these imposed patent laws represented the limits of their control over their resources. Overall, this marginalization became one of the sources for mobilization movements for independence and autonomy. In terms of IPR law, the 1911 Patent Act is regarded by many a crucial document which spearheaded the desire for emancipation and independence from the British[5].

From the time of independence in 1947, up until the 1960s, agricultural development was not a major focus for public debate. Rather, the population was still coming to terms with what it meant to be a sovereign state in the context of global affairs. It was only with the threat of famine in 1961 and severe droughts in 1965 and 1966 that officials recognized the agricultural hardships that plagued rural populations[6].These hardships provided a justification for both the World Bank and the US to enter India with the promise of “miracle seeds”, assistance and price incentives[7]. These “miracle seeds” were actually hybrid seeds, and resulted in huge yields of food grains. Indeed, the Green Revolution had entered India, and with it came an entirely new concept: non-organic farming.

During the late 1960s, debates focused on finding an appropriate balance between public interest, rural agriculture and India’s desire to develop and industrialize at a steady pace. The 1970 India Patent Act internalized these debates. Critical questions emerged with regards to India’s interest in limiting patent monopoly, promoting societal creativity, and stable rural agricultural production[8].

The Patent Act was hailed as a fair balance between investor and consumer interests, as it promoted industrial growth in an unrestrictive manner[9].Plants and animals were restricted, so that they could not be patented, moreover food products, chemical inventions and drugs were eligible for only process patents[10].Patents were deemed to be valid for 7 years after their date of application[11].In terms of agricultural IPR legislation, and to the benefit of majority of Indians the 1970 Patent Act is regarded to be extremely restrictive[12]. However, this all changed as India entered a new phase of economic liberalization, in the hopes of being embraced as a viable international trading partner.

In response to the balance of payment crisis, the New Economic Policy of 1991 (NEP 1991) introduced major changes in India[13].With an emphasis on liberalization, privatization, and the overall globalization of national economic structures NEP 1991 meant a fundamental change for agriculture[14].Reform policies were fixated upon enterprise expansion, and as a result,agricultural communities since then have continued to suffer. To this day, agricultural development policy, necessary for sustainable industrialization within rural Indian communities, remains absent. With an increased desire to ‘catch-up’ to international economic powerhouses, deep-rooted industries such as the agricultural sector have taken for granted since 1991. The complete abandonment of rural India has been facilitated by the openness associated with NEP 1991. This process has been exacerbated through India’s hoop jumping into the WTO.

Transformation through TRIPs

The transition to the WTO from the GATT marks a crucial time when the rights and sovereignty of rural communities in developing countries was institutionally compromised. This has been accepted by officials as a consequence of increased international economic engagement. In comparison to the WTO, the GATT provided countries with far more freedom to develop and follow their own IPR laws. The GATT was not specific with regards to patent law. A key distinguishing factor of the WTO is the TRIPs agreement. In order for countries to be accepted as members of the WTO, they must adhere to all of its laws, including those of TRIPs. Thus, in order to be given clearance to join the WTO, countries had to amend any national patent law that contradicts TRIPs[15].

India signed into the WTO in 1995 and has since taken many steps forward to be fully embraced by the international community as an excellent trading partner[16]. Since 1 January 1995 for example, India’s Patent Office has been accepting all applications for agro-chemical invention product patents[17].However, this process of patent reformation was not a smooth process. A constant criticism of developing countries has been that they have taken far too long to adopt TRIPs. India’s sluggish TRIPs adoption process was criticized by the U.S, who took action by notifying the WTO. In 1998 the WTO publicly ruled that India’s failure to fully amend its patent law was in violation of TRIPs, and was overall illegal[18].

In response to such criticisms, the Indian government has undergone multiple IPR legislative changes, the first of which being the 1999 Patent(Amendment)Act[19].This was a serious legislative amendment, as exclusionary clauses of product patents in areas of food, drugs and medicine were removed[20].Moreover, in order to be fully recognized by the WTO, Indian officials altered IPR legislation to allow for the patenting of life forms, living organism derivatives, gene patents and components[21]. National IPR law had to also be changed to allow for patents to be valid for 20 years[22]. Reforms took place again in 2002 and by 2005; India was officially following conditions of TRIPs.

The balanced approach of the 1970 Patent Act has been forever lost. India’s desire to become a member of the WTO has come at a very high price: its legislative sovereignty. However, this loss of autonomy has meant a gain for some, namely the U.S. TRIPs has essentially globalized the American understanding of IPR law[23]. The institutional weakness of countries such as India, along with the desire to engage in global trade has capped sovereign thought. TRIPs has put a limit on the capacity to effectively ensure biodiversity, and provide both basic medicine and food to populations[24].

In the context of agricultural cultivation techniques, TRIPs has institutionalized a predictable scheme of ‘winners and losers’. Specifically, powerful countries such as the U.S have the knowledge and resources to use TRIPs and IPR law to their advantage. Moreover, such advantages have allowed for western based agro-business conglomerates such as Monsanto to benefit as well. To the dismay of rural farmers, Indian governmental infrastructure cannot effectively compete with the west. Moreover, in some cases government officials have often taken a stance of ‘benign neglect’ due to the severity of negative externalities emerging from IPR conflicts. The innovations and seed developments of rural India were once priceless – this is no longer the case.

Case Studies – Basmati Rice & Bt Cotton

The following case studies were selected on the premise that they best highlight the self-serving and manipulative nature of agro-business conglomerates. TRIPs has provided the legal apparatus necessary to ‘legitimately’ engage in biopiracy and seed monopolization. In the context of IPR, India’s only other option would be to formally leave the WTO, which for its industrialists and the most powerful is not an option. The actions and techniques of agro-business conglomerates have not gone unnoticed. As, in the words of Vandana Shiva, both conglomerates and TRIPs are “not just for new inventions but for the knowledge of our grandmothers”[25].

The Case of Basmati Rice

Basmati rice, known for its aroma and long grains has its origins in the Indian subcontinent[26].Across the world, these special rice grains are a staple of South Asian cuisine and history. Basmati meaning “queen of fragrance” and “fragrant Earth” is embedded in Indian folklore and religious practices, in which they often symbolizing growth[27].According to Haryana Agricultural University, one of the earliest references to the rice was made in poet Varis Shah’s 1776 Heer Ranjha[28].There are approximately 27 distinct documented varieties of Basmati rice[29]. These varieties cover 10-15% of the total rice cultivation area within the county[30]. Geographically speaking, the cultivation of Basmati is partial to the lands of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh[31].Collectively, Indian grows approximately 650,000 tonnes annually,400,000-500,000 tonnes of which are exported[32].With an embedded history and economic ties to specific regions, it is interesting how an agro-business conglomerate could ever mistakenly question the origins of Basmati.

Biopiracy “refers to the use of intellectual property systems to legitimize the exclusive ownership and control over biological resources and biological products and processes that have been used over centuries in non-industrialized culture”[33].

On 2 September 1997, Texas based RiceTec Inc. was granted patent number 5663484, for the genetic lines of Basmati rice, by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO)[34].Immediately, RiceTec began to develop hybrids using various blends of Basmati. Promoted as an, ‘American type of Basmati rice’, RiceTec developed a new plant variety cross between American long-grain and Basmati[35].

Criticism from Indian rice farmers logically ensued, as many were forced to pay royalties to the conglomerate[36].The production and cultivation of Basmati has with it a history dating back to centuries ago. For farmers, the grain is an entity that is constantly evolving. In the context of India, Basmati rice has always been considered a common resource dependant upon word of mouth knowledge and transfer. Using this logic, RiceTec alleged that the ‘Basmati’ name was in public domain, and that by patenting it; they were in actuality protecting its name and origins[37]. RiceTec soon came out with hybrid versions: Kasmati, Texmati, Jasmati, which for rural farmers clearly illustrated the profit based interest of the conglomerate[38]. Through its acquisition, RiceTec patented some 22 varieties of the rice[39].One of which being Basmati 867, a rice grain which was very similar to original Basmati but was advertised to have a less chalky more refined taste[40].With the livelihood of approximately 250,000 farmers in jeopardy, the Indian government finally reacted[41].

In April of 2000 Indian officials publicly pleaded with USPTO to review the RiceTec Basmati case, as Indian exports were beginning to be threatened[42].Government officials were armed with hundreds of pages of scientific data proving that the distinguishing characteristics of RiceTec’s rice were also found in Basmati[43]. Moreover, the use of the name ‘Basmati’ itself was misleading for customers considering that the product was a hybrid grain[44].The name ‘Basmati’ carries with it a reputation of culinary excellence, and RiceTec was benefiting from it. Under Article 23 of the TRIPs agreement,using words such as “kind”, “type”, and “style” is illegal, and RiceTec had used such words numerous times in advertising schemes[45].

Moreover, considering the geographical indicators clause of TRIPs, the entire process of approval and acquisition of RiceTec’s Basmati patent can be deemed to be illegal. Article 22 of the TRIPs agreement, (the geographical indicator clause) prohibits the use of both direct and indirect uses of a goods geographical origin[46].In this respect, Basmati is to the India what Champagne is to France, part of the regional identity.

On 14 August 2001 USPTO overturned a large amount of claims held under Patent No.5663484[47]. Amidst great public scrutiny and criticism, RiceTec lost the right to use the ‘Basmati like’ advertising slogan. At the discretion of USPTO, out of 20 Basmati patent claims, 15 were withdrawn[48].RiceTec was able to keep their Indian-American hybrids Texmati, Jasmati and Kasmati[49].To the dismay and outrage of citizens and farmers, after the patent withdrawals, the Indian government publicly stated they were very satisfied and wished to drop all other charges.

Overall, the most appalling aspect of this infamous case is not the manipulative nature of RiceTec. Rather it is the lack of immediate government response. As previously stated, officials only became concerned after Basmati exports were felt to be in jeopardy. The overstretching nature of patent No.5663484 was not really a concern for Indian officials. It was only when citizen groups filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) claim to the Supreme Court, that the Government of India were compelled to act against RiceTec[50].Moreover, the claims made to USPTO against RiceTec, concentrated on the actual Basmati grain (exports) and neglected areas of seed and plant biopiracy[51].Unfortunately, the concerns and losses incurred by rural farmers were not a concern for officials. The 15 withdrawn patent claims granted by USPTO are the result of many letters contesting the patent, citizen protests and large-scale rural movements[52].

Understanding Basmati Biopiracy

Vandana Shiva makes it clear, that yes “[w]e have won the Basmati biopiracy battle, though the war for defence of farmers' rights, indigenous knowledge and biodiversity still needs to be won”[53]. Although the battle for Basmati rice is in relative terms, over, there remains a great amount of uncertainty as to how such a blatant act of piracy could occur with minimal opposition from officials. Beyond biopiracy,RiceTec’s Basmati patent is a case of resource piracy as a natural resource (Basmati rice) was taken from a specific country without any sort of granted permission or public recognition[54]. It is a case of economic piracy as RiceTec used the term ‘Basmati’, to advertise their hybrid rice, in the hopes of appealing to customers looking for an aromatic product similar to the original Basmati[55].Finally, it was a case of both intellectual and cultural piracy as RiceTec through its acquisition of Basmati, patented a key heritage piece of rice producing rural communities without permission[56].

Based upon the above legal inconsistencies, it is clear that the TRIPs agreement promotes a rather unfair, biased one-sided pro West framework. Developing countries like India have the choice of either conforming, and as result turning the blind eye on their population, or being blacklisted from international organizations. In the face of trade, Indian officials have consistently chosen to deny their population of basic sovereign rights. The externalities of which threaten the core characteristics of what it means to be a farmer in a rural Indian agricultural community.

The severity of RiceTec’s biopiracy cannot be underestimated, as the conglomerate was claiming to have invented the physical characteristics of Basmati such as the plant height and grain length[57].By claiming ownership of the rice plant itself, RiceTec was directly threatening rural farming communities. Throughout centuries of development, Indian farmers have produced some 200,000 varieties of rice[58].Therefore, if RiceTec were to own the Basmati rice plant itself the autonomy and ability of farmers to engage in common sharing techniques, (a fundamental of rural communities), would be compromised. To the dismay of farmers, in the eyes of both IPR law, and the TRIPs agreement, it would be considered illegal to share cultivation techniques. “Of all the IPRs contained in the TRIPs agreement, the patents provisions may be the most significant in terms of economic implications, especially for developing countries”[59]. For rural farmers, patents stand to compromise what is known as ‘the commons’.

Agricultural knowledge and cultivation techniques passed down from older generations carry with them inherent seed adaptations and innovations[60].Therefore, any sort of seed patenting is limiting indigenous common knowledge. The ability to work the land and use the surrounding environment is compromised for monopolistic like conglomerate seed promotion. Biodiversity is inherently threatened, as farmers no longer have the rights to freely work their crop. Moreover, agro-business conglomerates have no real responsibility to ensure that farmers from developing countries are taken care of[61].Ultimately, governing bodies are held responsible for their rural populations, and in the case of India, this is not being done. Indeed, with concerns over export levels, official did intervene and put an end to RiceTec’s overarching patent.

Institutional Realities

Marginalization and destabilization of rural Indian farmers has been institutionalized through the acceptance of TRIPs. Moreover, all previous “equitable benefit sharing” as envisioned by the UN Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) have been permanently undermined[62].Taking place in 1992, in the Rio de Janeiro the CBD advocates for conservation, sharing and state sovereignty over resources[63].Promoted primarily by developing countries like India, the CBD attempts to integrate and protect indigenous traditional knowledge. Concretely, the CBD called for the sovereign rights of rural resources[64].

Developing countries take particular issue with the TRIPs agreement’s lack of prior art protection. Many calls have been made for complete disclosure in the context of granting patents based on novelty (Article 27.1)[65].Opponents of TRIPs advocate for an amendment, which would institutionalize a prior art clause forcing patent applicants to divulge full information and history of their ‘innovation’[66]. The support of such an amendment has sparked much controversy, and in the name of traditional knowledge, many developing countries have remained fearless in their pursuits.

This however has not been the case for governing Indian officials. In fact, continuous efforts have been made to further integrate with international economic powerhouses such as the U.S. The U.S is the number one supporter of TRIPs and does not advocate in any way for the CBD[67]. Furthermore, due to the fact that the CBD is a framework and not legally binding per say, TRIPs has continued to remain a priority for developing countries that wish to gain international economic acceptance.

In an effort to conform to TRIPs, in 2001 India enacted the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act (PVP)[68].To allow for plant breeder’s rights (PBR), a community gene fund was set up however it has since been cut, only to resurface as a responsibility of the Biological Diversity Act[69]. The lack of care for rural communities is evident in the inability of governing officials to fully set up an agricultural policy to the benefit of farmers. Although PBR promotes seed saving, exchange and selling, seed varieties must be protected[70].In reality most rural farmers do not have the resources to legally protest their varieties. Moreover, such an imposition of a legal structure debilitates the fundamentals of common knowledge exchange. In fact, PBR, as a legal apparatus is ensuring the rights of large-scale breeders, not small-scale farmers.

As illustrated in the above case analysis of Basmati rice, Indian officials have not been entirely negligent. However, the social realities spawning from GM seed has been consistently avoided. This is especially visible when considering the affects of Bt cotton, as discussed below.

The Case of BT Cotton

Prior to colonization, cotton was traded in the Indus Valley as mainly a Luxury good[71].It was only in the 19th century, after colonization that cotton cultivation followed a more mass production like structure[72]. Multiple attempts have been made by various outside actors (namely the British and agro-business conglomerates) to standardize cultivation techniques. In the 1970s, through the introduction of hybrid cottonseeds, the reality for rural farming communities has continuously been characterized by a struggle for sovereignty and control.

Cotton production is a staple of the Indian agricultural economy. Some 7 million farmers depend on the crop for sustainable living, and overall 21% of all cotton produced globally comes from India[73].However, cotton is a very expensive crop to cultivate. Over half of India’s total pesticides (40,000 tonnes) are used in the upkeep of cotton cropland[74]. The prices of inputs such as pesticides have continued to increase. Average expenditure for cotton crop pesticides has increased from Rs. 99 per acre (1972-3) to Rs. 5,934 per acre(1996-7)[75]. For agro-business conglomerates, the related expenses of cotton production are the ideal platform to sell, innovate, and develop their seed monopolies.

Conglomerates have taken advantage of the hardships associated with cotton production, and in the context of India, uneducated desperate rural communities who are merely looking to improve their standards of living are at their mercy. Rural India has been duped. Specifically, the introduction of Bt cotton has compromised the sense of sovereignty felt by farmers and completely destabilized rural communities. It is estimated that in only one growing season, Bt cotton with its massive failures costs farmers a total of Rs. 1.3 billion, over 105,000 acres[76]. The self-serving nature of conglomerates is fully visible when considering the exploitive and destabilizing effects Bt cotton has had on rural India.

Monsanto developed Bt cotton in 1995; the plant was genetically engineered to include insecticide to fight the common bollworm[77]. The seed includes toxins, which Monsanto alleges will reduce costs for farmers. In 1998 Monsanto began a series of Bt cotton trial tests in India, albeit illegally[78].Monsanto did not apply for trial testing clearance, and was not given any sort of formal approval to conduct studies on rural land. Thus from its origins, in the eyes of scorned farmers, Monsanto’s “concern” for rural communities is an outright facade.

After going public with the results of their trial tests, Monsanto promoted Bt cotton as the perfect cost-cutting crop for rural India. It was claimed that yield output would increase to 3,300 pounds per acre[79].Moreover, Bt cotton would need to be sprayed approximately 2.6 times less then both organic and hybrid cotton[80].Even though inputs were more expensive, the genetically engineered seed would be sprayed sparingly, ultimately reducing the cost of cultivation by 30% to 40% at least[81]. With promises of higher yields and lower costs, the Indian government officially approved three Bt cotton hybrids (MECH 12, MECH 162, MECH 184)for clearance in 2002[82].

This clearance was given to Monsanto in conjunction with the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), which conveniently enough, Monsanto has a 26% stake in[83].Bt cotton was the first GM seed to be given clearance by the Indian government and is now viewed as the example of how agro-business conglomerates impact vulnerable rural communities. As highlighted below, pockets of rural Indian communities have been completely marginalized to the point of despair due to crop failure, resulting in unfathomable consequences.

The “success” of Bt cotton is a fabrication by Monsanto-Mahyco. It is unrealistic to assume that such conglomerates would publish data that contradicted their associated financial interests of seed monopolization. A 2004 Monsanto study predictably claimed Bt cotton to considerably improve cotton farmer crop yields returns. The countrywide study claimed that yields increased by 58% resulting in an increase in farmer incomes by 60%[84]. Just two years prior, (23 October to 2 November 2002), the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) undertook a survey study in the attempts to highlight the real affects of Bt cotton on yields. Firstly, it was discovered that in reality bollworm pests attacked Bt crop far more often than compared to simple hybrid and organic cotton crops[85].Secondly, the claim of 3,300 pounds of yield per acre was never realized,with the highest yield being 880 pounds per acre[86]. Finally, the RFSTE survey concluded that organic and hybrid cotton producing rural communities produced an average yield of 1,000 pounds per acre[87].

The Cycle of Destabilization

Once Bt cotton is planted, the cycle of systematic destabilization begins, and not much can be done at that point to mitigate the losses that will soon be incurred by the farmer. Conglomerates are aware of the domino like effect Bt cotton can have within rural communities. Nearly, 90% of all bollworm larvae leave the fields[88].Cross-pollination is inevitable, and is a preferred tactic to gain new “customers”. Bt crop is supposed to be surrounded by a 5 row deep sanitary organic band, essentially producing a cultivation ratio of 80:20[89].Many farmers are unaware of this principle, as conglomerates stand to gain new business from cross-pollination mistakes and do not fully divulge GM cultivation techniques. In 2004, Bt cotton crop occupied 1.3 million acres of Indian land, approximately 7% of the total land allocated to cotton production[90].By 2006, Bt cotton cropland had increased to almost 3.8 hectares[91].

Even though it is a serious problem for farmers, not all increases can be attributed to cross-pollination. In promoting Bt, the rhetoric used by Monsanto is extremely enticing. Advertising campaigns often use notable public figures that appeal to the public, especially rural farmers. The promise of less input costs has been the primary means through which Bt cotton has gained government support and approval. As a result, the utter failure of the crop is a major surprise for governing bodies, which, at the present time do not know how to react.

Resistance & Crop Failure

Monsanto has publicly admitted that resistance levels of the genetic pesticides in Bt seeds do wear down after the first few harvested seasons [92].The failure of Bt cotton in this sense is real, and depending upon the farmer, can lead to multiple negative consequences. At the most basic level,all farmers incur the financial cost of the actual seed. This is significant considering that Bt cotton seeds are approximately four times more expensive then both organic and hybrid seeds[93]. Also, with the purchase of the Bt seed farmers must give up the right to harvest their own seed, which they have evolved over the years.

This is why Bt cotton is especially debilitating, by giving up their indigenous cottonseed; the farmer becomes locked into a cycle of agro-business conglomerate dependence. Farmers have limited control over the Bt seed, as the cycle of production becomes more of a scientific chemical mixing game. Bt cotton cropland is sprayed as many as 30 times a year due to increased bollworm resistance[94].Such an increased level of chemical use has killed off many natural ‘enemies’ of bollworm pests including certain wasp and spider species[95].It took some $500 million (U.S) to develop specific pesticides that fight the bollworm pest, and it took only 5 years to develop resistant bollworms[96].

Moreover, such a high level of bollworm resistance has allowed for other sucking pests, such as spider mites, leaf hoppers and beet worms to increasingly attack Bt cotton fields[97]. The Bt pesticide does not have the genetic characteristics to effectively fight off these pests. Thus, farmers are forced to purchase inputs in the form of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides on a continuous basis. Bt cotton has developed a cyclical like purchasing scheme where farmers constantly have to salvage their crop through inputs. This has put majority of Bt cotton farmers in debt, as they cannot afford the endless array of necessary inputs. If they do not upkeep their crop, their livelihood is threatened, resulting in greater poverty and conglomerate dependence. With the interest rate of loans between 36% and 50%, farmers in these communities are increasingly becoming indebted[98]. These loans are not coming from officials; rather they are from private rural lenders and agro-business conglomerates.

The above has been disastrous within India’s entire cotton belt, however due to biophysical realities, it has severely affected the states of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Maharashtra. In the case of AP, cropland has not reacted well to the genetic characteristics of Bt. Non GM seeds need approximately 3,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of crop, anything else (including Bt seed) needs at least 5,000 litres of water to produce one kilo[99]. AP often suffers from drought, and as a result, Bt cotton crops within the state has caused massive destabilization.

Bt Cotton farmers in AP spray fields more often, have lower yields and as a result obtain less profit then farmers in other states. All three approved Bt cotton varieties have not been able to survive and overcome the extreme nature of AP droughts[100]. In 2003, Mr. V.S Rao, Agricultural Minister of AP commented that in the case of Bt cotton, “farmers have not experienced very positive and encouraging results”[101].Cotton from Bt fields is characteristically very dry and small, and produces low levels of crop yield, ultimately limiting its market value[102].

Moreover, AP farmers cannot afford to properly irrigate Bt cotton crops, further diminishing their returns. With lower associated income returns, AP cotton farmers are more likely to fall into debt because no matter what, they must purchase the necessary inputs if they wish to sustain the Bt cotton crop. Roughly 80% of all loans given to AP farmers come from non-official sources[103].These third parties, spare nothing, and benefit from the fragile nature of rural farmers. For many farmers, Bt cotton is truly a nightmare with no real end in sight. The despair felt by these farmers has manifested itself in both increased levels of debt and most alarming, increased levels of suicide.

Farmer suicides in AP have increased after Bt cotton was both approved and promoted by governing officials. The financial stress associated with Bt cotton, has indeed been grave. Moreover, with the adoption of such GM seeds and subsequent failure, many rural farmers have increasingly felt deep remorse. This sentiment of loss is a result of much regret associated with leaving cultural farming techniques, which carried with a sense of community and family[104]. The loss of control over crop in both the indebted and sovereign sense is simply too much for many farmers.

A similar trend is visible in Maharastra, which is home to some 3.2 million cotton farmers[105]. Farmers using Bt cottonseeds have continuously complained of wilting crops[106]. Better known as ‘rot root’, Bt cotton is not accustom to the biophysical environment of many regions in India. Moreover, in all cases of Bt failure, farmers have been unable to compensate for the natural environment in which they are cultivating the seed. The scientific regulatory environment needed for successful Bt returns, in reality is not feasible for farmers who are used to working their land. This frustration has taken its toll on farmers. The state has confirmed that over 200 farmer suicides occurred between July 2005 and February 2006 alone[107]. As in the case of AP, many of these farmers were indebted. Some 60% of the farmers who took their lives during this time were indebted, between $110 and $550 dollars[108].

Insect-resistant seeds such as Bt cotton are the only transgenic varieties, which have been widely adopted by small-scale farmers[109].Moreover, some 75% of cultivatable Indian land exists in dry areas[110]. There exists a large population of rural farmers who are experiencing problems with Bt cotton crop, due to their reliance on natural rainfall. For conglomerates and respective shopkeepers, they are the perfect demographic. This is exacerbated by the fact that these farmers have minimal control over their land. Rural farmers have experienced a “deskilling” of cultivation techniques, which carries with it severe social and ecological consequences [111].The cultural importance of knowledge sharing is being lost to scientific IPRs. Due to the rule-based scientific formula techniques of cultivation associated with GM seeds like Bt cotton farmers can no longer work their land. Through massive debts and depression, GM seeds such as Bt cotton have increased levels of rural bankruptcy and suicide[112].

Movements Against Destabilization

Overall, since 1997 over 100,000 farmers have committed suicide nationally – 86.5% of which carried an average debt of $835[113]. The Indian government has continuously attributed these suicides to mental illnesses and domestic problems, effectively avoiding the epidemic[114].This level of despair must be addressed, as the consequences are becoming increasingly burdensome for rural inhabitants.

The majority of rural Indian farmers inherit small and median scale farms and small and marginal farmers account for over 70% of all Indian farmers [115].India has a patriarchal system and men are the head of the household. The majority of individuals who take their lives are male, who through their actions leave the responsibility of an entire family to the eldest female. As in the aftermath of the suicide, remaining family members carry the burden of the unpaid load. If the loan cannot be paid the farm is shamefully confiscated by third party lenders[116]. Under a great deal of harassment, loans may be paid off, in which case children characteristically must drop out of school, and work to gain income [117].The widow’s burden has been the source of much social upheaval in rural communities.

In response to such devastation, many social movements have emerged in hopes of mitigating the damaging effects agri-business conglomerates in conjunction with IPR manipulation have had. Self Reliance Education and Employment (SEEE), is one of these movements. SEEE, mainly focuses upon the outward mobility of rural women, who are most severely impacted by suicide. Some 25,000 women from impoverished rural communities have received vocational training in hopes of moving beyond the despair associated with farming[118]. The Navdanya, a seed movement promoted by Vandana Shiva is another example of rural community mobilization in the face of farm failures. Navdanya, focuses upon protecting Indian seed biodiversity, and has over 16 community seed banks in place in over 6 Indian states[119].Patent law is treated as an illegal entity[120]. Again, moving beyond the status quo, a focus is placed upon ensuring that the rights of farmers are maintained.

With the above crisis in mind, it appears as though the government has abandoned rural populations. A weak institutional framework has left minimal outlets of recourse for farmers. The Indian government has continuously compromised rural populations for the industrial benefits they have realized through the ‘free markets’ associated with both NEP 1991 and the WTO. Liberalization has forced farmers to “distress sale” tactics, and most worrisome, has pushed many inhabitants to work outside rural communities[121]. It is estimated that by 2020, some 70% of Tamil Nadu, 65% of Punjab, and 55% of Uttar Pradesh migration will come from rural communities[122]. These, agricultural refugees 400 million strong, are a reality which governing officials will have to address[123]. The majority of the industrial growth taking place in India is concentrated in urban centres. This growth will be seriously undermined if rural communities continue to be neglected.

Concluding Remarks

The above case studies highlight the manipulative nature of both agro-business conglomerates and current realities of IPR law. Developing countries such as India have few options; either comply with international agreements like TRIPs and engage in forward moving trade at the cost of rural communities or be blacklisted from the WTO for not following prerequisites of open borderless free markets needed for enrolment. Indian officials have chosen the latter, which has altered seed production from a need driven agricultural cycle to a supply and profit driven industry. This industrialization of agricultural production has stripped away the identity associated with indigenous farming and rural communities – the idea of rural self-sufficiency has been compromised[124].

This paper has highlighted the real abilities of agro-business conglomerates such as Monsanto, Mahyco and RiceTec, who are relentless in their desire to gain control and monopolize rural communities. These attempts are both explicit, as visible in the case of Basmati rice and implicit, as visible in the case of Bt cotton. Common themes emerge from both of the above case studies, which effectively characterize the harsh consequences incurred by rural Indian communities.

Thematically, the agricultural cycle of production is being destroyed. For farmers, it is no longer a right but a privilege to have the ability to grow a seed, harvest the crop, and sell the yield in a cyclical process. In the case of Basmati, there is a third party royalty fee to be paid in order to even access the ability to grow the seed. Historical knowledge, family recipes and cultivation skills were no match for the legal apparatus working in favour of RiceTec. Thousands of years of culture has been threatened within a few years, and so easily, with minimal recourse. In the case of Bt cotton, the freedom to grow a seed with bare hands was capped due to scientific genetic patents.

The right to produce has been manipulated by agro-business conglomerates leaving farmers with a limited capacity to autonomously control the agricultural production cycle. IPR structures have fuelled the increase in economic growth and investment levels within India. Conglomerates are spending some $7 billion a year on research and development[125]. By 2004, Monsanto alone had applied for a total of over 70 patents in India [126]. Such high levels of investment make it clear that there is no real solution or conclusion in sight.

Until governing officials both domestically and internationally take a step back to realize the disastrous effects IPR law has had on rural communities, change will be hard coming. Amidst great industrial development potential, rural India is the loser. These losses threaten sovereignty, income, biodiversity, culture, community and the very identity of the average Indian[127].


[1]Bhargava, Pushpa M., (2002), “GMOs: Need for Appropriate Risk
Assessment System”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 15, 1402.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Shiva, Vandana, (2000), Stolen Harvest, the Hijacking of the Global
Food Supply, South End Press, Cambridge Mass, 7.
[4] Dasgupta, Biplab, (1999), “Patent Lies and Latent Danger: A Study of
the Political Economy of Patent in India”, Economic and Political Weekly,
Vol. 34, No. 16/17, 980.
[5] Shiva, Vandana, (2001b), Protect or Plunder? Understanding
Intellectual Property Rights, Cox & Wyman, Reading United Kingdom, 104.
[6]United Nations, International Farmer Suicide Crisis, 5.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Shiva 2001b, 104.
[9]Shiva 2001b, 7.
[10] Rai, Saritha, (2001), “India-U.S. Fight on Basmati Rice is Mostly
Settled”, The New York Times.
[11] United Nations, (1997), “The TRIPS agreement and developing
countries” United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, prepared by
UNCTAD Secretariat, New York, 24.
[12] Ramanna, Anitha, (2005), “Bt Cotton and India's Policy on IPRs”,
Asian Biotechnology and Development Review, Special Issue on Biotechnology
and Intellectual Property Rights, Vol. 7 No 2, 44.
[13] Ahluwalia, Montek S, (2002), “Economic Reforms in India Since 1991:
Has Gradualism Worked?”, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 16,
No.3, 2.
[14] Moni, Madaswamy, “Impact of economic reforms on Indian Agricultural
Sector: Application of geomatics technology to reduce marginalisation and
vulnerability of small farmers in India”, National Informatics Centre,
Ministry of Information Technology, New Delhi, 1 – 2.
[15] Dasgupta, 981
[16]Shiva, Vandana, (2005), India Divided, Diversity and Democracy Under
Attack, Seven Stories Press, New York, 83.
[17]United Nations, (1997), “The TRIPS agreement and developing
countries”, 24.
[18] Shiva 2000, 89.
[19] Shiva 2001b, 105-5.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22]United Nations, (1997), “The TRIPS agreement and developing
countries”, 30.
[23] Shiva 2001b, 3.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Rao, M.B and Guru, Manjula, (2003), Understanding TRIPS: Managing
Knowledge in Developing Countries, New Delhi, Response Books; Thousand
Oaks CA, Sage Publications, 134.
[27] Jamil, Uzma, (1998), “Biopiracy: The Patenting of Basmati by
RiceTec”, Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy-South
Asia & Sustainable Development Policy Institute.
[28] Shiva 2001b, 56.
[29] Shiva 2000, 85.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Basmati Case Study, Trade Environmental Database, American University
[32] Shiva 2001b, 56.
[33] Shiva 2001b, 49.
[34] Shiva 2001b, 57.
[35] Rao and Guru, 134.
[36] Shiva 2001b, 57.
[37] Rao and Guru, 134.
[38] Shiva 2000, 85.
[39] Canada. International Development Research Centre, Viewpoints.
[40] Jamil, Uzma, (1998), “Biopiracy: The Patenting of Basmati by RiceTec”.
[41] Shiva 2000, 86.
[42]Rai, Saritha, (2001), “India-U.S. Fight on Basmati Rice is Mostly
Settled”, The New York Times.
[44] Rao and Guru, 134.
[45] Ibid.
[46] United Nations, (1997), “The TRIPS agreement and developing
countries”, 9.
[47] Shiva, Vandana, (2001a), “The Basmati Battle And its Implications for
Biopiracy and Trips”, Centre for Research on Globalization.
[48]Rai, Saritha, (2001), “India-U.S. Fight on Basmati Rice is Mostly
Settled”, The New York Times.
[49] Shah, Anup, (2002) “Food Patents – Stealing Indigenous Knowledge?”
Genetically Engineered Food.
[50] Shiva, (2001a).
[51] Ibid.
[52] Ibid.
[53] Ibid.
[54] Shiva 2001b, 62.
[55] Ibid.
[56] Ibid.
[57] Shiva, (2001a).
[58] Shiva 2000, 7.
[59] Rao and Guru, 133.
[60] Shiva 2001b, 47.
[61]Herring, Ronald J., (2007), “Politics of Transgenic Property in India:
Biopiracy, Monopoly Power or Cottage Industry?”, 48th Annual Convention of
the International Studies Association, Feb 28 – Mar 3, Chicago, Illinois, 1.
[62] Rao and Guru, 160.
[63] Ibid.
[64] Utkarsh, Ghate et al., (1999), “Intellectual Property Rights on
Biological Resources: Benefiting from biodiversity and people’s
knowledge”, Current Science, 1420.
[65] Suppan, Steve, “Amending WTO intellectual property rules to prevent
bio-piracy and improve patent quality”, IATP Trade and Global Governance
[66] Ibid.
[67] Ibid.
[68] Ramanna, 45-6.
[69] Utkarsh, 1419.
[70] Ramanna, 49.
[71] Stone, Glenn Davis, (2004), “Biotechnology and the Political Ecology
of Information in India”, Human Organization, Vol. 63, No. 2, 131.
[73] Survival Struggle”, (2001), Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 36,
No. 40.
[74] Ibid.
[75] Shiva 2005, 96.
[76] Shiva 2005, 125.
[77] Shiva 2000, 99.
[78] Shiva 2005, 123.
[79] Shiva 2005, 125.
[80] Qaim, Matin et al., “Adoption of Bt Cotton and Impact Variability:
Insights from India”, Review of Agricultural Economics, Vol.28, No.1, 51.
[81] Sai, Y. V. S. T. and David, G. Shourie, (2002), “Bt Cotton: Farmers'
Reactions”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 46, 4601.
[82] Qaim, 49.
[83] “Genie out of the Bottle?”, (2001), Economic and Political Weekly,
Vol. 36, No. 45, 4237.
[84] Gala, Rhea, (2005), “India’s Bt Cotton Fraud”, Institute of Science
in Society.
[85] Shiva 2005, 124-5.
[86] Ibid.
[87] Shiva 2005, 125.
[88] “GM in India: the battle over Bt cotton”, (2006), Science and
Development Network.
[89] Rao and Guru, 164.
[90] Qaim, 49.
[91] Pehu, Eija and Ragasa, Catherine, (2007), “Agricultural Biotechnology
Transgenics in Agriculture and their Implications for Developing
Countries”, Background Paper for the World Development Report 2008, 7.
[92] Bhargava, 1402.
[93] Sai, 4602.
[94] “Survival Struggle”, Economic and Political Weekly.
[95] Ibid.
[96] “GM in India: the battle over Bt cotton”, (2006), Science and
Development Network.
[97] Shiva, V, and Jafri, A, (2003), “Failure of GMOs in India”, Research
Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
[98] Long, Jessica, (2007), “WTO Kills Farmers: India Free Market Reforms
Trigger Farmers’ Suicides”, Centre for Research on Globalization.
[99] Ibid.
[100] Pehu and Ragasa, 8-9.
[101] Shiva and Jafri, “Failure of GMOs in India”, Research Foundation for
Science, Technology and Ecology.
[102] Ibid.
[103] Gruère, Guillaume P. et al., (2008), “Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides
in India, Reviewing the Evidence”, International Food Policy Research
Institute, 36.
[104]United Nations, International Farmer Suicide Crisis, 4.
[105] Sahai, Suman, (2002), “Bt Cotton: Confusion Prevails”, Economic and
Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 21.
[106] Pehu and Ragasa, 9.
[107] Sahai, “Bt Cotton: Confusion Prevails”.
[108] Ibid.
[109] Pehu and Ragasa, 4.
[110] Long, “WTO Kills Farmers: India Free Market Reforms Trigger Farmers’
[111] Stone, 129.
[112] Shiva 2000, 101.
[113] United Nations, International Farmer Suicide Crisis, 11.
[114] Sahai, “Bt Cotton: Confusion Prevails”.
[115] Moni, 2.
[116] United Nations, International Farmer Suicide Crisis, 15
[117] Ibid.
[118]United Nations, International Farmer Suicide Crisis, 18.
[119] Shiva 2000, 3.
[120] Ibid.
[121] Moni, 2.
[122] Sharma, Devinder, (2007), “Displacing farmers: India Will Have 400
million Agricultural Refugees”, Centre for Global Research on
[123] Ibid.
[124] United Nations, International Farmer Suicide Crisis, 2.
[125] Shiva 2001b, 4-5.
[126] Ramanna, 45.


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Gradualism Worked?”, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 16, No.3.

Basmati Case Study, Trade Environmental Database, American University

Bhargava, Pushpa M., (2002), “GMOs: Need for Appropriate Risk Assessment
System”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 15.

Canada. International Development Research Centre, Viewpoints.

Dasgupta, Biplab, (1999), “Patent Lies and Latent Danger: A Study of the
Political Economy of Patent in India”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.
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Gala, Rhea, (2005), “India’s Bt Cotton Fraud”, Institute of Science in
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“Genie out of the Bottle?”, (2001), Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.
36, No. 45.

Gruère, Guillaume P. et al., (2008), “Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in
India, Reviewing the Evidence”, International Food Policy Research

“GM in India: the battle over Bt cotton”, (2006), Science and Development

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Moni, Madaswamy, “Impact of economic reforms on Indian Agricultural
Sector: Application of geomatics technology to reduce marginalisation and
vulnerability of small farmers in India”, National Informatics Centre,
Ministry of Information Technology, New Delhi.

Pehu, Eija and Ragasa, Catherine, (2007), “Agricultural Biotechnology
Transgenics in Agriculture and their Implications for Developing
Countries”, Background Paper for the World Development Report 2008.

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Insights from India”, Review of Agricultural Economics, Vol.28, No.1.

Rai, Saritha, (2001), “India-U.S. Fight on Basmati Rice is Mostly
Settled”, The New York Times.

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Intellectual Property Rights, Vol. 7 No 2.

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Loose Seeds and Risk in the Decision Matrix of Gujarati Cotton Farmers”,
Journal of Development Studies, Vol.43, No.1.

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Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 21.

Sai, Y. V. S. T. and David, G. Shourie, (2002), “Bt Cotton: Farmers'
Reactions”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 46.

Shah, Anup, (2002) “Food Patents – Stealing Indigenous Knowledge?”
Genetically Engineered Food.

Sharma, Devinder, (2007), “Displacing farmers: India Will Have 400 million
Agricultural Refugees”, Centre for Global Research on Globalization.

Shiva, Vandana, (2000), Stolen Harvest, the Hijacking of the Global Food
Supply, South End Press, Cambridge Mass.

Shiva, Vandana, (2001a), “The Basmati Battle And its Implications for
Biopiracy and Trips”, Centre for Research on Globalization.

Shiva, Vandana, (2001b), Protect or Plunder? Understanding Intellectual
Property Rights, Cox & Wyman, Reading United Kingdom.

Shiva, Vandana, (2005), India Divided, Diversity and Democracy Under
Attack, Seven Stories Press, New York.

Shiva, V, and Jafri, A, (2003), “Failure of GMOs in India”, Research
Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.

Stone, Glenn Davis, (2004), “Biotechnology and the Political Ecology of
Information in India”, Human Organization, Vol. 63, No. 2.

Suppan, Steve, “Amending WTO intellectual property rules to prevent
bio-piracy and improve patent quality”, IATP Trade and Global Governance

“Survival Struggle”, (2001), Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 36, No. 40.

United Nations, (1997), “The TRIPS agreement and developing countries”
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, prepared by UNCTAD
Secretariat, New York.

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Utkarsh, Ghate et al., (1999), “Intellectual Property Rights on Biological
Resources: Benefiting from biodiversity and people’s knowledge”, Current


Farmer suicides and Bt cotton area in Andhra Pradesh, 1997-2006

Figure 1.0 Gruère, Guillaume P. et al., (2008), "Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India, Reviewing the Evidence", International Food Policy Research Institute. pg 34.

Figure 1.1 The following is a simplified list of Monsanto’s Patent Applications