27 Jan 2011

Viva La Revolución

In 1990, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. Import of oil dropped by more than 50% - and that of food by 80%!

Cubans got desperate. But they soon got smart - and came up with a highly decentralised way to tackle the shortages. They grew their food everywhere they could - in backyards, on terraces and rooftops. In cities, towns and villages, people got together and came up with extremely low-tech solutions for problems.

The above video shows largely what finally took shape.

Now fast forward to 2011.

One of these days, it may be oil prices or hyper-inflation that spirals out of control, and leave people across the world with two options of how to react...

ONE WAY is the Cuban experience. It involves communities closing ranks, sticking their hands into the earth, and trying to help themselves by farming their way out of hunger.


The North Koreans were just as dependent on the Soviet Union, economically. But in early 1990s, the Koreans decided to wait for the central government to interve and come to the rescue.

It didn't.

And between 900,000 and 3.5 million people out of a population of about 22 million died from starvation and hunger-related illnesses!

Go on, watch the film. It's about 41 minutes long... But what we can learn from it could perhaps one day, give us back a lot more than just 41 minutes.

15 Jan 2011

Baingan ki jai!

"The verdict is out. Our good old indigenous, natural Brinjal has knocked out the BT Brinjal. After several public consultations held by Mr. Jairam Ramesh, a moratorium has been placed on the entry of BT Brinjal into the country.

It took a strong collective protest and rejection from lakhs of informed citizens, social groups, Scientists etc from across the country to finally send the message to the government. An important milestone in this battle against GM has been achieved.

Long live the Brinjal!"

That piece of good news come from iamnolabrat.com/

5 Jan 2011

Monsanto: The Seeds of Evil

This is Max Keiser on the Keiser Report on RussiaToday doing what he does. Giving you news and opinion straight - thankfully, undiluted by overt political correctness.

One of the subjects today is Monsanto in India. He mentioned something that stuck in my head. He said that India still has something of great value for the world: Culture. And that it needs to be "saved". How could dealing with one company be that bad?

The thing is that once you let this evil entity into your house, it will never go away. Last year, there was a bit of action spearheaded by Greenpeace against a GMO bill. I joined in the activism from my comfortable armchair and even signed an electronic petition against it. Unfortunately, I haven't checked if the bill went through.

One of the more sinister elements in that sell-out document, was a clause that made it illegal to "criticise" GMO technology! It sounded absurd and unimplementable back then... But back then I hadn't heard about the so-called 'Veggie Libel Laws' in some states in the U.S. And I hadn't seen the must-see documentary, Food Inc.

Well, besides the unpredictable effects of introducing Monsanto's Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in an ecology, there is the unbelievably monopolistic 'suicide' or 'terminator' (both are forms of death) seed technology. Max Keiser points out that in truth, it represents a kind of Food Debt. A debt that you can never be free of. Till you decide to starve.

And just in case you think an entity like Monsanto may be a push-over being so far from their home-base, I'd like to bring you up-to-speed with two recent bits of news:

1. According to a Wikileaks document, the US State Department was considering retaliatory action against France - and as a warning against the rest of EU - because they had the temerity to reject GMOs created by, yes, Monsanto.

2. There have been a few reports lately that Xe Services (formerly Blackwater), the world's largest mercenary force, was bought by Monsanto - which in turn had $23 million worth of shares bought-up by the philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who has floated the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to feed the poor in Africa. Gulp! God save them.

Meanwhile, you go back and watch the video... And I'll try and find out what happened to that GMO Bill in the Indian Parliament.

UPDATE: The latest on the Biotech Regulatory Authority - which was supposed to be a "single-window (read, quicker)" for approval of biotechnology products coming onto the Indian market - has been revised substantially.

The proposed authority will now deal only with safety and efficacy issues, leaving the decisions on commercialisation of biotech products to respective administrative ministries.

Apparently, "it was argued that the promoter of biotechnology should not be allowed to perform the role of the regulator as well."

Well, hats-off the young people at Greenpeace who stood up on behalf of 1.2 billion Indians.

That said, there are some other unsavoury couplings and insidious goings-on in genetic technology and research.

On one hand, the India Brand Equity Foundation, IBEF (an entity whose PR business the infamous Nira Radia tried unsuccessfully to bid for), touts Biotechnology opportunities in India at the World Economic Forum at Davos 2006. On the other had, the Indian Genome Variation Consortium Project that includes a public-private front called The Centre for Genomic Application (TCGA) which "enjoys strong research outsourcing relationship" with Bayer, Roche, Novartis, Merck and Novo Nordisk - is trying to create a "genetic map of India" to help create drugs designed for the genetic profile of individual Indians!

They claim they will soon have "enough data to fashion tools for population-specific, pro-active medical interventions that can bring affordable healthcare to the doorstep of every Indian citizen".

Pro-active, medical intervention? What does that even mean?

But here's the real kicker... TCGA (also, read this) is sponsored by The Chatterjee Group (TCG), which is owned by a protégé of another "philanthropist", George Soros - you know, the currency speculator who engineered the 97-98 Asian Financial Crisis.

Well, now you know.