September 17, 2010
Agribusiness giant Monsanto, which genetically modifies plants to excude or tolerate pesticide or to produce nonviable seeds, hired the services of the mercenary firm Blackwater to spy on activists, Jeremy Scahill reports. A death-tech firm weds a hit squad.
This is no doubt in response to a decade of GM crop sabotage efforts around the globe. Since the publicly-announced introduction of GM crops in 1996, concerned citizens have vandalized such crops every single year somewhere on the planet. Several thousand GM plants have been partially or wholly destroyed. (See brief history below.)
Scahill reports that through its web of companies, Blackwater (now Xe Services) spied on and/or infilitrated groups opposing Monsanto in 2008 thru earily 2010. He writes:
“The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto’s security manager for global issues.
“After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to [then-president Erik] Prince and [former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique] Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses.
“Black wrote that Wilson ‘understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name…. Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for.’
“Black added that Total Intelligence ‘would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto.’ Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater ‘could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally.’ ….
“Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto’s Wilson initially said, ‘I’m not going to discuss it with you.’ In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating ‘there was no such discussion.’”
Monsanto said only publicly available information was monitored. Scahill writes of Monsanto’s security manager Kevin Wilson:
“He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto ‘with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites.’”
Tom Philpott of Grist notes:
“I can confirm that Monsanto likes to keep a close eye on blogs and websites. Back in 2005, I got my break as a food-politics writer after a Monsanto lawyer slapped my blog, with its all of 30 readers, with a cease-and-desist letter.”
Monsanto has openly engaged with activists on blogs. During my tenure as Senior Editor at OpEdNews.com, site owner Rob Kall approved membership for Brad Mitchell, Monsanto’s public relations chief. Mitchell particularly focused on articles by Linn Cohen-Cole. (See e.g. the comments on Monsanto’s dream bill, HR 875.) Cohen-Cole claimed that after her articles at OEN received widespread attention, she noticed surveillance vehicles on her street.
That early 2009 decision at OEN spiked the ire of food writers. They objected to a forum for ordinary people granting equal access to a multi-billion dollar corporation which can publish in mainstream media, and hire professional psyops agents like Burson-Marstellar. B-M represents genocidal regimes, claimed the Bhopal disaster wasn’t so bad, promot secret vote counting software, and is generally the go-to spindoctor for the world’s worst enterprises.
By a wide majority, OEN members condemned Kall’s approval of Monsanto membership, forcing him to rescind it. A month later, in May 2009, he demoted and/or banned several “radicals,” including those of us who deride GM foods. In fact, my banishment prompted the inception of Food Freedom, a popular site that includes coverage of GM foods and Monsanto.
But, no matter how many bloggers it tries to silence, the biotech industry has lost in the court of public opinion. This is why it lobbies to ensure genetically modified foods are not labeled. Not even Burson-Marstellar has been able to overcome the “frankenfood” reputation.
GM Crop Sabotage in Defense of Biodiversity
But it isn’t just public opinion that concerns Monsanto. GM crop sabotage, which originated in Europe, has been an ongoing global effort since at least 1997.
In 1999, Andrew Hund compiled several reports of GM crop sabotage around the world.
Just focusing on the U.S., Gordon Rausser documented thousands of GM plant destructions in 1999 alone. Citizens targeted GM corn, sugar beets, sunflowers, melons, tomatoes, walnuts, and strawberries. The attacks occurred in Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, and California.
Kathryn Brown reported in Scientific American that in 2000, “in Maine, midnight raiders hacked down more than 3,000 experimental poplar trees. And in San Diego, protesters smashed sorghum and sprayed paint over greenhouse walls.”
This year, Marcel Kuntz described 70 instances of GM crop sabotage in England, Switzerland, France and Germany from 1999 thru 2010.
The timeline below is but a brief sampling of such actions. It shows a wide variety of crops on several continents. And, it shows unending interest in ridding the planet of this technology. (Too numerous to list, the cases of GM crop sabotage in the US are not included. See sources above.)
1997 Irish destroy GM sugar beets
1998 Irish destroy GM sugar beets
1998 French destroy GM corn
1998 Brits destroy GM crops on over 40 separate plots
1999 Indian farmers burn GM cotton
1999 New Zealanders destroy GM potato
1999 Canadians destroy GM trees
1999 Brits destroy GM corn
2000 Brits destroy GM corn
2001 Brits destroy GM corn
2001 Brazilians destroy GM corn and soy
2001 Brits destroy six separate fields of GM corn and rapeseed
2002 Indian farmers destroy GM cotton
2003 French destroy GM rapeseed (canola)
2004 French Guiana activists destroy GM coffee
2005 French destroy 50 acres of GM corn
2006 Germans destroy GM corn in several attacks
2006 French destroy GM corn
2007 Brits destroy GM potatoes
2008 Brazilians destroy GM corn
2008 Swiss destroy GM wheat
2009 Swiss destroy GM wheat
2009 Icelanders destroy GM barley
2009 Brits destroy GM potatoes
2009 Brits destroy GM apple trees
2010 Swiss destroy GM wheat
2010 Spaniards destroy GM corn
2010 Italians destroy GM corn
2010 French destroy GM grapes
Not everyone has the luxury of destroying trial crops. In India, under a new biotech bill known as BRAI, people can be imprisoned and fined simply for “misleading” others about GM crops. Since the entire industry is based on “misleading” information (i.e. one protein-one gene; or that GMOs are substantially equivalent to normal food), one has to wonder if Monsanto executives will get a pass, while those who disparage the technology become the target.
Elsewhere, dissent has been met with violence.
Last month in La Leonesa, Argentina, 100 thugs attacked local farmers who gathered to hear a scientific presentation on the toxicity of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The Chaco provincial government had previously reported a tripling of childhood cancers and a quadrupling of birth defects in the area in the ten years since “the expansion of glyphosate and other agrochemical spraying in the province.”
Monsanto, by hiring a mercenary army and former CIA field agents, is deadly serious about protecting its deadly products. Yet, this contract further discredits the company. The public can now paint an even bleaker picture of the firm that brought us Agent Orange, PCBs, rBST, DDT, aspartame and, now, hitmen.