Andrea Brower writes at Common Dreams:
We are witnessing a strange, though remarkably predictable public discourse, where State lawmakers claim that those “truly serious about supporting local farmers” must abolish Counties’ rights “forever,” and transnational corporations call themselves “farmers.” Legislators attempt to contort the “Right to Farm” into a mechanism for chemical companies to evade health and environmental concerns, as water grabs by these same companies undermine the actual rights of farmers. Meanwhile, the Hawaii Farm Bureau advocates the interests of a few mega-corporations as synonymous with the interests of local farmers (despite never having asked the farmer members that they professedly speak for).
The intentional blurring in the difference between farmers, and the global corporations that use Hawaii as a testing ground for their new technologies, demands some clarity.
Dow is the largest chemical company in the US. Their list of manufactured goods includes napalm, chlorpyrifos (used as a nerve gas during World War II), plastics and Styrofoam. They have managed nuclear weapons facilities, and more recently diversified into the coal business. Dow has refused compensation or environmental cleanup for the over half a million victims of the Bhopal pesticide plant disaster. They have been charged by the EPA for withholding reports of over 250 chlorpyrifos poisoning incidents, and only upon recent government mandate began to address their century-long legacy of dumping dioxins into Michigan’s waterways. They have knowingly allowed their pesticide product DBCP to cause permanent sterility in thousands of farm-workers.
DuPont started as a gunpowder and explosives company, providing half of the gunpowder used by Union armies during the Civil War and 40% of all explosives used by Allied forces in World War I. During peacetime, DuPont diversified into chemicals; some well-known products include Nylon, Teflon and Lycra. World War II was particularly advantageous for DuPont, which produced 4.5 billion pounds of explosives, developed weapons, contributed to the Manhattan Project, and was the principal maker of plutonium. Along with Dow, DuPont was rated in the top five air polluters for 2013 by the Political Economy Research Institute. DuPont is responsible for 20 Superfund sites, and is recipient of the EPA’s largest civil administrative penalty for failing to comply with federal law.
Syngenta was formed through the merging of pharmaceutical giants Novartis and AstraZeneca’s agrochemical lines. They manufacture highly dangerous pesticides like paraquat and atrazine that are banned in their home country of Switzerland, but used largely in poorer countries (as well as Hawaii). Paraquat is a major suicide agent. Syngenta has lobbied exhaustively in the European Union to block a ban on its bee-killing neonicotinoids, including threatening to sue individual EU officials. It has hired private militias to murder farmer activists. Syngenta is responsible for 18 Superfund sites in the US.
BASF is the world’s largest chemical company, and makes plastics, coatings (automotive and coil coatings), fine chemicals (feed supplements, raw materials for pharmaceuticals), and agricultural chemicals. During World War II it was part of IG Farben, dubbed the “financial core of the Hitler regime,” and the primary supplier of the chemicals that were used in Nazi extermination camps. For nearly three decades following the war, BASF filled its highest position with former members of the Nazi regime. Five of BASF’s manufacturing facilities in the US rank amongst the worst 10% of comparable facilities for toxic releases. In 2001 they were fined by the EPA for 673 violations related to illegal importation and sale of millions of pounds of pesticides.
Monsanto was founded as a drug company, and its first product was saccharin for Coca-Cola — a derivative of coal tar that was later linked to bladder cancer. They have manufactured some of the world’s most destructive chemicals, including Agent Orange (with Dow), PCBs and DDT. Monsanto was heavily involved in the creation of the first nuclear bomb and in 1967 entered into a joint venture with IG Farben. Monsanto is a pioneer of biotechnology; their first product was artificial recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). They have sued food companies that have labeled their products as rBGH-free. They are a potentially responsible party for at least 93 Superfund sites.
Clearly these corporations are not “farmers.” But what, then, of their impact on farmers?
The task of a corporation is to aggressively and competitively use their capital to make more of it. In addition to financial benefit in weapons, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and plastics, the aforementioned corporations now fatten their earnings in our agri-food system. Most notably, when court decisions in the 1980s opened the door to exclusive property rights on seeds and other life forms, they turned their eye to the profitability of dominating the agricultural inputs market.
Read more here.