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Monsanto makes war in Colombia

Commentary by Tom Burke |
May 23, 2014
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Grand Rapids, MI - Many are out marching and protesting Monsanto this spring, demanding food be healthy and safe, that Monsanto products be labeled as GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and insisting that one corporation should not control the entire seed supply or corner the market. Unions and immigrant rights groups are demanding protections and decent pay for farm workers who use Monsanto products in the fields.

It is also important to know that Monsanto makes war in Colombia and it needs to stop. Monsanto is making the lives of poor peasant farmers in Colombia miserable, forcing hundreds of thousands to abandon their small plots of land by killing the crops on which they survive. Monsanto participates directly in the U.S. war on Colombia’s poor peasant farmers by providing the deadly “Ultra” versions of Roundup that is used to destroy their crops.

The U.S. government is conducting a war in Colombia and has spent over $8 billion on it since year 2000. Started under Clinton and Gore, the U.S. Southern Command directs the war against left-wing rebel groups and is in charge of the Colombian Armed Forces. However the involvement of Monsanto is less well known. The U.S. counterinsurgency war includes chemical warfare, in the form of private military companies like DynCorp International flying over and spraying the crops and fields of poor peasant farmers in areas where the rebel insurgency is strongest. Farmers living in areas where the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are well organized are way more likely to have their crops sprayed with Monsanto products than the areas under the control of large landowners, narco-traffickers, or multi-national mineral corporations.

Monsanto is a war profiteer. Monsanto is the company contracted by the U.S. military for the glyphosate sprayed on Colombian peasants’ crops. It is the same chemical as Roundup in much, much stronger concentrations. Monsanto makes huge profits from these U.S. military contracts. It has been going on since at least 1978.

The Roundup is sprayed from planes, often drifts wide of its target, kills all sorts of crops and pollutes the ponds, lakes and rivers of Colombia. The first plants to grow back are the hardy coca plants - the original excuse for spraying, but food crops and fruit trees are ruined and do not return so easily. Thousands of people suffer skin and respiratory problems, there are reports of asthmatic children dying and animals poisoned and killed. The lives of tens of thousands are ruined on a yearly basis.

The U.S. ‘war on drugs’ in Colombia is a lie. There is no change in drug production after decades. The aerial spraying is part of U.S. war strategy. Monsanto’s Roundup being sprayed targets and hurts the poor peasant farmers in rebellion. It harms the base of support of the rebels and gives Colombia the largest displaced person population in the world - more than in Iraq during most of the U.S. war and occupation. It also harms the ‘lungs of the world’ - the Amazon forests are being poisoned and forests are being cut down as farmers move to new land. Here at home, the phony war on drugs imprisons hundreds of thousands of African American, Chicano and working class youth, punishing instead of treating or rehabilitating, and making them second-class citizens for life.

Monsanto delivers nothing but poverty, misery, and death to Colombian farmers, children and their animals. We need to oppose Monsanto selling Roundup to be sprayed on a mass scale in Colombia. Currently, the Colombian government wants to end the program, because it does not work. The U.S. government demands it continue. We need to support Colombian farmers and say: “No more Monsanto fumigations! No to U.S. war in Colombia!”

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