M17: Why Occupy is Hunger, Climate Change and GMO food

Storm over GMO corn

OWS and the campaigns against hunger, against GMO food and against climate change are different ways of saying the same thing: capitalism is an autoimmune disease that is now threatening the viability of its host. Occupy signifies here that these issues cannot be contained, let alone solved, by the normative political process, whether at national or interstate level.

It’s important to recognize how far things have gone in the past year. Harper’s magazine tells us:

  • there has been a 33% decline on newspaper mentions of “global warming” and “climate change” in 2011
  • Obama used the phrase “climate change” once in the State of the Union but mentioned “energy” 23 times.

Autoimmune capitalism believes it can afford the planetary degradation that is now under way worldwide and is indifferent to it. European airlines filed this week to be exempted from the EU carbon levy because of a possible trade war with China: in short, climate can only be a priority if it has no impact on capital.

By the same token, there was barely a ripple when Climate Central reported on sea level rise this week:

At three quarters of the 55 sites analyzed, century levels are higher than 4 feet above the high tide line. Yet across the country, nearly 5 million people live in 2.6 million homes at less than 4 feet above high tide. In 285 cities and towns, more than half the population lives on land below this line, potential victims of increasingly likely climate-induced coastal flooding. 3.7 million live less than 1 meter above the tide.

There’s a 1 in 6 chance that the Battery in New York City will flood– not far into the future but by 2020. Zuccotti will become waterfront. You can only assume that people either think that these reports are false or that when they happen, there will be benefits because 5 million people will need new homes.

As I’ve often argued, the reason there’s a global movement of which Occupy is the U. S. variant is the interface of climate change and hunger. In 2008, a global food crisis was caused by the interplay of climate-change induced drought;  the switch to biofuels caused by climate concerns reducing the food supply; and the creation of the Goldman Sachs Commodity Futures Index.

This index was allowed to trade in futures as of 1999, on the principle “long only,” i.e. that prices would always rise. Investors included: Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Pimco, JP Morgan Chase, AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers. Foreign Affairs magazine commentator Frederick Kauffman notes:

In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.

What that means is an 80% price rise from 2003-8 that has kept moving upwards. One half of the world’s population spends 50% of their income on food. The real consequences were so-called food riots in 37 countries–they should have been called anti-autoimmune capitalist riots.

From here we can summarize:

•2008 food crisis added 40 million to world hungry list
•2008: 943 million hungry
•2009: One billion hungry
•2008: 100 million Africans move into poverty
•A one-meter sea level rise, now regarded as inevitable, will destroy the Nile Delta
This already disastrous situation is now being exacerbated by the intervention of genetically-modified plants into Africa. The African Center for Biosafety, based in South Africa, reported this week:

Between January 2008 and January 2012, the cost of a 5kg bag [of] super maize meal increased by a staggering 83%. In 2007, the poorest 30% of the population spent approximately 22% of their monthly income on food, including on maize–a staple. The latest figures from January 2012 put this at nearly 39%.

In South Africa, Monsanto has cornered 77% of the seed corn market that generated over R1 billion in revenues, while one in four South Africans is “food insecure,” or hungry, in plain English.


In Europe this week, researchers showed that both the genetically modified component of MON810 Bt corn and the Roundup that is sprayed onto that corn kill human kidney cells. So in a particularly telling instance of autoimmune capitalism, the patented seed will either kill you by starvation because you can’t afford to grow it; or kill you by kidney disease because you emmiserate yourself to eat it.

Oh, and by the way? There are plenty of Roundup resistant plants in the U. S. now anyway, about twenty at last count. How could this have been predicted? Because Monsanto found the gene in plants growing downwind of its filthy Louisiana chemicals plant in the first place.

What to do?
For you: do not eat GMO based products–which is likely to mean anything with soy or corn in it, which is to say just about all food industry products. Go organic, go local, grass-fed meat and poultry only.


For all of us: be at or with the March Against Hunger tomorrow M17: