GMO’s Ukraine Connection

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In late 2013, Victor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine, rejected a European Union association agreement tied to a $17 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.  Instead, he chose a Russian aid package worth $15 billion plus a discount on Russian natural gas.  This decision led to his forcible removal from office in February 2014 and the current crisis and devastating civil war.    The present government of the Ukraine pursued the IMF loan and a European Union Association Agreement.

On July 28, 2014, the Oakland Institute released a report entitled “Walking on the West Side: the World Bank and the IMF in the Ukraine Conflict,” which revealed that the World Bank and the IMF, under the terms of their $17 billion loan to Ukraine, would open the country to genetically-modified (GM) crops in agriculture.

Because of its rich soil, Ukraine has always been referred to as the “breadbasket of Europe.”      According to the Oakland Institute’s report, “Whereas Ukraine does not allow the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture, Article 404 of the EU agreement, which relates to agriculture, includes a clause that has generally gone unnoticed:  it indicates, among other things, that both parties will cooperate to extend the use of biotechnologies.  There is no doubt that this provision meets the expectations of the agribusiness industry.  As observed by Michael Cox, research director at the investment bank Piper Jaffray, ‘Ukraine and, to a wider extent, Eastern Europe, are among the most promising growth markets for farm-equipment giant Deere, as well as seed producers Monsanto and DuPont’.”

The Oakland Institute also revealed that the terms of the World Bank/IMF loan to Ukraine have already led to “an increase in foreign investment, which is likely to result in further expansion of large-scale acquisitions of agricultural land by foreign companies and further corporatization of agriculture in the country.”

In May 2013, Monsanto announced plans to invest $140 million in a non-GMO corn seed plant in Ukraine, insisting that it would be working with conventional seeds only.  However, by November 2013, six large Ukrainian agriculture associations had prepared draft amendments to the Ukrainian law prohibiting GMOs, which called for “creating, testing, transportation and use of GMOs proposing the legalization of GM seeds,” citing that  genetically manufactured seeds had been tested as safe in the United States.  This is inaccurate, because GM seeds have never undergone independent safety testing in the United States, whose regulatory agencies such as the FDA, accept industry testing and considers them to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS.)

In December 2013, Monsanto Ukraine launched a “social development program” for the country, which it called “Grain Basket of the Future.”  The program provides grants to rural villagers so they can “start feeling that they can improve their situation themselves as opposed to waiting for a handout.”

In August 2011, WikiLeaks released U.S. diplomatic cables showing that the State Department had been lobbying worldwide for Monsanto and other biotechnology corporations like DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow.  It also released cables which showed that Petro Poroshenko, the current president of Ukraine, had been a U.S. informant.

On May 14, 2013, the United States- based non-profit organization “Food & Water Watch,” after reviewing these cables from 2005 through 2009, released its report entitled “Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda,”  which stated that the State Department has “lobbied foreign governments to adopt pro-agricultural biotechnology policies and laws, operated a rigorous public relations campaign to improve the image of biotechnology, and challenged commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules – even including opposing laws requiring the labeling of genetically-engineered (GE) foods.”

On the Russian side of the GMO coin, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated in April 2014:  “We don’t have a goal of developing GM products here or to import them.  We can feed ourselves with normal, common, not genetically modified products.  If the Americans like to eat such products, let them eat them.  We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.”

Recent efforts to speed up the annexation of Ukrainian agriculture have been documented by the Oakland Institute’s report.  Their fact sheet on the “Corporate Takeover of Ukrainian Agriculture” shows how the law firm of “Frishberg and Partners” found loopholes in a moratorium on Ukrainian agricultural land sales, and suggested a two-step approach to circumventing this moratorium, which remains in force until January 1, 2016.

The first step described by  Frishberg is to lease Ukrainian agricultural land instead of purchasing it.  This, when combined with legal purchases of industrial spaces adjoining the land, results in ownership.  The second step is to buy large amounts of shares in leading Ukrainian agribusinesses and then reform these companies from the inside. This is a strategy that international agribusiness giants such as Cargill, Monsanto and DuPont have employed. For example, in 2014 Cargill bought a five percent share in the largest land bank in Ukraine.

From the requirements such as those listed in the EU association agreement it is clear that Ukraine is not being set up for economic prosperity and independence, but for international exploitation.  While these develops, on the surface, may appear to be innocent, as
Big Ag  would prefer Ukrainian farmers and the civilian population to believe, the links between government organizations and agribusiness are clear.

The entry point into these connections can be found on the board of the US-Ukraine Business Council.       The U.S.-Ukraine Business Council’s Executive Committee contains representatives from Monsanto, John Deere, DuPont Pioneer, Eli Lilly, and Cargill. These companies are taking control of Ukraine’s agricultural sector with the aim of introducing their organizations are at the forefront of introducing GMO products.

For the past two years, thanks to the civil war, the news coming out of Ukraine has been providing these U.S. based argi-giants with the perfect cover to exploit Ukraine’s resources. Since the declaration of its independence in 1992, international companies have been colonizing Ukraine’s  agricultural sector.

The Council’s Senior Advisors include James Greene, the former Head of NATO’s Liason Office in Ukraine; Ariel Cohen, the Senior Research Fellow for The Heritage Foundation; Leonid Kozachenko, the President of the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation; six former U.S. Ambassadors to Ukraine, and Oleh Shamshur, the former ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S.  Shamshur is also a senior advisor to PBN Hill + Knowlton Strategies – a unit of the PR giant Hill + Knowlton Strategies (H+K).

On April 15, 2014 Toronto’s “The Globe & Mail” newspaper published an op-ed by H+K assistant consultant Olga Radchenko, which criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and “Mr. Putin’s PR machine” and stated that “Last month, a group of Kiev-based PR professionals formed the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, a voluntary operation aimed at helping to communicate Ukraine’s image and manage its messaging on the global stage.”

Dupont, Syngenta, Monsanto and other multinational companies have made their way into several key areas of Ukrainian agriculture, piecing together a multifaceted plan which will ultimately culminate in the implementation and monopoly of GMO products in Ukraine.

Monsanto, Cargill and DuPont have already have all already invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the construction of seed processing plants in Ukraine. Over the last twenty years, these companies have established a strong business foundation inside the country. This foundation has been laid so deep that international agribusiness companies are represented on the board of members of the national Ukrainian Seed Association.   This association, which includes Monsanto and DuPont, aims to “implement new technologies” and “the best new varieties and hybrids in Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian Seed Association also seeks to “take active part in the development of legislation of Ukraine concerning the improvement of seed market.” What this shows is that multinational agribusiness giants are able to not only introduce their technologies into Ukraine, but to also seek to change Ukrainian legislation to benefit themselves.

The key player in this corporate intervention into Ukrainian agriculture is none other than the United States Government, which is playing a central role in shaping the nation’s economy.   The ISAAA, which claims to be “small, responsive, non-bureaucratic, international network,” is sponsored directly by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and USAID.   The ISAAA is instrumental in organizing the dissemination of biotechnology into “developing countries through public-private partnerships.”.”

Through its sponsoring of the ISAAA, which also has a board seat on the US-Ukraine Business Council and works to introduce GMO’s into Ukraine, the U.S. government is directly facilitating the corporate takeover of Ukraine’s agriculture.  Once the biotechnology and GMO laws are altered it will be too late for small farms and businesses to compete on a local scale, let alone an international one.

The ruining of  Ukraine’s unique soil is bad enough, but it also comes with the fact that the wealth of the country, which exists in this land, will be redistributed to a small percentage of oligarchs who, along with the multinational corporations, will control the entire country, with little to no benefit to the Ukrainian people themselves.

In March 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a bill recognizing Ukraine’s nationalist partisans, many of whom fought against both the Nazis as well as the Soviets during World War II and the postwar years, has created the biggest controversy.  This bill would recognize groups such as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and Stepan Bandera’s so-called Banderite as legitimate combatants in World War II and as freedom fighters who fought for Ukrainian independence. Some of those partisan groups are believed to have participated in the ethnic cleansing of Poles and Jews in Ukraine, as well as bombings and kidnappings against the country’s postwar Soviet government. If the bill were to become law, it would grant veterans of these groups social benefits and make them eligible for state awards. It would also make it illegal to deny the legitimacy of their actions.

Ukraine’s current nationalist elements such as the Right Sector strongly identify with Bandera and his fellow partisans, whom they say laid the foundation for Ukrainian nationalism. The Right Sector participated in the Euromaidan movement, as well as several  paramilitary brigades that have played roles in Ukraine’s fight against pro-Russian separatists in southeastern Ukraine. Critics of the Euromaidan movement alleged the nationalist presence was indicative of the fascist, anti-Russian principles of the movement and the pro-European government that came into power as a result of it.

Of course, the United States has more interests to promote in Ukraine than just GMO foods.  Its military industrial complex stands to benefit from the Ukrainian civil war, and the push to supply the country with lethal weapons will be to its benefit, while at the same time  creating a dangerous situation for the entire European continent.  The U.S. also favors a gas pipeline to Europe to bypass Russian gas.  In furtherance of the U.S. oil and gas industry’s interest in Ukraine, Hunter Biden, the Vice President’s son, has been appointed to the Ukraine’s largest natural gas producer, along with Devon Archer, a close friend of Secretary of State John Kerry to the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest natural gas producer.  In a sign of direct intervention by the United States into Ukrainian government affairs, the U.S. State Department’s Natalie Jaresko has been appointed to the position of Ukraine’s Finance Minister.

Kenneth Eade is the author of “To Russia for Love,” a story about espionage, genetically engineered foods, and Ukraine.

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