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The US chemical giant recently bought the world’s largest seed company, Pioneer hi-bred. Behind Dupont’s new interest in seeds lurks an intention to profit from new technologies that present multiple threats to the environment and public health.

Food, agriculture and the globalisation of trade
The industrialised food production system is being pushed into the Third World by global institutions that now make the rules on trade, with the consequence of more being left without enough land or income to feed themselves.

Organic- The corporate takeover.
The last decade has seen a phenomenal growth of interest in organic food, This has attracted the big corporations and international institutions, they are quickly moving in to take over the market and dictate the meaning of the term organic itself.

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The world’s biggest seed company
The world’s biggest chemical company
The world’s fourth biggest producer of agrochemicals.
At the forefront of research and development of genetic engineered crops.

How did a company that began as a gunpowder manufacturer in 1802, get into seeds? By the 1930’s Dupont had expanded into new chemical technologies, especially artificial fabrics and become a major US corporation, the Dupont de Nemours family had become of one of America’s richest and most politically powerful. In common with the other corporations producing armaments and chemicals they began to see the potential market for nitrates as fertilisers and moved into agriculture. They became a major pesticide manufacturer specialising in sulfonurea herbicides.

In the last decade Dupont began buying up seed companies, culminating in the 1999 purchase of the world’s biggest seed company Pioneer hi-Bred for $7.7 billion. Dupont’s seed empire now includes:

  • 18% of the entire global seed market
  • 42% of the US corn seed market (US’s biggest crop)
    A seed sales force on a global scale in every major agricultural market.
  • Seed production facilities on every continent, in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Ethiopia, Egypt, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, US, Canada, Australia, Austria, France, Germany and Italy.
  • 110 crop research and development facilities in 25 different countries.
    Joint ventures with local companies to market seeds and agrochemicals in China, Indonesia, Mexico and Russia.
  • At least two US patents covering technologies to develop sterile seeds. US 5,364,780 and US 5,608,140.

Biotech research
Dupont have concentrated on developing what the industry hopes will be the next generation of biotech, crops with so-called “output traits”. These include crops that are biotechnologically engineered to produce chemicals from their cells tailored for use in high value products. From living plants and microorganisms they aim to derive pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, plastics, enzymes and other industrial chemicals as well as food additives flavourings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers and synthetic nutrients.

Some of the prime candidates for these types of genetic engineering are important crop and food plants like corn, soya and rape. The obvious dangers of genes that cause edible plants to produce poisons escaping into food chain does not distract DuPont who anticipates profits by lowering costs of production of products presently derived from petro-chemicals. This is at a time of inevitable increasing costs for chemcial manufacturers, as extracting oil becomes more difficult and expensive.

The industry will undoubtedly look at ways of presenting such plants as a “green” technology. For the time being their strategy is to concentrate publicly on health and nutritional products to get biotechnology accepted. To this end DuPont have invested heavily in altering the chemical content of soybeans, they have produced genetically engineered types high in sucrose, high in oleic acid and low in saturated fat.

Dupont and soy
Dupont recently bought the company Protein Technologies International, the world’ biggest producer of Soy isolate. Soy isolate is a waste product of the soy processing industry Made by extrusion from defatted soy beans left over after processing are treated at high-temperature and high-pressure. An ingredient of animal feeds, this fowl smelling and tasting substance was not until recently considered for use as human food. Today, however new methods of processing allow soy isolate to be added to baked goods, diet drinks, fast food products, cereals and even baby foods.

Remarkably this is done under the guise of providing added nutrition. Along with the giant multinational grain commodity traders Cargill and Archer Daniel Midland who have also invested heavily in soy, Dupont have successfully lobbied the US government to allow them to use health claims on food containing soy derivatives.

Part of the information aimed at investors available on their website Dupont estimates the global food ingredients market to be growing at a rate of between 3% and 5% per year, while the so-called “healthy” food ingredients market is growing at an average of 15% per year. Cynically marketing products as “healthy”, they aim to market unnatural foods that are very cheap to make, as expensive healthy products. The industry calls these “functional foods”.

Manipulation and deceit
Dupont de Nemours has a long history of profiting from disregard for the common good and is a veteran of political and public manipulation, with great power in political circles in the US.

They were one of the corporations who formed the Intellectual Property Committee that drafted a treaty that the US government introduced at the World Trade Organisation to enforce member countries to enact patent laws. This will enable Dupont and other transnationals to expand into profitable "new markets". Dupont are particularly interested in new agricultural and pharmaceutical markets in Brazil, India, South East Asia and the former Soviet bloc.

There is hardly a single chemical toxin which Du Pont has not played a major role in. What’s more, in common with their chemical industry competitors, Dupont have consistently been shown to have been aware of the consequences of many of their activities. This did not bring about positive change but merely made them fight against those highlighting dangers. Examples include the Savannah nuclear plant, the petrol additive tetraethyl lead, CFC’s and HCFC’s and recently the deep well injection of hazardous wastes.

Clearly this company is too dangerous and unaccountable to have control over aspects of our food supply.


Further Reading:

'The Massacre of Apple Lincoln'
by Pat Mooney
A tyranny of sameness is sweeping the earth. Why, because the chemical companies have discovered gold in genes.
'Colonising the Seed'
by Gyorgy Scrinis
Genetic engineering now makes possible the invasion into and control of the seed at the level of the gene.
'Hybrid rice in Asia: The unfolding threat.'
Until recently, rice was never commercially hybridised, there was no seed industry activity in rice. All of this is changing now and it will revolutionise rice farming in Asia.
'Wal-Mart’s arrival in UK is likely to spell disaster for local communities.'
by Andy Rowell
Wal-Mart is the world’s biggest and fastest expanding retailer. In order to become number one, Wal-Mart does its best to destroy the competition, and that’s not all it will destroy.
'Terminator technology: The threat to world food security'
by R. Steinbrecher and Pat Mooney.
The terminator rides to the rescue of long suffering multinationals who have been unable to hold farmers back from saving seeds.
'Apomixis: The Plant breeders dream.'
The agrochemical-biotech-seed corporations are investing heavily to develop this method of mass producing cloned hybrid seed much more cheaply. If they succeed there are frightening consequences on both biodiversity and the independence of farmers.


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