The New Conquistadors — Part 2: Ukraine
How International Corporations Are Taking Over Ukraine’s Agriculture
Ukraine has become a nation synonymous with the daily headlines. From the trail of western intervention and subversion that lead to a violent coup in 2013. To the devastating civil war that has torn the nation apart. These stories, as crucial as they are to investigate, have provided the perfect cover for international corporations to exploit Ukraine’s resources .
This exploitation accelerated when Ukraine declared its independence in 1992. From this period onward, Ukraine has experienced the colonization of its vastly important agricultural sector. International agribusiness and biotechnology firms have steadily been reforming Ukraine’s agricultural laws in order to eventually allow for an explosion in the production of genetically modified organisms.
Recent efforts to speed up this annexation of Ukrainian agriculture have been documented by the Oakland Institute. Their fact-sheet on the Corporate Takeover of Ukrainian Agriculture shows how the law firm Frishberg and Partners found loopholes in a moratorium on Ukrainian agricultural land sales. The law firm suggested a two-pronged approach to circumventing this moratorium, which remains in force until January 1, 2016.
The first step is to lease Ukrainian land instead of purchasing it, a practive that basically provides ownership when combined with legal purchases of industrial spaces alongside the same land.
The second step to bypassing the moratorium is to buy large amounts of shares in leading Ukrainian agribusinesses and then change these companies from the inside out. This is a strategy that international agribusiness giants such as Cargill, Monsanto and Dupont have employed. In 2014 Cargill bought a five percent share in UkrLandFarming, the largest land ‘bank’ in Ukraine.
These loopholes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the multinational effort to subdue and mold a potentially lucrative agriculture market for maximum profit. While Ukraine currently enforces a ban on GMO products, it has become apparent that this is a temporary state of affairs. The stage was set for the impending removal of this ban when Ukraine and the EU signed an association agreement in 2014.
Of particular interest in this association agreement is clause 404 which promotes “ the use of biotechnologies” in Ukrainian agriculture. Furthermore the clause states that Ukraine needs to facilitate “conditions for investment” as well as opening Ukraine’s agriculture to a “framework of international organisations”.
It becomes clear from requirements such as those listed in the association agreement that Ukraine is not being set up for economic prosperity and independence, but rather for multinational exploitation.
While these developments, it could be argued, are open to interpretation, as indeed multinational corporations would prefer Ukrainian farmers and the civilian population to believe. The links between government organisations and agribusiness corporations are clearer in their impications.
US-Ukraine Business Council.
The entry point into these connections can be found on the board of members of the US-Ukraine business council (USUBC). On the board of directors is plethora of multinational US business giants. Of particular interest to this report are the agribusiness board members. These include Monsanto, Cargill, Dupont and a less prominent organisation known as the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications(ISAAA). These organisations are at the forefront of introducing GMO products into a agricultural sector that they increasingly control. Also on the board of directors and working alongside with these corporations is the ubiquitous USaid, under the banner of the agroinvest program.
These companies and organisations 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.
Business and Legislation.
Monstanto, Cargill and Dupont have all already invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the construction of seed processing plants in Ukraine. These companies have over the last twenty years established strong business foundation in within the country. These foundations have been laid so deep that international agribusiness companies can be found on the board of members of the national Ukrainian Seed Association. This association, which includes Monstanto 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 have the ability to not only introduce their technologies into Ukraine, but actively seek to change Ukrainian legislation to benefit their implementation.
A likely result of this practice is evident in the 2012 repeal of compulsory GMO labelling in Ukraine. This was done only two years after the law was put into place. Coincidentally, Monsanto doubled its presence in Ukraine during the same year as the repeal.
The US Government’s Role in GMO colonialism.
Within this increasingly layered picture of corporate intervention into Ukraine’s agriculture can be found the key player in Ukraine’s current state of affairs. The US government, while telling the world it is simply brokering a transition in Ukraine, is in fact playing a central role shaping the nation’s economy. The aforementioned ISAAA which claims to be “a small, responsive, non-bureaucratic, international network”, is in fact sponsored directly by the US state department, department of Agriculture and USaid.The ISAAA is instrumental in organising the dissemination of biotechnology into “developing countries through public-private partnerships”.
Through the sponsoring of the ISAAA which sits on the US-Ukraine business council, and works to introduce GMO’s into Ukraine, the US government is directly facilitating the corporate takeover of Ukraine’s agriculture.
The concerted campaign of these corporations, with the help of USaid and even direct US government assistance, is already paying dividends for the future profits of these companies. The Ukrainian Minister of Agricultural Policy and Food, Mykola Prysyazhnyuk, announced in 2013 that GMO feed trials for livestock had begun. The IMF loaned Ukraine 17 billion dollars, but with one of the terms being that Ukraine needs toeventually open itself to biotechnology and GMO products.
Ukraine is renown for its ‘black soil’, which is extremely fertile and high yielding. It has long been used by local farmers to supply much of Europe and the world with corn and wheat. For the immensely wealthy international corporations this is the chance to make more money, and with the current situation in Ukraine, it will be relatively easy to do so.
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.
While the tragedy of the potential ruination of Ukraine’s unique soils and environment is enough to warrant alarm. It is the fact that the benefits of this corporate invasion will only be shared by the companies themselves and the few oligarchs whose land they have purchased. Ukraine as a whole will receive little to no benefit in the long term. For a country ruined by a war with no end in sight as well as decades of corruption, this spells disaster on a grand scale.
Ukraine is in dire need of less foreign-led ‘rebuilding’. The idea that Ukraine needed to choose an US-EU led intervention, is what has led to much of the chaos. On top of the conflict this has caused, it has led the way for companies like Monsanto, Dupont and Cargill to take full advantage of this instability.
Unless more light is shed on the domination of struggling nations by international corporations, this trend will continue. The eventual costs of biotechnology and the potential health detriments will lead to Ukraine remaining unable to recover. It will instead continue to be used as a colonial business outpost for the many companies and governments seeking to exploit its natural resources.