Thoughts on economics and liberty

Category: Books

Extract #2 on Maurice Strong from Cloak of Green by Elaine Dewar

See this. Another section that discusses Maurice Strong.

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I sat enthralled in Strong’s living room. I had come to Geneva to solve the puzzle of who Strong is, whose interests he represents. Now, instead of holding in my hands a neat explanation, I was on the edge of falling into his immensely complex, layered world. The NGO story was part of a business story, the business story was part of a political story, the political story was also part of an intelligence story, and all of them were pages from a book about the Cold War. Maurice Strong was a Rockefeller man, a Liberal man, a businessman, a man with relations to those at the top of the crumbling East bloc, a bridge between so many different centres of power.

The summer night was upon us, wrapping the house in warm velvet blackness. The French doors stood open to the terrace. Strong’s phone rang like an alarm. He talked for a while. When he came back, he explained that the call was about Vladimir Petrovslcy,1 then first deputy foreign minister of the Soviet Union. Strong had expected to meet with Petrovsky during this weekend in August 1991, just eight days before the coup that led to Gorbachev’s ouster. Petrovsky’s aide had phoned to postpone. Before any other question could even form in my mind, Strong explained that Petrovsky was part of the Soviet team evaluating candidates to replace U.N. Secretary General Perez de Cuellar.

This diverted my attention. I’d been told in Toronto by Stephen Lewis, formerly Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, who was then working for Strong to drum up support for the Rio Summit, that Strong’s name was circulating as a candidate. I had mentioned this to Strong the night before at dinner. I’d mentioned I’d heard the Soviets and the Chinese favoured his candidacy.

Who told you that? he’d demanded. Then he had said, modestly, that he wasn’t running but would accept a draft. I had asked if the Americans supported him. I had begun to press him on his U.S. interests, about his business relations with Scott Spangler, for example, then a George Bush appointee to the USAID Africa desk, and about the business they had done together with Adnan Khashoggi. Strong had blurted that he’d almost been shut out of this Rio Summit job because some people at the U.S. State Department didn’t like him. He said they had been overruled by the White House. George Bush knew him, he said. He’d been in Bush’s home. In fact, he said, he had donated some $100,000 to the U.S. Democratic Party and a slightly lesser amount to the Republicans in 1988. (I was unable to confirm the Republican donations.)

I had been diverted that time too, because I was astonished. How could he, a Canadian, have managed political contributions in the U.S.?

Well, he had a U.S. green card (permanent residence status). The governor of Colorado had suggested it. A lawyer in Denver had told him how to go about it.

“But why?” I asked.

“Because I wanted influence in the United States.”

In 1977, while Strong was still chairman of both Petro-Canada and the IDRC, he also caused Stronat, his partnership with Paul Nathanson, to invest in agribusiness in the U.S. Dr. Carroll Wilson had introduced him to Scott Spangler (Harvard MBA), who had spent time in Africa working for the new governments of Tanzania and Uganda. Spangler then ran a Texas-based company called ProChemCo. He wanted to take over a larger public company called AZL or Arizona-Colorado Land and Cattle Company AZL, a conglomerate, owned other companies active in feed lots, land, oil and gas, engineering. It even owned a commodities trading house and a bank. One of its ranches was the Baca Grande in Colorado.

Stronat, a private multinational octopus, purchased control of ProChemCo. through various entities it controlled in Texas, Bermuda, and the Netherlands-Antilles. The corporate name was changed to Procor. In February 1978, Procor bought an AZL convertible debenture worth $10 million. It gave AZL a two-year option to buy Procor for the same amount. Strong, Holt, and Spangler were so welcome at AZL they were invited to join its board before this deal closed and without actually owning any shares. Strong became chairman of the executive committee.

Why this extraordinary welcome to people who owned no shares? Strong explained that AZL rolled out the red carpet for him because of this little problem AZL was having with Adnan Khashoggi. Strong claimed his role was to keep Khashoggi off the board of AZL.

Khashoggi had been the biggest shareholder of AZL since 1974. One of his executives had been on the board until 1975. With Khashoggi’s help, AZL had entered a number of deals in Iraq, Egypt, and Sudan, often through the head of state of those countries. As has been detailed in a number of books, Adnan Khashoggi is another mart of layered interests—an arms dealer/representative of Saudi Arabia, he has had relationships with a number of intelligence agencies. In the 1970s Khashoggi brokered vast arms purchase arrangements between Saudi Arabia and corporations of the U.S. defence establishment. At the same time, he enjoyed private business partnerships with members of the Saudi royal family who were also officials of the Saudi government. In 1975, as a byproduct of the Congressional investigations of illegal foreign and domestic campaign contributions, the Securities and Exchange Commission wondered if Khashoggi’s huge sales commissions could actually be a clever means to pay bribes by U.S. corporations to foreign officials. When the SEC tried to serve a subpoena on IChashoggi’s executives in March 1976, he left the U.S. and did not return until October 1978. It’s difficult to understand why Strong would be needed to keep Khashoggi off the board of a publicly traded U.S. company while Khashoggi was so busy avoiding an SEC subpoena.

Nevertheless, Strong insisted, there was pressure on him to let Khashoggi in the door. Strong and his future wife Hanne Marstrand first met with Khashoggi at Khashoggi’s brother’s house in London. Strong also met Khashoggi at Khashoggi’s own apartment in New York’s Olympic Towers. More often, he met with IChashoggi’s brother to inform him about AZL since Khashoggi continued to be its biggest shareholder.

In the late spring of 1978, as these matters developed, Strong left Petro-Canada. He had been asked to run for election under the stand-ard of the federal Liberal Party in a riding just outside Toronto. (He had also been asked to run for the Progressive Conservative Party and even the New Democratic Party. Either this is testimony to his well-known flexibility of mind, or it is proof that all three parties wanted access to his connections.) Strong’s friends thought he hoped to follow Trudeau as the next Liberal prime minister.

Strong was nominated; Petro-Canada employee Doug Bowie and John Saul offered support. So did Andy Sarlos, a former Hungarian communist and official, by then an arbitrageur making money for his chief client, Max Tanenbaum of York Steel. Sarlos also worked with Sam Belzburg who would soon make a name in the U.S. as a “green- mail” entrepreneur. Sarlos liked to make money for politicians. He too thought Strong wanted to be prime minister. While waiting for the election call, Sarlos and candidate Strong tried to take over forestry giant Abitibi-Price. They failed—profitably. Strong also be-came a vice-president of the World Wildlife Fund International in Gland, Switzerland, a position he held until December 1981.

In February 1979, a month before the election writ was dropped, Strong suddenly resigned as a Liberal candidate. He said he had to take an active role in the business of AZL. It was whispered that he quit because Trudeau had decided to stay on as leader. While nothing important appeared to happen at AZL, very important things were certainly happening elsewhere in the world. In January 1979, the shah had fled Iran, leaving the country in the hands of Muslim fundamentalists. This disaster for Rockefeller foreign policy perhaps contributed to the untimely death of Nelson Rockefeller (which oc-curred a week before Strong’s resignation). Along with David Rockefeller, John J. McCloy, and Henry Kissinger, Nelson Rocke-feller had been worlcing very hard to pressure President Carter to bring the shah to the U.S.2

By the summer of 1979, as a rolling wave of panic drove the price of oil from $13 to $34 a barrel, Strong had started a new international energy company, International Energy Development Corporation S.A., or IEDC. He said it was designed to help the Third World cope with these new energy conditions by searching for oil and gas in their own territories. He based the company in politically neutral Switzer-land, which required an act of the Swiss parliament since he is not a Swiss citizen. The partners in IEDC were AZL, Sulpetro, Volvo Energi, Sheikh Al Sabah, who was Kuwait’s finance minister and head of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation; the Arab Petroleum Investment Coiporation. Staff included a former Algerian politician and director of OPEC and the former worldwide vice-president of exploration for Exxon. IEDC paid licence fees to explore for oil and gas in places like Angola, Mozambique, Chad, the Sudan—and even Australia.

It was in the fall of 1979, around the time the Para Quebecois announced their plans to hold a referendum on the future of Quebec, that AZL’s business got really complex. In October, AZL began the actual purchase of Procor, the first step in a series of manoeuvres that resulted in a global version of Power Corporation. By April, AZL had bought Procor and converted its AZL debenture into com-mon shares of AZL. Only then did Strong and Nathanson actually own AZL though they’d been directing it since 1978. In May 1980, Strong also joined the board of a publicly traded Swiss company known by the acronym Sogener. It was chaired by Leonard Hentsch, Strong’s banker friend from the Y network. Strong became Sogener’s executive committee chairman. He moved control of AZL to Sogener, and thus Sogener became the dominant but unseen partner in IEDC.

Why? What was Strong up to? Some answers lay in the nature of Sogener and its reach into various corners of the globe. Like a Swiss-French version of SNC, its engineering division’s contracts were mainly in Africa, in Angola and Libya. Sogener had just sold this engineering division to a Greek shipping magnate named Latsis, a friend of the Saudi king, Fand. Sogener had done this transaction under the direction of Michel LeGoc, a man with his own very special political connections.3 Formerly a high French defence official, in 1960 LeGoc had left the French government and formed a mergers and acquisition company called Interfinexa with backing from important banks in Paris and Geneva.

Sogener had cash on hand when Strong joined its board. By then LeGoc had already found a takeover target for Sogener—Credit Immobilier, a publicly traded company active in real estate finance in both France and Switzerland. On Credit Immobilier’s board sat Jean Pierre Francois, said to have served with the Resistance in Lyons in World War II along with Francois Mitterrand’s lawyer, Roland Dumas. Mitterrand, who had proudly served Vichy before he served the Resistance and became a socialist, and who retained his relationship with Nazi friends even after World War II, was running for office as president of France. M. Dumas would soon become France’s minister of foreign affairs. LeGoc’s connections were such that his opinion was asked when the French government considered who deserved to get a legion d’honneur in Switzerland. Francois owned shares in Credit Immobilier and voted the shares belonging to others. After lunch with Maurice Strong, he agreed to sell the control block. LeGoc made sure Francois later got a legion d’honneur. A circular transaction ensued. Credit Immobilier bought Stronat while Stronat borrowed to buy the control block in Credit Immobilier. When this complex deal closed, Credit Immobilier paid out Stronat’s loan and raised a further seventy million Swiss francs in a public offering.

Paul Nathanson died in New York in the fall of 1980, leaving control of this huge transnational conglomerate, loaded with cash, in the hands of Maurice Strong and John Wanamaker, Strong’s friend and Nathanson’s executor. This private/public leviathan sprawled across many national boundaries and through many jurisdictions, with directors on its various boards who were also active in foreign governments. Strong and his colleagues had created the capacity for global arrangements.

This capacity was tested even as it was being formed. In February 1980 the Canadian federal election returned Pierre Trudeau and the Liberal Party to power. Right after the referendum in Quebec in May 1980, the new Liberal minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Marc Lalonde, decided Petro-Canada should buy Petrofina Canada, a Quebec-based firm owned in Belgium. Chairman Bill Hopper talked to Petrofina Canada. He was rebuffed. In June, Strong was asked to act as an intermediary between Petro-Canada and Petrofina SA, the Belgian parent of Petrofina Canada. Strong said Hopper asked him because he knew the Petrofina directors in Belgium, “particularly Baron Leon Lambert” whose Banque Bruxelles Lambert owned Petrofina shares and like Francois voted the shares of others. The baron, a Rothschild, was “elegantly dissolute” according to Strong, who had met him years ago at Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb in New York. Petro-Canada’s actions were to be kept a dark secret from Petrofina Canada’s board in Montreal, said Strong: that is why Strong asked Hentsch to make the first contact in Belgium through Sogener, whose board Strong had just joined. It was all a matter of cover.

After Hentsch made his approach to the Belgian chairman, Strong then talked to Lambert. The share price of Petrofina Canada began to soar. In November 1980, a Montreal newspaper claimed Petro-Canada would soon pay $120 per share for Petrofina Canada. Denials flowed. Unfortunately, when the $1.46-billion deal was announced in February 1981, that’s what the price turned out to be. Three provincial securities commissions announced a joint insider trading investigation with the federal Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. There had definitely been insider trading. The chairman of Petrofina Canada and other top executives had created a stock option plan in June 1980 after Petro-Canada made its first offer. They had bought shares cheaply and sold them dearly as the market rose on rumours. The top executives at Petrofina Canada insisted they had acted without knowledge of the coming offer.

It was soon learned that Sogener had earned a fee of almost $1 million for its services to Petro-Canada and that former Petro-Canada chair Strong was chairman of Sogener’s executive committee. There was a hue and cry. Strong said he urged the investigators on in their work and gave his earnings to a non-profit created by Barbara Ward—the International Institute for Environment and Development. In December 1981, the federal government published the results of its investigation without waiting for the provincial securities commissions. It stated that no one had improperly traded on inside information. The report did not point out that it was then neither improper nor illegal in Belgium or Switzerland to trade on inside information. The Ontario Securities Commission closed its investigation after its time limit for action ran out. Much later, Power Corporation bought control of Baron Lambert’s Banque Bruxelles Lambert: then it bought 40 per cent of Petrofina SA.

Maurice Strong took a battering over the Petrofina events, but Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed Strong vice-chairman of the Canada Development Corporation (CDC) in 1982. CDC held the crown interest in a number of corporations. CDC was run by a former executive of Power Corporation, who had refused to buy the control block of the ailing Massey Ferguson company from the Argus group when asked to do so. While Strong bided his time, his friend Jack Austin, by then a senator and a member of the federal cabinet, created the Canada Development Investment Corporation (CDIC) to manage or divest all federal government holdings, including the recalcitrant CDC. In 1982, Strong became the chairman of this larger corporation, reporting to Parliament through Senator Austin. This wa.s a privy council appointment. Nevertheless, Strong did not resign from his other private company interests.

In the meantime, Iran and Iraq went to war: both pumped out ever higher volumes of oil to pay for arms and the price of oil fell. Of IEDC’s partners, only the Kuwaitis wanted to continue hunting for oil and gas in Africa. Strong looked for a company he could merge IEDC with. In May 1982, Tosco, a large California-based independent oil company, was paid $200 million in cash by Exxon as compensation when it pulled out of their joint oil shale project. Tosco became a predator’s opportunity.

The Belzburgs’ First City group backed a Colorado man named Ken Good to begin a hostile takeover of Tosco. This started a chain of events which rapidly sheared Tosco of its assets like a lamb in spring. Tosco’s chairman, Morton Winston, developed a sudden interest in international oil exploration. A French “internationalist” on his board had told him about Maurice Strong’s company, IEDC.

Winston went to Geneva and told Strong he wanted Tosco to buy into IEDC. Instead, Strong said he wanted to merge his whole conglomerate with Tosco, which would entail Tosco offering cash to the shareholders of the various publicly traded companies involved. The subsequent merger between Tosco and Strong’s leviathan was handled by an American lawyer based in Geneva named Warren “Chip” Lindner.

Lindner was another man with interesting connections. He had been a partner in the huge Texas-based international law firm Vinson and Elkins. His partners in London had acted for Adnan Khashoggi and also helped Ghaith Pharoan, another well-connected Saudi, buy the National Bank of Georgia from President Carter’s budget director, Bert Lance. In 1980, Lindner left Vinson and Elkins to work in the office of the World Wildlife Fund International in Switzerland. He had no background in environment issues, his expertise was in energy finance, but he was hired as vice-president of policy to assist the head of World Wildlife Fund International. There he met Maurice Strong, who was serving both as vice-president and on the board of World Wildlife Fund International.

Strong hired Lindner to work at Sogener. While Strong flew around the world seeing to his various interests, including acting as the chairman of the CDIC for the government of Canada, Lindner crafted the merger with Tosco. When it was finalized in January 1983, Tosco paid out a total of $100 million in cash, Tosco shares, and promissory notes for all the shares of the various public companies controlled by Strong’s leviathan. Strong and his public company associates like Holt and Hentsch got Tosco common shares. Strong and his private associates in Strovest and Stromar, plus Nathanson’s widow, daughter, and estate, also took preferred shares in Tosco. Strong became board vice-chairman of Tosco and signed a voting agreement with the company. Scott Spangler, who’d bought a few AZL shares, got $2.3 million for them. Adnan Khashoggi got around $10 million. Strong’s special preferred voting shares of Tosco were seemingly worth many, many millions. Ken Good and the Belzburg interests ceased to trouble Tosco after being handsomely paid for their shares by Tosco. Good made many generous campaign contributions to Colorado and national politicians seeking office in 1984.

In November 1983, Tosco defaulted on $850 million in bank loans some but not all of which had been secured by preferred shares and notes of Tosco, junior to Strong’s Special Class A preferreds. These had been taken on to buy up Tosco’s own shares and other assets.

Tosco’s share price had fallen rapidly as the price of oil dropped. Apparently the value of AZL, IEDC, and the previously cash-rich Credit Immobilier, Sogener, and so on also went up in smoke. By 1984, just a year after the merger, Tosco wrote down its $100-million investment in Strong’s companies to virtually nothing. Assets previously described as being worth $100 million and paid for in cash, shares, and promissory notes were now described as worthless.

The banks, a familiar group including Chase Manhattan, Credit-Lyonnais, the Bank of Montreal, and the Bank of New York, agreed to payment of their loans with shares and warrants, but insisted that the special preferred shares be taken out and insisted on a fire sale of the Tosco assets. Strong resigned from the Tosco board and exchanged his preferred shares for common shares which he sold on the market for about $5 million. Spangler set up First Phoenix Corporation (so aptly named) and proceeded to buy back from Tosco at bargain prices some allegedly worthless assets. Strong and his Sogener associates bought back Credit Immobilier for $600,000 in cash plus the assumption of $29,475,000 of debt from Tosco or AZL to Credit Immobilier which was immediately cancelled. Before he left Tosco’s board, Strong offered to buy AZL assets too. In October 1985, after Strong had left Tosco’s board, his First Colorado Corporation did buy the Baca Grande ranch and other AZL real estate and oil and gas assets from Tosco. Sam Belzburg was one of the investors along with Strong in First Colorado. First Colorado paid Tosco $8.2 million for these assets, including the 139,000-acre ranch which also encompasses two major mountain peaks. Underneath the ranch lies a huge aquifer whose water First Colorado hoped to sell for billions. Strong emerged flush enough to personally give the federal Liberal Party $5,000 in an election year.

After the Progressive Conservatives, led by Brian Mulroney, came to power in the fall of 1984, Strong resigned from the board of CDIC. He was busy with other things.5 In 1983, about the time Tosco defaulted, he had been appointed a member of the Brundtland Commission, the World Commission on Environment and Development. He also got his Sogener associate Chip Lindner a job as the commission’s executive director. The secretary general was a Canadian, Jim MacNeill, who would later serve as chair of a charity raising money for Strong’s office at the Rio Summit. Late in 1984, Strong also got a call from an old friend, former U.S. Republican Congressman Bradford Morse, then head of the U.N. Development Program.

Morse had been asked to organize the relief effort to save thirty million people on the brink of starvation in sub-Saharan Africa. He needed Strong’s help.

It was said of Strong that he created the ultimate information network to deal with the famine-stricken areas of twenty-seven countries in Africa, where governments were toppling, civil wars blazing, and donor countries were certain that aid was being diverted from the hungry to feed soldiers. He lived on planes. He went in and out of one-party-ruled countries that had been created and funded by the U.S., the U.S.S.R., China, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and their various proxies, countries that had also become the recipients of Saudi Arabia’s chequebook diplomacy. He got the president of Sudan to open his borders to refugees. He flew to Ethiopia to meet the Soviet-backed Mengistu Haile Mariam several times. He pushed Mengistu to let through the truck convoys and allow the U.N. to monitor delivery of food. This was dangerous work. “You can deal with tough people,” said Strong. “[You] cater to the best and the worst.”

He had cut a deal with Mengistu. He had long since given up on the idea of converting others to the Good. He’d learned to identify actors and their motives and get them onside. If he had succeeded in Africa, it was because he had done his homework. He knew what Mengistu wanted.

At the end of December 1986, Strong was asked to lunch with the new Swedish Prime Minister, Ingvar Carlsson. The Brundtland Commission was winding down, but an explosion at the Soviet nuclear power plant at Chemobyl had scattered radioactive materials all over Europe. At the lunch, Strong proposed a new United Nations conference on the environment to be held on the twentieth anniversary of the Stockholm conference. At first, Strong thought Sweden would host the conference. Then Canada put in a bid. Then, in April 1989, Brazil put in a bid too. Strong scouted in Brazil to find out what the prospective president, Collor de Mello, thought about the issues. In the end, said Strong, it was the Brazilians who suggested that he, Maurice Strong, should be the secretary general of this conference.

Once again, the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations were generous helping Strong with the costs of his U.N. office. This money was given to a new charity set up in Washington, which doled it out. Some very large multinational corporations, including oil and chemical companies based in Britain, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, and the U.S., also put large sums of money into this kitty. Old associates of Strong like Jim MacNeill served on the charity’s board of directors. Strong did not divest himself of all his energy or resource holdings. Instead, his former protege at Power Corporation, William Turner, voted his shares in Baca Resources, a publicly traded Alberta oil company he controlled. (It in turn controlled an oil and gas subsidiary of the same name in the U.S.) By this point Maurice Strong had become a figure above suspicion.

A few days later, at his office, Strong popped candies to keep up his energy. / bounced in my chair across from him, interrupting, accusing. I was full of the conversations I’d had with others in Geneva. I was beginning to understand that the Rio Summit was part of a Rockefeller-envisioned Global Governance Agenda that dated back before World War II, that it was linked to the regional trade agreements just being negotiated—the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Maastricht Treaty. Like the Stockholm Conference, it was all about integrating East and West. He was part of the push to remake the U.N. itself to fit a brave new unipolar world. He diverted my attention only briefly with talk about his lunch with the French who may have been appraising him as a candidate for secretary general.

“So, what about it, are you a One Worlder?” I finally asked.

“Have you read what I’ve said on that?” he asked. “I’ve said for years the world needs a world system of governance. Every issue [should be] dealt with at the level [where it can] be dealt with effectively. … Ozone comes from refrigerants. You’ve gotta have a global agreement [to deal with it] but actions [have to be] taken nationally. … I also point out that people have to understand the U.N. is different from other governments–[there is] no direct access to [a] constituency and no access to the power of taxation and it is as though the [Canadian] federal government depended for its mandate on a day-by-day decision of the provinces. You know how that would work. Eventually, the U.N. will need direct access as a global level of systems, not the most powerful, but increasing. …

point out there is a great difference, the U.N. is a long way from being a world government,” he said. “Maybe it will never get a general taxation power. We recommend that there will be a kind of tax … in dealing with climate change. … [The] U.N. [may] not apply it. [‘The] most plausible way [is] where [a] government agrees in consultation to levy the tax nationally and [put a] portion on [an] agreed formula of GNP and put it in a U.N. administered fund.”

Such a tax, he said, definitely would not be levied in the cause of world government. But, nonetheless, he was convinced that in not too long a time, world governance would definitely happen. “A century ago,” he said, “Garibaldi was seen as completely unrealistic for saying Italy could be united, but it did happen. It can become tomorrow’s inevitability. I see it as inevitable—it’s unreal right now—but I do see it as a necessity.” He proposed that governments themselves move towards it, to pass an act to apportion to a fund—that sort of thing was in line with existing constitutional practices. He said this with a rockhard determination.

I then understood that he hoped to get national governments to take the first and second and third steps in the diminution of their own powers at Rio. It was like hearing a distant trumpet sound outside the walls, a signal that a great work had begun. The Rio Summit, like the Stockholm Conference, was aimed at reorganizing the world into very much larger administrative units, with real power redistributed from national governments to vast regional organizations. The idea of relative sovereignty was going to apply to all nation states, not just environmentally sensitive places like the Amazon. The foundations for this had been laid years ago around the time of Stockholm, back when it seemed the U.S., the U.S.S.R., and China could all come to at least a triangular agreement. That’s when the Rockefellers had first created their Trilateral Commission, an organization that configured the world in three economic zones–Europe, North America, and Japan.

One of his secretaries buzzed. He was sharp with her. He reported to her that he had met with two important members of an important delegation. They had known he was having a secret lunch with Perez de Cuellar. He wanted to know how they found out, where the leak was. He wanted her to know he was annoyed.

During his tenure at the U.N., he said, when he was done, this business of spying had always been a factor. “In the Cold War,” he said, as if it were long over, “the Soviets showed me dossiers on people [they thought] were CIA. The Americans said x is KGB. … I assumed everybody is on. It’s the right way to operate. … I decided the U.N. [is an] open, leaky system and to treat it that way.” He mused about the business of openness in the face of the covert. “I’ve lived a complex life—I’m open about it,” he said. Most of his complexities, he added later, “were known or suspected.”

“The U.N. is riddled with intelligence people,” he said. “It’s good cover. A lot like to get in places where things [are] drafted.”

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Recent questions on GM crops and HT Bt cotton in India’s parliament

This started on 4 July as two questions. Now I’ve updated the title to provide a running record of parliamentary question on GM crops (There are a few more as well: http://164.100.47.5/qsearch/QResult.aspx  and http://164.100.47.5/qsearch/QResult.aspx)

QUESTION #1, 2 July 2019

PDF here, Word document here

GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FARMERS WELFARE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, COOPERATION AND FARMERS WELFARE

LOK  SABHA UNSTARRED QUESTION NO.1691

TO BE ANSWERED ON THE 2ND JULY, 2019

BAN ON GM CROPS

  1. DR. SUKANTA MAJUMDAR: SHRI KHAGEN  MURMU:

Will the Minister of AGRICULTURE AND FARMERS WELFARE  be pleased to state:

  • whether a number of Genetically Modified (GM) crops have  been  banned for cultivation in the country;
  • if so, the details threrof;
  • whether incidents  of  illegal cultivation of Genetically Modified seeds like  Bt  Cotton,  Bt Brinjal  have  been reported in different parts of the country;
  • if so, the detail thereof;
  • whether the  Government  has formulated various measures and bio-safety protocols for the introduction of GM crops  in the country; and
  • if so, the steps being taken by the Government in this regard?

ANSWER

MINISTER  OF AGRICULTURE AND FARMERS WELFARE (SHRI NARENDRA SINGH TOMAR)

(a) & (b): Bt. cotton is the only Genetically Modified (GM) crop approved in 2002 by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for commercial cultivation in the Country and, therefore, cultivation of other unapproved GM crops are banned in India.

(c) & (d): Few incidences of suspected open cultivation of Bt. brinjal and HT cotton were reported in Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare has issued advisories to States to take appropriate necessary action to curb and control the spread of Bt. Brinjal and HT cotton. State Governments have given the directions to all District Administration to take necessary legal steps to curb the production and selling of illegal GM crops.

  • & (f): There is a well established regulatory framework for approval of GM Crops as per “Rules for the Manufacture/Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989” under  the  Environment  (Protection)  Act, 1986 in the

Evaluation of each application of GM crop is done on a case-to-case basis after  a thorough examination of health, environment, food and feed safety assessment studies undertaken in a systematic and scientific manner as per prescribed guidelines, manuals and standard operating procedures stipulated by various regulatory agencies under the Rules, 1989 from time to time. The data generated by the applicants is reviewed at every step in the development process of GM crops by various Statutory Committees under the Rules, 1989 such as Institutional Biosafety Committee, Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation and Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee.

A series of guidelines and protocols have been issued by Department of Biotechnology and Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change relating to Genetically Modified Organisms and product thereof as under:

  1. Recombinant DNA Safety Guidelines, 1990
  2. Revised Guidelines for Research in Transgenic Plants, 1998
  • Guidelines for the  Safety  Assessment  of  Foods  Derived  from  Genetically Engineered Plants, 2008
  1. Guidelines for  the   monitoring   of   Confined  Field   Trials   of   Regulated,  Genetically Engineered (GE) Plants, 2008
  2. Standard  Operating   Procedures   (SOPs)   for   Confined   Field   Trials   of   Regulated,

Genetically Engineered (GE) Plants, 2008

  1. Protocol for Food and Feed Safety Assessment of GE crops, 2008
  • Guidelines and Handbook for Institutional Bio-safety Committees (IBSCs), 2011
  • Environmental  Risk   Assessment   of   Genetically   Engineered   Plants:   A   Guide   for Stakeholders, 2016
  1. Guidelines for  the  Environmental  Risk  Assessment  of  Genetically  Engineered  Plants,

x     Risk Analysis Framework, 2016.

********

QUESTION #2, 2 July 2019

PDF here. Word document here.

GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FARMERS WELFARE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, COOPERATION AND FARMERS WELFARE

LOK SABHA UNSTARRED QUESTION NO.1746

TO BE ANSWERED ON THE 2ND JULY, 2019

  1. COTTON PRODUCTION
  1. PROF. SAUGATA ROY:

Will the Minister of AGRICULTURE AND FARMERS WELFARE be pleased to state:

  • whether the Cotton production in the country is rising;
  • if so, the details thereof, State-wise;
  • whether the  Government  has  taken  necessary  steps  to  ensure  the  price  is commensurate with the cost of production; and
  • if so, the details thereof?

ANSWER

MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND FARMERS WELFARE ( SHRI NARENDRA SINGH TOMAR)

(a) & (b):  Yes Sir, the production of cotton is rising since last three years (Annexure-I).

However, separate production figures are not available for Bt cotton and non-Bt cotton.

(c) & (d): Government fixed Minimum Support Price (MSP) of cotton at minimum of 50% as the margin over cost of production.

Annexure-I

Cotton production in major cotton growing States:

Production (‘000’ bales of 170 kgs. each)

S. No.States2015-162016-172017-18
1Andhra Pradesh1888.001564.002087.00
2Gujarat9400.008575.0010187.00
3Haryana993.002041.001627.00
4Karnataka2000.001010.001844.00
5Madhya Pradesh1800.002050.691620.00
6Maharashtra7500.0010618.766094.00
7Odisha300.00382.00408.00
8Punjab750.001031.031283.00
9Rajasthan1214.001401.921893.00
10Tamil Nadu369.00359.00445.00
11Telangana3661.003444.005195.00
12Others130.00100.00122.00
All India30005.0032577.4032805.00

Source: Directorate of Economic and Statistics, DAC&FW.

QUESTION #3, 12 July 2019

Source

This admits that there are two views on the issue and that GAEC has advised further studies. The continued moratorium is unfortunate but the answer possibly amounts to some progress since courts will not tolerate arresting people on a matter on which the government admits to having different expert opinions.

GOVERNMENT OF INDIA MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE

LOK SABHA

STARRED QUESTION NO. 288

TO BE ANSWERED ON 12.07.2019
Genetically Modified Crops

*288. SHRI JAYADEV GALLA:

Will the Minister of ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE be pleased to state:
(a) whether various NGOs are objecting to the Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard, Brinjal, etc.;

(b) if so, the reasons therefor;

(c) whether it is true that farmers are demanding introduction of more GM crops and if so, the details thereof;

(d) whether the Ministry has released the bio-safety data on GM Mustard, Brinjal, etc., if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons therefor; and

(e) whether his Ministry has got any feedback from various stakeholders, general public, experts and others in this regard, if so, the details thereof?

ANSWER
MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE (SHRI PRAKASH JAVADEKAR)

(a) to (e) A statement is laid on the Table of the House.
***
STATEMENT REFERRED TO IN REPLY TO LOK SABHA STARRED QUESTION NO. 288 TO BE ANSWERED ON 12.07.2019 REGARDING GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS BY SHRI JAYADEV GALLA:
(a) and (b) Yes. This Ministry has received some representations objecting to Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard, Brinjal crops etc. on grounds that GM crops may adversely impact environment, biodiversity and human health.

(c) Yes. Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmer’s organisation in Maharashtra has written to this Ministry for permitting access to more GM Crops for the welfare of farmers in India.

(d) Yes, biosafety data on GM Brinjal and GM Mustard was made available during public consultation by Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee as per biosafety regulations.

(e) Yes, feedback was received from multiple stakeholders both for and against release of GM Brinjal and GM Mustard. The feedback was suitably considered by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, which has advised additional studies to be conducted for assessment of impact on environment and health.

QUESTION #4, 19 July 2019

Source

[Screenshot here, and PDF, in case GOI removes this info]

GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FORESTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
LOK SABHA UNSTARRED QUESTION NO: 4441
ANSWERED ON: 19.07.2019
Safety of GM Crops
Kirti Vardhan Singh
Will the Minister of ENVIRONMENT, FORESTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE be pleased to state:-

(a) whether the Government is aware that Genetically Modified (GM) crops are unsafe and if so, the details thereof and the preventive measures taken by the Government in this regard;
(b) whether GM crops are assessed case by case;
(c) if so, the details and the outcome thereof;
(d) whether the Government is aware that GM crops like Bt. Brinjal are being cultivated by farmers even though it has not been approved by the competent authority; and
(e) if so, the details thereof and the action taken by the Government so far to check the further farming of Bt. Brinjal?

ANSWER
MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE
(SHRI BABUL SUPRIYO)

(a) to (c) All Genetically Modified (GM) crops have to undergo elaborate food, feed and environmental safety assessment following regulatory guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures under Rules for the Manufacture, Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro Organisms/ Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for approval of commercial cultivation in the country. As of now, Bt. cotton is the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in the country after extensive evaluation and satisfying all regulatory requirements.

There is no scientific evidence to prove that GM crops are unsafe. GM foods are regulated under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which consolidates laws for manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. So far, no Living Modified Organisms relating to food has been approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

In order to ensure that GM crops are safe for human health and environmental release in the country, bio-safety assessment is done for each crop on a case by case basis as per applicable guidelines, manuals and protocols prescribed from time to time by relevant agencies under Rules, 1989 under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

(d) and (e) Yes. This Ministry has received complaints on illegal cultivation of Bt. Brinjal in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, and Punjab. All States/Union Territories (UTs) have been directed to constitute and strengthen State/UT Biotechnology Coordination Committees and District Level Committees for monitoring instances of illegal cultivation of GM Crops and taking appropriate action under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
***

 

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A 2007 PhD thesis on Kautilya’s Arthashastra – interesting summary of the ancient Indian state and economy

I’m always interested in analyses of the Arthashastra. Reporting this here for my future reference. The thesis confirms my readings so far from a variety of sources. The ancient Indian state can be best characterised as a pre-liberal capitalist state. The moot question relates to the level of freedom of thought and speech. It appears that there was significant freedom of thought and religion, but there was somewhat limited freedom of speech.

KAUTILYAN ANTECEDENTS OF THE WESTPHALIAN ORDER
By Sunny Jiten Singh

SOME QUOTES (not necessarily linked to Arthashastra)

KING’S PRIMARY FUNCTION OF SECURITY

The responsibility of the raja in the Vedic sources was primarily that of a leader in battle and the protector of the settlements.

it is also important to note the Aitareya Brahmana literature, which stated that, “state and kingship had emerged from military necessity.”25 In exchange for the protection of people, the king received obedience and their contribution to the maintenance of his reign.

INDEPENDENT DELIVERY OF JUSTICE

After taking into full consideration the person and the offence, the motive, seriousness or lightness (of the offence), the consequences, the present (effects), and the place and time, the magistrate shall fix the highest, the lowest and the middle in the matter of punishment remaining neutral between the King and the subjects.

KING RESPONSIBLE TO SERVE THE PUBLIC INTEREST

the king, at least in theory, was considered subordinate to the popular will of the people, as mentioned in the Kautilya Arthasastra

PROTECTING TRADE WAS A KEY FUNCTION

“Local circuits of trade linked the villages, gramas, with the local market centres, nigamas, and these in turn with the towns, nagaras, the commodities in circulation being largely items of basic consumption.“39 Trade was certainly not limited by India’s natural waterways; in fact, trade flourished along the Ganges and river traffic “provided a wider circuit of exchange.”” While some scholars doubt the extent of trade with neighboring empires, it must be pointed out that, well before the Vedic age, archaeological evidence of clay seals throughout the Indus Valley and the ancient states of Mesopotamia like Ur, Lagash, and others suggests a strong trading environment between the inhabitants of theIndus Valley, specifically Mohenjodaro/Harappa and the Ancient Mesopotamia.

KING HAD NO ROLE IN MATTERS OF RELIGION

Kautilya advocated separation of church and state

NO ROLE FOR THE STATE IN EDUCATION

Surprisingly however, Kautilya did not mention much about the importance of education as an important element of statecraft. [Sanjeev; this is important. The king in Arthashastra DOES NOT involve himself in education]

RESPECT FOR FOREIGNERS

As described in Fragment I, Diodorus II, “among the Indians officers are appointed even for foreigners, whose duty is to see that no foreigner is wronged. Should any of them lose his health, they send physicians to attend him, and take care of him otherwise, and if he dies, they bury him, and deliver over such property as he leaves to his relatives.”103 [Sanjeev: great respect for foreigners]

NO TENURE FOR SENIOR OFFICIALS

This is precisely why Kautilya suggested that the monarch set up a recruitment policy to “establish (each) department with many heads and without permanency (of tenure of office).”5

WELL-ADMINISTERED COUNTRY WITH VERY HONEST PEOPLE

“They dislike a great undisciplined multitude, and consequently they observe good order. Theft is of very rare occurrence. Megasthenes says that those who were in the camp of Sandrokottos, wherein lay 400,000 men, found that the thefts reported on any one day did not exceed the value of two hundred drachmae…”69 

“Their houses and property they generally leave unguarded.”72

[Sanjeev: this reflects the HIGH levels of morality in ancient India- achieved through effective governance systems.]

NO SLAVERY

“…of several remarkable customs existing among the Indians, there is one prescribed by their ancient philosophers which one may regard as truly admirable; for the law ordains that no one among them shall, under any circumstances, be a slave, but that, enjoying freedom, they shall respect the equal right to it which all possess: for those, they thought who have learned neither to domineer over nor to cringe to others will attain the life best adapted for all vicissitudes of lot: for it is but fair and reasonable to institute laws which bind all equally…” 83 [Sanjeev: Ancient India DID NOT authorise slavery]

HOWEVER: “Scholars contend that despite the comprehensive welfare provisions in place under Mauryan rule, slavery was commonplace in ancient India. The issue of slavery in ancient India remains contentious amongst historians.”

it was noted by Megasthenes that the populace in India during his stay seemed generally content. Indeed as noted, one can gather this to be true because stringent control of the state in fact produced a protected society, thus Megasthenes’ further claim that crime was rare. The permanency of the message is striking as five centuries later, Fa-Hsien and his companions would also note that, “the inhabitants are prosperous and happy. [Sanjeev: a well administered country was India]

COMPREHENSIVE BUT RELATIVELY LIGHT TAXATION

“…the Administrator should cause to be entered in the Register the number of villages, classifying them as best, middling and lowest…grains, cattle, cash, forest produce, labour and produce in place of tax.”7 Kautilya further detailed what was taxable from the countryside so that his superintendents knew exactly what constituted revenue for the state. He told them, “the aggregate tax, the one-sixth share, provisions for the army, tribute, tax, the ‘lap’, the `side’, compensation for loss, presents, and income from stores constitute revenue from the countryside.”8 The “one-sixth share” in the sentence above refers to bhaga, which is to be understood as a share of produce from private lands, usually one-sixth. The one-sixth share is not fixed, as the tax fluctuated depending on the condition of the countryside. In fact, it went as high as one-fourth or one-third from the most fertile land, “according to yield” on an average land. Not much was expected from un-arable land which, as Kautilya stated, was better suited for infrastructure.

Despite comprehensive taxation, “taxes were intended to be light and equitable. The King is advised not to put too great a burden on the people, nor to resort to unrighteous and covetous methods.22 This sentiment was affirmed by Kautilya, who wrote that, “the King should exempt from taxes a region laid waste by the army of the enemy or by foresters, or afflicted by disease or famine.”23 Furthermore, Kautilya reached out directly to farmers when he said, “And he [referring to the King] should favor them with grains cattle and money. These they should pay back afterwards at their convenience.”24

[Sanjeev: this was a sophisticated tax system, underpinned by the ability to pay but never excessive, with one-third being the max. Sunny further details how taxation worked. Worth a read.]

…he should ask money of the rich according to their wealth, or according to benefits (conferred on them), or whatever they may offer of their own will [Sanjeev: this was for an emergency]

As Kautilya noted, “even actors, singers and prostitutes are to pay half their income.” [Sanjeev: Not quite sure about this – but appears that some categories of labour were at least partly supported by state regulation – so presumably they had a greater obligation to pay tax – need to check this when I find time]

Further:

The merchants dealing in gold, silver diamonds, precious stones, pearls, coral, horses, and elephants were to pay fifty karas. Those that trade in cotton threads, cloths, copper, brass, bronze, sandal, medicins, and liquor had to pay fourty karas. The trader in grains, liquids, metals and he who deal with cart were to pay thirty karas. Those that carried on their trade in glass (kaca) and also the artisans of fine workmanship, as well as those who kept prostitutes were to pay ten karas. Those that traded in fire wood, bamboos, stones, earthen pots, cooked rice, and vegetables had to pay five karas. Dramatist and prostitutes were to pay half their wages [Source]

LIMITED FREEDOMS AND PRIVACY

The Kautilyan police state was almost total. There was no room for anything resembling the modern Bill of Rights because individual liberties like freedom of speech and privacy were absent in the Kautilyan State. [Sanjeev: this is natural, given the constant fear of enemy attack in his times. The idea of liberty requires a strong state that is fully capable of performing its security functions. When security is compromised, freedom generally suffers.]

SUPPORT FOR THE POOR

…in all cases, he should favor the stricken (subjects) like a father.102

And the king should maintain children, aged persons and persons in distress when these are helpless, as also the woman who has borne no child and the sons of one who has (when these are helpless).’°3

And those women who do not stir out — those living separately, widows,
crippled women or maidens, – who wish to earn their living, should be given
work by sending his own female slaves to them with (a view to) support them.

Section officers inquired about each family’s income and expenditure to determine each family’s living conditions. Furthermore, the use of local and state officers provided
for an extremely structured welfare state.

USER-PAYS PRINCIPLE FOR INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING

Kautilya gave due attention to the physical attributes of cities and towns. In other words, the dwellings in cities and towns had to not only adhere to certain criteria for maximum benefit of the people but at the very least had to provide resources within their reach.

 

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