I don’t know about you, but I would label my personal knowledge of Hungary as wanting, if not painfully incomplete. It’s not an easy country to come to grips with, not least of all of course because Hungarian doesn’t look like any western language we know with the possible exception of Finnish. I did visit just after the Wall came down, and remember huge contrasts, almost paradoxes, between rural poverty and a capital, Budapest, that was much richer than other capitals such as Prague, a leftover of Budapest’s status as meeting place between western and eastern diplomats and businessmen.
The riches were not for all, though, the city center was full of beggars and panhandlers, mostly Roma. To keep up the paradox, Mercedes sold more luxury models in Hungary than just about anywhere else back then, reportedly mostly also to Roma; just not the same.
In the years since, precious little attention has been and is being devoted to the former eastern bloc countries in the Anglo press. We know most of the countries are now members of the European Union, but only a few have been allowed to enter the hallowed grounds of the eurozone.
One thing I did pick up on last year was the news that Hungary’s PM Victor Orbán had thrown chemical, food and seed giant Monsanto out of the country, going as far as to plow under 1000 acres of land. Now, I have little patience for Monsanto, infamous for many products ranging from Agent Orange to Round-Up, nor for its ilk, from DuPont to Sygenta, all former chemical companies that have at some point decided they could sell more chemicals than ever before by applying them on and inside everyone’s daily food. Patenting nature itself seems either unworthy of mankind or its grandest achievement. I don’t care much for either one. So Orbán (who has a two-thirds majority in parliament, by the way) has my tentative support on this one.
This is from July 22, 2011, International Business Times:
Hungary Destroys All Monsanto GMO Maize Fields
In an effort to rid the country of Monsanto’s GMO products, Hungary has stepped up the pace. This looks like its going to be another slap in the face for Monsanto. A new regulation was introduced this March which stipulates that seeds are supposed to be checked for GMO before they are introduced to the market. Unfortunately, some GMO seeds made it to the farmers without them knowing it.
Almost 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds have been destroyed throughout Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar said. The GMO maize has been ploughed under, said Lajos Bognar, but pollen has not spread from the maize, he added.
Unlike several EU members, GMO seeds are banned in Hungary. The checks will continue despite the fact that seed traders are obliged to make sure that their products are GMO free, Bognar said. During their investigation, controllers have found Pioneer and Monsanto products among the seeds planted.
It’s remarkably hard to find sources on this, ironically. It’s even harder, even more ironically, to find anything that mentions the Wikileaks report on the connections between the US government and the chemical/seed industry. Which is curious, in my opinion; it’s not as if there’s nothing newsworthy in the topic. Just about the only thing I could find was this from Anthony Gucciardi at NaturalSociety.com.
US to Start ‘Trade Wars’ with Nations Opposed to Monsanto, GMO Crops
The United States is threatening nations who oppose Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) crops with military-style trade wars, according to information obtained and released by the organization WikiLeaks. Nations like France, which have moved to ban one of Monsanto’s GM corn varieties, were requested to be ‘penalized’ by the United States for opposing Monsanto and genetically modified foods. The information reveals just how deep Monsanto’s roots have penetrated key positions within the United States government, with the cables reporting that many U.S. diplomats work directly for Monsanto. [..]
Perhaps the most shocking piece of information exposed by the cables is the fact that these U.S. diplomats are actually working directly for biotech corporations like Monsanto. The cables also highlight the relationship between the U.S. and Spain in their conquest to persuade other nations to allow for the expansion of GMO crops. Not only did the Spanish government secretly correspond with the U.S. government on the subject, but the U.S. government actually knew beforehand how Spain would vote before the Spanish biotech commission reported their decision regarding GMO crops.
It doesn’t look like Orbán and Hungary have a lot of support in their fight against Monsanto and GMO in general on the political front. But that still does little to explain the radio silence.
There was more international reporting earlier this year, when Orbán again faced up to two other major forces, in this instance the IMF and the EU. On January 1, the Hungarian parliament and president signed a new constitution into law. And it contains a number of things that the Troika members don’t like. In particular, they are probably at odds with taxes levied on bank transactions, and especially central bank transactions. Not the kind of thing the IMF is likely to ever agree with. It all gets clad in protesting (the EU even threatens with courts) the independence under fire of the central bank, the media and other parts of Hungarian society.
The IMF and EU, like the tandem team of Monsanto and Washington before them, act like schoolyard bullies. It’s become their standard MO, and it usually works. Portraits of Orbán as a fool, a reckless idiot and a dangerous populist, on par with that of Hugo Chavez or newly found international enemy Rafael Correa, are much easier to find than those links to Wikileaks Monsanto cables. It would be good to see Orbán continue to stand up to the IMF bullies, but he may not have that choice. They can simply financially bleed him dry, like they have so many other countries and their leaders. It’s a time tested model.
So maybe we’ll have to do with a good and hearty chuckle, and enjoy his announcement yesterday:
Hungarian prime minister unfriends IMF on Facebook
Hungary’s prime minister has long had a testy relationship with the International Monetary Fund —and on Thursday he used Facebook to unfriend the agency and reject its allegedly tough loan conditions.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a video message on his official Facebook page that Hungary could not accept pension cuts, the elimination of a bank tax, fewer public employees and other conditions in exchange for an IMF loan that other officials have said could be about €15 billion ($18.9 billion). The IMF’s list of conditions, Orban said, ” contains everything that is not in Hungary’s interests.”
Orban’s announcement took the markets by surprise, in part because just a day earlier he had said loan negotiations with the IMF and the European Union were going according to schedule and both sides were willing to reach an agreement. [..]
In late 2008, under a Socialist government, Hungary became the first EU country to receive an IMF-led bailout. The Orban government, however, decided not to renew the loan agreement in 2010 so it could implement its economic policies without IMF control. But the increasing weakness of the forint, the Hungarian currency, and investors’ growing loss of trust in the country’s economy made the government abruptly change its mind late last year, when it again sought IMF help.
Basically, what the IMF demands is what it has always demanded through the years from countries it lends money to: cut pensions, cut the public sector, cut benefits yada yada, and then privatize, open markets, and open financial systems, so international operating conglomerates can move in and divvy up the spoils -“create a more ‘business friendly’ environment to boost growth” -. The IMF is the poster child for disaster capitalism, no matter how you twist and turn it. And Orbán can see clearly what is being done to Greece, which is just around the corner from Hungary.
Hungary: Orban’s horror show
A “list of horrors”. That’s how Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán described on Thursday the conditions given by the IMF / EU for a deal, via a video on his Facebook page. [..]
Orban blamed the “long list” of onerous conditions that had, supposedly, been leaked to Magyar Nemzet, a slavishly pro-government daily, on Wednesday. The list contains a number of Orbán’s most sacred political themes, including cuts in pensions, family allowances and transport perks, an increase in the age of retirement, the introduction of a property tax, the abolition of the bank and financial transaction taxes, and modifications to the flat-rate, personal income tax regime.
And here’s a bit more:
Hungary PM rejects IMF/EU terms, hopes fade for deal
Hungary threw hopes for a new loan to prop up its sagging economy into disarray on Thursday as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban rejected what he called unacceptable IMF conditions, crushing prospects for a fast agreement. Orban, in a video posted on his Facebook page, cited demands from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a raft of changes that he said were too high a price for Hungary to pay.
“From cutting pensions to reducing bureaucracy to scrapping the bank tax and the funds to be made available to banks, everything is in there that’s not in Hungary’s interest,” Orban said. “The parliamentary group meeting (of the ruling Fidesz party) took the view, and I personally agree with it, that at this price, this will not work,” he added. [..]
To reverse that momentum, Orban is pushing a 300 billion forint ($1.33 billion) job saving plan, partly funded by a new tax on central bank operations, a key sticking point in the IMF talks, which the European Central Bank has also criticised. [..]
“Junk”-rated Hungary faces a repayment hump in the next five quarters, with the equivalent of €4.6 billion euros falling due from its previous IMF/EU bailout alone.
It’s enough of a David vs Goliath fight, or a Little Red Riding Hood vs the Wolf, to make one question the bullies. Now, I don’t really know Victor Orbán, all I know is western media descriptions of him, not a very reliable source, and he could well be a bully himself. But I still like the Little Red Riding Hood story (and dislike Monsanto and the IMF) enough to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
And besides, it’s as refreshing as it is high time to talk about something else than Greece or Spain. We’ll have to get back to them soon enough, after Draghi’s unlimited buying bailout boondoggle yesterday
Image: Buda Castle, Hungarian ParliamentBuilding,Budapest
Posts in discussion
Posted: 2 hours, 12 minutes ago by Glennda
FYI This just came to my email today. Interesting that Monsanto is so much of a Goliath with US backing. While I don’t think GMOs are necessarily a bad thing, the problem is the sneaky monopolistic style of Monsanto.
Idon’t know if I’ll be going to this, but it’s note worthy that it’s apoint of unification for the Occupy Movement.
(As far as the leader of Hungry goes, who knows? He may be a dictator with lots of cronyism going on, but he seems to have one thing right about the monopoly company and its supporters in the US and IMF.)
OCCUPY MONSANTO – Day of Action September 17 – Everywhere
(Some of us in the San Francisco Bay Area are planning on going to the action in Davis: occupy-monsanto.com/shutdown-monsanto-davis-california-600am-september-17-2012/ – If you don’t see an action near you, organize one yourself with the resources below)
Organize locally to take action for adecentralized occupation of Monsanto facilities around the world on September 17, 2012
Whether you like it or not, chances are Monsanto contaminated the food you ate today with chemicals and GMOs. Monsanto controls much of the world’s food supply at the expense of food democracy worldwide. This site is dedicated to empowering citizens of the world to take action against Monsanto during the week of September 17th, 2012.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 27, 2012
GCU Media Liaison: Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671 GMO@Occupy-Monsanto.com
At least 60 Protests to Target Makers of Genetically Engineered Foods on Anniversary of Occupy Movement
WORLDWIDE – An expanding network of concerned individuals known as Occupy Monsanto has emerged over the past 8 months staging numerous protests at companies connected to the global trade of genetically engineered foods, also known as GMOs. The network announced today that on September 17, 2012 protests will begin for an entire week in St. Louis, home of the Monsanto Corporation, and across the US including Californiawhere voters will decide if they will label GMOs this election and worldwide in Argentina, Canada, Germany, India, Philippines, and other countries where concern over GMO impact on the environment and human health is growing.
The protests will vary in size and nature but are unified in pushing back GMO food into the lab from which it came. An interactive map withtimes, dates and locations of the 60+ protests can be foundat occupy-monsanto.com/genetic-crimes-unit/ .
Occupy Monsanto means to confront the industrial agriculture system head-on. Some protests could result in widespread arrests of people who choose to engage in non-violent civil disobedience. Despite the peaceful nature of these planned protests, organizers are concerned about surveillance of Occupy-Monsanto.com by the US Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies worldwide. Nevertheless Occupy Monsanto protests will feature costumes made of bio-hazmat protective gear that can also protect against pepper spray from police who have routinely attacked occupy protests in the past year.
“There is something wrong when a chemical manufacturer, the same company who made Agent Orange, controls the US food supply,” says Jaye Crawford, a member of the Genetic Crimes Unit in Atlanta, Georgia that has planned a week of events. Info: occupy-monsanto.com/atlanta-gcu-schedule-of-events/ .
“Wall Street and the American political elite have underestimated and even ignored our potential to effect rational policy change on GMOs which would include labeling for GMOs and restrictions on GMO cultivation,” says Gene Etic an anti-GMO campaigner based in Washington, DC. “If Occupy Monsanto’s anti-GMO actions are successful, after September 17 the media and increasingly more voters will ask tough questions about these experimental GMO crops especially within the context of the Presidential election, as that office holds the power to determine American food policy,” says Etic.
“People are stirred by the evidence that GMO foods compromise human health,” says Rica Madrid, a member of the Genetic Crime Unit of Occupy Monsanto. “Politicians and their sponsoring corporations ignore public outcry over GMOs toprotect huge profits over health. Since GMOs’ introduction to the food supply in the mid 1990’s, food allergies have expanded according to Center for Disease Control data,” says Madrid.
“By purchasing influence via massive campaign donations, Monsanto ensures the essential duties of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are neglected. One example of this corporate coup is President Obama’s appointment of Michael Taylor, former Monsanto Vice-President and legal council for the chemical company, to head the FDA’s food safety efforts despite his obvious conflict of interest,” says Ariel Vegosen, a member of the Genetic Crimes Unit. She adds, “Monsanto is the biggest maker of genetically engineered crops so it must be stopped before it is too late toshift to healthy organic agriculture practices as a result of widespread genetic contamination by GMOs. ‘Coexistence’ as defined by the USDA of Organic andGMO crops is amyth.”
“At the US State Department it’s apparent Monsanto has duped leaders in Africa to ask the US for foreign aid in the form of GMO technology and equipment,” says Monsanto shareholder Adam Eidinger who last year walked from New York to the White House in Washington, DC with hundreds of other food activists to demand labeling of GMO foods. “The generous use of US tax dollars, endorsed by the likes of rock-star Bono and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former legal council for Monsanto, is actually another taxpayer funded subsidy for Monsanto’s pesticide and herbicide hungry crops.”
Occupy Monsanto will be heard at the offices and facilities linked in the GMO food system. In St. Louis a major anti-GMO conference will take place in the same location as the ’12th International Symposium on GMO Safety.’ A lead organizer of the conference is Barbara Chicherio who believes, “‘Monsanto’s push to control agriculture and what people are eating poses a great threat not only to consumers in the US, but to farmers and communities throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia.” Info on the conference is at gmofreemidwest.org/ .
Media may arrange interviews with Occupy-Monsanto.com by contacting Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671 or write to gmo@Occupy-Monsanto.com
Visit Occupy-Monsanto.com for more information and to see video and photos of protests from earlier this year. All images and video are available for free and unrestricted use by members of the media.
Step 1: Choose your target There are hundreds of Monsanto facilities for your protest convenience. Pick your poison on our Facilities page…
Step 2: Form aplan Do you want to make signs, banners or props? Will people dress in costumes? Are you bringing tents, noisemakers, mediarecording devices? Will you perform achant, speech, or ceremony? There are so many ways to express your outrage at Monsanto’s devastation of our food, health, and environment, and many considerations…
Step 3: Take action during the week of September 17th, 2012 Join groups across the world for aglobal week of action at Monsanto facilities. Make this a week Monsanto will never forget as we unite with a single voice: OCCUPY MONSANTO!
Posted: 4 hours, 13 minutes ago by Mouse
I’m a little disappointed with this article. Taking a position again GMO and the IMF (apparently) doesn’t make Orban a good guy as this fairytale narrative suggests.
The reason the stories are few and far between is mostly no one cares for Hungary, 10 million people and as you indicate alittle linguistic island off of central europe. I’ve been living here the last four years and got a little closer to the country.
Since winning his two thirds majority Orban has rewritten the constitution and pretty much tied the hands of future governments. Some of his ideas and actions are appealing but the pattern of control, passing assets to a clique of close associates and rewarding friends is pretty familiar. If you want tedious details I can give you them or you can do a bit of research, there are some english language sources around while not all are balanced at least can give you some background.
Hungary is now a country where people are assaulted in the street for being, jewish, roma or gay, where fascists march in the center of Budapest on national holiday. The people are manipulated with stories of the enemies outside (code in many cases for jews), Mosanto, Tesco or IMF, maybe we have some shared enemies but I hope I never tempts me to see people like Orban as a friend.
Divide and rule is agame many parties play, there are not two sides here, there are many parties, not all wrong and not all right.
Posted: 5 hours, 27 minutes ago by SteveB
Ilargi, any thoughts on how long that ECB boondoggle might last before falling apart? I’m guessing a few months, but this is new territory for my attention.