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Some serious thoughts on the ramifications of Scientology and Monsanto for Vietnam.
(HANOI) - When I visited Vietnam for the first time in the early eighties, we were taken to a rehabilitation center that was located on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.
There, drug addicts received a treatment that consisted of physical exercise, massage, and traditional medication. It was what we would call in German “kalter Entzug”, cold turkey in colloquial English, and must have been quite hard and painful for the inmates.
I thought of this particular visit when I read An Dien’s article titled Scientology in Vietnam: open welcome or backdoor entry?, published in the last edition of Vietweek. Indeed, the detoxification program for victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, called “Purification Rundown”, seems to employ similar methods, namely physical exercise and sauna, which – with the exception of the intake of vitamin pills – can be considered “traditional”.
With the aim of providing relief and assistance to the Agent Orange victims, VAVA (the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin) has welcomed the method. And, obviously, competent authorities have embraced it too: The “Purification Rundown”, also known as the “Hubbard Method” (named after the founder of the “Church of Scientology”) is currently applied in a military hospital in Hanoi.
Some of us foreigners in this country, who are perhaps a bit more familiar with the controversies surrounding the so called Church of Scientology in our own countries, are perplexed by the fact that this religious sect was allowed to make its entry so to say through the backdoor.
As a matter of fact, we experienced a similar bafflement when we found out that Monsanto had set up an office and was doing business in Vietnam – which brings me to a comparison of the ramifications of Scientology and Monsanto.
The one promises to help ease the pain of the estimated three million victims affected by Agent Orange/Dioxin in Vietnam – with jogging, sauna and intake of vitamins. The other, in part responsible for the suffering of these victims, promises to help feed the 90 million Vietnamese people – with genetically modified seeds and crops.
Aminata Traoré, the sociologist and activist for global social justice from Mali, once said: “The fish should not believe that the fisherman wants its best.” In other words, institutions and companies like the ones mentioned are “tending a bite,” but we need to be aware of the fact that they do have vested interests.
While it still seems unclear why the Scientologists have entered Vietnam, there is great clarity about the motives of Monsanto, the world’s largest agribusiness company. It wants to make money here
Their strategy is the same: Noble promises, the creation of hope and believe, initial gratuity... Once the fish is on the hook, there is hardly any escape.
In many countries where the Scientologists use the “Purification Rundown” method also as a means of introduction to their “church” and as a spiritual treatment, people who adhere to the program are compelled to pay large sums of money.
In February 2012, “a French appeals court upheld fraud charges and (...) an Euro 600,000 fine against the Church of Scientology in France for talking its recruits into paying large sums for bogus personality tests and cures.“ (For further information see: http://www.theprovince.com/news/Church+Scientology+charged+criminal+organization+Belgium/7754614/story.html#ixzz2QUdn31T1
“Roundup”, on the other hand, is a weed killer developed by Monsanto, the US multinational agribusiness corporation on the basis of a toxin known as glyphosate. Certain crops that are marketed by the Monsanto Company, such as the Roundup Ready© Soybeans or the Roundup Ready© Maize, have been genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate.
Note that certain countries, such as Denmark for instance, have for long “imposed widespread bans on the spraying of glyphosate in response to research showing that the sprays have been contaminating the country’s groundwater.” (For further information see: http://organic.com.au/news/dk/2003.09.15/
However, the Vietnamese people should keep in mind that Monsanto is one of those US companies that produced the herbicide and defoliant known as Agent Orange, which was used by the US military during the war against Vietnam. These companies are responsible for the contamination with dioxin and thus responsible for the suffering and pain of the millions of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin.
The introduction by the Scientologists of a pseudo-medical treatment such as the “Purification Rundown”, which qualified and experienced scientists consider a scam, is not only an affront to the victims, it is also an abuse of the goodwill of those who want to provide relief and assistance.
The same could be said about Monsanto’s presence in Vietnam and the corporation’s promises to offer solutions for food security on the background of let’s say climate change. Besides serious concerns about the environment, the health of people, and the country’s food sovereignty, the ultimate victims are the small-scale farmers who will eventually be obliged to pay hefty royalties to the seed company.
By Margrit Schlosser
*The writer is a Swiss expat who lives in Hanoi. The opinions expressed are her own.
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