Monsanto and the Politics of Life
edited: Tuesday, April 05, 2005
By Gary R Varner
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, September 07, 2001
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Monsanto has taken control of the United States food production with dangerous consequences. Read how the Bush Administration has become a party to big-business in the worse sense.
Over the last few weeks and months the news media has been filled with commentary about cloning human beings, stem cell research and genetically engineered foods. In some way, all of these topics are interrelated. While certain altruistic principals may rest in some of the research being conducted, it is sad but obvious to note that the underlying principals are monetary. The company that controls and holds the patents on life—yes, life—controls the daily existence of most of the world.
Perhaps the greatest danger to the natural world is the mega-conglomerate of Monsanto. Monsanto has the leading edge in seed production and sale as well as in “plant biotechnology”. While thousands of people around the world die daily from starvation because food cannot be produced in their own countries, Monsanto is producing plant seed that encourages the wide use of pesticide as well as seeds that will only produce one generation of crop. The purpose of this is that more seed must be purchased each year because the original seed crop is sterile. The end result is that seed cultivated and kept for future use, as is done in most of the world, will not grow. (1) As Geri Guidetti of the Ark Institute wrote, “never before has man created such an insidiously dangerous, far-reaching and ‘perfect’ plan to control the livelihoods, food supply and even survival of all humans on the planet.” (2) One fear is that the "terminator" function will escape into the wild--effectively ending the continuation of plant life in its natural state.
In addition, Monsanto has patented new strains of soybean, corn, canola and cotton, which it terms “Roundup Ready”. "Roundup Ready" means that the crops have been engineered to tolerate heavy doses of the pesticide Roundup, which would normally kill them. This is a two part disaster waiting. First, the planting of these strains will encourage the use and overuse of pesticides, which will drain off into the water table and alter the soil composition. Second, this practice will result in a continued non-natural, non-organic method of plant production, which has not been fully tested by the USDA. In fact the USDA does not intend to perform any sort of extensive tests on these plant products deeming anything that looks like a tomato is a tomato and thereby safe to eat. However, the DNA structures that make up that engineered tomato are not tomato DNA.
In the last few years, Monsanto has bought up Delta & Pine, which is the dominant cotton seed producer, giving Monsanto 85% of the US share of cotton seed as well as a major position holder in the worlds cotton production. Monsanto has controlling interest in Dekalb, the second largest corn company in the US. Monsanto purchased Holden’s Foundation Seeds, which had a 25-35% share of the US corn crop. Monsanto bought out Sementes Agroceres, Brazil’s seed company that had 30% of Brazil’s corn seed business. By the way, Monsanto owns and produces the pesticide Roundup.
Monsanto is acquiring the patent rights for genetically engineered plants for all plant types. Because they have altered the DNA structure of these plants Monsanto is attempting to claim patent ownership for whole species of food plants. Can anyone, any business patent life?
According to Mansanto 70% of the US soybean crop is now “Roundup Ready”, genetically engineered, genetically altered. In Argentina, that number is 90%. Currently efforts are underway to export these soybeans to Poland, Korea, Russia, Thailand, Brazil and India. (3) The Roundup Ready canola was grown on over 600,000 acres in Canada between 1999 and 2000.
Another recent “innovation” by Monsanto is their “YieldGard” corn, which was grown on 10 million acres in the US and two million in Argentina, Canada and South Africa. YieldGard corn contains an “insecticidal protein” called Bacillus thurengiensis, which offers “protection” from corn borers—it also kills Monarch butterflies and it is uncertain what other species of insects or other forms of life may be affected at this time. A combined RoundupReady/YieldGard corn was planted on 140,000 acres in the US this last year.
A few months ago it was disclosed that some altered corn intended only as animal feed was, in fact, mixed with corn intended for human consumption. Massive recalls were ordered and testing continues as persons with allergies may be harmed by this altered corn. It is virtually impossible, with the US lack of required labeling, to know if we are eating a steady diet of genetically engineered plants. Due to wind-born pollen, etc., it has also been determined that some of this altered stock is beginning to grow in neighboring fields that were not meant for this form of plant introduction.
The European Union has taken a stance that member nations will not accept genetically engineered seeds, plants or food products because of the potential dangers. This stance has been recently attacked by the Bush administration as discriminatory against US products, supposedly in violation of the World Trade Organization rules. Saying that such restrictions “could cost US companies (read that “Monsanto”) $4 billion a year”, (4) the US has threatened legal action before the WTO. Just what “restrictions” are being placed by the EU? They require labeling of genetically engineered products! According to a recent Washington Post article, the new EU “standards, among the most far-reaching in the world, call for all products made from engineered material to bear a label saying they contain ‘genetically modified organisms’. They also require producers to document the source of all their ingredients.” (5) “Far-reaching”? I can’t think that any less should be required by anyone!
There are two reasons behind this push by the Bush administration. One is that Mr. Bush is pro-big business and will not allow any restriction to be placed on any large US corporation, two is that the USDA receives 5% of the profits (“royalties”) on net sales. (6) Should government agencies, which are directed to regulate and test food, be allowed to receive “royalties” from those agencies that they monitor? I find it difficult to believe that any rational person would allow this.
For those of you who have not kept up with the various protests around the world against the WTO this is one reason for those protests. The WTO is seen as a mouthpiece of the US government as well as an organization that is striving to liquidate the small farmer in the Third World and replace him with massive corporate farms using the most hi-tech and dangerous forms on food production. Dangerous not only for the small farmer, but also for the Earth and for everything that lives on the Earth.
Calling critics “safety Nazis” (7), Monsanto’s new Pledge states that they “affirm our commitment not to pursue technologies that result in sterile seeds. We will never commercialize a product in which a known allergen has been introduced. We will bring the knowledge and advantages of all forms of agriculture to resource poor farmers in the developing world to help improve food security and protect the environment.” (8)
While this pledge sounds good, it cannot argue with the facts. Allergens, known or not, have been introduced, there are no safeguards to track these altered seeds and food products, the use of these products encourages unsafe and unsound agricultural practices, and Monsanto refuses, with the aid of the Bush administration, to meet the simple and reasonable request of people around the world—to put labels on their products and to state what is contained in them.
Big business is out of control and must be reined in. Refuse to buy any Monsanto product—boycott any company that you find uses Monsanto products and write your legislator to demand an end to US subsidized domination of the worlds food supply--a food supply dominated by one corporation!
In rejecting the very important Kyoto Treaty, Mr. Bush said, “First, we would not accept a treaty that would not have been ratified, nor a treaty that I thought made sense for the country”. This has been his convoluted belief on the environment that will continue to produce disaster for the United States and the world for years to come.
1. Crouch, Martha L., “How the Terminator terminates: an explanation for the non-scientist of a remarkable patent for killing second generation seeds of crop plants”, an occasional paper of the Edmonds Institute, 1998
2. Guidetti, Geri. “Food Supply Update: June 5, 1998-Seed Terminator and Mega-Merger Threaten Food and Freedom”, The Ark Institute
3. Monsanto. “Achievements-Plant Biotechnology 2000”. Annual report.
4. “US presses Europe to drop curbs on gene-altered food”, in Washington Post, August 26, 2001
6. Guidetti, op cit
7. Cohen, Bonner R. “The Safety Nazis: Precautions Shrug Off the Burden of Proof”, in The American Spectator, August 21, 2001
8. Verfaille, Henrick A. “A New Pledge for a New Company”, speech before the Farm Journal Conference, November 27, 2000
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