“Control the oil, and you control nations. Control the food, and you control the people.”* –Henry Kissenger
“Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation” by F. William Engdahl is a skillfully researched book that focuses on how a small socio-political American elite seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival: the provision of our daily bread.
This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO. Engdahl takes the reader inside the corridors of power, into the backrooms of the science labs, behind closed doors in the corporate boardrooms. The author cogently reveals a diabolical world of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.
Engdahl’s carefully argued critique goes far beyond the familiar controversies surrounding the practice of genetic modification as a scientific technique. The book is an eye-opener, a must-read for all those committed to the causes of social justice and world peace.
What follows is the Preface to ”Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation” by F. William Engdahl (available through Global Research):
“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so,we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives.We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”
-George Kennan, US State Department senior planning official, 1948
This book is about a project undertaken by a small socio-political elite, centered, after the Second World War, not in London, but in Washington. It is the untold story of how this self-anointed elite set out, in Kennan’s words, to “maintain this position of disparity.” It is the story of how a tiny few dominated the resources and levers of power in the postwar world.
It’s above all a history of the evolution of power in the control of a select few, in which even science was put in the service of that minority. As Kennan recommended in his 1948 internal memorandum, they pursued their policy relentlessly, and without the “luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”
Yet, unlike their predecessors within leading circles of the British Empire, this emerging American elite, who proclaimed proudly at war’s end the dawn of their American Century, were masterful in their use of the rhetoric of altruism and world-benefaction to advance their goals. Their American Century paraded as a softer empire, a “kinder, gentler” one in which, under the banner of colonial liberation, freedom, democracy and economic development, those elite circles built a network of power the likes of which the world had not seen since the time of Alexander the Great some three centuries before Christ—a global empire unified under the military control of a sole superpower, able to decide on a whim, the fate of entire nations.
This book is the sequel to a first volume, A Century ofWar: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. It traces a second thin red line of power. This one is about the control over the very basis of human survival, our daily provision of bread. The man who served the interests of the postwar American-based elite during the 1970’s, and came to symbolize its raw realpolitik, was Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Sometime in the mid-1970’s, Kissinger, a life-long practitioner of “Balance of Power” geopolitics and a man with more than a fair share of conspiracies under his belt, allegedly declared his blueprint for world domination: “Control the oil and you control nations. Control the food, and you control the people.”
The strategic goal to control global food security had its roots decades earlier, well before the outbreak of war in the late 1930’s. It was funded, often with little notice, by select private foundations, which had been created to preserve the wealth and power of a handful of American families.
Originally the families centered their wealth and power in New York and along the East Coast of the United States, from Boston to New York to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. For that reason, popular media accounts often referred to them, sometimes with derision but more often with praise, as the East Coast Establishment.
The center of gravity of American power shifted in the decades following the War. The East Coast Establishment was overshadowed by new centers of power which evolved from Seattle to Southern California on the Pacific Coast, as well as in Houston, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Miami, just as the tentacles of American power spread to Asia and Japan, and south, to the nations of Latin America.
In the several decades before and immediately following World War II, one family came to symbolize the hubris and arrogance of this emerging American Century more than any other. And the vast fortune of that family had been built on the blood of many wars, and on their control of a new “black gold,” oil.
What was unusual about this family was that early on in the building of their fortune, the patriarchs and advisors they cultivated to safeguard their wealth decided to expand their influence over many very different fields. They sought control not merely over oil, the emerging new energy source for world economic advance. They also expanded their influence over the education of youth, medicine and psychology, foreign policy of the United States, and, significant for our story, over the very science of life itself, biology, and its applications in the world of plants and agriculture.
For the most part, their work passed unnoticed by the larger population, especially in the United States. Few Americans were aware how their lives were being subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, influenced by one or another project financed by the immense wealth of this family.
In the course of researching for this book, a work nominally on the subject of genetically modified organisms or GMO, it soon became clear that the history of GMO was inseparable from the political history of this one very powerful family, the Rockefeller family, and the four brothers—David,Nelson, Laurance and John D. III—who, in the three decades following American victory in World War II, the dawn of the much-heralded American Century, shaped the evolution of power George Kennan referred to in 1948.
In actual fact, the story of GMO is that of the evolution of power in the hands of an elite, determined at all costs to bring the entire world under their sway.
Three decades ago, that power was based around the Rockefeller family. Today, three of the four brothers are long-since deceased, several under peculiar circumstances.However, as was their will, their project of global domination—“full spectrum dominance” as the Pentagon later called it—had spread, often through a rhetoric of “democracy,” and was aided from time to time by the raw military power of that empire when deemed necessary. Their project evolved to the point where one small power group, nominally headquartered in Washington in the early years of the new century, stood determined to control future and present life on this planet to a degree never before dreamed of.
The story of the genetic engineering and patenting of plants and other living organisms cannot be understood without looking at the history of the global spread of American power in the decades following World War II. George Kennan, Henry Luce, Averell Harriman and, above all, the four Rockefeller brothers, created the very concept of multinational “agribusiness”. They financed the “Green Revolution” in the agriculture sector of developing countries in order, among other things, to create new markets for petro-chemical fertilizers and petroleum products, as well as to expand dependency on energy products. Their actions are an inseparable part of the story of genetically modified crops today.
By the early years of the new century, it was clear that no more than four giant chemical multinational companies had emerged as global players in the game to control patents on the very basic food products that most people in the world depend on for their daily nutrition—corn, soybeans, rice, wheat, even vegetables and fruits and cotton—as well as new strains of disease-resistant poultry, genetically-modified to allegedly resist the deadly H5N1 Bird Flu virus, or even gene altered pigs and cattle. Three of the four private companies had decades-long ties to Pentagon chemical warfare research. The fourth, nominally Swiss, was in reality Anglodominated. As with oil, so was GMO agribusiness very much an Anglo-American global project.
In May 2003, before the dust from the relentless US bombing and destruction of Baghdad had cleared, the President of the United States chose to make GMO a strategic issue, a priority in his postwar US foreign policy. The stubborn resistance of the world’s second largest agricultural producer, the European Union, stood as a formidable barrier to the global success of the GMO Project. As long as Germany, France, Austria, Greece and other countries of the European Union steadfastly refused to permit GMO planting for health and scientific reasons, the rest of the world’s nations would remain skeptical and hesitant. By early 2006, the World Trade Organization (WTO) had forced open the door of the European Union to the mass proliferation of GMO. It appeared that global success was near at hand for the GMO Project.
In the wake of the US and British military occupation of Iraq, Washington proceeded to bring the agriculture of Iraq under the domain of patented genetically-engineered seeds, initially supplied through the generosity of the US State Department and Department of Agriculture.
The first mass experiment with GMO crops, however, took place back in the early 1990’s in a country whose elite had long since been corrupted by the Rockefeller family and associated New York banks: Argentina.
The following pages trace the spread and proliferation of GMO, often through political coercion, governmental pressure, fraud, lies, and even murder. If it reads often like a crime story, that should not be surprising. The crime being perpetrated in the name of agricultural efficiency, environmental friendliness and solving the world hunger problem, carries stakes which are vastly more important to this small elite. Their actions are not solely for money or for profit. After all, these powerful private families decide who controls the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and even the European Central Bank. Money is in their hands to destroy or create.
Their aim is rather, the ultimate control over future life on this planet, a supremacy earlier dictators and despots only ever dreamt of. Left unchecked, the present group behind the GMO Project is between one and two decades away from total dominance of the planet’s food capacities. This aspect of the GMO story needs telling. I therefore invite the reader to a careful reading and independent verification or reasoned refutation of what follows.
F. William Engdahl is a leading analyst of the New World Order, author of the best-selling book on oil and geopolitics, A Century of War: Anglo-American Politics and the New World Order,’ His writings have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Frederick Kaufman has penned a provocative article for Slate’s Future Tense column in which he makes the case for open-source genetically modified foods. “It will help fight climate change,” he says, “and stick one in Monsanto‘s eye.” What’s more, it’s an approach that still favors scientific advancement.
Kaufman says that GMOs have increased agriculture’s dependance on expensive “inputs” — the proprietary seeds and herbicides that have made multinationals like Monsanto and Dow so profitable. At the same time, transgenic crops are increasingly being perceived as a source of genetic pollution.
“The GMO story has become mired in the eco-wrecking narrative of industrial agriculture,” he writes, “and that is too bad for those who understand the real risks of climate change and discern our desperate need for innovation.”
The answer, says Kaufman, is to go open-source. He writes:
GMO agriculture relies on the relatively new science of bioinformatics (a mixture of bio- and information science), which means that DNA sequences look a lot more like software code than a vegetable garden. And if Monsanto is the Microsoft of food supply—raking in the rent on bites instead of bytes—perhaps the time has come for the agricultural equivalent of Linux, the open-source operating system that made computer programming a communal effort.
Kaufman says that food justice activists have been trying to undermine Monsanto’s market share through consumer advocacy and political reform. But it’s also possible, he says, to be against big-agriculture and for scientific advancement:
Open-source is the quickest way to undermine proprietary rights to food molecules, those rights that guarantee profit streams for transnationals while condemning the earth to a monocultural future of agriculture with no regard for agroecology. For the surest way to sabotage Monsanto is not to label but to sap its income. Already, a number of biotech pioneers have followed the open-source examples of Apache and Wikipedia. The database of the human genome mapping project has been free since it was published in 2003. The genetic map of rice has been made available at no charge to researchers worldwide. And the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has made its “Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture” a transnational paradigm of free-flowing information. Agricultural researchers in developing countries need not pay a penny to review all the latest life science research published in more than 3,000 academic journals.
Like open-source software, open-source food genetics would advance biological research in this country, and our universities would soon become hothouses of innovation. Intellectual production without intellectual property would thrive, as scientists gained access to DNA code in all its infinite variety, along with the freedom to create derivative work and redistribute findings. No great leap of faith would be required, as open-source is one of food’s oldest dynamics. There’s no patent on a roast chicken, and the derivative work of Momofuku founder David Chang does not owe a fee to Marcella Hazan, Julia Child, or Colonel Sanders. Chefs and their recipes have long constituted a creative commons.
There’s lots more to Kaufman’s article, so be sure to read it all at Slate.
Image credit: Ira Bostic / Shutterstock.com. Inset image: Nigel Treblin/AFP/Getty Images.
Food labels are sometimes humorous to the health-conscious consumer but have ultimately shaped the way shoppers perceive various products, such as ‘diet soda’ for instance.
Many shoppers view ‘diet’ soft drinks as a healthier option than regular cola, but the potentially dangerous chemicals such as aspartame, caramel color and BPA that are present in nearly all diet sodas are far riskier than they will probably ever be advertised.
Another controversial ingredient that is mislabeled is the infamous genetically modified organism (GMO). Nearly all processed foods contain GMO – normally soy, corn, wheat, and canola ingredients. Regardless of the food company not blatantly displaying that their products contain GMOs, most products such as Goldfish crackers and Tostito’s chips actually advertise their foods as “all natural”, which is a lie.
Campbell’s Soup Company is one of those “all natural” fibbers and is now facing a lawsuit by Florida residents. Mark Krzykwa filed the suit last year, which claims that Campbell’s knowingly mislabeled its soups containing genetically modified corn as “all natural”.
With attempts of dismantling the case against them, Campbell’s argued that it’s the job of the Food and Drug Administration to approve their soups anyway; therefor it’s the agency’s wrongdoing. US District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas didn’t agree during his ruling on May 24. “We do not even know whether, when reviewing the label for whether it was ‘misleading,’ the USDA even knew that the soup contained GMO corn, particularly as there is nothing the soup label to so indicate,” he explained.
Dimitrouleas also detailed that the FDA “simply does not regulate those claims.”
In 2010, four women who argued that the “low sodium” tomato soup contained just as much sodium as the regular tomato soup sued Campbell’s. In September of 2011, the ladies were awarded $1.05 million in damages.
Last year, if you’re like the average American, you ate more than your body weight of a group of foods you didn’t even know you were consuming. Foods that have never been proven safe to eat. Foods that are becoming more and more widespread in our food supply.
These foods consist of genetically modified organisms (GMO), plants that have been created in laboratories and then planted by farmers. The most frightening part about these foods is that they are unlike any other foods that humans have ever eaten before recent times. And they were probably on your dinner plate last night and almost certainly in your snack foods.
The Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocate organization, determined that Americans eat, on average, 193 pounds of GMO foods a year. And the group justifiably asks: “If you were planning on eating your body weight of anything in a year, wouldn’t you want to make sure it was safe to eat?”
But you don’t know if these foods are safe to eat, and nobody is planning any research to find out how risky they are. The government doesn’t require international corporations like Monsanto, which make tremendous profits off of these foods, to establish their safety. Other countries are more concerned about these foods than we are. As a matter of fact, the United States is just about alone in not requiring labeling of GMO foods or the performance of safety tests to see whether these bizarre, chemist-created foods are harmless. As a result, about 90 percent of the corn, soy and cotton now produced in the United States are GMO crops. When you eat processed foods like corn chips or breakfast cereal, 70 percent of what you take in has been made from GMO products.
Who stands to profit from this change in our eating habits? Primarily Monsanto, the biotech company that controls 90 percent of all GMO seeds that farmers plant. (For more on agricultural terrorism, go here.
A big reason Monsanto can get away with engineering this profitable threat to health stems from its gargantuan lobbying efforts in Washington. According to a report by Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization, Monsanto and other huge food and agricultural biotechnology firms and trade associations lavished more than $540 million in campaign contributions and lobbying efforts on the elected class during the past decade. And their efforts are accelerating.
Food and Water Watch has determined that the annual spending on politicians by these corporations has doubled during that time. These companies employ more than 100 lobbying firms and also have in-house lobbyists who wine and dine politicians and government functionaries to get what they want.
In many cases, the same people who hold high-paying jobs at Monsanto eventually move into positions at the regulatory agencies that are supposed to be protecting us against their abuses of the food system.
Consider the case of Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for Foods for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In the past, he has moved from a job at the FDA to a job at a law firm that represented Monsanto. Then he moved to a job at Monsanto, over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, back to the law firm, over to Monsanto, to a position on a university, to a think tank and then back to the FDA. It’s a pretty cushy career path for Taylor, but a disaster for our protection from questionable food.
While Taylor was doing his second stint at the FDA, the agency adjusted its regulatory policies so GMOs could be introduced into our diet without being tested for toxic effects.
Aside from the possible danger of eating GMO foods that have had genetic material from other species added to their cells, the GMO crops that farmers grow often have been sprayed with unconscionable amounts of pesticides that contaminate our air and water. Residues of these chemicals may also contaminate foods made from these plants.
Many of these GMO crops are “Roundup®-ready.” That means they have been modified genetically to survive massive amounts of the pesticide called Roundup® (also provided by Monsanto). Glyphosate from Roundup® is now being detected in ground water far from the farms at which it is sprayed. Traces are even being found in the urine of city dwellers. It crosses the placental barrier and can be detected in the blood of unborn children.
This technology threatens you, me and the world around us. Roundup®-ready crops have led to the creation of “frankenweeds,” weeds impervious to herbicides. GMO seeds that produce their own pesticides are creating “frankenbugs” that withstand and even thrive on GMO plants.
But this toxic brew is killing off populations of beneficial insects like pollinating honeybees. It has led to what is called colony collapse disorder and a worldwide die-off of bees. GMO crops may also be wiping out monarch butterfly populations.
Right now, the only way for you to avoid GMO foods is to eat organic food. Any other food, even items marked “all-natural,” may contain GMO ingredients. You can get a free shopping guide to help you find non-GMO foods here.
On May 31 world media headlines read “Monsanto backing away from GMO crops in Europe.” But before the world opens the champagne to celebrate the death of GMO, it is worthwhile to look more closely at what was officially said and what not.
The original source for the story is attributed to a German left daily, TAZ which printed excerpts from an interview with an official spokeswoman of Monsanto Germany.
Ursula Lüttmer-Ouazane reportedly told Taz “We’ve come to the conclusion that this has no broad acceptance at the moment.”
Her remarks were circulated worldwide and Reuters interviewed Monsanto corporate spokesman Thomas Helscher who reportedly said, “We’re going to sell the GM seeds only where they enjoy broad farmer support, broad political support and a functioning regulatory system. As far as we’re convinced this only applies to a few countries in Europe today, primarily Spain and Portugal.”
A Monsanto interview with a leftist German paper created the impression around the world that the world’s largest patent-holder of GMO seeds is in full retreat from pushing their GMO seeds, at least in the European Union. The reality is anything but that. Among other things, on June 10 the EU Commission plans to approve a new Monsanto GMO maize sort.
What Monsanto really says
A visit to the official website of Monsanto Germany presents an official company press release referring to the media statements, where the essential part says, ”Right now the media is flooded with reports that Monsanto has stopped the marketing of GMO seeds in Germany and the EU. That is not correct…”
Then on the parent website of Monsanto in St. Louis, the following statement appears: “We have a robust business selling high-quality, conventional corn, oilseed rape and vegetable seeds to our farmer customers in Europe. We’ve been telling people in Europe for several years now that we’ll only sell biotech seeds where they enjoy broad farmer support, broad political support and a functioning regulatory system. As Hugh Grant, our CEO told the Financial Times in 2009, ‘Europe’s going to make up its own mind in its own time.’ The only GM trait grown in Europe today is a corn resistant to the European corn borer, an insect that can do considerable damage to crops. Its cultivation accounts for less than 1% of the all corn cultivated in Europe (by hectares).”
A militant against genetically modified organisms flashes the victory sign in Labrihe, near the southwestern French town of Auch, after pulling genetically modified corn from a field planted by US firm Monsanto. (AFP Photo / Pascal Pavani)
A militant against genetically modified organisms flashes the victory sign in Labrihe, near the southwestern French town of Auch, after pulling genetically modified corn from a field planted by US firm Monsanto. (AFP Photo / Pascal Pavani)
Both statements are worth closer attention. First the German statement is a bit different from the US version. It officially denies as false the press reports that they have ceased marketing of GMO seeds in the EU. Second, their statement that they concentrate on breeding and sale of conventional seeds and plant protection chemicals is nothing other than a description of what the present status of Monsanto sales in the EU, nothing more. Because of the limited use so far of Monsanto GMO seeds in the EU, Monsanto business by definition focuses now where it earns money. However the “plant protection chemicals” Monsanto refers to primarily its own Roundup herbicide, which by license agreement with farmers must be sold paired with all Monsanto GMO seeds, but is also the number one weed killer sold in Europe and the world. It has also been proven to be highly toxic even to human embryo cells.
The US statement has interesting important differences. First it gives no hint of any change in Monsanto policy towards spreading GMO seeds in the EU. It states explicitly they will continue to spread GMO seeds in Spain and Portugal, both EU countries. And it quotes chairman Hugh Grant, not to be confused with the Hollywood actor, indicating the company expects the EU to come around on allowing its GMO. And it cites the present status of its GMO corn in the EU. Nothing more. No statement of a stop to GMO in the EU.
And the Monsanto beat goes on, the beat goes on, on, on…
The EU Commission has announced it will meet to vote on approving licensing of a new Monsanto GMO patented maize, SmartStax, on June 10, ten days after the carefully formulated Monsanto FAZ interview. Monsanto shares the patent with Dow AgroSciences. SmartStax supposedly produces six different insecticides. It has been approved by the EUs food safety agency, EFSA despite absence of critical safety tests and Commission approval is reported certain by Brussels sources.
According to Dr. Christopher Then of TestBiotech, SmartStax was given the safety OK from the (Monsanto influenced-w.e.) EFSA, the European food safety body, despite provable lack of serious safety tests by Monsanto/Dow AgroSciences.
Yet for most of the world who don’t have time to research the official statements of Monsanto but merely glance at a Reuters or TAZ headline, the message has been delivered that Monsanto has given up its EU effort on proliferating its GMO seeds. The timing of the TAZ interview is suggestive of what seems to be a carefully orchestrated Monsanto PR deception campaign. The TAZ original by writer Jost Maurin appeared on the same day, May 31, less than one week after March against Monsanto , a worldwide protest demonstrations against Monsanto, that took place in more than 400 cities in some 52 countries around the world. The TAZ article that was then used as reference for all world media after, appeared under the emotional and factually misleading headline: Sieg für Anti-Gentech-Bewegung: Monsanto gibt Europa auf (Victory for anti-GMO Movement: Monsanto Gives up Europe).
The March against Monsanto was notable in several key respects. Most alarming for Monsanto and the GMO cartel was the fact that it was the first such demonstration not organized by anti-GMO NGOs such as Greenpeace or BUND or Friends of the Earth. In Germany where this author participated as a speaker in one of the events, it was all organized by concerned activists via facebook. But the NGOs who formally oppose GMO were reportedly nowhere to be found as sponsors or even reportedly as active organizers.
That march presented Monsanto and friends with a frightening new element—the danger that that grass roots anti-GMO protest would spread and make life even more difficult for GMO proliferation in Africa, in China, India, Latin America and of course eastern and western Europe. All indications are that the timing of the well-formulated TAZ interview, notably with a left newspaper openly opposed to Monsanto GMO, was an orchestrated attempt to “manage perceptions” and take the headwind out of the sails of the growing anti-GMO sentiment in the EU and abroad. For the moment, Monsanto has gained a tactical victory in propaganda points as the broad public takes the retreat at face value. As one experienced opponent of Monsanto GMO put it in a private e-mail to me, it bears all the hallmarks of a slick PR campaign, “like a Burson & Marsteller tactic that applies to many controversial bad practices and part of why it works is that it takes a long time to build consumer/activist energy and momentum, whereas the PR-company can start on a very short runway …”
What Monsanto has not done is to recall its already commercialized GMO Maize in the EU, that despite damning independent scientific study of some 200 rats over a two year span showing rats fed GMO maize and Monsanto Roundup herbicide showed dramatically more cancer tumors, higher death rates and organ damage compared with non-GMO-fed rats.
Moreover, Monsanto openly admits it is pushing its way deep into the eastern European market for seeds, though mentioning only conventional seeds. Monsanto Vice President for International Corporate Affairs, Jesus Madrazo, stated that the company has been focusing on gaining market share in the conventional corn market in Ukraine, and that Eastern Europe and South America are key growth areas for the company now.
Then in the USA, it has leaked out that Monsanto directly worked with its apparent current favorite US Senator, Roy Blunt, a Republican from Monsanto’s home state of Missouri and one of the major recipients of Monsanto campaign finance, to draft for Blunt an obscure paragraph Blunt got into a spending bill, a bombshell that exempts Monsanto from being sued for any damage its crops or chemicals cause.
Called by opponents the Monsanto Protection Act, many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the Monsanto Protection Act was a part of the spending bill that they were voting on. The Monsanto bill, signed into law by President Obama despite hundreds of thousands of protest petitions not to, essentially gives Monsanto and other GMO purveyors legal immunity, even if future research shows that GMO seeds cause significant health problems, cancer, anything. The federal courts no longer have any power to stop their spread, use, or sales. The only other corporations in the US enjoying such outrageous legal immunity are the pharmaceutical vaccine makers.
What we have is a quite different picture from the slick spin reported by TAZ and from there picked up worldwide uncritically by mainstream media. Monsanto by its own open admission has not ceased marketing its GMO products and herbicides in the EU. It has not ceased imports of its GMO soybeans and GMO corn into the EU where it has managed to escape the EU GMO labeling law.
Monsanto also states it is concentrating on building market share in eastern Europe, where often regulators are more “relaxed” and in the notoriously corrupt Ukraine. They do not deny promoting GMOs there either; rather they state positively their focus on conventional seeds only. Simply put, the geopolitical stakes behind Monsanto and the attempt to control the world’s most vital seeds of life are far too high for the company to raise the white flag of surrender so easily.
A Monsanto precedent
There is a relevant precedent for this Monsanto PR deception campaign. In 1999, after months of growing worldwide anti-Monsanto protest over the fact Monsanto had made a takeover bid to buy Mississippi company, Delta & Pine Land in order to acquire Delta’s patent on a radical new GMO technique known officially as GURTS (Genetic Use Restriction Technology) and popularly as Terminator technology. Delta has won a patent together with the US Government’s USDA for the Terminator. It would force a GMO seed or plant to “commit suicide” after only one harvest, forcing the farmer to return each year to Monsanto to buy new seeds regardless the price or availability.
The Terminator image threatened to derail the entire fledgling GMO project at the outset such that Rockefeller University President and GMO financial sponsor, Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, made a rush visit to meet Monsanto’s board and convince them to make what was a tactical retreat in order to limit damage to a very fragile GMO campaign worldwide. Monsanto announced, deceptively it proved, that it would not pursue “commercialization” of Terminator technology and it dropped its takeover bid for patent holder Delta & Pine Land. The anti-GMO NGOs claimed a huge victory and nothing was heard for seven years until, with no fanfare, in 2006 Monsanto announced it was acquiring Terminator patent co-holder Delta & Pine Land. This time there was scarcely a peep from the anti-GMO lobby. They had lost momentum and the deal went ahead.
It remains to be seen if the forces for healthy non-GMO agriculture today prove as gullible as in 1999.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Autonomy is Sown! A nutrition group from the “Escuela de Cultura Popular de los Martires de ’68” displays posters celebrating the autonomy of indigenous Zapatista communities for whom corn is an essential crop.
In front of the National Palace of Fine Parts a protestor declares “We are people of corn.”
A group of “youth in resistance” celebrate native corn with live Son Jarocho music and colorful cardboard corn.
Urban Farmers transported their crops via bike emphasizing the importance of sustainable agriculture without GMO seeds.
We will defend our corn!
The thousands of protesters marched down principal avenues in Mexico City to arrive at The Monument of the Revolution.
“Don’t allow your seeds and biodiversity to be reduced to a monoculture that will converted into merchandise administered by a monopoly.”
We are not your #$%$* science experiment. A genuine concern about the scientific effects of GMO crops was a common thread in protesters signs.
“My pride is my roots, my corn.”
Protestors weren’t just saying “not in my backyard” but instead stating that they want Monsanto kicked off the planet.
Corn husks usually serve as wrappers for one of Mexican‘s most popular street foods, tamales. In the anti-Monsanto march husks served as adornment for all kinds of costumes.
“We want a Mexico free of GMO food. Leave Monsanto!”
Protesters sport corn husks to emphasize the importance of native corn for the Mexican diet.
The protest against Monsanto was truly inter-generational with whole families participating from the youngest members to the oldest. “Did you know that the ‘gringa’ Transnational company Monsanto will be able to freely operate in Mexico? Look at how their seeds have affected lab rats. How will they affect us?”
A group of enthusiastic dancers stripped down to the basics – corn. Jubilantly celebrating the crop they took to the street in front of the Alameda.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
A 2009 WikiLeaks cable from the US embassy in the Holy See reports that “Vatican officials remain largely supportive of genetically modified crops as a vehicle for protecting the environment while feeding the hungry, but – at least for now – are unwilling to challenge bishops who disagree”.
That the primary purpose of GMOs is not in fact to safeguard the environment is suggested by, inter alia, a 2012 study by Washington State University research professor Dr Charles Benbrook, who found that the proliferation of such crops has caused an increase in the use of hazardous pesticides in the US.
As for the claim that GMOs are a proper antidote to the problem of global hunger, it’s worth reviewing renowned environmental activist Vandana Shiva‘s observation that “[o]ne billion people are without food because industrial monocultures robbed them of their livelihoods in agriculture and their food entitlements”.
The following sound bite from Shiva’s appearance last year on the BBC’s HARDtalk meanwhile obliterates the notion of any positive correlation between the GMO industry and human wellbeing:
“We see the consequences of [seed patenting] in India, where, since the big companies came in and took over the seed supply – especially in cotton – we have had 270,000 farmer suicides, most of them driven by debt and the debt caused by high-cost nonrenewable seeds.”
GMOs find god
In a nod to the existence of less-than-cheery visions of the biotech scene, the US embassy cable notes that Monsignor James Reinert of the Vatican Council of Justice and Peace has tempered a reportedly general ecclesiastical consensus on the need for GMOs with one caveat:
“The Vatican cannot force all bishops to endorse biotechnology, he said, particularly if their opposition has to do with concerns over protecting profits of large corporations who hold the patents for the crops, versus feeding the hungry.”
Undeterred, the US ambassador concludes the cable with a pledge to “continue to lobby the Vatican to speak up in favor of GMOs, in the hope that a louder voice in Rome will encourage individual Church leaders elsewhere to reconsider their critical views”.
Nothing like a bit of diplomatic pressure to ease the travails of US-based biotech firms. So much for the separation of corporation and state.
To be sure, the US embassy is not the only source of encouragement when it comes to sanctification of GMOs by the Holy See. In a March 2013 article in USAToday – which at first glance appears to be a fine work of satire – New Jersey biotech farmer John Rigolizzo, Jr pronounces the Vatican at the “vanguard of science and technology” based on a 2009 statement by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences affirming a “moral imperative to make the benefits of genetically engineered technology available on a larger scale to poor and vulnerable populations”.
After reviewing his own credentials as a Catholic, Rigolizzo touts GM crops as “miraculous” and “a blessing” and expresses his hope that the newly appointed Pope Francis will share the Vatican’s established “humane vision – and that Europe and the rest of the world [will] join biotechnology’s growing flock”.
Working in the new pope’s favour, presumably, is that he is “not only a man of faith, but also science – a chemist, by training”, and that he hails from Argentina, “whose farmers rely heavily on GM crops”.
Dealing with the devil?
What, then, has holy science offered the homeland of Pope Francis? Some clues appear in “Argentina’s Bad Seeds”, an Al Jazeera documentary coincidentally released on the same day as Rigolizzo’s epistle.
Filmmaker Glenn Ellis outlines Argentina’s conversion into a genetically-modified “soy republic”, a process that has produced a “dirty war in the north of the country where campesinos are being driven off their land, and sometimes killed, to make way for soya plantations”.
The majority of the seeds are manufactured by US-based Monsanto and are marketed as Roundup Ready – Roundup being Monsanto’s signature glyphosate-based herbicide. That human beings might not be similarly “Roundup Ready” is suggested in Ellis’ summary of the film:
“… [D]octors and scientists claim that babies are being born with crippling birth malformations and that in recent years the incidence of childhood cancer has soared. It is a phenomenon, they say, that has coincided with the introduction of Monsanto’s seed.”
Of course, the 2009 US embassy cable approvingly remarks that “[t]he Vatican’s own scientific academy has stated that there is no evidence GMOs are harmful, and that they could indeed be part of addressing global food security”, while Rigolizzo swoons over the Vatican’s “advanced and charitable view of how to defeat hunger and malnutrition”.
Such arguments become even more ludicrous when we consider the rampant absorption of farmland by GM crops for the production of biofuels rather than food.
Ultimately, any effort to cast the GMO industry in a humane light amounts to nothing less than sacrilege.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in 2011. She is a member of the Jacobin Magazine editorial board, and her articles have appeared in the London Review of Books blog, Salon, The Baffler, Al Akhbar English
Follow her on Twitter: @MariaBelen_Fdez
Monsanto has been under fire lately, and things aren’t much different in Puerto Rico. The biotech giant is being criticized for refusing to testify at a government hearing regarding the sale on the island of their own genetically-modified seeds.
The website Corpwatch cites a recent article from the commonwealth’s Spanish-language El Nuevo Dia newspaper in which Monsanto is reported to have shut-down requests to send a representative to an upcoming GMO hearing.
The hearing, a meeting of the Puerto Rican Senate Agriculture Committee, involved the potential creation of a “Seed Board” and certification and licensing system that would regulate the development and sale of seeds on the island.
According to Corpwatch, Monsanto spokesperson Eric Torres-Collazo told the committee that “Monsanto does not produce, sell (or) offer… basic or certified seed with the purpose of planting in Puerto Rico.” That hasn’t satisfied the committee members, though, since Monsanto does indeed engage in some sort of GMO operations on the island.
“Among Monsanto’s arguments for refusing to offer testimony to the Puerto Rican senate committee is that it doesn’t grow GMO agricultural products for consumption on the island,” wrote Mark Karlin for Truth-Out, “it just creates the Frankenstein seeds there through research.”
Corpwatch, a blog specializing in corporate accountability, added that Monsanto’s operations in Puerto Rico, while not involving the planting of GMO seeds, are indeed extensive and not without controversy.
“Monsanto has also been embroiled in a legal controversy over the fact it plants crops on 1,500 acres, despite the fact that Puerto Rico’s 1952 constitution prohibits agricultural landholdings larger than 500 acres,” Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero wrote for Corpwatch this week. Meanwhile, he continued, “[l]ocal media reports have pointed out the irony that despite the fact that Monsanto is in apparent violation of the Puerto Rico constitution, it has received $4.9 million in subsidies from the local Agriculture Department to help it cover payroll expenses from 2006 to 2013.”
Senator Ramón Ruiz-Nieves, a member of the Popular Democratic Party and the chair of the Agricultural Committee, told reporters that he will ask Monsanto again to weigh in on an upcoming seed hearing. The full Senate Health Committee is slated to go over the creation of the potential Seed Board later this year.
According to the investigative journalism site Counterpunch, no state in the US aside from Hawaii has had as many GM crop experiments-per-mile than Puerto Rico as of 2005. “Puerto Rico attracts agricultural biotechnology companies because of the tropical climate that permits up to four harvests yearly and the willingness of the government to fast-track permits,” Counterpunch quoted Margarita Irizarry and José Rodríguez Orengo of the University of Puerto Rico’s Medical Sciences Campus. “Furthermore, the opposition to GM foods is almost non-existent on the island and no particular environmental group is protesting the presence of Dow, Syngenta Seeds, Pioneer HiBred, Mycogen Seeds, Rice Tech, AgReliant Genetics, Bayer Croposcience and Monsanto.”
Monsanto has come under increased scrutiny as of late for its questionable farming and litigation practices that have been condemned by organic farmers across the globe. International protests against the GMO giant occurred last month in six continents across the globe, including one in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A new study looking at pigs that eat genetically engineered (GE) versus non-GE feed suggests we could be overlooking health problems associated with using the unnatural gene technology in crops that livestock and people eat, according to some consumer experts and scientists.
In the new study published in the Journal of Organic Systems, Australian and U.S. researchers found pigs fed genetically engineered feed were much more likely to suffer from severe stomach inflammation and heavier uteri, a condition that could signal endometrial cancer, endometriosis, abnormal thickening, or gynecological polyps, all things that could affect fertility.
“Clearly, issues are raised in this pig study that need to be followed up, especially since in the U.S., we don’t require safety assessments before [GE crops] come onto the market,” says Michael Hansen, PhD, chief scientist at Consumers Union.
The GE feed used in the study included ingredients like corn, which is genetically engineered to produce pesticides within the plant or to withstand heavy sprayings of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. Some corn is genetically manipulated to produce pesticides internally and also withstand chemical spraying. Researchers also used GE soy developed for glyphosate dousing, another go-to ingredient for livestock feed (and processed people foods.)
Read More: 7 Things You Need to Know about GMOs
Long-term feeding studies like the recent pig study—they fed pigs on this diet about 5 months under real-world conditions until slaughter—are also rare. In America, the FDA doesn’t require studies investigating potential health impacts of GE ingredients to humans before genetically engineered crops can enter the market, and seed companies who own patents on GE technology must approve researchers’ requests to study their seeds, something critics say greatly stifles research.
“If the company decides they don’t like your research, then it doesn’t get approved. That’s not the way you do science,” Hansen says. “Imagine where we’d be if we let the tobacco industry decide which studies could have been done on tobacco and its safety.”
This rare feeding study found the uterus weight of GE-fed pigs was 25 percent higher than non-GE-fed pigs; GE-fed pigs also showed severe stomach inflammation at a rate of 2.6 times that of non-GE-fed pigs. It’s important to note, though, that even pigs on the non-GE diet experienced moderate stomach inflammation, a side-effect scientists say needs to be studied further.
Using pigs in the experiment serves two purposes. According to Hansen, commercial pig farmers are trying to figure out what’s causing emerging health problems in pigs. The physiology of pigs is the closest to human physiology of vertebrate animals, too. “The findings here are of particular significance for potential impacts on human health,” explains Warren Porter, PhD, professor of zoology and environmental toxicology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The study stirred up more questions, too. Researchers didn’t examine the large and small intestines, but Porter says future research should focus on those organs to evaluate the gut microflora of animals fed GE versus non-GE feeds. Gut bacteria levels can have very important impacts on immune function and should ultimately be evaluated in long-term feeding studies before the government releases these crops into the food chain, Porter says.
A 2012 study published in the journal Current Microbiology raises gut and immune system concerns, too. In that study, German researchers found glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, kills off beneficial bacteria, allowing more resistant, pathogenic germs to colonize in the gut. Warren notes that on Wisconsin dairy farms, the lifespan of organically fed cows is often up to three times longer than the lifespan of GE-fed cows, with the literature suggesting another link to GE-foods and immune system problems.
“It is important to remember that if immune function is being affected by GMO crops, it is also highly likely that endocrine and neurological functions are also being impacted because those three systems interact with each other in multiple, intricate ways,” Porter says. Hormonal changes in the endocrine system could also affect developmental processes of fetuses in pregnant females, he adds. Hormones are extremely sensitive to even tiny doses of chemicals, meaning there could be very broad impacts of feeding GE ingredients on fetal development, Warren adds.
“The public should be aware of the multiple connections between organ systems in normal bodily function when considering consumption of GMO foods,” Porter says. “These intricate interconnections between gut function, immune health, and the health of the rest of the body also elevates the need for labeling of GMO foods for human consumption and for domestic animal production.”
To avoid GMOs in your diet, eat organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, and 100-percent grass-fed foods. If you don’t want to wait for the federal government to make GMO labeling mandatory, consider starting at the state level. In June 2013, both Connecticut and Maine passed GMO labeling laws.
A new study, yet to receive any media attention, reveals the “leukemogenic” properties of the Bt toxin biopesticides engineered into the vast majority of GMO food crops already within the US food supply.
Last September, the causal link between cancer and genetically modified food was confirmed in a French study, the first independent long-term animal feeding study of its kind. The disturbing details can be found here: New Study Finds GM Corn and Roundup Causes Cancer In Rats
Now, a new study published in the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases indicates that the biopesticides engineered into GM crops known as Bacillus Thuringensis (Bt) or Cry-toxins, may also contribute to blood abnormalities from anemia to hematological malignancies (blood cancers) such as leukemia.[i]
A group of scientists from the Department of Genetics and Morphology, Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Brasilia, Brasilia/DF, Brazil set out to test the purported human and environmental biosafety of GM crops, looking particularly at the role that the Bt toxin found within virtually all GM food crops plays on non-target or non-insect animal species.
The research was spurned by the Brazilian Collegiate Board of Directors of the National Sanitary Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), who advocated in 2005 for evaluations of toxicity and pathogenicity of microbiological control agents such as Bt, given that little is known about their toxicological potential in non-target organisms, including humans.
While Bacillus Thurigensis spore-crystals have been used since the late 1960′s in agriculture as a foliar insecticide, it was only after the advent of recombinant DNA biotechnology that these toxin-producing genes (known as delta endotoxins) were first inserted into the plants themselves and released into commercial production in the mid-90′s, making their presence in the US food supply and the bodies of exposed populations ubiquitous.
What the new study revealed is that various binary combinations and doses of Bt toxins target mammalian cells, particularly the erythroid (red blood cell) lineage, resulting in white and red blood cell changes indicative of significant damage. Some of these adverse changes included anemia, and suppression of bone marrow proliferation and abnormal lymphocyte changes consistent with some types of leukemia.
The researchers also found that one of the prevailing myths about the selective toxicity of Bt to insects, the target species, no longer holds true:
It has been reported that Cry toxins exert their toxicity when activated at alkaline pH of the digestive tract of susceptible larvae, and, because the physiology of the mammalian digestive system does not allow their activation, and no known specific receptors in mammalian intestinal cells have been reported, the toxicity these MCAs to mammals would negligible [8,22,23]. However, our study demonstrated that Bt spore-crystals genetically modified to express individually Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2A induced hematotoxicity, particularly to the erythroid lineage. This finding corroborates literature that demonstrated that alkali-solubilized Bt spore-crystals caused in vitro hemolysis in cell lines of rat, mouse, sheep, horse, and human erythrocytes and suggested that the plasma membrane of susceptible cells (erythrocytes, in this case) may be the primary target for these toxins 
The study also found:
1) That Cry toxins are capable of exerting their adverse effects when suspended in distilled water, not requiring alkalinization via insect physiology to become activated as formerly believed.
2) That a dose of Cry1Ab as low as 27 mg/kg, their lowest tested dose, was capable of inducing hypochromic anemia in mice – the very toxin has been detected in blood of non-pregnant women, pregnant women and their fetuses in Canada, supposedly exposed through diet.
3) Whereas past reports have found that Bt toxins are generally nontoxic and do not bioaccumulate in fatty tissue or persist in the environment, the new study demonstrated that all Cry toxins tested had a more pronounced effect from 72 hours of exposure onwards, indicating the opposite is true.
The authors noted their results “demonstrate leukemogenic activity for other spore-crystals not yet reported in the literature.”
[R]esults showed that the Bt spore-crystals genetically modified to express individually Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2A can cause some hematological risks to vertebrates,increasing their toxic effects with long-term exposure. Taking into account the increased risk of human and animal exposures to significant levels of these toxins, especially through diet, our results suggest that further studies are required to clarify the mechanism involved in the hematotoxicity found in mice, and to establish the toxicological risks to non-target organisms, especially mammals, before concluding that these microbiological control agents are safe for mammals.
Did you get that? Their conclusion is that it is premature to consider GM toxins to be safe in mammals. Billions have already been exposed to Bt toxins, in combination with glyphosate-based herbicide formulations such as Roundup, and yet, most biotech research scientists and industry regulators still claim they are unequivocally safe. This has much to do with the well-known relationship that biotech corporations like Monsanto have with so-called ‘check book’ science firms who are basically paid to obfuscate adverse health outcomes of their products, such as the GMO-Cancer link. [also see: Monsanto-Funded Science Denies Emerging Roundup Cancer Link]
Consider also that the question of combined toxicity of Cry toxins and glyphosate-based residues within plants have not been sufficiently explored, and that glyphosate exposure has already been linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma and hairy cell leukemia in the biomedical literature.[ii]
The reality is that we no longer have time to wait around for additional research to accumulate on the adverse health effects of GMOs, especially considering the biotech industry has far more capital to infuse into their own faux research on the topic.
Some, in fact, argue that we should not be waiting around for the corrupt legislative process to compel manufacturers to label GMOs, rather, we should be fighting to BAN THEM NOW, advocating for the precautionary principle before its too late.
In the meantime, you can join the growing movement to March Against Monsanto, occurring world wide on May 25th, as a way of expressing your desire for real change, as well as vote with your forks, the only immediately effective tool we have against biological and environmental gene-ocide articulated by the dominant GMO-based food system.
Additional important research resources on GreenMedInfo.com
Surprise! Monsanto-Funded Research Finds Their Products Safe
Health Guide: GMO Research
[i] Bélin Poletto Mezzomo, Ana Luisa Miranda-Vilela, Ingrid de Souza Freire, Lilian Carla Pereira Barbosa, Flávia Arruda Portilho. Hematotoxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis as Spore-crystal Strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa in Swiss Albino Mice. Journal of Hematology and Thromboembolic Diseases. 2013
[ii] Lennart Hardell, Mikael Eriksson, Marie Nordstrom. Exposure to pesticides as risk factor for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and hairy cell leukemia: pooled analysis of two Swedish case-control studies. Leuk Lymphoma. 2002 May;43(5):1043-9. PMID: 12148884
The most hated company in the world right now isn’t a member of Big Oil. It’s not a shady Internet company or a bailed-out megabank. Populist discontent toward dirty energy, high-tech snoops, and greedy bankers has occasionally been fierce, but it’s never been laser-focused like the outrage that drew an estimated (by the organizers) 2 million protesters to anti-Monsanto rallies in more than 50 countries at the end of May.
Think about that. If those numbers are accurate, a single private company drew almost as many protesters in a single day as the worldwide Occupy movement at its peak. Monsanto didn’t even have to bankrupt any economies or leech billions of dollars off taxpayers. All it took was three little letters: GMO.
What is GMO?
You probably know something about GMOs, which stands for genetically modified organisms, since it’s as closely associated with Monsanto as “IRS” is with taxes. The popular definition of a GMO is (according to Wikipedia) “an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.” If you want to get pedantic about this definition, humankind has been genetically modifying organisms ever since the first nomads settled down to grow crops, since virtually nothing we eat today is the same exact plant or animal (or Twinkie) it was 10,000 years ago. But that’s not why everyone’s afraid of Monsanto. Monsanto is scary because — in the eyes of detractors — it’s compressing 10,000 years of genetic adaptations into 10 years of mad science.
The history of commercialized GMO foods as we now know them began just two decades ago, with an “enhanced” tomato that was so unprofitable to produce that its developer wound up selling itself to Monsanto. Since then, other developments have embedded GMOs into a rather substantial part of the world’s food supply.
Source : ISAAA Brief on Global Status of Commercialized Biotech Crops, 2012.
Total global cropland, by comparison, amounts to roughly 1.5 billion hectares, so GMOs now take up more than 11% of all cropland in the world. ISAAA — the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, a pro-GMO nonprofit supported in part by Monsanto’s funding — says that GMOs have made 100-fold gains in terms of planted cropland since 1996. The United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and India comprise the lion’s share of GMO cropland, as more than 152 million of the world’s 170 million GMO hectares are found in those five countries.
All of this adds up to big business. The six largest seed-and-weed companies — which typically pair specially engineered seeds with herbicides that often eliminate any plants not attuned to their unique chemical structure — accounted for close to $50 billion in global sales across their various product lines in 2009, the last year for which complete data was available:
Seed + Trait Sales
Global Seed Market Share
Global Agrochemical Market Share
Total Agro-Tech R&D Spending
Fear of a mod planet
A quick search of “GMO” will turn up all sorts of scaremonger websites, with all sorts of frightening claims that when you eat a Monsanto-developed crop, you’re consigning yourself to a short, sickly life of gastrointestinal (or just general) agony. Cancer, allergic reactions, liver problems, sterility, and even the unnatural modification of your genes — these are just the claims I found on the website of the Institute for Responsible Technology, which purports to be a leading anti-GMO advocacy group. I won’t go into some of the anti-Monsanto conspiracy theories you’ll find bandied about on less reputable corners of the Internet.
It may not be easy to debunk all of these claims, but thanks to extensive national medical records, we can at least see how close to the mark they may strike. Since America was the earliest adopter of GMO foodstuffs, and is now the world’s predominant grower and consumer of GMO crops, it should be experiencing the worst of the purported GMO health problems.
Are we more cancerous today than we were in 1996? Actually, not by a long shot:
The results are even more pronounced when focusing on cancers of the stomach, colon, and rectum, which all show a persistent and significant downtrend throughout the entire tracked period across race and gender divisions. If we’re eating ourselves to death, shouldn’t our digestive systems be the most damaged by these Frankenfoods? Cancer statistics don’t back up anti-GMO claims at all, and with more than 16 years in the food supply, you’d expect there to be a statistically significant change. The one statistically significant spike on these graphs, occurring around 1990, is often blamed on the Chernobyl disaster.
There has been an increase in death rates from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in recent years, by about one person per 100,000 from 1999 to 2010 — but keep in mind that these liver problems are typically alcohol-related. Simply noting a slight statistical uptick isn’t enough to blame on modified crops. People might just be binge-drinking more.
Food allergies, however, might be a different story:
The little disclaimer at the bottom reads “statistically significant trend,” and the prevalence of food allergies among children increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007. That’s rather notable. The average number of food-allergy-related hospital visits per year also spiked toward the end of the tracking period, from only 2,600 per year in 2000 to more than 9,500 in 2006. On its own, this may not be enough to blame on GMOs — except for soy, none of the foodstuffs on the CDC’s list of common food allergens is a known GMO crop (although wheat appears headed in that direction). The body may react to one type of food by increasing its reaction severity to other types, but the interplay between these factors is complex and not easily reduced to a simple cause-and-effect relationship.
Other noted health problems — here I refer to a long essay by Earth Open Source, no more an impartial observer than the ISAAA (impartiality is all but impossible to come by in the GMO debate) — include toxin contamination from the overuse of herbicides on GMOs modified for herbicide resistance, stomach lesions, and adverse immune reactions in mice, liver and kidney abnormalities in rats … well, it goes on like this. You can read about the effects in detail at this link, beginning on page 37 (PDF opens in new window). If you can name an ailment, there’s probably a study somewhere that has traced its cause to GMOs. Yet the world continues to live longer. U.S. life expectancy has increased from 76 years in 1996 to 78.6 years in 2011, and global life expectancy has increased from 66.4 to nearly 69 years in the same time period. If we’re less healthy, we sure are coping with it more effectively.
There has to be a reason farmers keep using GMOs. The most obvious would be that the end product — that is, the stuff you eventually eat — would yield more per planting (that is, per acre), which should result in lower costs at the consumer level. To the extent that this is true, it can’t be credited to the adoption of GMO seed, as yield improvements and price declines began long before Monsanto got into the seed business:
Soybean yields haven’t grown quite as impressively but have still doubled on a per-acre basis over the same time frame. Cotton yields have also soared over the past several decades. GMO crops had nothing to do with it — old-fashioned hybridization, improved production techniques and infrastructures, and the spread of these two important developments around the world created a modern agricultural revolution after the Second World War. GMO crops might be in the process of extending that revolution today, but they may not. Few processes are so simple that a simple tweaking of one element can completely explain a change in another.
GMOs can’t claim to have reduced crop costs through efficiency gains, either. Since commercial introduction in 1996, two of the three major crops planted have nearly doubled in price:
Ultimately, this is probably good for farmers, but bad for everyone else. Not only are you buying Frankenfoods that will wreck your health, but you’re also paying twice as much for the privilege. Agriculture can be so cruel. (Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek.)
Monsanto itself claims that GMOs benefit farmers through increased yield, greater insect and disease protection, and drought and heat resistance. The modified crops also conserve the soil, minimize the use of herbicides, and reduce the energy used in the growing process.
I’ve already shown that yields have been increasing for decades, so Monsanto is at best merely continuing a long-running trend, and at worst piggybacking on other improvements to make disingenuous claims. Herbicides and fertilizers have shipped in more than 35% greater quantities this year over the volumes seen in 1996. Fertilizer, as you might expect, is one significant part of increasing crop yields. Since fertilizers are quite energy-intensive to make (many are derived from natural gas) and can be damaging to soil quality over time, this one factor tends to disprove a number of Monsanto’s claims:
The increased use of herbicide designed to work with GMOs (and vice versa) appears to be creating strains of “superweeds” that actively resist the chemicals. Nature tends not to sit idly by while scientists try to pound it into submission. The long-term consequences of an arms race between chemical-cum-GMO producers and the invasive species they want to push out of farm fields could very possibly result in damages beyond the circumstantial ones I’ve already highlighted.
The only real claim that I can’t disprove (or at least weigh down with caveats) is that of drought and heat resistance, mostly because it’s not easy to find data on the claim in either direction. Reducing water use is no small feat in a world quite obviously enduring a period of abnormal heat and drought. However, this alone can’t answer for the fact that something should be done about widespread droughts beyond the creation of GMOs that drink just a little bit less water — particularly if these GMOs result in the indirect use of more water by herbicide-resistant weeds.
How do you solve a problem like Monsanto?
It’s tempting to reduce complex issues into outraged sound bites, like “GMOs are killing people!” or “GMOs are feeding the world!” The truth, as always, isn’t quite so easy.
The threat of tainted food — whether by chemicals or through genetic manipulation — is a cause that arouses outrage at a pitch few other causes will ever muster. The threat of a shadowy corporation with its fingers buried in the heart of our food supply only heightens this outrage, and Monsanto’s heavy-handed efforts at control have done nothing to soften its public image. However, the science of GMOs has been carried out in a highly ideological way on both sides, which doesn’t help when all you want is the truth.
It seems that GMOs will inevitably become a larger part of our food supply, because the corporate motivator in the United States has proved to be stronger than the citizen motivator in recent years. A few protests won’t change that. It will take concerted, long-running national efforts to change diets and attitudes before Monsanto and its peers are forced to loosen their grip on American farmlands. If you choose to be one of the people on the vanguard of that effort, make sure that you understand the science as it is, and not as you’d like it to be.
Are we less healthy today than we were two decades ago? It’s possible, even though most of the statistics don’t show that. Is it all Monsanto’s fault? Probably not.
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The article Why Is Monsanto the Most Hated Company in the World? originally appeared on Fool.com.
Sometimes called Mon-satan, there is a reason that people are up in arms about Monsanto, more than any other Big Pharma company. Monsanto is to be dealt with swiftly – more than Dow Chemical, more than Syngenta, more than the hundreds of other companies that have been against GMO labeling. The genetically modified seed that Monsanto is selling to farmers constitutes more than 90% of the total GMO food crops in the United States. This is called a monopoly. Just last year a report published by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) stated that 420 million acres of GMO had been planted, in 28 countries worldwide. Since 1996 GMO crops have been grown on over 3.7 billion acres. This is no accident. Monsanto has a plan.
It’s been a grand scheme for over 20 years. It’s about more than potatoes and corn, soy and sugar cane. Monsanto is trying to control the entire food supply chain. It’s better than nuclear warfare, more evil than the arm’s trade. If Monsanto controls the seed, every seed, from trees to oranges, to cauliflower and rice, okra, mustard, and so on, royalties will be collected on Mother Nature herself. What was once free to the world, heirloom seeds that grow into everything from bamboo trees to broccoli, becomes a commodity controlled by a corporation.
It all started with the ‘revolving door’ policies in the White House, which has been exerting control over law makers’ decisions, specifically through one Michael Taylor. Taylor once worked for Monsanto as an attorney and was also appointed the deputy commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991, only later to rejoin Monsanto as their Vice President for Public Policy. It is beyond a conflict of interest. Monsanto and the White House have been sleeping in the same bed for two decades.
The intimate relations of people like Taylor with the US government are what have allowed Monsanto to slowly spread their ‘seed’ into as many countries as possible, in order to try to slowly take over the entire food chain. Even in the early 1990’s other members of the FDA warned that GMO seed could cause ill-effects to the public’s health, but those concerns were stifled through marketing campaigns and general disinformation.
Now, companies like Coca-Cola, Campbell’s, Hershey’s, Godiva, Sara Lee, Hormel, Del Monte, Smucker’s, Mars, Wrigley, Heinz, Kellogg’s, Pepsi-Co, Dole, and Smithyfield, among others are happily supporting the gag-order instituted by Monsanto. They unite against any political campaigns that would allow American’s to know exactly what is in their food: the GMO seeded food-stuff (because it isn’t really food) that causes cancer, liver failure, strange allergies, and reproductive failure.
This has been the plan since the early 1990s. It is coming to a head now because Monsanto is even planting crops without the permission of the FDA, knowing full well that the more seed they plant, the more it will spread. While labeling is a great idea, and more than 60 countries already require it, including all of Europe, Japan, Australia, Russia, and China, it doesn’t solve the problem of GMO seed taking over the world. If GMO is all that is planted, we will be forced to pay Monsanto royalties – “Agribusiness giant Monsanto, wants farmers to pay a royalty to plant any seed that descended from a patented original.” While this is clearly an illegal tactic, it is one the Supreme Court has recently upheld.
Furthermore, the GMO seeds that Monsanto has so strategically planted are now taking over organic fields. The contamination is part of the plan. Crops that are wind and insect pollinated are more at risk than others of being cross-bred with GMO seeded crops, leading to more ‘patented’ food for which Monsanto can charge farmers for planting. Two western Australian farmers recently talked about just how easily Monsanto GMO seed had contaminated their nearby organic farms after a big storm.
We can’t wait for food labeling bills. By then it will be too late. We can’t wait for the FDA to decide to get its hands out of Monsanto’s pants and start protecting the food supply for the American people, as their mission statement says that they are required to do. We have to stop Monsanto now, before all the crops in the world are contaminated with their ‘patented’ seed. It is creating crops that will make us sick and cancerous, and it’s giving the company control over the global food supply. It has to stop now – with radical acts, like the recent burning of GMO seed in China, Hungary, and Haiti. It is time for some radical taking-over of our land and a complete cease and desist order for agri-business. It starts with small farmers saying no to GMO seed and stopping Monsanto in their tracks. They’ve already been allowed to gain too much traction in their evil plot to control the world.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.