Monsanto… Infamous – Notorious
Monsanto is well known for being the corporate giants that sue small farmers and market their GMO (genetically modified organism) products to third world farmers. Frequently targeted by protesters and held up as the very archetype of an ‘evil’ corporate entity, we have to ask – how much do we really know about them?
First, what exactly is a biotech company? In the case of Monsanto, they develop chemicals and methods for pest control in plants as well as develop genetically modified food seeds. It should be noted that the company was started by a man named –
John Francis Queeny, a veteran of the pharmaceutical industry and that they have over the years been responsible for the invention of Agent Orange, the powerful defoliant used during the Vietnam war to kill jungle plants, as well as PCB’s which are highly toxic chemicals used in machinery as well as paints and pesticides.
Monsanto is perhaps best known as the producer of glyphosate, (glif oh sate) a powerful pesticide ingredient that’s marketed globally under the commercial name ‘Roundup’. For years Monsanto claimed that glyphosate was biodegradable which was found to be a straight up lie.
A high court in France found that Monsanto has indeed been negligent in providing sufficient and truthful information about the health effects of its products specifically a product called Lasso, a weed killer that is effectively agent orange, after a farmer sued them for physical damage after suffering persistent neurological damage as a result of inhaling the fumes from the product.
In fact, the application of use for their main product glyphosate requires that a full body suit and mask be worn during handling and application. And this is a product that is used on our food…
As glyphosate is such a powerful herbicide, surely it would have an effect on the food products? Well, Monsanto has thought of everything. Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds produce crops such as corn and soy to withstand the effects of glyphosphate.
Essentially this means that the soy products we consume are chemically altered to resist the effects of another incredibly toxic chemical – both of which are developed by the same company. The evidence is overwhelming that cases of food allergies, diabetes, cancers and obesity that have been on the rise since the commercial introduction of these pesticide agents. There is a direct relationship. Many foodstuffs contain foreign and indeed harmful agents that our bodies cannot process.
Monsanto has also been a developer of food additives such as saccharin and aspartame – going under brand names such as NutraSweet and Sweet and Low, these refined replacements for sugar have been increasingly coming under the radar for being not just contributors to obesity and cardiovascular problems but also dangerous to human health.
Surely a company as negligent and damaging to the general health and well being of the general populace, such as Monsanto, should be subject to restrictions and laws dictating their behavior and use of their products…right? You would think that the safety and human health issues would be upheld by the government entities that have been setup to do so, wouldn’t you?
Unfortunately, Monsanto has free reign in the United States. The U.S. allows Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds and engineered pesticides to be grown in approximately 170 million acres of Soy, Corn, Canola, Cotton, Sugar Beets and others.
Monsanto has a solid foothold in the US government regardless of who is in power, thanks in part to huge financial muscle as well as having key decision makers in high offices who have been part of Monsanto’s executive management in the past.
For example, Clarence Thomas, the US supreme court judge was previously a lawyer for Monsanto and Anne Veneman who was US secretary for agriculture used to sit on the board of directors for Celgene, another biotech company associated with Monsanto.
The secretary of health under George W Bush, Tommy Thompson, received $50,000 from Monsanto during his successful drive to be re-elected governor of Wisconsin. These people are not impartial but rather continue to have a vested interest in turning a blind eye to Monsanto’s wrongdoings.
Now what about Monsanto’s drive to patent their genetically modified versions of seeds for food products and sue farmers around the world for patent infringement?
Monsanto claims that their work is beneficial to farmers around the world and that they need to enforce the patents for their products as they spend around $2.5 million a day on research. They claim that GMO crops are hardier and increase harvest yield while being ultra resistant to pest’s and the damage pest’s cause.
However, a recent study sponsored by the UN found that there is nearly ZERO evidence that genetically modified crops boost yield or that they are any more resistant overall to climate issues such as drought or other environmental issues. The report recommended that organic and natural farming was more beneficial overall.
There have been several recent high profile cases of Monsanto suing framers, a tactic referred to as corporate bullying. One case was of a soybean farmer in Indiana who bought seeds from a third party and having harvested the first crop decided to plant a second late crop. He then used seeds from this crop to replant in subsequent years – something that Monsanto said is against their patent agreements, meaning that farmers who use seeds further down the line should pay proceeds to Monsanto.
The farmer in question argued that since he bought the original seed from a third party and that the later crop was not from bought seeds that he should not be liable to the license agreements of the Monsanto patent. The court agreed with Monsanto and the farmer had to pay out. I would challenge you to ask any farmer today if that case ruling has not freaked them out.
Most farmers today using Monsanto seed began using it out of fear. Fear that an entire growing season on their land could be declared as “patent infringement” from a single Monsanto seed that may have blown into their field by one of their neighbors.
In a similar case in Brazil in 2012, soybean farmers collectively issued a lawsuit against Monsanto claiming that the company takes unfair profits from farmers as a result of using soybean seeds that are distantly related to the seeds developed in Monsanto’s laboratories. The case is ongoing and expected to reach agreement in 2014.
Despite a recent backlash against GM crops Monsanto makes a very healthy profit at the expense of global human health. Only an informed consumer can fight against this by avoiding GM crops, pesticides and refined food products.
Why is all this happening?
The consensus among careful observers is that the reason is simple; the whole process, of regulation in agriculture has been thrown out the window. Agriculture policy in the U.S. is ineffective because big profits and “making tons of money” has been put before human health. Does all that qualify as being infamous and notorious?