The Monsanto menace takes over

The feds see no evil as a belligerent strongman seeks control of America's food supply

Never mind that no accepted science backed his theory.

"It's simply a political calculation invented by Michael Taylor and Monsanto and adopted by U.S. federal policy-makers to resist labeling," says Jim Gerritsen, a farmer in Maine. "You have this collusion between corporations and the government, and the essence is that the people's interest isn't being served."

The FDA is a prime example. It approves GM crops by doing no testing of its own; it simply takes Monsanto's word for their safety. Amusingly enough, Monsanto spokesman Phil Angell says the company agrees that it should have nothing to do with verifying safety: "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible," he told the New York Times. "Assuring its safety is the FDA's job."

So if neither Monsanto nor the feds are doing it, who is?

The answer: no one.

We've Got a Bigger Problem Now

So far, it appears that the GM revolution has done little more than raise the cost of food.

A 2009 study by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, looked at four Monsanto seeds and found only minimal increases in yield. Since GM crops cost more to produce, their economic benefit seemed questionable at best.

"It pales in comparison to other conventional approaches," says Gurian-Sherman. "It's a lot more expensive, and it comes with a lot of baggage...like pesticide use, monopoly issues, and control of the seed supply."

Use of those pesticides has soared as weeds and insects become increasingly resistant to them. Since GM crops were introduced in 1996, pesticide usage has increased by 404 million pounds. Last year, Syngenta, one of the world's largest pesticide makers, reported that sales of its major corn-soil insecticide more than doubled in 2012, a response to increased resistance to Monsanto's pesticides.

Part of the blame belongs to a monoculture that developed around farming. Farmers know it's better to rotate crops and pesticides and leave fields fallow for a season. But when corn prices are high, who wants to grow a less profitable crop? The result has been soil degradation, relatively static yields, and an epidemic of weed and insect resistance.

Weeds and insects are fighting back with their own law: that of natural selection. Last year, 49 percent of surveyed farmers reported Roundup-resistant weeds on their farms, up from 34 percent the year before. The problem costs farmers more than $1 billion annually.

Pests like Roundup-resistant pigweed can grow as thick as your arm and more than six feet high, requiring removal by hand. Many farmers simply abandon weed-choked fields.

In order to kill the pests, chemical giants like Monsanto and Dow are developing crops capable of withstanding even harsher pesticides, resulting in an endless cycle of greater pesticide use at commensurate financial and environmental cost.

Nature, as it's proved so often before, will not be easily vanquished.

"We are not making our agriculture more resistant to environmental stress, not lowering the amount of pesticides, and not creating a sustainable agricultural system that works," says Mary-Howells Martens, an organic grain farmer in New York. "There are so many things that are short-term, quick-buck kind of things, without any kind of eye to if this is going to be a good deal long-term."

Next Stop: The World!

The biggest problem for Monsanto's global growth: It doesn't have the same juice with foreign governments as it does with ours. That's why it relies on the State Department to work as its taxpayer-funded lobbyist abroad.

Yet this has become increasingly difficult. Other nations aren't as willing to play corporate water boy as America is. The countries that need GM seeds often can't afford them (or don't trust Monsanto). And the nations that can afford them (other than us) don't really want them (or don't trust Monsanto).

Ask Mike Mack, CEO of the Swiss biotech giant Syngenta. The Swiss, he argues, are more interested in environmental safety and food quality than in saving a few pennies at the grocery store.

"Switzerland's greatest natural resource is that it is a beautiful country that brings in a lot of tourism," he says. "If the Swiss could lower their consumption spending by 1 percent by applying high-productivity farming, they probably would not do it if it requires changing their approach to how they think about food. Countries like Switzerland are a good example where such things as GM food would be very difficult and perhaps commercially inadvisable."

Maybe Europe has simply been around the block enough to know better than to entrust its health to a bottom-line mentality. Although the European Union imports 30 million tons of GM crops annually for livestock feed, it's approved only two GM crops for human consumption.

In April, biotech companies took another hit when the European Union banned neonicotinoids — a.k.a. "neo-nics" — one of the most powerful and popular insecticides in the world. It's a derivative of nicotine that's poisonous to plants and insects. German giant Bayer CropScience and Syngenta both make neo-nics, which are used to coat seeds, protecting crops in their early growth stages. In America, 90 percent of the corn crop comes with the coating.

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19 comments
ask.4j
ask.4j

Current members of the board of directors of Monsanto are:

  • David L. Chicoine, president of South Dakota State University Yikes!
  • Hugh Grant, president and CEO (" a Scottish-born business executive and CEO ..."Hugh Grant Is Elected President and Chief Executive Officer of Monsanto"--Scotland--isn't that where mad cow disease was created?
  • Arthur H. Harper, managing partner of GenNx360 Capital Partners ("As front-line operating executives at General Electric, several of our senior partners led and transformed diverse industrial businesses; generating billions in operating profits. ")
  • Gwendolyn King, president of Podium Prose, a speakers bureau
  • Laura K. Ipsen, senior VP and general manager of Connected Energy Networks at Cisco Systems, Inc.(NASDAQ:CSCO)
  • C. Steven McMillan, former chairman and CEO of the Sara Lee Corporation  (McMillan=Cargil)
  • William U. Parfet, chief executive officer of MPI Research Inc. ("...built its reputation on its toxicological experience and knowledge with small molecules. However, the company is ahead of the curve in responding to recent market trends with biotechnology-derived products, commonly known as “biologics,” or biopharmaceuticals.")
  • Janice L. Fields, president of McDonald's USA (food that doesn't rot or nutritious -my personal thouts/experience)
  • George H. Poste, chief executive of Health Technology Networks
  • Jon R. Moeller, chief financial officer of The Procter & Gamble Company.[64][65]

Lobbyist--here's one example: http://www.ibtimes.com/army-lobbyists-led-monsanto-helped-neuter-gmo-labeling-law-connecticut-1295489


that's one powerful board but isn't it just as easy to make lots of money creating edible safe food?  do we really need to kill every weed, insects and small animal that attacks crops resulting in food that may harm those who eat it?  The world is protesting and here's what's going on in your world:  http://occupy-monsanto.com/


their moto is "feeding the world" or is this a new form of birth control--kill off the poor.  sad but making lots of money isn't satisfying enough, complete world control is the ultimate level of self-serving satisfaction.  Oh there's lots of stuff out there about Monsanto to read most is bs but it is a sign that "we've had enough and we're not taking it any more" and our main weapon is sarcasm which just confuses and voids any real protests.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

I wonder how much I can get paid writing for Monsanto on comments like these?  Does anyone know? 

earl.jacob.netwal
earl.jacob.netwal

The city pages should be ashamed to print this yellow journalism.

jujucar2002
jujucar2002

Maybe someday they will see the connection between Celiac and other food intolerances like Gluten intolerance and sensitivity. Those illnesses exploded as Monsanto products became more and more widespread. I have to be careful what foods I eat, most foods make me explosively ill. 

We need labelling on our foods so those of us who cannot tolerate these modified non-foods can steer clear of them.

gratefulmom
gratefulmom

Deepest thanks for your well-informed coverage of this important issue.  GMOs are next cigarettes--the FDA has totally abdicated its job protecting us from these "foods." 

Even the University of Minnesota says HALF of the studies they reviewed showed risk inherent in eating GMOs. And most of the rest are industry funded. 

Minnesota has a bill in the House and Senate to label GMOs--at least we should be able to decide whether we eat GMOs or not. But that's only the first step. Farmers are taking their livestock off GMO feed because they're becoming sick and infertile--and we're still feeding them to our kids.

No yield increases, toxic chemicals, health risks for all of us, profits for big biotech. It's sad that our government is in the pocket of this industry. Twenty years from now we're all going to be talking about who was to blame for letting us eat untested GMOs for so long and no one will take responsibility.

Look for the non-GMO seal, organize to pass labeling, and do all you can to fight the corporate takeover and contamination of the food on which we all depend.

RSweeney
RSweeney

"Learning" of Monsanto from this biased propaganda screed is like learning African-American history from the KKK.

Monsanto's seed patents expire in 20 years, to be free for ALL.

The first Roundup-ready seed to expire is soybean, becoming free in 2014.

Non-gmo seed is available, no one FORCES farmers to buy GMO, but farmers prefer the lower cost farming and greater yields provided by the GMO varieties. Roundup ready saves an immense amount of expensive tractor fuel and no-til has allowed America to avoid a dust bowl despite droughts.


Take the ignorant 2 minute hate somewhere else.

anjh
anjh

My backyard squirrels won't eat GM corn.

Yvonne Schram
Yvonne Schram

If we had labeled food, we could choose to stop buying GMOs.

Drewey
Drewey topcommenter

Why would a "job creator" hurt us? This sounds like more "lame stream media" brainwashing. This is the kind if governing that happens when we are completely divided as a country. While we waste our time arguing about simple equality issues and backwards abortion laws politicians are playing yes men to guys with a shit load if cash.

RSweeney
RSweeney

@jujucar2002  

So you believe that a gluten molecule from one corn ear is different from another?

How about the sugar molecules in GMO beets? 

foodisgood
foodisgood

@RSweeney Round-up Ready seeds lose their effectiveness much earlier than 20 years.  In mono-culture systems, pests, weeds, & disease respond as if on cue every time.  GM crops solve nothing.  They simply prolong an agri-business model that has only existed a relatively short time on a massive scale.  

pammanda
pammanda

@RSweeney Actually, seed diversity is going down in countries that grow GMOs...Nongmo varieties are simply not available to them.  Patents are going to be extended via trade agreements (see the TTIP, TPP), plus it doesn't matter as Roundup is not working any more so they just create new patented varieties to replace them.  Please dig deeper before spreading your hate. 

earl.jacob.netwal
earl.jacob.netwal

@anjh 

Corn's a great example, it's not a natural food to begin with, It was cross bread recently in history. ~5,000 years ago. Virtually all the corn you see today are hybrids form the 1860s and on.

RSweeney
RSweeney

@foodisgood @RSweeney  

We have lived (in the US) in monoculture system of agriculture for over 100 years.

But you are correct, evolution never sleeps.

RSweeney
RSweeney

@pammanda  

So here we are in a 2 minute hate screed against Monsanto and I am the one spreading hate?

Please.

 

 
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