The Monsanto menace takes over

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

Last month, Harvell's GM-labeling law overwhelmingly passed the Maine House (141-4) and Senate (35-0) and awaits the governor's signature. That makes Maine the second state (nine days after Connecticut) to pass a GM-labeling law.

The Right to Know movement has picked up steam since chemical companies defeated California's labeling initiative, thanks to a $46 million publicity campaign full of deceptive statements. A recent ABC News poll found that 93 percent of Americans surveyed support GM labeling.

When Vermont raised the issue a year ago, a Monsanto official indicated that the company might sue. But the states are smart. The new laws in both Maine and Connecticut won't take effect until other states pass similar legislation so they can share defense costs.

Kansas farmer Bryce Stephens had to stop growing organic corn and soybeans for fear of contamination from genetically modified crops.
Kansas farmer Bryce Stephens had to stop growing organic corn and soybeans for fear of contamination from genetically modified crops.
Dr. Charles Benbrook says Monsanto is costing farmers money
Dr. Charles Benbrook says Monsanto is costing farmers money

What's interesting is that Harvell, by his own admission, is a very conservative Republican. Yet on this issue, left and right have the same quest for greater caution.

"God gave the seed to the earth and the fruit to the trees," Harvell says. "Notice it didn't say he granted Monsanto a patent. The human body has developed with its seeds. You're making a major leap into Pandora's Box — a quantum leap that maybe the human body isn't ready to make yet."

As more information comes out, it's increasingly clear that GM seed isn't the home run it's portrayed to be. It encourages greater pesticide use, which has a negative impact on the environment and our bodies. And whether or not GM food is safe to eat, it poses a real threat to biodiversity through monopolization of the seed industry and the kind of farming monoculture that inspires.

Meanwhile, a study by the University of Canterbury in England found that non-GM crops in America and Europe are increasing their yields faster than GM crops.

"All this talk about feeding the world, it's really PR," explains Wenonah Hauter, author of Foodopoly and executive director of Food & Water Watch. "The hope is to get into these new markets, force farmers to pay for seed, then start changing the food and eating habits of the developing world."

Since farming is such a timeworn tradition, there's a tendency to take it for granted, and that worries a lot of people. But as much as he hates GM, Bryce Stephens is sanguine.

"I've seen changes since I was little to where it is now," the Kansas farmer says. "I don't think it will last. This land and these people here have gone through cycles of boom and bust. We're just in another cycle, and it will be something different."

Providing we don't break it irreparably first.

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