Thursday, May 27, 2010

Evil Empire

When we consider the morally bankrupt, devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporations we generally come up with corporations like Microsoft, Bechtel, AIG, Halliburton, Goldman-Sachs and Exxon-Mobil. Yet somehow, Monsanto, arguably the most devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporation in the world has somehow been able to disappear in a cloud of lies.

Monsanto has spent billions of dollars trying to depict itself as a visionary corporation, a world-historical force that is working to bring science and an environmentally responsible outlook to the solution of humanity's most pressing problems. Whether you are concerned about population growth, the future of agriculture, the quality of our food, or the health needs of the population, we are assured that Monsanto will find the answers.

But just who is Monsanto? Where did they come from? How did they get to be the world's second largest manufacturer of agricultural chemicals, one of the largest producers of seeds, and soon the largest seller of prescription drugs in the United States? Is Monsanto the "clean and green" company its advertisements promote, or is this new image merely a product of clever public relations? A quick look at their history reveals clues as to why Monsanto is known throughout the world as the most evil and unethical corporation on the planet today.

Founded by Missouri pharmacist John Francis Queeny in 1901, Monsanto is one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers and an agricultural giant that is indeed taking control of the world's population, one seed at a time. Just about every non-organic food product available to consumers has some sort of connection with Monsanto. Corn, soy and cotton can be found in just about every American food product and upwards of 90% of all corn, soybeans and cotton are grown from genetically engineered seeds, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These genetically enhanced products appear in around 70% of all American processed food products and Monsanto controls 90% of all genetically engineered seeds. In other words, Monsanto controls and owns patents on most of the American food supply.

Since the 1980s, Monsanto has become the world leader in genetic modification of seeds and has won 674 biotechnology patents, more than any other company. But Monsanto is not only patenting their own GMO seeds, they have also succeeded in slapping patents on a huge number of crop seeds, patenting life forms for the first time in history, without a vote of the people or Congress.

Farmers who buy Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds are required to sign an agreement promising not to save the seeds or sell them to other farmers. Farmers must buy new seeds every year, and they must buy them from Monsanto. Monsanto has actually hired an army of private investigators and agents to secretly videotape and photograph farmers that may attempt to reuse their seeds. These “seed police” as the farmers call them have infiltrated community meetings and attempted to pressure farmers into signing papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Quite fittingly, farmers have described Monsanto’s tactics as similar to the “Gestapo” and “Mafia.”

Monsanto tries to pass itself off as an innovative agricultural company, when in reality they produced two of the most toxic substances ever known polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxin (Agent Orange). Monsanto may also be responsible for more than 50 Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites ( uncontrolled hazardous waste sites), and they’re the masterminds behind some of the most dangerous products on the market today:

* Genetically modified crops (Monsanto provides the seeds for 90 percent of the world's GM crops)
* Fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides
* Aspartame
* Recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, a genetically engineered growth hormone given to dairy cows to make them produce more milk

Monsanto has also considered using what’s known as terminator technology on a wide-scale basis. These are seeds that have been genetically modified to “self-destruct.” In other words, the seeds (and the forthcoming crops) are sterile, which means farmers must buy them again each year.Yet, most farmers cannot afford to buy new seeds every year, so collecting and replanting seeds is a crucial part of the agricultural cycle. This is the way food has been grown successfully for thousands of years.
Further, the traits from genetically engineered crops can get passed on to other crops. Once the terminator seeds are released into a region, the trait of seed sterility could be passed to other non-genetically-engineered crops, making most or all of the seeds in the region sterile. If allowed to continue, every farmer in the world could come to rely on Monsanto for their seed supply and this is not a company that you want in control of your food supply.

When you consider that one-in-four food labels is inaccurate, that the F.D.A.'s testing is weak at best, then how can we trust one corporation to have so much control over our produce? The answer is, we can't. Monsanto's Mon 863, Mon 810, and Roundup herbicide-absorbing NK 603 in corn caused kidney and liver damage in laboratory rats. Scientists also discovered damage to the heart, spleen, adrenal glands and even the blood of rats that consumed the mutant corn.

This hasn't slowed down Monsanto's profits thought, in 2008, Monsanto cleared over $2 billion in net profits on $11 billion in revenues. Its herbicide, glyphosate, alone is estimated to bring in a revenue of $1 billion in gross profit by 2012, enabling Monsanto to further drive herbicides into seeds and to price those seeds at a premium price, further driving price up on the farm and in the grocery stores which will be deadly for farmers who in 2009 saw their income decline 34%.

Because Monsanto claims that its GMOs create higher yields and therefore comparatively higher revenues per acre for struggling American farmers, they're certainly a tempting option. On the surface, that is. Monsanto controls its seeds with an iron fist, so even if you happen to own a farm next to another farm upon which Monsanto seeds are used, and if those seeds migrate onto your land, Monsanto can sue you for royalties.

Additionally, if you use seeds from crops grown from Monsanto seeds, a process known as "seed cleaning," you also have to pay royalties to Monsanto or they will sue you. Monsanto has recovered $15 million in royalties by suing farmers, with individual settlements ranging from five figures to millions of dollars each. But in keeping with the Orwellian nature of modern marketing, one of the first phrases you see on the front page of the Monsanto website is "we help farmers." Funny. In a cruelly ironical way, that is.

Stronger Monsanto herbicides, compatible with herbicide resistant seeds, are giving rise to mutant super weeds that have adapted and are rapidly spreading through the air to farms that don't use Monsanto GMOs, destroying obviously vulnerable crops. Say nothing of the inevitable mutant bugs that will adapt to the pesticides that are implanted into the Monsanto Mon 810 genetic code. And if further studies indicate similar organ damage in humans, the externalized costs to health care systems will begin to seriously out-weigh the benefits of this so called cheaper food.
On January 15, the Obama Justice Department launched an anti-trust investigation against the corporate behemoth over its next generation of genetically modified "Roundup Ready" soybean seeds. The very next day, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, which challenges the safety of genetically modified agricultural products, the centerpiece of the Monsanto empire. If the investigation fails, farmers will have to switch over to the next generation of Roundup Ready seeds in 2014. And the cycle of corporate abuse and monopolization will continue.

3 comments:

Craig said...

I have been freaked out by this company for years.

I hate capitalism so much.

So much.

Dawson said...

I don't believe in the plausibility of a violent revolution, but in Monsanto's case I would be more than happy to give it a trial run...

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