Friday, 3 February 2012

Monsanto. The worst company in the world?

The way that we produce the food we eat is vital. During the last 100 years, or so, food production on our farms have changed. And the result is that we can no longer trust the quality, or even the safety of the food we are being offered by the Big Food companies. It is not just a matter of pesticides and herbicides, the factory farming of animals, the intensification of agriculture, the depletion of our soils - it is about the very seeds we plant. And at the centre of this controversy is the giant biotech company, Monsanto.

Monsanto were named 'the worst company of 2011' by the organisation 'Natural Society'. The won this accolade for "threatening human health and the environment". No mean achievement! Why is this? Monsanto has not only created some of the most dangerous products, such as Agent Orange, dioxin, and recombinant bovine growth hormone, it is now at the very centre of the GMO seed row.

In a recent email communication with supporters, the Organic Consumers Association, they said that "energy-intensive industrial farming practices, that rely on toxic chemicals and genetically engineered crop are not just undermining public health, they're destroying the planet". They give 10 reasons for this contention:

#1 Generating Massive Greenhouse Gas Pollution (CO2, Methane, Nitrous Oxide) and Global Warming, While Promoting False Solutions Such as Industrial Biofuels, So-Called Drought-Resistant Crops, and Genetically Engineered Trees
#2 Polluting the Environment and the Soil-Food Web with Pesticides, Chemical Fertilizers, and Persistent Toxins, Including Dioxin

#3 Draining and Polluting Wetlands and Aquifers, Turning Farmland into Desert

#4 Poisoning Wells and Municipal Drinking Water, Lakes, and Rivers

#5 Chopping Down the Rainforests for Monoculture GMO Crops, Biofuels and Cattle Grazing

#6 Increasing the Cost of Food, While Reducing Nutrition and Biodiversity

#7 Spawning Pesticide-Resistant Superbugs and Weeds, and Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

#8 Generating New and More Virulent Plant, Animal and Human Diseases

#9 Utilizing Wasteful Fossil Fuel-Intensive Practices and Encouraging the Expansion of Natural Gas Fracking and Tar Sands Extraction (Which Destroy Forests, Aquifers, and Farmland)

#10 Stealing Money From the 99% to Give Huge Subsidies to the 1% Wealthiest, Most Chemical and Energy-Intensive Farms and Food Producers

It is now estimated that 90% of some US crops are genetically modified, and that most food eaten in the USA contain some GMO ingredients.

The position is not quite so serious in Europe, with countries like Hungary and Germany banning it. Even in the UK we have recently seen some success, with Monsanto withdrawing its Cambridge-based wheat production unit because of consumer resistance.

Monsanto has based its propaganda on a number of promises that have not been met. This 'Global Citizens Report' states that genetic engineering has not increased the yield of a single crop. That instead of controlling weeds and pests GM crops (alongside Monsanto's herbicide, Roundup) have led to the emergence of super-weeds and super-pests. That instead of reducing the amounts of chemicals used in growing crops, they require more. That promises to produce 'drought resistant' crops have not materialised. And so on.

And it also report that "there are enough independent studies to show the GE foods can cause severe health damage".

Part of the problem is the increased use of herbicides, that persist in the soil, leave a residue in GM food, and so go on to poison us when we eat them. The problems of herbicide use are discussed in some detail in this article. And this article explains how these poisons also pollutes our water supply, so that even if we avoid eating GM foods, our water supply, taken from the taps in our homes, can also be making us ill, or even killing us, slowly.

So is Monsanto concerned? It would appear not, as they have stated "there is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans". We must all, therefore, ask the question. Is the development of GMO crops, and Monsanto's position on testing them,  in the best interests of our health - or is it to protect their profits?

The same article outlines the health dangers known to arise, namely, that DNA in GM crops are responsible for disease-causing inflammation, and auto-immune disorders.

And this may not be the end of Monsanto's aims and objectives for our future, and the future of our environment. This article suggests that they want to kill our bees in order to make way for its 'super-bee'. Far-fetched? Well, someone or something is certainly killing our bees! And the use of pesticides and herbicides are already deeply implicated.

We have to increase our efforts to boycott GMO crops, and the food made from it. But in doing so, there are two things that stand in our way. The first is that Big Food, and Monsanto in particular, don't want us to know when we are eating GMOs. So food labelling is being opposed. No one has asked for GMO food; no one wants it; and so labels will help us to avoid it if we wish to do so. So surely our politicians will help us?

Well, not necessarily. The second problem is the financial influence and power of Monsanto, who are lobbying our politicians with all the money they have available to them!. The question is, will our politicians support us? Or Monsanto?

But to end on a more positive note. In a David vs Goliath (Monsanto) court battle in Canada, one farmer actually won! Worth a read. The moral of this story is that we all, each one of us, have to fight this evil giant. And the good news is that 270,000 organic farmers are going to sue Monsanto. We should all wish them good luck!