Monday, November 17, 2008

Murder for Profit: The World According to Monsanto

Some of you may have already guessed that it was only a matter of time once this site was erected that I would go down this path. (Heh, heh, he said erected.) Honestly, I've given this populist crusade against what I consider to be one of the greatest threats to society a bit of a rest, but with the election behind us and my writing moving back to yet more revisions on the novel in part loosely based on a Monsanto-like corporation, I've discovered a video that got my sparks to flying.

"The World According to Monsanto", a French documentary made by independent filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin paints a grim picture of a company with a long track record of deceit and lies while perpetrating environmental crimes against our planet and its peoples. After several attempts to keep the American public from ever seeing this film, it is finally available to buy on DVD or watch for free on a number of websites. (At one point apparently it was pulled off Google video and Youtube but we all know that in this day and age it's impossible to keep information like this hidden for long.)

The history of Monsanto is well chronicled. From the start as a chemical company in 1901 it has been linked to such highly toxic chemical such as Agent Orange and PCBs. We now know that Monsanto was well aware of the systematic deadly effects of these products but in order not to lose "a single dollar" kept these facts well hidden for years. During the late eighties and early nineties under the "look the other way in the name of deregulation" Reagan and Bush Sr. eras, Monsanto successfully switched their persona from chemical company to bio-agriculture gaining unhindered FDA approval for its new focus on genetically modified seed technology and bovine growth hormones (rBGH). Touting their new mission as humanitarian work in the pursuit of sustainability of our planets resources, Monsanto unleashed a new scheme allowing them to take control of the world's farming by patenting their roundup ready GM seed technology.

Roundup, for those of you who have never had to deal with weeds, is an herbicide once hailed by Monsanto as biodegradable until closer scrutiny revealed that their rather flimsy definition of the term was about as factual as a Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale. Thus the biodegradable label was reluctantly removed giving us one more example of Monsanto's callous disregard for truth when it comes to public health vs. profit and power. The new line of genetically modified seeds Monsanto has unleashed known as "roundup ready" are resistant to the effects of this herbicide thus allowing farmers to liberally apply it to crops killing all else but the precious corn, soy, or canola beans. Monsanto claims the GM crops are no different than non GM produced crops, although in the deregulation age, little research has been done to support that claim. They also assert that the use of Roundup has no long lasting ill effects on the farmlands where this product is used. Tell that to the people of Anniston Alabama, who were victimized by Monsanto's profit at any cost philosophy.

In the 1960s, Anniston, Alabama became Monsanto's dumping ground for PCB's. According to a CBS news 60 Minutes investigation, Anniston is now considered one of the most toxic cities in the world with the PCB levels of many of its residents four times greater than other people throughout the United States and had two to four times greater the risk of developing diabetes. In 2003, lawyers for more than 20,000 plaintiffs reached a settlement for $700 million to be paid jointly by Monsanto and its spinoff company Solutia. While seemingly a good deal for the people of Anniston, after all those years of abuse for a company with annual profits in the billions the sum amounts to a mere slap on the wrist.

The bigger question this raises is: If Monsanto hid what it knew about its toxic pollution for decades, what is it hiding from us now?

What I'm preaching here is nothing new and certainly none of the information I've put forth is ground breaking. Aside from the damage to our environment, farming culture, and the wanton abuse of our political system, the biggest fear for me remains in the damage this corporation is inflicting on generations upon generations of local farming traditions found around the world. In many cultures seed saving has been a way of life longer than the existence of the Christian-Judeo ethic. The insidious nature of greed and corruption this company propagates with its army of enforcers clamping down on anyone who tries to work outside of their monopolistic system has grown entirely out of hand and if someone doesn't step in and say "enough" they will continue to intimidate farmers right out of a culture that has taken generations to establish and deprive us all of the health benefits obtainable from the vast varieties of wholesome produce once available in plenty, now fast becoming a memory.

For more info on Monsanto check this website Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Monsanto's M.O. or just Google Monsanto and you'll get more information than I could ever put into our little blogging operation. Also, I especially urge you to check out the documentary I mentioned in the beginning of my rant.

1 comment:

T. Johnson (aka "24") said...

Great post! I was involved with a company in the UK that took on Monsanto by selling nothing but GMO-free products in their stores. In addition to being sued collectively and individually, they were subjected to harassment and even threats of violence.

BTW, Roundup-ready is tame compared to the other GMO products Monsanto has tried to perpetuate. My favorite was the "terminator seed" project. This was an effort to genetically modify its commercial seed in such a way that the crop grown from it would not produce viable seed. The idea was to force farmers to buy seed from Monsanto, instead of growing their own.

As most people familiar with ag know, industrialized, first and second world farmers always buy seed, as they know the genetic pitfalls of a closed-loop system of growing your own, which can decrease disease resistance as well as tonnage. The people who grow their own are primarily third world subsistence farmers who can't afford yearly seed purchases. Monsanto was willing to starve large numbers of them to get a bit more business on the margins.

This is the inevitable result of unfettered capitalism, which ultimately rewards the most avaricious.