The Wonderful World Of Monsanto

On the comment thread of my previous post, MandT and Bryan introduced me to the subject of the epidemic of suicides among India’s farmers, who have been led to the use of GMO (genetically modified organism) crops in which they must buy new seeds from Monsanto Corp., the developer of the Roundup-Ready™ GMO crops, every season at a cost that will break them financially if they have even one year of bad crops. In poverty and in shame at being unable to feed their families, these farmers often kill themselves.

Those comments led me to research the matter. But someone in France has already done the work for me, journalist and filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin. Her film, The World According to Monsanto (YouTube), is a superb work of journalism about virtually every aspect of the motivations and consequences of what can reasonably be called Monsanto’s attempt to control the food supply of the entire world. The film is about 1:49:– long, but it is worth every minute you spend watching it. Warning: you will find yourself looking for the “Bomb Monsanto” button on your keyboard.

I eat organic, non-GMO food at every opportunity, when I can get it and when I can afford it. During the GeeDubya Bush administration, “USDA Organic” labels took on a different meaning, and at one point, labeling a food as non-GMO was actually forbidden by regulation, but for the most part you can still determine at least minimal information about the sources of your food, and legally or otherwise, many foods are labeled organic and non-GMO. It is hard to tell how much of an impact on human health GMO foods have; some animal studies suggest that some modifications could have an impact on immune systems. Monsanto, of course, claims there is no “substantial” difference between genetically natural crops and GMO crops. Monsanto itself, of course, does the testing, and because they are so large and financially powerful, most high government officials, at least in the U.S., are inclined to take their word for it.

Other nations are not so blithely confident. For example, Mexico has banned such organisms. But that does not help, because several other South American countries and the U.S. all grow GMO crops, and many, such as corn, are easily wind-pollinated, introducing their modified genes into native crops grown for millennia by indigenous peoples in Mexico. So no matter what they… and you… do, you are liable to end up eating GMO plants (and animals… don’t think meat-eaters get off scot-free) whether they are good for us or not.

O brave new world, that has such genomes in it!

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  • MandT  On Thursday August 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    There is a great concern that wind pollinated ancient grains will be destroyed in South America by these genetically engineered freaks. Thanks for bringing this to attention!

    • Steve  On Thursday August 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm

      MandT, at least there are seedbanks as a last resort.

      BTW, the title of this post, which I meant to mention, refers to a Monsanto TV ad with soft-focus scenes guaranteed to tug the heartstrings and accompanied by the music of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” Surely Satchmo turns in his grave. 😦

    • Steve  On Friday August 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm

      MandT, however good that news may be in the long run, in the short term, it may be catastrophic. Thanks to Monsanto, we have practically a monoculture in corn in America: one variety accounts for the vast majority of the corn raised here. If that variety, raised in industrial conditions with GMO seeds, chemical fertilizers, insecticides etc., develops a serious vulnerability, where does that leave us? Right… stranded without one of our staples.

  • MandT  On Friday August 26, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    That’s right Steve, further ,in the arc of history monoculture based societies are often prone to disastrous collapse.: The Irish potato famine for example and I swear, here in Sonoma—the grape culture, which consistently uses methyl bromide and its derivatives to poison all life a meter down in the soil to prepare for the vines.

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