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When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Monsanto – will one planet suffice?

The (in)famous Henry Kissinger once said: "Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control people." The new world’s corporate villain has taken this too seriously and is venturing to control every grain and through it, farmers across the globe. Small wonder that their vision statement is - “No Food Shall Be Grown That We Don’t Own”.

That is Monsanto, the perma villain, for us! This agri-chemical business company from the US is the largest seed company in the world today. Huge share of Genetically Modified seeds across the globe is theirs. It should be clearly understood at the outset that they have no fancy to feed the world, eliminate hunger or help the farmers with seeds of high yield. Their motive is to simply monopolise food supply across the globe- in any manner, no matter what the irrevocable cost to the health of humans or the environment.

Monsanto, with their first product Saccharine (Yes the artificial sweetener) set the trend for the increasingly ecologically harmful products to follow. In comparison with where they are today, pushing Genetically Modified food, it was a comparatively benign beginning. From Saccharine they ‘graduated’ to basic industrial chemicals followed by synthetic fibres and plastics, including polystyrene, the production of which generates some of the most hazardous waste. Then came the notorious and destructive Agent Orange from which the user and the used are still suffering. Agent Orange which was used liberally in Vietnam War had very high concentrations of dioxin and is proven to cause birth deformities.

This Goliath corporate then began concentrating on the manufacture and ruthless marketing of chemical pesticides, herbicides and the dubious Bovine growth hormone. The latest and ecologically most harmful in their “product line” is Genetically Modified seeds. Monsanto has single handedly been responsible – through the production and widespread use of its products – for some of the most widespread contamination of earth’s water, air and soil.

Monsanto markets Genetically Modified seeds under the dual pretext that GM seeds are the panacea for world hunger and that it reduces the need for pesticides or for crops to withstand herbicide usage. The claim on yield and ability to address world hunger is patently false and Monsanto as well as other GM manufacturers are well aware of the same. Similarly, chemical usage went up with GM crops and ‘super weeds’ are becoming a reality. This marketing style is nothing new to the industry. Before GM technology, fertilizer and pesticide manufacturers marketed their chemical products as THE panacea for world hunger. In reality, conventional (chemical) agriculture did nothing but start a chain of destruction to the health of everything on planet earth – all fauna, flora and microbial life in the soil. Harmful pesticidal residues can today be found in everything from the umbilical cord of newborn infants to ice in the polar caps.. The Green Revolution, at best, should have been a short term tactical solution to tide over a crisis and not a strategic long term ‘opportunity’ to fill corporate coffers.

The same companies that unscrupulously started the environmental catastrophe with chemical farming are now pushing a new technology – Genetically engineered food with tall claims about saving humanity from the very problems they created in the first place. The products of this new technology are neither proven to be safe for human consumption nor can they be contained once unleashed. With the interference at the genetic level, humans are irresponsibly meddling in unpredictable ways with the slow safe ways of natural evolution. While the green revolution introduced “killer” chemicals into the environment genetic modification goes a huge step further and tampers with the very genetic structure of the end product that we eat – fruits and vegetables. This in turn could spawn off harmful effects in every species that consumes this.

GMO foods not only affect health and environment or the safety, security & livelihood issues but end up making irrevocable changes. Such irreversible change will result not only in health loss but loss of traditional varieties, livelihood, bio-diversity and seed sovereignty.

It’s no wonder that traditional seeds of soyabean, cotton and corn in the US can no longer be found. Marketing strategies ensure that all such non-GM seeds are unavailable now and farmers have no choices left.The same is the fate of cotton in India. In essence the wily company controls the seed well after the farmer has bought, planted and harvested. Their one sided agreements, contracts and patents ensured that farmers can’t save seeds in traditional ways (how easy to kill a 10000+ year old tradition!) but only buy seeds from Monsanto season after season!
Today contamination of seeds (cross or otherwise) is a big concern world wide. No certification of traditional seeds is possible today as was ascertained in Canada, Mexico and elsewhere. Non BT seeds in cotton crop India are not easily available today. Veteran Indian organic farmers confirm that parental lines of traditional cotton have been contaminated by BT.

Earlier, Monsanto had the audacity to declare a product like their weedicide Roundup (whose main ingredient is glyphosate – a proven toxin for animals and humans) “Safer than table salt, Practically non toxic, Biodegradable, Helps produce higher crop yield”! Infact it took a court verdict to force them to remove these false claims from their labels.
That’s not the only occasion that they have been caught lying or mislabeling. Such a careless attitude towards society, ecology and truth has been a way of life for this Goliath corporate.

So when Monsanto decided to market their new synthetic poison called the rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), they went on a carefree advertisement spree. How the FDA gave such a proven carcinogen a go ahead inspite of major safety concerns is material enough for another article. The risk of breast, colon and prostrate cancer was so pronounced and still the perma villain not only went ahead with active marketing but sued dairy farmers for publishing the truth about their milk being rBGH-free!
That they even twisted the rules in such a way that the non-GM or GM free food could not display that fact on their packs, showed how farcical the regulation and monitoring can be.
Monsanto sued so many small farmers for seed patent and in most cases the farmers relented to settle out of court since they could not have carried on the cases against this organized vendetta. Thus this Goliath corporate amassed wealth even without selling.

Monsanto has filed thousands of lawsuits against hundreds of farmers across the world and has used heavy-handed investigations and ruthless prosecutions that have fundamentally changed the way many American farmers farm. In the USA, Centre for Food Safety has taken up investigations into this anti-farmer behaviour of Monsanto and brought facts to light..

Such is the infamous route pursued by this Goliath corporation that lies, omissions, commissions, sleaze, false statements, human rights violation, illegal dumping, wantonness, trespass, political maneuver, willful wrong approvals, bribery, falsification of data, willful submission of wrong data and contents to pass various regulations, twisting and tampering test data, wrong labeling were all the order of the day.

Monsanto has an established history of unscrupulous behaviour packed with law suits that went against them too. Sample here:

• The law suit they lost in Anniston, Alabama, for dumping of dioxin and PCB
• $180 million settlement made to Vietnam war veterans exposed to Agent Orange
• Fine of $1.2 million in 1991 for trying to conceal the discharge of contaminated wastewater, and $41.1 million to a waste management company in Texas in 1995 due to concerns over hazardous waste dumping.
• According to William Sanjour, who led the Toxic Waste Division of the Environmental Protection Agency, "thousands of veterans were disallowed benefits" because "Monsanto studies showed that dioxin [the main ingredient in Agent Orange] was not a human carcinogen." But his EPA colleague discovered that Monsanto had allegedly falsified the data in their studies. Sanjour says, "If they were done correctly, [the studies] would have reached just the opposite result."
The perma villain callously and willfully pumped persistent pollutants posing serious risk to the environment and human health, where ever they operated, with minimal concern for law or ecology. The Goliath has flouted all health regulations with disdain. One might be tempted to ask if they learnt from these costly mistakes. Yes the perma villain did- How?
By turning a blind eye to the environmental impact and then graduating to dictating to the law makers and twisting the law in their favour.

Monsanto's people regularly infiltrate upper echelons of government, and the company offers prominent positions to officials when they leave public service. This revolving door has included key people in the White House, regulatory agencies, even the Supreme Court. Monsanto also had George Bush Senior on their side, as evidenced by footage of Vice President Bush at Monsanto's facility offering help to get their products through government bureaucracy. He says, "Call me. We're in the 'de-reg' business. Maybe we can help." Their revolving door strategy has been exposed multiple times.

Their revolving door strategy with the powers-that-be both in the States and other countries is well established and covered many times over, that its no more a surprise. The way they twist the FDA’s rules or the health department and get away is no more news.
Michael Taylor, former Monsanto Vice President, became the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, later became the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Islam Siddiqui, Vice President of the Monsanto and Dupont-funded pesticide-promoting lobbying grop, CropLife, is the Agriculture Negotiator for the US Trade Representative.
Linda J. Fisher, toggled between Monanto and EPA.
Lidia Watrud, former microbial biotechnology researcher at Monsanto Corporation in St. Louis, was later with the United States Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Effects Laboratory, Western Ecology Division.
Suzanne Sechen, before coming to the FDA, had done research for several Monsanto-funded rBGH studies as a graduate student at Cornell University.
Margaret Miller, former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto, later was Deputy Director of Human Food Safety and Consultative Services.

In case of GMOs the problem Monsanto faced was that it was inherently unsafe. GMOs can create dangerous side effects. They bypassed lots of safety regulations. That was the overwhelming consensus by FDA scientists, according to 44,000 agency documents made public from a lawsuit. But the most important document, FDA's official policy, claimed that GMOs were not substantially different. They were granted the status "Generally Recognized as Safe," even though they failed to meet the normal criteria. Thus, no safety testing is necessary. If Monsanto declares their GM products safe, the FDA has no further questions. Former FDA biotech coordinator James Maryanski admits on camera that the GMO policy "was a political decision," not scientific. In fact, FDA political appointee Michael Taylor was in charge of the policy. Taylor was formerly Monsanto's attorney and later their vice president.
In Mexico there were these bizarre shaped corn plants that were found in the wild. When analysed these turned out to be genetically engineered! Obviously scientists’ observation across the globe that ‘cross pollination from GM ones to traditional varieties can disturb the offspring’ has been proven. Community organizer Aldo Gonzales says . "If we don't manage to stop their spread in our fields, soon we'll be forced to buy our corn seed because our own won't work anymore?" Gonzales wonders if the contamination was intentional. He says, "Contamination only benefits multinationals like Monsanto."
In Canada, the canola and other experiences have pointed out the fact that GMO and Monsanto itself is unsafe for the humanity.

In India, BT cotton proved to be a disaster. There are many reports proving the canards of yield. There have been cases where cattle and humans have been affected badly. So have the soil and water. All this with their patently false claim that ‘less chemicals, pesticides will be required’ being just that- blatant lie. In Andhra Pradesh, where 71 percent of farmers who used Bt cotton ended up with financial losses, farmers attacked the seed dealer's office and even "tied up Mahyco Monsanto representatives in their villages," until the police rescued them. In spite of great losses and unreliable yields, Monsanto has skillfully eliminated the availability of non-GM cotton seeds in many regions throughout India, forcing farmers to buy their varieties. Farmers borrow heavily and at high interest rates to pay multiple times the price for the GM varieties, along with the chemicals needed to grow them. When Bt cotton performs poorly and can't even pay back the debt, desperate farmers resort to suicide, often drinking unused pesticides. The UK Daily Mail estimates that the total number of Bt cotton-related suicides in India is a staggering 125,000. . Monsanto’s own admission that BT cotton (Bollgard I) has indeed failed should only be a ploy to actively market its recent versions of II and III which are obviously more expensive.

Europe standing up against the GM seeds and food has been a solace to the humanity. Many times the large quantities of grains or processed food that were Genetically Modified have been rejected by European nations resulting in loss to the new converts of Monsanto. Many European nations have been steadfast in their opposition to the GM trials and even uprooted or disallowed such trials, which is a greater consolation and service. But Monsanto being Monsanto pushes its agenda through Bushes, Obamas and the Governments as the recent wikileaks proved. There is a great reason for Europe to stand up to these pressures and not only save themselves but the whole world, especially with US government throwing its weight behind Monsanto and GMO.
Seed continuity has been a simple system for close to 10000 years now.
Patenting (and genetically modifying too) the seed is no less than organized crime and this can only be out of corporate greed and ravenousness that can be camouflaged as corporate strategy and market plan. The quest to monopolise the seed market leading to displacing (in any fashion) the natural seeds and traditional conservation is so high that it needs a check. The canards like ‘feed the world’, ‘higher yield’, ‘lessen pesticide usage’ ‘safe to consume’ etc are sheer deception techniques to push their profit and market share.
Goliath corporations like Monsanto should never be a part of any civilized society nor should any cultured community tolerate their products or their ways.

Monsanto-ising Indian agriculture by Kavitha Kuruganti
Jeffrey M Smith, “Monsanto: The world’s poster child for corporate manipulation and deceit”
Monsanto Vs. US Farmers, A report by the Centre for Food Safety, Washington, 2005

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  • At March 24, 2011 11:21 PM, Blogger meera said…

    Great article, Ananthoo! Please get Hindu to publish it (an uphill task cos mostly Hindu seems to print only pro-GM stuff).
    Anyway, it is more comprehensive than most I have read. Is there any stated reason by European nations why they will not allow trials? Ccan this be quoted. meera

  • At March 25, 2011 1:07 AM, Blogger csm said…

    excellent piece brother...

  • At March 25, 2011 1:45 AM, Blogger csm said…

    brilliant research and articulation annathe.. we will destroy this monsanto-asur!

  • At March 25, 2011 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    அடடா அருமையான கருத்துக்கள். ஆனால் இதை எழுதியதற்க்காக மான்சாண்டோவின் அடிவருடிகள் உங்களுக்கு தொந்திரவு எதுவும் குடுக்கவில்லையா?

  • At March 29, 2011 1:17 PM, Blogger Debal Deb said…

    I once published a Bengali book on all these (and some more) facts about Monsanto. [That is perhaps the only Indian language book devoted to exposing Monsanto's lies and scams). I was able to stop the sale of all Monsanto products in at least 5 blocks in 2 districts. Soon after that my mother started receiving threat calls (directed at me), I was shadowed for a couple of months, my colleagues were harassed by the police to report to the local police stations, and I also received a call saying that my seed bank VRIHI (the largest farmer seed bank in eastern India) would be raided. It was a tough time fighting alone against this demon. Most of my compatriots here did not consider Monsanto any serious issue... After years, I am enthused to find a compatriot who is also committed to demolishing this Goliath. Congratulations and solidarity.

  • At March 30, 2011 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Strong and informative article.
    Thank you for spreading the Bad News! People need to know.
    hope you get it published far and wide.
    Yes here in Ireland I have had close experience of non violent direct action to stop unsafe field trials of GM crops. Let us hope Europe stays GM free and that the rest of the world might follow. GM must not be applied to agriculture.

  • At April 02, 2011 9:25 AM, Blogger Ananthoo said…

    @ meera - shud try after i come to Mas soon..

    @ CSM- thanks..nothing but research..esp online..else nothing very creative about this:-)

    @ anon - neengal yaaru endru solavum (pl tell me who you are.) yet not been exposed to any threats..

    @ Debal da - hey! thats great to see you here..thanks..if they tailed you iam nothing..or may be thats why i wud get away;-)
    I feel really honoured a great man, a fantastic seed conserver, an organic farmer that many look up to was here and announcing solidarity! thats amazing..thanks again..

    @ anon- yeah, europe is a big strength..and u folks out there shud not only stop Monsantos and their cohorts from expanding out there but also here..

  • At April 08, 2011 9:02 PM, Blogger Chuck Kuhn said…

    Excellent article. I've known the evils of Monsanto since Agent Orange/Vietnam. I will past this one via Facebook and other connections. Thank You

  • At April 08, 2011 9:07 PM, Blogger Chuck Kuhn said…

    PS, can you add the icons of
    Facebook and others from Blogger? This way I will forward your articles to my facebook and blogger friends.

  • At April 08, 2011 9:51 PM, Blogger Ananthoo said…

    Thanks for those kind words Chuck Kuhn! Nice to see you comment here.
    But sorry, am not that 'tech enabled' nor am i the networking types. I am not part of facebook or twitter..infact i find it tuff to steal time for blogposts.

  • At April 08, 2011 10:03 PM, Blogger Chuck Kuhn said…

    Thanks for getting back to me. You have some amazing information here, that needs to told to the World. As a Photographer I'm planning to come to India this fall and stay for 6 months. Friends in Bangalore as base. Plan to explore India photographing daily life with video and pictures. Ok enough said, I will keep in touch and Thanks

  • At April 11, 2011 5:32 AM, Anonymous dv said…

    at long last, i got to read your post that our common friends have been raving about and urging me to read.
    i am in admiration of your research and presentation; am filled with anger and foreboding.
    in this country to own the food we grow and eat, my hunch is they have begun by owning many eminence grise

  • At April 13, 2011 5:23 AM, Blogger Ananthoo said…

    thanks DV! am elated that you visted, read and even etched a comment..yes, Monsanto is proving to be villain no.1..the pace at which they are moving and buying politicos is scary..they are also not wasting their own the schemes offered in states like Rajasthan, Orissa where tax payers money is used for 'distributing free' their hybrid seeds:-(


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