GMOs and Monsanto: Taking Over the Food Industry?
“ Those who control the food, control the people.”
Genetically Modified Organisms, what are more commonly referred to as GMOs, are organisms whose genetic material have been altered or transformed using particular bioengineering methods. By forcing genes from one species into another that is completely unrelated, an entirely new version (genetically speaking) of the product is created. For example, engineered organisms include strawberries and tomatoes that have been injected with fish genes to protect the fruit from freezing over or corn engineered from soil bacteria that is immune to RoundUp herbicide (one of Monsanto’s inventions) which produces what has been titled RoundUp Ready Corn where the corn is able to be sprayed with this herbicide without harming the crop while eliminating everything else. Some say that the purpose of genetic modification to foods will feed the growing hungry population as a result of greater yield, more drought resistant crops, a second Green Revolution if you will. However, many of these claims have no scientific backing and experts on topics like population and food are very aware that “feeding the hungry” is not a question of getting enough food but a question of distribution.
The company mentioned before, Monsanto, is at the forefront of the GMO industry. Monsanto is a multinational chemical and biotechnology corporation with many recognizable brands of fertilizers and herbicides within it. It is also the same company responsible for the creation of the deadly dioxin Agent Orange employed in the Vietnam War, which has caused and is still causes thousands of birth defects in the region. There has been a significant amount of information that has come to light regarding the mysterious, large and virtually unregulated corporation with unprecedented and immeasurable influence on the government.
Former Monsanto VP and head lobbyist Michael Taylor is now Deputy Commissioner for the FDA.
United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas previously worked as an attorney for Monsanto.
Earle H. Harbison, Jr. served with the Central Intelligence Agency for 18 years, rising to the rank of Deputy Director, and then worked up to the roles of President, Chief Operating Officer, and Director of Monsanto.
Mickey Kantor served on Monsanto’s board after serving in government as a trade representative and further US Secretary of Commerce.
In the United States today, huge portions of our crops are genetically engineered. For example, 95% of the nation’s sugar beets, 94% of the soybeans, 90% of the cotton and 88% of the feed corn, according to the 2011 International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications report. Monsanto has the majority of the power over the crops that are grown as a result of their ownership over the patent seeds that the farmers grow. One may wonder why a farmer would give up their conventional ways of growing, seeds and overall ownership of their own land to become a Monsanto employee: increased pay for some, by default (seed blowing) or intimidation by Monsanto’s agents. With regards to the first of these, Monsanto may offer a farmer a monetary incentive to work for them but many times, the farmers who have had their farms for many generations are not driven by this. Therefore, a common technique used is intimidation where agents dressed in black suits create a “situation” that leads the farmer to change their mind. Finally, what has occurred many times before is what has been called seed blow over which is when one farmer may be growing their own conventional seeds but their neighbor is growing Monsanto patented seeds. If the wind picks up and blows a few seeds to the conventional farmer, Monsanto has the ability and as a result will sue the farmer and due to incredibly apparent monetary differences between a corporation and a local farmer, only one survives the proceedings. For example, recently the US Supreme Court favored Monsanto and upheld the company’s right to sue farmers whose fields are accidentally contaminated with Monsanto’s seeds discussed previously as “seed blowing” known as the case of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al., v. Monsanto Company, et al. Supreme Court Case No. 13-303.
But, unlike in the United States, GMOs are a very touchy subject in Europe. The European Union has one of the strictest policies worldwide with respect to the manufacturing of GMOs including labeling which is almost unheard of in the U.S. The general consensus of Europeans is that GMOs are uncharted territory that shouldn’t be explored due to its unknown and potentially destructive nature. Europe is so unfriendly towards Monsanto and its genetically modified products that even its overreaching power across the globe has been incredible difficult in the European countries. For example, after retaliation and resistance from its citizens, Monsanto gave up the fight to try and sell genetically modified maize even when it was permitted. At one point, the EU implemented a moratorium on the growing of GMOs but after backlash from countries like the US, the ban was announced “illegal” by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Nevertheless, some countries like Ireland a long with Slovenia, Croatia and many other areas around the world have declared themselves as “GMO free.”
Typically, when GMOs are discussed, the corporation Monsanto goes hand in hand with it for the two are entangled in a convoluted manner. Also, due to the power of this corporation, what is known as a revolving door occurs, where a former Monsanto attorney is now on the supreme court of the United States or a former Monsanto employee is now head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and this continues to occur. Consequently, due to this influence, Monsanto is able to (in most cases) block any bills regarding GMO labeling and is able to pass bills that will benefit the company. With this, Monsanto and GMOs are beginning to dominate the food industry and with the limited knowledge of how GMOS affect those who consume the products (the majority of the population) and the fact that many are not even aware when they are eating foods with GMOs (which is very often) there can be serious consequences in the future. The renown geneticist David Suzuki once stated “Any scientist who tells you they know that GMOs are safe and not to worry about it, is either ignorant of the history of science or is deliberately lying. Nobody knows what the long-term effect will be.”