“By their fruits you shall know them.” –Matthew 7:16
Monsanto: The evil corporation in your refrigerator
By Bob Cesca
When we consider the rogue’s gallery of devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporations, we generally come up with outfits like Microsoft, Bechtel, AIG, Halliburton, Goldman-Sachs, Exxon-Mobil and the United States Senate. Yet somehow, Monsanto, arguably the most devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporation in the world has been able to more or less skulk between the raindrops — only a household name in households where documentaries like Food Inc. are regarded as light Friday evening entertainment. My house, for example. But for the most part, if you were to ask an average American for their list of sinister corporations, Monsanto probably wouldn’t make the cut.
Founded by Missouri pharmacist John Francis Queeny in 1901, Monsanto is literally everywhere. Just about every non-organic food product available to consumers has some sort of connection with Monsanto.
Anyone who can read a label knows that corn, soy and cotton can be found in just about every American food product. Upwards of 90% of all corn, soybeans and cotton are grown from genetically engineered seeds, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These genetically enhanced products appear in around 70% of all American processed food products. And Monsanto controls 90% of all genetically engineered seeds. In other words, Monsanto controls — and owns patents on — most of the American food supply.
When you consider, as Walletpop originally reported, that one-in-four food labels is inaccurate, that the F.D.A.’s testing is weak at best, then how can we trust one corporation to have so much control over our produce? The answer is, we can’t.
Recently, a study by the International Journal of Biological Sciences revealed that Monsanto’s Mon 863, Mon 810, and Roundup herbicide-absorbing NK 603 in corn caused kidney and liver damage in laboratory rats. Scientists also discovered damage to the heart, spleen, adrenal glands and even the blood of rats that consumed the mutant corn. A “state of hepatorenal toxicity” the study concluded.
This hasn’t slowed down Monsanto’s profit machine. In 2008, Monsanto cleared over $2 billion in net profits on $11 billion in revenues. And its 2009 is looking equally as excellent.
Author and food safety advocate Robyn O’Brien told me, “Monsanto is expecting gross margins in Q2 2010 of 62%, its corn and soy price mix to be up 8-10% and its glyphosate revenue to expand to an estimated $1 billion in gross profit by 2012, enabling Monsanto to further drive R&D into seeds and to price those seeds at a premium – further driving price increases on the farm and in the grocery stores.”
This, O’Brien says, in the same year when farm income declined by around 34%.
Because Monsanto claims that its GMOs create higher yields and therefore comparatively higher revenues per acre for struggling American farmers, they’re certainly a tempting option. On the surface, that is. Monsanto controls its seeds with an iron fist, so even if you happen to own a farm next to another farm upon which Monsanto seeds are used, and if those seeds migrate onto your land, Monsanto can sue you for royalties.
Additionally, if you use seeds from crops grown from Monsanto seeds, a process known as “seed cleaning,” you also have to pay royalties to Monsanto or it will sue you. All told, Monsanto has recovered $15 million in royalties by suing farmers, with individual settlements ranging from five figures to millions of dollars each.
Back in 2004, farmer Kem Ralph served eight months in jail and was fined $1.3 million for lying about Monsanto cotton seeds he was hiding in his barn as a favor to a friend. They weren’t even his seeds (yeah, that’s what they all say!). By way of comparison, the fine in Ralph’s home state of Tennessee for, say, cocaine possession, is $2,500.
In keeping with the Orwellian nature of modern marketing, one of the first phrases you see on the front page of the Monsanto website is “we help farmers.” Funny. In a cruelly ironical way, that is.
In fairness, the argument in support of Monsanto is generally “it makes more food for lower prices.” Of course this is a red herring. Basic economics proves that choice and competition create lower prices. Not monopolies. This applies not only to American grocery stores, but also in terms of feeding developing nations where food is scarcer. Moreover, stronger Monsanto herbicides, compatible with herbicide resistant seeds, are giving rise to mutant Wolverine-ish super weeds that have adapted and are rapidly spreading through the air to farms that don’t use Monsanto GMOs, destroying obviously vulnerable crops. Say nothing of the inevitable mutant bugs that will adapt to the pesticides that are implanted into the Monsanto Mon 810 genetic code. And if further studies indicate similar organ damage in humans, the externalized costs to health care systems will begin to seriously out-weigh the benefits of cheaper food.
Ultimately, there are better, healthier ways to make cheaper food. Until then the best thing we can do is to demand further investigations and buy organic products whenever practical.
And if you can’t afford to buy organic, O’Brien recommends, “A great first step, given how pervasive these ingredients are in processed foods that often use these ingredients to extend shelf life, is to reduce your exposure to processed foods and stick with pronounceable ingredients and foods that your grandmother would have served her kids.”
Meanwhile, let’s endeavor to make Monsanto a household name. But not in a good way.
On January 15, the Obama Justice Department launched an anti-trust investigation against the corporate behemoth over its next generation of genetically modified “Roundup Ready” soybean seeds. The very next day, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, which challenges the safety of genetically modified agricultural products — the centerpiece of the Monsanto empire. If the investigation fails, farmers will have to switch over to the next generation of Roundup Ready seeds in 2014. And the cycle of corporate abuse and monopolization will continue.
Monsanto petition tells Obama: ‘Cease FDA ties to Monsanto’
By Elizabeth Flock
Article Source: Washington Post
Posted at 11:27 AM ET, 01/30/2012
A two-year-old Food and Drug Administration appointment is stirring up online protests once more.
In 2009, President Obama appointed Michael Taylor as a senior adviser for the FDA. Consumer groups protested the appointment because Taylor had formerly served as a vice president for Monsanto, the controversial agricultural multinational at the forefront of genetically modified food.
In recent days, a petition calling for the former Monsanto VP’s ouster is gaining steam.
“President Obama, I oppose your appointment of Michael Taylor,” the petition on Signon.org reads. “Taylor is the same person who was Food Safety Czar at the FDA when genetically modified organisms were allowed into the U.S. food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety or risks. This is a travesty.”
Over the weekend, the petition was signed by thousands of people. At this writing, it has around 60,000 signatures of its 75,000 goal.
Requests for comment from Monsanto and the FDA were not immediately returned.
Signees of the petition argue that Monsanto should not have influence at the FDA because it will hurt farmers and threaten plants and animals. They cite scientific research that has found genetically modified foods could be a cause for chronic illnesses or cancer in the U.S.
The petition was launched by Frederick Ravid, a financial analyst in Atlanta who also has a blog devoted to spirituality.
The petition calls Taylor’s appointment an example of a “fox watching the hen house.”
Taylor’s position, which is currently deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, includes ensuring that food labels contain clear and accurate information, overseeing strategy for food safety and planning new food safety legislation. He is the first individual to hold the position.
Before he joined the FDA, Taylor was the vice president for Public Policy at Monsanto from 1998 to 2001. He has since worked for the FDA in a number of capacities, most recently returning to the administration as senior adviser to the commissioner in July 2009.
Taylor is quoted on the FDA Web site as saying he looked forward to “working in new ways … to tackle the important challenges – and the unprecedented opportunities – we currently face.”
When Taylor’s appointment was announced, it was criticized by consumers and consumer advocates across the U.S. One such critical consumer advocate, Jeffrey Smith, who campaigns against genetically modified foods, wrote on his blog at the time: “The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US food safety czar. This is no joke.”
Smith cited as problematic Taylor’s prior involvement in overseeing the policy of Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH/rbST). Milk from injected cows has been a controversial topic, Smith points out, with many medical organizations and hospitals speaking out against it.
Monsanto has been the focus of dozens of protests for a number of its policies over the years, including this TED talk from an 11-year-old:
On Monday, Monsanto announced that it was giving up plans to sell its insect-resistant maize in France, Farmers Weekly reports. The move was seen as another major blow for genetically modified food in Europe, where resistance has been fierce, with six EU countries banning the cultivation of genetically modified maize.
Article Source: Washington Post
Posted at 11:27 AM ET, 01/30/2012
Subject Related Link:
Michael R. Taylor – a fox watching the hen house?
FDA NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release: July 7, 2009
Media Inquiries: George Strait, 301-796-4829; firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA
Noted Food Safety Expert Michael R. Taylor Named Advisor to FDA Commissioner
Michael R. Taylor, J.D., a nationally recognized food safety expert and research professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services, will return to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to serve as senior advisor to the commissioner.
“I am pleased to welcome Mike Taylor back to the FDA,” Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., said in announcing Taylor’s appointment. “His expertise and leadership on food safety issues will help the agency to develop and implement the prevention based strategy we need to ensure the safety of the food we eat.”
Commissioner Hamburg said that Taylor would work closely and collaboratively with her office and with the management of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Center for Veterinary Medicine, the Office of Regulatory Affairs, Congress, and with members of the Obama Administration.
Specifically, Taylor will work to:
- Assess current food program challenges and opportunities
- Identify capacity needs and regulatory priorities
- Develop plans for allocating fiscal year 2010 resources
- Develop the FDA’s budget request for fiscal year 2011
- Plan implementation of new food safety legislation.
“I am honored and grateful that Commissioner Hamburg has asked me to return to the FDA in the position of Senior Advisor to the Commissioner,” Taylor said. “I am looking forward to working with her, Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, and all of the FDA’s dedicated and talented people.”
Taylor has had a long and distinguished career in public service. He began at the FDA in 1976 as a litigating attorney. He served as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Policy from 1991 to 1994, overseeing FDA’s policy development and rulemaking, including the implementation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and issuance of new seafood safety rules.
From 1994 to 1996, he served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety. During that time, he spearheaded public health-oriented reform of the FSIS. Since 2000, Taylor has worked in academic and research settings on the challenges facing the nation’s food safety system and ways to address them.
Taylor’s recent research agenda has focused on policy, resource, and institutional issues that affect the success of public health agencies in carrying out their prevention-related missions. He served as chair of the steering committee of the Food Safety Research Consortium, collaboration among six universities and a nonprofit think tank to improve food safety decision making and priority setting.
PS1 Subject Related Videos
There’s nothing they are leaving untouched: the mustard, the okra, the bringe oil, the rice, the cauliflower. Once they have established the norm: that seed can be owned as their property, royalties can be collected. We will depend on them for every seed we grow of every crop we grow. If they control seed, they control food, they know it — it’s strategic. It’s more powerful than bombs. It’s more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world. The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers via the “revolving door”. One example is Michael Taylor, who worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the company’s vice president for public policy.
Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government agencies, the US adopted GE foods and crops without proper testing, without consumer labeling and in spite of serious questions hanging over their safety. Not coincidentally, Monsanto supplies 90 percent of the GE seeds used by the US market. Monsanto’s long arm stretched so far that, in the early nineties, the US Food and Drugs Agency even ignored warnings of their own scientists, who were cautioning that GE crops could cause negative health effects. Other tactics the company uses to stifle concerns about their products include misleading advertising, bribery and concealing scientific evidence.
PS2 The Future of Your Water!
Water access is a basic, elemental human right. Corporations should not become involved in order to profit…
They call it “Blue Gold.” Water is the new oil. Once a human right, it’s now a valuable commodity, and corporations and super-rich oil dynasties are believed to be buying up water rights, controlling nations and populations. Jesse looks into the possibility of these activities finding their way to American shores and uncovers what may be a plot to literally steal the Great Lakes.
Water Privatization outrages me! It absolutely outrages me! People are dying all over the world because they cannot afford water, and big companies are going in taking these people’s water.
President George W. Bush bought 98,440 acres of land in Paraguay. His father already owned 173,000 acres. They bought this for the water and the natural gas reserves. [ More info on the Bush Family and their Water Reserve. ]
Water will be worth more than oil. It’s water corruption! Water Privatization has been going on for a very long time in France, since the time of Napoleon. In 2009 water returned to the people.
In 1982 Margaret Thatcher privatized all of the water in Great Britain. It was at this time that large companies decided they wanted to go global with Water Privatization. They saw green, and not the environmental kind.
All proceeds from this article are donated to EarthJustice because the EARTH needs a lawyer!
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Thirst – documentary
Is water a human right, or merely just another commodity to be traded on the global markets? To companies like Suez it is a commodity to be used for its own profit at the expense of the poor… to millions around the globe from Stockton, California to Bolivia however, it is what it rightfully should be: a human right, and a right worth fighting for. This documentary is a truthful depiction of the corporatization of that human right and a look at those citizens who are fighting back. I highly recommend it. Just today I read that Suez is looking for a chunk of water in Southwestern China to privatize to add to its other conquests. These companies are loving the water shortages as they seek to gain profit from them. We the people however, must stand up for our right to water because it is as essential to us as Democracy… which we also thirst for.
Population growth, pollution, and scarcity are turning water into “blue gold,” the oil of the 21st century. Global corporations are rushing to gain control of this dwindling natural resource, producing intense conflict in the US and worldwide where people are dying in battles over control of water.
The world is poised on the brink of epochal changes in how water is stored, used, and valued. Will these changes provide clean water to the billions of people who need it? Or save the child who dies every eight seconds from contaminated water? Examining water conflicts in Bolivia, India and Stockton, California, Thirst shows that popular opposition to the privatization of water sparks remarkable coalitions that cross partisan lines. When it comes to water, many people demand local control and fear the arrival of multinational corporations with large lobbying budgets and little local loyalty.
This film is a piercing look at the conflict between public stewardship and private profit, where activists claim that water is a human right and corporations declare it a commodity.