1/4th of all agricultural land in the U. S. is now dedicated to genetically modified crops including corn, soybeans, canola and cottonseed. If Monsanto and the government have their way, it’ll be a lot more, and real soon.
The first thing to know is that we did not let this happen. The corporations, government agencies and politicians who are behind this food crime have done and continue to do exactly what they want to increase their profits, provide new markets for their products, and get re-elected.
This is a story full of villainous characters, tromped-upon little people (include yourself in that list) and enough twists and turns to leave you dizzy and confused. I couldn’t put it down.
It’s enough to get your head around the fact that we have the kind of technology that allows us to fiddle around with DNA, criss-crossing genes like children playing with their newest transformer toy, but how did it so easily and quietly infiltrate our lives and our grocery stores?
The doorway to an altered future was cracked with the technology, but it was blasted wide open with the Supreme Court decision that paved the way for untested, unlabeled, mutant foods to wind up on our tables and in our bodies. In 1980 the Supreme Court decided in the case of Diamond vs. Chakrabarty, that life forms could be patented for commercialization. Did you feel that? It was probably a chill going up your spine.
Patents are government guarantees that provide an “inventor” with exclusive rights to use, sell or manufacture an invention for a set period of time. Living organisms, plant and animal and human organisms, and their genes, are now considered inventions (sorry about that god). This decision makes all genes (including the ones in you and me) patentable by an inventor who, subtly or not, is able to tweak that organism and call it theirs.
Better watch out for that next vaccine.
In the years following the decision, 98% of all seed sales in the United States have become controlled by a few chemical giants like Monsanto, DuPont and Dow. They started gobbling up seed companies like their gm alfalfa is going to gobble up all our natural alfalfa and render more cropland wasted and spent.
It’s tempting to start with the villainous characters, but the tromped-upon little people are what set my alarm bells ringing when I started my research. So, let’s talk about some of them, our friends and neighbors, our farmers and veterans.
Percy Schmieser had been farming canola on his farm in Saskatchewan Canada for 40 years. In that 40 years, he had experimented, developed his own varieties and saved his own seed. He was beginning to reap the benefits from his hard work when in stepped Monsanto. When Percy’s crop became contaminated with genetically modified canola grown by nearby farmers, Monsanto accused him of patent infringement and demanded restitution for its seeds. They sued Percy to the tune of $400,000 including $250,000 in legal fees, $105,000 in profits the agri-giant claims Percy stole from them and $25,000 in punitive damages.
The case made its way through the courts with Monsanto chalking up wins until it reached Canada’s Supreme Court where the final tally became a draw. The court decided that Monsanto’s patent is valid but they did not require that Percy pay anything as he did not profit from the presence of Roundup Ready® canola in his fields. I’m sure the irony is not lost on Percy. Profit? They ruined his livelihood.
In another case, Monsanto, who reported profits of 1.88 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of 2010, sued Oakhurst Dairy, a small dairy farm operating in Maine since 1921. Oakhurst’s crime? Responding to consumer’s demand for milk without the synthetic growth hormone, rGBH. This genetically engineered hormone stimulant increases milk production by as much as 15% and is implicated in mad cow disease. Every other industrialized nation in the world has banned milk from cows injected with the hormone except us. Monsanto claimed Oakhurst should not be able to advertise that their milk was free of the chemical. Oakhurst Dairy was forced to settle out of court with Monsanto, leaving the door open for them to keep right on tromping and keeping the genetically modified ingredients in our food unlabeled.
And how does Monsanto feel about our war veterans and the innocent civilians who were sprayed with Agent Orange, the toxic chemical used extensively in the Vietnam War? They refuse to offer 10,000 vets and thousands of Vietnam citizens compensation for the health consequences they’ve suffered. They claim the chemical, one of the most toxic compounds ever created, is not harmful, even though it’s been shown to cause birth defects, cancer, neurological disorders and death.
Are you beginning to wonder where the FDA, the USDA, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture and our elected officials have been? In a twist definitely planned to benefit only those corporations making and selling the genetically engineered foods, they’ve all been making whoopee in the same bed. Lobbyists, corporate executives and the appointed officials trade places like they’re playing musical chairs.
Here’s a sampling:
Michael Taylor was appointed by Obama as Senior Advisor to the FDA’s Commissioner on Food Safety. Michael Taylor was the Vice President for Public Policy at the Monsanto Corporation from 1998 until 2001.
Tom Vilsack is Secretary of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. As governor of Iowa, Vilsack chaired the governor’s Biotechnology Partnership as a leading advocate for Monsanto, the bio-tech industry and factory farming.
Roger Beachy is now director of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Prior to this appointment, Beachy was the long-time president of the Danforth Plant Science Center (a non-profit arm of Monsanto).
Monsanto leaves nothing to chance. Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court Justice, is a former attorney of theirs.
I was surprised to learn that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of Monsanto’s non-profit arms. As a major contributor to National Public Television, they are trying to convince us that genetically modified crops can feed the world, helping Monsanto infiltrate unsuspecting African countries with their frankenfoods and increasing their profits by millions. Interestingly, yields from genetically modified crops are not shown to be better than natural crops.
Considering there has already been one major incident of deaths and disabilities due to a genetically modified supplement, and considering that it’s just a matter of time until adverse effects in humans start to show up from one of these teenage-mutant-ninja foods, it’s not only important that we learn how to avoid them, but that we act to stop it now before it gets any worse, before another crop is approved with no testing and no requirements to be labeled and before one of us ends up being the next guinea pig to die or be disabled.
The Center for Food Safety has a great guide to help us avoid genetically modified foods. In some ways it’s complicated because they are so prevalent in processed foods and because nothing has to be labeled. In other ways, it’s simple: buy organic and cook your food from whole ingredients.
And remember, taking action now is as simple as clicking the mouse. The Organic Consumers Association has a great action page that can get you started. Also, share, share, share. Share on facebook, in your living room, your church, your school, with your local elected officials and each other.
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