Nel's New Day

May 25, 2013

Genetically Modified Democracy*

“Take Action” was the theme of last Saturday’s blog; since then people have been doing just that, including those who were willing to be arrested in Washington, D.C. during their protest against unfair home disclosures.

Today, a global movement against the giant chemical and seed corporation Monsanto, was started by Tami Canal of Utah, who was fed up with having to spend “a small fortune” in order to feed her family things she says “aren’t poisonous.” Canal’s call for a “food fight” on Facebook has led to 436 demonstrations in 52 countries and 250 cities around the world with over 2 million participants.

A short-term goal of March against Monsanto was creating awareness about the serious consequences of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). I was telling my partner about my plans for the blog, and even she—coming from a family of farmers–questioned what was wrong with having genetically engineered seeds.

San DiegoAnother goal was to encourage people to boycott Monsanto-owned companies that market their unsafe products. Companies need a mandate to label GMOs, laws that Monsanto pays millions of dollars to oppose. Canal wrote about dangerous products for children: “Froot Loops is 100-percent genetically engineered, and that’s a children’s cereal. That’s irresponsible and unacceptable on so many levels.”

People also need to demand further scientific research on the health effects of GMOs. Studies already show that genetically modified foods lead to pre-cancerous cell growth, infertility, and severe damage to the kidneys, liver and large intestines. Chemical herbicides sprayed onto GMO crops cause hormone disruption, cancer, neurological disorders and birth defects.

The ultimate goal is a total ban on Monsanto in the United States in the same way that at least 60 other countries worldwide have done.

Monsanto’s industrial agriculture approach is lethal:

The profiteering poisonous chemical company poses as agribusiness. Monsanto made its fortune killing and maiming people through Agent Orange in the Vietnam War and carcinogenic toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s). These accumulate in plants and animals that make up our food supply. Chemicals linked to Monsanto’s Roundup pesticides are linked to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and cancer. The company’s genetically engineered seeds contain massive amounts of Monsanto herbicides and pesticides. Earlier this year, a French court declared Monsanto responsibility for the chemical poisoning of French grain grower, Paul Francois, who suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004.

In Hawaii, Monsanto was joined by Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and BASF to test their toxic chemicals, inundating the islands with over 5,000 tests and destroying the land and the health of the state’s natives. In addition to the use of deadly chemicals, Monsanto uses monocropping, repeatedly planting only one crop in the same spot. The system strips nutrients out of the soil and drives farmers to use the herbicide, Roundup. A side effect of the pesticides and fertilizers are climate change and reef damage, decreasing the biodiversity of Hawaii.

Now Monsanto is moving into the health food market. They have made a deal with DSM Nutritional Products to sell a new type of genetically engineered (GE) soybean: one with supposed nutritional benefits. This new soybean, filled with the typical Monsanto herbicides and other chemicals, is called the SDA Omega-3 soybean.

state departmentTaxpayers fund the State Department to support Monsanto. The biotechnology page of its Office of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Textile Trade Affairs reads: “Agricultural biotechnology helps farmers increase yields, enabling them to produce more food per acre while reducing the need for chemicals, pesticides, water, and tilling. This provides benefits to the environment as well as to the health and livelihood of farmers.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has increased the limits of Roundup residue allowed on grains and vegetables to even more dangerous levels. At the same time, Monsanto, Dow, and the biotech industry have applied for approval of a new and highly controversial generation of super toxic herbicide-resistant GE crops, including “Agent Orange” (2,4-D and dicamba-resistant) corn, soybeans, and cotton.

Monopoly puts farmers out of work. Farmers are forced to pay Monsanto a fee every year that they use their seed originally created by the company. In a recent Supreme Court Case, 75-year-old soybean farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman, was ordered to pay Monsanto over $85,000 in damages for using second-generation seeds genetically modified with Monsanto’s pesticide resistant “Roundup Ready,” treatment. He had planted seeds purchased from the local grain elevator, which is usually used for feed crop. Monsanto even sues farmers whose fields have become contaminated with Monsanto’s seeds.

Once Monsanto created a monopoly, it increased the price of the Roundup herbicide and squeezed out conventional farmers using non-transgenic seeds so that they could not compete in the market. The company also uses its power to coerce seed dealers out of stocking many of its competitor products. An anti-trust suit against Monsanto was quietly closed last year. Over 30 years ago, Monsanto began buying out such seed companies as Asgrow (soybeans), Delta and Pine Land (cotton), DeKalb (corn), Seminis (vegetables), and Holden’s Foundation Seeds.

The Indian Ministry of Agriculture has stated that “more than 1,000 small farmers kill themselves each month, most of them because of their massive GM-generated debts.”

Controlling the food leads to privatizing the water. Private corporations already own 5 percent of the world’s fresh water, and billionaires and companies, including Monsanto, are purchasing the rights to groundwater and aquifers. Monsanto is accused of dumping its toxic chemicals, including PCBs, dioxin, and glyophosate (Roundup) into the water supply of nations worldwide before it privatized the water sources, filtering the water and selling it back to the public.

bluntMonsanto runs the FDA and writes its own protection laws for politicians that it has purchased. Ex-Monsanto executives run the FDA that fails to research long-term effects of GMO products. This last spring, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)  put the “Monsanto Protection Act” into the Agricultural Appropriations provisions of the HR 933 Continuing Resolution spending bill, which stopped a federal government shutdown. [photo] The Act bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds and keeps anyone from suing Monsanto regarding unsafe crops. Even if a court review determines that a GMO crop harms humans, the seeds can to be planted if the USDA approves them. Blunt said he “worked with” Monsanto to write it.

Environmental nightmares continue. Monsanto and other biotech conglomerates are connected to the decline of bee colonies in the US and abroad. When bees disappear, the food supply disappears. Butterflies and birds are also vanishing. The company has also concealed its pollution with toxic PCBs. Monsanto does not contribute to “sustainable agriculture” the way that it claims. Instead, it blocks adequate global food production. And more.

Monsanto’s policies and products promote pesticide resistance. Its increase of herbicide use perpetuates gene contamination because engineered genes tend to show up in non-GE crops.

State by state, legislators are introducing laws written by ALEC, the corporation-owned organization, to stop anyone from preventing Monsanto’s damage and allowing them to continue without judicial oversight. [photo]

Thanks to Tami Canal for increasing awareness of the mastermind behind the destructive pesticides and genetically engineered seeds that pervade the farm fields of the world.

Another person fighting Monsanto is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who introduced an amendment to the upcoming Senate Farm Bill which would repeal the “Monsanto Protection Act.” This act will expire at the end of September when the temporary spending measure does unless it is rolled into the next one.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (V-I) proposed an amendment to the farm bill allowing Vermont and other states to require labeling on foods with GMO ingredients. Early in May, the Vermont House voted 99-42 calling for this legislation. Sixty-four countries around the world already require the labeling of genetically modified foods, including all of the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand. The American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association have passed resolutions that support labeling foods with genetically engineered ingredients.

Sanders’s amendments was voted down 71-27, and Merkley’s amendment was blocked in committee. Both said, however, they wouldn’t quit and agree that people have the right to know what’s in the food that they eat. Some people believe that states have a constitutional right to label food, if the federal government isn’t required to do this, thanks to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This right has been ruled constitutional in federal court.

On the House side,  Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced a bill that “prohibits states from enacting laws that place conditions on the means of production for agricultural goods that are sold within its own borders, but are produced in other states”–meaning no GMO labeling. King’s amendment passed.

A new app, called Buycott, may help people avoid companies that sell GMOs. Although only on iPhone at this time, creators are working to develop one that can handle the enormous amount of traffic this this has generated.  Basically, you scan an item, and Buycott will show the corporate tree. If you join user-created boycott campaigns, you can see if it is made by one of the companies that paid to fight mandatory labeling of genetically modified food.

*Thanks to Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association for the title of the blog.

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