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The Monsanto Menace

The feds see no evil as a belligerent strongman seeks control of America's food supply

"It's simply a political calculation invented by Michael Taylor and Monsanto and adopted by U.S. federal policy-makers to resist labeling," says Jim Gerritsen, a farmer in Maine. "You have this collusion between corporations and the government, and the essence is that the people's interest isn't being served."

The FDA is a prime example. It approves GM crops by doing no testing of its own; it simply takes Monsanto's word for their safety. Monsanto spokesman Phil Angell says the company agrees that it should have nothing to do with verifying safety: "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible," he told the New York Times. "Assuring its safety is the FDA's job."

So if neither Monsanto nor the government is doing it, who is?

Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen says that “Monsanto and the biotechs need to respect traditional property rights and need to keep their pollution on their 
side of the fence.”
Lottie Hedley
Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen says that “Monsanto and the biotechs need to respect traditional property rights and need to keep their pollution on their side of the fence.”
Monsanto’s suburban St. Louis headquarters hides behind trees and security checkpoints. Its business hides behind lawyers, lobbying, and patents.
Monsanto’s suburban St. Louis headquarters hides behind trees and security checkpoints. Its business hides behind lawyers, lobbying, and patents.

The answer: no one.


We've Got a Bigger Problem Now

So far, it appears that the GM revolution has done little more than raise the cost of food.

A 2009 study by Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, looked at four Monsanto seeds and found only minimal increases in yield. Since GM crops cost more to produce, their economic benefit seemed questionable at best.

"It pales in comparison to other conventional approaches," says Gurian-Sherman. "It's a lot more expensive, and it comes with a lot of baggage . . . like pesticide use, monopoly issues, and control of the seed supply."

Use of those pesticides has soared as weeds and insects become increasingly resistant to them. Since GM crops were introduced in 1996, pesticide usage has increased by 404 million pounds. Last year, Syngenta, one of the world's largest pesticide makers, reported that sales of its major corn-soil insecticide more than doubled in 2012, a response to increased resistance to Monsanto's pesticides.

Part of the blame belongs to a monoculture that developed around farming. Farmers know it's better to rotate crops and pesticides and leave fields fallow for a season. But when corn prices are high, who wants to grow a less profitable crop? The result has been soil degradation, more static yields, and an epidemic of weed and insect resistance.

Weeds and insects are fighting back with their own law: that of natural selection. Last year, 49 percent of surveyed farmers reported Roundup-resistant weeds on their farms, up from 34 percent the year before. The problem costs farmers more than $1 billion annually.

Pests like Roundup-resistant pigweed can grow as thick as your arm and more than six feet high, requiring removal by hand. Many farmers simply abandon weed-choked fields.

In order to kill the pests, chemical giants like Monsanto and Dow are developing crops capable of withstanding even harsher pesticides, resulting in an endless cycle of greater pesticide use at commensurate financial and environmental cost.

Nature, as it's proved so often before, will not be easily vanquished.

"We are not making our agriculture more resistant to environmental stress, not lowering the amount of pesticides, and not creating a sustainable agricultural system that works," says Mary-Howells Martens, an organic grain farmer in New York. "There are so many things that are short-term, quick-buck kind of things, without any kind of eye to if this is going to be a good deal long-term."


Next Stop: The World!

The biggest problem for Monsanto's global growth: It doesn't have the same juice with foreign governments as it does with ours. That's why it relies on the State Department to work as its taxpayer-funded lobbyist abroad.

Yet this has become increasingly difficult. Other nations aren't as willing to play corporate water boy as our government is. The countries that need GM seeds often can't afford them (or don't trust Monsanto). And the nations that can afford them (other than us) don't really want them (or don't trust Monsanto).

Ask Mike Mack, CEO of the Swiss biotech giant Syngenta. The Swiss, he argues, are more interested in environmental safety and food quality than in saving a few pennies at the grocery store.

"Switzerland's greatest natural resource is that it is a beautiful country that brings in a lot of tourism," he says. "If the Swiss could lower their consumption spending by 1 percent by applying high-productivity farming, they probably would not do it if it requires changing their approach to how they think about food. Countries like Switzerland are a good example where such things as GM food would be very difficult and perhaps commercially inadvisable."

Maybe Europe has simply been around the block enough to know better than to entrust its health to a bottom-line mentality. Although the European Union imports 30 million tons of GM crops annually for livestock feed, it's approved only two GM crops for human consumption.

In April, biotech companies took another hit when the European Union banned neonicotinoids—aka "neo-nics"—one of the most powerful and popular insecticides in the world. It's a derivative of nicotine that's poisonous to plants and insects. German giant Bayer CropScience and Syngenta both make neo-nics, which are used to coat seeds, protecting crops in their early growth stages. In America, 90 percent of the corn crop comes with the coating.

The problem is that plants sweat these chemicals out in the morning dew, where they're inadvertently picked up by bees.

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34 comments
muncievoice
muncievoice

Great article Mr. Parker. On Muncie Voice, we regularly write about Monsanto since our conservatively Gannett owned state newspaper (Indiana) can't seem to discover the connection between Monsanto and how much we spend for medical care. In fact, last week, one of their "prize winning journalists", actually allowed an industry spokesperson from CropLife to tell her, "Over 150 studies have been performed on GMO's and they all proved safe". She didn't even comment that CropLife is Big Ag's industry owned tool. Never mentioned that it might be biased...even though a 30 second search on Google revealed who this organization was and who are the main players. Corporate owned media is doing America a disservice since they were granted unique constitutional rights to hold both the government and private sectors accountable. Thanks to small independent papers like the Village Voice, consumers are finally being informed.

BeGreatEatWell
BeGreatEatWell

The minute that Monsanto starts putting profits over human health is when we need to take back the system for ourselves. That time is now!

MusicNerd99
MusicNerd99

Oh, and one more thing, ajkmsteph2, those you seem to be mistaken about Bt Corn, which is coated with bee-killing neocontinoids which the EU has now banned because of the link to Bees' Colony Collapse Disorder.

Lisa Flax
Lisa Flax

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! From a long-time anti-GMO activist!

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

25 million acres previously sprayed with ant-rootworm nerve poisoning , bee killing chemicals insecticides now replaced with non-toxic Bt corn for the last 10 years - and you wonder why Syngenta and Dupont who make those chemical insecticides  was against Monsanto?  They don't deny helping the anti-GM groups against Monsanto. How much chemical insecticide does Monsanto make ? None.  Before Cheap Roundup herbicide what did farmers use on 95% of their crops - expensive herbicides from Dupont and Syngenta ----I wonder why Syngenta and Dupont are trying to bad mouth Monsanto's RoundUP ?   Who has made 90% of the GM crop traits that work?  Monsanto who has tried and failed until recently / Dupont and Syngenta?  Who has to license their GM traits from Monsanto - Syngenta and Dupont. Who has lost every single case against Monsanto = Syngenta and Dupont? Who has lost every single case against Monsanto -organic activists?  Who is now funding the GMO labeling - organic activists !

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

This is a classic anti-GM blog uses other blogs as facts

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

The author ignores that fact that many of his publications and work has been discredited. He reported data to say GM crops were in Mexico and that was proved wrong - bad DNA work.  He ignores the fact that open source breeding doesn't increase yields anymore.  If a company can make money on seed they invest in research and make better varieties and hybrids that is well known by the academics who now focus on crops not worked on by the companies

realitybias
realitybias

What a load of organic manure. This article has so many factual errors, it almost qualifies a parody. Except it isn't funny. Yet many will believe it's content because it reaffirms their biases and they're too lazy to fact-check, even a little. Welcome to the New Dark Ages. God lives - it's science and sanity that are waning.

One small example: the cost of GMO seed has indeed increased over conventional seed, because it offers value to the farmers who buy it. Yet seed costs remain less than 10% of production costs for GMO corn, soy, cotton, and canola. Farmers buy GMO seed because it lowers overall production costs, and in some cases, reduces risk to yield. Monsanto takes about 33% of the farmer's savings, farmer keep about 67%. That's why the seeds are so successful. And why all the focus on Monsanto? Dupont-Pioneer is #1 in GMO corn & soy market share.

animalangels
animalangels

@BeGreatEatWell Actually it was a long time ago.  We are behind.  Grow your own food after carefully choosing your seeds if you can.

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

@MusicNerd99 I have zero support for chemical insecticide treatments on seeds except if you are going to use insecticides put it on as a seed coating so you don't heavily spray the air and soil. The problem is with anti-GMO they are just no people - they don't offer real solutions they don't solve the problem

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

@MusicNerd99 Some Bt corn seed and conventional corn is coated with insecticide to control other insects not killed by the BT because the Bt is very specific and benign. don't use Bt or seed coat and you get 50% drop in yield in dry seasons. That is why less than 0.5% corn is organic

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

@MusicNerd99 I agree that farmers can request a seed coat to any seed that can contain neocontinoids made by Syngenta. and I agree that it would be good to get rid of these chemicals but not because I think they affect bees but becuase we need to remove insecticide chemicals and replace them with Gm approaches including Bts and RNAi technologies that are very safe.  This is why Monsanto bought Beelogics company - Beelogics was trying to kill bee pathogens with RNAi and that same technology can kill other insects (monsanto has already shows this and it will release the product in the next 5 years once safety testing is completed (look at their website). Farmers are requesting the seed coating that is put on after the seed us made often by a dealer after Monsanto has sold the seed.  I think the EU is wrong (and the UK government and UK farmers agree) that neocontinoids are harming the bees its really pathogens brought in from foreign lands. The commercial bee producers have not be managing the bees properly and have brought in bee pests when they lost bees or found cheaper ex-EU sources. 

maxwellvelvethammer
maxwellvelvethammer

@MusicNerd99 Excellent points, keep contributing. We've got to embarrass the Monsanto/Seed Cartel Fanboys, since they have no conscience, awareness of long-term consequences or moral compass. Nor any compassion for farmers getting jackbooted by the Pinkerton Gestapo and sued by these remorseless, corrupt AgChem Monsters/Liars. Truly beyond comprehension. Keep up the intelligent discourse.

george
george

@MusicNerd99 Forgive me, MusicNerd, but Chapela is and was a hack who couldn't manage to perform an exceedingly easy molecular biology assay.  

lauren2020
lauren2020

@ajkmsteph2 its morally and ethically wrong to patent nature; there wasn't anything insufficient about open source seeds; there is nothing superior with GMO clad seeds; further, what do organic 'activists' have to gain from 'winning' a lawsuit against Monsanto? The answer is nothing. What does Monsanto have to lose? The answer is a lot of money. In fact, they would lose even more money than the millions they give to US officials / reps, otherwise they wouldn't bother giving it up. 


The fact is, in the game of farming, in general, its not easy to make a huge profit. The only way to do so, is what they've done, patent nature, pay the FDA / USDA to subsidize their products, influence other manufacturers to insert their product into all boxed goods and before you know it, Monsanto is on every shelf of every aisle of the store in a big or small way, from the cheese to the yogurt to the produce to the crackers to the pasta to the...you get my drift. Seriously though, it doesn't concern you in the slightest that one sole entity has wormed its way into literally every kitchen in the entire country?

 Any economist worth his salt / degree knows that competition is what keeps a market healthy - monopolies do not. The only time a monopoly is acceptable / less costly is in the case of a utility ie power lines, sewage, etc where building multiple lines of power or more than one system of pipes would be inefficient and result in unnecessary costs both to consumer and producer; generally such utilities are either highly regulated by or simply put directly into the hands of government (product of a bygone era when such an entity was to be trusted). In the case of Monsanto we have one company /product on many farms in many places. This is not a situation that can be economically compared to a utility in terms of efficiency. This is beside the fact that the GM crops are not of higher yield and the chemicals put in them and on them continue to degrade our ever depleting source of freshwater. Further, it only makes sense that Monsanto has a cheaper product, if only by a few cents; its a chemical company; you really think they aren't in cahoots with other chemical companies that will be required down the line when the consumer who wanted to 'save' $.10 ends up paying several million in hospital fees to have a bypass, or deal with his diabetes and so on after having a life's worth of food subsisting solely on white wheat, white rice, soy and corn based products that have all been stripped of or never had much nutritional value to begin with? 

jcliif
jcliif

@ajkmsteph2 well, you should have not dodged his interview and told him that in person instead of trolling the message boards after the fact, monsanto employee.

Lovelif3
Lovelif3

@realitybias What a load of BS.  You go right ahead and stuff your face with the garbage.  I'll refrain thank you.

maxwellvelvethammer
maxwellvelvethammer

@realitybias Well, "Monsanto FanBoy," sage guru and enlightened one, since you're so up-to-speed on the economics of the seed cartel, perhaps you'd care to comment on the bee genocide caused by these purveyors of "goodness, prosperity and profitability." You know, the moisture contamination chain. (Silence.) 

No surprise, since you're apparently a paid GMO blog comment troll paid a buck a word to "influence" the discourse on any issue related to the AgChem consortium/Lobby. I don't eat organic food, but for you defend those corrupt companies is laughable. They've bought off this woefully "on the take" inept (and equally unpricipled, corrupt) Congress and weakened any chance of enforcement by Fed agencies supposedly in charge of illegal, anti-competitive activities...and you have the gall to proffer their figures off the "economics talking points" sheet they handed you? Your comment is a parody of a legitimate comment. A shill of the worst kind - completely without remorse or scruples.

And while we're at it, should we expect a visit from Pinkerton thugs or a letter for you're handsomely paid legal firm for commenting here?

btw, have you got a "talking points memo" on the bee die-off from your handlers? Awaiting your answer...

Brent_Lipman
Brent_Lipman

For those who actually watch the 3 minute video, unlike the TROLL @ajkmsteph2, you learn about the proposed weed/pest eating robot that hopes to end the need for GMOs.

Quote from video "If I don't need herbicides? AND If I don't need pesticides? Why would I ever buy GMO crops."

And ends with "I made GMOs history, I really did save the planet."

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

@lauren2020 @ajkmsteph2

lauren2020 said

ajkmsteph2 its morally and ethically wrong to patent nature; there wasn't anything insufficient about open source seeds; You don’t patent nature when you make a GM seed – you would probably say GM is not natural so how can it be natural but not natural. Its not natural. Non-GM crops are not natural either –neither is organic food. Most crops have been modified a lot by people already .  Bananas are not natural and corn doesn’t exist in nature anything like corn today.

there is nothing superior with GMO clad seeds;  - well Gm Bt corn is highly resistant to certain insects and non-GM is not and needs to be sprayed – I call that superior.

further, what do organic 'activists' have to gain from 'winning' a lawsuit against Monsanto? The answer is nothing.  So why do the organic activist bring lawsuits against Monsanto? And why has Monsanto not brought a single lawsuit against an organic farmer or any framer where accidental seed or pollen was the issue?

What does Monsanto have to lose? The answer is a lot of money. In fact, they would lose even more money than the millions they give to US officials / reps, otherwise they wouldn't bother giving it up. Of course Monsanto and farmers have a lot to lose if they can’t use the best technology in farming.

The fact is, in the game of farming, in general, its not easy to make a huge profit. Do you mean farmers or companies? The way for companies to make money is make products that customers want

The only way to do so, is what they've done, patent nature, pay the FDA / USDA to subsidize their products, influence other manufacturers to insert their product into all boxed goods and before you know it, Monsanto is on every shelf of every aisle of the store in a big or small way, from the cheese to the yogurt to the produce to the crackers to the pasta to the...you get my drift. Seriously though, it doesn't concern you in the slightest that one sole entity has wormed its way into literally every kitchen in the entire country?
   Dupont seeds has the same market share as Monsanto why not complain about them?

Any economist worth his salt / degree knows that competition is what keeps a market healthy - monopolies do not. The only time a monopoly is acceptable / less costly is in the case of a utility ie power lines, sewage, etc where building multiple lines of power or more than one system of pipes would be inefficient and result in unnecessary costs both to consumer and producer; generally such utilities are either highly regulated by or simply put directly into the hands of government (product of a bygone era when such an entity was to be trusted). In the case of Monsanto we have one company /product on many farms in many places. This is not a situation that can be economically compared to a utility in terms of efficiency. Monsanto increased its prices in about 2009 and lost market share how come ?  Maybe competition? The US decided after detailed investigation for 3 years that there was no anti-trust issue

This is beside the fact that the GM crops are not of higher yield and the chemicals put in them and on them continue to degrade our ever depleting source of freshwater.  Not true they are higher yielding that’s the farmers buy them. Bt corn against borers increase yields about 8%, against rootworms can be as high as 50% when the insects are around – nothing when there are no insects. roundUp resistant crops save on petrol (no need to plow to kill weeds and saves soil structure and allows no-till (which also preserves water in soil).

Further, it only makes sense that Monsanto has a cheaper product, if only by a few cents; its a chemical company;

They get 10%-20%  of profits from chemicals  so not a chemical company.

you really think they aren't in cahoots with other chemical companies that will be required down the line when the consumer who wanted to 'save' $.10 ends up paying several million in hospital fees to have a bypass, or deal with his diabetes and so on after having a life's worth of food subsisting solely on white wheat, white rice, soy and corn based products that have all been stripped of or never had much nutritional value to begin with? Now you are really being crazy again 16 years not a single hospitalization (maybe the hospitals are paying the activists to stop GM so that more people will get sick from organic – people have died from eating organic food – that’s a fact.

BTW certain cancer rates have gone down as GM crops have gone up does this mean that GM crops cure cancer – not but that doesn’t stop using associations irrationally like autism caused by GM food etc.  You need to get a grip on reality

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

@maxwellvelvethammer again the usual reply anybody against you must be a paid Monsanto blogger. Ironically Dupont actually paid bloggers to blog against Monsanto (exposed in court documents). I am not paid by Monsanto to blog (or anyone else)

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

@Bobo @realitybias anyone who takes the GM side is thought to work at Monsanto not true. But even if it was - can you explain your logic that somehow this changes facts = 16 years 3 billions acres and zero health harm while organics kill

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

@maxwellvelvethammer @ajkmsteph2  do you think bee die off is being caused by GM crops? Why is it a rip off seed price if the seed provides $100 in value and the farmer keep $70 of this value? Not exactly a rip off! Why do you think the farmers keep wanting the most GM traits and not the least? Lawsuits are against the 1% of farms who steal seed while 99% are honest and in every case Monsanto won and even in canadian and US supreme courts.  There was no doubt the so called family farmer was deceptive and lied to the court. Why do think Brazil starting using GM soybeans by stealing the seed from Argentina and without paying fees ? Because it doesn't work? If you knew a shread about farmers you would know they always complain about prices but they know a good deal when they see one. Monsanto prices seed based on the rolling average of seed for the last 3 years. They produce seed the summer before and their production costs go up with grain prices - last year prices were high and they had to produce some in Argentina at much higher cost but are they directly increasing prices --no they are giving the farmer a deal and absorbing some costs (hear this on the investor talks) because there is tough competition in the seed business...now this may mean they get even higher market share and then again people like you will complain - market domination but if they increase prices to reduce market share - wait a minute they are ripping their customers off - which is it -- wait a minute there is no logic in your argument - there can't be because its wrong !!

maxwellvelvethammer
maxwellvelvethammer

@ajkmsteph2 @maxwellvelvethammer Then your position is even more craven and indefensible: you're doing it of your own volition. Catastrophic destruction of bees, law suits against family farms, Pinkerton thugs, spies, rip-off seed prices...I would, if I had your incomprehensible mentality, take a deep look inside. I'm sure you sleep like a baby at night, completely oblivious to your grossly insupportable dementia. Perhaps the issues involved here are beyond your grasp. You're a piece of work, dude.

jcliif
jcliif

@ajkmsteph2 @Bobo @realitybias you know, you should tell your employer that next time instead of paying someone to troll the message board they might try not dodging the interview in the first place.

ajkmsteph2
ajkmsteph2

@Brent_Lipman @ajkmsteph2 Organic food has killed people - cheese from wholefoods just killed at least one and organic sprouts killed a number in germany and some organic fruit sicken with hep A from costco (came from outside US) .  This is usually because the organic fertilizer is not cured and since it is animal waste can harm more than synthetic fertilizers. You haven't heard of deaths from GM food because they are not treated with waste as fertilizer.  GM food also isn't directly eaten by people except sweet corn, papayas.  There is no testing to show organic is safe (obviously it sometimes. We don't know how any food is affecting health since there is no direct human testing except for food supplements

There is plenty of safety assessments on GM food more than any other food about $60M per trait over about 5 years and reviewed by government scientists  in EU, US, canada, S Korea, Japan, China, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and non have rejected GM traits on safety to human health.  The  US and UK scientific bodies and medical associations have come out in support.  Only organic supports and some individual scientists are against. Why are organic industry millionaires against GM?  Their products exist because they say organic is safer and an alternative --- they have to keep up the drum beat to keep up prices of organics to consumers. There were three Millionaire organic industry owners footing most of the GM labeling bill in CA - why them? 

again 16 years not a single hospitalized linked to GM food - you would think just be accident some idiot would claim they were sickened by GM food.  I would like to see you try choosing between a cup of Bt corn and a cup of nerve poisoning chemical insecticide - which one is obviously more dangerous - now if you know that 25 millions acres of corn is sprayed with the chemical wouldn't you rather have Bt corn . Do you really  think they would let it go organic and allow 10-50% of their yields go away?  

They would farm for a loss 


Brent_Lipman
Brent_Lipman

@ajkmsteph2It is easy to explain your claim about "zero health harm" by stating there have been no human GMO-consumption studies. How can one prove human harm without human studies, without GMO labels, or with restricted seed access for independent research?

Your statement "Organics kill" is funny, since anything allowed in organic, the strictest farming practice, is allowed in conventional farming, but not the other way around.

 
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