By: Winnie Liang, Grade 11
What is food? To us, food is something that provides us with nutrients, energy, and life; to Monsanto, a U.S.-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, the food that we consume every single day is a new form of poison that can provide the corporation’s high echelon with virtually limitless amount of wealth.
“Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.” On Monsanto’s homepage, this excerpt introduces the corporation with great rhetoric… and with zero truth.
Monsanto is well-known for products called genetically engineered seeds, which are modified using insertion or deletion of specific genes to make the crops resistant to the Round-Up herbicide. This allows farmers to spray Round-Up – another product from Monsanto – to kill weeds and all other unwanted plant life while preserving their crops. With these genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Monsanto has linked itself to “life sciences”. Already, about 90% of the plant gene pool in America is genetically modified.
Five pure myths that Monsanto designed for its GMOs to gain public interest are: 1) they are needed to feed the world’s huge population; 2) they have been thoroughly tested and proven safe; 3) they increase crop yield; 4) they reduce the amount of agricultural chemicals that is used; and 5) they can be contained, therefore capable of coexisting with natural crops. As fantastic as the words might sound, every single one of the five has been proven to be false. For instance, a former Monsanto employee named Kirk Azevedo was recruited in 1996 to sell GM cotton, mostly fed to cattle. When he found out that no safety studies were conducted on the new, unintended proteins in Roundup Ready cotton plants, he stressed the necessity of either conducting safety tests or destroying the GM cotton due to possible toxicity. To his utter astonishment, people shunned him and paid no mind to the issue. That was when Kirk Azevedo, feeling disgusted, resigned. “I am not going to be part of this disaster,” he said.
You may ask, “Isn’t the government supposed to protect us?” Contrary to our common belief, this protection is not guaranteed. To get government approvals to sell GM products in countries worldwide, Monsanto, with mountains of cash, coerced and bribed government officials, and even successfully infiltrated the upper echelons by placing former corporate officials into government positions. In Indonesia, at least 140 officials were bribed or given questionable payments for an approval of GM products in the country. In India, official report on Monsanto’s Bt cotton was falsified to show increase in crop yields. Moreover, faces that once appeared in the Monsanto administration continually reappeared in important government positions in America, India, Brazil, Europe, and other countries. In the U.S., GM foods were declared to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA in 1992 without undergoing the required testing procedures. The policy of self-policing, in which products are believed to be safe in the FDA as long as Monsanto “says so,” was overseen by the Deputy Commissioner for Policy, Michael Taylor, who just “coincidentally” happened to be a former outside attorney for Monsanto and the Food Biotechnology Council.
When it comes to scientific research, Monsanto is definitely brilliant in creating flawed experiments to avoid showing negative effects that would otherwise be present if correct scientific methods were used. Flaws in duration, tested subjects, and amount of variables such as the amount of digestive enzymes are common. For instance, the GM protein in Monsanto’s high-lysine GM corn was labeled as safe because its presence in the soil was consumed as tiny residues in regular human diet. However, the company neglected to mention that the corn’s protein amount is actually 30,000,000,000 to 4,000,000,000,000 times more of what is consumed by an average U.S. citizen, meaning that 22,000 pounds of soil are eaten every second of every day. Do you think 22,000 pounds is the weight of the small, hardly detectable soil residues that a fruit or vegetable has?
Nowadays, desperate farmers in India are forced to buy GM products due to the elimination of non-GM cotton seeds in many regions. No matter how hard they work, the high interest rates of four times the original price only add to a debt that is impossible to pay off, especially when the farmers’ bodies are weakened by the large amount of pesticides used. The number of Bt cotton-related suicides in India exceeds 125,000, often committed by drinking unused pesticides. Although in our much more comfortable lifestyle, we do not handle deadly chemicals everyday, GM foods still affect our health if consumed regularly. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) testified that consuming GM foods, which is hard for us to identify with the lack of labels, can cause health issues such as infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
After reading about the negative effects of Monsanto’s products, I returned to its homepage and read the so-called Monsanto Pledge under the “Corporate Responsibility” section. What I saw immediately was several bolded key words such as integrity, transparency (of information), sharing, and benefits (to customers and the environment). Any one of these words would contradict the truth of Monsanto’s lack of care for anything other than financial profit. After being proven guilty of covering up a 50-year-long poisoning of a town in Anniston, Alabama, on February 22, 2002, Monsanto’s documents were released to the public. One of the corporation’s best quotations is: “We can’t afford to lose one dollar of business.” Way back in 1991, Monsanto had already been planning for its goal of achieving industrial dominance in a world where there are virtually no natural seeds, but over 100 GM and patented foods. They hope to realize this future around 2015 or 2020. Their goal is very difficult to achieve, but not impossible, especially considering they know controlling global food sources is more powerful and more destructive than nuclear weapons. By controlling what we eat, they control us.