Monsanto is an international agriculture and biotechnology corporation, with a workforce of approximately 22,000. Monsanto is also one of the most controversial corporations in the world, due to its production of genetically engineered seeds, rBGH (bovine growth hormone), and the company’s highly litigious nature. Monsanto is also responsible for manufacturing and selling Aroclors – a trade name for polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which recent studies show can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
1. Impudently patenting mother earth. Monsanto, more than any other company, appropriated the concept of intellectual property rights to control farmers. To purchase their genetically modified seeds, a farmer must sign an “end-user agreement” that limits what he can do with them. Agreements are considered necessary to protect intellectual property, justifiably precluding replications that make the seeds unique. However, Monsanto and their ilk also explicitly forbid the use of the seeds for independent research. Scientists can be sued if they examine whether such genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects. Thus the only research that ever gets published in peer-reviewed journals is that approved by industrial seed companies. According the Scientific American, “In a number of cases, experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering.”
2. Bullying law suits. Monsanto’s lawyers spent a decade tracking down farmers who might have saved seeds for replanting, like responsible farmers have done since civilization began. They sued them and broke them. They also sued a number of organic dairy farmers who advertised that their milk came from cows that had not been fed bovine growth stimulants. Monsanto, which owned the most commercially successful such stimulant rBGH, claimed such ads implied there was something wrong with their product. With control over most research, Monsanto almost always won such cases.
3. Sterilizing Mother Earth. In 1998, the infamous US Patent # 5,723,765 threatened to change farming forever by giving Delta & Pine Land Co. rights to a new technology that sterilizes seeds, as well as any other seeds contaminated by them. Named genetic use restriction technology (GURT) and nicknamed The Terminator, it was frightfully unpopular in countries like India where farmers still primarily grow foods with seeds saved from previous crops. Monsanto pledged a moratorium on commercialization of Terminator technology but then it bought Delta & Pine Co. The Terminator would free Monsanto lawyers from hunting down farmers who save their seeds, so their pledge is viewed cynically by many folks.
4. Sterilizing Mother Earth - unless. GURT’s latest form, called reversible transgenic sterility, is nicknamed The Zombie and appears to be Monsanto’s way around its pledge. Whereas Terminator technology produces plants with sterile seeds, Zombie technology requires an annual chemical application (patented and sold by guess whom) to trigger fertility.
5. Bullying the media. Monsanto’s influence has long managed to kill stories unfavorable to the company, That is most famously documented in the movie “The Corporation” and in Jeffrey Smith‘s book “Genetic Roulette and Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods.” Both documented a 1990’s case in which a Fox-affiliated television station in Florida killed a thoroughly researched story about ill effects from milk produced by dairy cows given Monsanto’s rBGH.
6. Blatantly influencing FDA and USDA policy. Revolving doors swing between industry and government agencies all over the world but Monsanto’s manipulation of them has left its critics with jaws agape. Anyone who thought things might change in the Obama Administration was dismayed by this summer’s appointment of Monsanto’s former Vice President for Public Policy as Special Assistant to the FDA Commissioner - for Food Safety. Michael Taylor is credited with ushering Monsanto’s rBGH through the FDA regulatory process and into the milk supply - unlabeled. He is also regarded as responsible for the FDA’s decision to treat genetically modified organisms as “substantially equivalent” to natural foods and therefore not requiring any safety studies. That “substantially equivalent” ruling allowed the FDA to ignore evidence that genetically engineered foods are in fact quite different from natural foods and pose specific health risks.
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