Other wires from State Department diplomats ask for money to fly in corporate flacks to lean on government officials. Even Mr. Environment, former Vice President Al Gore, was key in getting France to briefly approve Monsanto's GM corn.

These days, the company has infiltrated the highest levels of government. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a former Monsanto lawyer, and the company's former and current employees are in high-level posts at the USDA and FDA.

But the real coup came in 2010, when President Obama appointed former Monsanto Vice President Michael Taylor as the FDA's new deputy commissioner for foods. It was akin to making George Zimmerman the czar of gun safety.

"Monsanto and the biotechs need to... keep their pollution on their side of the fence," says Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen.
Courtesy photo
"Monsanto and the biotechs need to... keep their pollution on their side of the fence," says Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen.
In South Florida, Monsanto protesters of all ages made their concerns known in May.
Lottie Hedley
In South Florida, Monsanto protesters of all ages made their concerns known in May.

Trust Us. Why Would We Lie?

At the same time Monsanto was cornering the food supply, its principal products — GM crops — were receiving less scrutiny than an NSA contractor.

Monsanto understood early on that the best way to stave off bad publicity was to suppress independent research. Until recently, in negotiating an agreement with major universities, the company had severely restricted access to its seeds by requiring researchers to apply for a license and get approval from the company about any proposed research. The documentary Scientists Under Attack: Genetic Engineering in the Magnetic Field of Money noted that nearly 95 percent of genetic engineering research is paid for and controlled by corporations like Monsanto.

Meanwhile, former employees embedded in government make sure the feds never get too nosy.

Meet Michael Taylor. He's gone back and forth from government to Monsanto enough times that it's not a revolving door — it's a Bat-pole. During an early-'90s stint with the FDA, he helped usher bovine growth hormone milk into the food supply and wrote the decision that kept the government out of Monsanto's GM crop business.

Known as "substantial equivalence," this policy declared that genetically modified products are essentially the same as their non-GM counterparts — and therefore require no additional labeling, food safety, or toxicity tests. Never mind that no accepted science backed his theory.

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

The FDA approves GM crops by doing no testing of its own but by simply taking Monsanto's word for their safety. Amusingly, Monsanto agrees that it should have nothing to do with verifying safety, says spokesman Phil Angell. "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job."

So if neither Monsanto nor the feds is ensuring that the food supply is safe, who is?

The answer: No one.

We've Got Bigger Problems Now

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

A 2009 study by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman looked at four Monsanto seeds and found only minimal increases in yield. And since GM crops cost more to produce, their economic benefits are 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 that goes with it, like pesticide use, monopoly issues, and control of the seed supply."

Meanwhile, the use of pesticides has soared as weeds and insects become increasingly resistant to these death sprays. Since GM crops were introduced in 1996, pesticide use 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 the 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's been soil degradation, relatively static yields, and an epidemic of weed and insect resistance.

Weeds and insects are fighting back with their own law — the law 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.

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

Pests like Roundup-resistant pigweed can grow thick as your arm and more than six feet high, requiring removal by hand. Many farmers simply abandon fields that have been infested with it. Pigweed has infested Florida cotton fields, and farmers are now using old pesticides on top of Roundup to combat it.

To kill these adaptive pests, chemical giants like Monsanto and Dow are developing crops capable of withstanding even harsher pesticides. It's producing an endless cycle of greater pesticide use at commensurate financial and environmental cost.

"It's not about stewardship of the land," says Thomas Earnshaw, sustainable farmer, educator, and founder of Outlaw Farmers in the Florida Panhandle. "The north Panhandle is probably the most contaminated land in the state — because of the monoculture farming with all the cotton and soy, both are "Roundup Ready" [GM crops]. They're just spraying chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers into the soil, it's getting into the water table, and farmers aren't even making any more money — biotech is."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
3 comments
RealFood
RealFood

Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow!

 
Loading...