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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Monsanto & "Frankenfood"

Monsanto, as you may know, is the focus of a recent documentary called "Food Inc.," a film unveiling the truth about America's genetically modified (GMO) food chain. Monsanto's GMO corn is banned from the European Union and Monsanto’s rBGH, the bovine growth hormone that produces more milk from cows, is banned in 31 countries because of the health risks — particularly beast cancer and prostate cancer. Those countries include 27 European nations, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Canada. rBGH is also believed to be the cause of premature development in women.

Wikileaks released a cable stating that the U.S. State Department planned on retaliating against France because France rejected Monsanto's GMO corn, and the U.S. government was afraid that the ban could reverberate across the European Union. Apparently the U.S. Government is concerned that Monsanto's presence in Europe could shrink because of France’s reluctance to subject its citizens to genetically modified agriculture.

The government of India has filed suit against Monsanto for what they refer to as "biopiracy," taking indigenous plants and inserting genes into them and then patenting them as intellectual properties forcing Indian farmers to have to pay for that which was formally free.

Vanity Fair did a wonderful exposé in 2008 on the plight of the U.S. Small farmer. In it, Monsanto is accused of polluting the U.S. agricultural chain by allowing GMO pollen to drift on to small U.S. farms against the wishes of the small farmers and then suing the small farmers when it's discovered that their crops violate U.S. patents owned by Monsanto. It's not that the farmers are pollinating it themselves, it's that the pollen finds its way on to the small farms whereby small farmers are completely unable to stop it. In short, Monsanto is accused of predatory agricultural practices further eliminating the small U.S. Farmer from the U.S. food chain.

Forbes also did a wonderful exposé on child labor in India and found that Monsanto uses child labor in their cotton fields. The excerpt:

"Jyothi Ramulla Naga is 4 feet tall. From sunup to sundown she is hunched over in the fields of a cottonseed farm in southern India, earning 20 cents an hour. Farmers in the Uyyalawada region process high-tech cottonseeds genetically engineered to contain a natural pesticide, on behalf of U.S. agriculture giant Monsanto. To get the seeds to breed true the farmers have to cross-pollinate the plants, a laborious task that keeps a peak of a dozen workers busy for several months on just one acre. And to make a profit the farmers have to use cheap labor. That means using kids like Jyothi, who says she's 15 but looks no older than 12. (Monsanto points to papers indicating she is 15.) To harvest the bolls three months later, the farmers use cheap labor again, not the machinery that is used to pick cotton in the U.S."

Monsanto's website responded to claims that it uses child labor by suggesting that when children offer up their labor freely, that it's okay so long as it doesn't "interfere with their educational opportunities." The excerpt:

"At Monsanto, we support the employment of young people who have freely chosen to work in the agricultural industry — either on a seasonal basis to earn extra income or as a full-time vocation — so long as it is legal and does not interfere with their educational opportunities.

Greed has an insatiable appetite, and it’s clear by that very excerpt that values play no role in Monsanto’s business practices when it interferes with profit. Those values, or lack of, are set by Monsanto’s board.

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