Monsanto wants a piece of every bite you put in your mouth
As if this planet we call home didn’t have enough problems, agri-business seems determined to put the last nails in Earth’s coffin.
Two stories in the news today portend grave concerns with the food supply, and both have Monsanto’s dirty fingers all over them.
First, popsci.com is reporting that there are new, Roundup-resistant ‘super weeds’ invading fields all over the U.S. Popular Science compares it to humans overusing antibiotics until they are no longer effective in our bodies. Farmers battling with Roundup-resistant strains of horseweed, pigweed and ragweed are turning to stronger herbicides.
In case you haven’t heard it, let me tell you the story of Roundup.
As I heard it, one of the early, game-changing customers was a greens-keeper who went to Monsanto asking for a milder weed killer, as Roundup killed the grass on his golf course as well as the weeds. Surely Monsanto could have provided a milder chemical, but where’s the profit in that? Instead, Monsanto found a bacterium in the ocean that could actually survive when soaked in Roundup. They took some of the genes from the bacteria and spliced them into the plant, and voila! Roundup-proof grass. The advantage of this, from Monsanto’s perspective, was that it enlarged their customer base. Now they could sell not just weed killer but grass seed. And, best of all, once they switched to the Monsanto grass, golf courses were locked into Monsanto’s other products. The fact that the genetically modified grass could escape from the golf courses to the wilds where nothing could kill it was not their concern.
Monsanto now has Roundup-resistant soy, corn, cotton, and other plants, all genetically modified. Picture this: a soybean farmer goes out in the spring and drenches his field with Roundup. It kills every living plant in his field. (Even before Monsanto came along he’d already proven that he doesn’t care about the health of his soil - he doesn’t rotate crops, doesn’t use manure or other organic fertilizer, and he never lets a field lie fallow.) He then dumps ammonium nitrate on it. Ammonium nitrate is an artificial nitrogen product made from natural gas. It does for plants what steroids do for a muscle builder – quick, unhealthy growth. The plants grow so fast in it that they don’t have time to push their roots down and bring up nutrients and trace minerals from the soil but with soil this abused, there’s not much down there for them to get, anyway.
He plants his seeds in this sterile medium. Midway through the growing season he dumps more Roundup on it to knock down any ‘super weeds’ that have managed to struggle up from this dreck of chemicals.
So the soybeans of all Monsanto farmers, which is to say 90 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S., were raised in this chemical soup of ammonium nitrate and Roundup. Think about that the next time you order your venti soy latte Machiavelli.
Monsanto also makes a product called Posilac. It is made – via gene splicing – with the help of the e coli bacterium. Dairy farmers give it to their cows. It increases milk production by stimulating the growth of milk-producing cells in the cow’s udder. Unfortunately, it tends to give cows mastitis – a disease involving infected, pus-oozing teats. Farmers give their cows antibiotics to cope with the mastitis. So, if you decide to put milk instead of soy in your aforementioned machiavelli, remember you’re also drinking pus, antibiotics, and e coli-derived Posilac.
Posilac has been banned in Canada, Australia, and most of Europe, but it is still used in the United States.
The other story that came out today is about drought-resistant crops. Even while conspiracy-theorists are still arguing about whether global warming is real, agricultural scientists recognized several years ago that the world is becoming more arid, and started developing plants that use less water. “The technology could change the economics of farming by reducing the need for irrigation, lowering crop insurance premiums, and boosting land values in water-starved regions,” says the puff-piece that appears to have been based on press releases from Monsanto and/or their competitors. While DuPont and Syngenta – big seed producers – are using traditional selective-breeding techniques to create crops that use 6 to 10 percent less water, Monsanto can’t wait. They’re going directly to genetically modifying the plants.
And here was the part that really jumped out at me: ‘Monsanto is donating drought-resistant corn seeds to farmers in sub-Saharan Africa through the Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation.’ Why? Don’t tell me they’ve suddenly gotten a conscience? The big company with the heart of lead can’t stand to see Africans going hungry? I suspect the real reason is that they know that African complaints of who-knows-what problems that occur from the genetically modified corn will largely go unheard.
Should you be concerned? Well, some of Monsanto's other products include saccharin, agent orange, dioxin, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Better living through chemistry...
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