My research topic will examine the effect of Monsanto’s current monopoly over the majority of America’s food supply, regarding Genetically Modified Organisms. First, I will reveal how Monsanto’s sustainable agricultural mission statement is crooked, based on myths and false assumptions and instead they’re responsible for large-scale government corruption. Biotech companies have the majority of society completely oblivious that they’re using us humans as test subjects for the largest feeding experiment in history with unknown and possibly disastrous consequences for our health and the environment. Finally I will address how the GMO giant Monsanto has consolidated its power to single handedly corrupt and take over regulatory agencies such as the USDA and FDA. Most Americans are unaware to who Monsanto is and or what Genetically Modified Organisms are, even though they support and eat them nearly every meal. On Saturday, May 25, 2013 I attended the March Against Monsanto that took place in Downtown LA with about 5,000 other supporters, protesting against Monsanto and making strangers aware of what’s currently happening with the future of our food system. This march took place in over 150 cities in 55 countries across the globe and still didn’t make the mainstream media. Less than five percent of people know anything about what they’re really eating, and if they do, they’re more concerned about carbs, sugars and calories rather than where the food actually came from. Monsanto is the world’s largest Biotech and Agrochemical Corporation that specializes in manufacturing products including herbicides, pesticides and patented crop seeds. They have convinced most of humanity, that through innovative science, they’re producing high quality products that are beneficial for the customers and the environment. They also claim that they are committed to safety and health in everything they do, but a lack of government-lead scientific research has lead many to believe otherwise. After doing the slightest bit of investigation concerning this topic, I believe anyone will find it a little problematic to believe they’re the picture-perfect solution they claim to be. Despite biotech industry promises, “none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit” (Ruppert n.p.). There’s no question that the nutritional value of our food supply is declining with time. In the U.S., despite mounting evidence of the damage Genetically Engineered crops inflict on human health and the environment, “approximately 170 million acres of GE crops, including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, papaya, and squash, are currently under cultivation” (Herbert n.p.). These crops, untested and unlabeled, “comprise 41 percent of all cultivated cropland” (Herbert n.p.). “At least 70 percent of non-organic grocery store processed foods contain GMOs” (Center… n.p.), and even then, most of the organic brands you’ve come to trust are actually corporate-owned. Companies like Monsanto want us to believe in food scarcity. They want us to believe that there’s not enough food on this planet to feed everybody. They want us to think we need more products in order to feed the hungry and poor rather than just eating organically. With their hands deep in the government’s pockets, they have done a great job at masking themselves to be the source of change, when in actuality; they are responsible for the hungry and the poor in this world. We live in a society where we waste more food than we consume, and yet we say people go hungry because there is not enough food for everybody. This is the myth of scarcity that Monsanto stands behind. Most of the food that’s grown in this country is never even picked and “up to forty percent of what we grow is left to rot in the field” (Rappoport n.p.). More of that food is wasted at distribution centers, which ends up being paid for by us taxpayers. If there’s too much food, the only way to keep the price up, is to artificially keep the demand up, by throwing perfectly good food out. This is Monsanto’s scheme of supply and demand; where they have lobbied the laws and gave corporations tax write offs for throwing out food. We give so much power over to these corporations, owned by major financial institutions, and they clearly dictate government policy. We’ve seen evidence of this recently when Monsanto’s number one lobbyist Barack Obama signed the Section 735 or H.R. 933 (Monsanto Protection Act). “This situation was ultimately a special interest loophole for friends of Congress” (Robin n.p.), which gives Monsanto the ability to ignore federal court orders and continue selling and using GMO seeds in farms across America. So, it’s basically a corporate handout to Monsanto that puts every farmer and consumer at risk. Manufacturers of genetically altered foods are exposing all of us to one of the largest uncontrolled experiments in modern history with no end in sight. They have made it almost financially impossible for the lower and middle classes to shop organically in order to avoid the experiment. Organic food prices have risen too high for the average family or consumer to afford. While the upper class, including the government and corporate officials, avoid GE products, and feed themselves and their children organic produce and non-GE products. Informed consent is one of the most basic aspects of patient-physician relations, as well as subject-researcher relations in the case of research studies. This involves “making the patient aware of and verifying that they understand the risks, benefits, facts, and the future implications of the procedure”(Smith 136) or test they are going to be exposed to. In the case of genetically modified organisms, we have not been made aware of the risks. In fact, the GMO industry has deliberately hidden the real dangers behind the seeds and herbicides they peddle. Consumers deserve to know what’s in their food and how it was grown.
I believe food is a human right, not a privilege. When we walk though the supermarket, we are bombarded by so many decisions, plenty of which are misleading advertising. With so much variety we assume that some of its healthy, some of its junk and at least we have a choice, but do we? The industrial food system is not only responsible for keeping the population fed, but also in control of keeping us healthy, which they seem to have put on the back burner. Instead, “it has created obedient, uninformed consumers and has essentially made us very sick” (Swanson n.p.) in many different ways. Research shows “four out of the ten leading killers in this country are food related chronic diseases” (Smith 108), with diabetes and obesity at the top of that list. It’s no surprise since our current food system promotes fast and junk food. I’m definitely not proud of it, but it’s actually quite an accomplishment in my eyes that we’ve managed to make ourselves so fat, so fast.
Glyphosate is a major component of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Glyphosate was manufactured by Monsanto and is one of the most widely used herbicides around the world. A number of scientific studies surrounding glyphosate have shed light on its effects within the human body. It’s responsible for triggering health problems like gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. “Because humans that have been exposed to glyphosate have a drop in amino acid tryptophan levels, they do not have the necessary active signaling of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with weight gain, depression and Alzheimer’s disease” (Smith 155). Glyphosate impairs the cytochrome P450 (CYP) gene pathway, which creates enzymes that help to form and also break down molecules in cells. One of the numerous functions of these CYP enzymes is to “detoxify xenobiotics, which are foreign chemicals like drugs, carcinogens or pesticides” (Ruppert n.p.). Glyphosate inhibits these CYP enzymes, which has rippling effects throughout our body. With so much of our food supply in the US now genetically modified (91 percent of all soy; 85 percent of all corn), it's virtually impossible to avoid these potential allergens, especially when you consider that even the animals we eat are fed these tainted crops. Children are three to four times more prone to allergies than adults, and are at highest risk of death from food allergy. Changes in nutrition have a greater impact on the structure and functioning of young, fast-growing bodies. More of the food is converted to build organs and tissues, whereas adults convert more to energy and store this as fat. This is why the potential health effects of GM foods needs to be rigorously researched before being fed to babies, children and pregnant or breast-feeding women. Studies also show GM products are linked to a rise in Attention Deficit Disorder and Autism in children. Everyone needs to do more research on what were eating and feeding our children. One of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators, especially bees, for a successful harvest. For much of the past 10 years, “beekeepers, primarily in the United States and Europe, have been reporting annual hive losses of 30 percent or higher” (Grossman n.p.), substantially more than is considered normal or sustainable. A recent study that found “unprecedented levels of agricultural pesticides — some at toxic levels — in honeybee colonies is prompting entomologists to look more closely at the role of neonicotinoids in current bee declines”(Grossman n.p.). Some studies have indicated that neonicotinoids can lead to a sharp decline in queen bees in colonies and can also interfere with the ability of bees to navigate back to their hives, resulting in death. Neonicotinoids, particularly in combination with other pesticides, may suppress the immune system of bees at “sub-lethal” levels, enabling diseases to take hold. In the U.S., neonicotinoids are currently used on about 95 percent of corn and canola crops; the majority of cotton, sorghum, and sugar beets; and about half of all soybeans. They’re also used on the vast majority of fruit and vegetable crops, including apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes. Neonicotinoids are also applied to cereal grains, rice, nuts, and wine grapes. These pesticides and herbicides have also been proven to damage soil quality and end up in water sources. The USDA and FDA are stacked with powerhouse officials that formerly worked in key positions at Monsanto. Over the past 20 years Monsanto and the biotech industry, “aided and abetted by indentured politicians and corporate agribusiness, have begun seizing control over the global food and farming system” (Smith 147), including the legislative, patent, trade, judicial and regulatory bodies that are supposed to safeguard the public interest. Fidelity Investments, State Street Corporation, JP Morgan Chase and The Vanguard Group seem to own all of the major food corporations and pharmaceutical companies. Monsanto's actions truly affect each of us. They put their profits over the need for healthy foods, diverse seed supplies and the stability of the agricultural economy. They employ a variety of tools to control access to seeds and aggressively push GMOs and toxic chemicals despite serious safety concerns about them. And they accomplish this with great help from the US government. U.S. citizens are demanding labels on genetically engineered foods, similar to the fifty countries that already require it, including the European Union. Unfortunately, the powerful biotech lobby has succeeded in keeping this information from the public. The anti-GMO movement has finally figured out, “after 20 years of ineffectively lobbying Congress, the FDA and the White House, that the federal government is not going to require labels on GE foods” (Center… n.p.) anytime soon. Instead the movement “has shifted the battleground on GMO labeling from Monsanto and Big Food’s turf in Washington D.C. to the more favorable terrain of state ballot initiatives and state legislative action—publicizing the fact that a state GMO labeling law will have the same marketplace impact as a national labeling law”(Center… n.p.). They’re also calling for serious independent safety testing of GE crops and animals, both those already approved and those awaiting approval. The common problem we face is the power of concentrated wealth and monopolistic corporate interests. This has created a buddy-buddy capitalist economy that uses government to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the people, often threatening our basic necessities for life. A clear example of this is found in the behavior of Monsanto. The bottom line is that Monsanto has too much power over our food system. Do we really want corporations to control the basic building blocks of life? I don’t know how people think it’s a conspiracy to think that our food industry is designed to make us sick. People will always look at you like a deer in headlights when you try to inform them about the effects of GMOs. Mainstream media will always promote GMOs and Roundup as well as emphasize their safety. That couldn’t be further from the truth, they damage your DNA and RNA genomes, not just for profit, but also for experimentation and control. Monsanto must be stopped before its unrestricted greed destroys our health and environment. I urge all to join the effort to stop Monsanto and not allow them to expand their menu of genetically engineered organisms that are awaiting approval. Next on the menu is GE trees, salmon and apples so get off your couch and join the fight before it’s too late!
"Center for Food Safety | Issues | GE Food Labeling at the State legislative level." Center for Food Safety. 13 Apr. 2013. 15 May 2013 <http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/976/ge-food-labeling>. Grossman, Elizabeth. "Declining Bee Populations Pose A Threat to Global Agriculture." Yale Environment 360. 30 Apr. 2013. 15 May 2013 <http://e360.yale.edu/feature/declining_bee_populations_pose_a_threat_to_global_agriculture/2645/>. Herbert, Martha. "Genetically Altered Foods: We Are Being Exposed to One of the Largest Uncontrolled Experiments in History" 3 Sept. 2000. Chicago Tribune. 14 May 2013 <http://www.biotech-info.net/exposed.html>. Pollan, Michael. Food rules: An eater's manual. New York: Penguin Books, 2009. Rappoport, John. "Meet Monsanto's number one lobbyist: Barack Obama." NaturalNews. 25 Sept. 2012. 15 May 2013 <http://www.naturalnews.com/037310_barack_obama_monsanto_lobbyist.html>. Robin, Marie-Monique. "End the Lie – Independent News | The