Oh me oh my. Ironic? Oxymoronic? A bad idea? Not even really sure how to describe this relationship between one of the world’s largest environmental groups, The Nature Conservancy, and Monsanto, the leading GMO and biotech company.
Monsanto sits on the Leadership Council for The Nature Conservancy and has been giving them millions of dollars a year in donations. Seem like a strange company to give a seat on the council to? I think so too. But they aren’t alone, as the board also consists of other environmental do-gooders like BP, Cargill, Coca Cola, Dow Chemical, and Pepsi, all belonging to the board under the guise of “improving business practices and raising awareness for conservation issues.” It’s all becoming a little clearer now, isn’t it?
Let’s take a look at some of the stories that The Nature Conservancy’s million dollar donor Monsanto has been in the news for lately, just to check up on them and to make sure this partnership is doing all it is supposed to be doing for our environment and our health. After all, that’s why they are taking the money, right? To help Monsanto change their ways?
- Monsanto just took home 6th place on the Most Wanted Corporate Human Rights Violators List of 2012 for promotion of monocropping, involvement in government, refusing to label product, bankrupting small farms.
- The Nature Conservancy is considered a Big Green environmental group, one of the largest and most prominent in the world. It “sits on nearly a billion dollars in assets and is awash in cash, thanks to a tidal wave of corporate donations, much of it from notorious polluters such as Arco, Archer-Daniels-Midland, British Petroleum, DuPont, Shell and Freeport-McMoRan. Last year, the group violated its apolitical policy to concoct the compromise rewrite of the Endangered Species Act with a secret coalition of corporations and trade associations, including the National Homebuilder’s Association and timber giant Georgie-Pacific.
- A recent study by eminent oncologists Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr. Mikael Eriksson of Sweden, has revealed clear links between one of the world’s biggest selling herbicide, glyphosate, to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer. Glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, is the world’s most widely used herbicide. It is estimated that for 1998, over a 112,000 tonnes of glyphosate was used world-wide. It indiscriminately kills off a wide variety of weeds after application and is primarily used to control annual and perennial plants.
- Monsanto’s history is one steeped with controversial products, deadly consequences, massive cover ups, political slight of hand, and culminates as a modern day plague on humanity, a plague that is about to peak to biblical proportions. Here’s a bullet point history.
- Lobbyists from the biotech industry have ardently opposed GMO labelling. These opponents argue that because food labelling has historically been handled by the Food and Drug Association (FDA), it is a federal issue and, therefore, individual states do not have the right to implement such legislation. Indeed, in the case of Vermont, Sanders’ home state, Monsanto successfully intimidated the state legislature from voting on a bill that would have required GMO labelling.
- “Ignoring potential non-target detrimental side effects of any chemical, especially one used as heavily as glyphosate [Monsanto's RoundUp herbicide], may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious. To do so might well compromise not only agricultural sustainability, but also the health and well-being of animals and humans.”
This isn’t going to well so far. Maybe if I dig deeper I can find at least one story about how TNC has changed Monsanto for the better.
- After losing a 3-day old daughter to kidney failure, a woman named Sofia Gatica from Argentina made a decision to spearhead an anti-Monsanto movement with other mothers of sick children. Monsanto is a biotechnology, agrochemical company which has been polluting the environment and human health with herbicides, pesticides, genetically modified foods, and other substances for decades. Numerous cases have been brought against Monsanto for biological damage and even death — such is the recent case in which farmers say the biotech giant’s creations spawned ‘devastating birth defects’.
- The Women’s Cancer Resource Center (WCRC) and CHOSE (Coalition for a Healthy Oakland School Environment), showed that chemicals such as Round-Up (glyphosate) can result in reproductive damage as well as damage to the kidney and liver, and some studies show a link between the chemical and cancer.
- Percy Schmeiser is a Canadian farmer whose canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready Canola by pollen from a nearby GMO farm. Monsanto successfully argued in a lawsuit that Schmeiser violated their patent rights, and tried to force Schmeiser to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.T his type of biotech bullying is happening all over North America.
- As if the health hazards of genetically altered food crops weren’t bad enough, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has also been deemed a major health hazard both to the environment, and to animal and human health. It is toxic to human cells, and according to a French research team, it is also carcinogenic.
- Did Monsanto actually plant genetically modified alfalfa before it was deregulated by the USDA? There is some shocking evidence that, until recently, was withheld from the public showing that Monsanto’s genetically altered alfalfa may have been set free in 2003 — a full two years or more before it was deregulated in 2005.
- Monsanto, the massive biotechnology company being blamed for contributing to the dwindling bee population, has bought up one of the leading bee collapse research organizations. Recently banned from Poland with one of the primary reasons being that the company’s genetically modified corn may be devastating the dying bee population, it is evident that Monsanto is under serious fire for their role in the downfall of the vital insects. It is therefore quite apparent why Monsanto bought one of the largest bee research firms on the planet.
- Monsanto’s ‘biopesticide’ known as Bt is not only developing mutated insects and requiring excessive pesticide use, but new findings show that it is also killing human kidney cells — even in low doses. Amazingly, Monsanto’s superweed-breeding Roundup also has the same effect. Scientists have demonstrated in new research that the Bt pesticide, in addition to Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, exhibit direct toxicity to human cells.
- Confidential contracts detailing Monsanto Co.’s business practices reveal how the world’s biggest seed developer is squeezing competitors, controlling smaller seed companies and protecting its dominance over the multibillion-dollar market for genetically altered crops, an Associated Press investigation has found.
- Monsanto has become notorious for tracking down and prosecuting farmers who end up with patented crops in their fields without having paid the prerequisite fees—even when their conventional or organic crops are contaminated by unwanted genetically engineered (GE) seed spread by wind or pollinating insects from neighboring farms that grow GE crops. To do this, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents who secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops. They infiltrate community meetings, and gather information from informants about farming activities. Some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the “seed police” and use words such as “Gestapo” and “Mafia” to describe their tactics.
- The nonprofit Center for Food Safety is sounding the alarm about a provision buried deep in the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would allow the continued sale and planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops while health hazards are assessed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The rider, called the “farmer assurance provision” is considered a blatant handout to Monsanto, the maker of GE seeds—and the herbicides they are designed to withstand—for a host of “Roundup Ready” crops, including corn and soybeans.
- Bioengineering agricultural giant Monsanto has touted the safety of genetically modified crops, but a new study has found that insecticide-containing corn can be harmful to the overall health of soil ecosystems.
Well, that certainly didn’t go as planned. Does any of this news sound like the Monsanto is learning from its “mistakes” and trying to be a better citizen of the world? Does all the money they give The Nature Conservancy stand for anything other than being a good way to buy PR cover from a well-known environmental group? I have been looking for any instance of TNC standing up to Monsanto and crying foul about its behavior; I have found nothing so far.
I have repeatedly asked TNC President & CEO Mark Tercek (who was formerly a managing director at Goldman Sachs) what exactly has changed at Monsanto since his enviro organization started taking millions of dollars a year from them, and each time I was rebuffed with strange I know you are, but what am I?-type replies of “Well, what do you?” and “No time for arguing, there is work to be done” instead of any actual answers to back up the claims of TNC changing Monsanto. I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Tercek – there is work to be done. A lot of it. Thankfully, several other environmental organizations don’t take money from Monsanto and do important work, and those are the ones I encourage any of you to work with, volunteer for, and give money to. NRDC and Greenpeace come to mind right away.
There is absolutely no need to continue giving money to The Nature Conservancy if they are going to continue taking millions from Monsanto while Monsanto is busy destroying our planet. Period.
I don’t expect Monsanto to change. It is doing what it does best. But I do expect more from a group supposedly dedicated to protecting the environment. How can one do that effectively when the CEO’s nearly $500,000 annual paycheck partially depends on getting dirty money coming from corporate polluters? You have to draw the line somewhere, one would think – but TNC seems to think it doesn’t matter who gives the money as long as they get it in the first place.
I disagree with this tactic and I hope you do as well. Let The Nature Conservancy know you aren’t happy with this relationship and take your donations elsewhere. Don’t contribute to the same polluted pool that is full of Monsanto’s money. When filthy money is filling the coffers of an environmental group, you know it’s a lost cause.
From The Nature Conservancy’s own website:
Our Philosophy and Criteria
The Nature Conservancy is working across all sectors of industry and society to help advance our mission of protecting the natural world. We develop strategies to identify which relationships best align with our mission and then evaluate these to ensure they meet our Principles of Engagement. There must be clear conservation benefits with lasting, measurable outcomes and a direct connection to our mission.
The Conservancy will turn down opportunities and gifts that come to us from companies or company foundations that do not meet these key criteria.
That last one is a kicker, seeing as how Monsanto is destroying our planet and our lives yet continues to have a seat on the Leadership Council board.
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