What Is Monsanto? 11 Essential Facts To Keep You In The Know

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I am sure you have seen the name ‘Monsanto’ around in many articles over the last few years. There has been a growing trend to brand the Monsanto company as evil, as millions march against the enormous American multinational. It can be confusing to decipher the facts from the scaremongering. Some very dramatic claims may be hard to believe initially, while company printed material paints a very different picture. We want to identify some facts here, to keep you informed, so you can decide exactly where your opinions lie with this contentious issue.

So what exactly is Monsanto?

It is an American multinational corporation that was founded back in 1901 by John Francis Queeny, as a chemical company. Queeny has a background in the world of Pharmaceuticals. In fact the history of Monsanto is steeped in chemical warfare, which we will address below. They were initially a Pesticide company, who evolved into seed creation. As seems to be the trend across the Globe, food-pharmaceutical-medical industries are increasingly linking to one another. We will discuss 10 facts about the Monsanto company below. This leads us directly to the first point….

1. Monsanto Invent and Own Pesticides

Round Up
Round Up

RoundUp is a well known herbicide, weed killer, that is used by families across the world as well as in agribusiness. The active ingredient in this hugely profitable Monsanto invented and owned product, is Glyphosate. While it won’t kill you straight after spraying your garden, there is evidence to prove that it is devastating to human health over time. It has been linked to:

  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Depression
  • Autism
  • Infertility
  • Cancer
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease

The Netherlands are the most recent country to ban Round-Up, and more Nations are lining up to follow suit. The question that rages in my mind, is why a chemical company ever diversified into food production? Of course the answer is most likely profits. They genetically engineered crops to be resistant to Round-Up so it could be sprayed all over them, causing no harm to the crop, but killing the weed. But what about those who would be ingesting the crops?


Keep in mind that people are required to wear full protective gear, including mask when applying Round-Up to crops.

The giant corporations who had produced chemicals for chemical industrial agriculture were talking about three instruments to consolidate the food chain. The first was genetic engineering as a way of control. The second was patenting seed and patenting life as a way of as a way of control. Determining seed to be private property, treating the saving of seed by farmers as theft. Lastly, the design of terminator technology, to create sterile seed in order to impose even more dependence of humanity on a hand full of corporations. – Dr. Vandana Shiva

You can find out more about Round-Up in this video below.

2. Monsanto Creates GMOs

Okay – so what are GMOs? According to the No GMO project:

GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. 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.

Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.

Most developed countries do not consider them to be safe, in fact more than 60 countries restrict or even ban GM products. So America is unusual in it’s stance, particularly regarding using the studies conducted by the very companies who stand to profit from them as evidence of the safety of GMOs.

GM Tomato
GM Tomato

There is no mandatory labelling requirements in the US, so it is very difficult to know if you are consuming GMOs. The following are crops and subsequent ingredients to look out for, as they are at high risk of being genetically engineered.

High-Risk Crops (as of December 2011):

Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
Listed in Appendix B of the Non-GMO Project Standard are a number of high-risk inputs, including those derived from GMO microorganisms, the above crops or animals fed these crops or their derivatives.

Common Ingredients Derived from GMO Risk Crops
Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products.

3. Monsanto Has Roots in Chemical Warfare

In the years from 1962 to 1970, the US military sprayed around 72 million litres of herbicides, most of which was Monsanto’s Agent Orange, in Vietnam. More than one million Vietnamese were exposed to the spraying, as well as over 100,000 Americans and allied troops. Despite being fully aware of the danger to human health compensation has been denied by Monsanto and the US Government.

4. Monsanto Has Increased Suicide Rates in Rural India

Indian Boy
Indian Boy

Since Monsanto crops were introduced to farmers in parts of rural India, the suicide rate has shot up dramatically. It is claimed that GM seeds are sold to the farmers as a magic solution to their already dire poverty. It is promised that these seeds will not need the expensive herbicides and pesticides which make farmer’s lives so precariously on the edge of debt. The cost difference between Monsanto’s seeds and the traditional ones is staggering. $20 for 100g of GM seeds, or $20 for 1,000 times that of the old seed.

Unfortunately the promises are do not hold true. Many crops fail due to pests and the farmers are forced to buy Monsanto’s own expensive chemical herbicides and pesticides to combat this. The GMO crops also require double the amount of water to grow compared with the traditional seed.

This spiralling debt connected to Monsanto products, has led to as many as 1,000 farmer suicides per month. The debt does not end with the death, and many wives have reportedly followed suit after trying to hold their families together. The method of suicide is invariably drinking the expensive chemicals which had promised to help.

It is generally the children who pay the price, when their parents can no longer pay for schooling, or worse, have to sell them into some form of labour.

5. Monsanto Has Many Links With the US Government

Monsanto and Government Employees
Monsanto and Government Employees

Many ex-Monsanto employees hold positions of influence in the American FDA (Food and Drug Administration), which could be considered a conflict of interests, when they are tasked with writing laws which protect Monsanto, specifically one signed by President Obama in March.

The “Farmer Assurance Provision, Section 735,” was a new addition to the Agricultural Appropriations provisions, which allows Monsanto to promote and plant GMO and GE seeds free from any judicial litigation that might deem such crops unsafe. That means that even if a court review finds that a GMO crop is harmful to humans, this law gives permission for the seeds to be planted once the USDA approves them.

Many significant positions within Monsanto itself are held by former influential individuals from various Government roles. The movement of staff between Monsanto and the US Government has been likened to a revolving door.

6. Monsanto Has Been Known To Force Smaller Farmers Out Of Business

Planting Seeds
Planting Seeds

Yes, they could be considered a monopoly – and it is bad enough that smaller farmers, faced with tough, powerful competitors could not keep up and went out of business. But something far worse than that is that Monsanto have been known to actively pursue farmers that they claim have used their GM seeds without paying for them.

The well known Schmeiser’s case is a little shady, because it is unlikely that his field was simply contaminated by a neighbouring field using Monsanto’s GM seeds. In situations of cross contamination, there is no evidence of Monsanto suing farmers. However, they have shut down farms vis lawsuits if it is found that the farmer has ‘stolen’ their technology, by planting patented crops on their land.

Monsanto has also bullied raw milk and organic producers who advertise that their product does not contain Bovine Growth Hormone (rGBH). Monsanto has sued companies for reporting this fact.

7. Animals That Are Fed GMO Feed Are Impacted

Many parts of Europe maintain a ban on GMO seeds and crops, requiring labels on food to indicate that is contains GMO. But many European countries do not label meat products that have come from animals raised on GMO feed. It has been argued that GM feed makes no difference to the meat, and there is no need to mention it on the packaging. However, a NZ study by Prof Heinemann has found that this is not the case. Animals brought up on GM feed are ‘different’.

8. Monsanto The Owns Patent For Terminator Seeds

This is one fact that is often used on articles about Monsanto. It is true that they own the technology to produce crops that will not produce viable offspring crops – but they have made a commitment to never commercially use sterile seed technology.

Fact: Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “Terminator” – seeds. Sharing the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment, with no plans or research that would violate this commitment.

This should bust the myth that all GMO seeds are sterile.

Crops
Crops

9. Contamination with Monsanto GMO Crops Does Not Make Organic Food Officially Non-Organic

Food that is considered Organic may not be 100% so, as the ‘organic rules’ simply prohibit the use of GE in agriculture. It is very hard to completely eliminate some degree of cross pollination between Organic and GMOs, especially in some crops. Therefore you may not be able to entirely prevent ingesting GMOs.

10. Monsanto GMO Crops Could Pose A Threat To Native Crops

GMOs could compete or breed with indigenous species and we do not know the long term impact of GM crops on crop biodiversity. They could damage wild crops that have evolved to cope with local stresses, for example severe long term drought. It is possible that herbicide resistance genes mix with weeds. This would cause a huge problem. There is also no way to predict how the GMO genes might mutate, once they are in the food chain the damage would be very hard to contain.

11. Monsanto Has Joined Agenda 21 For Global Sustainability

Monsanto is amongst many large corporations, including big banks and oil giants to join the
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). They aim to pursue the United Nations’ “Agenda 21”, an Environmental Programme for Global sustainable development. It has raised some eyebrows because of the obvious conflict of interests. One of the drives is to form a more centralised, global governments – which comes with a huge set of concerns.

Conclusion

What are your views on these eleven points? I hope that I offered an objective view – although I am aware that my overall tone was not positive towards Monsanto. Personally I am suspicious of their movements and motives. I think the long term impact of GMO crops will be concerning, and I am glad that individuals are deciding to choose organic when they can, as well as educate themselves on the truth behind the labels.

I would love to hear from you.

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