Paul Wilson: Monsanto – Dirty White Gold

Protests-target-Monsanto-in-KC-elsewhereLast weekend I drove by a larger than usual protest at the J.C. Nichols fountain on the Plaza…

There’s generally a protest de jour going down on that corner almost daily, so one becomes immune to the signs, car horns, etc. as you drive by the usual suspects picketing the most current cause. However this one was far bigger and getting far more attention – it was against Monsanto.

There are so many facets to this saga it’s hard to know where to begin.

But the whole Monsanto story is about GMO’s – genetically modified organisms. No, this isn’t about Craig Glazer, it’s about seeds, seeds and big, big business.

It’s been a huge deal here in the U.S, for some time. Back in 2000 an in house Monsanto newsletter stated that “Agricultural biotechnology will find a supporter occupying the White House next year, regardless of which candidate win the election in November.”

Picture-8Yep, our corporate neighbor over in St Louis has no shortage of cash and clearly they knew they could buy whomever they needed. No surprise given the corruption and always open palms of our Senators and Congressmen.

All the way back in 2000, the GMO scare got increasing levels of attention and over the next eight years the demand began to label food products containing GMO’s because of the ties to health concerns in early testing.

It got so much attention that in the 2008 Obama campaign, he promised to label food-containing GMOs so we’d know if they were in what we were eating. However, after the election, he immediately appointed former Monsanto VP and attorney Michael Taylor as the Head of Food Safety at the Food and Drug Administration.

And that’s only the beginning of this story.

The FDA is in charge of determining the safety of all our foods and drugs, and in this case, that includes Monsanto’s growth hormones as well. To prove GMO’s safety, Monsanto had to submit a series of scientific reports to the FDA.

droppedImageMargaret Miller, a Monsanto researcher, compiled the report.

And just before the report was submitted, Miller got an offer she couldn’t refuse. Where? At the FDA. What was her first job? To analyze her own report!

So while we protest and play around the edges of this issue with feel good measures, Monsanto has been banned in Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Madeira, New Zealand, Peru, South Australia, Russia, France, and Switzerland.

In April, Poland was added to the list and India isn’t far behind.

Nowhere is the Monsanto problem worse than in India.

india_monsanto_lambrechtYou can call the problem part Monsanto or part lack of business acumen by the Indian farmers, but in my mind, the Indian farmer has become the victim of the fast talking, fortune promising seed salesmen.

Around 2000, Indian farmers were victims or benefactors – depending on where you come down on this issue – of the free market system. At that point they could choose from a wider range of products. Then Monsanto flooded India with sales people who promptly convinced the farmers to start buying genetically modified Bollgard BT cotton seeds.

As the sales presentation went, the seeds were able to resist and kill the American Bollworm. No insecticides, huge yields and never before seen profits, all waiting for Indian farmers and all just a seed away.  It was a one-call close and by 2009, 85 percent of cotton grown in India was Monsanto controlled. What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s where the business acumen comes in.

The seeds Monsanto sells in India cost about 100 times more than traditional seeds. Most farmers in India didn’t have that kind of cash lying around, so they turned to local “money lenders.”

Seeing endless profits on the horizon they over-borrowed to buy the magic seeds. To add to the problem, the seeds they bought from Monsanto are sterile forcing them to have to buy more seeds every year. Another uncommon business practice because, like most farmers, they planted a portion of their crops with next year’s seeds.

In the farming biz, crops fail, seed costs climb, debts can’t be paid but unlike good old American farmers, Indian farmers don’t take Chapter 11, they just kill themselves.

How big is the problem?

tumblr_mcksfvEyqx1r6m2leo1_500Almost 300,000 cotton workers have committed suicide to date.

So how do they do it? Almost always by drinking the same insecticide they were sold by Monsanto.

India’s corporatization of the farm increasingly locks out the small to medium farmer who used to control the process. Now, displaced from their farms, they are hired for $1.80 a day to spray pesticides on crops that were never supposed to need pesticides. With no face mask protection which leads them to an early demise as well. First their farms, then their lives.

I interviewed a local biomedical engineer with one of the leading firms here in the metro. His observation was, “Monsanto is just a straw man. The real problem is a society that values cheap products more than a robust economy.”

Which brings up ethics in the fashion industry.

Chances are, if you’re an all-natural fiber guy like me, the cotton in your shirt came from India; dirty, white gold.

If you go to Monsanto’s page they tell a whole different story.

“With the combination of higher yields and reduced pesticide costs, India’s cotton farmers have increased their incomes. And with this additional money, they are able to purchase vehicles, provide education for their children, afford better housing for their families and purchase farm equipment. Additionally, because these farmers have additional income, they are able to put resources back into their villages’ economies.”

What???

I assume this is for the farmers lucky enough to still be alive.

Monsanto’s spin is that they didn’t start the fire and that the suicide rate “has numerous causes with most experts agreeing that indebtedness is one of the main factors. Farmers unable to repay loans and facing spiraling interest often see suicide as the only solution.”

But again, it’s not their fault.

That’s India, where things seem the worst.

Next up: What it means to us here in the good ole USA.

 

 

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24 Responses to Paul Wilson: Monsanto – Dirty White Gold

  1. Orphan of the Road says:

    You hit all the right notes with this story. Science is for sale today and the one with the most money can win the debate following the Monsanto path.

    Now Smithfield is being taken over by a Chinese pork producer who is ending many long-standing drug therapies for pork production. American pork is not allowed in many markets because of concerns over safety of the drug used.

    It’s a corn-and-soybean ghetto in the Heartland and Monsanto is raking in the Government Cheese too.

    • chuck says:

      Orphan, what did you think of “Food Inc”?

      • Orphan of the Road says:

        It is a good start. Big Ag takes a lot of government cheese. Funnel the money through the “family farmers” and create food pyramids out of whole cloth.

        Ranchers & farmers tend to be some of the best conservationists I know. But Big Time Operators and landlords don’t care about the land, only the profits.

        Monsanto had developed the Doomsday Plant, a plant whose seeds are sterile. They have promised never to use it. Sure.

        GMOs are the left’s Achilles heel to the right’s denial of global warming. But GMOs are not all Frankenfoods.

        Corn was originally genetically modified by the Aztecs & Mayans. Then the Europeans developed maize (which looked more like wheat than corn) into the corn we recognized today.

  2. Veronica Hornsby says:

    This is horrific! I’m really interested in more info, Mr. Wilson.

  3. chuck says:

    Paul, I assume you have watched this Movie—“Food Inc”.

    Holy mackeral, what an indictment of Monsanto and many other companies who are in the “Food” business.

    This is Monsanto’s reply to some of the accusations in “Food Inc.”

    http://www.monsanto.com/food-inc/Pages/FAQs.aspx#q2

    The movie will astonish you, not only becuase of the accusations, but the progress (good or bad?) that Agribusiness has made with respect to not only seeds and crops, but live stock. HOLY COW!! (Pun intended) Agribusiness companies now are growing featherless chickens, glow in the dark rabbits, bulls and cows that, well, just wait till ya see them. Science fiction stuff.

    The story you wrote would lead us to believe that these are evil, self aggrandizing companies run by Gordon Gekko and his partner, Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. I think is some obvious exposure and blow back for these companies, but, I gotta believe the horse has left the barn and the Fed should work hard with the states and Congress to oversee, what is the future of food production in a world with ever diminishing resources and ever increasing population.

    Let me repeat, those folks in India, who have suffered under the crucible of initiatives that split human wheat from human chaff in an effort to realize increased profits at the expense of those who are uninitiated to the winner take all capitalistic imperialism that we see all too often, have my sympathies.

    That said, the future is here, we have met the enemy and once again, it is us. If American Agribusiness companies can be restrained from the slash and burn tactics that remind us of how wonderful “Mortgage Backed Securities” were and bend the innovation and expertise of those same companies for the benefiit of the consumer, then, maybe…?

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Chuck, there are several frightening things. You say you want to end hunger, feed the world, this entire positive spin humanitarian BS, but at the same time, you want to patent seeds and every living thing you can patent. Patent only means one thing, starts with a P as well, PROFIT. Why does Big Pharma patent drugs? No, Harley, not to rcoup the R&D, its to control the product and its associated profits as long as you can. There isn’t enough R&D and cost in anything to make an AIDs medication cocktail $10 large a month.
      And, on the topic of featherless chickens as well as chickens that go from birth to full growth in 3.2 seconds with breasts so large they can’t stand……. I’m almost certain there’s NO HARM in us ingesting that, is there? Beef so steroided up you’d think its Glazer on all fours? Nah, that can’t have any adverse reactions on us, the poor fools eating it…..
      And this isn’t a partisan spin, but once again, look at the dirt in our administration. Obama says he’s going to label GMO’s, gets elected and puts a Monsanto dude in charge of Safety at FDA. Then, hires the chic who wrote the analysis AT Monsanto to come to the FDA and approve her own report. And no, Harley, this isn’t to make the media forget about how well the economy is doing, it’s wrong at best, illegal at worst and this administration is NO BETTER than any other Republican administration so cease and desist with your glow in the dark rabbit trails that keep you off topic, throwing up smoke screens to protect your man Obama. He’s no different, at least have enough integrity to admit the obvious.
      Thanks, as always, to the Chuckster for in depth comments.

  4. chuck says:

    Here is the “Food Inc” link.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1286537/

    If you are interested in Paul’s subject matter, this movie is a MUST watch.

  5. smartman says:

    C’mon Wilson, better living, and dying, through science.

    We’ve got pills to make our stool soft, penis hard, Ambien to help you sleep, Zoloft and Paxil to get you through the day. 2 Aleve for any other problems.

    A Muscle Milk for breakfast with 40 grams of protein. Powerbar for lunch with another 10 grams of protein and 14 grams of fiber.

    Then for troglodytes like Glazer you’ve got Human Growth Hormone, steroids and Hooked on Phonics.

    Monsanto is EVIL. Which is ironic since EVIL spelled backwards is LIVE. You could spend a lifetime reporting on what they’ve done to seeds and in a larger part our overall food supply. Don’t fool with Mother Nature.

    It’s bad enough that big pharma is shoving synthentic drugs down our gullets and up our asses now we can chase it with synthetic food and beverage.

    As my doctor advises if the list of ingredients on the food package has more than three things in it, that aren’t actual “food” you probably shouldn’t put it in your body.

    Some cheese products are only one or two molecules removed from being plastic.

    You are what you eat. And we wonder why so many kids are f#cked up and taking ADD and ADHD meds before the turn 10. It’s the crap GM food mommy and daddy have been feeding them that warps their DNA.

  6. Libertarian says:

    Don’t even get me started on Monsanto.

  7. cheech lifting weights says:

    Paul, I’m a little disappointed in you. Since you were a Sprint boy you should know better. People who come from the industries are usually the best person to regulate them as they have knowledge of the industry. That’s why there are guys from Wall Street at the Fed and at Treasury. And people from telecom at the FCC.

    The Monsanto hate stems from an anti-scientific, new agey argument that things that are ‘natural’ are good and things that are ‘unnatural’ are bad. Furthermore, I’d be willing to bet that the EU doesn’t come down as hard on companies like Syngenta and AB Agri because they are based in Europe.

    We need GM foods as people in 3rd world countries have not yet achieved the level of education to practice proper birth control. There aren’t supposed to be this many humans on earth and to feed them we need GM crops- they increase yields.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Cheech, love ya, man, but there are some serious issues here. If Monsanto wants to feed the world why is there such a concern to patent every “living” thing they can? That becomes a profit angle, not a desire to be a missionary and feed the world.

      And with regard to who’s best to regulate the industry, in the case I mentioned its more a case of giving yourself a pass. I’m going to hire you to justify the comments you just made. I want Monsanto’s safety report to fly through the FDA, so I’ll hire the person who wrote it to tell me if it’s a good idea or not. Im sure you’ve heard of the wolf guarding the chickens?

      And speaking of chickens, we can now raise them to full growth in 30 days, sometimes as Chuck pointed out, featherless, instead of 90 days for typical grain fed chicks. We can even raise them with breasts so large they can’t stand up, for Gods sake. They are force fed, kept in cages so they can’t move, making them fatter faster. That leads to disease living like that, which leads to massive antibiotics and you gulp it down at Church’s or KFC. How can that be good for you?

      Beef and dairy cows are loaded up on FDA approved hormones. Dairy cows get two hormones, bovine somatotropin (bST) or recombant bovine growth hormone, which has one purpose, increase milk production.

      From what I’m told, and my learning curve has been vertical on this, beef cattle are the only edible animals approved for hormones in the US, so they are shot up with five different hormones and testosterone. It lands on your plate and, unlike cooking with wine; it doesn’t “cook out” of your food.

      While you make good points about the tree hugging, new age set, which I don’t pretend to be part of, how could this be good for us to ingest and process all that? Maybe I spent too long at Sprint and just don’t get it, but it doesn’t sound safe to me.

      • cheech lifting weights says:

        Paul, you are talking about different issues here.

        First you are concerned that GM grains will hurt you. There seems to be little evidence against that.

        As for hormones in meat, there may or may not be anything to it. Of all the things Americans are currently doing to themselves from snorting shitty rails at strip-mall comedy clubs to riding around on motorcycles without a helmet or even just overconsuming food causing obesity I think this is pretty small potatoes if it is even potatoes at all.

        And the same issue I had with the EU slapping Monsanto I have with the US beef studies. They are pushed by EU agricultural interests who want US Beef banned so they don’t have to compete with it.

        • paulwilsonkc says:

          Damn you, Cheech; I AM FAT and I choose to blame it on juiced up MILK! Leave me in my own private reality and Ill will you my rails at the comedy club.

    • the dude says:

      Cheech, you are letting me down here, Monsanto is literally starving and killing the 3rd world. Do a little more digging into places like India and farmers killing themselves over not being able to afford Monsanto seeds.

    • the dude says:

      Or how about when Monsanto directly lobbied to have labels taken off milk that said it was RBgH free? And prevented labels on milk that said milk did have RBgH in it if it did? No malice or harm there?

      • cheech lifting weights says:

        Labelling somehing as “xxxx free” inherently implies that the xxxx is dangerous.

        It has been proven to not be dangerous.

        And companies are still free to label their milk “xxxx free” if they so desire. They are just not mandated to by the government.

        Next time you go to the grocery store, grab a carton of Horizon Organic Milk. It’s there right on the side.

        • the dude says:

          Who determined rBST was not potentially harmful for human consumption, Monsanto? I take anything the FDA approves very lightly since their teeth and enforcing arm has been significatly weakened and corporatized over the years. The truth of the matter is that nobody knows what the true effects of this synthesized hormone being injected into milk cows does to the milk produced and consumed by humans. Why we do this when we have a glut of milk at this time is beyond me, I guess because they can.
          You are right, you can list a milk as BST-free but you have to include a disclaimer stating there is no difference between the two.

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