Monsanto plans massive biotech experiment in the US
The US government has for the first time signed off on a large-scale experiment involving genetically modified crops, which will lead to biotech big shot Monsanto introducing an engineered corn seed across America from South Dakota to Texas.
The Monsanto Corporation has been given the go-ahead to test out a man-made corn variant that they claim can thrive in dry, unfavorable conditions. With much of the American south and southwest experiencing abnormally arid conditions, the freak-seed could revitalize a chunk of the nation’s agriculture.
More likely, however, is that a success will mean revitalization in terms of Monsanto’s profits and not much more.
The government has agreed to let Monsanto test out the biotech crop on farms owned by the company from the state of South Dakota down through Texas to see if the seed stands to be commercially viable; if so, it is expected to be made available for purchase in 2013.
With America’s small-time agriculturists in danger — and already largely threatened by industry giant Monsanto — a success for the seed could see yet more farmers finding themselves unable to compete and forced to throw in the towel.
Monsanto has in recent years attracted criticism for questionable legal practices after it has introduced lawsuits against small-time farmers for the unauthorized use of genetically-modified crops patented by the corporation.
In many instances, it is believed that the smaller farms in question only ended up with Monsanto seeds due to wind, rodents and other forces of nature bringing the crops across corporate farms and onto their own terrain. Unable to compete against Monsanto in court, however, the company has time-and-time-again bought out its competition and, as a result, made great strides as of late in terms of monopolizing the seed biz.
Last month Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, issued a statement saying he and others were serious about saving farms from being forced to close due to corporate muscling. “Monsanto's threats and abuse of family farmers stops here,” said Gerritsen. “Monsanto's genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now. Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace — to decide what kind of food they will feed their families — and we are taking this action on their behalf to protect that right to choose.”
Around 300,000 organic farmers are currently awaiting a court decision to see if a US District Court will hear a lawsuit against Monsanto that, if successful, will keep the company from continuing to sue small-time agriculturists.
Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto tackled 144 organic farms with lawsuits and investigated roughly 500 plantations annually during that span with their so-called “seed police.” Gerritsen and others want to see to it that Monsanto can’t do that anymore, but if they are denied a day in court and the new corn crop prevails, it could soon be the final curtain call for many of America’s independent farmers.
Governmental approval of the modified crop marks the first time that the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has okayed a product that has been genetically engineered to resist a weather condition such as a drought, rather than a pest or herbicide.
Acting on concerns that Washington has been overly encouraging to Monsanto as they force farms into foreclosure, US-based non-profit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility went after the White House recently for ignoring Freedom of Information Act requests. Members of PEER suspect that if they can come into possession of certain correspondence, they can link the Obama administration to key lobbyists for Monsanto.
Protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement in the region Monsanto plans to test its new seed are holding a conference this weekend in St. Louis, dubbed Occupy Midwest. Members of the group say they intend on waging a demonstration against Monsanto, which has offices in the area.
America’s Congress has been contaminated, but don’t worry — someone is already on it. Members of Occupy Monsanto, a protest group opposed to the biotech giant, are dispatching aid to the nation’s capital.
Dressed in bio-hazmat suits, members of Occupy Monsanto plan to protest in Washington, DC on Friday over the corrupt ties between American lawmakers and the country’s questionable agriculture architects, Monsanto.
Based in the American Midwest, the Monsanto corporation is believed to be aiding in the bankrupting of small-time farms across the country by chemically engineering genetically modified seeds that are not just unnatural, but near impossible to compete with. Concerned over the toxic make-up of their man-made crops, as well as their corrupt connection with the US Congress, the Occupy Monsanto group is in Washington this weekend to make their voices heard.
"In the name of Wall Street profits, chemical corporations such as Monsanto genetically engineer crops to withstand high doses of their toxic weed killers that contaminate our food and water, and have not been proven safe,” explains Occupy Monsanto’s Ariel Vegosen in a statement made this week.
In addition to participating in the protest group, Vegosen is a member of the Genetic Crimes Unit, or GCU, an offshoot of the Occupy clan considered to be their “agents of change” that take to the streets to rally for awareness of the actions regularly engaged by Monsanto.
In addition to buying out small-time farms that can’t compete with the billion-dollar biotech corp, Monsanto is also being accused of buying off Congress to let the company get away with feeding America genetically modified foods, or GMOs. As RT reported earlier this week, Monsanto was recently awarded federal approval to test out a lab-developed corn variant that is believed to be resistant to arid environments and droughts.
“We deserve to know what we are eating,” adds Vegosen. “Virtually every major country requires labeling of GMOs in foods so their citizens can make informed choices, including all of Europe, Japan and even China. Monsanto's lobbying dollars are pouring into politicians so it’s clear we have a GMO contaminated US Congress that threatens our health and the health of the planet.”
Occupy Monsanto plans to rally outside the Cannon Building in Washington’s Capitol Hill on Friday, where hazmat suit-clad GCU officers will identify victims of genetic crimes. Other protests are also being planned to coincide across the world, including demonstrations are far stretching as Los Angeles and Seattle, and Düsseldorf and Winnipeg.
In September, Occupy Monsanto is planning an even larger global protest that they say they will make a day the biotech firm will never forget.
Monsanto threatens the sue the entire state of Vermont
Lawmakers in Vermont are looking to regulate food labels so customers can know which products are made from genetically modified crops, but agricultural giants Monsanto say they will sue if the state follows through.
If the bill in question, H-722 (the “VT Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act”) passes the state Senate and House, manufacturers will be required to label products that are created either partially or in full from a genetically modified organism, or GMO. Such man-made crops have become a trademark of the billion-dollar Monsanto corporation, and in the past the company has gone to great lengths to keep themselves the number-one name in American agriculture, even if those profits are made possible from playing God.
Monsanto is going mad over the proposal, however, which would also make them unable to label their productions as “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown” or “all natural,” if, in fact, they are not. For the corporation, it would seem that moving products and making money is much more of a worthwhile venture than telling its customers what exactly they are consuming.
With Vermont legislators now standing in the way of what could mean even more money for Monsanto, the company says they will sue the state if H-722 is approved. Now in fear of a lawsuit in the future, lawmakers in Vermont have put a hold on any future voting regarding the bill. If history is any indication, Monsanto is more than likely to have their way and win yet another battle.
Monsanto is no stranger to the American legal system and have forced competing farm after farm to be shut down or bought out by bringing lawsuits against the little guy throughout their history.
Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto’s legal team tried to file nearly 150 lawsuits against independent farmers, often for allegations that their patented GMO-seeds had someone managed to be carried onto unlicensed farms. Often those farms have been unable to fight against Monsanto’s mega-lawyers and have been forced to fold in response.
The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association tried taking Monsanto to court earlier this year to keep them from following similar suits, but a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan shut down their plea. The group has since filed an appeal.
Regardless of if the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association’s appeal will be granted, Monsanto is making waves in Vermont where they hope to continue creating GMO products and pushing them to consumers without warning. Between state lawmakers putting their vote on hold and past precedents,
Monsanto looks more than likely to win their latest battle, though. Back in 1994, Vermont tried to keep dairy corporations from marketing milk made from cows injected with the Bovine Growth Hormone, citing incidents where the rBGH had been tied to cases of cancer. Monsanto was victorious in that battle and numerous others in the years since.
A lawsuit filed this week claims that the Monsanto corporation, "motivated by a desire for unwarranted economic gain,” knowingly poisoned farmers that were pressured to use the company’s chemicals.
Farmers from Argentina claim that agricultural giant Monsanto, along with Philip Morris and other major American tobacco companies, asked them to use chemicals on their crops that caused “devastating birth defects.” The plaintiffs say that the corporations being included in the suit were aware of the implications but failed to warn the farmers, instead acting "by a desire for unwarranted economic gain and profit.”
In the suit, filed this week at New Castle County Court in the state of Delaware, Monsanto, Philip Morris and others are said to have "wrongfully caused the parental and infant plaintiffs to be exposed to those chemicals and substances which they both knew, or should have known, would cause the infant offspring of the parental plaintiffs to be born with devastating birth defects.
" A 55-page complaint filed in court alleges that those chemicals caused conditions to develop that include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spina bifida, congenital heart defects, Down syndrome, missing fingers and blindness.
Monsanto, who is no stranger to legal trouble, is named in the suit along with Altria Group fka Philip Morris Cos., Philip Morris USA, Carolina Leaf Tobacco, Universal Corporation fka Universal Leaf Tobacco Company and others.
The plaintiffs in the suit — growers from mostly small, family-owned farms in Misiones Province, Argentina — say they were asked to use herbicides and pesticide produced by Monsanto that were proven to be poisonous.
Many farmers insist that they were driven to replace native tobacco crops with a variant favored by Philip Morris which required more pesticides to harvest. From there they were pushed to use Roundup, a Monsanto-made herbicide that, while successful in killing weeds, has ghastly side effects due to its large concentration of the chemical glyphosate.
"Monsanto defendants, the Philip Morris defendants, and the Carolina Leaf defendants promoted the use of Roundup and other herbicides to tobacco farmers in Misiones even though they were on direct and explicit notice that at all relevant times farmers in Misiones, including the instant plaintiffs, lacked the necessary personal protective equipment and other safety knowledge and skills required to minimize harmful exposures to Roundup," the complaint claims.
Also in the filing, attorneys argue that both Monsanto and Philip Morris “actively recommended and/or required that contracted tobacco farmers, including the instant plaintiffs, purchase excessive quantities of Roundup and other pesticides” while failing to recommend protective measures necessary to combat the health risks that were not made available to the farmers.
"The plaintiff tobacco farmers' lack of training and instruction on the safe disposal of unused Roundup and other pesticides caused further exposure," the complaint states. "Leftover pesticides were discarded in locations where they leached into the water supply."
The farmers insist that that exposure to Monsanto’s pesticides, which they were compelled to use after urging from both the corporation and Big Tobacco firms, caused an array of defects in area children. The legal filing is asking for financial compensation, as well as punitive damages for negligence, product liability, breach of warranty, ultra hazardous activity, aiding and abetting, willful and wanton misconduct and violations of Argentine laws, reports the Courthouse News Service.
Monsanto made waves last week after RT reported that the corporation announced that it would sue the state of Vermont if legislators there approved a bill that would force companies to label food stuffs that are made from genetically modified crops. Following a warning from Monsanto, the state suspended voting on the measure.
The Environmental Protection Agency has refused a petition that aimed to ban the sale of a powerful pesticide linked with cancer — and while already available, a surge in sales is expected as scientists ready a new crop resistant to the chemical.
Not only has the EPA rejected a petition that sought to prohibit the domestic sale of the dangerous 2,4-D pesticide — a key ingredient in Agent Orange — but the main manufacturer of the chemical predicts that sales will skyrocket in the coming months. The reason, it would seem, is that Dow Chemicals is awaiting federal approval of a genetically engineered crop they’ve created that will be resistant to 2,4-D.
If approved, farmers will be able to plant the frankencrop corn variant and douse their fields with the pesticide to eliminate unwanted weeds with greater success. Although 2,4-D isn’t currently used to a large degree on corn fields, all that could soon change for the country’s most successful crop. Opponents argue, though, that the potential side effects of the pesticide are enough to push for a ban on 2,4-D altogether.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental watch group, has argued that expose to 2,4-D has caused in some cases cancer, hormone disruption, genetic mutations and neurotoxicity, reports the New York Times. In voting not to hear the petition against the pesticide, however, the EPA says that they believe there to be a lack of evidence that would be significant enough to raise suspicion.
“After considering public comment received on the petition and all the available studies, EPA is denying the request to revoke all tolerances and the request to cancel all registrations,” the agency says in their explanation this week.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, the truth behind the toxicity of the chemical is quite the contrary.
“This dangerous pesticide is lurking all over the place – from ball fields and golf courses, to front lawns and farms – exposing an enormous amount of the American public to cancer and other serious health risks,” NRDC senior scientist Dr. Gina Solomon wrote earlier this year.
“There’s no reason to continue allowing a toxic Agent Orange-ingredient in the places our children play, our families live and our farmers work. EPA must step up and finally put a stop to it.”
The NRDC is not alone in their opposition, either. The Center for Food Safety has also fought to ban the sale of 2,4-D as Dow develops their pesticide resistant-crop. “Dow’s ‘Agent Orange’ corn will trigger a large increase in 2,4-D use — and our exposure to this toxic herbicide — yet USDA has not assessed how much, nor analyzed the serious harm to human health, the environment or neighboring farms,” the center’s executive director, Andrew Kimbrell, warns.
“This novel corn will foster resistant weeds that require more toxic pesticides to kill, followed by more resistance and more pesticides — a chemical arms race in which the only winners are pesticide/biotechnology firms.”
In discussing the seriousness of the consequences, Dr. Amy Dean adds to the Center for Food Safety that “Many studies show that 2,4-D exposure is associated with various forms of cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, nerve damage, hormone disruption and birth defect.”
“Because it poses significant health risk, exposure should not be increased, but significantly reduced to protect the public’s health,” the doctor insists.
The 2,4-D chemical was also instrumental in the formula for Agent Orange, the chemical weapon used by the US during the Vietnam War that is believed to have either killed, maimed or disfigured one million people.
The NRDC had filed their petition to end sales of 2,4-D back in November 2008.
After over two years of waiting without response, they sued the EPA in February for not acting quickly enough, Only on April 9, 2012 did the EPA officially announce it would deny the petition. Mae Wu, a lawyer with the group, tells the New York Times that the NRDC was “disappointed that it has taken this long to deny our petition” and also “disappointed that they are not protecting public health by getting this toxic chemical off the market.”
The perfect drug? Monsanto hooks Nepal on GMO corn
The Nepalese government has teamed up with notorious agricultural giant Monsanto to force farmers use its GMO seeds. The strain, banned in several EU countries, will be used to substitute imports and boost the starving nation’s maize production.
*Corn is one of Nepal’s biggest crops but the country produces only about half of what it needs for its feed industry, and imports some 130,000 tons annually to cover the deficit. Still, over 40 per cent of the Nepalese population is malnourished.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is lending the starving country a helping hand. More specifically the hand of Monsanto, an agricultural goliath which reaps as much controversy as it does seed.
USAID announced last September that it wants to create a partnership with Monsanto and the Nepalese government to boost maize production.
“We have been trying to help the Nepalese farmer to increase his total production of the food crops,” making him “a little bit more competitive by bringing his costs down,” said USAID Economic Growth Advisor Rave Aulakh.
Soon after the initiative was introduced, public anger spilled onto both social media and the streets. Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the US embassy in Katmandu to speak out against Monsanto.
“You start buying seeds from them,” explained protester Sabin Ninglekhu. “Year one: it can produce a bit of yield. Year two: yield starts going down. And then it means you have to increase inputs. You have to annually buy seeds from this company because seed fertility keeps going down.”
While most agree that Nepal must urgently address its food and security problems, critics say that the solution to Nepal’s agricultural problems should come from within the country, not from abroad.
The ultimate goal of the protests was to put pressure on the government of Nepal to cancel its agreement with USAID and Monsanto before the consequences hit. They say the partnership will shift the country's dependence from imported maize to genetically modified seeds from abroad.
Monsanto’s history is not exactly branded in glory. Allegations of monopolization of local markets follow the corporation, as it has been sued by hundreds of thousands of farmers around the globe.
Some European countries also strongly oppose using Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds. Last month, the MON 810 strain of maize was temporarily banned in France“to protect the environment.” Poland also stated it will move to ban the strain completely. And last week, the European Commission failed to gather enough support to approve cultivation of three corn varieties developed by Monsanto.
Thanks for these posts KBit. I find the commoditization of seeds/foods maddening, and beyond rational thinking. Capitalism at it's worst, with more unfortunately to come. Gets me all riled up, and I thus have to watch that it does not impact trading concentration lol! I'm a little foggy on all the details in Orwell's 1984, but who'da thunk The Ministry of Plenty food component would unfold this way. And I'd just read the wikipedia page on Monsanto and cannot believe the company's history --- I pride myself on my knowledge, but sometimes knowing too much can be detrimental, if you know what I mean.
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