On May 25, the protest against Monsanto and its genetically modified seeds went from local to global.
Instead of the usual firm but nonviolent debate carried on inside the pages of such online sites as Natural News, Saturday’s protest went physical. Participants, who marched carrying signs ranging from the stereotypical – “GM-free Zone” – to the handmade and bordering on vituperative – “Hell No GMO”, made it clear that Monsanto had killed its last Indian cotton farmer and its final honeybee.
Across 52 countries, in 436 different cities, Saturday’s marchers followed in the (virtual if not actual) footsteps of protest organizer Tami Canal, who noted:
“We will continue until Monsanto complies with consumer demand. They are poisoning our children, poisoning our planet,” she said. “If we don't act, who's going to?”
A Laundry List of Dangerous Products
For those on Monsanto’s side, as well as those who protested, the statement was a clarion call to action that brooked no softening. Monsanto is a huge global presence in the GM market, producing GM seeds that could produce a variety of food crops, from corn to alfalfa, but only for a single season, since Monsanto’s seeds are technically sterile.
Monsanto, whose company profile has always been less than environmentally friendly, has a highly negative history from the consumer point of view. It used to manufacture DDT, the insecticide that prompted Rachel Carson’s 1962 nonfiction book, Silent Spring. This book, in turn, inspired a DDT recall in 1972, and a subsequent reassessment by U.S. scientists of the era, who thought DDT was a mixed bag of benefits and bad news.
Scientists of today know that DDT’s recall is what allowed the bald eagle population to recover after falling to near-extinction levels in the late 1960s as a result of abnormally thin eggshells. In fact, had the United States continued to allow DDT use in food crop operations, there would very likely be many more extinct avian species; U.S. lawmakers and researchers collaborated to address the issue primarily because the bald eagle is the national bird and thus highly visible.
Monsanto also produced PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, used primarily as coolant fluids before they were banned by the United States Congress at the behest of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. The 1979 studies (showing it to be a carcinogen, an endocrine disruptor, and a neurotoxin), forced the EPA’s hand and resulted in legislation which mirrored the language of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001.
Agent Orange, as used in the Vietnam War to thin foliage so U.S. soldiers could see what they were shooting at, is another Monsanto product. As is recombinant bovine somatotrophin, or rBST – sold under the trade name Posilac, and used to encourage milk production in dairy cows.
Posilac has been banned in the EU since 2000 or earlier, and is also illegal in Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and New Zealand. In the U.S., some manufacturers have listened to consumers’ concerns and stopped using rBST voluntarily. In 2008, Monsanto, presumably seeing the handwriting on the wall, unloaded its Posilac division onto Eli Lilly and Company to keep lawsuits from its door. It did the same with Aspartame, an artificial sugar of dubious value and documented danger made by the NutraSweet Company, a former division of Monsanto’s Life Sciences department.
Monsanto Seeds Don’t Play well with Others
But Monsanto’s most insidious trespass against life on earth is the creation and dissemination of GM seeds. These seeds, which produce a single stalk of alfalfa, corn, cotton, soybeans, canola, or sugar beets, have a matching (dare we say “designer”) herbicide which kills every green thing in the field except Monsanto plants.
Called Roundup, this patented, glyphosate-based chemical spray has been cited in a number of human ailments, from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to Crohn’s disease. Researchers (and John Q. Public, who is not as inattentive and frivolous as leaders in business and finance seem to think) have also shown definite links between Monsanto’s herbicide and endocrine damage, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, deficient immune-system reactions, and even depression.
Bigger than Tobacco
For those who have no crops or livestock which can be affected by glyphosate spraying, the rallying point is the aforementioned aspartame. Granted it’s not a GM seed or an herbicide, but NutraSweet (sold to J.W. Childs Equity Partners II L.P. on May 25, 2000, an arrangement presumably designed to provide a legal shelter for Monsanto) has been implicated in some very serious effects on the human immune and nervous system. Most disturbing is research that shows irreversible genetic harm when aspartame metabolizes into formaldehyde in the body.
As one attorney noted when commenting on the future of aspartame lawsuits:
“Tobacco will pale next to aspartame.”
These lawsuits, stemming from the as-yet poorly understood dangers from GM seeds or Roundup-Ready weed killer, have produced a single response from Monsanto:
“The evidence (of harm to humans and other mammals) is inconclusive.”
Sheltering behind this fatuous claim, and spreading the wealth in its deep lobby pockets, Monsanto even managed to get Congress to pass a biotech amendment billed as the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ that effectively allows Monsanto and similarly situated firms to plant and sell genetically altered products even if legal action is taken against them.
This rider, HR 933, moved biotechs like Monsanto out from under federal court scrutiny, and did so at the last minute, giving opponents little or no chance to prevent or reverse it. One blogger, who says that the legislation was “apparently written in collusion with Monsanto”, also notes that many members of Congress were not even aware of HR 933’s inclusion in a bill aimed at preventing a government-wide shutdown of services.
Russia, a former communist country, was aghast at President Obama’s temerity and has more recently warned the current administration that allowing Monsanto et al such free reign, with no judicial oversight will worsen the spreading ‘bee apocalypse’ and potentially lead to world war.
Andrew Miller is an experienced social media expert, author, and co-founder of the tech startup ScanandBan.com. He has worked in marketing for over a decade and finds his passion in bringing concepts to life. As a Socialpreneur, he is an agent for positive social change through both his writing and business endeavors.