For thousands of years, farmers have saved seeds from one farming season to another. But when Monsanto developed genetically modified (GM) seeds that would resist its own herbicide, the glyphosate-based Roundup, it patented the seeds.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office, for practically all of its history, refused to grant patents on seeds, viewing them as life forms with too many variables to be patented. However, in 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed for seed patents in a 5-4 decision. This laid the groundwork for plenty of corporations to start gaining control of global food supply.
The patenting of seeds is only one of the different ways that Monsanto affects food, farming, and your future health.
Over the past 15 years or so, a collection of five giant biotech corporations - Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, and DuPont - have bought up more than 200 other companies, allowing them to dominate access to seeds.
Monsanto has become the world leader in genetic engineering of seeds, winning 674 biotechnology patents, which is more than any other company. If you are a farmer who buys its Roundup Ready seeds, you are required to sign an agreement promising not to save the seed produced after each harvest for re-planting. You are also prohibited from selling the seed to other farmers. In short, you must buy new seeds every year.
Because saving seeds is considered patent infringement, anyone who does save GM seeds must pay a license fee to re-sow them. This results in higher prices and reduced product options, as well as the increased need for pesticides and herbicides required by GM crops.
Given their current powers, Monsanto puts pressure on farmers, farmer's coops, seed dealers, and anyone it suspects may have infringed its seed patents. It does so through the following:
⦁ Its shadowy army of private investigators and agents secretly photograph and videotape farmers, co-ops, and store owners
⦁ Its private investigators infiltrate community meetings and gather news from informants about farming activities
⦁ Its agents pretend to be surveyors
⦁ Its agents confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers that give Monsanto access to their private records.
These Monsanto agents and investigators are called the "seed police" by farmers, and they are said to employ "Gestapo" and "mafia" like tactics.
Farmers are caught up in a lose-lose situation. They end up with a far more expensive crop that has the potential to fail more frequently than conventional crops and can be very dangerous to the animals and humans who consume them.
According to Phillip Howard from Michigan University, as quoted by The Ecologist, the increasing power of seed companies is "incompatible" with renewable agricultural practices, and one solution to restricting their control would be through banning the practice of granting patents on seeds, plants, and genes.
One very alarming sign that change is needed NOW is the wave of farmer suicides in India. The rate of Indian farmer suicides, for instance, has greatly increased since Bt cotton was introduced in 2002.
A publication from the New York University School of Law shows that in 2009 alone, 17,638 Indian farmers committed suicide, which translates to one farmer every 30 minutes. A great number of those affected are cash crop farmers, cotton farmers in particular.
There are a number of factors contributing to this grim reality, which has been dubbed "the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history":
⦁ GE seeds are very expensive compared to traditional seeds, and have to be repurchased every planting season
⦁ GE crops require much more water to grow, have much higher requirements for fertilizers and pesticide, and provide no increased yield
⦁ The "Green Revolution" of the 1960s and 1970s has funneled money toward the middle class and away from the farming/peasant classes
⦁ Rising prices for seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and other farm supplies, along with falling prices for farm commodities. These lead farmers to take out high-interest loans from opportunistic moneylenders
⦁ A shift from polyculture farming (diverse crops) to monoculture farming (primarily cotton) had depleted the soil and increased pest infestation on crop ⦁ Limited water supplies, periodic drought, decreased monsoon rainfall, and poor access to irrigation
⦁ Lack of government support, grossly inadequate government relief programs, and predatory salesmen
Monsanto has been ruthless in its aim to use India as a testing ground for GE crops, giving you a clear picture of what could happen for the small farmers of the world if GE seed conglomerates are allowed to continue.
The Consequences of GE Technology on Your Food and Wellness Aside from these existing agricultural problems, there are other issues with genetic engineering, including the contamination of organic crop varieties and the development of herbicide-resistant superweeds. Air and rain samples are contaminated with glyphosate, while waterways in agricultural areas are contaminated with a GE bug-killing protein. There are also human and animal health effects that we're yet to fully understand. There are no long-term safety studies on these GE crops. Biotech giants such as Monsanto impose strict regulations when it comes to studying and evaluating their GE crops, which are protected under copyright and proprietary information laws. It should be known that regulatory assessments on GE crops only come from these corporations themselves. If you are an independent research aiming to conduct studies on GMOs, you are forbidden to use the very crops you want to study. Worst, your work is criticized as "flawed and insubstantial"! This is an emergency-level situation, given the mounting amount of research exposing the health repercussions of genetically modified foods. Food allergies have dramatically increased, with almost five million children today suffering from them. Have you also heard of Morgellon's disease? As of February 2007, more than 10,000 reports - coming from 15 nations across the world, including all 50 U.S. states - of this mysterious disease have been reported on the Morgellon Foundation website. In February 2006, there were only 2,000 reports of this illness. Individuals with Morgellon's disease describe their condition as a feeling of bugs or parasites scuttling around beneath their skin, with open lesions that heal slowly and ooze out blue, black, or white millimeters-long fibers. These fibers appear similar to pliable plastic; they can be as fine as spider silk yet are strong enough to distend your skin when pulled and cause shooting pains when you try to remove them. Morgellon's disease has been linked to GE food. A research team from Oklahoma State University led by Dr. Randy Wymore studied some of the fibers sent by Morgellon's patients. They discovered that the fibers from different individuals look strikingly similar to each other, yet do not match any common environmental fibers. Vitaly Citovsky, professor biochemistry and cell biology at Stony Brook University in New York, found that the fibers contain Agrobacterium, a genus of gram-negative bacteria capable of genetically transforming plans and other eukaryotic species, including human cells. It will make you think: are we on the brink of the GE food disaster that we fear from the very start? Until when will Monsanto and other biotech companies keep us in the dark when it comes to the safety of their lab creations? GMOs and the Pharmaceutical Trade
Monsanto is not only engaged in developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but also has a deep entrenchment in the pharmaceutical industry. In April 2000, Pharmacia Corporation was created through the merger of Pharmacia & Upjohn with Monsanto Company and its G.D. Searle unit.
There are few individuals connecting GMO crops with the sale of drugs, but both pose significant challenges to your future health.
The pharmaceutical industry is among the primary driving forces for the traditional paradigm, which focuses on using band-aids to treat symptoms and thus makes you sicker and sicker. It requires more of its expensive, self-serving drug "solutions" to address your symptoms. Put GMOs and the overuse of drugs together (one is feeding the profits of the other), and you get an urgent concern.
GE foods have become so ubiquitous in the food chain. They are so prevalent in the country that if you randomly pick a packaged item off the grocery store shelf, there is a 75 percent chance of picking something with GE ingredients! Seven out of every 10 processed foods have been genetically engineered.
But there are ways for you to decrease your consumption of GM foods as much as you can:
⦁ Reduce or eliminate processed foods in your diet. The fact that 75 percent of processed foods contain GE ingredients is already compelling enough for you to eat only a whole foods diet.
⦁ Be a savvy reader of produce and food labels. Making up the largest portion of GE crops are conventionally raised soybeans and corn. Ingredients made from these foods include high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn flour and meal, dextrin, starch, soy sauce, margarine, and tofu.
⦁ Buy and consume organic produce. Certified organic foods, by definition, must be free from all genetically engineered organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers, and come from an animal raised without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters, or other drugs. Grass-fed beef, too, will not have been fed GE corn feed.
Let your elected officials and health regulators know how you feel about GMOs. Ask your local supermarket to stock more natural organic foods. Vote with your wallet - avoid everything containing GE ingredients. This means you have to avoid practically all processed food products and stick to fresh, organic, locally grown food. This will allow you to rediscover basic food preparation on your own home. You will do your health a favor by cooking from scratch, using only wholesome ingredients. .