Monday, May 12, 2008

"We would never trust a company like Monsanto to tell the truth"

Quoted from a movie you are not supposed to see.


A movie we will never see in the US: (video access gone from Cannablog, It Must Be The Vapors, and other places. Found in caches.)

On March 11 a new documentary was aired on French television (ARTE – French-German cultural tv channel) by French journalist and film maker Marie-Monique Robin, entitled 'The World According to Monsanto' (Le Monde selon Monsanto[1]). Starting from the Internet over a period of three years Robin has collected material for her documentary, going on to numerous interviews with people of very different backgrounds. She traveled widely, from Latin America, to Asia, through Europe and the United States, to personally interview farmers and people in influential positions.

As an example of pro-Monsanto interviews, she talked at length with Michael Taylor who has worked as a lawyer for Monsanto and also for the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), where he had great influence on the legalization of the genetically modified bovine growth hormone (BGH). It also became FDA policy during Taylor's tenure that GM seeds are declared to be "substantially equivalent[2] to non-GM seeds, hence proclaiming proof of the harmlessness of GMs to be unnecessary. Michael Taylor[3] is a typical example of technocrats employed via 'the revolving door policy'. He is now head of the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto Corporation.
Besides flooding the land with pesticides, the crops don't yield as much:
Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.

The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields.

Professor Barney Gordon, of the university's department of agronomy, said he started the research – reported in the journal Better Crops – because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had "noticed that yields are not as high as expected even under optimal conditions". He added: "People were asking the question 'how come I don't get as high a yield as I used to?'"

He grew a Monsanto GM soybean and an almost identical conventional variety in the same field. The modified crop produced only 70 bushels of grain per acre, compared with 77 bushels from the non-GM one.

The GM crop – engineered to resist Monsanto's own weedkiller, Roundup – recovered only when he added extra manganese, leading to suggestions that the modification hindered the crop's take-up of the essential element from the soil. Even with the addition it brought the GM soya's yield to equal that of the conventional one, rather than surpassing it.
By the way, ignore the development of superweeds:
ISAAA hails the GM explosion as a boon to humanity, ignoring serious evidence that genetically altered food presents health risks. The group also doesn't mention that the GM acreage is essentially limited to four massive crops: corn, soy, cotton, and canola. That means that a sizabale swath of the globe's arable land is planted from a startlingly narrow genetic base. Nor does it mention that a single company, Monsanto, dominates this huge and growing market. (It holds the patents on 91 percent of global GM soy, 97 percent of corn, 63 percent of cotton, and 59 percent of canola).

Finally, the report ignores the cascade of Roundup (glyphosate), Monsanto's flagship herbicide, that has accompanied the rise of GM. As the Center for Food Safety writes in a report released this week (PDF), the great bulk of GM crops -- covering four out of five GM acres planted -- are engineered to withstand lashings of Roundup.

In the U.S. alone, glyphosate use jumped by a factor of 15 between 1994 and 2005, CFS claims. And this herbicide gusher has given rise to a host of "superweeds" -- weeds that tolerate heavy doses glyphosate. How do farmers deal with superweeds? By jacking up the dose of glyphosate.

The trend of increased rate of glyphosate use is clear. For soybeans, per-acre applications of Monsanto's herbicide jumped by a factor of 2.5 between 1994 and 2006. Corn farmers didn't really embrace GMOs until 2002; accordingly, between 2002 and 2005, glyphosate use on corn "jumped from 0.71 to 0.96 lbs./acre/year, a hefty 35% increase in just three years."

Farmers of Roundup Ready crops appear to have entered a pesticide treadmill. They have to raise application rates to keep up with resistance; and every time they do, they create hardier and hardier weeds. Monsanto, which expects to rake in $1.4 billion in profit from Roundup sales alone this year, is evidently laughing its way to the bank.
Vanity Fair has an article:
Monsanto already dominates America’s food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. Just as frightening as the corporation’s tactics–ruthless legal battles against small farmers–is its decades-long history of toxic contamination.


When the stranger persisted, Rinehart showed him the door. On the way out the man kept making threats. Rinehart says he can’t remember the exact words, but they were to the effect of: “Monsanto is big. You can’t win. We will get you. You will pay.”

Scenes like this are playing out in many parts of rural America these days as Monsanto goes after farmers, farmers’ co-ops, seed dealers—anyone it suspects may have infringed its patents of genetically modified seeds. As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the “seed police” and use words such as “Gestapo” and “Mafia” to describe their tactics.


Bryan of Why Now? mentions Monsanto's control of seeds.

Other articles I've collected on Monsanto.

Update: (my bold)

A handful of the world's largest agricultural biotechnology companies are seeking hundreds of patents on gene-altered crops designed to withstand drought and other environmental stresses, part of a race for dominance in the potentially lucrative market for crops that can handle global warming, according to a report being released today.

Three companies -- BASF of Germany, Syngenta of Switzerland and Monsanto of St. Louis -- have filed applications to control nearly two-thirds of the climate-related gene families submitted to patent offices worldwide, according to the report by the Ottawa-based ETC Group, an activist organization that advocates for subsistence farmers.

The applications say that the new "climate ready" genes will help crops survive drought, flooding, saltwater incursions, high temperatures and increased ultraviolet radiation -- all of which are predicted to undermine food security in coming decades.

Company officials dismissed the report's contention that the applications amount to an intellectual-property "grab," countering that gene-altered plants will be crucial to solving world hunger but will never be developed without patent protections.

The report highlights the economic opportunities facing the biotechnology industry at a time of growing food insecurity, as well as the risks to its public image
Because, of course, Monsanto is always looking out for people ... who will need to eat.