Monsanto is a word we’ve frequently been hearing in recent years, but do you know what it’s all about. Few companies garner such a strong opinion being termed “pure evil” as Monsanto, which calls itself a sustainable agriculture company. Monsanto was a small company founded in 1901 by John Francis Queeny to manufacture saccharine, an artificial sweetener in America.
His goal was to supply customers with a sweetener that would do the same job as sugar but at a lower cost. The motivation to help customers do more with less was the reason the company endured over the years.
It wasn’t smooth running all the way, and if it wasn’t for Coca-Cola, which was its first customer who had bought its entire production run in 1903-1905, thus helping Monsanto survive.
Coca-Cola was at the time experimenting with saccharine to sweeten its beverage. In 1970, a young Monsanto chemist named John Franz discovered a molecule called glyphosate, which helped farmed kill all the weeds while farming, thus helping Monsanto thrive.
Monsanto, now a large MNC, manufactures our food. However, the important question is, why is the largest pesticide company in the world doing this? Food is nourishment and is supposed to add to our health, but these days our food has become filled with toxins, thanks to Monsanto. Toxic chemicals are added to our food through harmful pesticide residue and genetically engineered seeds and food packaging.
Even as we have an increasing disease burden due to chemicals and pollutants, there is an attempt to push GMOs despite the serious health risks they pose – Dr. Vandana Shiva
Who controls the food supply controls the people- Henry Kissinger
Here are five facts about Monsanto that will open your eyes:
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1. Profiteering chemical company posing as agribusiness
Monsanto is the manufacturer of the herbicide glyphosate developed in 1970, which required a full body suit and protective eyewear when spraying. This kind of food is highly toxic, and we still wonder why cancer rates are rising.
Monsanto was responsible for some of the most damaging toxins in US history, like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxin. Consumer advocacy group Food and Water Watch (FWW) released a report on April 3 detailing Monsanto’s role in chemical disasters, Agent Orange, and the first genetically modified plant cell. The report shows that the “feed-the-world” agricultural and Life Sciences Company Monsanto markets itself as today is only a recent development.
The majority of Monsanto’s history is involved with heavy industrial chemical production, including the supply of Agent Orange to the US for Vietnam operations from 1962-’71, which was responsible for killing and maiming 400,000 people (estimated by the Vietnam govt.) and causing birth defects for 500,000 children. Monsanto’s chemicals are responsible for many lawsuits both inside and outside the US.
2. Monopolizing agriculture and putting small farmers out of business
Monsanto is aiming to achieve a market monopoly by putting small farmers out of business. It has shut down many small farms through lawsuits claiming that they were using its patented crop and getting rulings in their favor through their internal links.
Percy Shmeiser, a Canadian farmer ended up paying thousands of dollars in damages to Monsanto in a lawsuit that claimed that he had violated their patent rights where his canola fields were in fact contaminated by pollen from a neighboring GMO farm.
The tests conducted were done by experts hired by the Company and not independent unbiased investigators. And Percy is not the only farmer to be sent into debt at the hands of Monsanto in North America.
A 75-year-old soybean farmer from Indiana, Vernon Hugh Bowman, was ordered to pay Monsanto $85,000 in damages for using second-generation seeds genetically modified with Monsanto’s pesticide-resistant “Roundup Ready” treatment.
He pulled the seeds from the local grain elevator, which is usually used for feed crops, and planted them. The court decided Monsanto’s patent extends even to its seeds’ offspring, and the farmer had violated the company’s patent. The company also uses its power to coerce seed dealers out of stocking many of its competitor products.
3. Monsanto is above the Government and has its own laws
When it comes to a hierarchical structure, today’s world is running on a corporatocracy since everything from health, economy, education, etc., is controlled by corporations. Monsanto has many connections with the government and the FDA.
Ex-Monsanto executives run the United States Food and Drug Administration, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the American public.
The U.S. Congress and the president passed the law that has been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act.” Among other things, the new law bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds. Almost all significant Monsanto positions are occupied by people involved in politics in major governmental organizations or had ties to major industries.
4. Controlling food and water supply on the agenda
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, half of the earth’s population will live in an area with significant water stress by 2030. Companies like Monsanto and Nestle are in the race to a future where free water is a thing of the past, and private companies will control the public water sources.
They already own 5% of the world’s and are trying to acquire rights to groundwater. Monsanto allegedly dumps toxic chemicals into the water supply in nations worldwide and then privatizes them, filters the water, and sells it back to the public.
5. Monsanto is an environmental nightmare
Monsanto has been linked to various studies claiming it is responsible for the decline in bee colonies in the US and abroad, contaminating and polluting food and water. It is nowhere related to sustainable agriculture.
Coming to Monsanto’s presence in India, here are few finding
- Developed BT Brinjal illegally using 6 endemic varieties of Indian Brinjal. Biosafety tests are done to raise serious health concerns.
- In 2003, they got a patent granted in the European patent office for various wheat that had originally developed from Nap Hal, an Indian wheat variety. But was un-patented in India.
- In the last 15 years, 270,000 farmers have committed suicide in India, most of these in the cotton belt. Monsanto now controls 95% of the country’s cotton seed supplies through its GMO Bt cotton and the associated Intellectual property claims. Costs of cotton seed jumped 80% with the introduction of BT cotton.
- Monsanto has been conducting field trials in India with GM corn for commercial approval. The bio-safety assessments presented by Monsanto have been left incomplete. The most shocking is the fact that Monsanto laboratories itself have conducted this assessment.
After the US Monsanto Protection Act was passed in March 2013, Monsanto was trying to impose a protection act in India, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill, which was being introduced by the Ministry of Science and Technology as a promise to promote the safe use of biotech and it was met with nationwide protest and opposition in 2013. However, it’s a threat to our agriculture, health, and environment for the following reasons:
- Promotes the use of GMO and GE crops and seeds without considering health risks as it follows the motto of more is better and quality doesn’t matter.
- Reduces the power and role of state govt. To reject or ban GMOs on the market, citizens will have no access to information about such food safety.
- No survey or research proving it’s a better solution (BT cotton being a prime example of its negative impact).
It’s time we become more aware of the world around us instead of blindly following the masses. It requires effort and change to expose corporations like Monsanto and protect our right to a good life free of toxins. Participate in the March against Monsanto Movement and do your bit to spread awareness!
Images Source: John Novotny, Flickr, seattleorganicrestaurants.com