First here’s some background to catch you up to speed:
Monsanto is a chemical company that has slowly, steadily begun taking over the American food supply. It would be safe to assume they harbor global aspirations, but outside North America, their products have been continually rejected as unsafe or unfit for the local population. Most widely known for the weed killer RoundUp, their chemical arsenal includes/included PCBs, Agent Orange, DDT, and rBGH. They have a stranglehold on genetically modified seeds, tinkering with the chemical makeup of harvest staples like corn, soy, wheat, and cotton. With a motto that once was, “Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible,” this is the company that is feeding your family.
If you read their innocuous website, one would presume they are the helping hand to Middle America’s farming agriculture. With annual revenues around $12 billion, though, this ain’t your typical Midwestern feed store. A quick Google search reveals that the corporation has health nuts, conspiracy theorists, and generally concerned citizens openly questioning the harm Monsanto is causing the food chain and, ultimately, the consumers of that food – you and I.
There is a ton of background and nuance to the GMO debate, but it boils down to is this: Monsanto can control the food supply – and the pile of money that goes with it – if and when they patent the seeds that grow the food the world consumes. They can only patent genetically modified seeds, nearly all of which are never tested for adverse effects on humans. How do they do this?
First, by creating a synergy between their biggest product (RoundUp) and the seeds they sell. Those GMO seeds are manufactured to withstand RoundUp while killing off surrounding weeds. Consequently, the crop produced is dosed with RoundUp, and the resulting harvest yields a double-whammy of genetically-modified food that has been drenched in pesticides.
Second, by bullying every small farmer they can find in the heartland. Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds are patented and licensed, so when the crops die off each season and the seeds replanted, Monsanto wants a cut of the money. Every year. Forever. If, by some chance a Monsanto seed gets cross-pollinated with a non-Monsanto seed, they still want their money, even if the farmers don’t want their engineered seeds in the first place. It’s not unlike Paulie from Goodfellas asking to be paid.
Third, just like other big industries, by greasing the wheels in Washington – this is where the real health concerns kick in (a real shocker). Monsanto employees get appointed to policy-making positions within government, most notably former Monsanto attorney/former deputy commissioner for the FDA Michael Taylor, who conveniently returned to Monsanto as the VP for Public Policy, before jumping back to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Foods. The FDA, and now the EPA, bends or changes laws to benefit Monsanto and other chemical firms, like doubling the allowable amount of the pesticide glyphosate on crops. Doing this despite studies showing that glyphosate, the main toxin in RoundUp, feeds cancer cells – particularly breast cancer – and causes chronic cellular inflammation, damaging cells throughout the body and inducing a variety of “Western diet” diseases. Agencies that should be independent and accountable to their constituents – the American people – have become the wolf guarding the hen house.
It’s not just Monsanto; Delaware-based DuPont doesn’t exactly have its hands clean in this GMO mess, and many seed and agriculture companies work alongside or in concert with the chemical giant, notably BASF, Bayer CropScience, and Dow Chemical. Heck, the leading ones even have their own GMO biotech website to tell their version of the GMO story, and contribute heavily to anti-GMO food labeling initiatives (here’s a cheat sheet of some of those companies). But Monsanto has become the massive figurehead – the rural Microsoft.