Monsanto is one of the largest corporations in the world and the world’s largest grossing seed company. It is also one of the most controversial companies in the world, with its products being blamed by many to be a prime cause behind various health and environmental issues and damage. Yet, despite the various controversies surrounding Monsanto and its genetically engineered seeds and food products, those same products are promoted and widely used. For example, in the United States, the Chair of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry of the House Committee on Agriculture, Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania, said in Congressional testimony that nearly “80 per cent of the food produced in the US contains some kind of GM product.” Yet, despite the fact that 90 per cent of American citizens want GMO labelling on their food, Monsanto, along with big business, is doing everything it can to prevent people from accessing their rights. A bill, popularly known as the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), has been majorly written by the biotech industry lobby, with Monsanto’s legal team leading the way. Now, if Monsanto’s GM food is so safe, why would you not want the public to know whether what they are eating is GMO or not? We will get back to the question of whether Monsanto’s products are safe or not later, but that, on its own, should rouse suspicion regarding how Monsanto operates.
If Monsanto’s GM food is so safe, why would you not want the public to know whether what they are eating is GMO or not?
How Monsanto entered India
We can better understand how Monsanto operates by looking at its workings in the neighbouring India. Vandana Shiva, one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalisation, wrote in an article for EcoWatch:
“The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex body constituted in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, is solely entrusted with the responsibility of approving field trials of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). India’s biosafety framework — one of the strongest in the world — is governed by the Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro Organisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells (notified under the Environment Protection Act, 1986)… On 10 March 1995, MAHYCO (which became Monsanto-Mahyco in 1998) imported 100 grams of cotton seed that contained the MON531-Bt Gene into India without approval from the GEAC. MAHYCO, under undisclosed circumstances, had obtained permission from the RCGM (Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation) under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), which does not have the authority to approve such an import. Without the approval of the governing body responsible for the approval of the import (GEAC) Monsanto had smuggled a controlled substance into India.”
In the same article, she explains how and why Monsanto’s entry into India was illegal to begin with and how Monsanto was able to bypass India’s laws regarding the risks of genetic pollution in violation of all procedures.
Monsanto’s impact on India
Before discussing Monsanto’s impact on India, it is important to mention what impact India has had on Monsanto. Laws in India do not permit patents on seeds and in agriculture. Yet, Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech Ltd has made a fortune in India by charging “technology fees” and “trait value” — a clever way of collecting royalty close to $900 million from small farmers — pushing them into heavy debt. And this is Monsanto’s real contribution to India — acting as the modern-day East India Company, Monsanto has literally pushed Indian farmers back into slavery — debt slavery — the favourite form of slavery for modern-day slave owners such as Monsanto. In this regard, Vandana Shiva writes:
“This ruthlessness is central to the crisis Indian farmers are facing. Farmers leveraged their land holdings to buy Bt Cotton seeds and the chemicals it demanded, but the golden promise of higher yield and lower input costs failed to deliver. They were left with no option but to take their own lives.”
Palagummi Sainath, winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award and Amnesty International’s Global Rights Journalism Prize, at a talk organised by the UCLA’s Centre for India and South Asia and the Departments of History and Communication Studies said, “The drive towards corporate farming in rural India has resulted in the ‘predatory commercialisation of the countryside’”. He went on to claim that in India, it had initiated a rapid transfer of the nation’s wealth out of the hands of the poor and into the hands of the very rich. Not only did the poor lose their wealth, but it is estimated that between 1995–2013, at least 3,00,000 Indian farmers have lost their lives, mainly from suicide prompted by their incurred losses from dealing with Monsanto and its subsidiaries. Perhaps that is why Monsanto claims that “the only way to provide food for the world today is through GM food products” as it forces people to commit suicide and, hence, reduces the population which needs to be fed. However, we will get back to the truthfulness of that claim made by Monsanto and its lobbyists later. Nevertheless, as Sainath said, “Farmer suicides are a tragic consequence of this rising corporate dominance and the transfer of credit and other resources to the wealthy elite.” Why are most people not aware of this growing epidemic of suicides caused by Monsanto? Well, Sainath again summed it up perfectly: “[The media] are so heavily involved in the rigging of markets… [that] they can never tell you the truth about it.”
Talk about the media
On june 8, the BBC aired its Panorama programme, “GM Food: Cultivating Fear”, in which it claimed a 90 per cent success for Bt brinjal in Bangladesh. That show, however, was challenged by a Bangladeshi journalist for falsely portraying the success of Bt brinjal cultivation in Bangladesh, who also wrote a report based on field visits and telephone interviews with farmers growing Bt brinjal titled, “Bt brinjal turns out to be ‘upset case’ for famers”. The report concluded: “The cultivation of genetically engineered Bt brinjal in the country’s several districts has cost the farmers their fortunes again this year as the plants have either died out prematurely or fruited very insignificantly compared to the locally available varieties.” His research was based on interviewing 40 farmers out of a total of 108 growing the crop, after obtaining the list of farmers growing Bt brinjal from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute responsible for supervising the project. According to his research, 32 out of the 40 farmers found serious problems with Bt brinjal. On July 28, GMWatch wrote an article where it states, strangely enough, that:
“Some of the farmers told Rahman that BARI had strictly forbidden them to talk to journalists… After Rahman’s UNB article on the failure of Bt brinjal was published, Dr Rafiqul Islam Mondal, the director general of BARI, sent him a rejoinder in which he attacked the article as ‘totally partial and worthless’. Mondal said BARI had developed the Bt brinjal ‘only as a resistant [sic] to shoot and fruit borer’ and ‘the technology was successfully demonstrated among 108 farmers plot. Bt technology is not responsible at all for dieing [sic] of plants due to bacterial wilt and other insects and pests.’
“Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, a plant pathologist trained in molecular biology and director of sustainable agriculture at the Centre for Food Safety, commented on Mondal’s statement: ‘Dr Mondal’s assertion that susceptibility to bacterial wilt has nothing to do with the Bt gene or its expression is not supported by any cited research or science… His statement does not recognise that genes generally affect the function (expression) of other genes, and most often in unpredictable and unintended ways’.”
As for Panorama’s claim regarding the 90 per cent success of Bt brinjal cultivation in Bangladesh, the article states:
“So where did Panorama’s 90 per cent success claim come from? The source was briefly flashed up on the screen as ‘Cornell University’. Cornell and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) are ‘partner’ organisations of the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII), which is promoting the Bt brinjal project in Bangladesh and the rest of South Asia… Cornell University is home to the controversial Cornell Alliance for Science, which is publicising the Bangladesh Bt brinjal project. The Alliance was launched last year with a $5.6 million grant from the Gates Foundation to ‘depolarise the charged debate around agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).’ Its partners include the GMO industry group ISAAA, which is funded by Monsanto, CropLife, and Bayer.”
This, perhaps, explains why the media is so reluctant to discuss all the angles and disclose all the facts when it comes to the GMO debate. Because ultimately, those responsible for informing the public of GMOs are being well compensated by the corporations that are producing them – namely Monsanto.
What? You mean to tell me that the people who are deciding on the safety of Bt brinjal in Bangladesh and promoting it are being funded by those producing those same GM crops such as Monsanto? Where have we heard that before?
GMWatch also went on to ask Cornell’s alliance for science to provide them with studies or documentations to support the 90 per cent success claim, upon which they were told that, “The original source was BARI – the national Institute leading the project”.
The article goes on to state:
“As for ABSPII, it is funded by USAID and counts Monsanto as a partner. USAID has long been known as a tool that the US government uses to actively promote GM seeds and agriculture. A report by GRAIN stated: ‘USAID programmes are part of a multi-pronged strategy to advance US interests with GM crops. Increasingly the US government uses multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements and high-level diplomatic pressure to push countries towards the adoption of many key bits of corporate-friendly regulations related to GM crops. And this external pressure has been effectively complimented by lobbying and funding from national and regional USAID biotech networks’… Finally, in presenting the Bt brinjal project as a public initiative, agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury failed to mention that the private seed company East West Seed Ltd, now renamed Lal Teer, is a partner in the project. According to an agreement between the company and Monsanto subsidiary Mahyco, Lal Teer (East West Seed) is a sub-licensee for some other Bt brinjal varieties. Environmental campaigners in Bangladesh have accused USAID’s ABSPII project of encouraging Mahyco to provide open-pollinated Bt brinjal seed varieties to BARI free from royalty and the hybrid varieties to Lal Teer against payment of royalties to pursue its ‘ultimate goal’ of the commercialisation of patented GM crops in Bangladesh. Lal Teer chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo admitted that Monsanto and Mahyco owned the GM technology in the Lal Teer Bt brinjals.”
This, perhaps, explains why the media is so reluctant to discuss all the angles and disclose all the facts when it comes to the GMO debate. Because ultimately, those responsible for informing the public of GMOs are being well compensated by the corporations that are producing them – namely Monsanto. And it is no different, whether it is in India or in Bangladesh. As the GMWatch article states: “In conclusion, for its programme, ‘GM Food: Cultivating Fear’, BBC Panorama appears to have abandoned facts for propaganda.”
GMO Debate : Facts, Not Propaganda
This is the second part of a two-part series on “GMO Debate”
There were two questions left unanswered in my last article: Are GM foods safe? Are GM foods the only way to feed the world today?
Since GM foods have only recently been introduced into Bangladesh, in order to look at empirical evidence, we must look elsewhere to draw our own conclusions. On July 30, Natural Society published an article which states, “More than 60 countries have already passed mandatory GMO labelling laws, and many will ban GMO crops altogether this year if they haven’t already.” The countries that the article refers to are from every continent in the world. After that article was published, the government of Scotland added itself to the long list and decided to prevent the growing of GM crops with Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead saying, “Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment — and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status.” And on September 21, Sustainable Pulse reported, “Northern Ireland has joined Scotland, France, Greece and Latvia in announcing a full ban on GM crops under the new EU opt-out regulations. Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan announced Monday that he is prohibiting the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in Northern Ireland.” Even Russia and China have banned the import of GM foods while Russia has also imposed a ban on GM products saying that it has enough space and resources to produce organic and sustainable foods. With the VP of Russia’s National Association for Genetic Safety, Irina Ermakova, saying in late 2014 that:
“It is necessary to ban GMOs, to impose moratorium (on) it for 10 years. While GMOs will be prohibited, we can plan experiments, tests, or maybe even new methods of research could be developed. It has been proven that not only in Russia, but also in many other countries in the world, GMOs are dangerous. Methods of obtaining the GMOs are not perfect, therefore, at this stage, all GMOs are dangerous. Consumption and use of GMOs obtained in such way can lead to tumours, cancers and obesity among animals. Biotechnologies certainly should be developed, but GMOs should be stopped. We should stop it from spreading.”
Natural Society on January 23 reported that, “The Russian government’s Commission on Legislative Activities approved a bill introduced by both the Ministry of Science And Education and supported by the Russian Minister of Agriculture Nikolai Fyodorov that would ban the cultivation and breeding of genetically modified organisms in Russia… Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said that Russia has no intention to import GMOs in the near future.” And of course, given the lobbying power of the biotech industry and big agri-business sector — namely Monsanto — the complete ban on GM products by the Russian government may well be another reason behind the scathing attacks it currently faces from the West — the US in particular, that is, the womb of Monsanto itself.
However, as mentioned, it is not just Russia that is looking to ban GM products, but numerous countries around the world — some of which are close allies to the US government. So what is it about GM products which are forcing governments all across the world to ban the growing and the distribution of such products? Perhaps, the answer lies in our two unanswered questions.
While the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is not a regulatory agency, their release of a full report on glyphosate’s ability to cause cancer is making waves throughout the world. Glyphosate is the key component in Monsanto’s Roundup
Are GM foods safe?
If we look at the mainstream western media, we will find an almost unanimous verdict, without debate, that “GM foods are safe”. However, as anyone who is informed knows, the mainstream western media is nothing but a propaganda machine for big business and corrupt corporations. I mean “almost half of the US citizens still believe that Iraq had WMDs”, 12 years after the Iraq invasion under that false pretence (Politico, January 7, 2015), clearly illustrating the horrific job the western media has done in “informing” the public, yet, at the same time, showing the wonderful job it has done in “misinforming” them. However, there are plenty of debates and evidences elsewhere, which can give us the facts, rather than regurgitate such mindless propaganda — the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer being one of them.
Natural Society reported on August 3 that:
“While the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is not a regulatory agency, their release of a full report on glyphosate’s ability to cause cancer is making waves throughout the world. Glyphosate is the key component in Monsanto’s Roundup. There are more than 750 products for sale in the USA alone which contain glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide that has been selling since the 1970s. The agency is comprised of an international review board which determined that glyphosate is indeed carcinogenic. Considering that more than ‘80 per cent of the biotech-created GM crops’ throughout the world were manufactured to be used with this herbicide — it would logically follow that the majority of our food supply is now contaminated by a cancer-causing agent(s).”
It goes on to say that:
“The National Pesticide Information Centre has done nothing to update its website to inform citizens that the IARC has declared that this herbicide is carcinogenic. In fact, they instead post the following, word for word: ‘Is glyphosate likely to contribute to the development of cancer? Animal studies have not shown evidence that glyphosate exposure is linked to cancer. Studies with people have also shown little evidence that exposure to glyphosate products is linked with cancer’.
“This is an outrageous lie that should be removed immediately — but it won’t be because we are dealing with an industry which regulates itself. Unless people around the world take massive, grass-roots action, instead of waiting on their governments to respond, Monsanto and the biotech industry will continue to sell known cancer-causing agents.”
Considering that more than ‘80 per cent of the biotech-created GM crops’ throughout the world were manufactured to be used with this herbicide — it would logically follow that the majority of our food supply is now contaminated by a cancer-causing agent(s)The Russian Federation warns that these ‘artificial’ organisms are now showing ‘compelling evidence’ of their being related to ‘bio-warfare agents’ due to their ‘catastrophic effect’ upon human health rather than their being able to be consumed as food
Of course, when you look beyond the narrative pushed by big business you will find an incredible amount of evidence and a massive number of scientists that are all saying the same thing in different ways, that, “GMOs are not safe”. In fact, a shocking report by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in 2014, explained his decision to postpone the introduction of GM seeds in Russia saying, “The Russian Federation warns that these ‘artificial’ organisms are now showing ‘compelling evidence’ of their being related to ‘bio-warfare agents’ due to their ‘catastrophic effect’ upon human health rather than their being able to be consumed as food.” Vladimir Putin has also said that “We as a species have the choice to develop our bodies and our brains in a healthy upward trajectory, or we can follow the Western example of recent decades and intentionally poison our population with genetically altered food.” Furthermore, as Natural Society reported on September 30:
“The EPA continually colludes with Monsanto to present glyphosate as ‘safe’ to the public”… Samsel, an independent research scientist and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains, along with Dr Stephanie Seneff, that in order to minimise and cancel out its adverse findings:
“Monsanto had relied upon earlier historical animal control data, toxicological research with lab animals afflicted with cancer and organ failures, and completely unrelated to glyphosate. In some cases the control animals displayed kidney, liver and pancreatic diseases. Many of Monsanto’s own studies required the inclusion of extraneous studies in order to cancel out damaging results. This is not an uncommon industry habit, particularly in toxicological science. It enables corporations to mask undesirable outcomes and make claims that observable illnesses and disease are spontaneous occurrences without known causal factors. Frequently, Monsanto would have to rely on three external control studies to negate the adverse effects of a single one of its own. Samsel found other incidences in Monsanto’s data where 5, 7 and in one case 11 unrelated studies were necessary to diminish the severity of its own findings. In effect, glyphosate received licensure based upon a platform of junk tobacco science.
“The researchers go on to explain that Monsanto covered up the fact that glyphosate was equally toxic in both low and high range doses. These findings are corroborated by a recent study from France published in the August issue of the Environmental Health Journal by scientists at Kings College London and the University of Caen in France.”
We as a species have the choice to develop our bodies and our brains in a healthy upward trajectory, or we can follow the Western example of recent decades and intentionally poison our population with genetically altered food
Despite mounting evidence and widespread protests against GM products, the mainstream media and all those that are somehow — directly, or indirectly — on the payroll of the bio-tech industry and Monsanto, refuses to even acknowledge the fact that GM food “may not be completely safe”. That does not mean that there is no logic behind the science itself. Given the chequered history of Monsanto (“The Complete History of Monsanto, The World’s Most Evil Corporation”, WakingTimes.com, June 20), regardless of the “bio-tech science” as most people refer to in order to defend the current GMO industry, Monsanto should be the last corporation anyone should ever trust to be truthful, or to care for public wellbeing. Yet, in order to promote its GM products, Monsanto compounds its deceptions by spreading the myth that GM foods are necessary to feed the world’s increasing population.
Are GM foods the only way to feed the world?
The answer to this question is very straight forward — a resounding “no”! Colin Todhunter who has had his writing published in a wide range of newspapers, peer and non-peer reviewed journals and books, as well as on numerous prominent websites wrote, in an article published on the website of the Centre for Research on Globalisation on July 30:
“The world does not need GM to feed itself. GM and these humanitarian sentiments are little more than a Trojan horse aimed at securing greater control of food and agriculture. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge and Science for Development Report stated that smallholder, traditional farming (not GMOs) can deliver food security in low-income countries through sustainable agri-ecological systems. Moreover, the roots of hunger and food poverty result from structural factors, including trade, distribution problems, lack of personal income and the increasingly globalised and exploitative system of industrialised agriculture and food production. The companies behind the GM project are part of that system: they fuel it and profit from it. Through patents and royalties, GM ensures greater profits and greater control over food and agriculture.”
It is time for people to do their own research, realise how damaging GM food is to their health and support small, organic farmers to not only survive, but thrive and drive GM food that is harmful to people’s health and the environment out of market
A trade and food policy analyst in India, Devinder Sharma said in that regard that:
“Agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades… because the World Bank and big business have given the message that this is the only way to grow economically.”
While Todhunter writes:
“Throughout the world, however, there is a concerted effort to remove farmers from the land. Smallholders are squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world’s farmland, and the world is fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of big agribusiness, institutional investors and the powerful moneyed classes. If nothing is done to reverse this trend, the world will lose its capacity to feed itself.”
So not only is Monsanto lying when it says that GM foods are the only way to feed the world, in fact, it is destroying the means of feeding the world while doing so. Grain.org reported on May 28 in a long and thorough article that:
“Despite the inherent shortcomings of the data, we feel confident in drawing six major conclusions:
The vast majority of farms in the world today are small and getting smaller.
Small farms are currently squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world’s farmland.
We are fast losing farms and farmers in many places, while big farms are getting bigger.
Small farms continue to be the major food producers in the world.
Small farms are overall more productive than big farms.
Most small farmers are women.”
Yet, despite all the evidence — the fact that Monsanto is widely considered “the most” evil corporation in the world, which in itself is quite an achievement given some of the corporations that are currently in existence — countries all around the world, in every continent, are literally running as far away as they can, from both Monsanto and its GM products — the question is: why is the Bangladesh government now starting to promote, and introduce GM seeds and food, more and more into the country?
Are people within the government unaware about all the evidence which shows the numerous dangers associated with GM products? Are they not aware of the massive number of scientists and government officials speaking out against GMOs? Do they not know the history of Monsanto? Even if they believe that GM products are not outright dangerous, is it not better to wait before introducing it into a country which lacks basic technologies and research methods, when a country as advanced as Russia and others has its top officials saying either that, GM products are not safe or, that they will need to conduct more tests before they can judge its safety? When top scientists and government officials in countries much more advanced than Bangladesh question the safety and logic behind GM products, how do Bangladeshi officials come to the “conclusion” that GMOs are “totally safe”? Although the answer to that question is quite clear, it is time for the people of Bangladesh, to demand from their elected officials, an answer to that question. It is time for the people of Bangladesh to show all the evidence against GMOs to their elected officials and ask them loud and clear: “Who do you serve, us or Monsanto?” And most importantly, it is time for people to do their own research, realise how damaging GM food is to their health and support small, organic farmers to not only survive, but thrive and drive GM food that is harmful to people’s health and the environment out of market.