Monsanto: dealers in death and destruction
By David Noble, writer for End the Lie
The Monsanto Company is the leading producer of herbicide glyphosate and genetically engineered seeds. The company was founded in St Louis, Missouri in 1901 by John Francis Queeny, a 30 year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry. They have a long and dirty history of polluting the planet despite their claims that they are working to reduce environmental destruction and feed the world with their genetically engineered crops.
Their sordid history includes being sued as one of the companies behind Agent Orange which was used in Vietnam from 1962 to 1970. The US military sprayed 72 million litres of herbicides mostly Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Over one Million Vietnamese along with over 100,000 American and allied troops were known to be effected. The effects of Agent Orange are still being felt in Vietnam today. By 1983, 9170 veterans had filed claims for disabilities that they claimed were because of the use of Agent Orange. Their claims for compensation were denied by the VA because they said that the only side effect of this toxic chemical was a facial rash. This ruling was reached despite Agent Orange being accepted internationally as one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet. This chemical is recognized as causing everything from severe birth defects, cancer, neurological disorders and death.
Monsanto has a long history of lying and falsifying records to protect their interests. In 2002 Vietnam requested assistance in dealing with tens of thousands of birth defects due to Agent Orange. But Monsanto in order to avoid medical compensation expenses continued to claim that this now banned chemical was not toxic.
Despite their claims that they are working to reduce environmental destruction, Monsanto in fact have a long history of doing the exact opposite. By 1940 they had begun to focus on plastics and synthetic fabrics like polystyrene (still widely used in food packaging and other consumer products), which is ranked fifth in the EPA’s 1980s listing of chemicals whose production generates the most total hazardous waste. Another example is that during World War 11 Monsanto played a significant role in the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb. After the war they then championed the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture. It is no coincidence that with the increased usage of these pesticides there has been a significant and worrying decline in the bee population. This is backed up by claims that four European countries bee populations have soared since banning this poison.
If these pesticides really are behind the decline of the bee population this is indeed serious as bees don’t just make honey, but are in fact responsible for pollinating 90% of the plants grown.
Monsanto were at it again in the1970s when they began manufacturing the herbicide Roundup. The key ingredient is glyphosate, which is known to be a highly toxic poison for animals and humans. Despite this it was marketed as a safe, general-purpose herbicide for widespread commercial and consumer use. In 1997 Monsanto was taken to court and forced to stop claiming that Roundup was “biodegradable” and “environmentally friendly. Further proof of the corruption of this company is the fact that they have been repeatedly fined and ruled against. Some instances of this include mislabelling containers of Roundup, failing to report health data to EPA, and chemical spills and improper chemical deposition.
In 1995, Monsanto ranked fifth among US corporations in the US Toxic Release Inventory, having discharged 37 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, land, water and underground. Interestingly hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on funding Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides in Colombia by the US. This Roundup has been known to be applied in concentrations 26 times higher than what is recommended for agricultural use.
In 1985 Monsanto once again showed their lack of concern over health issues when they purchased G.D. Searle, the company that held the patent to aspartame, the active ingredient in NutraSweet. Aspartame in fact would be banned if not for Donald Rumsfeld who used his influence to get it approved. This was despite a 1980 FDA Board of Inquiry, comprised of three independent scientists finding it unsafe as it “might induce brain tumors. Monsanto have repeatedly shown that they won’t let health concerns get in the way of them making a profit.
They are also one of the five major corporations controlling GMO production. The list of problems with GMOs is nearly endless. Despite claims of being the miracle cure for hunger, it actually has destroyed farmer’s livelihoods and freedom through patent monopolies and creation of dependency on non-renewable seeds. GM crops are also bad for the environment as they increase the need for chemicals since they create super weeds and super pests. Questions must also be asked of the health issues associated with GMOs. Some of these foods have been proven in laboratory tests to cause: cancer, sterility, miscarriages, seizures and even death!
India has been used as a testing ground for genetically modified crops which has resulted in 125,000+ small farmer suicides in the last decade. These farmers were promised previously unheard of harvests and income if they switched to GM crops. What they ended up with is mounting debt caused by the poor yields, increased need for pesticides, and the higher cost of the Bt cotton seed sold by Monsanto.
Corporations like Monsanto are trying to create a monopoly with the products they produce. They also seem to get a lot of help from those in power. Clearance was given to Monsanto in 2002 for commercial planting of Bt cotton just a few months after the government had ordered the burning of Bt cotton on 10,000 acres of land in Gujarat. This serves as proof of the corruption and support these corporations receive in their quest to have complete control over the products we use.
Monsanto has also been involved in the aggressive promotion of synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone, approved by the FDA for commercial sale in 1994. This was despite strong concerns about its safety. In their attempt to have total control of the market they have even sued small dairy companies that advertised their products as free of the artificial hormone.
Many farmers have also found themselves being sued after their crops were contaminated from seeds blown over from a neighbouring farm. These seeds would be the last thing that any farmer not growing GM crops would want. But Monsanto doesn’t see it that way and sues them for patent infringement. The simple fact is that pollination and wind drifts occur. There is no way that farmers can stop this from happening. Farmers have had to endure Monsanto trespassing on their land and examining their crops in an effort to find some of their patented crops. If any is found they then sue for the whole crop. But recently this has changed with a group of fed up farmers suing Monsanto over their GMO seeds. The case is titled Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto and was filed in federal district court in Manhattan. This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed should land on their property.
Monsanto’s history is one of corruption and polluting the planet. A perfect example of this is that in 1991 they were fined $1.2 million for trying to conceal discharge of contaminated waste water into the Mystic River in Connecticut. The aim of Monsanto is clear; they want to control our food chain and what we grow. They want to make sure the only food available will come from them, And that no price is considered too high to pay. Do we really want corporations like Monsanto controlling what we eat and grow?