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On the weekend of October 12th & 13th, the second global March Against Monsanto for 2013 took place, with over 57 countries and millions of people speaking out against the corporation’s domination of the world’s food supply, genetically modified organisms and biotech-controlled agriculture.
Monsanto began its journey into chemical toxicity in the early 1900s, with the development of the artificial sweetener saccharin. Later, through a complex series of business relationships and the ‘acquisition’ of some scientists of note, Monsanto became involved in the Manhattan Project and the subsequent development of nuclear weapons.
Not surprisingly, in 1954 Monsanto partnered with the German company Bayer to market polyurethanes to the US. During World War 2, Bayer, under the name IG Farben, used slave labour from concentration camps in its factories and owned a nearly 50% share in the chemical company that developed Zyklon B, one of the chemicals used in the gas chambers.
In 1944, Monsanto, with another 15 companies, started manufacturing DDT. Due to the recognition of its carcinogenic properties, production of DDT and all other PCBs was banned in the US in 1977. In the 1960s and 70s, Monsanto was one of the major producers of Agent Orange for use by the US Army in Vietnam.
It was in the 1980s that Monsanto began its speedy ascent into the world of genetic engineering and chemical modification of seeds and crops. It began acquiring agriculture and seed companies, both in the US and internationally. By the 2000s, Monsanto had become the largest ‘seed’ company in the world, and, in 2007, announced a partnership with BASF (one of the six companies that merged to become IG Farben in 1925), now the largest chemical company in the world.
In the past 13 years, Monsanto has become the dominant face of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) world-wide. Many of the world’s farmers, including a huge percentage in Argentina, use Monsanto seeds, through a complex arrangement of debt and subsidy. The vast majority of these seeds are genetically modified and there is yet to be any rigourous independent scientific investigation of the effect of GMOs on humans, animals or the food chain.
A similar situation has occurred in the US, where Monsanto has actively sought to dominate agricultural food production through, again, a system of debt and subsidy to farmers. Monsanto sponsors agricultural shows right across the States; it funds scholarships in small colleges in rural areas; and it has a number of former American politicians and the President of McDonald’s on its board. Those who have attempted to resist the use of Monsanto’s seeds, or spoken out against the risk (and fact) of cross-contamination, have been sued by the bio-tech giant. Currently, 93% of US soybean farmers grow Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GE soybeans. This means, of course, that the farmers have to use Monsanto’s most famous herbicide, Roundup, on the crops. Soybeans and maize are now the two largest crops in the US, both of which are predominantly controlled by Monsanto.
The financial and political might of the corporation has resulted in an almost blanket control of agriculture in the US, and increasingly, world-wide. Under the rubric (or rhetoric) of ‘feeding the world’, Monsanto has, almost exclusively, gained control of what we eat, whether we happen to live in a ‘developed’ or ‘developing’ country. The result has been a drastic reduction in seed varieties, a drastic increase in health issues associated with monocultures, GMOs and industrialised food production, and, perhaps most importantly, the undermining of subsistence farming and local food production across the globe.
Just four days ago, Monsanto announced its acquisition of a major weather data company, to improve its yields and profits. Reporting on this $930 million purchase by Monsanto in Technology Spectator, Rebecca Grant writes that, ‘The more productive the farmers are, the more genetically engineered crop seeds the world has, and the more money Monsanto can make. The Climate Corporation’s technology will help Monsanto build out its data science and technology offerings, “which represents the agriculture sector’s next major breakthrough”.’
Over the past five years or so, the global awareness of Monsanto’s agenda has increased to such a point that there has been some speculation that it has suffered a shaky share price and decreased profits as a result. Rebecca Grant makes a connection, in the article cited above, between Monsanto’s latest purchase and a fall in profits: ‘[The] announcement came the same day Monsanto reported a third quarter earnings loss due to lower seed sales and a drought that required more seeds to be shipped from South America. Forecast earnings for 2014 were also lower than analyst expectations.’ Not even Monsanto, it seems, is entirely immune to Mother Nature.
Earlier this year, what has been dubbed the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ was signed into law by President Obama. An article from May 2013 in Global Research News says, ‘The bill states that even if future research shows that GMOs or GE seeds cause significant health problems, cancer, etc, anything, that the federal courts no longer have any power to stop their spread, use, or sales.’
The wheeling and dealing behind this amendment, between Monsanto and a range of US federal politicians, was swiftly brought to the public’s attention and a massive outcry ensued, with the amendment removed (technically, it was agreed the amendment would ‘expire’) from the congressional spending legislation in September. This is a small but encouraging coup for the movement against Monsanto’s control of global agriculture, as are the continuing actions of a number of countries in either banning Monsanto seeds or in taking action to resist the spread of the biotech’s tentacles into their food supply. But (and with Monsanto there is always a but) just last week Oregon passed its own ‘mini’ Monsanto Protection Act, once again overriding the community’s right to determine the source and contents of its food.
In August this year, Italy became the ninth EU country to ban the use of Monsanto seeds. A number of Central and South American countries are beginning to voice concerns about the use of GMOs, including Mexico, and there are a number of vocal groups in Argentina and India, where suicides by farmers of Monsanto crops are on a steep rise, as crops fail and their debt increases.
This slow awakening of the world to the implications of one company (and its intricate web of subsidiaries) owning the majority of the world’s seeds and agricultural production has led to a significant growth in the local food movement, to a burst of investigative journalism into the company and its practices, and to increased activism against Monsanto and its partners in crime right around the world. The March Against Monsanto on the weekend of 12th & 13th October was the second such march this year, and it proved to be bigger than the last, when, in May 2013, an estimated two million people in over 52 countries took to the streets against the biotech monolith.
There is much more that could be written about the company named 2013’s ‘Most Evil Corporation’. A superficial trawl of the Internet will reveal more than you could ever want to know about what has been going on behind closed doors for way too long. Most of the information represented here is gleaned from Wikipedia and many months of reading articles and scientific reports, and making a few fairly obvious connections.
This is a corporation that has always trafficked in death and destruction, right from its earliest manifestation in the invention and marketing of saccharin, now well-known to be a carcinogen, and with no benefit to the human species in any way. Extrapolate from saccharin to Agent Orange to Roundup to GM soybeans or canola – it’s patently clear (bad pun) that Monsanto is deeply embedded in the military/chemical/industrial complex that has sought to control the future of the human species from at least as far back as World War 1. How we take back control of that future from a web so vast and so intricate remains to be seen. Joining the global March Against Monsanto, as it gains momentum around the world, seems as good a place to start as any.
Bees Against Monsanto: Saturday 12th October, Melbourne, Australia.
For information on marches and events across Australia visit the March Against Monsanto Australia Facebook page.
The next global March Against Monsanto is taking place on 24th May 2014. Stay tuned for more information as it comes to hand.