When we come to our senses and begin to mete out capital punishment to corporations, Monsanto will surely be the first to mount the scaffold (see Capital Punishment for Corporations: Time to Start). Just in the past week, there emerged two new examples of its abuse of the planet, two new indications of the catastrophe it is bringing down on all our heads. The general public, which could reasonably be expected to be at Monsanto’s gates with pitchforks and torches, yawned and went back to reality-TV reruns.
Recent example #1: Just a few words of context: one of Monsanto’s biggest contributions to the destruction of the planet’s web of life was the invention and mass marketing of Roundup, a glyphosate herbicide that kills everything that grows. That was a little scary, but Monsanto assured us when it was introduced (in 1974) that unlike DDT and those other nasty pesticides, Roundup almost immediately after application broke down into inert, harmless ingredients.
We bought it, big time. By 2007 we were drenching our driveways, parking lots, fence lines and farm fields with 88,000 tons of the stuff every year, confident that it immediately broke down and went away. It was so expensive to test that proposition that few entities other than Monsanto could afford to do it, and why would they do it?
Now someone has: for two years the US Geological Survey has been testing air and water samples from Mississippi. Every water sample, and most air samples, contained glyphosate. Paul Capel, head of the USGS agricultural chemicals team, told Reuters this week, “It is out there in significant levels. It is out there consistently.” To what effect? No one knows, of course, because it’s expensive to research that question, too.
Having won the lottery with Roundup, Monsanto won it again with genetically mutilated seeds for corn, soybean and other plants that were resistant to Roundup. The new model for industrial agriculture was: plant your crop, and drench everything that comes up with Roundup, which kills everything but the crop.
The true beauty of the scheme, corporately speaking, is that not only do you have to go to Monsanto for the Roundup, but for next year’s seed: in order to get any Roundup-Ready seed, you must sign a legal agreement that you will never reserve any seed for planting, but will buy it new from Monsanto. Industrial agriculturalists are okay with this, but this fact alone has caused a spike in the suicide rate of subsistence farmers in the Third World who realized too late that this wonderful advance in agriculture requires lots of the one thing they do not have — cash — every year. Plus, it turns out, the massive applications of Roundup create superweeds that can only be killed by the equivalent of a wooden stake through the heart. (See Zombie Weeds Attack: Desperate Farmers Resort to Hoes)
Recent example #2: Having won the lottery twice, Monsanto tried again and again. For example, with a corn plant genetically mutilated so that it was toxic to a major corn predator, the corn rootworm. Result number one: Monsanto won the lottery again, and millions of acres of the GM corn were planted. Result number two: the emergence in Iowa, reported this week in the Wall Street Journal, of a superbug, a rootworm that is immune to the effects of the GM corn and eats it like candy.
These are, of course, merely the two most recent manifestations of Monsanto’s crimes. (See Heading for the Last Roundup.) This is, after all, the company that invented and/or mass-marketed, for the enrichment of itself and the impoverishment of humanity, the following products:
- Agent Orange
- Growth hormones for cows
Though the evidence mounts, the culprit goes free, its wealth and power little diminished. The sight of Monsanto in a cage on public trial is one we’re going to have to wait awhile to see.
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