The United States of Monsanto

It is no longer enough for the seed and chemical company Monsanto to use its rivers of cash to own and operate the United States Congress (in the language of corporations, there is no word for “enough”); it is now using the US Department of State as its global sales force. The objective, apparently, is to replace every plant grown for food on the planet with a genetically mutilated plant sold by Monsanto. With the help of the United States government, the project is well along.

An excellent investigative piece by Alternet’s Jill Richardson (Why is the State Department Using Our Money to Pimp for Monsanto?) paints a pretty picture of revolving-door personnel exchanges between the State Department and biotech industries, and details the ways in which our “diplomats” are not only advocating Monsanto’s products and practices, but paying others to do so. With tax money, of course, but no Tea Party uproar here.

One example from the article:

Assistant Secretary of State Jose W. Fernandez, addressing an event of high-level government officials from around the world, agribusiness CEOs, leaders from international organizations, and anti-hunger groups said, “Without agricultural biotechnology, our world would look vastly different. One of our challenges is how to grow more crops on the same land.”

You would think — and apparently Fernandez thinks — that the world looks better because of industrial, biotechnological agriculture, and that it is settled fact that biotech has improved yields and is, as the ads on Sunday television news shows insist, feeding a hungry world.

They are settled, but they are not facts. As I have written here a time or two (start with:

the reality is that industrial, biological, high-tech, synthetic, petro-agriculture has ravaged the world, debased the food supply and is about to tip us into an age of famine. But don’t take my word for it:

  • So says the Union of Concerned Scientists, in the landmark 2009 study titled Failure to Yield: “Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.” Moreover, it adds, “genetic engineering is unlikely to play a significant role in increasing food production in the foreseeable future.”
  • So says the Rodale Institute, after 30 years of detailed analysis found that organic agriculture, with its emphasis on soil building and its abhorrence for synthetic inputs, outperforms all other kinds of agriculture in every place, in every way.
  • So says The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, in a 2008 study written by a committee of 400 scientists and edited by dozens of member governments, yet managed to be relatively clear in its condemnation of that Monsanto does (without mentioning Monsanto, or what it does):

Natural resources, especially those of soil, water, plant and animal diversity, vegetation cover, renewable energy sources, climate, and ecosystem services are fundamental for the structure and function of agricultural systems and for social and environmental sustainability, in support of life on earth.

But these groups, of course, do not have the money to buy ads on Sunday television shows and so the field is left to the likes of Monsanto, and Archer Daniels Midland, to assure us that they are the ones who are trying to feed the world’s poor, when they are the ones condemning the world to famine. (See, also, Capital Punishment for Corporations: Time to Start.)

All of this is bad enough, of course, but to see the US Government using its powers to try to inflict the excesses and mistakes of industrial agriculture on the rest of the world, to benefit no one but Big Agriculture, is far, far worse.


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2 Responses to The United States of Monsanto

  1. SomeoneInAsia says:

    I am reminded of this Russian fairytale featuring a poor fisherman who lived with his wife in a wooden shack. One day while out fishing the fisherman caught a special fish who begged him to let him go and promised in return to grant every wish he made. He freed the fish and returned home to tell his wife about the whole thing, whereupon the wife asked him to return to the fish and ask for a big sum of gold. This the fisherman did and the fish happily granted the wish, but while the fisherman himself was overjoyed to see the large pile of gold when he went home again the discontented wife sent him back to the fish to ask for a mansion, which the fish again happily granted. But still the wife was unsatisfied, and her wishes grew ever more outrageous, until finally she asked that the fish grant that she become GOD. The obedient (or henpecked) fisherman expressed to the fish this wish on the part of his beloved (?), and the fish, now exasperated, replied, “Return, friend. Your wife’s now in the same old wooden shack again.”

    • Tom Lewis says:

      Yes. That is how I read the story of the Fall, in Genesis. God says, at the end of the story, that it’s bad enough the humans have eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but if left to their own devices would soon tinker with the Tree of Life, and — I’m quoting here — “become like us.” Which is to say, of course, become as gods. I have always wondered to whom the One True God was speaking in that Biblical passage…..