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Is Monsanto a Clear and Present Threat to the US Food Supply?

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Is Monsanto a Clear and Present Threat to the US Food Supply?

monsanto companyGenetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops have taken over store shelves like wildfire since they were approved by the FDA in 1992.

In fact, it is inherently more difficult to find products that do not contain GMO’s these days. GMO corn is used to make high fructose corn syrup, which is found in most processed foods.

Even if you ignore all of the health concerns and information revolving around the GMO issue, some of the troubling concerns regarding Monsanto’s brand of GMO’s are undeniable, including all of the following:

Monopoly: Monsanto’s products are generally designed to be resistant to their own brand of Roundup pesticide, which eliminates an essential American freedom – choice. Farmers have to continually purchase seed and pesticide from the same company, making them dependent upon that company.

Resistance: Weeds and insects have become resistant to Roundup, forcing Monsanto to repeatedly come up with more powerful and more effective chemical concoctions in an attempt to stay ahead of the game. Not to mention the superbugs and weeds created in the process that are becoming increasingly more difficult to control.

Pollen Travels: Whether it’s the wind or a pollinating animal species, the fact remains that pollen travels, and Monsanto’s altered plant DNA ride the same routes as unmodified pollen. This transforms crops that might have been intended to be only organic into what many farmers have termed “frankenfood”.

Harm to non-target species: There is insufficient research as to the effects that GMO’s and the pesticides used to grow them have on non-target species of wildlife. In fact, some independent research indicates that Monarch butterflies have already been adversely affected by GMO’s.

Besides the obvious concerns above, there is growing unease among watchdog groups’ regarding conflicts of interest. These groups are concerned with how government agencies like the FDA, designed to protect our food supply, have become bedfellows with Monsanto.

Monsanto employees have made their way into the FDA, USDA and even the Supreme Court and vice versa for quite some time now. Some believe that this practice has significantly influenced decision-making by those branches of government now in favor of corporate interests, rather than public safety or the safety of the food supply.

Conficts of Interest

Here are some actual examples of such potential conflicts of interest:

Margaret Miller was employed as a researcher for Monsanto in bovine growth hormone development. In order to gain FDA approval, Monsanto was required to submit scientific data to support safety and effectiveness of rgBH.

Miller left Monsanto to pursue gainful employment with the FDA around this same time. One of her first jobs for the FDA was to determine whether or not to approve the report submitted for Monsanto. She was assisted by Susan Sechen, another former Monsanto researcher. Not surprisingly, the hormone was approved in the US.

The troubling part of that approval is that rgBH has been banned in most industrialized countries, and highly debated since its approval in the US. It has been a high concern among researchers as to whether or not the levels of IGF-1, a cancer and tumour promoting agent found in the boosted milk, is actually safe.

Monsanto sued Oakhurst Dairy, a Maine based dairy, for putting “Our Farmers’ Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones” on their milk labels. Monsanto sued the farmer with the claim that Oakhurst did not have the right to let its customers know whether its milk contains genetically engineered hormones.

monsanto companyMichael Taylor was the FDA official responsible for determining whether or not rgBH milk should be required to display mandatory labelling. And yes, Taylor worked as a lawyer for Monsanto.

U.S.Supreme Court judge, Clarence Thomas spent part of his career working as a lawyer for Monsanto. He played a pivotal role in lifting the ban on planting genetically modified Alfalfa. Justice Stephen Breyer disqualified himself due to the fact that he was Charles Breyer’s brother. Charles Breyer was the judge who ruled in the original 2007 decision regarding GM alfalfa. It seems a little strange that Clarence Thomas didn’t see his employment with Monsanto as a conflict of interest as well.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Anne Veneman was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto’s Calgene Corporation (Developers of the GM Flavor Saver Tomato).

Donald Rumsfeld was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto’s Searle pharmaceuticals. He used his political and corporate clout to get FDA approval of aspartame, then known as Nutrasweet.

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was appointed USDA Chief by Barrack Obama in 2008. A Wikipedia entry about Vilsack states:

“The recent complete cave-in on the issue of GMO Alfalfa regulation – basically giving Monsanto and Forge complete freedom in the marketplace, is a serious blow to natural foods and American freedom to choose organic foods over so-called ‘frankenfoods.’ Vilsack’s previous close ties to Monsanto may well be the reason of this regrettable decision to release GMO Alfalfa without regulation anywhere inside the USA”

Conflict of interest is a serious issue when considering the nation’s food supply.

Patenting seed and lifting regulations on new species of modified foods is a very profitable business. However it is also very risky when you consider everything that can go wrong.

When a corporation can sue farms for labelling a product as not containing an additive, we should be asking ourselves some serious questions about the ethics of that corporation. Especially when recent polls show that 53% of the US population would prefer if GMO products were labelled in the first place.


Originally published on

  • Ma Justin

    Maybe you should do some research before commenting on an issue such as this. That Cornell study was retracted. There are issues with Roundup resistance, but that is a management issue (which rightfully can be criticized as a management issue, not a GM one, per se). Roundup is substantially safer than the herbicides it replaced too. And there is no monopoly as you describe. Farmers are free to purchase from other companies. There may be anti-competitive practices and over-centralization. There are legitimate issues to discuss. Don’t confound the issue with junk science and inaccuracies.

  • Anonymous

    Ma Justin – do you have any evidence to support that “Roundup is substantially safer than the herbicides”? I would also say that the anti-competitive practices have been so significant over the years that it has let to a monopoly of sorts. As to the Cornell study – I can see where other studies (like the EPA) found counter-evidence, but the scientific debate about the safety of GM food is far from decided.

  • This one is clearly on the biotech payroll, or has an adept knack for missing the point of an article.

  • Wow, the anger. You are either on the biotech payroll, or you have an unparalleled knack for missing the point of an article. It’s ethics, plain and simple.

  • PS If you actually READ the article, nowhere does it state that Monsanto actually has a monopoly although considering their seed is responsible for 85-90% of all crops grown in the US, it would be safe to assume. Nor does the article cite the Cornell study as current fact, it merely states that some of the only independent research ever done on the topic has indicated that species have been affected. Another safe assumption considering when you put any sort of new seed or chemical in an environment where those new sources didn’t previously exist, there will be some sort of adverse effect on some level.

  • J Ma

    I apologize if it sounded angry, but it is only so because as a trained crop geneticist, it is tiresome to read of articles filled with inaccuracies. I understood your article was regarding the ethics, and likewise, the point of my response was for you to stick with that – there is no need to rely on factual inaccuracies to make your criticism. You have a stronger argument without them. To address some of the factual concerns:
    -Monsanto does not control 80-90% of seeds, but of traits used. Glyphosate (Roundup) is now off patent. Few would argue argue that there weren’t some vertical monopolization goals with Roudup herbicide and Roundup-Ready seed as it was developed. Beyond that, there are several major players in the seed business, which has resulted in intense competition that has grown – what is absolutely true, however, is that there has been substantially centralization. A lot of the regional and small seed companies have been gobbled up by the big players. This is centralization, not monopoly, as defined.
    -when a paper is retracted, it is effectively declared as biased, unscientific research. It’s the kind of thing that should be stricken from history if it were possible. Propagating it without mentioning it was retracted is the last responsible thing that should be done.
    -You can compare glyphosate to a 2,4-D herbicide (extremely popular before Roundup Ready…still is, but less so) just on MSDS (material safety data sheets) alone.
    -the introduction of agriculture is in itself in any form a disturbance of the environment…by definition. One of the problems with the safety argument is new varieties of conventionally bred seeds (non-GMO) are released all the time, yet they aren’t tested. GM seeds are – in terms of regulatory tape – better studied and risk-assessed than non-GM seeds.
    -if I really wanted to sound like a corporate shill, I would have told you about how Bt cotton has reduced insecticide exposure and costs to farmers, reduced insecticide impact on the environment, freed up labor and time, increased yields and profits, particularly for women in developing nations like India. Health, economic, environmental and social benefits. But even given those facts, there are still some (legitimate) ethical concerns.

  • I think we are debating tomatoes and to-mah-toes here. I appreciate your concern for detail, however this isn’t a scientific journal. We do try to be as acurate as possible however your concerns are minute details like the wording of monopoly over centralization. Whether Monsanto physically owns the seed or just the patent of the trait is just being picky while distracting from the actual point.
    There is no proof that I can find to prove that the Cornell paper was biased and unproven rather than pulled to reduce harm to the biotech image. I agree that agriculture itself is a change to the environment, but don’t agree with the use of chemicals to provide better “looking” food to feed the masses while also poisoning them with the chemicals used to protect the plant.
    The whole “biotech will save the starving” argument can be quashed as in the all of the years the industry has been around, there has been no significant impact to hunger and mortality rates surrounding it worldwide. In fact most food designed by the industry has revolved around profit rather than the motive to reduce hunger. The organic food industry has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, including the use of natural soil bacteria as an effective herbicide without the toxicity that comes with the biotech industry. There are two sides to every coin. Until the biotech industry starts to show some transparency as to exactly what it is that they do, and allows independent research to be conducted BEFORE FDA approval, there will always be heated debate on this matter.

  • Anonymous

    J Ma – a couple of questions if I may:

    “what is absolutely true, however, is that there has been substantially centralization. A lot of the regional and small seed companies have been gobbled up by the big players. This is centralization, not monopoly, as defined.”

    This appears to me to be an odd statement. The definition of a “monopoly” is a single entity or group having “exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service.” This is exactly the condition that centralization leads to…

    “when a paper is retracted, it is effectively declared as biased, unscientific research.”

    Yes, but again, you’ve ignored my request for a citation on this – a simple URL will do and as editor I’ll note it in the article. We are an evidence-based news site and adhere to evidence/proof, not claims.

    “One of the problems with the safety argument is new varieties of conventionally bred seeds (non-GMO) are released all the time, yet they aren’t tested. GM seeds are – in terms of regulatory tape – better studied and risk-assessed than non-GM seeds.”

    This seems rather silly to me. “non-GM seeds” are natural seeds, which have been in use for…what…centuries? And you’re saying they haven’t been “risk-assessed”?

    “But even given those facts, there are still some (legitimate) ethical concerns.”

    On that, I’m glad we can all agree! Care to share some of the ethical concerns that you feel are legitimate?

“The thing about the truth is, not a lot of people can handle it.” -Conor McGregor

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