I am a 38 year-old woman born and raised in the heartland. I grew up squared in on all sides with large plots of soybeans, corn, wheat and the narrow Midwest mindset. My grandfather farmed 7 acres of soybeans mostly, as I remember. He and Grandma cultivated about ¼ acre plot of vegetables on the border between the lawn and his field. I have fond memories of autumn nights when the sun would set the fields of golden wheat afire while we drove down back roads over flat central Ohio terrain. A rather large family-owned dairy was a three-minute bike ride from our first house, and I got lost in the thick of cornfields that stretched out behind our lawn. My Mom worked in her vegetable garden that was at the edge of our property, bordering the farmers’ fields next door. And yes, we ate fruits from the fields, from the woods and from our vegetable gardens growing on the borders. My Grandparents stocked an authentic cellar full of canned vegetables from their garden and we ate frozen corn from the garden all winter long. And now, as an educated adult, I know that the fields were sprayed with pesticides. They were mostly meant for animal feed, high fructose corn syrup, soy products that were mysteriously appearing in foods along with a long list of other ingredients that would hide the overproduction of a few major crops cultivated by subsidizing America’s large, conventional farms. And now I know that not long before I graduated high school, genetically modified organisms (GMO, GE, Trangenic, Biotech) in our foods were appearing on the market. That was in 1993. I wish I had stopped consuming dairy then, but instead, 10 years later I learned that I was “lactose-intolerant.” And just last year, I joined the millions of Americans who can no longer tolerate wheat and gluten. Not long before avoiding wheat, I conscientiously changed my shopping habits to avoid the major genetically engineered crops, such as corn, soy and sugar from sugar beets. These crops are on the verge of complete domination by one large company that has its roots deep in creating worldwide devastation and destruction. This company, the Monsanto Corporation, like many evils, is becoming a household name.
But what is Monsanto?
- Founded in 1901, Monsanto got its start selling saccharine to Coca-Cola.
- From there, Monsanto was involved in the production of the deadly chemicals DDT, PCB and Agent Orange.
- General public-use herbicides were the next chemicals Monsanto produced, creating glyphosate, what the company called “the most valuable molecule of all time.” That molecule was Roundup, a broad-sprectrum herbicide.
- In 1976, when Monsanto invested in Genentech, an early biotech firm, it started a new era as genetic engineering began moving forward.
- In 1993, Monsanto’s first product of genetic engineering was Posilac, or bovine growth hormone. This hormone is also known as rBST due to the genetic engineering process in which bovine DNA is transferred into bacteria, creating a strain of E. coli bacteria that in turn produces the growth hormone. This hormone is injected into cows to increase milk production.
- Next, Monsanto bio-engineered plants that resist insects and diseases such as Bt cotton in which the cotton plant produces its own insecticide destroying the stomach lining of the feeding insect.
- In the mid-1990s, the US Government issued approval for Roundup Ready soybeans, followed shortly by Roundup ready corn. Since then, Monsanto has developed Roundup Ready sugar beets, alfalfa, canola, cotton and many others. These crops are intended to resist the herbicide Roundup, so the farmer can blanket spray weeds without killing the crop.
- After reorganizing in 1997, Monsanto created a division to focus on agriculture, Monsanto Ag Company.
- Monsanto promises farmers that they will use less fuel, spray fewer chemicals and that they are in line with sustainability. When in fact, farmers are using more chemicals since the pairing of Roundup Ready crops with the herbicide Roundup, and sometimes it’s a futile attempt as farmers spray now Roundup resistant weeds.
For Monsanto, it was as simple as recognizing a market to monopolize. “Everybody has to eat” meant something different to Monsanto’s founders and executives. The company moved from creating deadly chemicals to violating our most basic necessity, food. And in many cases, deadly chemicals and food joined hands, as with “Bt Corn,” in which the corn itself produces a pesticide that destroys feeding insects by disrupting the insect gut lining. As Monsanto has grown in size and in wealth, it has become increasingly entwined with our government. For example, near the beginning of their biotech efforts, during the Regan administration, our VP, George Bush Sr. toured the Monsanto research facility. During this tour, Bush made it clear that the US Government was in the “de-reg” business and that this administration would not impede the process of introducing GMOs into our food supply despite health and safety concerns of the USDA. In 1988, with George Bush Sr in the oval office, VP, Dan Quayle declared the United States the world leader of biotechnology and that the biotech industry should profit at least 50 billion dollars by the year 2000 “as long as we avoid the spread of unnecessary regulation”. Quayle equivocated Monsanto’s haphazard manipulation of genes and organisms, with the careful and methodical approach of being the first nation on the moon. Since, there have been at least eight elected officials and/or members of the white house that have gone from working in our government to working with Monsanto and there are at least two people who have worked for Monsanto prior to working in the FDA. The most well-known is Michael Taylor who has gone back and forth from government to Monsanto several times, first moving from the FDA to being Monsanto’s vice president of public policy. And most recently, in March 2013, President Obama signed into law HR933, which includes the “Monsanto Protection Act” which protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks. So now I ask myself, are we really willing to play these kinds of games with our species and our planet? Are we really supposed to trust a multi-billion dollar, chemical corporation to make choices about our food? Are we really going to allow this corporate monster to patent seeds so that it can own one of our most basic rights? I feel like I am a science experiment. For 18 years I ate foods containing dangerous products and didn’t know it. I know it now and so I do what I can. But when our president signs a bill to protect Monsanto, that puts a corporation above the law and our citizens, then what I can do starts to seem so small. Some of the taxes I pay subsidize farms that plant chemical-ridden, GMO crops, making foods based on these crops less expensive. So while I spend more money to get GMO-free food, I am pained to know that many poor and/or urban neighborhoods have no choice but to eat foods containing GMOs. And no one has access to accurate labeling, since GMO labeling is not legally required in the United States But there are things that we can all do, and if we do them together, our efforts will not be small. I am encouraging everyone to become educated and in turn to become outraged. We are looking at a corporation and our government working together to control seeds, to be number one in genetic engineering, to dominate the world’s food supply, while denying our own country’s population its most basic right: access to clean and healthy food. I urge you to help take back your food supply. Please join in this pitchfork, garden-spade revolution and find out what you can do!
WHAT CAN I DO?
- Participate in the most important food fight of our lives.
- Support small farms
- Buy local
- Grow your own
- Save seeds: facilitate and promote seed swapping, banking & cultivating
- Buy only organic: corn, soy, canola, cottonseed, sugar (from beets)
- Follow the Non-GMO Shopping Guide: download at http://www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com
- Educate yourself on the facts about GMOs and Monsanto Corporation
Contact your State Legislators to DEMAND GMO LABELING LAWS! Sincerely to all ~ with love and hope, Erin
To contact your legislators go to the website:
Food and Water Watch, http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/ and follow links to “take action” and then to “You have a right to know what’s in your food”
The Future of Food, A film by Deborah Koons Garcia The World According to Monsanto, A film by Marie-Monque Robin Monolithic Monsanto, An article by Randel A. Agrella, www.heirloomgardener.com Institute for Responsible Technology, http://www.responsibletechnology.org/ Millions Against Monsanto, http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ Transgenic Food and Seed, an article by Anna Maria Caldara; Genesis Farm; http://www.genesisfarm.org/ Organic Consumers Association; http://organicconsumers.org/