Monsanto’s Seed: How One Company is Tarnishing Our Food Supply

If you didn’t think that fear tactics and dishonest business practices could go without reprimand to the point where a multinational corporation has hired its own crony of shady private investigators to silence anyone who may get in the way of profits, think again. Once the producer of  hazardous products such as DDT, Agent Orange, aspartame and more recently the bovine growth hormone, Monsanto decided it was time to ‘spruce up’ its image and move into the business of agricultural biotechnology.

Unfortunately, the Goliath company has earned a far worse reputation in the seed industry for ripping apart the livelihoods of small farmers in the U.S., Canada and Europe and for patenting its seeds — which in the book of mankind has been considered a higher life form for millions of years.

I recently attended a screening of David vs. Goliath, a documentary which recounts the story of Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser who was sued by Monsanto after the company’s genetically modified Roundup Ready canola seed drifted onto the farmer’s land. Schmeiser, who had been a farmer for over 40 years, lost his crop and the seed  he spent years developing to be tolerant to local farming conditions. Schmeiser would never be able to use his seed again — a devastating blow to the septuagenarian farmer who spent most of his life trying to perfect his harvest.

Monsanto filed a lawsuit against Schmeiser claiming that he knowingly and illegally planted the company’s patented weed-resistant canola on his land. Monsanto demanded $37 for each hectare of Schmeiser’s land — land that was destroyed by a seed that belonged to Monsanto.

This lawsuit was just one of hundreds that Monsanto has filed against small farmers in the U.S. and Canada. But its not just the legal battles that have devastated farmers. Monsanto is notorious for sending Mafia-like ‘investigators’ who use strong-arm tactics to scare farmers into giving into to the giant’s requests. Throughout the documentary, Schmeiser talks about the fear he and his wife lived with while Monsanto continuously stalked his home, surreptitiously surveyed his property, and followed his whereabouts throughout the day.

The most unnerving part of the whole story is that in most cases the courts have ruled in favor of Monsanto because of the company’s patent on the seeds. Schmeiser was lucky — after an almost seven-year battle the Supreme Court ruled that Monsanto’s patent is valid, but Schmeiser would not be forced to pay Monsanto anything as he did not profit from the presence of Roundup Ready canola in his fields.

It is believed that over three-fourths of Canada’s corn supply has been tarnished with GMOs. In the meantime, Monsanto is coming up with more ways to dominate the agriculture sector, as it looks into creating GMO seeds for wheat and other high-profiting crops. At this point, scientists have no way of telling the effects of eating a genetically modified organism that has been sprayed profusely with hazardous herbicides. ( According to the documentary, when Roundup was first pitched to the U.S. government, Monsanto claimed the herbicide was so safe you could drink it. Research later found that it contains toxic chemicals.)

Unfortunately, the only way we will ever see the demise of Monsanto is if consumers actively boycott foods containing GMOs. The problem is that most products are not honestly labeled and, at this point, it’s probably safe to say that if it’s not labeled “organic” any products containing corn or soybeans (and that’s corn or soy anything — syrup, grain-fed animals, high-fructose, etc.) will have traces of GMOs. And with Whole Foods dominating the “natural foods” market, prices on organic products continue to soar. It’s a dilemma, but it’s our food supply, and maybe that is something worth sacrificing for.

Photo by: Jan Tik/Flickr

 

  • Pingback: French Court Overturns Ban on GMO Crops()

  • Jessica

    This was eye-opening. Thank you!

    • culture-ist

      Hopefully more people will begin to understand the importance of putting this issue at the forefront of political agendas. Glad you found the article informative!

  • Bruce

    There’s always two sides to a story. It would be nice if you balanced it out with some input from Monsanto.

    Your line “land that was destroyed by a seed that belonged to Monsanto.” – is laughable, no ludicrous. There’ll be 20 million acres of GM Canola planted in Canada this spring, over 1/2 of it Roundup Ready, do you really think all those farmers would willingly destroy their land?

    No, rather they plant a grop that has doubled their yields and halved their herbicides costs, and has kept the cost of my food lower than it ever would have been.

    And no, I don’t work for Monsanto

  • culture-ist

    Hi Bruce. We actually had no desire to get input from Monsanto as this piece was a review of a documentary.

    “Destroyed” refers to the fact that these farms were tainted by the Roundup Ready GMO seed. Most of these farmers had no choice but to purchase Monsanto’s patented seed after it drifted onto their land.

    I believe this quote from Grist says it all about the yield debate: “Around the world, from the Government Office for Science in the U.K. to the National Research Council in the United States to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., there is consensus: In order to address the roots of hunger today and build a food system that will feed humanity into the future, we must invest in “sustainable intensification”””not expensive GMO technology that threatens biodiversity, has never proven its superiority, even in yields, and locks us into dependence on fossil fuels, fossil water, and agrochemicals.”

    Here is the link to the article if you would like to read further: http://www.grist.org/industrial-agriculture/2011-08-20-why-gmos-wont-save-world-nina-federoff-new-york-times

    Also, please read the “Failure to Yield” report conducted by the UCSUSA: http://www.grist.org/industrial-agriculture/2011-08-20-why-gmos-wont-save-world-nina-federoff-new-york-times.

  • http://beersandbeans.com Bethany

    Monsanto terrifies me. I have such a hard time even wrapping my brain around the fact that they have the power they do and that anything like this exists. It is absolutely frightening. I have read of so many stories where they have just destroyed farmers and their reach in our society is absolutely sickening.

    In fact, I try not to anything soy related in the US because of it (of course that is really tough). Even more sad perhaps is the fact that they were allowed to get this big.

    If you do further research on the USDA you’ll discover they can’t be trusted either. Anything out of their lips shouldn’t even be taken with a grain of salt.

    They’ve been deep in the pockets of the government and big sugar since the 80’s when Regan put his own people in power there. You probably already know this but it came as a huge shock to me when I found out that the ADA (American Diabetes Association) is funded largely by big fake sugar!

    Unbelievable huh? Then the ADA goes around telling diabetics to have foods with fake sugar in them (how convenient) because it’s safer but it’s actually worse for diabetics!

    They put their safe stamp on the foods, no one seems to know better, they put more chemicals in their bodies and then they get sick again. Big Pharma collects their fattie paycheck. The rich stay rich, the sick stay sick and the government sanctions it all under the disguise of cheap food and USDA lies.

    It’s absolutely a crime that Monsanto is allowed to exist and that these things are going on in this country.

    Bruce – do yourself a favor, get the facts and read about this. It’s not cheap food, in fact it’s costing you THOUSANDS of dollars in the long run, if not your life. Getting a statement from Monsanto would be nothing more than pedicured lies carefully crafted.

    Sorry for my rant on here! I’m pretty passionate about this issue and it’s not often I get to talk about it. The sad truth is no one wants to here about how polluted our food is and how the gov’t supports it instead of making it right.

    It seems you can’t escape the greed. Everyone has their hands out and they don’t care who dies for it or the millions of lives they effect. It’s a wonder how these people even sleep at night.

    People should know about it so they can make better decisions and posting an article like this is a great step. :)