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12 years ago

Monsanto Nation: Taking Down Goliath

By Ronnie Cummins

Organic Consumers Association, July 27, 2011

Straight to the Source

"If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." - Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

After two decades of biotech bullying and force-feeding unlabeled and hazardous genetically engineered (GE) foods to animals and humans, it's time to move beyond defensive measures and go on the offensive. With organic farming, climate stability, and public health under the gun of the gene engineers and their partners in crime, it's time to do more than complain. With over 1/3 of U.S. cropland already contaminated with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), with mounting scientific evidence that GMOs cause cancer, birth defects, and serious food allergies and with new biotech mutants like alfalfa, lawn grass, ethanol-ready corn, 2,4 D-resistant crops, and genetically engineered trees and animals in the pipeline, time is running out.

Living in Monsanto Nation there can be no such thing as "coexistence." It is impossible to coexist with a reckless industry that endangers public health, bribes public officials, corrupts scientists, manipulates the media, destroys biodiversity, kills the soil, pollutes the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically enslaves the world's 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers. It's time to take down the Biotech Behemoth, before the living web of biodiversity is terminated.

But, to bring down Goliath and build an organic future, we need to be strategic, as well as bold. We must take the time to carefully analyze our strengths and weaknesses and critique our previous efforts. Then we must prepare to concentrate our forces where our adversary is weak, like a chess master, moving the field of battle from Monsanto's currently impregnable territory into more favorable terrain. Given the near-dictatorial control of Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association over the Congress, the White House, regulatory agencies, and state legislators, we have no choice in the present moment but to revert to "asymmetrical" guerrilla tactics, to seek out the Achilles heel or fundamental weakness of the biotech industry.

Consumers' Right to Know: Monsanto's Achilles Heel

The Achilles heel of Monsanto and the biotech industry is consumers' right to know. If GE-tainted foods are labeled in supermarkets and natural food stores, a massive rejection of chemical and GMO foods will take place, transforming the marketplace and supercharging the organic and local foods revolution. The biotech industry has been aware of their tremendous vulnerability in the United States ever since Monsanto forced their controversial recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone on the market in February 1994. In the wake of nationwide "Frankenfood" protests and milk dumps, industry made sure that no federal labeling or safety testing would be required. As the biotechnocrats understand full well, mandatory GE food labels will cripple the industry: consumers will not buy gene-altered foods, farmers will not plant them, restaurants and food processors will avoid them, and grocery stores will not sell them. How can we be certain about this? By looking at the experience of the European Union, the largest agricultural market in the world. In the EU, there are almost no genetically engineered crops under cultivation or GE consumer food products on supermarket shelves. And why is this? Not because GE crops are automatically banned in Europe. But rather because under EU law, all foods containing genetically engineered ingredients must be labeled.

European consumers have the freedom to choose or not to choose GE foods; while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as these gene-altered are safety-tested and labeled. Of course the EU food industry understands that consumers, for the most part, do not want to consume GE foods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald's and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the concept expressed by the Monsanto executive quoted above: "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."

The biotech and food industry are acutely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don't want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by out-of-control chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or DuPont - the same people who brought you toxic pesticides and industrial chemicals, Agent Orange, carcinogenic food additives, PCBs, and now global warming. Industry leaders are definitely aware of the fact that every poll over the last 20 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on genetically engineered foods. Why do consumers want labels? So that we can avoid buying these mutant foods, gene-spliced with viruses, bacteria, antibiotic-resistant marker genes and foreign DNA. Gene-altered foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from ever getting a public discussion, much less coming to a vote, in Congress.

Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) perennially introduces a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GE foods, don't hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called "Citizens United" case gave big corporations, millionaires, and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent.

Perfectly dramatizing the "Revolving Door" between Monsanto and the Federal Government, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly chief counsel for Monsanto, delivered one of the decisive votes in the Citizens United case, in effect giving Monsanto and other biotech bullies the right to buy the votes it needs in the U.S. Congress.

With biotech and industrial agriculture's big money controlling Congress, the White House, and the corporate mass media, we have little choice but to shift our focus and our campaigning to more favorable terrain: the state level and the marketplace.

Besides boycotting non-organic foods likely containing GMOs (even those marketed as "natural") and demanding that natural food stores adopt truth-in-labeling practices, we've got to push for mandatory GE food labeling laws in the legislatures of those few remaining states like Vermont where Monsanto and corporate agribusiness do not yet have total control. Of the 18 states where GE food labeling legislation has been introduced over the past two years, only in Vermont does our side seem to have the votes to push labeling through, as well as a Governor who will not cave in to Monsanto.

State Ballot Initiatives: Monsanto and Biotech's Greatest Weakness

Although passing a mandatory GE foods labeling law in Vermont is a distinct possibility, and something we should all support, the most promising strategy for restoring consumers' right to know lies in utilizing one of the most important remaining tools of direct citizen democracy, state ballot initiatives. A state ballot initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can bring about a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment, in this case a law requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Ballot initiatives are also called, depending on the state, "popular initiatives," "voter initiatives," "citizen initiatives" or just "initiatives."

Twenty-four states, mainly west of the Mississippi, allow ballot initiatives. Each state has its own requirements for how many signatures are required, how many days can be spent collecting the signatures, and when petitions must be turned in. States also vary on the average amount of money spent by initiative committees to support or oppose ballot measures.

The essential advantage of state ballot initiatives is that they enable the grassroots (in our case the 85-95% of consumers who want labels on GE-tainted foods) to bypass corrupt politicians, industry lobbyists, and special interest legislative practices. In addition, the very strategic point to keep in mind is that it will not be necessary to pass GMO labeling ballot initiatives in all 24 of these states. In fact, passage in just one large state, for example, California, where there is tremendous opposition to GE foods as well as a multi-billion dollar organic food industry, will likely have the same impact as a national labeling law.

If Vermont passes a state labeling law though its legislature in 2011, or California voters put a GMO labeling initiative on the ballot in 2012 and pass it, the biotech and food industry will face an intractable dilemma. Will they dare put labels on their branded food products in just one or two states, admitting these products contain genetically engineered ingredients, while still withholding label information in the other states? The answer is very likely no. Withholding important and controversial information in some states, while providing it to consumers in other states, would be a public relations disaster.

A clear precedent for this situation was established in California in 1986 when voters passed, over the strenuous opposition of industry, a ballot initiative called Proposition 65, which required consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredient to bear warning labels. Rather than label their products sold in California as likely carcinogenic, most companies reformulated their product ingredients so as to avoid warning labels altogether, and they did this on a national scale, not just in California.

This same scenario will likely unfold if California voters pass a ballot initiative in 2012 requiring labels on food containing genetically engineered ingredients. Can you imagine Kellogg's selling Corn Flakes breakfast cereal in California with a label that admits it contains genetically engineered corn? Or labeling their corn flakes as GE in California, but not divulging this same fact to consumers in the other 49 states or Canada? Of course not. How about Kraft Boca Burgers admitting that their soybean ingredients are genetically modified? How about the entire non-organic food industry (including many so-called "natural" brands) admitting that 75% of their products are GE-tainted? Once food manufacturers and supermarkets are forced to come clean and label genetically engineered products, they will likely remove all GE ingredients, to avoid the "skull and crossbones" effect, just like the food industry in the EU has done. In the wake of this development American farmers will convert millions of acres of GE crops to non-GMO or organic varieties.

The biotechnocrats and their allies have indeed used their vast resources to buy off Congress, the White House, and most state legislatures with campaign contributions. Monsanto, DuPont, and other corporate giants have used their enormous clout to send their lawyers and scientists through the revolving door into jobs as government regulators. Biotech's financial power has polluted state and federal governments, along with trade associations, universities, research institutions, philanthropic organizations, and media outlets.

But there are two things Monsanto's money can't buy: Our trust, and our votes.

Polls Show Consumers Overwhelmingly Support GE Food Labels

Poll after poll has shown that most consumers want to know whether their food includes engineered ingredients.

The results of a recent MSNBC poll that posed the question, "Do you believe genetically modified foods should be labeled?" indicate that nearly all Americans believe that foods made with genetically modified organisms should indeed be labeled.

Of the more than 45,000 people who participated in the poll, over 96% answered "Yes. It's an ethical issue - consumers should be informed so they can make a choice."

It's not news that most Americans support labeling of GMO foods. Since genetically modified foods were first introduced in mid-1990s, scores of public opinion polls have shown that the vast majority of consumers want mandatory labeling of all genetically modified foods. These include recent polls by CBS News/New York Times, NPR/Thomson Reuters and the Consumers Union. Unfortunately, Congress and the White House have ignored these polls, accepting instead the claims of lobbyists and indentured scientists that genetically engineered foods are perfectly safe, and that uninformed and scientifically illiterate Americans must not be given the choice to buy or not to buy GMOs, because they will reject them.

Monsanto spent more than $1 million on the 2010 election cycle, splitting its contributions evenly between state and federal candidates. It spends much more on lobbying - more than $8 million in each of the last three years. Monsanto's money has bought it influence and allowed it to move its lawyers and scientists through the revolving door into roles within the regulatory agencies. The USDA, FDA and State Department are full of appointees with connections to Monsanto. Monsanto's efforts have successfully stifled attempts in Congress and state legislatures to pass GMO labeling legislation.

The Slingshot that Can Bring Down Goliath

The most important advantage or weapon in a ballot initiative (or in a grassroots legislative lobbying campaign) is to have the overwhelming support of the people, especially registered voters. As poll after poll has shown, 85-95% of Americans support mandatory GE food labels. No matter how much money Monsanto and their allies spend to defeat a ballot initiative, it is very difficult to turn back overwhelming public sentiment. Monsanto has become one of the most hated corporations on earth.

The second requirement for a successful ballot initiative is to have the active support of a massive grassroots movement, like the growing anti-GE food movement and OCA's Millions Against Monsanto campaign. This grassroots movement can gather petition signatures, mobilize public opinion, and get out the vote. No matter how much money Monsanto and their allies spend, it will be very difficult to defeat a volunteer grassroots army of organic consumers who enjoy the massive support of the public.

The third prerequisite for victory is to have the ability to raise significant sums of money. Not only do we have millions of organic consumers in the U.S. who are passionately opposed to GMOs, and willing to donate to a labeling campaign, but we also have a rapidly growing $30 billion organic food industry that depends upon keeping GMO contamination out of the organic sector. We probably won't be able to raise enough money to outspend Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, but we can raise enough money to defend our popular position and maintain majority support.

Just like everything in U.S. politics, ballot initiatives have a price tag.

According to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center:

"The chances of victory are directly correlated with the amount of money raised and are almost always proportional to the amount of money the opposition spends."

"People power is equally important to factor in. Particularly for Citizen-based ballot initiative efforts, it is imperative to have people on the ground across the state that are connected and invested in the initiative."

Biotechnology or BioDemocracy?

Restoring consumers' right to know and driving genetically engineered foods off supermarket shelves are not going to solve all of the life and death issues that are currently staring us in the face: the climate crisis, endless wars, economic depression, corporate control over government, and the health crisis. But cutting Monsanto and the biotechnocrats down to size and restoring consumer choice are a good first step to move us toward sustainability and a healthy food and farming system. Just as important, in political terms, by defeating the Biotech Bullies and indentured politicians, we can begin to restore the tattered self-confidence of the American body politic. A resounding victory by the organic community and OCA's Millions Against Monsanto campaign will prove to ourselves and the currently demoralized public that we can indeed take back control over the institutions and public policies that determine our daily lives. Now is the time to move forward.

To support or join up with the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign, go to:

Donate to support the campaign:

Comments (13)

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'm always amazed at how many people have never heard of GMO. It is in every processed food that uses anything having to do with corn or soybeans. If you read labels most everything contains corn oil, soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, etc, etc. GMO seeds contain round up and pesticides, poisons. I for one don't like the idea that this is what goes into processed food. I avoid it as much as I can. Just think of kids now days growing up on nothing but this stuff. I've read many many articles about food allergies, disease, so many health problems on the rise from GMO. Please read all you can about this. I get a health newsletter called Organic Bytes, they are always trying to get food labeled gmo or non-gmo, so consumers can have a choice. They have great articles about Monanto and GMO. Another newsletter has many articles about GMO. Please if you don't know about this stuff please learn, it's all about health.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well said gardengirl.I too,am amazed that more people do not know about Monsanto,and their evil cronies.If we could just get it passed, that our food,at least, be labeled as GMO,most would pass it by.As it stands right now, we do not have a choice.Every day, we are forced to buy unknown food contaminants,cause we can not afford to eat 100% organic.

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    A great big THANK YOU to all who looked and commented. It's nice to know you all are still sticking around! To answer questions..... I have many raised beds, all built up with native granite rocks I collected. They are all free-form, nothing fancy, just what I stack up and then fill with wheelbarrow loads of purchased loam. I cannot plant directly into my soil here. My yard was all woods and once I took down the trees the roots remained as well as many rocks.....New Hampshire is called 'The Granite State' for a reason! I probably have about 10 raised beds and borders with these stacked rocks.,...and yes, I built them all myself. The bed you are asking about is too long to fit it all in the must be at least 25 feet lots of rocks!! I refuse to buy rocks, even though the landscaping rocks you buy are prettier and make a more professional-looking wall than these dug out of the It is bad enough that I have to buy soil. The blue clematis is 'Perle d' Azur'. The watering cans hanging on the trellis started out being functional but now they're just decorative. This summer we actually got some rain so I never used them. Then someone commented that they liked them hanging there so I left them. The pale daylily in the lower left in photo #8 is Cerulean Fringe. Last Lama is unfortunately planted in a less than optimal spot in partial shade and I think the bud count would be more in full is almost all bloomed out now but it had at least 15 buds per scape. Nancy, YES...goldfinches do enjoy eating the sunflower seeds fresh on the flower. They literally flock to my yard since I have way more sunflowers than pictured here. I also notice them on the coneflowers and liatris. Funniest thing I saw today was a chipmunk hanging off the sunflower head, stuffing his cheeks with seeds....haha. Celeste
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  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Aliska,I read that about the two young girls,so sad.We have a lady on FB, that was picking HER OWN, corn,later in the evening, her hands started to blister,turn red, and swell up, she went to the doctor,and has chemical burns, from the fields next to hers, from chem drifts.We watched a program last week, maybe some of you saw it,called,"Children of the Harvest" it followed one family from TX, I think it was, all the way up to Minn. to work the fields,so many they could not pick, because of Monsanto crops,they were picking Blueberries and cucumbers,even children 8-9 years old, bushel baskets were bigger than they were.So were the large yellow rubber gloves they were trying to wear.This was on regular TV,not cable.I feel bad now, when I look a blueberries,you are right on target, when you say Greed has robbed their minds.
    Girlsgroup, I buy from some of the same companies you buy from,thank you for posting them,I don't understand why some next door are so upset,this is all public knowledge,and things we all need to know.And thanks for helping to spread the word.
    Oh, some seed companies, are now offering Survival
    ,seed cans, yes,thats right,they sure are aware of the the problem eh

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well, I guess they didn't mo-e the whole thread. 3 keys stu-k, new key-oard ordered.

    I'll see if I -an find a link to an arti-le today, k'ant get into my email -e-ause my pw has 2 stu-k letters in it, lu-kily was still signed in here from last night. Kan't get into anything w/pw like my -ank & ins akkounts.

    Think my son sent me the link, found it in my history. Looks like Russia Today, lots of -ids of them on YT. Normally I might not konsider them kredi-le -ut they ha-e -een ahead of the kur-e on some stories US media won't karry. For some news a-out US you ha-e to go to the foreign press like Jerusalem Post, ha'aretz, (England's korporate media), et-., & faktshesk.

    karol, you were sending me the newsletter -ut I went offline due to $ pro-s for a few months so they pro-a-ly -oun-ed. There are lots of good -ids on YT.

    Those girls there is a running artikle and kommentary on the front page Quad Sity Times and lots of komments. Monsanto kouldn't ha-e -een more apologeti-, and the kontraktor farmers had -een on -a-ation, kame home to that. It's supposed to work -y hydrauliks so I don't know where the elektrisity got into it.

    I korn detassled myself when I was a teenager. Kan't imagine the poor parents and small kommunity.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Organik farmers sue Monsanto

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    A most germane comment over by lurkandk over on winter sowing discussions at Jul 30, 11 at 14:41.

    From an article in Scientific American [On an ever so slightly different subject, i.e. the psychology of prejudice, but the language is better than mine.]

    "It's normal for people to over-perceive threats; our mind is designed to err in that direction. It's also normal for people, when confronted with the kinds of threats we've been discussing, to experience emotions like anger, disgust and fear."

    You see, folks on Gardenweb, your are normal.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Can gentically engineered foods help feed the hungry? Are anti-GMO activists and over-zealous environmentalists standing in the way of the hungry being fed?

    The hope that GMO foods might bring solutions to malnutrition and world hunger was never more dramatically illustrated than when Time magazine ran a cover story titled "Grains of Hope." The article joyfully announced the development of a genetically engineered "golden rice." This new strain of GM rice has genes from viruses and daffodils spliced into its genetic instructions. The result is a form of rice that is a golden-yellow color (much like daffodil flowers), and that produces beta-carotene, which the human body normally converts into Vitamin A.

    Nearly a million children die every year because they are weakened by Vitamin A deficiencies and an additional 350,000 go blind. Golden rice, said Time, will be a godsend for the half of humanity that depends on rice for its major staple. Merely eating this rice could prevent blindness and death.

    The development of golden rice was, it seemed, compelling and inspiring evidence that GM crops are the answer to malnutrition and hunger. Time quoted former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: "Responsible biotechnology is not the enemy, starvation is."

    Shortly after the Time cover story, Monsanto and other biotechnology companies launched a $50 million marketing campaign, including $32 million in TV and print advertising. The ads, complete with soft focus fields and smiling children, said that "biotech foods could help end world hunger."

    Other ad campaigns have followed. One Monsanto ad tells the public: "Biotechnology is one of tomorrow's tools in our hands today. Slowing its acceptance is a luxury our hungry world cannot afford."

    Within a few months, the biotech industry had spent far more on these ads than it had on developing golden rice. Their purpose? "Unless I'm missing something," wrote Michael Pollan in The New York Times Magazine, "the aim of this audacious new advertising campaign is to impale people like me -- well-off first-worlders dubious about genetically engineered food -- on the horns of a moral dilemma ... If we don't get over our queasiness about eating genetically modified food, kids in the third world will go blind."

    The implication of the ads is that lifesaving food is being held hostage by anti-science activists.

    In the years since Time proclaimed the promises of golden rice, however, we've learned a few things.

    For one thing, we've learned that golden rice will not grow in the kinds of soil that it must to be of value to the world's hungry. To grow properly, it requires heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides -- expensive inputs unaffordable to the very people that the variety is supposed to help. And we've also learned that golden rice requires large amounts of water -- water that might not be available in precisely those areas where Vitamin A deficiency is a problem, and where farmers cannot afford costly irrigation projects.

    And one more thing -- it turns out that golden rice doesn't work, even in theory. Malnourished people are not able to absorb Vitamin A in this form. And even if they could, they'd have to eat an awful lot of the stuff. An 11-year-old boy would have to eat 27 bowls of golden rice a day in order to satisfy his minimum requirement for the vitamin.

    I'm sure that given enough time and enough money, some viable genetically modified (GM) crops could be developed that contain more nutrients or have higher yields. But I'm not sure that even if that were to happen, it would actually benefit the world's poor. Monsanto and the other biotech companies aren't developing these seeds with the intention of giving them away. If people can't afford to buy GM seeds, or if they can't afford the fertilizers, pesticides and water the seeds require, they'll be left out.

    Poverty is at the root of the problem of hunger. As Peter Rosset, director of Food First, reminds us, "People do not have Vitamin A deficiency because rice contains too little Vitamin A, but because their diet has been reduced to rice and almost nothing else."

    And what, pray tell, has reduced these people to such poverty and their diets to such meager fare? In the words of the British writer George Monbiot:

    The world has a surplus of food, but still people go hungry. They go hungry because they cannot afford to buy it. They cannot afford to buy it because the sources of wealth and the means of production have been captured and in some cases monopolized by landowners and corporations. The purpose of the biotech industry is to capture and monopolize the sources of wealth and the means of production ...
    GM technology permits companies to ensure that everything we eat is owned by them. They can patent the seeds and the processes which give rise to them. They can make sure that crops can't be grown without their patented chemicals. They can prevent seeds from reproducing themselves. By buying up competing seed companies and closing them down, they can capture the food market, the biggest and most diverse market of all.

    No one in her right mind would welcome this, so the corporations must persuade us to focus on something else ... We are told that ... by refusing to eat GM products, we are threatening the developing world with starvation, an argument that is, shall we say, imaginative ...

    With rare exceptions, genetically engineered crops are being created not because they're productive or because they address real human needs, but because they're patentable.

    The biotech companies have invested billions of dollars because they sense in this technology the potential for enormous profit and the means to gain control over the world's food supply. Their goal is not to help subsistence farmers feed themselves. Their goal is maximum profit.

    While Monsanto would like us to believe they are seeking to alleviate world hunger, there is actually a very dark side to the company's efforts. For countless centuries farmers have fed humanity by saving the seed from one years crop to plant the following year. But Monsanto, the company that claims its motives are to help feed the hungry, has developed what it calls a "Technology Protection System" that renders seeds sterile. Commonly known as "terminator technology" and developed with taxpayer funding by the USDA and Delta & Pine Land Company (an affiliate of Monsanto), the process genetically alters seeds so that their offspring will be sterile for all time. If employed, this technology would ensure that farmers cannot save their own seeds, but would have to come back to Monsanto year after year to purchase new ones.

    Critics refer to these genetically engineered seeds as suicide seeds. "By peddling suicide seeds, the biotechnology multinationals will lock the world's poorest farmers into a new form of genetic serfdom," says Emma Must of the World Development Movement. "Currently 80 percent of crops in developing countries are grown using farm-saved seed. Being unable to save seeds from sterile crops could mean the difference between surviving and going under."

    To Monsanto and other GMO companies, the terminator and other seed sterilizing technologies are simply business ventures that are designed to enhance profits. In this case, there is not even the implication of benefit to consumers.

    I wish I could speak more highly of GM foods and their potential. But the technology is now held tightly in the hands of corporations whose motives are, I'm afraid, very different from what they would have us believe.

    Despite the PR, Monsanto's goal is not to make hunger history. It's to control the staple crops that feed the world.

    Will GMOs help end world hunger? I don't think so.

    John Robbins is the author of many bestsellers including "The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World," the classic "Diet For A New America" and "The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less." He is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey's Courage of Conscience Award and Green America's Lifetime Achievement Award. To learn more about his work, visit
    This Blogger's Books from

    The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less
    by John Robbins

    Food Revolution, The: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World
    by John Robbins

    Many supporters of GMO seeds, are Monsanto supporters.
    Who is in charge of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service ?
    I believe it was Tom Vilsack,who is now a member of the cabnit our current Secretary.Who is Tom Vilsack?Google him and find out.
    Our Supreme Court Justice,Clarence Thomas,,,Used to Work for who> Monsanto.and several top positions in the Food and Drug Administration,and the Department of Agriculture,all filled with former Monsanto Lobbyist, do you really want to believe any thing these people say?
    I can post more articall s,but I will not, enough has been said,if you are interested at all, in what you, your children,and grandchildren are eating, do your research,,make up your own mind,in the mean time,keep saving your seeds.You might want to google, how many seed saving banks are left here in the U.S., compared to how many there used to be, and why.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    There are some fact errors and fact gaps in the above post.

    1) The terminator technology was developed (and I know the scientists who worked on it personally) to answer the concerns about inserted genes jumping or drifting to other plants. No pollen, so chance of genes moving. However it gets used, that was its purpose.

    When golden rice clears the last of the regulatory hurdle and reaches the market, expected in 2013 (which is why it hasn't fulfilled its promise yet), it will be available free to subsistence farmers. As long as a farmer does not make more than $10,000 per year, there is no fee, and farmers are permitted to keep and replant seed. All of the companies and groups developing gold rice type varieties (there are a number including the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines) have agreed to donate seeds to developing countries and sell seeds to developed countries. Donated seeds will be distributed to government-run centers that will pass the seeds on to farmers. Of course they are goingto make a profit on golden rice; this is a company, not a government funded organization.

    True, the very first version of golden rice didn't have as much vitamin A in it as is needed. But we are several versions further down the road and Louisiana State University field tests have shown field-grown golden rice produces 23 times more than the original.

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding further improvements including increasing the levels of or the bioavailability of pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, and zinc, and to improve protein quality.

    According to a UNICEF report, in 2000, 124 million people, in 118 countries in Africa and South East Asia, were estimated to have vitamin A deficiency (VAD). VAD causes 102 million deaths and 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness a year.

    UNICEF officials said "The genetic modification to make rice produce provitamin A (beta-carotene) is seen as a simple and less expensive alternative to vitamin supplements and injection and to be the genetically engineered equivalent of fluoridated water or iodized salt."

    Proviatmin A (beta-carotene), which is what golden rice produces and how most people get vitamin A from food, is converted in the body to vitamin A. The body converts more than 25% of the beta-carotene in golden rice into vitamin A; a better conversion rate than for many green, leafy vegetables.

    Golden rice requires no more fertilizer and water than any other modern high yielding rice form the Green Revolution that Norman Borloug introduced. All of these high yielding varieties (which are not GMOs) require more fertilizer and water than traditional rice varieties, which would fall over (lodge) if given that much water and fertilizer rather than stand up and yield more rice. You can argue if high yielding varieties are good for people, but it is not a GMO issue.

    Even Vandana Shiva, a noted Indian anti-GMO activist, said the problem was not that the crop had any particular deficiencies, he just didn't want people to find any GMO crop beneficial because it opened the door to other GMO crops.

    The company that developed golden rice is Syngenta, not Monsanto. The researchers used some Monsanto intellectual property rights along with some from 70 belonging to 32 different companies and universities.

    Even Vandana Shiva, an Indian anti-GMO activist, said the problem was not that the crop had any particular deficiencies, he just didn't want people to find any GMO crop beneficial because it opened the door to other GMO crops.

    Do I think Monsanto is some sort of saint of a company? No. But I prefer to go after them for things they've actually done like pollute the Hudson River

    I'd be very interested where you found such a figure that there are fewer seeds banks in the U.S. I did a Google the subject and did not find such numbers. There are currently about 1,400 seed banks in the world plus the U.S. hold seeds of crops and their wild relatives in trust and as back up for a number of developing countries. When a country that previously did not have modern seed banks creates one, the U.S. provides the genetic material back to them.

    Actually Tom Vilsack has very little direct charge of ARS research, Congress does. Congress passes the budget for each USDA agency independently from USDA as a Department. Congress assigns most of ARS's tasks as part of either the annual budget or in other bills such as the Farm Bill passed every five years or in directed research such as that assigned for Colony Collapse Disorder of honey bees. (If anyone wants to hear my personal opinion of Tom Vilsack, send me an email and I will be happy to share.)

    cAROL's comment to do your research, and make up your own mind is the best advise that anyone can take. Do your research and make sure you have facts. If you want to be against biotechnology for philosophical reasons, hey that is your right and we are all thankful for the right to have opinions. But I always recommend to verify things people tell me are so and the best thing you can do is seek out primary data and then make up your mind.

    As usual, when it comes to correcting nonfactual material, I've gone on way too long.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    US Patent on New Genetic Technology Will Prevent Farmers from Saving Seed
    On March 3 Delta and Pine Land Co. (Mississippi, USA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they received US Patent No. 5,723,765 on a new genetic technology designed to prevent unauthorized seed saving by farmers. The patented technology, Control of plant gene expression" would allow seed companies to control the viability of progeny seed without harming the crop. In other words, the new technology genetically alters the seed so that it will not germinate if re-planted a second time.

    The patent is broad, applying to plants and seeds of all species, including both transgenic (genetically engineered) and conventionally-bred seeds. If commercially viable, the patented technology could have far-reaching implications for farmers and the commercial seed industry. If the technology is widely licensed, it could be a boon to the seed industry - especially for companies marketing self-pollinating seeds such as wheat, rice, cotton, soybeans, oats and sorghum. Historically there has been little commercial interest in non-hybridized seeds such as wheat and rice because there is no way for seed companies to control reproduction. If commercially viable, the new technology could mean huge profits in entirely new sectors of the seed industry. For farmers, the patented technology will undoubtedly mean greater dependence on the commercial seed market, and a fundamental loss of control over germplasm. If widely utilized, farmers will lose the age-old right to save seed from their harvest.

    Many seed corporations have tried to stop farmers from saving or re-selling proprietary seeds by using intellectual property laws (patents and plant breeders' rights) that make it illegal for farmers to re-use or sell harvested seed (for reproductive purposes). Monsanto, for example, now requires that farmers sign a licensing agreement that strictly forbids farmers from saving or re-using the company's patented seed. (See RAFI Communique on "Bioserfdom," March/April, 1997.) According to a recent article in Progressive Farmer magazine, Monsanto is aggressively enforcing its patents on transgenic soybean seeds, and has recently taken legal action against more than 100 soybean growers who have violated the licensing agreement. (see:

    The company has even hired Pinkerton investigators (hired police) to identify unauthorized seed-saving farmers.

    If Delta and Pineland's new technology successfully prevents farmers from germinating a second generation of seed, then seed companies will gain biological control over seedsthat they have heretofore lacked in non-hybrid crops.

    Nobody knows exactly how many farmers save seed from their harvest each year. By some estimates, 20% to 30% of all soybean fields in the US midwest are typically planted with saved seeds; up to 50% of soybeans in the South are planted with farmer-saved seed. Precise statistics are not available, but many North American wheat farmers rely primarily on farm-saved seeds and return to the commercial market once every four or five years.

    Impact in the South

    A genetic technology designed to prevent farmers from saving seed would have a far greater impact in the South - and that is precisely the market being targeted. Murray Robinson, the president of Delta & Pine Land, told RAFI, "We expect it [the new technology] to have global implications, especially in markets or countries where patent laws are weak or non-existent." The company says its new patent has "the prospect of opening significant worldwide seed markets to the sale of transgenic technology for crops in which seed currently is saved and used in subsequent plantings." ( no longer available.

    Up to 1.4 billion resource-poor farmers in the South depend on farm-saved seed and seeds exchanged with farm neighbors as their primary seed source. A technology that threatens to extinguish farmer expertise in selecting seed and developing locally-adapted strains is a threat to food security and agricultural biodiversity, especially for the poor.

    According to USDA spokesman, Willard Phelps, Delta & Pine Land Co. has the option to exclusively license the patented technology that was jointly developed by USDA researchers and Delta & Pine Land. The USDA wants the technology to be "widely licensed and made expeditiously available to many seed companies," said USDA's Phelps. The goal is "to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by US seed companies and to open up new markets in Second and Third World countries," said Phelps.

    Melvin J. Oliver, a USDA molecular biologist and primary inventor of the technology, explains why the US government developed a technology that prohibits farmers from saving proprietary seed: "My main interest is the protection of American technology. Our mission is to protect US agriculture, and to make us competitive in the face of foreign competition. Without this, there is no way of protecting the technology [patented seed]." Oliver says that the technology to prohibit seed-saving is still in the product development stage, and is now being tested in cotton and tobacco.

    In RAFI's view, the fact that this technology was developed by USDA researchers, with taxpayer funds, should be a real kick in the teeth to US farmers. USDA researchers articulate a greater allegiance to the commercial seed industry than they do to farmers. Publicly-supported plant breeding was once the backbone of US agriculture. Its goal was to deliver superior crop varieties to farmers' fields - not to guarantee seed industry profits. A new technology that is designed to give the seed industry greater control over seeds will ultimately weaken the role of public breeders and reinforce corporate consolidation in the global seed industry (for more information, see RAFI's Communique on The Life Industry.)

    * Delta & Pine Land Co. (Scott, Mississippi) is the largest cotton seed company in the world, with 1997 annual sales of $183 million. Monsanto is a minor shareholder in Delta & Pineland; the two companies have a joint cotton seed venture in China (D&M Intl. LLC).

    * Monsanto (St. Louis, Missouri) is a major life industry corporation, and the world's second ranking agrochemical corporation. Monsanto's investment and acquisition in seeds and agrochemicals over the past 24 months exceeded (US) $2 billion. Monsanto's total 1996 revenues were (US) $9.26 billion."

    Biodiversity & Genetic Resources Biological Warfare Biotechnology Corporate Concentration Human Rights / Farmers' Rights Intellectual Property & Patents New Enclosures Terminator & Traitor

    Kimko, this seems to be turning into a debate between you and me, it is quite obvious, you are a supporter of GMO, where I am not, you can keep posting articall s, and so can I,I guess I should have been more clear, we all know there is a Giant Seed bank,what I was referring to was, Farmers, are loosing their rights to save seed,the articall's I have posted, ARE NOT,nonfactual material! Dr. Vandana Shiva, is a highly respected Woman,who is also speaking out about the monstrous things taking place in India, farmers committing suicide because of Monsanto's GMO SEED, do your research,by the way,Dr.Vandana Shiva is a woman, not a "He",this is a Fact.
    Perhaps you could answer just why it is that Hattie, has rejected GMO seed,is it stupidity on their part,if this seed is so wonderful just why is that.
    What about the GMO, fish, Salmon to be exact, are you ok with that also, Frankinfish, is what they are called, now we have to worry about eating Frankinfish.Back On the subject of seed,,We have a perfect seed, that has grown for thousands of years,an Organic, natural seed,able to produce wonderful crops, now comes along a company, that has figured out a way to change the DNA,of this seed, made it Synthetic, for profit, given the choice, what would you take,me, I want the seed created the way it was,How much GMO,corn,are you eating KIMKO? I can tell you, you do not know, why? Because It Is Not Labled, you are not given that Choice.You are eating what the Government wants you to eat.
    You seem to be the kind of person who has to have the last word, I am not, so go for it,I could post an articall on the U.S. Seed Bank, that would make you head turn in circles,but I am all done with this conversation,( debate )Time will tell, won't it.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    If you stop posting lies, myths, and incorrect facts, I'll stop correcting them.

    And aren't you really clever transposing my gardenweb handle from kimka to KIMKO, like that some how links me with Monsanto. But that doesn't make KIMKO my handle any more than it makes anything a fact that isn't.

    As I have said in every post I've made, you, like me, like everyone, have every right to an opinion. But you don't get to make things up (or quote someone who has made it up), call it fact and then act all offended when someone calls you out on it.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hey Carol,
    Here is a video you might find interesting. Half way through he talks about the GMO salmon and also the corn. It's very interesting, he quotes articles and studies done on health issues from GMO. Now I'm not too smart, but I do trust that articles written about studies that have been done, are true and factual. Whatever you want to think, this video is interesting. I'm also concerned about the benzoate acid they put in things like soda pop and salad dressing etc. (I think that was the right name). I read an article about it in a health magazine last year, scarey! Check this out.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Nancy,thank you for such an informational articall,it is very scary, what is happening right now with the food we eat.I am still so surprised at how many are not even aware of it.Go Organic,is the answer for now.Thanks for posting,and nice to see you here,shame, we forgot to welcome you,I am apologetic. Hope you post more often,this is a great site,and I am happy it did not scare you off.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Being new to the forums here, I just now came across this old thread. I've been 'organic' since before it was called permaculture, dating myself here but we were still (disparagingly) being called granola muffins back then!

    With that said, I'm surprised that it didn't even occur to me to ask whether seed exchanged here is clean, meaning no GM crap. Yes, crap. In spite of what your resident Monsanto fan had to say.

    I'm cleaning seed today to donate to the newbie seed exchange. It's from my garden so I know what it's about. I didn't need to ask for seed in return because i have enough this year, but if contaminated seed is shared here, I won't get any! I even prefer open-pollinated varieties, which is primaily what I grow.

    Can someone give me some information regarding this issue? Thanks.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It's always amazing how people can take an issue (which might indeed have serious implications), twist the facts, repeat and amplify inaccuracies, and still feel like they are doing the world a favor. There is so much bologna in many of the posts above, I feel like I'm visiting a meat packing plant! If you believe there may be disadvantages in GMO crops, do your homework and review the science, not the rumor mill. Posting inaccuracies and statements based on rumors/fears/misunderstandings is not the way to convince anyone with the ability to research and reason. There are probably more than enough real problems with the way 99% of our food is currently produced to eliminate the need for false and misleading statements. Those real issues (about GMO issues, Monsanto, or whatever) are what should be reported and discussed.

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