Is Monsanto the Evil Empire?

Filipinos say NO to Monsanto's genetically modified corn. (AP Photo/Greenpeace/Melvyn Calderon)

It’s a very strong possibility. Consider the facts: Monsanto was started in 1901 to manufacture an artificial sweetener called saccharin, which later became implicated as a possible carcinogen. For most of its history Monsanto’s business was producing chemicals, including  two of the most toxic substances ever created: polychlorinated biphenyls, better known as PCBs, and dioxin. PCBs have been linked to damage in the liver and in the neurological, immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems – and crammed into everything around us. Monsanto also manufactured the powerful herbicide Agent Orange (whose byproduct is the deadly dioxin), used to defoliate 30,000 square miles of South Vietnam. Its best-selling product (accounting for half its corporate profits) is a herbicide called Roundup that kills every green plant it touches. And the great minds of Monsanto also brought us recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) that it tried to force down the throat of every dairy farmer in America, and into every child’s glass of milk.

But the real windfall came when the chemical giant Monsanto, now calling itself a “Life Sciences” company, used a Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to  patent “live human-made microorganisms” to facilitate its quest for world domination…through seeds.

Whoever controls seeds controls the world’s food supply, and Monsanto quickly became the world leader in genetic modification of seeds, winning hundreds of biotechnology patents that force farmers to re-buy seeds every year, instead of simply saving them from the previous crop. It controls those patents with an iron fist and a ferociously litigious army of lawyers, secretly videotaping farmers and threatening them with crushingly costly lawsuits.

Alfalfa, up close & personal

Which is why the recent Supreme Court victory by the Center for Food Safety in Monsanto v. Geerston Farms was such a stunningly satisfying upset. In true David-and-Goliath fashion, CFS (with organic companies like Stonyfield Farms, Cliff Bar and Eden Foods) took on Monsanto and the Department of Agriculture in the first genetically modified crop case ever brought before the Supreme Court — and prevailed!

“We brought this case to court because I and other conventional farmers will no doubt suffer irreversible economic harm if the planting of GE alfalfa is allowed,” said plaintiff Phil Geerston.  “It was simply a question of our survival…” He isn’t exaggerating.

Green waves of grain

Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in America and a key source of dairy forage. With the incursion of Monsanto’s patented GE alfalfa into fields nearby, organic and conventional farmers face the loss of their businesses due to widespread contamination and cross-pollination. Roundup-Ready Alfalfa seeds are genetically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup, so farmers can conveniently spray fields with weed killer without affecting the crops (which kinda makes you wonder what its residue does to you when you eat the crops slathered in it). But seeds tend to spread, on the wind and by birds, meaning no fields or forest are safe from transgenic invasion. Plus, an epidemic of super-weeds have sprung up in nature’s creative response to genetically engineered crops, affecting all farmers.

Nearly all sugar beets are genetically engineered by Monsanto.

Faced with this imbroglio, the judges ruled that the selling and planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa is illegal and the ban on the crop will remain in place until a full and adequate Environmental Impact Statement is prepared by USDA and the crop is officially deregulated–which will take a least a year. “The Court’s decision affirmed that the threat of genetic contamination of natural plants posed by biotech crops is an issue of significant environmental concern now and in the future,” said George Kimbrell, senior staff attorney for CFS, in an austere understatement. (Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are banned in much Europe, where they obviously take their food a lot more seriously than we do here in the USA.)

I’m so thrilled today to be donating $100 to the Center for Food Safety in its ongoing fight to protect our health and the environment by challenging harmful food production technologies and  promoting organic and sustainable agriculture. And for taking on the big legal guns (and unlimited legal budgets) of Monsanto. To join me in putting your money where your mouth quite literally is, click here.

And for more great information about the food we eat, read Barbara Kingsolver’s  Animal Vegetable Miracle or Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, watch the movie Food Inc.,or go to the Center for Food Safety website for non-GMO Shopping Guides!

13 thoughts on “Is Monsanto the Evil Empire?

  1. Is MONSANTO evil? I hope that’s not a serious question. If that poisonous monolith with its galloping greed and megalomania are not evil, then nothing is or ever has been. At least with Hitler, what ya saw was what ya got. Here, it’s all invisible.

    It’s like the plot from some absurd AUSTIN POWERS movie, only it ain’t funny: To “rule the world” and thin down the population to more manageable proportions by controlling EVERYONE’S food and MAKING us eat spiked, mal-sequenced DNA in the form of GMO’s; well, THAT’S Monsanto. Period. There is no doubt, the jury is back : GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY.

  2. corruption is about to destroy Irelands reputation in the food industry. Which politicians and who in the Ministry of Agriculture gave permission to monsanto to grow its poison crops on Irish soil. And what about the surounding farmers ?

  3. We in South America have survived and lived well for many hundreds of years, we don’t need anyones help least of all Monsanto. My country stood up and said NO to Monsanto, unfortunately two other countries due to government greed gave in, now they are sorry they did.
    I only hope Monsanto will soon be before an International Court for Crimes Against Humanity.


    • I am so proud of the people who are struggling to farm and live — and yet don’t give in to Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds and their
      strong-arm tactics. In the long run, nobody should have a stranglehold on seeds … it is a crime against humanity to think that they are breaking the whole tradition
      of farmers using their own seeds, not to mention what it’s doing to the bees and butterflies. I love Peru!

  4. This is a hugely important issue, as much for ‘first world’ farmers as those in developing countries, where the inability to pay off debts from buying chemical herbicides and fertilizers often means losing their land and a one-way trip to the nearest big city slum.
    In fact, home-made fertilizers and even pesticides are being used by the members of the land reform movements I met in both Brazil and Indonesia. Their crop yields were not only (quite a bit) higher, but cost less to produce and therefore more profitable. The idea that the poor need Monsanto’s products is a myth, I think, put about by Monsanto itself.
    Thanks for a talking about a really important issue.

  5. I don’t know a whole lot about this, but isn’t it true that poor countries and the third world cannot possibly grow enough food for themselves if they have to rely on organic gardening and no pesticides? And have not in fact, some of the advances which have allowed some people in third world countries to advance and increase their production been genetically engineered products or seeds?
    These are my impressions, notwithstanding the evil company.

    • Hi Charlotta — It certainly is true that developing countries need help producing more food, but I would suggest that putting that in Monsanto’s hands — a company’s that has shown no compunctions about poisoning the ground (dioxin) and the water (PCBs), needlessly adding growth hormones to milk (it’s not like we need to be producing more of it — we already pay farmers subsidies to make less of it) and prohibiting farmers from saving any seeds, year to year — has clearly shown it values profits above all else. And to introduce that kind of heedless capitalism into a fragile, developing country I believe is tantamount to agricultural imperialism. There have got to be other, better ways to increase agricultural productivity – and although I’m not suggesting it’s an all-organic route by any means, Monsanto is at the complete other end of the spectrum, I think!

  6. Thank you so much for bringing this to people’s attention. I first heard of Monsanto’s aggression and greed from Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III in 1995.

    It is wonderful that you have allowed us to know about and celebrate this wonderful victory!


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