by Jeff Clemetson, Editor
Opponents of GMO giant Monsanto have certainly given it their all these last few weeks. First there was the March Against Monsanto on May 25 that drew over 2 million protesters from around the globe to speak out against the dangers of the biotech company’s chemically-soaked, genetically-engineered crops that have taken over a large part of the world’s food supply. The protests were a peaceful demonstration meant to shed light on a subject that is often (and purposefully) ignored by the major media news networks who depend on advertising dollars from companies that use GMOs in their products. Despite the media giving little or no airtime on network television, the demonstration was a major success.
The bad times for Monsanto just kept rolling when last week it was revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin warned President Obama that US policies that protect companies like Monsanto and Syngenta can eventually lead to war. The minutes of the meeting between Putin and Obama were released by Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). According to the report, Putin warned Obama that world food shortages caused by the rapid extinction of crop-pollinating bees caused by the chemicals used on GMO crops “will most certainly” lead to a world war. The MNRE report cited studies through Europe and the US that show how the toxic chemicals used on GMO crops can effect entire food chains and ecosystems. Apparently, Putin is so concerned with the issue of a possible “bee apocalypse” that he kept Secretary of State John Kerry waiting for three hours before a meeting because the Secretary refused to discuss the issue of GMOs in the meeting.
Now one might think that the threat of war by a leader of a country that is armed with nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles would be enough to make our government wake up to the dangers of GMO and stop sucking off the corporate tit of Monsanto. And, really, one would hope that a peaceful protest by millions of people would wake them up before threats of war were thrown about during closed-door meetings. Unfortunately, the only thing that may stop Monsanto is Monsanto itself. Fortunately, it appears the biotech behemoth may have done just that.
Last week, while still crossing its fingers that the March Against Monsanto would quietly be ignored, the GMO Goliath was hit by a rock thrown from its own sling when a wheat farmer in Oregon discovered illegal GMO wheat on his field. GMO wheat was a product that Monsanto had developed and tested in Oregon but was never approved. The GMO program was supposed to be terminated in 2005 and Monsanto claims it had destroyed all of the GMO wheat it was growing in Oregon. Obviously, that is not the case.
Since the discovery of the illegal GMO wheat in Oregon, US wheat farmers have been loosing millions of dollars because foreign markets such as Japan, South Korea and Europe have bans on GMO wheat and have halted shipments until testing can prove that the contaminated wheat field in Oregon is an isolated case. The US wheat farmers aren’t taking this lying down. Farmers from Kansas and Washington have already filed lawsuits against Monsanto claiming that the company’s negligence is now costing them millions of dollars as their contracted shipments of wheat are being held up for further testing.
“We farmers cannot stand idly by while companies like Monsanto destroy our export markets and our economy,” said Tom Stahl, a fourth-generation Washington wheat farmer from Waterville in an interview with the Associated Press.
Monsanto responded by claiming the lawsuits are premature and by stating they will “present a vigorous defense.” Translation: “We will use our lawyers and deep-pockets to spend you out of court.” As for how the supposedly dead GMO wheat contaminated the Oregon field in the first place, Monsanto’s excuse, as of now, is so laughable it’s akin to a child saying “the dog ate my homework.” The company is trying to say that someone sabotaged the field to smear the company.
What Monsanto doesn’t want to admit is the more plausible explanation of the concept of GMO drift. GMO drift happens when a GMO crop gets cross-pollinated with a conventional one, thus contaminating it and forever making the conventional crop exude properties of the patented GMO crop. Blaming the wheat contamination on some boogyman saboteur is important to Monsanto because if GMO drift becomes established in court, organic farmers who have long been complaining about contamination of their fields will finally be able to have precedent to sue the global giant without bankrupting themselves.
Unfortunately, Monsanto’s lobbyists and Congressmen on the take will likely keep the company from any real criminal trouble over the GMO wheat – perhaps a million dollar fine, a pitance to a company that makes tens of billions of dollars annually. But this debacle is certainly a PR nightmare for a company that tries desperately to seem friendly to farmers. Shots on the news of angry wheat farmers calling for an end to GMOs certainly doesn’t help that image. And coupled with the recent March Against Monsanto of millions of people worldwide demanding at the very least to have GMO foods labeled, the general public, who have seemed apathetic to GMO issues in the past, is starting to get the picture that this company and biotech and chemical companies like them are not looking out for anyone’s interest but their own. And when it comes to something as basic and important as food, it is not wise to blindly trust profiteers like Monsanto.
To reach Jeff Clemetson with any questions or comments, please email him at email@example.com.