When it comes to Monsanto, I have to admit I've been a bit lazy in my research about whether GMOs and genetically engineered crops are all that bad for us. I've been complacent, and preoccupied, and naive in my belief that our government and the scientific community are looking out for our best interests. But no longer, thanks to my old classmate Jennifer Nicholson, a former microbiologist, professor and now a high school teacher. I'm so proud to share, in her words, what Monsanto is all about and why she's organizing a local March Against Monsanto on May 25, 2013 in Stroudsburg, PA.
Why I March Against Monsansto
~ By Jennifer Nicholson
I am a busy, single, working mother of two young boys. Most nights, I collapse into bed and don’t even remember falling asleep. But I am also a science geek at heart and always have been. I have known about Monsanto, the biotech agricultural giant, for years.
Since I began learning about Monsanto's practices, I assumed that someone would eventually reign them in. I just couldn't believe our government would allow a company to bend the rules and make dangerous genetically modified seeds. I was wrong. Not only did our government step back, they handed Monsanto the keys to our world’s food supply. These days, Monsanto writes its own rules, which our congressmen and congresswomen vote into law. Monsanto has grown exponentially in power and influence. Their seed products have also grown exponentially in the amount and types of toxins that they make plant cells produce.
I’ve watched Monsanto grow in reach and influence and have often felt powerless. What can one woman do? Complacency didn’t seem to work (duh). Rants worked, kind of. But now, I’m so thankful that I’m finally not alone. March Against Monsanto is an international event that will take place in hundreds of cities around the world tomorrow, on May 25, 2013. A few months ago, when I looked for a city near me to participate, they were all too far away. So I decided: I won’t go to a march. I’ll organize my own right here in my little town of Stroudsburg, PA.
Why march? I march because Monsanto is practically running the FDA, USDA and most of Congress. Former Monsanto employees are now implanted in seemingly every branch of our government. These employees benefit through direct grants, campaign contributions and future employment positions at Monsanto when their terms are up. Regulatory agency bigwigs toggle back and forth between Monsanto and the government and work to pass everything Monsanto desires.
Have you ever heard of the (informally dubbed) Monsanto Protection Act? This little gem was slipped into a much larger bill that was signed into law at the last minute. It ensures that GMO crops cannot be made illegal (banned) even if they are proven to be harmful to human health. It’s even rumored that Monsanto wrote the Monsanto Act. They wrote their own law, which puts them above the law and then had it signed into law! Have we all gone mad?
I march because Monsanto has a monopoly on the seed market and their GMO crops can now be found in about 80% of packaged foods in our grocery stores. Monsanto has pushed out or taken over most of the other seed companies. We no longer have a choice. I thought the antitrust laws related to monopolies would prevent this from happening. But clearly those laws don’t apply to Monsanto.
I march because I know a little bit about science. As a former microbiologist, professor and now high school teacher, my entire professional life has revolved around science. I know that farmers have crossbred plants for centuries in order to get a desired trait. Yet I also know that implanting toxin producing BACTERIAL genes into plant cells is a totally different story.
Bacterial genes do not belong in the DNA of plants. Bacterial genes that produce insecticides are genes that are producing TOXINS. Toxins that are not applied at carefully planned times during the growing season like traditional pesticides. Now, these toxins are produced in every cell of the plant for the entire time it is alive.
These toxins are systemic and cannot be washed off. If toxins can kill insects, how wise is it to assume they will have no effect on humans? The FDA says no testing is required to “approve” any new genetic modifications that Monsanto comes out with. They are now approved and used to make the majority of our food with no safety checks.
Monsanto just came out with a new brand called SmartStax. SmartStax seeds have eight different genetic modifications. Two of these produce herbicide tolerance and six of them produce insecticides. The greatest number of genetic modifications allowed in one plant prior to this was three. Never before have a whopping eight different genes been used.
Now get this: According to sources, Monsanto did not need any testing to get SmartStax approved. None. It was given the green light by the FDA immediately and you will be eating it in products containing corn – and the zillion different foods derived from corn – this year. This is likely to expand to other crops as well.
I march because I know why Monsanto has to keep making more and more genetic modifications in their plants. First of all, their extremely popular “Roundup Ready” crops, which we have been eating for years, contain genetic modifications to make a plant able to withstand being sprayed with the herbicide Roundup. Monsanto also makes Roundup. So a farmer can spray Roundup and kill all the weeds and other plants EXCEPT his/her crop plants.
Over the years farmers have had to spray increasing amounts of Roundup and more frequently. Why? Because of natural selection. The few weeds that are able to live through Roundup spraying are the ones that live and reproduce, which means their offspring will likely have traits that allow them to survive the herbicide as well. These “super weeds,” as they’re called, are also resistant to Roundup.
What is Monsanto’s solution to this resistance? Add more herbicide tolerance genes and drench our food crops with more toxic herbicides to try to control these super weeds. The constant production of insecticides by so called “Bt” crops has also led to resistance in insect species. So they add more insecticide producing genes. When will it end? The food safety agencies in the government have turned their backs. They have sold their souls to Monsanto.
I march because Monsanto has spent tens of millions of dollars in order to get labeling laws shot down. Proposals for laws that would require GMO foods to be labeled as such don’t make it very far at all. Monsanto and our government think that we don’t have a right to know what is in our food.
Currently, there is an amendment attached to the proposed Farm Bill – the King amendment – that would make it impossible for states to make their own individual labeling laws or food regulations. If it is passed, states will be stripped of their food regulation abilities. All these decisions will be up to federal government, which we now know is essentially owned by Monsanto.
I march because my busy life is not going to prevent me from giving up hope that things can and will change. Leaving the job up to those in charge has gone horribly wrong. What started out years ago as inserting plant genes into other plants to make them bigger or prettier has turned into inserting bacterial genes into plants in order to make them resistant to toxic herbicides or make them produce their own insecticides.
What you don’t know CAN in fact hurt you. I want people to know what is going on so that they can decide if they want GMO’s in their food. Then they can decide if Monsanto should have the power it does. I care about humankind and the environment and don’t want government and corporate greed to ruin the planet for our children.
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[photo credit: akeeris/freedigitalphotos]