Saturday, October 26, 2013

GM Foods, Monsanto, Corporations - Oh My!

Two blog friends and regular commenters have given me a heads up on issues involving GMO - genetically modified organisms - in the food chain: GM crops. I've been aware of, but not especially motivated to write about the topic before now. I realised that GM foods form simply another tentacle of unfettered corporatism, this tentacle has Monsanto at its heart. I prefer to criticise and rant about corporatism, the oligarchy and capitalism as a whole, rather than focus on any of the many separate tentacles of this fatal disease. Perhaps I've been too blasé in this case, so have done some research.

It has to be kept in mind that while corporate conduct - Monsanto's conduct in particular - has been, and continues to be despicable, as most corporate conduct is, that is not the whole story.

However unwelcome genetic modification of crops may be to people in the USA and Europe, all relatively privileged people, there are hungry people elsewhere, starving people....there are some here in the US too. If elements of Monsanto's high-handed objectionable work can provide any relief for starving humanity somewhere on the planet, it'd be wrong to dismiss their efforts outright. Millions of starving people will increase, in time, to billions struggling to survive. If Monsanto would concentrate their efforts towards staving off just that eventuality, more people might be prepared to support them.

All genetic engineering isn't bad. Modifications can change plants and animals in a number of ways: modified corn produced to resist a certain weed killer is not the same as rice reprogrammed to contain more vitamin A. Two sides of the coin: beneficial/risky.

The fact that GM crops have been engineered to withstand high application rates of toxic chemicals is an attendant problem, as well as the fact that any new gene used to make fruit ripen more quickly would be likely to reduce its nutrient value....and flavour.

Most GM crops require, or allow, more pesticides and herbicides to survive, and so embed themselves in food; some of it washes off to pollute groundwater and streams, then kills off fish, affecting birds, killing insects the birds eat, and so on. Many GM crops produce sterile seeds, robbing farmers of opportunities to renew their crops as farmers have done for centuries, forcing them to buy a new store of seeds. Follow the money -again!

A current concern in the USA is that foods containing GM ingredients should be clearly labelled as such. That's a reasonable step to take, but whether it would make enough difference to cause Monsanto to change its ways is another matter.

Once again, it's balance that is missing. If corporations were better regulated Monsanto's activities and results of same, would be subject to closer scrutiny and limitation. I feel that it's more important to put stronger focus at the core of the wrong: the corporations and unfettered capitalism.

There are numerous photographs of protesters from US and Europe marching against Monsanto and GM foods - an example shown earlier in this post. Numerous photographs of marchers against fracking, Keystone XL oil pipeline, and other tentacles of unfettered corporation disease are also online. If all those protesters were to combine their strength, along with those who support The Green Party, Justice Party, socialists, anti-war and other left wing groups, there might be an outside chance of making a lasting and more powerful impression....and at the at the very least of waking more sleepers to join them. They are few, we are many. ...or would be if we would all wake up and work TOGETHER instead of splintering into diverse groups!


mike said...

There are far too many negatives associated with Monsanto's aspirations to dominate the world's seed supplies. The most vulgar of them has been Monsanto's relentless legal efforts to bring-down farmers that have adjacent fields and find their crops cross-pollinated with GM plants' has wrought ruination to many an innocent farmer.

I suppose the Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad cow disease" coupled with Chernobyl has made the European nations more critical of their food supply. The EU has resisted GM seeds through protests, policies, and regulations. I understand that agricultural products derived from organic and biodynamic farming are in high demand in the EU. Too bad that lobbyists (Monsanto and most food manufacturers) are in bed with Congress here in the US...we don't even have a requirement to label food as GM.

Thanks for pointing-out that some grains have value-added modifications and not just the simple requirement of more dollar-generating Round-Up weed killer! There have been a number of successful GMs that utilize naturally occurring genetic modifications to prevent various insect predators, too (even these are suspect).

Yes, Twilight, I agree that if all factions would join hands and fight the good fight...much good could come of it. Occupy Wall Street was a multifaceted group of disgruntled protesters, but received criticism regarding its lack of a cohesive base. It quickly fell apart from the criminal aspect (rapes, murder, and robberies within the camps) and various legalities...too bad.

I do have faith that someday our shining prince of all protests will arrive. It does concern me, though, that very few are even too upset over all of this NSA snooping stuff...if ever there were a cause, this is it! A bad omen.

mike (again) said...

And since you mentioned corporate shenanigans...

This from Reg Henry, Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist, "Nonprofit Sounds Enticingly Lucrative"

"...I mean the sort of nonprofit that accrues hundreds of millions of dollars in (non)profit and whose executives enjoy a corporate lifestyle patterned on the Roman emperor business model.

Indeed, my idea for becoming a nonprofit came from the example of two large nonprofit health care corporations based here in Pittsburgh -- UPMC, which owns hospitals and has a growing insurance business, and Highmark, a health insurance company that recently acquired hospitals to compete with UPMC. Well, that started the battle of the bedpan behemoths with no holds barred.

...In one of the first hearings of the case, something interesting has come to light: UPMC is saying that it does not have any employees, despite claiming 55,000 of those in marketing and business materials meant not for judges but mostly regular people wearing the hospital gowns with the natural air-conditioning in the back.

The argument is that UPMC is just a holding entity and that the employees work for 37 subsidiaries. This may be technically correct, but you have to hand it to the legal profession -- attorneys can certainly keep a straight face. I figure they must learn that in law school. If it were me, I couldn't claim UPMC had no employees without dissolving into laughter and thigh slapping."

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, they're ruthless. If only they would use their expertise to do good (and they could) rather than to make profit, profit, profit at the expense of others' livelihoods.

There's some protesting going on today on the NSA front, but it's nowhere near as huge as one might expect.

What'll it take?
(Scratches head).

The UPMC scam is probably par for the course these days. The Corps. top men have an instruction manual passed down through the ages: "How to Fool the People", betcha!

LB said...

Twilight ~ If we stop buying foods containing GMOs, they'll stop producing them. Here are some of the peaceful ways we can make a difference RIGHT NOW:

~ Buy Organic

Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients

~ Look for "Non-GMO Project" verified seals

~ Avoid at-risk ingredients

If it’s not labeled organic or verified non-GMO, avoid products made with ingredients that might be derived from GMOs, including the eight GM food crops: Corn, Soybeans, Canola, Cottonseed, Sugar Beets, Hawaiian Papaya (most) and a small amount of Zucchini and Yellow Squash.

Sugar - If a non-organic product made in North American lists “sugar” as an ingredient (and NOT pure cane sugar), then it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane and GM sugar beets.

Dairy Products may be from cows injected with GM bovine growth hormone. Look for labels stating No rBGH, rBST, or artificial hormones.

~ Buy Products listed in the Non-GMO Shopping Guide (see link below)

This link has a lot of good information:

We can also continue to voice our concerns to our elected representatives, urging them to pass legislation requiring labeling of products containing GMOs and nanoparticles, as well as legislation holding agribusiness corporations responsible for damage to the environment or illness in humans.

LB said...


Twilight ~ Regarding those suggestions I included in my last comment- This is how we join together and make the lasting and powerful impression you wrote about in your last paragraph.

This *is* the revolution. We're not waiting, it's already happening. There's strength in numbers.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks for posting those details and link - it'll take a while to memorise the detail, but will make a note of what to avoid where possible until I get the list into memory banks.

I'm sure other readers overtime will be grateful too.

I'll do what I can, within our limited shopping availabilities here:
Homeland (preferred) and Walmart - and another small locally owned but not likely to carry expensive or unusual stuff.

ex-Chomp said...

This topic is largely underestimated, you are right, and the problem - as usual - lies in the lack of any sort of control in the name of a false liberty, the liberty of the corporativists to manage the whole world.

Who can have, who will have the **force** to control those forces?? No one. No one. No one. Up to now no one, for the objectives are different and the forces did and do divide in many small brooks.

You are right too understanding what is obvious but so difficultly understood: That the poor and starving people have been used, are being used and probably will continue to be used like some goods of exchange in quite a sort of blackmail: Do as we wanna you to do or the world will stale in starvation...

So it is...

Twilight said...

ex-Chomp ~ Yes, so it is....and in one way or another so it has been for many centuries. It will take something exceptionally strong to chop off those corporate tentacles, or tame them, dry up the many small and large corporate brooks, or make dams to stop them from eventually drowning us all.

We're all metaphorical this morning. ;-)

It will happen though, sometime, somehow. There's some mysterious force of nature, maybe a cruel force, maybe a gentle but insistent one, which arises when things become dangerously unbalanced - as now.

So, we wait, though maybe we'll wait for a long time... still.

LB said...

Twilight ~ It's true. Access, affordability and labeling can be major issues when it comes to shopping for non-GMO foods, though many of us can do *something*. It's also why we donate organic food, both canned (BPA-free) and packaged, to our local Food Banks, so lower income and elderly folks can eat healthy too.

Once you begin to understand which ingredients are risky and best avoided, shopping gets easier. Becoming informed takes time.

You might also try comparing the food items (specific brands) you regularly purchase against the Non-GMO shopping guide's list. Maybe some of them are okay:

Making the transition takes some effort initially, but it's time well spent and eventually it gets easier to choose. It's important for each of us to do whatever it is we *can* do.

You can also encourage Homeland to become a participating retailer in the Non-GMO project. Many stores (even some of the smaller ones) are now starting to carry products with these labels. I notice Homeland Grocery carries organic and bulk food items, so that's something.

Good luck!

mike (again) said...

We are living in the "PostNatural" world! I hadn't considered that moniker for our current era.

Can also be called "Anthropocene":
Anthropocene a proposed term for the present geological epoch (from the time of the Industrial Revolution onwards), during which humanity has begun to have a significant impact on the environment

[C21: from anthropo- and -cene , coined by Paul Crutzen (born 1933), Nobel-winning Dutch chemist]

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks - I'll need it, but shall do my best. :-)

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Post-Natural eh?
I haven't got to grips with "post-modern" yet (what the heck does that ever mean, apart from sounding "cool"?)

I see where post-natural comes from though - and fits. Digital, manipulated, synthetic, electronic...all that. :-/