I have written often enough about agriculture as a turning point in human history. In fact, it may very well have signaled the start of what we now call “history.” Agriculture has been associated with the birth of urban centers and the development of what we commonly understand to be civilization. Yet it was the technological intensification of big agriculture – the use of plows and other deep tillage instruments for the large-scale cultivation of fields as opposed to the prehistoric digging stick – that was the decisive step, leading to greater productivity, food surpluses, and cost effectiveness. This was all pegged to a growth in human population, specifically within newly established urban centers behind newly constructed city walls. It also led, not incidentally, to the articulation of the first civil laws, the rise of a political and legislative class (hierarchy), and the garrisoning of troops for the protection of the surplus food stores and other State properties. And, perhaps not as obvious, it signaled a critical change in human perception of the earth and our place within it — creating a profound sense of homelessness, alienation, and anxiety.
This anxiety-ridden and, perhaps, wayward road of agricultural intensification upon which humans first trod not so many millennia ago, now finds its modern day avatar and hero in Monsanto, the chemical and agribusiness giant that claims to be improving our food supply, the productivity of our farmers, and the availability of food for an ever-expanding global population, while lowering its costs. Like that turn towards intensification so many centuries ago, Monsanto too promises a tricky salvation. But what is it really doing to us and our planet?
Most Americans know Monsanto as a chemical giant, producing some of the most toxic substances ever created, residues from which have left us with some of the most polluted sites on earth… What they may not know is that the company now profoundly influences—and one day may virtually control—what we put on our tables. (Vanity Fair 2008)
It is high time we deal with this shit on our tables, people! Is it not bad enough that we have come to depend for our food upon wage slavery, and upon fossil fuels sucked from the ground, polluting our air, and running the eighteen-wheelers from coast to coast, and store to store? Must we now depend upon, and settle for a belligerent, menacing and litigious chemical-giant that is infusing toxic substances into, and altering the genetic makeup of, the very foods we eat?
Monsanto has an equally toxic history of bribery, extortion, harassment, litigation, intimidation, corporate bullying, along with other deceptive and unscrupulous business practices. Such behaviors supplement its list of toxic products, including agent orange, DDT, PCBs, RoundUp, dioxin, aspartame, rBST rBGH milk Posilac, and a growing family of RoundUp Ready seeds providing us with genetically modified freak-foods.
In the 2010 growing season Monsanto [unleashed] its latest Frankenfood experiment on the American and Canadian public, a new version of genetically mutated corn with eight abnormal gene traits called Genuity SmartStax corn. It [was] the culmination of an astonishing scandal that [had] been steadily building over the past decade. During this time Monsanto’s mutated seeds have grown to 90% of the U.S. soy crop and 85% of the corn crop – and wheat is next on their agenda. Their efforts have been marked by corporate bullying and have drawn the attention of the Justice Department who is conducting an antitrust investigation. All the while they have been spending millions on lobbying to fast track their agenda before the American public even realizes what hit them… Monsanto is making an ominous power play to corner the worldwide market on food and seeds. In the process they are adversely altering the very nature of food itself.
Few people would eat Monsanto’s “food” if they understood what it was or knew that they were eating it. President Obama and his family won’t eat it. Neither did the Bush family. Even a Monsanto employee cafeteria rejects it. This is no laughing matter… Imagine your digestive tract turned into a Roundup Ready herbicide factory and other warped genetic signals slowly and progressively rotting away your health. Unlike acute food poisoning from infectious E.coli, it is a slow and insidious poisoning. [News from Underground]
On the one hand, Monsanto seems the perfect example of the modern corporate citizen, a true love child created in the image of the American corporate-State. And, like its parent, the corporatocracy, it too seeks global control. It wants to control our agricultural food supply – what we eat – to the exclusion of all competition, and without regard for natural boundaries or conditions. It viciously “stomps down budding seed competitors,” pays-off politicians globally to get its GMO seeds planted, and outlaws the saving or sharing of seeds by ordinary farmers. It has even seen to it that farmers in Iraq would be legally inhibited from replanting their seeds from year to year; US diplomat, Paul Bremer – administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority that ruled the “new Iraq” in its chaotic early days – was used as a conduit to feather a bed that Monsanto is sure to occupy sometime in the not-to-distant future as it continues its march of global food domination.
What Order 81 did was to establish the strong intellectual property protections on seed and plant products that a company like the St. Louis-based Monsanto — purveyors of genetically modified (GM) seeds and other patented agricultural goods — requires before they’ll set up shop in a market like the new Iraq. With these protections, Iraq was open for business. In short, Order 81 was Bremer’s way of telling Monsanto that the same conditions had been created in Iraq that had led to the company’s stunning successes in India. [AlterNet]
Yet, just in case no one has noticed, there has been an epidemic of farmer suicides in India of all places since Monsanto introduced itself, its toxic GM seeds, its litigious policies, and its debt instruments there.
The price difference is staggering: £10 for 100 grams of [Monsanto] GM seed, compared with less than £10 for 1,000 times more traditional seeds. Village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds.
In one small village I visited, 18 farmers had committed suicide after being sucked into GM debts. In some cases, women have taken over farms from their dead husbands – only to kill themselves as well.
Latta Ramesh, 38, drank insecticide after her crops failed – two years after her husband disappeared when the GM debts became too much.
But, Monsanto had the best of teacher’s, the most vainglorious of role models. Their efforts systematically embody the very same tactics as our own American hegemony, arrayed in full battle mode, complete with the language and belligerent attitude of domination and harassment, even as we see it currently waged in our administration’s ongoing campaign against Iran. Indeed, such presumptuousness found full voice in President Obama’s State of the Union Address earlier this week when he said…
America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs, and as long as I’m president, I intend to keep it that way.
Such statements betray the profound arrogance and conceit of a nation (and a leader) that give breath and vitality to corporate monsters like Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, GE, among a host of others. In a copycat, almost childlike manner, Monsanto apes its own way towards hegemonic control of the global food supply. It demonstrates that it has learned lessons well from the corporate-State. As our nation continues to intensify its own efforts in political, cultural, and military dominion over the planet, so too Monsanto proceeds apace, intensifying its own global march toward agricultural domination.
As we have noted, Monsanto is not alone in such behavior. Attempts to manage and control every facet of life today are made by diverse corporate sponsors that now have the run of our country and very shortly may bring a final deathblow to the maiden. But, after all, it is America’s right, it is capital’s right, and it is empire’s right. So the pitch or narrative goes. But, the real frightening thing is that in Monsanto’s case we (and our children) are even now ingesting substances whose potentially debilitating impact on the ecology of the earth as well as the ecology of our bodies is not fully known and very possibly terminal. And, yet, the federal government has refused to label foods as GMO on our grocers’ shelves, even as the public outcry for it continues. So, eat at your own risk, my friends. And for you farmers among us; plant at your own risk, and keep a wary eye out for Monsanto’s intellectual-property police: censorship makes strange bedfellows does it not? — entertainment, pharmaceuticals, agriculture. And make certain that no birds, bees or other little creatures have inadvertently delivered Big Brothers’ GMO seeds to your recently tilled field, otherwise you could pay with your farm, if not with your life. Oh! and, by the way, watch out for that salmon you’re eating for dinner tonight… it could be GMO salmon, i.e., maybe not really a fish at all!