Tag Archives: Monsanto

Monsanto Strategies

Some of you may already know this, but for others, this may be a bit of a shock…

What’s one way for Monsanto to affect public discourse?

Why, pay the reporters of course.

In his Jan. 5 (Scripps-Howard News Service) column, (Michael) Fumento wrote that the St. Louis-based Monsanto has about 30 products in the pipeline that will aid farmers “but also help us all by keeping prices down and allowing more crops to be grown on less land.”

What Fumento didn’t say in that column is that conservative Hudson Institute — recieved a $60,000 grant from Monsanto back in 1999. Why does this matter? Well it seems Mr. Fumento is a senior partner at the aforementioned think tank.


One might think that this is an important piece of information that the reader just might like to know.

Luckily, so did Scripps-Howard who fired Mr. Fumento today. Score one for ethics.

Technorati Tags: Food, Monsanto, Food Politics

Organic Food, Wheat and Hunger

I received an e-mail the other day, asking me for my commentary on this article in the Economist. The article, initially about the history of wheat but oddly mutates into how genetically modified food will save the world without wheat, hits the major points and accurately reflects the good side of what happens when you feed the people.

But it leaves out one major variable in this component – human greed and it’s power to corrupt the best of intentions.

Let it be said here, on the record, that I have no problem with Genetically Modified (GM) Food that has been shown to be safe to both people and the eco-system. The problem is that several of the producers of GM food whose priority is to genetically tamper with crops for the sake of continual revenue, rather than feeding the hungry.

In my opinion, the number one priority of this planet is to ensure that no one goes hungry. This is a bit pollyannish, I know. But hey, I also hope for world peace and believe that love conquers all.

If I believe that we, as a world community, should be able to feed itself, I should also acknowledge the limitations of certain products. A group of limiting products happens to include organic foods. Norman Borlaug, who I talked about here, once said, “You couldn’t feed more than 4 billion people” on an all-organic diet.

That’s a limitation that’s difficult to ignore.

However, what angers me is how the Monsantos and the Archer Daniel Midlands of the world hide behind the shield of good intentions when others criticize their business practices.

“We’re trying to feed the world” they shout, when people bring up the fact that these companies are advocates for patenting life forms, or introducing terminator genes into crops. While they may be trying to feed the world, they’re trying even harder to ensure regular profits, oftentimes at the expense of feeding the hungry.

Typically, if extensive testing was done on the above practices, with the results made available to the public, I would be willing to give these Bio-Agriculture industries the benefit of the doubt. But they don’t wish to be bothered. “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications once said in an interview with the New York Times Sunday Magazine. He said, without irony, that testing was the FDA’s job.

Which reminds me of a story–

Once upon a time, in order for the FDA to determine if Monsanto’s growth hormones were safe or not, Monsanto was required to submit a scientific report on that topic. Margaret Miller, one of Monsanto’s researchers put the report together. Shortly before the report submission, Miller left Monsanto and was hired by the FDA. Her first job for the FDA was to determine whether or not to approve the report she wrote for Monsanto. Assisting Miller was another former Monsanto researcher, Susan Sechen.

The result? Monsanto approved its own report.

Doesn’t that fill you with safety and joy?

It’s practices like these that make me advocate for taking two steps back. Yes, we need to feed the world. As I said, I believe it’s our number one priority. If it requires using genetically modified food to do so, then that’s what needs to be done.

However, I have little faith in our current crop of bio-ag industries. They’re playing with our eco-systems with a minimum of regulation. To say this concerns me is like saying the Titanic ran into a bit of trouble. One wrong step by these folks, and we run the risk of inhibiting our ability to feed ourselves as a country.

So I eat local when it’s available, organic when it makes sense to. I give my money to companies and farms who aren’t afraid of transparency, who aren’t afraid of showing the good with the bad. Because if the business models from Monsanto represent a “better way” then we should redefine what constitutes “better”.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Monsanto, Organic Food, Genetically Modified Food

The Future of Food

Tara and I had a very good Thanksgiving. First, we had our Turkey Day meal at Cascadia, where we indulged in all the goodness that comes from a menu that reads “dessert buffet”.

Afterwards, we headed to the cinema, where we watched the long-ago released Documentary “The Future of Food“.

For those of you who haven’t seen this film, I cannot recommend it highly enough, as it covers in depth what I have only briefly touched upon. From their synopsis:

There is a revolution happening in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America — a revolution that is transforming the very nature of the food we eat.

THE FUTURE OF FOOD offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade.

From the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada to the fields of Oaxaca, Mexico, this film gives a voice to farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by this new technology. The health implications, government policies and push towards globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed by the introduction of genetically altered crops into our food supply.

I came away from the film very irrate at Monsanto, a company I’ve never held in high esteem. Seeing their dangerous corporate practices fully on display not only cemented my view, but added a bit more information I was lacking previously. I promise to have more on this soon, as I walked away with several ideas that I wish to bring to the table…so to speak.

The film does not advocate as much as expose, contrary to what several critics have said. The time in the film spent on the organic and local food movements is minimal, probably because there was so much to cover in regard to Genetically Engineered and Modified food, and the corporations who are pushing these programs.

For those of you not near a major city that shows non-Hollywood movies, the documentary is available on DVD, to be shipped on December 6th. I’ve ordered my own copy, as there is a plethora of information that I am going to reference at a later date.

I highly recommend this film.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, The Future of Food, Monsanto, Gentically Engineered Food

Monsanto wants to own your Pigs

Never one to underestimate the evilness of some corporations, I bring you today Monsanto, who wishes to not only Patent a swine breeding process, but to also own every swine that results from said process, even if someone comes by the breeding process naturally.

That’s Monsanto, who’s motto should be “Monsanto owns new swines and nobody tries otherwise”.

Too clunky of a motto?

How about “Monsanto: Damn, we’re even more evil than Kraft!”

If you have your own motto for Monsanto, leave ‘em in the comments. I’ll post the ones that make me laugh at a later date.

UPDATE: Mithrandir notes in the comments:

The thing you have to remember about patents is that they expire. Regardless of how
broad the patent or how evil the terms of the patent license, the patent itself has
at most two decades of shelf life, and then it enters the Public Domain.

There are many problems with the patent system, but unlike copyright, it is not

Food Politics redux

In my recent post linking to Mark Morford’s most excellent column about supermarkets, a reader commented the following:

What does republican have to do with this rant – albeit his point is an excellent one, why politicize it? The dems have taken lots of money from the Safeway/Vons/Albertsons of the world. Starbucks – the Safeway of the coffe industry – is all Dem. So not sure why you have to politicize this. Get over it.

Let me address the statement “not sure why you have to politicize this”, by offering the following links:

  • Washington Post

Now at first glance at the headlines, these stories look as if there’s a group of people simply offering a different perpsective on the obesity epidemic. But when you get into the details of these stories, something becomes very clear. Restaurants and other members of the food industry understand that when people talk of healthy eating, it will affect their bottom line. A smaller bottom line means disappointed investors and stock owners, which means a lower stock price. These companies have a vested interest in preventing people from eating healthy. This is why they have started giving money to lobbying group called the Center for Consumer Freedom .

This group, which also has lobbied for the tobacco industry, is run by Richard Berman, who also happens to own Berman & Co a public affairs group. He also founded two other restaurant-supported groups: the American Beverage Institute, which fights restrictions on alcohol use, and the Employment Policies Institute Foundation, which has argued against raising the minimum wage. For a heads-on review of just who Richard Berman is, read this.

The end result of this? One needs only to look as far as Pennsylvania’s proposed legislation (warning…snarky sign-in required).

My point to ALL of this? I politicize because I feel it’s best to point these things out. I politicize, because the people to whom I give my money politicize. All I ask for is a little transparency. I tihnk it’s important to know that the major players in the food chain…the Monsantos, the Conagras, the Safeways, often make decisions that have the stockholders of these companies in mind, rather than the purveryors of their services…the consumer.

Knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but a lack of knowledge? Even moreso.

Thanks for U.S. Food Policy for the heads up. Book mark his site fer cryin’ out loud

Food Politics: Mad Cow and Corporations

I feel dirty. As if I had just wrestled with a pig.

It always happens when I research just a little bit too much. I read the one article that leads to another which leads me to yet another which paints a picture that quite simply, disturbs me.

Case in point: I’ve been reading up on Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or commonly mad cow disease). I felt it prudent, as it had been in the news of late, even over a year since the last reported instance of it being found in here in the States. I felt that if I was to talk about beef, then I owed it to at least pay this topic some lip service, at most perhaps give a decent post on the how’s and why’s.

Even at the most cursory level, it becomes rather apparent that this is a hot political issue, thanks in large part to the fact that it Mad Cow disease shows the lack of financial resources being applied to even effectively test to see how prevelant (or not) the disease has taken hold. It also helps clealy illustrate (to borrow a phrase from Christine Wenc) on how this is yet another example of “Big-Evil-Industry Trashes All It Surveys in Order to Profit a Handful of White Guys and Blanket the Earth with Cheap Consumer Goods”.

For those of you not paying attention, what you should know is this: corporate meat processing plants are under-regulated. Federal meat inspectors, as recently as December 8th or 2004, say that current USDA policies on Mad Cow threaten public health. If ever there was a product that you needed to be fully educated on before purchasing, it’d be beef. I could go in greater detail, but rather I’d recommend you read Fast Food Nation for a basic understanding of meat processing, and then read this, this and even these articles.

The point of me linking to all of these articles is not scare you. The chance of someone contracting diseases associated with BSE is small, smaller than say getting e-coli poisoning or even listeria. No, the reason for me posting these links is to ensure a more informed beef consumer. Why? Consider the table below comparing American cattle testing guidlines for BSE against the European Unions Guidelines for testing , (provided by Friends of the Earth)

How does the U.S. testing compare to the E.U. testing?

  • Cattle testing:
    United States -2% of high-risk downers tested; no required testing of other cattle
    brought to slaughter.
    European Union -100% of downers tested; 100% of all cattle over 24 months of age that are brought to slaughter.
  • High-risk tissue in meat for human consumption:
    United States -Brain and spinal cord tissue in 35% of low-quality meats; spinal cord may not be removed from better cuts; stunning methods drive brain tissue into lungs and body.
    European Union -Brain, spinal cord, eyes and tonsils from all cattle > 12 months of age prohibited from human food supply; high-risk stunning methods banned.
  • Animal feed restrictions:
    United States -Partial prohibition allows cattle tissue to be fed to chickens, pigs, horses and vice versa; and cattle blood to be fed to calves.
    European Union -More restrictive feed bans generally prohibit the feeding of animal tissues, whether ruminant or not, to all animals raised for food.
  • Use of cattle blood as feed for calves:
    United States -No prohibition; accepted industry practice.
    European Union -Authorities strongly discourage the practice.

(Data comes from this pdf from the Friends of the World)

Again, my purpose here is not to dissuade people from eating beef, but to make better informed decisions when it comes to purchasing the product.

So why do I feel dirty? Because I came across a dis-information campaign. Remember that this is a highly charged political topic. If BSE were ever to be documented as being found in the US, it would play havoc with the Beef industry, an industry with a fair amount of lobbying clout, especially with the Republicans.

The disinformation comes from two sites. One BSEinfo, is run by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board & National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. They have a vested interest in their product and obviously will provide information that will make it appear as if they are doing everything they can in order to prevent an outbreak of any disease related to BSE.

The other site is called mad-cow-facts.com, and at first appears to give opinions on news events surrounding BSE, slanting their coverage in facor of the cattle associations and other corporations which support the meat processing industry. The site is funded by an organization called The Center for Global Food Issues, which appears to give it an air of authority. But further digging shows that CGFI is funded by the Hudson Institute, a neo-conservative think tank. Accoriding to Source watch, this institute has been funded by such corporations as ConAgra, McDonalds, Monsanto and other corporations infamous for putting profit over public welfare. All of these industries have a vested interest in ensuring a profitable beef industry.

When I discovered that is when I started to feel dirty.

Look, when it comes to beef, be sensible. If you’re concerned about BSE but want to still eat beef, keep the following pieces of advice in mind:

  • - know your butcher: They should be able to tell you where the beef was raised and slaughtered, and will have no problem is fulfilling specific meat requests.
  • - know where your beef comes from: If you have the ability to find out where your meat was processed as well as where it was raised, it will probably mean that they have stronger controls on what herds they had come from.
  • - have your butcher grind your meat on site: This will prevent less mixing of carcasses, which will help prevent cross contamination
  • - buy pasture/grass fed over grain fed: This lower the probability of purchasing corporate meat. This will also lower the chance that your meat comes from a cow or calf that was fed on blood.
  • - purchase organic meat: This also lower the probability of purchasing corporate meat.

Most of all, know your product. I’ve said it twice in this piece, and I’ll say it one last time to drive the point home. Be a responsible consumer. Educate yourself as to what you are buying.