I worked hard on a post weighing in on Monsanto, but the internet ate it. Here were the key points:
The “third world” used to feed itself just fine, until colonialism and globalization made it more profitable to destroy the ecosystems that had supported their people for millennia. Industrial agriculture had the answer to that: shipments of food grown by their corporations with massive fertilizer and other fossil fuel inputs, paid for by the world bank. Monsanto’s “GMOs against world hunger” propaganda is another effort to cash in on that system.
I don’t know whether GMO foods are harmful to the consumer inherently just because they’re genetically modified. Possibly. I think the nature of the genetic modification is much more of an issue—if you have a plant modified to produce its own pesticide, the issue for public health is whether that pesticide remains in the plant’s tissues and is absorbed by the consumer, and does it cause harm? Similarly, are there other unintended consequences to the modification—are the modified plants nutritionally identical to unmodified ones?
But there are much bigger ecological issues. Pests have already shown increasing resistance to crops modified to produce their own pesticide, and weeds growing with round-up ready crops are already as resistant to the herbicide as the modified crops themselves. We’re in an arms race now, one we’re bound to lose.
For me the biggest issue is this amounts to a government-sponsored takeover of our food system by a single corporation. Monsanto is Too Big To Fail, and as the banking collapse taught us, everything that’s too big to fail eventually does. People died in the banking collapse—of homelessness, of suicide, of violence, of the sheer stress of the economic upheaval. Think about what the collapse of the food system looks like if it becomes a Monsanto monopoly, the agricultural conditions and methods change to favor GMO crops over traditional ones, and then Monsanto folds and we can no longer but those seeds. If you’re planting heritage corn and the seed company folds, you can plant a little of last year’s crop. If Monsanto goes under—or just decides they’re not selling to you—you can’t replant seeds from last year’s crop. If that happens on a large enough scale because every farmer has had to become a Monsanto farmer to stay in business, we are up shit creek, if you will pardon the expression. It might sound unlikely, but far from it—without action to limit Monsanto’s power and keep them from becoming a monopoly, it is a long term inevitability.
So yes, raise an outcry. Petition the administration. Vote Monsanto controlled politicians out of office. If it’s possible for you, boycott Monsanto and support small farmers; if it’s not possible for you remember that very impossibility is what we’re protesting. In every way possible get control of our food back into the hands of the people. Not because of an unproven possibility that genetic modification itself is a public health risk, which exists, but because of the certainty that a brittle and monopolized global industrial food system is a public health risk. We need a resilient and sustainable food system to feed ourselves all over the world. Turning that over to one corporation is the wrong way to go.