If you’re food aware you are probably well versed in the nefarious practices of Monsanto. They’ve been the unwitting stars of many books and films, including Food, Inc, Fast Food Nation, The Future of Food, and almost anything Michael Pollen writes. It seems amazing to me that the mainstream press is only now getting interested but, hey, at least they aren’t completely ignoring the company that is in control of what is arguably the biggest single variable about our future health. What remains to be seen is that if anyone is powerful enough to do anything about it.
Here’s a tidbit:
With Monsanto’s patented genes being inserted into roughly 95 percent of all soybeans and 80 percent of all corn grown in the U.S., the company also is using its wide reach to control the ability of new biotech firms to get wide distribution for their products, according to a review of several Monsanto licensing agreements and dozens of interviews with seed industry participants, agriculture and legal experts.
Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Monsanto patents genes. Genetically modified genes to be precise. You can’t patent your own genes, because then you could own your kids. But if your kid happened to be Frankenstein you could now legally own him.
Here’s the quickie historical rundown. For more read the article and then start digging, perhaps beginning with the above films or books.
Back in the 70s our government in its infinite wisdom allowed companies to patent living things that had been genetically modified. This meant that companies like Monsanto could patent the plant seeds they were tampering with. Alas, if only our politicians had remembered their elementary school biology they may have given pause.
Plants, if you didn’t sleep through this chapter of class like everyone in Washington apparently did, breed by dispersion; their seeds fly through the air looking for a place to prosper. This means that if you genetically modify a plant and don’t keep it inside it will eventually wind up sowing its seed with something natural.
The lawyers at Monsanto, who didn’t sleep through any class except ethics, apparently, saw this as one giant business opportunity. Because as soon as their patented corn would mingle with the neighbor’s natural corn they’d find a patent infringement get to work.
Since lawyers for multi-billion dollar corporations never lose to farmers, even those who’ve done nothing but farm the way their fathers did, and pretty soon Monsanto was forcing these farmers either out of business or to buy their genetically altered seeds. The latter makes them, essentially, indentured servants (another term from elementary school if you remember your Civil War classes) because they are forced to buy Monsanto’s seeds at whatever price they ask. Last year (you know, the one with the world recession that we’re still in), Monsanto raised their corn seeds by 25% and their soy by 28%. I’m sure their farmers are livin’ large.
So Monsanto now controls an industry of their creation. If we all decided we wanted to avoid genetically modified foods we might not have a choice for much longer. Most of us don’t right now. And even if you don’t believe in the possibility of a global scale disaster involving Frankenfoods (Monsanto’s seeds have been found in indigenous crops thousands of miles from the source), and believe that Monsanto is ethical enough to keep these foods safe, you’ve got to take pause when Monsanto prohibits genetically modified foods from being served to its executives.