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Food for Thought: a Comment on the Agrichemical Business and Your Produce

Updated on May 7, 2015

The company Monsanto comes to mind when discussing health and food quality in America. Monsanto has a dual connotation within American society; businesses rave at the science behind Monsanto’s seed bio-engineering, honoring Monsanto with award after award. Quite oppositely, the health conscious in this country hail Monsanto as the world’s most evil corporation.

Monsanto has been getting grassroots resistance to implementing their GE agriculture in Europe.

Who and/or what is Monsanto?

In Theory

According to the CEO and Chair of the Board Hugh Grant, “‘We [Monsanto] are helping to develop solutions to one of the greatest challenges facing humankind- providing healthy and nutritious food for a population that is expected to grow from 7 billion today to nearly 10 billion by 2050.’”

I explored their website and found that the logic behind a company like Monsanto, also linked with Solutia Inc and Pharmacia LLC, was profound. We live in a world where one species is given the intellect to choose their fate, only to ignore common sense and act in ways that threaten our survival. Our decision to overpopulate the planet beyond it’s’ means compromises the earth’s ability to feed us NATURALLY. This is where Monsanto comes in.

Using advanced technology, agricultural scientists experiment with the genetic makeup of a seed, attempting to make it more resistant to environmental hazards like drought and floods. These seeds, and the produce that results, are known as GMOs. Additionally, Monsanto produces and distributes Roundup and Harness, herbicides frequently used by farmers.

via March against Monsanto Facebook page, February 2014
via March against Monsanto Facebook page, February 2014

For different perspectives on Agent Orange and Vietnam, please follow the below link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/15/opinion/remedying-the-effects-of-agent-orange-in-vietnam.html?_r=0


In Practice

I am wondering, If Monsanto is using technology that is safe and might save our growing population, why is it bashed so frequently?

The devil is in the details.

It could have something to do with Monsanto’s involvement in spraying the Vietnamese with Dioxin in the 1970’s. This project was called Agent Orange. Kindly research this at your convenience. See the blue box to the right for New York Times coverage of this issue. Although it is unrelated, and so I do not want to divulge details, it is still a part of Monsanto’s history.

In 1998 the Environmental Protection Agency received a letter from a group now known as Citizens Against Pollution, calling for action to be taken against Solutia Inc, a side-company of Monsanto corp. At the Anniston PCB plant in Alabama, Solutia was dumping thousands of tons of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) into Snow Creek. It upset residents of Anniston that they were uninformed about the harmful toxins present in their rivers and floodplains. No government agency or Monsanto official representative warned the surrounding town of the danger of producing PCBs in Anniston. There was a commission formed and a panel of environmental experts that addressed the clean up. As of 1970, PCB manufacturing had been outlawed due to it carcinogenetic properties. However, ‘60 Minutes’ reported in 2002 that people are still dealing with the negative effects of Solutia’s pollution;

“Today, parts of Anniston are so contaminated that residents have been told not to grow vegetables in the soil, kick up dirt, eat food, chew gum or smoke cigarettes while working in their yards […] ‘"Our children have to play in the streets, on the sidewalks, because they can't play in the grass because it's contaminated," says resident David Baker.’”

Approximately $50 million was spent on the cleanup of the Anniston site. According to the research of the EPA, neither EPA nor Monsanto believe that Anniston residents are being exposed to “’significant levels’” of contaminants. David Baker’s definition of acceptable levels of PCBs and a profit motivated company’s definition of ‘significant’ are most likely two VERY DIFFERENT things.

Would you like a side of carcinogens with that?

While on the subject of “significant levels”, I think it worthy to bring up Monsanto’s role in challenging the legislation of the Food and Drug Administration. In the 1980s, Monsanto brought legal points against the Delaney Clause, which essentially mandated that NO carcinogens are tolerable for human consumption. The FDA was strict in enforcing this belief. In Monsanto v. Kennedy, the arguments made to add acrylonitrile to beverages formulated a new way of operating at the FDA level. The original concept of the Delaney Clause was rendered powerless, and the FDA began to accept ‘de minimis’ levels of known carcinogens to be tolerable for our families to ingest.

Again, Monsanto was involved in determining what constitutes an “acceptable threshold” of toxins allowed in both our food and environment.

Recent events have added to negative stigma associated with Monsanto. Congressional Bill H.R. 933, commonly referred to as “The Farm Bill of 2013”, had special provisions that the public felt was a corporate slippery slope; Section 735 banned courts from challenging the sale and marketing of GMOs, even if later research proves that this produce or its effects on the environment are detrimental to our health. The American public labeled this “the Monsanto Act”. According to the Institute for Food & Development Policy, ‘Scientists within and outside the FDA have expressed numerous concerns over the safety of GMOs have been silenced or discredited.’

The Push for Labels

The lack of credible studies proving or disproving the long term effects of GMOs on health make the public even more cynical of this technology. There is a movement to demand that Congress make it mandatory for GMOs to be labeled. People should know what they are eating, even if they do not know what ingesting it means for them in 40 years. A non-for-profit called Organic Consumers Association advocates for more public awareness on this issue;

“We’ll make sure that every consumer, citizen, voter knows that last year Monsanto donated almost $6 million , more than any other company, to the agriculture lobby. And that almost $1 million of that money went directly to political candidates, including some of the 71 Senators who voted against states’ rights to label GMOs.”- Katherine Paul.

Do you think its fishy that Monsanto LLC does not want states to allow labeling?

See results

It's Not Just Us: Herbicides, Pesticides and Our Pollinators

Since the early 2000s, our produce has been hijacked by the chemical companies. We now saturate our agriculture in three times the pesticides than in the 1990s. The Monsanto corp. (Roundup), along with Bayer CropScience, is responsible for the culture of produce over-toxification.

The Center for Food Safety scrutinized 19 scientific journals that measured the effectiveness of neonicotinoids by comparing yield output with and without the use of these chemicals. Their executive conclusion was that, despite experts reinforcing the necessity of neonicotinoids in agriculture, the heavy usage of these toxins are not resulting in measurable increase in yields.

Glyphosate is another chemical most often used in farming. A study by agricultural scientist in Purdue University’s Department of Botany & Plant Pathology, G.S. Johal, provides us with concrete research that proves that using this chemical actually reduces nutrient richness and potency in vegetables. He asserts that chemicals like glyphosate are too heavily depended on by farmers growing genetically engineered food. He recommends that glyphosate be used as frugally and practically as possible.

What does this have to do with the bees? Colony Collapse Disorder is plaguing our world. One in three bites we take is the result of bee pollination. The overuse of pesticides and herbicides has contributed to the death of 1/3 of the world’s bees. Agrichemical companies keep scapegoating the blame on fungi. There are enough peer reviewed studies that beg to differ.

The implication is that our food is being poisoned to benefit the manufacturers of these chemicals, and not primarily for the increased availability or quality of the produce. This happens at the cost of the bee colonies everywhere. Eventually, our species will pay for their transgressions against our pollinators.

If every bee colony collapsed, humans would have four years worth of food to live off of. Where are YOUR priorities?

Your Health

The Toxic Action Network makes a grim statement;

“Children are particularly susceptible to the hazards associated with pesticide use. There is now considerable scientific evidence that the human brain is not fully formed until the age of 12, and childhood exposure to some of the most common pesticides on the market may greatly impact the development of the central nervous system.”

The mental and physical health of the next generation is central to our success as a nation. Children are disproportionately affected by environmental toxins, as their growing bodies are more vulnerable than that of an adult. They eat and drink more to supplement their growth, and interact with their environment more than the average adult. When was the last time you put a handful of grass in your mouth?

Although children are more affected by our society’s dependence on herbicides and pesticides, adults have cause for alarm as well. The Toxic Action Network also reports,

“Chronic health effects may occur years after even minimal exposure to pesticides in the environment, or result from the pesticide residues which we ingest through our food and water. A July 2007 study conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Health Services, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found a sixfold increase in risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for children of women who were exposed to organochlorine pesticides.”

New York Senator Charles Schumer is taking a stand on the toxic relationship between our food and chemicals. Standing outside of a Manhattan McDonalds, he called for fast-food chains to stop adding azodicarbonamide to their dough. When cooked, this chemical creates semicarbazide, a carcinogen. Senator Schumer asserts,

“'In a day where cancer rates are rising . . . you have to be careful […] We need to do everything we can to remove carcinogens from the food pyramid.'”

Logically, this concept should apply to the carcinogens that are sprayed on our produce in overwhelming amounts daily.

Where to go from here?

This is a lot of information, but you must come to your own conclusions. I started a garden, and planted flowers that attract bees. I want to be in charge of my food source, and then petition the USDA and EPA to restrict the overuse of these pesticides. Stay informed. And then do something about it!

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