- Politics and Social Issues
Genetically Modified Food and Monsanto's Corruption
Recently there has been a great deal of discussion about the safety of Genetically Modified (GM) foods. Supporters highlight the pest reducing effect, and added nutrition, as proof that genetically altered food is safe. the risk of allergic reactions, Antibiotic resistance, transfer of genes; creating uncontrollable plant growth, and even the security of the bees are concerns of Naysayers. One could go either way on this debate until the addition of one ingredient: Monsanto. When a super corporation, caught lying in the past, takes control of our food it is time to become concerned. Even if there were no prior concerns, which there are, putting the safety of the food in Monsanto’s hands, is a mistake.
Food and the Body
It is important to recognize the effect that food has on our bodies. There is a saying: you are what you eat. This silly saying has a ring of truth! Many health ailments can be managed through diet. Some examples of these are diabetes, Lupus, Celiacs disease, and arthritis. It is common knowledge that certain foods produce vitamins, minerals, and even antioxidants. These foods are imperative in the daily healthy functioning of the cells, in our bodies.
Other foods are bad for people’s bodies and can deteriorate their health rather quickly. There was a documentary called Super Size Me that aired on the Internet (2013). This video tracked a person with optimal health, for 30 days. During these 30 days, this person only ate at McDonald’s. His health quickly deteriorated, and his doctors begged him to stop this diet. In addition,There are people who have life threatening allergies to everyday foods. They could perish if exposed,in any way, to these foods. My daughter is a vegetarian, so she eats an abundance of peanut butter. She just sticks a spoon down in the jar, and eats it right off the spoon. My neighbor’s son has a peanut allergy. I cannot even let him sit down at my house, without sanitizing a chair for him first. His throat would close up, and he would need an Epinephrine -Pen right away, if peanut residue even touches his skin.
Should it be required for Genetically Modified foods to be labeled?
Ins and Outs of Genetically Modified Organisms
There have been concerns about growing genetically modified foods for over 10 years now. According to Alexander Halsberger, as early as 2001, “The problem of GMO contamination of conventional seeds and European traceability and labeling requirements, as foreseen in amended regulations for GMOs, have caused serious trade concerns in the United States" (Halsberger, 2001, p. 1). Moreover, Halsberger also mentions that seed contamination could very well cause allergic reactions, in some individuals. Because of the unintentional spread of seeds, it is possible for the seeds to change the genetics of other seeds, and cause unwanted effects (Halsberger, 2001).
An example of an unwanted effect would be; unintentional creation of super weeds, antibiotic resistance, or super-organisms, which could kill off whole species of both plant and animal life. Because of the ingredients inside these genetically modified seeds, and because of how hard it is to control them, these effects could occur. A sudden gust of wind, and seeds from one crop, end up in another. This mixture of DNA is a concern, and can cause some of the above mentioned reactions.
On the other hand, according to Pamela Ronald (2013), the Genetically Modified seeds in the market right now are safe. Additionally, Scientists have taken huge measures to add extra vitamins to certain foods, common in impoverished areas. This is potentially a wonderful thing. When people who cannot usually afford to spend money on nutritious food, get vitamins in there inexpensive food, everybody wins-right? As a matter of fact, thus far, scientists have conducted ongoing research on Genetically Modified crops. These studies keep track of the above-mentioned scenarios, such as a spread of allergens, and antibiotic resistance. They formulate the data and make sure that the process is safe.
The problem arises, when the production of these seeds come from a company, which has a reputation for doing whatever it can, to benefit their bottom line. With this in mind, let us examine Monsanto. According to Zilberg (2010), Monsanto has been making waves for quite some time now. They are the manufacturer of a chemical called Round Up, which they have labeled as biodegradable. This chemical is a modified version of Agent Orange, which caused many Vietnam Veterans to perish from cancer. Interestingly, Monsanto produced this toxic chemical, and supplied it to our Veterans. Additionally, with at least two instances of false advertising, Monsanto is a proven liar. As a matter of fact, Monsanto deliberately hid the reality that their factory was poisoning the air in Allenstown Alabama, causing residents to develop Hepatitis. The worst part is, in order to sweep this disgrace under the rug; all that Monsanto had to do was pay a hefty fine, and society was none the wiser. How many deaths are on Monsanto's hands? Too many to count.
In addition, according to Jayaraman, K. S. (2005), a significant controversy occurred in India. Monsanto promised cotton seeds that would be resistant to Bollworms, knowing that they would not work in India. the Western World was able to use these seeds effectively, but Monsanto, never denied knowing that this strain would not be effective in India. This caused many countries to be concerned about the effectiveness of Monsanto’s Products, and their promises. The people in impoverished areas, whom Monsanto vowed to help, received nothing but lies.
This brings us back to the very real concern that when modifying the genetics of something, it is hard to tell what the outcome will be. Sure it is fine the first time, maybe even the second and the third, but no one can promise that that fourth or fifth time the seeds will respond to the environment in the expected way. In addition, India had to sue Monsanto is 2012 for using their local plants, but not getting proper permitting for field trials (Laursen, L. 2012). This causes a huge concern. If the Monsanto cannot do something as simple as pull a permit, how are they going to be able to make sure that the food they are producing is safe?
Equally important, According to (Bélanger, Pathberiya, Williamson, 2013), in March the coalition of beekeepers got together and sued the environmental protection agency, because they were not doing their job properly. Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam are two insecticides, which Monsanto uses to modify their seeds. It is a fact that these insecticides kill off the Bee population. Bees are an important aspect in the sustainability of human life. Without the pollination from bees, it would be impossible for vegetation to grow. Without plants to eat, our livestock would perish; without livestock or vegetation humanity would not survive very long.
Monsanto Protection Act
Interestingly, shortly after the filing of this lawsuit, President Barack Obama pushed a “spending” bill through that had the Farmer Assurance Act, hidden inside of it. Another name for this law is the Monsanto Protection Act. The Bill passed through unnoticed. This Bill gave Monsanto free range to do whatever they want, without the consequence of litigation or government interference. It says the Government “shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements. This includes measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects if any, relevant to the Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status. While ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner” (Us Government, 2013 p. 30).
The prospect of genetically engineered food goes from, something to keep an eye on, to something to be downright terrified of, as a result of this new Bill. We are taking the very substance that nourishes our bodies, and keeps us healthy, and handing it over to a company proven time and again not to care about the well being of others. There are already so many health concerns in the world today, which can be alleviated or made worse, depending on the food that goes into our bodies. However, what happens when the World's food supply no longer has the same health benefits? Yes, curving hunger is excellent, but what happens when something changes in the seeds and the added “nutrition” poisons our bodies?
Before the Monsanto Protection Act became effective, the previous scenario would have been comical. Now it is a very real concern. Now that Monsanto is in control of the Genetically Modified seed production, they have free range to get away with whatever they want. It is not logical to think that a company that has a history of not playing by the rules, will abide by their promises with so much leeway offered by the Government.
This is a company that has caused deadly diseases, manufactured Agent Orange chemicals, and stepped on the toes of the little people, time and time again. Now this company genetically modifies seeds, for the food we eat, and has the Governments backing that they will not be able to be stopped.
When will enough be enough?
With all of this in mind, a couple of questions are clear. How do we protect ourselves from this business? When will enough be enough? Unfortunately, as of right now the answers to these questions are vague, at best. If Monsanto can keep producing a product that is known to harm the general public, and that is how the Bill is written, we must stand together and fight for our rights. It is not okay for Big Business to have complete control of our nutritional needs. Will it take a major catastrophe to change this law? I sure hope not. Society has a tendency not to want to stand out; they just want to blend in with the crowd. The problem is this is what companies like Monsanto are counting on. Right now, the people who are out there trying to change this, are few and far between. The wool has been deliberately pulled over humanities eyes.
Can anything be done?
There is a couple of things that can be done. First, people need to unite. One voice does not carry very far, but if that one voice reaches five people, and those five people's voice reaches five more, the word will be quickly spread. Next, we need to make sure that no more Bills pass without the public being aware. People need to stay informed. This is in reality a life or death situation. In addition, people need to vote. There has been talk about labeling Genetically Modified food, so there will be a bill or a chance to vote on this subject. If genetically modified foods are labeled, then people will be able to avoid buying them. If there is not any money to be made, from genetically modified food sources, there will be no reason for Big Business to produce it.
In conclusion, genetically modified foods have problems that are concerning. However, if these foods were still being produced by people who had our best interest in mind, the problem would be manageable. The problem was controlled by scientific studies, which evaluated the benefit versus the issues with this type of food. Today, our food supply, is being controlled by Monsanto and the Government. There is no way to know where our food comes from, unless we buy Organic. Monsanto has proven time after time that they are dishonest at best, and morally corrupt ant worse. With this company in charge of our food, we could see many adverse effects. Some of these effects could be food allergies, resistance to antibiotics, and poisoning of our food. They have killed thousands of people in the past. Unfortunately since, the Monsanto protection law has been passed; Monsanto has more control of our well being. The aspect of this has ramifications beyond just our health. If Monsanto produces a strain of food that kills our bee’s, humanity as we know it, will end. We need to act now before it is too late. Educate your family and friends. Pay attention to what is going on in the Government. And just say no to Monsanto and their unsupervised modification of our food.
Haslberger, A. (2001). GMO contamination of seeds. Nature Biotechnology, 19(7), 613. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/90201
Ronald, P. (2013). THE TRUTH ABOUT GMOs. Boston Review, 38(5), 16-32.
Zilberg, J. (2010). THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MONSANTO/LE MONDE SELON MONSANTO. Leonardo, 43(5), 504-506.
Bélanger, Julie; Pathberiya, Semini; Williamson, Ben Alternatives Journal 39.4 (Jul/Aug 2013): 11-12,14.
Jayaraman, K. S. (2005). Monsanto's bollgard potentially compromised in india. Nature Biotechnology, 23(11), 1326. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt1105-1326
Laursen, L. (2012). Monsanto to face biopiracy charges in india. Nature Biotechnology, 30(1), 11. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt0112-11
US Government. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr933enr/pdf/BILLS-113hr933enr.pdf
(2012, August). Supersize me [Video file]. Retrieved from YouTube website: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IM1ltrM83Js