Saturday, April 3, 2010
I'm really tired of Monsanto. The name, the logo, and the website; how they take, and are given, political seats that determine food and ag policy; the endless battles they wage globally to patent our food and life itself; but what makes me really livid today is how they've stolen sustainable agriculture language and have spun it for their profit driven cause. And look, there's Bill Gates fiscally sponsoring them and supporting their agenda, parroting how biotech will save countries like Africa. (If India is any indicator about how farmers and growing populations will be "saved" by biotechnology, then he should think again. Two words, farmer suicides.)
Since being copied is a sign of success, we could assume that the sustainable food and ag world is doing something right. However, it means we have to pick up our game, and continue lobbying our representatives to ensure that Monsanto and the relatively few others (DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta, and Dow) are challenged every step of the way. We need to continue to make their lives annoying; to hurt their stocks; to educate about the true dangers of these untested and unregulated technologies; to pressure our electeds to speak on our behalf and that of future generations.
They may have the lingo down, and are heavily using the words "sustainable" and "family farmer," but what they don't have is me, nor the "Millions Against Monsanto," fooled.
But Civil Eats did fool me (for a second), when they posted the following: "Monsanto Discontinues MON810, CEO has Change of Heart on How to Feed the World," Sadly, I see some grains of truth to their April Fools post. While they certainly would never cut seed stock that makes them money, they do cut seed stock that they've patented that aren't creating returns for their stockholders. You see, seed is expensive "stock" to carry as the varieties have to be grown out in the field every couple of years. And since they've been busy over the last decade patenting every variety they can get their hands on in nature, this should be deemed a criminal act against humanity. You would think that the USDA would be the stewards of our agricultural biodiversity, but that is simply not the case. They've left the vitality of germ plasm up to the seed and chemical corporations. If a particular stock is not be profitable by the corporation, it gets junked. This is (obviously) a problem since we need to maintain access to genetic diversity to continue to develop a diverse food system that can continue to produce with climate change happening. Seeds hold the answers.
I'm glad to say that lately there have been a few harbingers of change. Like this post in the New York Times: "Many biotechnology stocks fell on Tuesday as investors struggled to understand the impact of a ruling that threw out parts of two gene patents and called into question thousands more." Or that the USDA is finally looking into Monsanto's violation of anti-monopoly laws that are even starting to get the corn growers upset. The first hearing in Iowa drew the interest of an estimated 15,000 farmers (read post by clicking here). There will be more hearings to come, mostly where corn growers have been hurt (in the Midwest) since the company has raised their corn seed prices in their forecasting of the profitability of biofuels. DuPont, a competitor, has started the claims. When the big guys duke it out, things get interesting.
Until we regain our seeds for the commons (this is really getting into some Amendment language now!), communities are starting to have seed swaps and groups like the Organic Seed Alliance are building seed interchanges among farmers to regain our hold on what should be a common good.