Monsanto in Planet Forward Summit

Middlebury Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest

Michael Frank, the Vice President of Monsanto a company that uses a controversial Genetically Modified seed to grow their products, sat down at the Planet Forward Summit for an interview with founder and host of the conference Frank Sesno. The two went back and forth while many in the crowd felt that some of the important questions remained unanswered.

Responding to a questions regarding the “super weed,” a weed that would become resistant to pesticides, Michael Frank felt some pushback from a student in the crowd. The student felt that his question had been dodged by Frank and he sought an answer. Frank responded by saying that he “cannot answer all the questions” due to a time restraint.

Televisions at the summit showing the Planet Forward twitter feed were sent into a buzz throughout the segment. Many people across the country feel that genetically modifying the makeup of seed, as Monsanto does, is unethical. The company has been known to sue farmers for having traces of the Monsanto seed on their land, forcing many local farms to close down.

Interviewing at a conference where many of the people would be against you prior to speaking was a move to change the minds of the crowd. Michael Frank brought up points that it has not been through scientific testing that GMO crops have a negative impact on the health of consumers. Immediately a tweet panned onto the screen from someone in the crowd stating that this was due to the fact that Monsanto commissions their own testing means on the products.

Monsanto will continue to face pushback for the practices that the company uses, even if it is found to be safe. Many consumers feel that genetically modifying a product is unnatural and wrong, putting local farms in jeopardy. As we continue to expand our population, research into GMO and non-GMO options to feed our planet will continue.

Can We Feed Our World Without Monsanto?

Cultivating The Peas

Every minute of every day, our global family welcomes 255 babies into the world. That’s 134 million new mouths to feed every year, for a total population increase of 2.2 billion in the next thirty years.

Hugh Grant, the CEO of agricultural giant Monsanto, often cites the world’s booming population as the core reason global citizens should embrace the genetic engineering of plants to make them resistant to herbicides, pesticides or bestow them with other traits that theoretically permit higher crop yields. Grant, and many others, seem quite certain that without genetic intervention, the world population is destined to starve.

Upon closer inspection however, this ‘get-on-board-or-perish’ position is not as solid as it might seem. The Union of Concerned Scientists reminds us that there exist traditional ways to boost crop yield, and further, that more productive crops are only a small part of the solution to the world’s food woes. Even more key are things such as lack of income to buy food, trade policies that disadvantage farmers in the developing world and lack of inputs such as fertilizer or water.

Indeed, on the ground, there is evidence that Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) crops are not guaranteed salvation. When they fail to produce the yields promised by the company’s advertising, and with farmers not permitted to save seeds due to the company’s patent, entire communities in places like India can be pushed to the brink of starvation.

“Some seem quite certain that without genetic intervention, the world population is destined to starve.”

Feeding the world’s hungry aside, genetically modified products have been the target of various concerns. The World Health Organization summarises those regarding biodiversity, as follows:

“Current investigations focus on: the potentially detrimental effect on beneficial insects or a faster induction of resistant insects; the potential generation of new plant pathogens; the potential detrimental consequences for plant biodiversity and wildlife, and a decreased use of the important practice of crop rotation in certain local situations; and the movement of herbicide resistance genes to other plants.”

[On that last point, it has recently come to light that there are weeds and pests that have grown resistant to Monsanto’s continued attempts to subdue them. ]

Human health questions too still remain. Studies have blamed damage to the kidneys, livers and reproductive systems of lab mice on diets containing Monsanto’s GM corn.

For all these reasons and more, activists often cry foul against Monsanto, using words such as ‘evil’, and ‘deceptive’. To this proponents of Monsanto respond that, just like any other company, it exists to make money for its shareholders.

Both positions seem rhetorical, and the final decision ultimately falls to the individual, but is there enough information available to the average shopper? Is it even possible to avoid Monsanto? Monsanto’s products are so ubiquitous here in the United States that average Americans support the company with almost every bite of food they consume, without ever being aware that they are doing so.

This is due to the fact that Monsanto’s genetically modified crops are unbranded components in processed food (high fructose corn syrup made from genetically modified corn and soy lecithin from genetically modified soy, to name just two). Manufacturers from General Mills to Nestle utilize Monsanto’s wares, but you’d never know it by reading their labels.

GM food: accept or reject?


Considering that it is so difficult to steer clear of Monsanto’s products, should we just accept genetically engineered food as our global solution and get on with feeding the hungry? The facts are still being collected, debated and weighed (as evidenced by this week’s Supreme Court ruling.)


In his book How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than you Can Imagine author John Jeavons describes what he calls ‘mini-farming’, an organic farming method which yields an average of 2 to 6 times the output of standard American agriculture. Every person on the planet, says Jeavons, can feed themselves with just 100 square feet of well-managed land.


“Every person on the planet can feed themselves with just 100 square feet of well-managed land.”


A little known study by botanist Sue Edwards found that organic gardening test sites in Ethiopia produced significantly higher yields from every single crop tested.


In 2008 the UN Conference of Trade and Development supported organics, saying that ‘organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and… is more likely to be sustainable in the long term’.


At the same time that more and more data is pointing toward organics and away from the giant mono-crop farming that embraces genetically modified foods, unflattering data on American-style agriculture continues to mount.


In 2007, the US used five times more fertilizer than it did in 1960, with crop yields lagging far behind, at an estimated fifty percent increase. Polluting pesticide use is at an all time high while more crops are lost to pests now than six decades ago. More and more scientists are getting behind the argument that industrial agriculture is simply unsustainable.


While the question of how to feed the world’s hungry still looms, it’s clear that the answer is not rhetorical — it’s scientific. As a global community it is time to look honestly at the facts about how our food is grown.


As individuals, if we don’t like the way big business is running things, we have the power to create change with every meal we eat. Each year we have 134 million new reasons to do so.


← • →


For more information on the Month Without Monsanto project visit, or join the conversation on the Facebook page.

Can We Feed Our World Without Monsanto? by April Davila – 2010

Image: Cultivating The Peas – National (USA) award winning rural country farm landscape oil paintings by  Walt Curlee

Non-GMO Family

With the online buzz about food labeling in California, Washington, and so on, some wonder what this really is all about, especially mothers wanting to know what to feed their families. Genetically engineered ingredients or GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) have entered into the US food supply in full force, but strictly “under the table” in regards to most Americans’ awareness for many years. It’s strange to see that this has been out of the public eye for so long, but what are they really? What do GMOs do to us? Will we be able to choose whether to feed these to our kids or just be limited to buying genetically modified foods from the local grocery store?

These foods (GMOs) have been genetically altered by biotech companies like Monsanto (who produce the chemical spray Roundup), meaning that the DNA is taken from a certain species, whether it be from an animal, plant, bacteria, virus, etc. and that DNA is inserted into the DNA of another species in order to acquire a certain trait. This is done to resist herbicides, bugs, insects, etc. thus claiming to increase production levels and be safe for our consumption. However, “Numerous studies show that when organic agriculture is practi[c]ed well, it can bring double or triple the yields of conventional techniques [and] [w]ith intensive intercropping on mixed permaculture farms, yields can be higher still” [1] (emphasis added). More importantly, Monica Eng of the Chicago Tribune this past June reports the results of this five-month experiment, “Pigs fed a combination of genetically modified soy and corn suffer more frequent severe stomach inflammation and enlargement of the uterus than those who eat a non-GM diet, according to a new peer-reviewed long-term feeding study published Tuesday in the Organic Systems Journal.” [2]

By Mike Adams of the Natural News, he summarizes a two-year experiment (the average lifespan of a rat) conducted by Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen that came out last year, “Eating genetically modified corn (GMO corn) has caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death…

  • Up to 50% of males and 70% of females suffered premature death.
  • Rats that drank trace amounts of Roundup (at levels legally allowed in the water supply) had a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors.
  • Rats fed GMO corn and traces of Roundup suffered severe organ damage including liver damage and kidney damage.
  • The study fed these rats NK603, the Monsanto variety of GMO corn that’s grown across North America and widely fed to animals and humans. This is the same corn that’s in your corn-based breakfast cereal, corn tortillas and corn snack chips.”[3]

So these GMOs are clearly a dangerous choice to make when figuring out what to eat, but they can’t be so bad if they’re still allowed on the market, right?

Actually, implementations of science in regards to the food industry have certainly had ups and downs over the years, but the bad examples can stick around for some time unnoticed by the general population. One such example would be the scientific changes to fats to create “trans fat” [4], an idea with good intentions for purposes of convenience and usefulness, but turns out to be very bad for you, has been banned numerable times, is required to be labeled now in the nutritional facts, and its poor effects still sneak into our food through the process of hydrogenation. This particular case of trans fats is very similar to science’s additional shot at the food industry, being GMOs (though other negative scientific formations come to mind, such as High Fructose Corn Syrup and Agave Nectar [5]). Your health is not a good tradeoff for the convenience that these creations are associated with in regards to food processing.

Monsanto is another key player to know here in the discussion of GMOs. This US company giant Monsanto produces Roundup, a chemical spray containing Glyphosate, which is “…a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses known to compete with commercial crops grown around the globe.”[6] So “Roundup Ready” crops (corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets, and so on) are prepared to resist herbicide sprays like Roundup through genetic modification, which one would think that this could then encourage sales of this spray to farmers for Monsanto; however, the excessive use of said herbicides eventually causes adaptation to things like invasive plants and weeds, thus requiring heavier and heavier doses of the spray. Sounds like a perfect recipe for profits doesn’t it? No wonder Monsanto is the biggest biotech company out there.

Along with this commonly used weed-killer, if you were to look at any gallon of milk at the grocery store you would see a statement regarding the use of “rBGH” (or “rBST”) in the dairy cows used for that milk, which rBGH is another product of Monsanto. “In the US, we saw a tipping point against Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) when it got kicked out of Walmart, Starbucks, Yoplait, and Dannon.” [7] Point here is that Monsanto honestly hasn’t had the best track record regarding the public’s view of their genetically engineered products, and for good reason, as rBGH is also very unsafe [8].

Lastly, although GMOs are still allowed in the US (though we tend to not excel in keeping our food productions free of other dangerous ingredients compared to other countries [9]), they have been banned in many other countries [10], a key indicator that many find GMOs to be ultimately an undesirable part of their food supply, as should we.

So these other technological failures like trans fats and rBGH and have received their due rewards, but will society ultimately reject GMOs as well? Given this history of rejected inventions being banned and shunned when introduced to our food supply, and new studies depicting the present negative health effects of GMOs, as well as any other additional threats from GMOs that could affect our environment and our future [11], choosing a non-GMO diet will become more available, because of the voice of the people7, and become an easier choice for mothers needing to know what to feed their family from day to day.

I am sure that this lifestyle non-GMO, will be a reality worldwide. Starting with the richest countries like the U.S. and Europa.Os encourage you to look at the various links posted for more information and for you to be happy with the healthy choices you make for you and your family!



1– Eisenstein, C. (2012, October 9). Genetically modifying and patenting seeds isn’t the answer. In The Guardian. Retrieved November 17, 2012, from


3- (; see also for more info and pictures)

4- Trans fats were created by a rearranging of Hydrogen atoms in the molecular structure of particular fatty acid chains to try to have unsaturated fats (such as olive oil) – which are more easily absorbed by the body – stay solid at room temperature like saturated fats do (such as margarine), which fats are harder to digest and convert into energy. This particular “breakthrough” seems as it would be very helpful when cooking and baking at home, but your body can’t recognize what it is, has a hard time digesting it and using it to benefit your body, and in fact can have negative effects, such as an increased risk of coronary heart disease (

 5– These concentrations of fructose are also not recognized by the body, unlike glucose, and is sent to the liver instead (not the proper way of digestion aka going through the intestines), later becoming stored as visceral fat –causing strain to your internal organs – which is far more dangerous than where the glucose-turned fat would be stored, being as subcutaneous fat – stored underneath your skin throughout your body (



8- “rBGH is created using GMO E. coli just like aspartame, and is used in conventional cattle unless otherwise labeled.”( “rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone), also known as rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin) is a genetically engineered hormone that is injected into dairy cows to increase their milk yield by 15% or more. It is associated with an increased risk of disease and other health problems in dairy cows on which it is used… Naturally raised cows can produce milk up to 10-12 years. Cows that are injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) may only be productive for 3-5 years before they are culled from the herd… To use it seems cruel and unnecessary to shorten a dairy cow’s lifespan and cause it maladies such as ulcers, arthritis, kidney and heart abnormalities… rBGH is injected in a cow during her lactation period and creates an unnatural condition in which her milk production remains elevated (it would normally decline more rapidly in the last phase of lactation to allow her body to recover from the stress of milk production)…Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Europe have already rejected the use of rBGH in dairy farming, but it is still permitted by law in the US. (,,”-




Genetic diversity in trouble for the actions of Monsanto

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Save our Seeds (SOS) – two legal and policy organizations dedicated to promoting safe, sustainable food and farming systems – have launched their new report, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.

The new report investigates how the current seed patent regime has led to a radical shift to consolidation and control of global seed supply and how these patents have abetted corporations, such as Monsanto, to sue U.S. farmers for alleged seed patent infringement.

Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers also examines broader socio-economic consequences of the present patent system including links to loss of seed innovation, rising seed prices, reduction of independent scientific inquiry, and environmental issues.

Debbie Barker, Program Director for Save Our Seeds and Senior Writer for the Report, said today:  “Corporations did not create seeds and many are challenging the existing patent system that allows private companies to assert ownership over a resource that is vital to survival, and that, historically, has been in the public domain.”

Among the report’s discoveries are several alarming statistics:

  • As of January 2013, Monsanto, alleging seed patent infringement, had filed 144 lawsuits involving 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 different states.
  • Today, three corporations control 53 percent of the global commercial seed market.
  • Seed consolidation has led to market control resulting in dramatic increases in the price of seeds. From 1995-2011, the average cost to plant one acre of soybeans has risen 325 percent; for cotton prices spiked 516 percent and corn seed prices are up by 259 percent.

The report also disputes seed industry claims that present seed patent rules are necessary for seed innovation.  As Bill Freese, senior scientist at Center for Food Safety and one of the report’s contributors notes:  “Most major new crop varieties developed throughout the 20th century owe their origin to publicly funded agricultural research and breeding.”

Additionally, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers reports a precipitous drop in seed diversity that has been cultivated for millennia. As the report notes:  86% of corn, 88% of cotton, and 93% of soybeans farmed in the U.S. are now genetically-engineered (GE) varieties, making the option of farming non-GE crops increasingly difficult.

While agrichemical corporations also claim that their patented seeds are leading to environmental improvements, the report notes that upward of 26 percent more chemicals per acre were used on GE crops than on non-GE crops, according to USDA data.

Further, in response to an epidemic of weed resistance to glyphosate, the primary herbicide used on GE crops, Dow AgroSciences is seeking USDA approval of “next generation” corn and soybeans resistant to 2,4-D, an active ingredient in Agent Orange.  Monsanto is seeking approval for GE dicamba-resistant soybeans, corn, and cotton.

At the launch of the report via teleconference today, experts from the Center for Food Safety and Save our Seeds were joined by Mr. Vernon Hugh Bowman, the 75-year-old Indiana soybean farmer who, next week, will come up against Monsanto in the Supreme Court Case.  When asked about the numerous comparisons being drawn between his case and the story of David and Goliath, Mr. Bowman responded, “I really don’t consider it as David and Goliath. I don’t think of it in those terms. I think of it in terms of right and wrong.”

In December of 2012, the Center for Food Safety, and Save Our Seeds submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Mr. Bowman, which supports the right of farmers to re-plant saved seed. Arguments in the case are scheduled for February 19th.

The full report is available on the Center for Food Safety website.

More information on the CFS and SOS can be found at:

Brazilian farmers sue Monsanto

Corn kernels

Five million Brazilian farmers are locked in a lawsuit with US-based biotech giant Monsanto, suing for as much as 6.2 billion euros. They say that the genetic-engineering company has been collecting royalties on crops it unfairly claims as its own.

The farmers claim that Monsanto unfairly collects exorbitant profits every year worldwide on royalties from “renewal” seed harvests. “Renewal” crops are those that have been planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest. While the practice of renewal farming is an ancient one, Monsanto disagrees, demanding royalties from any crop generation produced from its genetically-engineered seed. Because the engineered seed is patented, Monsanto not only charges an initial royalty on the sale of the crop produced, but a continuing 2 per cent royalty on every subsequent crop, even if the farmer is using a later generation of seed.

“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production,” Jane Berwanger, lawyer for the farmers told the Associated Press reports.

In the latest installment of the legal battle erupting in South America, the Brazilian court has ruled in favor of the Brazilian farmers, saying Monsanto owes them at least US$2 billion paid since 2004. Monsanto, however, has appealed the decision and the case is ongoing.

In essence, Monsanto argues that once a farmer buys their seed, they have to pay the global bio-tech giant a yearly fee in perpetuity – with no way out.

At stake is Brazil’s highly profitable and ever growing soybean production. Last year, Brazil was the world’s second producer and exporter of soybean behind the United States, according to the AFP report. The crops can be used for anything from animal feed to bio fuel, and worldwide demand is growing.

Genetically engineered soy first appeared illegally in Brazil in the 1990’s, smuggled in from neighboring Argentina. The Brazilian farmers found the seed attractive despite the ban in place from the Brazilian authorities because Monsanto had specifically designed the seed to be resistant to its own immensely powerful and popular herbicide Roundup.

When used in tandem, the strong herbicide will kill the weeds while allowing the soy crops to grow unimpeded. After the ban was lifted, genetically modified seed flooded the Brazilian market, and now 85 per cent of the Brazilian soy crop is genetically-engineered. Soy has been extremely successful in Brazil, currently making up 26 per cent of the country’s farm exports last year and netting Brazil a total of $24.1 billion, according to AP. However, Brazil’s farmers were apparently unaware there would be a heavy price to pay.

To make a deal with Monsanto is to make a deal with a company that is one the most powerful and pervasive food giants in the world. It is the world’s number one seed developer, and its patented genes have been inserted into 95 per cent of all American soy, and 80 per cent of all American corn crops. Monsanto has repeatedly levied large damage suits against independent farmers that have unknowingly or unwittingly used their seed.

And Monsanto’s reach goes far beyond agriculture.

Monsanto is also the world’s largest manufacturer of synthetic bovine growth hormone.

My other post about Monsanto:

Corn kernels
Corn kernels


Argentina Milk causes cancer of the colon, breast and prostate

It’s hard to put this title covers my country.
But no other. As we say in Argentina: “The bread, bread. And wine, wine.”

If you ask me what happens, I think it is simple to explain. Corruption in my country is very large. So is in the U.S. In the north country a couple of million dollars bow to congressional and public officials.
Multinationals, not repair anything. They do not do that managers can get involved and end up prisoners. And now the multinationals are not run by people, are anonymous. They have no morals. Only administrators have technicians profit maximizers.
Apple is a great company. But if their notebooks were contaminated aluminum, sure Steve Jobs (RIP), would not have allowed. First, that Steve Jobs, was conducted in all respects to Apple and was a person with a moral (like all). And second, for their morale.
Monsanto does not.

Monsanto’s aggressive promotion of its biotechnology products made ​​from the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to soya “Roundup Ready” cotton varieties and their resistance to insects, is in the eyes of any observer as a continuation of their long ethically questionable practices decades. Argentina and the United States are two of the few countries that still allow the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBGH.

And Argentina’s largest dairy farms continue to use despite the fact that, since 1996 (National Press Club Washington DC, January 23, 1996) is known to cause colon cancer, prostate and breast. Later, Canadian scientists (1998) found that cows treated with rBGH suffer from mastitis, infertility and exhaustion. Even Monsanto acknowledged that rBGH-injected cows “are subject to further these purposes” as well as cystic ovaries, uterus and digestive disorders and ulcers (for which the milk is bombarded with antibiotics).

The most serious are the consequences for human health and the growth factor-1, IGF-1, is chemically identical to human cattle. Specifically: European research and concluded that rBGH causes cancer of breast and prostate cancer in humans.

Do you have known who died of cancer? Have you noticed the increase in cancer cases in recent years?. Multiple studies worldwide, many of which were brought to justice where Monsanto defeated independent researchers, found that causes Bovine Growth Hormone IGF-1 levels in the extreme upper normal range, directly influencing the development of tumors.

The scientists found that Bovine Growth Hormone cause cancer of the prostate, breast, colorectal (colon) and other cancers.

The use of rBGH is allowed in the United States and Argentina. Instead, it is prohibited in Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. But the Argentine businessmen continue to poison people.
La Serenissima of Mastellone Hnos. SA (using milk from industrial dairies that apply to dairy cows rBGH)
Sancor of Sancor Coop. Unidas Ltda. (using milk from industrial dairies that apply to dairy cows rBGH)

[box type=”info”] If you have small children, at least feed them certified BGH free Milk, Organic Milk or Organic/BGM free milk equivalent like Organic soy milk[/box]



Genetically engineered Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH/BST) in your milk

Why is BGH is banned in Europe and Canada? Mad Cows Disesase Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) (Thanks to barryr666 for this contribution.)


[1] In 1991, 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton took home over $200,000 from her Senior Partner position in the Rose Law firm.

[2] [Michael Taylor], Monsanto attorney at Burson Marsteller who rewrote the food laws for “substantial equivalence” policy at USDA, now at PEW Biotech group.

[3] “…In March 1994, [Michael] Taylor was publicly exposed as a former lawyer for the Monsanto corporation for seven years…”

In addition, he served as Administrator of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service from 1994 to 1996. RFF’s (Resources for the Future, Washington think tank) Director of Risk, Resource, and Environmental Management is Michael R. Taylor, Monsanto’s former vice-president for public policy who was at the centre of a major controversy over conflicts of interest in relation to Monsanto’s genetically engineered drug rBGH

[4] The World According to Monsanto A documentary that Americans won’t ever see

[5] New Study Warns of Breast and Colon Cancer Risks from rBGH Milk – Press Release, Press Conference, National Press Club Washington D.C., January 23, 1996

[6] Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone: Amarming Tests, Unfounded Approval – The Story Behind the Rush to Bring rBGH to market (ANDREW CHRISTIANSEN / Rural Vermont Jul95)

[7] The use of PCBs is banned in most countries today, but George W. Bush has recently ended a 25-year-old ban on the sale of land polluted with PCBs. The sale of PCBs is still banned.

[8] The USA is allowing the RBGH Hormone which is killing us and it is banned in Europe and Japan – Why?

[9] Monsanto & Cancer Milk: FOX NEWS KILLS STORY & FIRES Reporters

[10] Advertencia a las Nuevas Tecnologías de Alimentos – Publish in Argenced – Company dedicated to International certifications

[11] El mundo según Monsanto – Book by Marie-Monique Robin

[12] El mundo según Monsanto – Review of Documental

[13] La leche argentina produce cáncer de colon, mamas y próstata!! – Facebook Page – Inspiration for this article


Monsanto’s relationship with the U.S. Government

In cables released by Wikileaks this past August, 2011, US diplomats asked the State Department for funding to send biotechnology experts to “target countries” for discussions with high-profile politicians and agricultural officials.

The “target countries” include African, Asian and South American countries where genetically modified (GM) agriculture has yet to gain a foothold. Even some European countries have been targeted, such as France, since it has been slow to adopt GM foods. Summarizing a French documentary, “The World According to Monsanto,” a 2008 cable reads:

“Jeffrey Smith, Director, Institute for Responsible Technology, who is interviewed says that a number of Bush Administration officers were close to Monsanto, either having obtained campaign contributions from the company or having worked directly for it: John Ashcroft, Secretary of Justice, received contributions from Monsanto when he was reelected, as did Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health; Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture, was director of Calgene which belonged to Monsanto; and Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, was CEO of Searle, a Monsanto subsidiary; and Justice Clarence Thomas was a former lawyer for Monsanto.”Embassy diplomats requested Washington provide “talking points” so officers could respond to the documentary on an “if asked” basis and emphasize “the positive role ag biotech can play in meeting world food needs.”

The close relationship between the US government and Monsanto has unfortunately continued into the Obama administration. President Obama nominated the former pro-biotech governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, as USDA Secretary; he nominated Michael Taylor, former Monsanto Vice President, as the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods; and he nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who took Monsanto’s side against organic farmers in the Roundup Ready alfalfa case, to the Supreme Court.
Studies on the health effects of GM food consumption have often been damning. For example, a Russian study with rats fed GM foods showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce. An additional study also suggests a link between GM and infertility. GM cotton has been linked to thousands of deaths among sheep, buffaloes, and other livestock, plus allergic reactions in their human caretakers.
Despite the evidence against GM foods, powerful corporations such as Monsanto have been able to keep such research out of the mainstream. As reportedby Jeffrey Smith of the Huffington Post:“Whenever these studies or reports surfaced, scientists should have charged in to conduct intense follow-up research. Instead, the funding–to find and expose the cause of the problem–often mysteriously dries up; scientists are transferred, threatened or fired, and the health risk link to GMOs is vehemently denied.

Take the Russian rat study [mentioned above], conducted by Irina Ermakova, a senior scientist at the Russian National Academy of Sciences. After we presented GMO health risk info at the EU Parliament in June 2007, she told me about the backlash that occurred after doing her study. Samples were stolen from her lab, documents were burnt on her desk, and her boss, under pressure from his boss, ordered her to cease all future research on GMOs. One of her colleagues tried to comfort her by saying, “Maybe GM soy will solve the human overpopulation problem.” She wasn’t comforted.”

The promotion of agricultural biotechnology in dozens of countries was referenced in U.S. embassy documents ranging from 2005 to 2010. 

Monsanto and its seed patents, genetically modified

“A new invention to poison people … is not a patentable invention.” Lowell v. Lewis, 1817

A landmark lawsuit filed on March 29 in US federal court seeks to invalidate Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds and to prohibit the company from suing those whose crops become genetically contaminated.

The Public Patent Foundation filed suit on behalf of 270,000 people from sixty organic and sustainable businesses and trade associations, including thousands of certified-organic farmers. In Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, et al. (U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Case No. 11 CIV 2163), PUBPAT details the invalidity of any patent that poisons people and the environment, and that is not useful to society, two hallmarks of US patent law.

“As Justice Story wrote in 1817, to be patentable, an invention must not be ‘injurious to the well being, good policy, or sound morals of society,’” notes the complaint in its opening paragraphs, citing Lowell v. Lewis.

The suit points to studies citing harm caused by Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, including human placental damage, lymphoma, myeloma, animal miscarriages, and other impacts on human health.

Plaintiffs condemn Monsanto for prohibiting independent research on its transgenic seeds and for its successful lobby efforts to ban GM food labeling. Many raise the specter of allergic reaction to GM foods, proof of which is hidden by lack of labeling.

The suit also confronts the propaganda that transgenic seeds improve yield and reduce pesticide use, citing reports on failure to yield and increased pesticide use. The complaint mentions a 2010 lawsuit by West Virginia after several studies contradicted yield results claimed in Monsanto’s ads. And, it notes the growth in glyphosate-resistant superweeds.

“Thus, since the harm of transgenic seed is known, and the promises of transgenic seed’s benefits are false, transgenic seed is not useful for society.”

This means, should the court agree, that all transgenic seeds fail the test of patent law. The suit has the potential to reverse patent approval on all biotech seeds, impacting BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Dow, and Syngenta, and others. Genetic contamination of natural plants occurs where GM seeds are grown, no matter who developed them. Ingesting food which has had its DNA mucked with is dangerous, regardless of who does the mucking.

What makes Monsanto different is its US seed monopoly. Well documented by market authorities, Plaintiffs point out that, “Over 85-90% of all soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets and canola grown in the U.S. contains Monsanto’s patented genes.”

Through its monopoly, Monsanto has spiked the cost of seeds. In the past decade, corn seed prices increased 135% and soybean prices 108%, the suit asserts. As recently as 1997, soybean farmers spent only 4-8% of their income on seeds, “while in 2009, farmers who planted transgenic soybeans spent 16.4 percent of their income on seeds.”

Monsanto has also used its dominant position to limit competition from other herbicide producers, as well, the suit alleges.

Listing 23 US patents by Monsanto, Plaintiffs also accuse the firm of “double patenting” thus strengthening its monopoly over the entire field of transgenic seeds:

“Although the United States patent system allows improvements on existing inventions, it does not permit a party to extend its monopoly over a field of invention by receiving a patent that expires later than and is not patentably distinct from a patent it already owns….

“Monsanto began applying for patents on glyphosate tolerance in the mid 1980s. Its first patents on the trait were granted in 1990 and are now expired. After pursuing its earliest patents on glyphosate resistance, Monsanto continued to seek and receive patents on Roundup Ready technology for over two decades….

“In acquiring the transgenic seed patents, Monsanto unjustly extended its period of patent exclusivity by duplicating its ownership of a field of invention already covered by other Monsanto patents.”

The suit then concludes, “Monsanto’s transgenic seed patents are thus invalid for violating the prohibition against double patenting.”

Genetic Contamination

Here’s the mother of all arguments, which makes the most sense to the lay public. How dare Monsanto sue farmers damaged by genetic contamination of their crops? That’s like a pugilist suing for damage to his hand after he punches an unwilling victim.

“Plaintiffs cannot be held to have infringed any Monsanto transgenic seed patent if Plaintiffs become contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed through no intentional act of their own.”

Monsanto admits that its product contaminates natural crops. That must be why it recently altered its Technology Stewardship Agreement to transfer liability for its products to the farmers who buy them.

The suit logically asserts that genetic contamination amounts to trespass on the property of those who do not want GE seeds, causing them substantial economic harm.

We saw that when Bayer’s transgenic seeds contaminated a third of the US rice supply, causing the European Union to close its market to US rice. Bayer has faced 6,000 lawsuits due to that contamination and market closure. On top of lawsuits already lost or settled, last month, Bayer lost a $137 million lawsuit by Riceland Foods. The new suit notes that, “The worldwide total economic loss due to the [2006 GM rice] contamination event was estimated at $741 million to $1.285 billion.”

Impact on the Biotech Food Industry

The suit argues that because “contamination is reasonably foreseeable,” Monsanto thus loses its patent rights whenever it sells its GM seeds. This wouldn’t stop it from selling the seed, but it would allow farmers to save seeds from transgenic crops. No company can stay in business without repeat customers, especially ones that spend millions on research and development. And, because transgenic contamination is not limited to Monsanto’s seeds, all biotech seed companies would likewise face dissolution of their intellectual property rights.

Other harm from biotechnology does not stop with Monsanto’s seeds or chemicals, either. To protect the world from the biotech food industry, which extends to animals, patenting life itself should be banned. This lawsuit might take us closer to a return of that legal standard, prior to the 2001 High Court decision in J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International. In that case, Oyez explains:

“Farm Advantage filed a patent invalidity counterclaim, arguing that sexually reproducing plants, such as Pioneer’s corn plants, are not patentable subject matter within section 101. Farm Advantage maintained that the Plant Patent Act of 1930 (PPA) and the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) set forth the exclusive statutory means for protecting plant life.”

The court disagreed, and thus allowed patents on sexually reproducing life forms, which extends to animals. Of note, the decision was written by ethically-challenged Clarence Thomas, a former Monsanto attorney. Thomas also refused to recuse himself from a 2010 case involving Monsanto. (Geertson Seed v Monsanto involved contamination of natural alfalfa.)

Among the plaintiffs in the PUBPAT suit is Navdanya International, headed by Dr. Vandana Shiva who has long fought biopiracy. Genetic patents “have unleashed an epidemic of the piracy of nature’s creativity and millennia of indigenous innovation,” Shiva wrote at Navdanya.

The new lawsuit couldn’t come a moment too soon, given the USDA’s recent decision to allow rice modified with human genes by Ventria Bioscience. Such approval begs the question: At what point is the line into cannibalism crossed? Biotech and pharmaceutical companies have produced several hundred “pharma crops” – food that contains vaccines against a variety of diseases. The FDA and USDA would have us ignore that this scheme fails to consider appropriate dosage specific to a person’s age, weight and medical condition, the very foundation of pharmaceutical science.

The biotech industry is out of control, and poses a significant danger to humans and the environment. PUBPAT’s lawsuit marks a significant step toward restoring a safe, sane and consensual food supply.

Rady Ananda holds a B.S. in Natural Resources from The Ohio State University’s School of Agriculture and is the Editor of Food Freedom and COTO Report.