Philippine Daily Inquirer | 13.06.2003 09:45
Philippine Daily Inquirer
June 12, 2003
MONSANTO: 'SELLING FOOD.HEALTH.HOPE(tm)'?
BY Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
"IMAGINE" is the catch word beside Monsanto in its corporate logo that also shows a leafy plant that is boxed in. The letters "a" and "g" in "Imagine" are of a different shade, obviously suggesting agriculture. After "Imagine"
is the TM (trademark) superscript which means the word has been patented. So is "food.health.hope(tm)," Monsanto's catchphrase. Imagine(tm).
"Imagine a world where giant chemical corporations control the food we eat, the seeds we grow and the water we drink. Imagine a world where it is not even possible to save a seed without facing up to seven years in prison; a
world where tomatoes contain the genes of fish, and the seeds of our plants are genetically altered to be sterile. Imagine a world where the water and air are poisoned. "Welcome to Monsanto's world, the world that Monsanto is creating right now and which will be ours if we don't stand up to stop it."
Those words and the scenario it conjures up are from the introduction to the booklet "Selling Food.Health.Hope(tm): The Real Story Behind the Monsanto Corporation" by Sarah Wright and recently launched here by non-government organizations opposed to the commercialization of Bt corn.
The genetically altered Bt corn, produced by Monsanto, recently triggered a tempest and a month-long hunger strike by a handful of farmers and scientists and supported by various NGOs. The protests led to a Senate hearing.
Wright, an Australian and a doctoral candidate, was a visiting research fellow of the Social Science Research Council of Washington, D.C. She had spent time in the Philippines and was here for the launching of her written
work last week after which she went back to the University of Washington.
I hope Wright does not suffer like Rachel Carson, author of the acclaimed "Silent Spring." The late Carson was a prophetic voice in the environmental movement who exposed the dangers of pesticides long before we learned to
correctly pronounce the word "ecology." Monsanto had mounted an advertising campaign to discredit Carson and her work. Similar things happened to other scientists and journalists, too.
Wright brings together a wealth of information about Monsanto, the world's largest multinational agrochemical corporation that projects itself as clean and green. Wright's report demolishes that, and stresses that
Monsanto "has lied, misrepresented facts, poisoned people and the earth, and put profit before its workers, consumers, farmers, children and communities time and again."
Monsanto was established in 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri. It produced saccharin initially. Today it is a giant, with $ 4.5 billion in sales in 2002. Monsanto operates in more than 60 countries and has major chemical manufacturing facilities in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil and the United
States, and land parcels, manufacturing and agricultural facilities in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
Wright reports that in 2002 Monsanto became a pure biotechnology and herbicide company. With anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) protests mounting, Monsanto suffered setbacks and announced job cuts. Monsanto was also involved in antitrust lawsuits for alleged price fixing in its top-selling Roundup weed killer. With Roundup threatened by other brands, Monsanto developed genetically engineered seeds tolerant to Roundup to ensure continued demand.
But that is not the only bombshell Wright wants to explode. There are secrets that Monsanto wants to hide from the public, she says. Wright uncovers Monsanto's "history of profiteering from poisons, the secrets of its misleading and dirty science, important political connections that it
has made, and its new and dangerous forays into the world of genetic engineering."
Wright says that Monsanto's record shows that it is a company that cannot be trusted, that it has poisoned communities and ecosystems, created poisons for warfare, pumped millions of pounds of chemicals into rivers and
This is the corporation that is now trying to gain control over the world's food system.
Monsanto was a major producer of Agent Orange, the lethal herbicide that the United States used as a defoliant in Vietnam. Today, both US war vets and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians continue to suffer the effects of Agent Orange's toxicity. US veterans sued Monsanto after the end of the Vietnam war. An out-of-court settlement had Monsanto paying some $ 80 million in damages to US war veterans while the Vietnamese victims received nothing.
Today Monsanto's Roundup is also used by the United States to spray from the air coca plants in Colombia. Farmers and indigenous groups have suffered from this. So have livestock and fish. Other crops, rivers, lakes and creeks have been poisoned, too.
The Wright report reveals that Monsanto developed and sold polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which were considered toxic organochlorines linked to birth defects, infertility and impaired mental function, weak immune system and cancer. PCBs have now been banned.
Some 3,500 residents of Anniston in Alabama filed a major environmental lawsuit against Monsanto for poisoning and covering up when it operated a plant that produced PCB. Monsanto was found guilty.
There is so much more than could be included here. Wright's report, published on June 2003 by Masipag ( firstname.lastname@example.org), Resist and Pressure Point, is a horror story that needs to be told. Worse than sci-fi. Wright's numerous sources (close to a hundred) are listed at the end of the report so she couldn't have "imagined" it all.
Philippine Daily Inquirer