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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

History of Monsanto; Profiteer of World Food Crisis

*The World Bank says that 100 million more people are facing severe hunger. Yet some of the world's richest food companies are making record profits. Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn.... The Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that 37 developing countries are in urgent need of food. And food riots are breaking out across the globe from Bangladesh to Burkina Faso, from China to Cameroon, and from Uzbekistan to the United Arab Emirates. Benedict Southworth, director of the World Development Movement, called the escalating earnings and profits *immoral* late last week. He said that the benefits of the food price increases were being kept by the big companies, and were not finding their way down to farmers in the developing world. Multinationals make billions in profit out of growing global food crisis In fact, Monsanto ... has gotten farmers to accept seed prices twice the level of a decade ago*

Best known for the toxic pesticide, Round-Up, Monsanto is a leading global provider of agricultural products and systems. Created in 1901 by John Francis Queeny and named for his wife's family, the company produces biotechnology and genomics and herbicides for corn, cotton, oil seeds, and vegetables. They also produce genetically altered seeds to tolerate its flagship product, Roundup.

In the past decade, Monsanto remade itself from toxic pesticide producer into a major seed and biotech company, as opposed to one focused on agrochemicals. The transition was accelerated by the acquisition of Delta and Pine Land. Other products have included Agent Orange, the now ubiquitous PCBs, DDT, Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and Aspartame.

In the fiscal year ending in August of 2010, the company reported sales of approximately 10.5 billion dollars and had 27,600 employees.

Many people are unaware that the friendly makers of RoundUp were heavily involved in the creation of the first nuclear bomb for the Manhattan Project during WWII. The Dayton Project was headed by Charlie Thomas, Director of Monsanto's Central Research Department. He later became the company's president. Monsanto also operated a nuclear facility for the federal government in Miamisburg, Ohio, called the Mound Project, until the 1980s.

In the 1950's, Monsanto created several attractions in Disney's Tomorrow Land. These rides/attractions were blatantly used to promote and advertise the virtues of chemicals and plastics. The Monsanto *House of the Future* was constructed entirely of plastic and years later found to be nearly indestructible. 

The following is excerpted from The Legacy of Agent Orange.

Agent Orange was manufactured by Monsanto, Dow Chemicals (manufacturers of napalm), Uniroyal, Hercules, Diamond Shamrock, Thompson Chemical and TH Agriculture. Monsanto [was] the main supplier. The Agent Orange produced by Monsanto had dioxin levels many times higher than that produced by Dow Chemicals, the other major supplier of Agent Orange to Vietnam.... Monsanto's involvement with the production of dioxin contaminated 2,4,5-T dates back to the late 1940s. 'Almost immediately workers started getting sick with skin rashes, inexplicable pains in the limbs, joints and other parts of the body, weakness, irritability, nervousness and loss of libido,' to quote Peter Sills, author of a forthcoming book on dioxins. Internal Monsanto memos show that Monsanto knew of the problems but once again a cover-up was the order of the day....

Let's not forget to mention that Monsanto partially funds the anti-organic Center for Global Food Issues, a project of the right-wing Hudson Institute. It is run by Dennis Avery and his son Alex Avery. Both men have been to repeatedly distort studies or cite non-existent studies while acting as Monsanto’s official spin masters against natural and organic foods.

Among other major humanitarian accomplishments, Monsanto developed special *Terminator Technology*, a.k.a. *suicide seeds*, known technically as V-GURTs (varietal Genetic Use Restriction Technologies) in which the seeds resulting from the first year's planting would be sterile thereby forcing farmers around the world in the Roundup Ready System to buy their seed from them every year rather than saving their best seed for the next years planting, a traditional and economical practice.

Repeated warnings were also given that Monsanto's terminator genes could spread to wild plants. According to the UN Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, *Cross-fertilizing V-GURT containing crops may cause considerable effects in neighboring crop stands and wild relatives.... The fact that in North America, large stands of GMO varieties are grown & contamination of non-GMO varieties by GMO germplasm has been observed ... suggests that this scenario is a realistic probability*

Food crops are not the only area Monsanto and others have hoped to cash in on with their technology; a range of genetically engineered "designer" trees and forests are also high on their list. From trees modified to withstand Monsanto's Roundup to trees designed with a reduced lignin content (lignin gives trees strength and rigidity) to appeal to the paper making and construction industry to "terminator trees" which don't produce seeds. This has met with fierce resistance from activists and scientists alike, but again, to no avail. 

Growth in Dairy  -The FDA approved the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) being injected into cows on February 4th, 1994. Both Europe and Canada turned down Monsanto's application for approval. Developed and manufactured by the Monsanto, this genetically engineered hormone forces cows to artificially increase milk production by 10 to 15%. (Note: rBGH is banned in every industrialized country in the world except for the U.S., Mexico and Brazil.) Posilac (rBGH) creates additional Growth Factor One (IGF-1) in milk (a growth hormone which is identical in cows and humans). IGF-1 is considered to be a fuel cell for cancer growth and has been identified in the rapid growth cancer. Cows injected with rBGH also have a 25% increase in udder infections and a 50% increase in lameness.

The need for any increase in milk production is questionable since the dairy industry has been overproducing for 60 years. Between 1986 and 1987, under the Dairy Termination Program, dairy farmers were paid over 1.3 billion dollars to slaughter their cows. 144 dairy producers received over one million apiece to refrain from dairy farming for five years and one California producer received 20 million dollars. 

In August 2008, Monsanto sold their Posilac division to none other than pharmaceutical giant and makers of Prozac, Eli Lilly for a mere $300 million dollars.

Recently, U.S. organic farmers and seed dealers, along with The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), have filed a lawsuit on behalf of more than 50 organizations challenging the agricultural giant's patents on its genetically modified seeds. The group is seeking a ruling that would prohibit Monsanto from suing the farmers or dealers if their organic seed becomes contaminated with Monsanto's patented biotech seed germplasm.

Monsanto has an annual budget of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers. The largest recorded judgment made thus far in favor of Monsanto as a result of a farmer lawsuit is $3,052,800.00. Total recorded judgments granted to Monsanto for lawsuits amount to $15,253,602.82. Farmers have paid a mean of $412,259.54 for cases with recorded judgments.

2010 Campaign Cycle Contributions (Openly) Made By Monsanto

Monsanto gave $658,207 to federal candidates in the 2010 election cycle through its political action committee (PAC) alone - 48% to Democrats, 52% to Republicans.

Largest contribution was to Roy Blunt R-MO $10,000. Monsanto's second favored was the appropriately named Mike Crapo R-ID. $9,500 However, Monsanto has not forgotten its Democratic friends. Blanche Lincoln D-AL, chairman of the Senate Ag committee got $7,500.

Monsanto spent $6,560,000 for lobbying in 2010. $1,030,000 was to outside lobbying firms with the remainder being spent using in-house lobbyists.

In the last few months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cleared the way for biotech sugar beets, alfalfa, and a new type of biotech corn developed for use in ethanol.

Top biotechnology companies are Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Bayer. (Syngentais owned by AstraZeneca and Novartis. Aventis' agribusiness division was bought out by Bayer.) Together they account for almost 100% of the genetically engineered seed and 60% of the global pesticide market. After numerous acquisitions, they now own 23% of the commercial seed market. In 1999, almost 80% of total global transgenic acreage was planted in GMO soy, corn, cotton and canola. Until then, farmers could spray herbicides before planting, but not after, as herbicides would kill the intended crop. The other 20% of genetically modified acreage is planted with crops that produce pesticides. Monsanto’s *New Leaf* potato kills potato beetles, but is itself registered as a pesticide with the EPA. The five largest biotech companies in the world are also the five largest herbicide companies.

Since 1990, the United States of Monsanto, er, CorpoAmerica, I mean, er – our duly and fairly elected government official have claimed that genetically modified foods are no different from their natural counterparts that have existed for centuries. This is a political, not a scientific assertion.

Numerous scientists at the FDA consistently described these newly introduced gene-spliced foods as cause for concern. In addition to their potential to produce hard-to-detect allergies and nutritional problems, the scientists said that *The possibility of unexpected, accidental changes in genetically engineered plants might produce unexpected high concentrations of plant toxicants.* GM crops might also have *Increased levels of known naturally occurring toxins…appearance of new, not previously identified* toxins, and an increased tendency to gather *toxic substances from the environment* such as *pesticides or heavy metals.*

The scientists recommended testing every GM food before it enters the marketplace. But the FDA was under orders from the first Bush White House to promote the biotechnology industry, and the political appointee in charge of agency policy was the former attorney for biotech giant Monsanto—and later became their vice president. The FDA policy ignored the scientists’ warnings and allowed GM food crops onto the market without any required safety studies.

 Since polls indicate that the great majority of Americans who are aware of these issues want labels on all GMO products. Many question why consumers in Europe have the right to know through labeling which foods contain GM ingredients and thus to make an informed choice – while consumers in the United States, purportedly the bastion of freedom, democracy and the *free market* in the world are denied this same right?

Attempts to accomplish some kind of labeling have repeatedly been rebuffed due to tremendous opposition from biotech, which fear loss of sales if people know.  For example, in 2002 Oregon tried and failed to pass just such a labeling initiative (Measure 27). The campaign cited big money and misinformation propagated by biotech as contributing to the defeat.

Monsanto, ever on the lookout for a new financial opportunity, especially one which, on the surface at least, appears to be benevolent found one in biofuels. The growing of corn, in Monsanto's case, genetically engineered corn, for the production of ethanol purportedly to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Unfortunately though, as is often the case with Monsanto, this silver lining has a rather large and ominous cloud, and in the massive diversion of land once used to grow food to growing crops for the fueling of automobiles yet another crisis has ensued.

David Pimentel, Cornell professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was quoted as saying,*Abusing our precious croplands to grow corn for an energy-inefficient process that yields low-grade automobile fuel amounts to unsustainable, subsidized food burning*  In 2004 George Monbiot warned  that *The adoption of biofuels would be a humanitarian and environmental disaster*. *Surely, if there was unmet demand for food, the market would ensure that crops were used to feed people rather than vehicles? There is no basis for this assumption. The market responds to money, not need. People who own cars have more money than people at risk of starvation. In a contest between their demand for fuel and poor people’s demand for food, the car-owners win every time*. That is precisely what happened. As the world pays more to eat due to the engineered shortage of land for food crops & driving up prices Monsanto et al. have been making gigantic profits.

The President of the United Nations General Assembly stated,

*The essential purpose of food, which is to nourish people, has been subordinated to the economic aims of a handful of multinational corporations that monopolize all aspects of food production, from seeds to major distribution chains, and they have been the prime beneficiaries of the world crisis. A look at the figures for 2007, when the world food crisis began, shows that corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill, which control the cereals market, saw their profits increase by 45 and 60 per cent, respectively; the leading chemical fertilizer companies such as Mosaic Corporation, a subsidiary of Cargill, doubled their profits in a single year*.

These agri-giants spent $100 million on getting their way in the Farm Bill, an investment with huge dividends – for Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant anyway. Grant chose to exercise stock options - 116,000 shares worth – that netted him a profit of over $114 PER SHARE making him a hefty $13,000,000 off this perfectly legit little deal.

A report by Friends of the Earth revealed that between 2008 and 2022 federal subsidies (paid for with OUR taxpayer dollars) to the biofuel industry will total over $400 billion dollars.

If Obama proposals for 60 billion gallons per year are realized, subsidies would top $120 billion per year by the end of the period. This would result in a cumulative subsidy of more than $1 trillion.  In return for this modest investment, we will accelerate land conversion and exacerbate a wide range of environmental problems. Already, the ecological impact of increased biofuels production is evident, both in the U.S. and abroad, including deforestation, water pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions. 

Source Links –

·  Company Description: Monsanto Company, Hoovers, accessed January 2011
·  Key Monsanto Company Financials, Hoovers, January 2011
·  Chapter 2: High-Flux Years, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Review, accessed January 2011
·  Alex Constantine Nutrapoison, Znet, July 2003
·  A Short Curriculum Vitae of I.G. Farben, Biblioteca Plaeyades, accessed October 2009
·  IG Farben to be dissolved, BBC, September 17, 2001
·  Disneyland's Home of the Future, Mindfully.org, accessed January 2011
·  John Robbins Genetic Engineering, Part I, The Food Revolution, accessed December 2009
·  The Issues: Corn and Soy, Sustainable Table, accessed December 2009

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