Earlier this week, Monsanto shareholders voted down a motion brought by Harrington Investments Inc. (HII), requesting that the company perform a study into, “Material financial risks or operational impacts” associated with its products. As an investor in Monsanto, HII is most concerned with contamination of neighbouring crops by Monsanto’s GMO pollen and, “The prospects of additional large lawsuits that may have an adverse impact on Monsanto shareholder value”.
While not entirely altruistic, the concerns HII raised were genuinely important. Monsanto lost some important contamination-related court cases recently, which could be the tip of the iceberg. Rather than address the problem constructively, however, Monsanto urged its shareholders to vote down HII’s proposal, which they did – a very strange definition of Integrity, Dialogue and Transparency indeed.
Welcome to the GMO Universe, population: Monsanto
HII wasn’t alone in voicing its concerns. Paul Tanna, Organizing & Media Director for Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), said, “If Monsanto wants to be taken seriously as a responsible corporate actor, the first step would be to...protect farmers and shareholders from the threats of GMO contamination, and prepare for greater liabilities until the company changes its business direction.”
Monsanto stated that a report on financial or operational impacts would be, “Redundant and provide no meaningful additional information”. Its attitude appears to be: “Our current policy is perfectly justified and correct, and everyone who criticizes us is hysterical or just plain wrong. So bring on the lawsuits! We’ve got more money than you, anyway.”
“No value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans”
The company is at least consistent on the need for research into its products. On its corporate website, in answer to the question, “Why aren’t you running human clinical trials on GM crops?”, Monsanto states: “There is no need to test the safety of DNA introduced into GM crops...There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans. So long as the introduced protein is determined safe, food from GM crops determined to be substantially equivalent is not expected to pose any health risks.”
The problem is that this statement reflects the ease by which Monsanto is prepared to lie to the public. It is very well known, for example, that the adverse effects of GMOs on the environment don’t stem only from the genetics of the trait itself. Instead, they may well arise from unpredictable changes in the expression of other genes following the insertion of the ‘transgene’.
Monsanto wants us to believe that genetic science is stuck in the 1940s mould of Beadle and Tatum’s ‘one gene–one enzyme/protein hypothesis’. This notion, that each gene is responsible for producing just one protein or enzyme, began to be questioned in the 1950s and was conclusively kicked into touch in 2003 by the results of the Human Genome Project.
It seems that, from a public relations standpoint, it serves Monsanto to hang on to this outdated position in the hope that the general public won’t ever appreciate just how shaky are the foundations upon which Monsanto’s GM crop model has been built! As such, its attitude toward human testing is unbelievably arrogant, and doubly so in the face of consistent findings that GMOs are bad for humans and the environment.
Monsanto reliant on crony capitalism for its survival
Monsanto has managed to maintain its position of power by keeping friends in high places, and lobbying Congress and regulators to suit its own ends. Without this, Monsanto’s business model would have come to a grinding halt and it would have been forced to stop selling its GM crops to unsuspecting farmers. At present, of course, its market share is staggering – as is Monsanto’s interest in selling GM crops into developing countries, now that the industrialised ones are increasingly waking up to the risks of over-reliance on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready family of products.
The sooner Monsanto and its baleful influence on the world shrivel up and die away, the better. The best way of moving toward the promised land of a Monsanto-free world is:
Encouraging consumers to buy only food products that are GM-free. In Europe, this means ensuring you don’t buy animal products fed GM feed (the easiest way of ensuring this is to buy organically certified meat and dairy). In the USA, which has yet to impose mandatory labeling of GMOs, you can buy products that are certified GM-free through the Non-GMO Project or certified organic. Please also consult the Institute of Responsible Technology’s website and its Non-GMO Shopping Guide
Let’s stamp out crony capitalism – which is rife in places like Brussels and Washington! Let’s work with democratically elected representatives across all parties that are prepared to adhere to genuine principles of integrity, and are concerned about the long-term future of our species and the environment in which we live!
Call to action
Write to your elected representatives and ask them to consider a complete freeze on outdoor growing of GMOs until the science on the matter is settled