By Dr. Mercola
Brazil, the second-largest producer of genetically modified (GM) crops (after the U.S.), is the latest country to take a stand against biotech giant Monsanto, which could end up handing over at least $2 billion as a result.
A war has been waging against Monsanto in Brazil for nearly a decade, virtually ever since the country legalized farming of GM crops in 2005.
Since then, Monsanto has been charging Brazilian farmers double – once for their seeds, and again when they sell their crops.
Farmers Have Had Enough With Monsanto’s Royalty Taxes and Penalties
In case you’re wondering how Monsanto has risen to the ranks of a superpower, a major reason is their patent on GM seeds, like the GM soya seeds in Brazil, which account for nearly 85 percent of the country’s total soybean crop. Each GM seed is patented and sold under exclusive rights.
Therefore, farmers must purchase the GM seeds every year, because saving seeds (which has long been the traditional way) is considered to be patent infringement. Anyone who does save GM seeds must pay a license fee to actually re-sow them.
But that’s not all.
In Brazil, Monsanto has charged farmers a 2 percent royalty fee on all of their Roundup Ready sales since 2005! And, they test all of the soy seeds marketed as “non-GM” to be sure they don’t contain any Monsanto seeds. If they are found to contain the patented seeds, the farmer is penalized close to 3 percent of his sales!
The issue with the latter penalty is that GM soy is very hard to contain, and often contaminates nearby fields. So farmers are forced to pay a penalty for having their fields contaminated with GM crops, through no fault of their own – and likely against their wishes entirely!
For years now, farmers have been taking Monsanto to court over their excessive fees and taxes, and in 2009, a group of farmers sued the company, claiming the Monsanto tax was illegal because it was impossible to keep the GM seeds away from the non-GM varieties.
A judge ruled that the tax was illegal, especially since the patents on Roundup Ready seeds in Brazil already expired. Monsanto was ordered to stop collecting all royalties … and to return all the royalties collected since 2004 – an amount that could add up to a minimum of $2 billion!
Monsanto appealed, but in June 2012 the Supreme Court dismissed it, so it looks like Monsanto is going to be getting their just deserts.
France, India Also Find Monsanto Guilty
Earlier this year, a French court found Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning in a case involving a French farmer, who suffered neurological problems after exposure to Monsanto’s Lasso weed killer. A few years before that, a French court again found Monsanto guilty, this time of falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as "biodegradable," "environmentally friendly" and claiming it "left the soil clean."
France has also recently asked the European Commission to suspend Monsanto's authorization to plant genetically modified MON 810 corn, citing "significant risks for the environment" shown in recent scientific studies (Germany has also banned the cultivation of MON 810 corn).
Meanwhile, India's National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), a government agency, is suing Monsanto and their collaborators, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, for stealing local varieties of eggplant to develop a genetically modified version.
India requires that any entity attempting to use a native plant for commercial or research purposes must first get approval; Monsanto, however, neglected to do this, opting instead to essentially steal the native plants in order to modify them for their own commercial gain
The case marks the first time a government has accused Monsanto of biopiracy, and the results could set an important precedent for the future of the food supply.
Monsanto Involved in Lawsuits Over Mass Contamination, Illnesses
Monsanto is also facing a class-action lawsuit involving tens of thousands of residents from Nitro, West Virginia, where a Monsanto chemical plant produced the herbicide 2,4,5-T, a component of Agent Orange; the suit alleges the company spread toxic substances, primarily carcinogenic dioxins, all over the city.
And in Anniston, Alabama, a Monsanto plant produced toxic chemicals called PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, from 1929 until 1971, and they heavily contaminated soil and waterways in the area. Even though PCBs were banned in the United States in the late 1970s, they persist in the environment for decades and possibly even for centuries. In other words, almost all of the toxic PCBs that Monsanto released are still there.
Class-action lawsuits – to the tune of $600 million – were settled and paid, and an additional $100 million went toward cleanup, but still area residents are struggling with health issues as a result. Recently, research revealed that Anniston residents, who are one of the most highly exposed populations to PCBs in the world, have a significantly higher rate of diabetes, for instance.i
It’s No Secret: Monsanto’s Behavior is Unconscionable
The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and it is now becoming common knowledge why Monsanto is top on list of immoral and destructive corporations. City Watch recently put together a tidy list of some of the “highlights” of Monsanto’s controversial past:ii
- “Contributed to the research on uranium, for the Manhattan Project, during WWII.
- Operated a nuclear facility for the U.S. government until the late 1980s.
- Top manufacturer of synthetic fibers, plastics and polystyrene (EPA’s 5th ranked chemical production that generates the most hazardous waste).
- A top 10 US chemical company.
- Agriculture pesticides producer.
- Herbicide producer - herbicides 2,4,5-T, Agent Orange, Lasso, and DDT.
- Agent Orange (used in Vietnam), had the highest levels of dioxin and contaminated more than 3 million civilians and servicemen of which only partial compensation awarded.
- Nearly 500,000 Vietnamese children were born deformed and never compensated.
- Lasso was banned in USA, so weed killer “Roundup” is launched in 1976.
- A major producer of both dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which generated many law suits and environmental cleanups
- $180 million settlement for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange
- Fined $1.2 million for concealing the discharge of contaminated waste water
- Ordered to pay $41.1 million due to hazardous waste dumping
- Paid $600 million in settlement claims to more than 20,000 Anniston residents [for PCB contamination].
- Produced GM cattle drug, bovine growth hormone (called rBGH or rBST)
- Acquiring seed companies from the 1990’s and forward.
- Monsanto Filed 144 lawsuits against struggling farmers and settled out of court with 700 farmers, for reportedly violating seed patents. A full time staff of 75 Monsanto employees investigates patent infringement. They are dedicated solely to finding farms that have been contaminated by their unwanted seed. As of 2007, Monsanto was awarded in 57 recorded judgments against farmers a total of $21,583,431.99.”
Of course, Monsanto’s foray into genetic engineering is perhaps their biggest insult of all, threatening the very future of the food supply. For a concise explanation of many of the problems surrounding GM crops, watch the video below.
Monsanto Has a Firm Grip on the U.S. Government
Once you realize just how many of Monsanto's employees have shifted into positions of power within the federal government, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to see how this biotech giant managed to rake in a net income of $126 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2012,iii despite being the mastermind behind some of the most dangerous products known to man.
Even if you have friends in high places, it never hurts to spend millions of dollars lobbying the U.S. government just to make sure legislation goes in your favor, and Monsanto does just that.
In the first quarter of 2011, for instance, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government -- a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter. If we all had several million to drop solely on lobbying efforts, suffice it to say the world would be a very different place. Unfortunately, it's primarily multinational corporations like Monsanto that have this type of clout, and they use it to increase their power, wealth and control -- not only in the United States, but throughout the entire world.
FDA Eliminates 1 Million Signatures for GMO Labeling on ‘Technical’ Reasons
Mandatory labeling may be the only way to stop the proliferation of genetically engineered foods in the U.S., but simple petitions will likely fail. We strongly support state initiatives, such as California’s ballot initiative to get mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods sold in their state. A recent story highlights why state initiatives in particular are so vitally important.
It’s a brazen example of how the FDA completely ignores the people it’s supposed to listen to and protect ... The agency actually decided to eliminate and disregard over a million U.S. citizens’ signatures and comments collected by the Just Label It campaigniv. Organizers of the campaign said they gathered more than 1 million signatures of people who want to know what’s in the foods they’re eating. But the whole effort ended up being for naught as the FDA declared that signatures on form letters don’t count.
According to the Chicago Tribunev:
“The agency says that if 35,000 people, for instance, sign their name to the same form letter it only counts as one person or “comment.” And if tens of thousands sign a petition, they are only counted as one “comment,” too.”
Therefore, under the FDA counting method, the 1 million signatures were whittled down to a measly 394 people asking for labeling ... The FDA says it’s still considering the issue, and that they would let the Just Label It group know if, and when, they make a decision on whether they would mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Proof Positive that GMO Labeling WILL Change the Food Industry
Many don’t fully appreciate the strategy of seeking to have genetically engineered foods labeled in California. The belief is that large food companies would refuse to have dual labeling; one for California and another for the rest of the country. It would be very expensive, not to mention a logistical nightmare. To avoid the dual labeling, many would likely opt to not use genetically engineered ingredients in their product, especially if the new label would be the equivalent of a skull and crossbones.
This is why we are so committed to this initiative, as victory here will likely eliminate most genetically engineered foods from the US.
Powerful confirmation of this belief occurred in early 2012 when both Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo Inc. chose to alter one of their soda ingredients as a result of California’s labeling requirements for carcinogensvi:
“Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are changing the way they make the caramel coloring used in their sodas as a result of a California law that mandates drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens bear a cancer warning label. The companies said the changes will be expanded nationally to streamline their manufacturing processes. They've already been made for drinks sold in California.”
This is a PERFECT example of the national impact a California labeling mandate can, and no doubt WILL, have. While California is the only state requiring the label to state that the product contains the offending ingredient, these companies are switching their formula for the entire US market, rather than have two different labels. According to USA Today:
“A representative for Coca-Cola, Diana Garza Ciarlante, said the company directed its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, which can be formed during the cooking process and as a result may be found in trace amounts in many foods. "While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning," Garza-Giarlante said in an email.”
Learn More about Genetically Engineered Foods
Due to lack of labeling, many Americans are still unfamiliar with what genetically engineered foods are. We have a plan to change that, and I urge you to participate and to continue learning more about genetically engineered foods and helping your friends and family do the same.
To start, please print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
Your BEST strategy for now, however, is to simply buy USDA 100% Organic products whenever possible, (as these do not permit genetically engineered ingredients) or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers. The majority of the genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with altered ingredients.
When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.
To learn more about genetically engineered foods, I highly recommend the following films and lectures:
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.