By Dr. Mercola
If you've ever wondered how Monsanto―a company that admits it wants to own the world's food supply through its patented genetically engineered seeds―gets away with not having to label its products, all you have to do is follow the trail of money leading from their coffers into the pockets and campaign funds of well-placed politicians and regulators.
According to OpenSecrets.org1, Monsanto basically lives at the doorsteps of legislators in Washington, where it spent $5.3 million last year lobbying the nation's lawmakers, and has already spent $1.4 million in the first three months of this year.
Needless to say, they can afford it. According to OpenSecrets.org, Monsanto had an annual revenue of $11.8 billion last year, so a $5.3 million lobbying investment is far less than one percent of one percent of their revenues.
The influence they're trying to buy doesn't stop in Congress, though. Monsanto's legislative agenda also includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); all of which have a say in whether or not you get to know whether the food you're eating has been genetically engineered.
Can You Trust a System Powered by Lobbying?
The power of Monsanto can be seen through its contributions to Rep. Frank D. Lucas, who's received the most money so far from Monsanto. Lucas just happens to be chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, through which every farm-related piece of legislation must pass. But he's certainly not the only one wheel getting greased by this biotech giant.
According to OpenSecrets.org:
"'...So far this election cycle, Monsanto's PAC has given $77,500 to 17 members of the House agriculture committee, or their leadership PACs.'" ...Monsanto's interests in Washington are diverse.
It lobbied bills ranging from the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 20112, which would extend tax credits for companies doing research, to several bills that would change the way the Department of Homeland Security handles security at chemical facilities -- chemicals being a big part of Monsanto's product portfolio.
... Another upcoming matter of great interest to Monsanto: the new farm bill, an omnibus piece of legislation that sets the nation's agricultural policy and deals with nearly every aspect of the country's farming and food industries. The current bill expires in 2013; when it went through Congress, Monsanto filed more lobbying reports on it than any other organization. The process of piecing together a new proposal is already well under way."
Such lobbying efforts can, and do, have a tremendous impact on the lives and health of every American, not to mention the environment. It directly impacts the food you end up with on your plate, and whether or not you're allowed to know what's in the food you eat to begin with. Monsanto and other biotech companies involved with genetic engineering of crop seeds are currently fighting tooth and nail to prevent labeling of genetically engineered foods, knowing full well that such a label has the potential to destroy their burgeoning industry.
Why Monsanto Always Wins
Last year, Monsanto lobbied Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture concerning regulations that would affect genetically engineered crops such as the company's Roundup Ready soybeans and alfalfa. As a result, genetically engineered alfalfa was deregulated, despite strong opposition from the organic industry and massive public outcry.
An interesting article from last year by Mike Ludwig, titled "Why Monsanto Always Wins," sheds light on the shady approval process of genetically engineered crops3.
According to Ludwig, there's evidence of "cooperation" between federal regulators and the biotech industry that crosses the line of acceptable involvement during the regulatory review. He also cites Bill Freese, a policy analyst with CFS, who told Truthout that "the approval process for controversial genetically engineered (GE) crops like Roundup Ready alfalfa is basically a 'sham' designed to increase consumer confidence in the controversial GE crops," and that in his years of battling against biotech, "he can't remember a single case when regulators failed to eventually grant approval of a GE crop."
To get an idea of just how broad and deep Monsanto's reach is, take a look at the following chart. Over the years, this biotech giant has successfully infiltrated an ever increasing number of high-level federal regulatory positions in the U.S. government; many of which are positions meant to protect your food safety...
Crazy Patent Laws Prevent Independent Researchers from Studying GE Hazards
To give you another example of how Monsanto has been able to carefully position itself and its wares into a near-invincible position, consider this: The reason why genetically engineered food hazards have never been studied beyond 30 days, nor are currently being studied, is because the corporations controlling the patented seeds, such as Monsanto, are allowed to prevent independent studies per current patent laws.
That's right, genetically engineered foods are patented inventions protected under copyright and proprietary information laws. And the corporations controlling the seeds only allow them to be studied under very limited conditions, and rarely (if ever) do they permit them to be studied for safety by anyone but the USDA—which conveniently has not yet seen the need to conduct rigorous long-term safety studies on genetically engineered foods.4
How Monsanto is Now Positioned to Potentially Decimate Africa
Monsanto's political influence clearly reaches far beyond our U.S. borders. Most recently, in an effort to "end hunger in Africa," the Obama administration drafted some of the world's largest food and finance companies to invest in projects all over the continent5. Much of the $3 billion effort will go toward developing seeds and fertilizers and building silos for storage. To do this, the President has rounded up the usual suspects, which includes Monsanto.
However, unlike the U.S., some donor countries are insisting that their money be spent on traditional food handouts instead of genetically engineered monoculture, such as that offered by Tanseed, a Tanzanian seed company that will spend $11 million buying certified seed to be sold in little packets to small farmers.
Still, the evidence tells us genetically engineered crops cannot coexist with organic or conventional crops. They usually end up contaminating nearby fields, turning those farmers into patent-infringing criminals in the process—a scenario no farmer on any continent could ever have imagined a couple of decades ago.
Another project seeking to establish genetically engineered crops in Africa is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Through this alliance, heavy-weights like Monsanto and other biotech companies, along with the Gates Foundation, are foolishly promoting GE crops as the answer to Africa's hunger problem.
But donating patented seeds, which takes away the farmers' sovereignty, is not the way to save the third-world poor.
The Gates Foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to AGRA, and in 2006 Robert Horsch was hired for the project. Horsch was a Monsanto executive for 25 years. In a nutshell, the project may be sold under the banner of altruism and 'sustainability', but in reality it's anything but. It's just a multi-billion dollar enterprise to transform Africa into a GE-crop-friendly continent.
In the end, such "humanitarian" efforts are doomed to fail while allowing Big Biotech to make obscene profits at the poor's expense. African farmer's will likely encounter the same problems as those in India, where farmers growing genetically engineered crops have been committing suicide due to financial hardships at a rate of one farmer taking his own life every 30 minutes...
Brazilian Farmers Sue Monsanto for Unfair and Exorbitant Profits
A recent lawsuit against Monsanto by Brazilian farmers also highlights the harsh economic realities for farmers who take up growing genetically engineered crops. According to a recent RT News article6:
"Five million Brazilian farmers are locked in a lawsuit with US-based biotech giant Monsanto, suing for as much as 6.2 billion euros... 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."
Why We Need Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
In the U.S., labeling genetically engineered foods is likely the best shot we have at circumventing Monsanto's power-grabbing ways and stopping the unchecked proliferation of genetically engineered foods. This is why we strongly support state initiatives, such as California's 2012 ballot initiative to require genetically engineered foods sold in the state to be labeled. As consumers, we all have a right to know what's in our food.
This is a powerful strategy that could have the impact of a national law.
Because large food companies are unlikely 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 and PR nightmare. To avoid the dual labeling, many would likely opt to ditch genetically engineered ingredients from their products entirely.
This is why supporting this initiative is so important, as victory in California will likely eliminate most genetically engineered foods from the rest of the U.S. as well.
Powerful confirmation of this belief occurred earlier this year, 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 carcinogens7. This is a PERFECT example of the national impact a California GE labeling requirement 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:
"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."
AAEM Recommends GMO Free Diet
As you may recall, two years ago, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called on all physicians to prescribe diets without genetically engineered foods to all patients8. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a doctor who is aware of and/or actually follows this recommendation... At that time, the AAEM called for a moratorium on genetically engineered foods, long-term independent studies, and labeling, stating:
"Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. …There is more than a casual association between genetically modified foods and adverse health effects. There is causation…"
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.
Your BEST strategy 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 USDA certified to be 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are almost guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues. To learn more about genetically engineered foods, I highly recommend perusing the many videos and lectures available on the IRT site.