Is “Dodo Award” Winner Monsanto Planning to Take Control Of Commodities Market?

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Story at-a-glance -

  • The Center for Biological Diversity has given its annual Rubber Dodo Award to Monsanto for its reckless peddling of glyphosate, a carcinogen that's driving loss of wildlife and diversity around the globe
  • The Environmental Protection Agency relied heavily on biased industry research for its recent conclusion that there’s “no convincing evidence” that glyphosate acts as an endocrine disruptor
  • A USDA whistleblower claims the agency harassed and retaliated against him after he spoke about his research showing that neonicotinoids has adverse effects on bees

By Dr. Mercola

Each year, since 2007, The Center for Biological Diversity has given a Rubber Dodo Award1 to the person, company, or organization that has "done the most to destroy wild places, species, and biological diversity."

This year's award, issued on November 5, 2015, went to Monsanto for its reckless peddling of glyphosate around the world — a pesticide that was recently classified as a "probable human carcinogen" by The World Health Organization (WHO), and has been linked to a worsening of virtually all chronic disease states.

According to Don Huber, an expert with a doctorate in an area of science that relates to the toxicity of genetically engineered (GE) foods, glyphosate may be even more toxic than DDT — a devastating chemical that, just like glyphosate, was once proclaimed to be "safe enough to eat."

Monsanto's Callous Disregard for Human and Environmental Health

As noted by the Center for Biological Diversity, the heavy use of glyphosate — particularly on genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready crops, which are also developed by Monsanto — has been implicated in the dramatic decline in Monarch butterflies.

Huber has also previously presented evidence2,3 linking glyphosate to Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), honeybee starvation,4 along with toxicity to soil, woodland plants, amphibians, fish, aquatic environments, and mammals5 — causing reproductive problems and endocrine disruption.

According to Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director:

"The science is increasingly clear that glyphosate is damaging wildlife and putting people at serious risk, yet Monsanto continues to aggressively peddle the stuff to farmers and really any customer it can find.

It's hard to fathom the depth of the damage that glyphosate is doing, but its toxic legacy will live on for generations, whether it's through threatening monarchs with extinction or a heightened risk of cancer for people where it's spread.

Those sitting in Monsanto's boardrooms and corporate offices won't pay the price for this dangerous pesticide. It's going to be people on the ground where it's sprayed.

This kind of callous pursuit of profits is at the core of what's driving the loss of wildlife and diversity on a massive scale around the globe."

Monsanto has defended the safety of Roundup since the start, but mounting evidence suggests many of its hazards have been known for decades.

For example, environmental research scientist Dr. Anthony Samsel obtained evidence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing that Monsanto knew glyphosate caused cancer in rats as early as 1981.

Is Glyphosate an Endocrine Disruptor?

In 1996, Congress mandated that the EPA start screening pesticides to determine whether they may disrupt the endocrine system. In June of 2015, nearly 20 years after the Congressional mandate was issued, the EPA finally released its findings for 52 chemicals on the list, one of which was glyphosate.

But, according to the independent online investigative new site, The Intercept,6 the EPA relied heavily on biased industry research for its conclusion that there's "no convincing evidence" that glyphosate acts as an endocrine disruptor.

This means the EPA will not require any additional research into the hormonal effects of glyphosate.

In response to the EPA's exoneration of the chemical, Monsanto's Global Lead for Ecotoxicology and Environmental Risk Assessment, Steve Levine, said: "I was happy to see that the safety profile of one of our products was upheld by an independent regulatory agency."

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EPA's Exoneration of Glyphosate Was Based on Pesticide Industry's Research

But just how independent was the EPA's assessment? According to The Intercept, it was anything but independent:

"Only five independently funded studies were considered in the review of whether glyphosate interferes with the endocrine system. Twenty-seven out of 32 studies that looked at glyphosate's effect on hormones... were either conducted or funded by industry.

Most of the studies were sponsored by Monsanto or an industry group called the Joint Glyphosate Task Force. One study was by Syngenta, which sells its own glyphosate-containing herbicide...

Of the small minority of independently funded studies that the agency considered in determining whether the chemical poses a danger to the endocrine system, three of five found that it did...

And a review of the literature turns up many more peer-reviewed studies finding glyphosate can interfere with hormones, affecting such things as hormonal activity in human liver cells, functioning of rat sperm, and the sex ratio of exposed tadpoles. Yet, of the 27 industry studies, none concluded that glyphosate caused harm."

It's also worth noting that the EPA included "ancient" studies in terms of the scientific tests used. We've learned a lot about endocrine disruptors over the past two decades, but many of the tests done on glyphosate dates back to the 1970s.

According to the featured article,7 "in all, 15 of the 27 industry studies predated the term 'endocrine disruption,' which was coined in 1991." One of the studies they chose to include was 40 years old; meanwhile they left out more recent, independently performed studies showing harm.

Pesticide Myths Monsanto Wants You to Believe

Shrewd PR professionals teamed with lobbyists and industry-backed scientists have managed to portray pesticides as a harmless and essential part of agriculture.

Whenever damning evidence pops up, it is quickly attacked as "junk science." The tobacco industry perfected and wrote the proverbial handbook on how to manipulate science and shape public opinion on toxins, and a number of other industries, including the pesticide industry, follow the same exact game plan.

Through sheer reiteration of certain statements, the pesticide industry has developed a list of persistent myths that have no basis in science or fact, including the following:8

Myth Reality
"Pesticides Are Necessary to Feed the World" According to the most comprehensive analysis9 of global agriculture to date, sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank, agroecological farming is the best way forward.

While insecticide use on American farms increased by a factor of 10 in the five decades following World War II, crops lost to pests rose from 3.5 to 12 percent.

Moreover, today nearly 50 percent of the GE corn grown in the US is not even grown for food; it's grown for ethanol.10 So in a sense, people are being starved and valuable prairies are being sacrificed to protect Monsanto's fuel subsidies.
"Pesticides Are Rigorously Tested for Safety" The fact is the vast majority are not rigorously tested for safety before they're approved for use. Moreover,according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides are in fact known to be carcinogenic.

How they're tested is a related issue. Most of the toxicology testing of chemicals is antiquated, with some methodologies harking back 150 to 400 years.

As noted by André Leu, author of the book, The Myths of Safe Pesticides, we now have far more rigorous and sensitive ways of testing chemicals instead of just feeding animals, destroying them, and looking at their organ parts under a microscope.

Using magnetic resonance imaging scans and human cell lines, for example, you can now detect toxic effects of chemicals at the parts per trillion range.
"The Dose Makes the Poison" The idea is that the larger the dose of a poison, the more harmful it is. Alas, modern science has shown that this is not necessarily the case.

In many instances tiny doses can have a marked effect, and combinations of chemicals often have synergistic effects, such that even non-carcinogenic chemicals can cause cancer.

Researchers have also found that timing of exposure can make a big difference. As noted by Eco Watch:11

"One stark example from a study12 using MRI technology illustrates the point: children exposed in utero to the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos experienced lasting changes in their brain architecture."
"GMOs Reduce Reliance on Pesticides" Herbicide-resistant crops are designed to withstand greater amounts of pesticides, and as resistance among weeds has grown, pesticide use has skyrocketed.

GE technology drove up herbicide use by 527 million pounds (about 11 percent) between 1996 (when Roundup Ready crops were initially released) and 2011.13

In 2002, glyphosate use on Roundup Ready soybeans rose by 21 percent.

Overall, American farmers increased their use of glyphosate by 19 million pounds that year. By 2011, farmers growing Roundup Ready crops (corn, soy, and cotton) used 24 percent more Roundup than farmers planting non-GE versions of the same crop, because by that time, glyphosate-resistance had become the norm.

Farmers also began resorting to older, more toxic herbicides like 2,4-D.
"We're Weaning Ourselves off of Pesticides" As noted in the featured article:14

"After 20 years of market stagnation, the pesticide industry entered a period of vigorous growth in 2004. The global pesticide market was worth approximately $46 billion in 2012 and continues to grow. It is expected to reach $65 billion by 2017, with the U.S. accounting for 53 percent of global use."
"Pesticides Are the Answer to Global Climate Change" As of 2008, 532 patents for "climate-related genes," had been filed — next-generation GE seeds designed to withstand heat and drought.

But, by patenting seeds and imposing monocropping instead of encouraging farmers to save seeds with desirable traits and to plant a wide variety of foods will only promote increased food insecurity.

As weather changes increase, we need increased farm diversification, not less, in order to survive.

There's also ample evidence showing that sustainable farming will ameliorate climactic changes by creating fewer greenhouse gases and creating carbon sinks to offset rising carbon levels in the atmosphere.

U.S. Government Allowed Monsanto to Monopolize the Seed Industry

Another common myth is that the government will protect you and look out for your best interest. Unfortunately, that doesn't jive with reality either. In fact, industry giants like Monsanto have long controlled the majority of the US federal regulatory agencies affecting their business. As a result of this collusion, the chemical technology industry has the freedom to pretty much do what they please, and the following story is just one example of many.

In 2007, the attorneys general in Iowa, Texas, and several other states began an inquiry into Monsanto's confidential seed licensing agreements. Any seed company that wants to use Monsanto's genes in its own corn or soy plants are required to sign this agreement. They discovered these agreements required seed breeders and seed retailers to favor Monsanto over competing companies in a number of different ways, thereby allowing Monsanto to eliminate competition.

Ditto for farmer's agreements, which require farmers to apply Monsanto's Roundup herbicide on their Roundup Ready crops, preventing competing herbicides to be used. Then, in 2009, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated a widely publicized antitrust investigation of Monsanto. However, three years later, in November 2012, the DOJ suddenly closed the investigation without taking any enforcement action, and without so much as a press release.15 In fact, no public statement about the findings of the investigation was ever released.

As reported by Salon Magazine16 at the time:

"Several experts agree that the strongest case the DOJ could have brought against Monsanto would focus on how it has used its monopoly in one market — the provision of genetic traits — both to exclude rivals and to gain advantage in another market: the breeding and retail of seeds. They note that Monsanto's practices resemble conduct by Microsoft and Dentsply, two dominant firms that the Justice Department sued for antitrust violations in the late 1990s.

Both companies had used contracts to restrict competitors' access to the platforms they needed to distribute their technologies. In at least one way Monsanto enjoys still greater power than even Microsoft: because it now owns many of these intermediaries – the seed breeders and retailers – it no longer needs written agreements to favor some companies over others... The public will suffer the costs of Monsanto's capture of almost total control over much of the U.S. seed business.

Since 2001 the company has more than doubled the price of soybean and corn seeds, whose crops are used in foods ranging from cereal and pizza to chocolate and soda... It is not just a matter of higher prices. The resulting loss of diversity from Monsanto's dominance may restrict our ability to adapt plant stocks to an increasingly volatile climate."

USDA Whistleblower Claims Agency Suppressed Research on Bee-Killing Pesticide

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has a history of protecting industry interests over public and environmental health. In the first week of November, Jonathan Lundgren, who spent the last 11 years working as an entomologist at the USDA filed a whistleblower complaint against the agency, claiming he'd been harassed and retaliated against after speaking about research showing that neonicotinoids had adverse effects on bees.17,18

In the US, nearly all corn, about 90 percent of canola, and approximately half of all soybeans are treated with neonicotinoids. And, as the use of these pesticides has gone up, bee and Monarch butterfly populations have plummeted. After publicly discussing his findings, Lundgren claims: "USDA managers blocked publication of his research, barred him from talking to the media, and disrupted operations at the laboratory he oversaw." The message is clear: if you want to work in science, you better toe the line and don't disrupt commerce...

Monsanto Rolls Out New Tech That Gives It Essentially Illegal Insider Trading Advantage

Speaking of commerce, Monsanto recently secured a deal with Deere & Co., the world's largest maker of agricultural machinery. Deere has agreed to purchase Monsanto's Precision Planting LLC equipment unit, which also expands Monsanto's opportunities to sell its brand new FieldView application — a software package that provides real-time planting data to owners of Deere equipment. It also provides real-time harvesting data to Monsanto.

As reported by Chicago Business:19

"Precision Planting, founded in 1993, was acquired by St. Louis-based Monsanto in 2012 for $210 million. Its main plant is in Illinois, and it has some operations in South America. Precision Planting components can be used to augment new seeding equipment or to retrofit older equipment for precision applications. For example, they can be used to apply the right pressure to sow seeds in the best depth and spacing for maximum yields.

Climate Corp. will retain the digital agriculture portfolio that has been integrated into its FieldView platform. Deere has agreed to allow Climate Corp. to use its software connection to allow customers to send agronomic prescriptions from FieldView through the John Deere Operations Center to their equipment, according to the statement. Monsanto now has deals to integrate FieldView with the three largest farm equipment makers, following prior agreements with CNH Industrial NV and Agco Corp..."

What has not been publicly addressed as of yet, is the fact that this kind of technology will provide Monsanto with unprecedented insight into market yields of any harvest before anyone else, and this information could allow them to manipulate and reign supreme over the commodities market. In essence, while there are some beneficial features of this software, such as helping farmers determine the most appropriate seed depth based on various factors, including weather forecasts, the program also collects and forwards yield data.

So, at harvest time, all that data will pour in from all the farmers across the country, giving Monsanto an early overview of the various crop yields nationwide. As shady as this sounds, there does not appear to be any laws against this, but it clearly opens the door for market manipulation, either by Monsanto or whomever they might sell this data to. This is essentially insider trading that is technically currently legal, but will likely be outlawed in the future.