Activists are uniting in a global day of action on May 25th to "take back the food supply," in a worldwide March Against Monsanto
this coming Saturday. Environmentalists and opponents to genetically modified (GM) crops have planned over events in more than 45 countries. In the United States, actions in 47 states.
The protesters are marching against the dangers of GM crops in addition to the "cronyism" which has enabled the biotech giant to dominate the global food supply.
"Monsanto has no intention of serving the people. They betray humanity, they betray life, they belie mother nature—and they do so at the expense of all of us." said Tami Monroe Canal, a protest organizer.
She adds that a large part of the problem is the "cronyism that exists between the government and Monsanto," specifically referencing Michael Taylor of the Food and Drug Association and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—both of whom had longtime affiliations with the company. For too long, Monsanto has been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism. Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup. Recently, the U.S. Congress and president collectively passed the nicknamed “Monsanto Protection Act” that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.
Dr. Vandana Shiva explained "And it is our deep love for life on Earth in freedom that makes all of us march against Monsanto and we stand in solidarity with everyone.This dictatorship must end. The March against Monsanto is a call to end the dictatorship over seeds, over life, over food and over our freedom."
Roberta Gogos, who organized the march in Athens, Greece describes how “Monsanto is working very hard to overturn EU regulation on obligatory labeling (questionable whether it's really enforced in any case), and no doubt they will have their way in the end."
Scientific peer-reviewed journals have a lot of power and influence. Big Business is well aware of this. In 2009, the scientific publishing giant Elsevier was found to have invented an entire medical journal, complete with editorial board, in order to publish papers promoting the products of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck. Merck provided the papers, Elsevier published them, and doctors read them, unaware that the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine was fake.
In September 2012, the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) published a study led by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen, France, suggested a Monsanto genetically modified (GM) maize, and the Roundup herbicide it is grown with, pose serious health risks. The two-year feeding study found that rats fed both suffered severe organ damage and increased rates of tumors and premature death. Both the herbicide (Roundup) and the GM maize are Monsanto products.
Subsequently, an orchestrated campaign was launched to discredit the study in the media and persuade the journal to retract it. Many of those who wrote letters to FCT had conflicts of interest with the GM industry and its lobby groups, though these were not publicly disclosed. The journal did not retract the study. But just a few months later, in early 2013 the FCT editorial board acquired a new “Associate Editor for biotechnology”, Richard E. Goodman. He is professor at the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska. But Goodman is also a former Monsanto employee, who worked for the company between between 1997 and 2004. While at Monsanto he assessed the allergenicity of the company’s GM crops and published papers on its behalf on allergenicity and safety issues relating to GM food. Goodman has an active and ongoing involvement with the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). ILSI is funded by the multinational GM and agrochemical companies, including Monsanto. It develops industry-friendly risk assessment methods for GM foods and chemical food contaminants and inserts them into government regulations. In 2005 US-based non-profits and trade unions wrote to the World Health Organization (WHO) protesting against ILSI’s influence on international health standards protecting food and water supplies. As a result, the WHO barred ILSI from taking part in WHO activities setting safety standards, because of its funding sources. And in Europe in 2012, Diana Banati, then head of the management board at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), had to resign over her undisclosed long-standing involvement with ILSI.
Is this part of an attempt by Monsanto to seize control of science? FCT fast-tracked Goodman’s appointment, a former Monsanto employee and well-known supporter of industry viewpoints, immediately following the publication of a controversial paper that was critical of Monsanto’s principal products. In doing so, FCT senior management bypassed the normal scientific editorial culture of gradual promotion from within. The FCT journal already has expertise in GM food safety. Of the four senior editors, José L. Domingo is a professor of toxicology and environmental health and author of two comprehensive reviews of GM food safety studies . Both reviews expressed skepticism of the thesis that GMOs are safe. Consequently, it is far from clear why FCT needs an “associate editor for biotechnology”, but it is clear why Monsanto would have an interest in ensuring that the “Séralini affair” is never repeated.
The threat to science and its supposed impartiality and objectivity from industry and commercial influence is real. This directly affects the quality of the science produced. Nor is it is not just restricted to Monsanto and GM but also to pharmaceutical research and energy developments amongst others. Capitalism manipulates the science. Capitalism corrupts the regulators.
Obama appointed a Monsanto lobbyist, Michael Taylor, as the "food czar" (officially the deputy commissioner for foods) - avoiding the Senate confirmation process, which would have brought public attention to the appointment - it was one more example of how corrupted both parties have become by corporate influence. Monsanto is one of the biggest spenders in Washington. It spent $6 million lobbying in DC in 2012
, the biggest agribusiness spender. At least seven Monsanto officials have served in government positions. Michael Taylor left the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1984 to join King & Spalding, a law firm that lobbies for Monsanto. He returned to the FDA in 1991 and then left again to return to Monsanto in 1994 as their vice president for public policy, only to return to the FDA again as the current "food czar," where he has led major advances for genetically modified foods. Taylor played the lead role in introducing rBGH (bovine growth hormone), which was used to increase cows' milk production, into the US market in the early 90s along with two other Monsanto-FDA door revolvers, Dr. Margaret Miller and Susan Sechen, both from the Office of New Animal Drugs.
Other door revolvers include high level officials: Arthur Hayes, commissioner of the FDA from 1981 to 1983 and consultant to Searle's public relations firm, which later merged with Monsanto; Michael A. Friedman, former acting commissioner of the FDA, who later went on to become senior vice president for clinical affairs at Searle; and Virginia Weldon, a member of the FDA's Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee, after retiring as vice president for public policy at Monsanto.
It is not only the FDA where the Monsanto revolving door has influence. On the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas used to be a lawyer for Monsanto. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled against a farmer who was sued by Monsanto, ordering the farmer to pay $84,000 in damages.
During the Clinton administration when the French government was reluctant to allow Monsanto's seeds on French soil. First the US Trade Representative Charlene Barschefsky urged the French government to allow the seeds. When that did not work, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright lobbied for Monsanto in France. When that failed, President Clinton himself took up the task of giving Prime Minister Lionel Jospin "an earful" about Monsanto. Even that did not work. Finally, Vice President Gore pushed Jospin - who finally gave in.
This is just one example of many in which the US government foreign policy apparatus operated on behalf of Monsanto. WikiLeaks diplomatic cables during the Bush and Obama administrations reveal that the State Department lobbied for Monsanto products worldwide and pushed genetically modified foods wherever it could. Indeed, in August 2011, WikiLeaks exposed that American diplomats requested funding to send lobbyists for the biotech industry to hold talks with politicians and agricultural officials in "target countries" in areas like Africa and Latin America.
The US government acts as a marketing arm for Monsanto and genetically modified foods. However, although lacking concise analyses of how capitalism works, popular resistance to the concentrated wealth of the corporations is growing as more people demand the right to control their own lives
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