The World According to Monsanto: Part II by Marie-Monique Robin
The World According to Monsanto parts II and III outline the evil actions of a chemical giant regarding genetic modification of crops and the effects the usage of such crops has on farmers, communities, and journalists.
In this episode, we discuss:
Corned beef, which is one of the yummiest ways to eat meat, especially for breakfast
Sasha's giblet gravy
Undigested things in your poop, like seeds
Monsanto makes up a scientist to respond to two journalists who write about contaminated seeds in Nature
Haitian farmers burn donated Monsanto seeds
Corn needs humans to grow it
Monsanto's revolving door with federal regulatory agencies
Monsanto makes GMO seeds
When Robert Shapiro took over as CEO of Monsanto, he decided to beef up Monsanto’s control of the market for GMO seeds. Monsanto quickly acquired multiple seed companies and became the number one genetically modified seed company in the world. More than 93% of corn and soy grown in the United States is genetically modified, and more than 70% of processed food contains genetically modified ingredients. Monsanto routinely brings in more than $2 billion in revenue each year. With so much market share and astronomical profits, Monsanto is doing just fine. They don’t need anyone to advocate for them for free. If you want to defend Monsanto so badly, then make sure you get on their payroll and they pay you a lot of money.
Stop defending Monsanto
It’s no surprise that Bacon Phat is not a fan of genetically modified crops. And in this episode we decided to address defenses of genetically modified seeds made by people who don’t work for Monsanto.
First of all, people argue that Monsanto creates jobs, and public avoidance of GMO foods negatively impacts Monsanto’s employees and the company overall. Here’s the thing about that. Just because a company exists doesn’t mean they have a right to exist forever—especially when that company’s products are so harmful to people and the environment. As we covered in Episode 8, Monsanto itself had to stop producing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) after they were banned by the US in 1979. But Monsanto produced the toxic chemical for decades while knowing they were dangerous to human health because it made money off them. So will we decide as a society that Monsanto’s bottom line is more important than human and environmental health? The world survived the banning of PCBs; it’ll survive the banning of GMOs.
Isn't GMO just hybridization?
Short answer: no. People argue that “humans have been genetically modifying foods” for centuries because humans have bred animals for the past 10,000 years and vegetables and fruits for the past few thousand since they switched from hunting and gathering. However, genetic modification is not the same as hybridization. Hybridization involves natural processes accelerated by humans. From a given harvest, humans select seeds from the most successful and nutrient-rich plants. The actual process happening in seed fertilization is natural and doesn’t require human intervention. Male and female gametes fuse in a seed to produce a new organism that contains genes from both parent plants. Genes are transferred to the new plant randomly, and the resulting plants are natural. Humans just choose seeds from the plants they liked the best.
How go genetically modify seeds
Genetic modification, on the other hand, involves humans physically altering the plant’s DNA in a lab. Monsanto uses two methods. First, they identify a gene expressing a certain trait and insert it into a bacterium’s DNA plasmid. Then the bacterium is injected into a plant seed to introduce the DNA into the seed’s DNA. Alternatively, the DNA sequence expressing a certain gene is shot into a plant seed with a tiny gun. These processes are highly inaccurate, however, and can produce unintended consequences. This article outlines a number of cases in which GM plants did not produce the intended proteins, plants had a number of unrelated changes to their chemical structures, and DNA was scrambled in an incorrect order.
Pesticides and herbicides
Also, defenders of GMO crops argue that the only problem with them is the pesticides that are sprayed on them. Biotech companies maintain that the traits of their GM crops mean that less pesticides are needed, but pesticide use has actually increased since the advent of GMOs. However, pesticides are only part of the problem. Monsanto’s plants are genetically modified to do one of two things: be resistant to Roundup, which is an herbicide, or produce their own pesticide called Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a bacterium that makes a crystallized protein toxic to some insects.
Bt can be used without warning labels, and many organic farmers spray their crops with Bt. This is one reason that we are wary of buying greens at a major grocery store even when they are labeled organic. The “organic” farm Julia worked at a couple summers ago reserved Bt for its kale varieties even though it tells customers that it doesn’t use any sprays. (Once she stopped eating kale, she noticed a lot of benefits to her gut and skin—perhaps for this reason.) Biotech companies and organic farmers alike say that Bt is harmless for humans, but not enough research has been done on this subject. We don’t know how “stacked events”—using Bt along with other pesticides and herbicides or with other GM genes—change the effects of the Bt alone.
We also don’t know how Bt affects the gut. Bt acts on small critters, and the gut is home to trillions of critters. Just because humans don’t have Bt receptors does not mean that it can’t harm us—or at least, we are not guaranteed that it can’t. And Bt can kill monarch larvae if non-GM crops became contaminated with Bt from a GM field. Monarchs are crucial pollinators, but even if they weren’t, we are not in favor of killing creatures just because they are inconvenient.
Doesn't Monsanto benefit farmers?
Monsanto’s volunteer defenders also point to the benefits to farmers around the world. They allege that farmers see increased yields and save money because they don’t have to rely on pesticides. However, the reality is much less positive. Remember how we said that Monsanto is the world’s biggest GM seed producer? This is terrible for farmers because Monsanto makes it illegal to save seeds from a harvest to replant. Rather, farmers are required to buy seeds from Monsanto every season. Monsanto sues any farmer it believes has saved seeds rather than bought new ones. It also sues farmers whose fields have become contaminated with GM seed—something it finds out by spraying fields with Roundup to see if the crops survive.
BT Cotton in India
Another story about Monsanto impacting farmers is its introduction of BT cotton in India. Farmers went into debt buying Monsanto seed, but return on investment was underwhelming. Crops did not do as well as Monsanto promised. They were designed to withstand pests in North America, but they could not stand up to many pests in India. Farmers still had to spend money on pesticides, and yields were too low. What resulted were chronic debt, misery, and suicides. The “cotton belt” in India became notorious for its increase in suicides relative to the rest of the country.
Monsanto’s defenders also believe that we could not feed the world without GMOs. We currently produce food for 3 billion more people than exist. Some 40-50% of food in the United States is thrown away. Most GM crops are used to feed livestock, including 90% of GMO soy. Other end products of GM crops are ethanol and packaging materials. This reiterates the point that biotech companies’ primary objective is to make money. They want to sell as many of their products to as many different industries as possible.
GM foods aren't necessary for health—quite the opposite
But for 99.99% of our history, humans didn’t consume GM foods, and their consumption translates to poor health for humans. As evidenced by Arpad Pusztai’s study of rats fed GM potatoes, consuming GM foods causes unintended consequences. His study found that GM food “can weaken the immune system of rats, stunt their growth and damage their internal organs”. In addition, multiple studies find links between glyphosate and Roundup and cancer. GMOs likely disrupt the gut, as well, which contributes to inflammation and chronic disease.
This book is incredible. Robin’s detailed examination of Monsanto’s actions, corruption, and falsified science is unparalleled. After reading this book, there can be no doubt that genetically modified foods have no place in the human diet and are not necessary to support life on earth.
GMOs and Monsanto ruin farmers’ livelihoods, wreak havoc on organisms’ bodies, and destroy the environment. Anyone who still believes Monsanto’s propaganda that GM foods are no different from their organic counterparts needs to read this book. The scientific evidence pointing to the contrary is overwhelming. Genetic modification is inaccurate, dangerous, and unpredictable.
We honestly don’t have any critiques of this book. We think every anecdote, interview, and scientific article mentioned are crucial to understanding the evil of this corporation. And we don’t understand why people defend Monsanto if they’re not getting paid. It is rich enough to lie on its own. Save your energy for defending farmers raising real food the right way.