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What is Monsanto? What You Don't Know Might Hurt You
Just what is Monsanto? What is agricultural biotechnology, and who runs this company? These are important questions that mean more to you than you may know. The answers to these questions have a significant impact on every bite of food you eat.
Scary Facts: What Is Monsanto Doing To Our Food Supply?
The Monsanto Company is the world’s leading producer of glyphosate, which is a chemical herbicide. We’ve all seen the commercials for Roundup – that product that will kill just about anything, including big scary weeds that take away from the smooth green look we’ve been fooled into thinking our lawns should have. Roundup is one of Monsanto’s flagship products.
No doubt, we’ve heard about how bioengineered foods might be bad for us, and bad for the planet. Monsanto provided the technology for about 90% of the genetically engineered seeds used in US agriculture. Have you been for a drive in the country lately, and noticed those signs next to fields of corn, soy, wheat, alfalfa, and other crops? You’ve got it – most big fields boast genetics by various companies, including Croplan, Syngenta, WestBred, and others, many of which have ties to Monsanto. The crops you see as you drive along look green and vigorous, and that’s because they are very strong. They have been engineered to resist things like drought, insects, and herbicides – especially Roundup.
Farmers who participate in planting any of these crops must abide by strict guidelines. This is to preserve the genetic makeup of the plants that they are growing, and prevent crop cross-pollination. Unfortunately, the world’s pollinators didn’t get the memo. Now, some strains of superweeds have started cropping up. They clog ditches, rob the soil of nutrients at an alarming rate, and as you might have guessed, they’re resistant to Roundup and other herbicides.
Monsanto also developed the prototype for bovine growth hormone, which is designed to bring cattle to market weight faster, and make them produce more milk. Today, rBGH and rBST are quickly falling out of favor with farmers and consumers – but US food, drug, and agriculture regulation authorities, like the FDA and USDA, have not yet banned it. The United States is the only developed nation which has not banned the hormone Posilac, which is used by many commercial dairies to increase milk production to the point where cattle are suffering nasty side effects. Japan, all EU nations, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada had all banned the product by the year 2000.
The FDA – Monsanto Revolving Door
Major problems, like the current budget crisis, get the spotlight of media attention. Many other less newsworthy events may slip under the radar. Still, there has been increased attention to the curious sharing of personnel between Monsanto and food regulation agencies, notably the FDA. The most notable posts ought to interest anyone who eats food produced in America.
• Margaret Miller, former FDA branch chief for hormones and pharmacological agents, and current FDA Associate Director for Regulatory Activities, has held various positions within the FDA since 1989. She worked for Monsanto between 1985 and 1989.
• Michael Taylor, FDA Commissioner for Foods, was Monsanto’s Vice President for Public Policy in 1998. He has held many important positions, including a 1991 appointment as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for policy and a 1994 appointment as administrator of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
• Suzanne Sechen, FDA Supervisory Animal Scientist, worked on rBGH studies funded by Monsanto during her graduate studies at Cornell.
While none of this is technically illegal, it has certainly raised eyebrows and questions, especially now the new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has been signed into law. For instance, what is Monsanto, a chemical company, doing getting so deeply involved in creating policies about the food farmers grow? Why are former associates from that chemical company holding lofty positions within a body of government which was created specifically to address food and drug safety?
These questions lead to even more, and larger issues. Why is that chemical company working with the Food and Drug Administration to strongarm America’s farmers into growing specific crops? Why is the new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act targeting small family farms, raw milk producers, and organic food co-ops? What right does the government have to tell us which foods we can and cannot consume, if we know full well what it is we are consuming – particularly when those foods have well-known health benefits? Are regulatory bodies forcing consumers to give up their right to make decisions about what to eat?
This last question is particularly troublesome, as Americans have been strong and healthy for centuries, consuming foods produced without any kind of bioengineering intervention whatsoever. Today, cancer rates are higher, obesity is at an all-time high thanks to mass-produced foods filled with hidden sugars, and kids are encouraged to eat brightly colored foods flavored with chemicals and coated with sweeteners. Organic food co-ops, like Los Angeles-based Rawsome and Ohio’s Manna Storehouse have been targeted in raids by armed food police wearing law enforcement uniforms, and small farms across the country have been targeted as well.
Without a doubt, we are sure to hear even more news in months and years to come. The Center for Food Safety is currently working to promote more sustainable agriculture and organic food production. One of the biggest concerns they have is one that might concern you, too. There are currently no labeling requirements concerning genetically modified ingredients in processed foods, nor are there labeling requirements for genetically modified whole produce. What’s in your cupboards, and in your refrigerator?
For now, unless you are watching every bite, and consuming only certified organic produce, organically raised meats, and foods you have grown yourself, you don’t really have a sound method for ensuring that you are not eating things you’d rather not ingest. And until consumers understand what is happening at the deepest levels of our food supply, that is not likely to change. It’s true: What you don’t know might hurt you. If that bothers you, ask what is Monsanto doing to our food supply, and fight back.
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What is Monsanto's involvement in our food supply? , For more information, read "GMO Foods - What Are They?" at http://healthwellnessconnection.com/