Aerial view of a crop circle made by local farmers and Greenpeace volunteers in Isabela province, 300 km northeast of Manila. The crop circle, with a slash over the letter 'M' symbolizes farmer's rejection of genetically-modified Bt corn crops from Monsanto corporation.
The French documentary, called "The world according to Monsanto"
and directed by independent filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin, paints a
grim picture of a company with a long track record of environmental
crimes and health scandals.
The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got
its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers
via the "revolving door". One example is Michael Taylor, who
worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy
commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991.
While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food
approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval
of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the
company's vice president for public policy.
Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government
agencies, the US adopted GE foods and crops without proper testing,
without consumer labeling and in spite of serious questions hanging
over their safety. Not coincidentally, Monsanto supplies 90 percent
of the GE seeds used by the US market.
Monsanto's long arm stretched so far that, in the early
nineties, the US Food and Drugs Agency even ignored warnings of
their own scientists, who were cautioning that GE crops could cause
negative health effects. Other tactics the company uses to stifle
concerns about their products include misleading advertising,
bribery and concealing scientific evidence.
Monsanto was founded in 1901 as a chemical company. Its history
is intimately linked to the production and promotion of highly
toxic chemicals such as Agent Orange (used as a chemical weapon in
the Vietnam war) and PCBs (widespread toxic pollutants). Robin's
movie reveals that Monsanto already knew about the "systematic
toxic effects" of PCBs for decades, but instructed its salespeople
to stay silent because, "we can't afford to lose one dollar."
More recently Monsanto received a bad reputation for the
promotion of growth hormones from GE organisms known as rBGH, which
the company sells in the US under the brand name Posilac. Monsanto
claims that Posilac holds, "benefits to consumers". The reality is
that, rBGH growth hormones were banned in Europe and Canada after
the authorities found out about the health risks resulting from
drinking milk from cows treated with rBGH hormones. Monsanto's way
of "addressing" this problem was to sue the Oakhurst dairy company
in the state of Maine (US) - attempting to force them, and other
dairies, to stop labelling diary products "rBGH-free" and
Global reach, control
Over the last decade, Monsanto aggressively bought up over 50
seed companies around the globe. Seeds are the source of all food.
Whoever owns the seeds, owns the food. The process of genetic
engineering allows companies, such as Monsanto, to claim patent
rights over seeds. Ninety percent of all GE seeds planted in the
world are patented by Monsanto and hence controlled by them.
Patents on seeds give companies like Monsanto unprecedented
power. Monsanto prohibits farmers saving patented GE seeds from one
crop to replant the next season, an age-old practice. To ensure
that farmers do not reuse seeds, Monsanto created its own 'gene
police', and encourages farmers to turn in their neighbors.
Even farmers that do not use GE seeds are not safe. According to
an investigative report by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS)
even been sued for patent infringement after their field was
contaminated by pollen or seed from someone else's GE crop.
But Monsanto's influence doesn't stop at the US border. "The
world according to Monsanto", documents the devastating impact of
Monsanto's malpractices around the world. Among others, it includes
the real-life stories of cotton farmers in India that ended up in
hopeless debts after using Monsanto genetically engineered (so
called Bt) cotton, and of a family in Paraguay, South America whose
dreams have turned to nightmares after their farm became surrounded
by fields planted with Monsanto's GE soya.
A much needed expose
Monsanto wouldn't address these issues on camera for Robin,
instead referring to the "Monsanto Pledge" posted on their website
which we debunk here).
After seeing "The world according to Monsanto", Greenpeace
International campaigner Geert Ritsema said:
"Mrs. Robin should be congratulated for revealing the sinister
practices of the world's leading producer of genetically engineered
seeds. Her film is alarming and should be a call to action for
everybody who cares about the quality of our food and a healthy
future for our planet."
The movie will be shown for the first time on ARTE TV (in German
and French) on Tuesday 11 March at 21.00. You can order a DVD of it
(in English, French and Spanish)
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