A Skeptic's Journal
By Jeanette Pontacq
Raise your hand if you believe the Multinational Corporations consider the long-term consequences of what they produce and how they market them. Keep your hand raised if you believe that our government is independent of these corporations and puts the well being, economic stability and health of US citizens in the forefront of any regulatory decisions. To those of you who have arms proudly raised, I offer you a choice of either a bridge in Brooklyn or one spanning the Golden Gate that I will sell you cheap.
A case in point is Monsanto versus Percy Schmeiser. Percy Schmeiser is 69 and has grown canola in Canada for 50 years. Schmeiser has been sued by Monsanto for patent infringement on its Roundup Ready GM canola seed. Monsanto alleges that Schmeiser deliberately grew part of his crop with Monsanto's seed (which is genetically modified to tolerate Monsanto's weedkiller) and must thus pay Monsanto for use of the seed. Schmeiser has stated that the Monsanto seeds infested his fields via natural drift and wants Monsanto to stop contaminating his fields with their product.
The case, which has been characterized as a classic David vs. Goliath scenario, has highlighted several huge environmental and agricultural issues mostly ignored by the corporate media in the United States. One is that Monsanto has made no effort whatsoever to control its gene from drifting over agricultural fields wherever the wind blows. Further, Monsanto has "gene police" to invade suspected farms and take seed samples without the farmer's consent and offers toll-free hotlines to encourage rural residents to snitch on their farm neighbors.
Monsanto's goal is to create a world where farmers everywhere must buy new seed every year from Monsanto and other Gene Giants, thus controlling most of the food supply. If the Gene Giants and US Trade Reps have their way, every nation in the world will be forced to adopt patent laws that make seed saving illegal, creating what many farmers are calling Bioserfdom.
If you think this is unlikely to really happen, think again. Monsanto (acquired by giant Pharmacia last year) is the world's premiere Biotech Behemoth. In 2000, Monsanto's genetically-modified seed technology was already planted on 103 million acres worldwide, and growing fast.
Non-corporate farmers are nervous. One has stated, "We're very concerned by what liabilities we will be hit with, particularly with cross-pollination of genetically-modified plants. Farmers who are in the neighborhood of gm crops will have to pay royalties to the companies for products they never purchased and got no benefit from. We will be owned by Monsanto."
The last forty years has seen an unprecedented destruction of the Family Farm and a huge increase in the control of "what we eat" by Giant Agribusiness. Whereas once there were hundreds of varieties of corn, for example, there are now only a handful being planted on corporate farms. Practically speaking, with Global Warming a reality, it seems most prudent to have a diversified seed portfolio as well as a more diversified farming community. After all, if raised temperatures allow new and exotic pests, mostly drawn to large monocultured fields, it seems best to have more and smaller farms growing a number of different seed varieties.
Allowing Corporate Agribusiness and the Gene Giants to control our food supply is just plain stupid. But most Americans don't even know it is happening thanks to a media mostly controlled by the corporations and interested only in short-term profits.
Finally, for those readers who believe that, surely, the courts would never allow Monsanto to win against plucky Percy Schmeiser and his fellow farmers, consider that a Canadian judge dealt a crushing blow to Farmers' Rights by ruling that the third-generation Saskatchewan farmer must pay Monsanto thousands of dollars for violating the Gene Giant's monopoly patent on genetically modified canola seed, along with giving Monsanto part of the profit on the sale of his crop. Corporations do rule, you know.
Coming to a farmer near you, right here in northern California, is more of the same. Monsanto is on a roll. And if this depressing scenario doesn't get your attention, how about this: allowing giant multinational corporations to control the water on the planet is also proceeding apace. The annual market value of the world's water supplies is estimated at about US 1 Trillion Dollars. This is putting enormous pressure on governments to sell supply services to private firms with disastrous results, especially in the Third World.
While our attention is diverted to War Without End or The Sopranos, our food and water supplies are planned to become the property of The Corporations. I don't know about you, but I think we had better turn off the television, open the window and scream, "I'm not going to take it anymore." What do you think?
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