By: Mark Isaacs, originally posted by 3things.org.au
As the Live Below the Line campaign takes over the nation this week, it seemed appropriate to write about global food production. Remember that documentary Food Inc.? No? Haven’t heard of it? Have you been living in a cave the past decade? Go see it. Now. This movie galvanised millions of young people all over the world to become vegetarian for a week.
The documentary examines the economically and environmentally unsustainable practices of the USA’s industrial production of meat, grains and vegetables. As it delves further and further into global food production it identifies that the industry is controlled by a few mono-national corporations who promote cheap but contaminated food. According to Greenpeace, ten corporations control nearly 70% of the world's seed market, and one chemical company – Monsanto – controls 90% of the world’s genetically modified (GM) seed market.
Monsanto. That word sounds familiar, right? It’s been a buzz word for crazy socialists and passionate environmentalists for a while now. Monsanto is the Death Star of the modern day food industry. To give you an idea of this company’s ethical standards, before they got into the food industry they were the chemical company that invented Agent Orange.
Back in 1973 Monsanto invented and marketed a weed-killing herbicide called Roundup that was used to spray crops all over America. Monsanto soon began patenting the gene of Roundup Ready crops that could resist the application of Round Up. Between 1994 and 2008, Monsanto-patented soybeans jumped from 2% of the US soy bean market to 90%. What this patenting law meant for farmers in the US was that they could no longer replant the seeds that grew on their land as it was the property of Monsanto. If a farmer doesn’t use the Monsanto crops and seeds blow in and contaminate the farmers land, it is up to the farmer to prove that he did not violate Monsanto’s patents.
Monsanto have now spread their patented genes of Roundup Ready crops all around the world essentially attempting to control the global food industry. The World According to Monsanto documentary, the most poorly produced documentary in the world, stated that ‘Monsanto control seed, they control food - it’s more powerful than bombs. It’s more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world.’
So how did we ever let these guys become so powerful?
The World According to Monsanto deemed it the ‘revolving door’ policy whereby Monsanto employees switched between their roles at the company and policy-making positions within the US government. Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government agencies, the US adopted genetically engineered (GE) foods and crops without proper testing, without consumer labelling against the advice of all government health and safety recommendations.
Since their Vietnamese forest burning days, Monsanto have been responsible for an unimaginable number of injustices against farmers, civilians and the environment. There is a tonne of evidence organised by investigative journalists, scientists, environmentalists and political parties that oppose the actions of this company. Yet they continue to grow.
So what does this mean to Australians?
NSW and Victoria already allow the commercial growing of genetically engineered canola and cotton, despite bans in the other canola-growing states of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. According to Greenpeace the canola variety is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola that caused increased liver sizes of up to 16% when it was fed to rats in Monsanto’s own study. Canola oil is used in a wide range of processed foods, much of which goes in to feeding Australian livestock. The European market has recently shut the gate on Australia’s GM canola.
Currently there is a corporate attempt to commercialise genetically modified wheat in Australia by 2015 despite the fact that GM wheat has been rejected by all of the other major wheat growing nations in the world. Australia is among the world’s top five wheat exporters yet we are about to become the first country in the world to eat GM wheat which has never been proven safe.
If this was to go ahead, it is inevitable that Australia’s conventional wheat will be contaminated by GM wheat. There have been twenty nine reported incidents of contamination in Australia, half of which occurred under GM trials, and 169 breaches of security licenses issued by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) are recorded. WA farmer Steve Marsh is currently fighting the first legal stoush against Monsanto in Australia over the spread of their patented crops.
There have been close to 900 experimental trials of other GE crops in Australia.
Looking at these facts, I find it unfathomable to comprehend what would possess our nation to sell off our land to a corporation so devoid of moral integrity and ethical practices. How much more land and produce do we have to give away to corporate greed? This is not just an Australian problem however. Oxfam’s GROW campaign states that 80% of the world’s hungry people are directly involved in food production and yet Monsanto owns the majority of their produce.
So what can we do to prevent our food being contaminated?
You could check out Greenpeace's Truefood Guide to avoiding GM food. Battle Monsanto via social media. Or get involved directly and help Steve Marsh fight Goliath. Or how about writing to the Australian Ethical Consumer Guide about Monsanto. According to their website, Monsanto Australia is a legitimate company while Monsanto USA is in the corporate hall of shame.