29 June 2008
I have just watched The World According to Monsanto in four parts on the internet, available from here. I had seen dribs-and-drabs of it over the past few months, but I wanted to see it in its entirety before writing a column on it, so I watched it all again last night.
The 100 or so minutes of video follows the stream of consciousness of a French investigator as she outlines the extraordinary influence wielded by the world’s most powerful and dangerous corporation.
I am as impressed as much by what the video left out, as by what it included. Instead of bombarding us with a litany of the sins of Monsanto in each and every field of endeavor in which the chemical/biotech giant is engaged, the author treats us to only the most salient story in each level of involvement. It is obvious that each of these sins applies in every field of endeavor, and so the reporter, quite ingeniously, creates a broad-brush picture of global menace, and of ubiquitous government infiltration and influence.
The unmistakable impression left by this piece of video journalism is that Monsanto’s primary concern is its own profit margin, and that human suffering does not register on Monsanto’s radar unless such suffering can be exploited to turn a further profit.
This march of conquest by Monsanto says as much about the broken systems of government that make Monsanto’s sins possible, as it does about the insidious behavior of the industrial revolution’s most alarming Frankenstein.
None of this is possible without the complacency of ordinary people who refuse to take an active interest in politics and political appointments. We can be assured that corporate interests take great interest, and Monsanto’s sins are a direct and stunning consequence of our wanton neglect of the political institutions that provide our only hope for protection.
For those of you who have not watched the presentation (and don’t have 100 minutes to give to the exercise), the sins of Monsanto can be outlined in a few simple statements, corroborated by a mix of fact and innuendo that is compelling, if not entirely damning.
Monsanto cannot be trusted to put human health above its own interest.
Monsanto exerts undue influence over government.
Monsanto makes false claims to promote its products.
Stated that simply, I could be talking about any corporation in the world, and I can almost hear the collective yawn of “is that all?” from anyone who does not understand what these things actually mean when they get out of hand.
The following list is a rundown on the content of the video, re-organized to develop the argument against this corporate giant in a way that builds on its known history to give reasonable basis for global concern.
Monsanto’s history of concern for human suffering.
Monsanto is the chemical giant who covered up known toxic effects of PCB’s for many decades (as early as the 1930’s), with the collusion of government officials in the 1970’s until forced to settle compensation claims in 2001. (Anniston, Alabama). The cost of compensation this late in the game is far outweighed by profits gained at the expense of millions of people over 70 years.
Nitro, West Virginia, an explosion in a 2,4,5-T herbicide (major component of Agent Orange) plant produced unexpected reactions in exposed workers in 1949. In a 1978 study sponsored by Monsanto, data was clearly manipulated to disprove the carcinogenicity of dioxin, absolving Monsanto, and the US government, for responsibility for the Agent Orange debacle in Vietnam. Monsanto is accused by an EPA scientist in 1994 of falsifying those studies concerning the carcinogenicity of dioxin.
Monsanto’s flagship herbicide product, billed as safe and friendly to the environment, is implicated in the promotion of Cancer. Robert Belle, French National Centre for Scientific Research was asked to drop his claims about cellular damage caused by this herbicide due to the implications of his findings regarding GMO. Monsanto was also forced to remove the “bio-degradable” label from its product in Europe because it was proven to be a false claim.
Monsanto’s influence on the GMO regulatory process.
Described as a “Revolving Door” many key figures in the FDA have gone on to well-paid jobs at Monsanto, and key FDA positions have been filled by ex-Monsanto employees. This might seem to be merely coincidence,being that the two industres are closely related, however a potential conflict of interest emerges as we work out what has actually transpired in the FDA over the last 25 years.
Monsanto’s own BGH research showed major problems with mastitis and reproductive abnormalities in cows treated with the hormone, this information was by-passed by FDA officials, and whistle-blowing FDA employees were sidestepped and fired. Residual hormones in BGH milk have been linked to several kinds of cancer according to independent research cited in this video.
The introduction of BGH into the food supply paved the way for Monsanto’s most outrageous coup. GMO’s entirely bypass the food regulatory processes in the USA, thanks to Monsanto.
By inserting a sympathetic lawyer into a key position in the FDA process at the time biotech was being discussed, Monsanto was able to exert inordinate influence in how biotech legislation was crafted. This resulted in the FDA principle of “substantial equivalence” which, as a part of the first Bush Administration’s “Regulatory Relief Initiative”, allows GMO’s to go completely un-identified in the American food supply.
The principle of substantial equivalence gives biotech companies the right to market their products as safe for human consumption without any independent testing for their safety.
The same Monsanto employee /ex FDA official is on audio record as saying that the very legislation that he was instrumental in crafting is insufficient to the task of assuring consumer confidence.
“We have been consuming DNA for centuries without harm” was a comment made by James Mariansky, FDA Biotech Co-Ordinator 1985-2004 when interviewed for this video. For those who do not understand the implications of this statement, DNA has, indeed, been consumed for eons. DNA in this altered state has not, and it is consumed without any independent testing for its safety. It is unforgivable ignorance for a trusted official, holding a key position in a regulatory authority, to make such a glib statement in defense of such a potentially hazardous food technology.
“Its not in the company’s interests to design a study in some way that would mask results” these damning words from James Mariansky, FDA Biotech Co-Ordinator 1985-2004, explaining that FDA scientists reviewed Monsanto results rather than conducting their own research on GMO Soybeans. Independent review of this research finds the same Monsanto research to be seriously lacking. Monsanto has a track record of masking research results, or setting up bogus research, to suit its own profit margin.
It is very clear that the decision not to regulate GMO’s was based on politics, not science. (Which was another admission made by mariansky)
The potential for hazards in genetic engineering processes surfaced when independent research conducted by Arpad Pusztai in Aberdeen, Scotland, found that it was the genetic engineering process, not the genome, that caused irregularities in the digestion and immune systems of rats which had been fed genetically modified potatoes. Pustzai, was and is Europe’s most qualified expert in this field of scientific research.
When these findings became public, enormous influence was wielded from top levels of government to discredit the research. This finding cost Pustzai his career of over 30 years, and was the beginning of the end for GMO’s in Europe.
Monsanto’s Monopoly on Food.
About half of the presentation is devoted to this issue. It is this argument that makes it very clear that concern is warranted. Any other argument made above, on its own, makes Monsanto an undesirable company, and one that folks of conscience are likely to avoid. Adding all of the above arguments together, however, makes the proliferation of Monsanto’s GM product of very great concern, particularly with the influence these folks have been able to have at the seat of several governments.
“They [Monsanto] are in the process of owning food, all food” lamented Troy Roush, Indiana farmer who was on the receiving end of some very unfavorable litigation carried out by Monsanto in the name of protecting Monsanto’s patents.
Monsanto is accused of buying up other seed companies worldwide, and then making their own GM product the sole product available on the market. Monsanto’s Bt cotton monopoly in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra India is cited as an example of a monopoly where non-Bt cotton is no longer available to growers. In the face of a major failing in the Bt crop, suicide is common and farmers are outraged.
Vandana Shiva, president if India’s Navdanya Foundation, observes that, by owning GM patents, Monsanto owns seeds, collecting royalties on them, and therefore the world becomes dependant on Monsanto for all food and plant based crops, and Monsanto receives royalties on all food.
Owning the patents on seeds means that Monsanto effectively own life.
Monsanto’s Aggressive proliferation tactics are cause for greater concern.
Mexico’s ban on growing GM corn has not stopped pollution of Mexico’s cornstocks by cheap imported corn from the USA, 40 percent of which is GM corn.
Monsanto reportedly employed “fake scientists” to instigate a smear campaign to discredit the Mexico research and put pressure on Nature Magazine to discredit the researchers.
Paraguay was forced to legalize GM soybean crops after its farmland was extensively sowed with GM seed from neighboring Argentina. Monsanto now collects royalties on every ton of soybeans produced by both countries, and apparently Brazil has encountered the same problem. Small farmers are being squashed out, and poisoned out, by the chemical-intensive GM crops.
So, the upshot of all of this?
To quote the blogger who hosts this particular presentation
“Those who don't take an active interest in politics will forever be ruled by those that do.”
(Still trying to find a “famous” source for this one, so far I have found it on the Obama campaign website, but there is no attribution, which means it is likely a paraphrase of a better known quote. Whatever its pedigree turns out to be, it’s a fantastic quote!!)
Our political systems were put in place many years ago for our own protection.
Our own lack of interest undermines that protection at its very roots.
Next time we wonder at the inordinate rise in autism, or cancer, or the various maladies of human suffering, we must ask ourselves how much our own apathy about unholy allegiances between industry and government, our own self-interest generated by the same corporations who are desperate to keep us complacent, has contributed to this mess… then see if we can’t do something real to fix it.
It is for us, as the 21st century subset of the human collective, to decide how to curtail this monster of our own making.
To put this into an even more alarming perspective, Monsanto is effectively a US citizen, having every right and protection under the law that any other citizen has. Can you imagine the US military being mobilized in order to protect Monsanto's international GM food interests? Sound impossible? How's life in downtown Baghdad today?
The thing that any corporation lives for is profit. If there is no profit to be had in destruction, it will turn its hand to creativity, or it will die.
Supporting efforts to ensure that GM foods and products are subjected to rigorous independent testing is essential if we are to ensure the well-being of our children and their children. The one thing that politicians in democratic societies cave into more often than corporate coffers is people, lots of people.
Staving off corporate dominance of world politics will require a greater effort, but it begins with accountability, and that begins when the people, lots of people, give a damn.
Forcing our politicians, of all stripes in all countries, to make real laws with real teeth regarding GMO food safety is probably the most important, far reaching, political cause of our time.
27 June 2008
So, to keep you entertained while I find a round tuit, here is a slide show of a boy learning to fly yesterday! What a great way to spend the anniversary of my birth! Makes me glad I bothered.
24 June 2008
I'm four birthday cards behind and I can't seem to find the inspiration to get to work on them. I haven't been able to find the energy necessary to blog or to scrapbook, either.
I even work up at 3am unable to go back to sleep--or even stay in bed. (My craft room and kitchen are much cleaner. If I ever find the inspiration to cook or craft again, I will be able to work there. *grin* And I am closer to caught up on laundry...)
I have been walking with Mark, but not much otherwise. I hope to fix that this week. Yeah, well, but I've been saying that since last November. I have made progress every so often, but nothing sustained yet. I guess as long as I keep trying, I can alwasy make it.
I miss Minerva. This is hitting me harder than I was prepared for, I guess.
Rod is back on blood pressure medications, and they're having the same horrible side effects that every other medication has had. It's very depressing to watch my vibrant, wonderful best friend and beloved go through this. He goes from an optimistic, energetic, can do kind of guy, to a tired, sad, listless one. The sad part is the worst of it.
The garden is in, as far as the potted plants go. I haven;t made any progress at all on the garden bed -- then again, I can blame that on needing the plants to get big enough to survive bunny nibbles. All this rain is either going to be great fr them or it'll drown them. I don't know which it will be yet, but I certainly have given up on the idea of making it through the winter on produce we've grown.
Oh, and I finally solved the homemade yogurt problem. For years, I have had trouble making my own yogurt. It became grainy and unpleasant tasting just about every time. I tried making it on the countertop, I tried making it in a yogurt maker, but nothing made a tasty yogurt. Then we bought some raw yogurt from the farm Coop. When it was almost gone, I poured in some raw milk and left it on the counter until it thickened up. (And almost exploded the bottle it was in.) I opened it to transfer it to a larger container and it's delicious! Almost exactly like the one we bought. I think my problem was inferior materials.
Ah, well. It's time I was in the shower... more later.
19 June 2008
It's easy, healthy, *and* delicious!
Oat Pudding with apples and strawberries
1 cup steel cut or course flakes oats
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice or yogurt
2 medium apples, cubed
1 cup apple sauce
1 cup cut up strawberries
1 stalk rhubarb, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup maple syrup or 1/4 cup honey
1-2 well beaten eggs
Pour the oats and milk into a casserole dish, stir well and add the lemon juice. (This also works with oat milk or water if you're allergic to milk, but the lemon juice or yogurt is important for the texture.) Let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours.
When the oats have soaked, stir in the fruit and syrup and eggs.
Bake covered for 50-60 minutes.
Serve with ice cream, yogurt, or milk poured over the top.
Any fruits can be substituted -- try peaches and currants, or pears and chopped dates
The eggs are optional, but they make a nice creamy texture
16 June 2008
In print this time!
Edited to add: Mark pointed out to me that the link leads to an index of the contents of the issue we're published in, with no explanation. Oops. Sorry.
We wrote "Homeschooling in the Earliest Years", but it's only available from the paper magazine. The links lead to a couple of other articles from that issue.
15 June 2008
That has always included the sound of dogs barking.
One of our neighbors has a large and very bad mannered pit bull who got in the habit for a while of coming into our yard. If he found Jack there, he got aggressive, trying intimate Jack and drive him off.
As a matter of fact, Jack decided that he simply doesn't like dogs. He'd hide behind whatever parent was available whenever a dog came into view and avoid known dogs at all costs.
The Aussie branch of the family are dog lovers. Auntie Trudy has her friend, George, a Jack Russel terrier. Auntie Ann has Scamp, a fox terrier/dachshund cross, and Uncle Carl has Max, a Maltese.
There really wasn't any way that Jack could avoid these charming little dogs, and after a time, he even decided that he liked them. He hasn't generalized that to all dogs, yet. But we're hoping.
Int he meanwhile, thanks to Max, Scamp, and George for showing Jack that dogs can be fun people.
12 June 2008
11 June 2008
Rod and Jack are just a few hours away -- Rod has been so sweet about keeping me posted!
I'm off to make soup and bake cranberry bread for their dinner before I head to the airport.
From: Rodney B. Smith
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 11:59 AM
we're back in the states, things are running smoothly thus far
its 8:35 and our flight leaves at 10:35
hope all is well
see you soon
On Jun 11, 2008, at 11:59 AM, Misti Delaney wrote:
Thank you so much for writing, hon. I have been thinking of little but the pair of you all day.
I had hoped to have the house sparkling, but the jet lag and then losing Min slowed me down. It's not close to done yet.
What time, exactly, am I expecting you? And you're on American, yes?
What flight number?
From: Rodney B. Smith
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 12:40 PM
American flight 2312
due at 21:15 which is 9:15 pm
I miss you too
didn't sleep a wink on the flight
Jack fell asleep for the last hour and a half
On Jun 11, 2008, at 12:40 PM, Misti Delaney wrote:
How is Bub holding up?
From: Rodney B. Smith
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 12:47 PM
he's doing fine really
He's a bit impatient, but so am I
I also smell really bad
we'll be boarding in15 minutes or so
On Jun 11, 2008, at 12:46 PM, Misti Delaney wrote:
OK. Thanks for getting in touch. You'll be able to shower in a few hours.
I love you both! Kisses to Jack!
From: Rodney B. Smith
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 1:00 PM
we arrive in Dallas at 4:45 michigan time and leave at 6:35
I'm looking forward to meeting you
you might come in, that way you can see if the flight is delayed
I'll try to check my mail at Dallas
On Jun 11, 2008, at 12:59 PM, Misti Delaney wrote:
I'll look for you in Dallas. ;)
From: Rodney B. Smith [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 4:58 PM
exhausted but high spirited budgie in tow
he recites the goddess chant when he's happy
its great to be home
see you in Detroit
10 June 2008
"... jetliner veered off the runway and burst into flames late Tuesday"
I am deeply sad for the families of the dead and injured...but it's not my family, and I am a small enough person to be deeply grateful.
(This year has been rough, as many of you know. Minerva's death was the most recent, and the closest, but there have been far too many deaths in my world since Yule. And while I wouldn't ordinarily count a cat in the death toll, a short while after I buried Minerva, I found out that one of the first people to die shared my birthday. She was the third who did. Another shared Rod's birthday. The timing sort of felt like the Universe telling me not to be so sure it's over. It had been four months... I was hoping.)
07 June 2008
I will bury her in the back 40 -- perhaps in our ritual circle, at the West where she can watch for us. We will mark the spot with a memorial that Jack and I will make when he gets home.
Minerva was an excellent cat -- beautiful, loving, persistent, and sweet.
It was her time. Nonetheless, I am very sad. I will cry, and try to sleep -- and then I will dig her last bed.
Codex Alimentarius was founded in 1962 by the UN to establish international free trade foods. It is jointly administered by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through annual and regional meetings.
Codex sets advisory standards and guidelines which nations may adopt or modify. If they modify them without special protections, nations may be found guilty of setting up trade barriers by the World Trade Organization (WTO), and be assessed crippling financial penalties. If, on the other hand, countries deviate from Codex texts by creating a scientifically strong alternative guideline or standard, and pass enabling legislation (a process we refer to as "The Codex Two Step") they are free to deviate from Codex without being found guilty of creating barriers to trade. WTO has repeatedly refused to grant Codex a unique position as THE international food code, saying it is one of several such standards.
Codex decisions are, however, often perceived as inevitable by many developing nations which are not aware of the flexibility to protect the health of their people through the Two Step Process.
Codex' decisions are heavily influenced by the desires of multinational special interest groups who send representatives to sit on national committees and as NGO delegates. Because Codex is so heavily influenced by corporate interests, its decisions are, in our opinion, often helpful to corporate well-being but strikingly detrimental to human and environmental health.
Codex pertains to every bite - and kind of - food traded internationally and allows high doses of pesticides, veterinary drugs, synthetic hormones, contaminants, artificial sweeteners, and other dangerous compounds and processes (like mandated irradiation of food) while it forbids health claims for food.
Oh well -- birds are singing, so it's obviously time to get up...er, um, I mean, get some sleep.
Oh, work on Monday is going to be fun...
Now and then, she lifts her head and croaks to see if I'm there. I stroke her for a while, and she tries to purr. Then she rests. I sit while I can, but this death watch thing makes me restless. I seem to do more than my fair share of it, what with one thing and another. But I stay nearby and come when she calls, and pat her as I go about my quiet business.
I'm glad she's not in pain.
06 June 2008
Our visit was wonderful, but the trip back was exhausting and went wrong at every turn.