Monday, January 31, 2011

Do You Know The Monsanto Man?

I've been watching a lot of documentaries recently.  I think it's because I feel slightly more educated after the fact, whereas before when I was just watching Imagine Me & You on repeat, I felt like I was feeding an addiction.  Especially when I re-watched it with the director's commentary. 

Anyway, in trying to self-educate rather than self-medicate, I've been learning a lot through stories I would never have heard of otherwise.  I've watched dolphins being slaughtered in Japan's Taiji cove, Ken Burns's recreation of WWII through the eyes of a handful Americans, interviews with escaped North Koreans, and one on the 1972 porno "Deep Throat" which I had honestly thought when I clicked the instant play button was actually going to be about Watergate.  Like I said, I've been learning a lot.


The last documentary I watched was The Future of Food by Deborah Koons.  And in watching this film an old enemy of mine played a key role:  Monsanto.  Go ahead.  Google 'em.  Their website is in a color scheme of earthen tones, browns, tans and dark greens. 

You might also notice that their main page is dedicated to saying how thankful we should all be towards farmers--they use lots of pictures, usually a slightly profile picture of a guy in a classic truck driver's hat in a field squinting powerfully towards the sun that's setting eloquently off camera.  This is to make it clear that Monsanto loves farmers, even though it actually has a history of screwing farmers over.

So, What Does It Do?

First of all, what IS Monsanto?  

It's a multi-billion dollar corporation that creates herbicides, pesticides and genetically modifies plants.  It's the company that makes Round-Up.  It's also the company that has massively patented genes (at last count in 2004, as described in the documentary, they've patented over 11,000 genes).  

Anyway, in the late 1980s/early 1990s Monsanto realizes that along with its patents on genes in plants, it has a huge bid to become THE company that can control all seed production.  And whoever controls the seed, controls the food.  All Monsanto has to do is get rid of some pesky regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency keeps laying down on them.

Infiltrating Plants And People 

The EPA was being pesky, btws, because GE food is made through cell invasion, i.e., a technique that splices cells of plants with cells of other living organisms (usually from soil or another plant that has a desired attribute) along with a "glue" like cell to adhere the desired trait into the genes of the seed.  

Only the "glue" their using is from a bacteria or a virus.  Like Ecoli.

Back in the day, Monsanto used Ecoli to glue a highly desirable gene discovered in a particular type of soil that is naturally immune to their main herbicide, Round-Up.   Thus, this big corporation created the perfect gene makeup to make money off of--they not only sell the herbicide for weeds but they make a crop plant to go with it that won't die when you spray the weeds around it. 

The thing is, I'm all for learning more about cells and doing research on what makes them tick.  I'm just not into using brand new genes in food seeds to be fed to the public en mass. 

The EPA was not down with the lack of tests and research done before production with these new GE seeds.  So, the next obvious step was for Monsanto to infiltrate the EPA & FDA with its own workers and vice-versa.  I mean, it makes sense.  Cross-contamination is what they do with plants--why not with people?

Ahah.  I made a funny.

The Monsanto Man

No, but seriously.  Check this shiz out.  It begins with Michael Taylor, who was planted (pun intended) by Dan Quayle in 1992 to destabilize regulations on biotech food.  Here he is:

Michael Taylor
FDA Commissioner for Policy 
Senior Counsel, Monsanto

But, then it's like Monsanto and the US Government are playing a game of hacky-sack, knocking each employee back and forth and back and forth.  Just to name a few, there was Linda Fisher, Deputy Minister of EPA and also was the Executive Vice President of Monsanto.  Linda's kinda crazy because she went back and forth between the two at least three times.  Then there's Clarence Thomas, a US Supreme Court Justice who also worked as a Lawyer for the Regulatory Affairs of Monsanto.  Monsanto also employed Mickey Kantor an ex-Secretary of Commerce, Lidia Watrud, a Biotech Researcher in the EPA, Michael Friedman, acting Commissioner of the FDA, William Ruckelshaus, the Chief Administrator of the EPA, and finally, my favorite:

Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense during George Bush No. II Administration
President of Searle (a subsidiary of Monsanto)

Dan Quayle Loves His Monsantoe-I Mean Monsanto.

It's ironic that the man who can't even spell potato made it his mission to delegate what happens to mass produced food goods and food regulation in America.  

Along with appointing his main-man, Michael Taylor to the FDA, Dan Quayle created a "Council on Competitiveness," which was designed to basically eliminate regulation of bio-engineered foods.  No testing, no checking to see if the seeds grow toxins, no researching if it creates new allergens, no checking to see how it affects the immune system (even though it got leaked that lab rats were found to have lesions on their stomachs after being force fed GE canola corn seeds)--nothing.  Remember, genetically engineered food is still splicing favored genes with food organisms' genetic makeups.

It's a BIG experiment.  And we're eating it.

Every time you see "High Fructose Corn Syrup" on an ingredients list think Monsanto.  Think Gene Splicing.  FYI, it's in all soda products, and anything that likes to substitute sugar for a cheaper ingredient that can be made en mass like corn that's anti-herbicide (or speaking of potatoes) spuds that are anti-bugs.

Remember when Dan Quayle went on to vie for the presidency in 2000, after having been kind of a crap vice president in the early 1990s?  He received a huge campaign donation from Monsanto.  Now it becomes clear why he was so DOWN to help them in the first place.  Big corporation gives big money to politicians, politicians push for political power for big corporation. 

Dammit, America.

They Really, Really Don't Care.

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, reported in his 1998 article "Playing God in the Garden" a disturbing fact when demonstrating how Monsanto's pesticide-filled potatoes get on our grocery store shelves to eat:

"The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act gives the F.D.A. sole jurisdiction over the labeling of plant foods, and the F.D.A. has ruled that biotech foods need be labeled only if they contain known allergens or have otherwise been 'materially' changed. But isn’t turning a potato into a pesticide a material change? It doesn’t matter. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act specifically bars the F.D.A. from including any information about pesticides on its food labels."

So, it's the FDA's job to make sure our food is safe.  But now they're kind of not going to over-extend that kind of regulation.  It's sort of like someone saying to you, "How do you know this won't kill you?  You should eat it to find out." 
By the way, a year ago Obama appointed Michael Taylor as head of the FDA.  I mean.  Obama, you really couldn't have found someone ELSE to do the job?  In this economy?  Really?  Really?

I should have stuck with Imagine Me & You.  The plants in the film are at least romantic and not a corporate greed-fest. 



I really wanted to have Woo in this week's post.  But, it was ridiculously hard to try and research a giant corporation and find somewhat credible information to then spew back out in somewhat legible-writing alongside a Woo Update.  At first, I had this huge plan to have Woo portray Dan Quayle for me--but she gave up the role for her bed and a cookie.

I even got rejected this week for a photo op.  

So I tried to sneak up on her.

She was pissed.  

I apparently had walked into some sort of Cookie Conference Call.  Woo has been investing the family's treaties again.  We keep telling her not to invest in anything high-risk.  But, she's addicted--can't get enough of the money game.  

The stress gets to her, sometimes, I think.

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