India Defies Monsanto, Says No to GMO Crops

We’ve followed the story of the slow but increasing and badly needed pushback against Monsanto’s predatory business practices, which force farmers to buy Monsanto seed annually, rather than re-use it. Worse, Monsanto seed has been genetically engineered so as to require the use of Monsanto herbicides and fertilizers.

And with (until recently) the seeds patent protected, farmers could be sued for having Monsanto genes in their crops. And with Monsanto having established a near monopoly in seeds, it has set prices so as to extract a higher percent of agricultural revenues than it could otherwise command. Needless to say, what is good for Monsanto is not at all good for farmers, as these excerpts from a Daily Kos post illustrates:

I am a small farmer, and I am deeply concerned about the broad power Monsanto and other seed companies wield. Their patents on life, unfair business practices, and aggressive genetic engineering of seed for commercial farming are making farmers dependent on their very expensive seed and killing the millennia-old practice of saving seed.

Since I was a child, the cotton business has been radically changed by developments like Round-Up Ready cotton. Farmers are forced by market pressures to adopt new practices, like using Monsanto seed, that are locking them into annual tithes to a monopolistic seed company. Monsanto, in particular, has forced hundreds of small seed companies out of the business with litigation and threats of litigation, and it’s no accident. Farmers are afraid to collect seeds at all, for fear that Monsanto will accuse them of patent infringement….

In visiting my husband’s family in Bangladesh, my brother-in-law complained about the lack of rice varieties available for consumption. In the past, hundreds of tasty varieties were available. Now only a very few with much less taste are on the market. These varieties, grown in the very unhealthy chemically dependent and unsustainable manner espoused by Monsanto to encourage the use of their many pesticides and herbicides, depletes the land and contaminate the waterways. Fish populations, on which the Bangladeshi population depends heavily for protein, are disappearing. Only the farm-raised varieties are in vast supply, those also being of less nutritional value and raised in polluted waters.

Monsanto’s hold on the seed market is especially problematic in that they also manufacture the chemicals with which the seeds are grown. This is forcing many farmers to use GMO seeds and unsustainable methods whether they want to or not. Neighboring farms (specifically, organic or those choosing to use non-GMO seeds) are having their seeds contaminated by the GMO varieties. Native varieties and hybrids, grown for 10,000 years and adapted to optimize local growing conditions, are bought up by Monsanto and removed from the market, denying options to farmers and consumers. Those not bought up are in danger of contamination by Terminator genes, which would lead to their extinction. The same way we protect animal species from extinction, we should protect plant species, especially the tens of thousands of food varieties, from companies like Monsanto that are consciously eliminating them. Would we allow genocide to occur in any other circumstance?

GMO crops have not been tested properly for safety. In India, farmers allowed their cattle to graze on GMO cotton plant stubble as they had grazed their cattle for millennia; all those cattle died within a few days. Many GMO varieties are neither better yielding nor requiring less fertilizer or water. They are designed to increase the use of Monsanto chemicals. These varieties are more expensive to grow, and the farmers are not allowed to save seed for the next year or the seeds have “Terminator” or “Traitor” genes to make new seeds sterile, causing them added expense. Monsanto’s methods are depleting the soil in areas already stressed.

I hope you will rein in these companies and start to restore a sense of fair play to agribusiness. Family farmers have enough to deal with without big chemical and seed companies holding them hostage.

The US courts have begun to whittle away at some of Monsanto’s efforts to monopolize seed production:

The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) announced today that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has rejected four key Monsanto patents related to genetically modified crops that PUBPAT challenged last year because the agricultural giant is using them to harass, intimidate, sue – and in some cases literally bankrupt – American farmers. In its Office Actions rejecting each of the patents, the USPTO held that evidence submitted by PUBPAT, in addition to other prior art located by the Patent Office’s Examiners, showed that Monsanto was not entitled to any of the patents.
Monsanto has filed dozens of patent infringement lawsuits asserting the four challenged patents against American farmers, many of whom are unable to hire adequate representation to defend themselves in court. The crime these farmers are accused of is nothing more than saving seed from one year’s crop to replant the following year, something farmers have done since the beginning of time.

One study of the matter found that, “Monsanto has used heavy-handed investigations and ruthless prosecutions that have fundamentally changed the way many American farmers farm. The result has been nothing less than an assault on the foundations of farming practices and traditions that have endured for centuries in this country and millennia around the world, including one of the oldest, the right to save and replant crop seed.”

Raw Story describes the latest anti-Monsanto salvo, this by India :

India refused to grant permission Wednesday for the commercial cultivation of its first genetically modified (GM) food crop, citing problems of public trust and “inadequate” science.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said he was imposing a moratorium on the introduction of an aubergine modified with a gene toxic to pests that regularly devastate crops across India.

“It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary, principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release,” until scientific tests can guarantee the safety of the product, said Ramesh…

“I cannot go against science but in this case science is inadequate,” he added. “I have to be sensitive to public concerns.”

Indian regulators had approved the new aubergine back in October and its introduction would have made it the first GM foodstuff to be grown in India.

But the decision roused huge opposition and a broad spectrum of voices, including farmers, environmentalists and politicians of all stripes had urged the government to prevent its cultivation…

Ramesh said there was “no overriding food security argument” for the introduction of GM aubergines.

He said he had considered the views of different interest groups in making his decision but denied he had been pressured by members of his cabinet or by companies producing genetically modified crops.

“My conscience is clear. This is my decision and my decision alone,” he said.

India is one of the largest aubergine producers globally.

Reader John D, who pointed us to the piece, adds:

They are fighting Monsanto trying to patent the genes from their indigenous plants.

The history of GMO crops in India is like elsewhere. The first few years are great then they need more herbicide and more fertilizer to get yields and that drives the farmer into bankruptcy. India has had a rash of farmer suicides due to crop failures. They didn’t have this with indigenous seeds. The costs were much less and they could muddle through.

The concerns about safety are also legitimate. As Scientific American pointed out:

Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers.

…Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects.

Research on genetically modified seeds is still published, of course. But only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal. In a number of cases, experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering. “It is important to understand that it is not always simply a matter of blanket denial of all research requests, which is bad enough,” wrote Elson J. Shields, an entomologist at Cornell University, in a letter to an official at the Environmental Protection Agency (the body tasked with regulating the environmental consequences of genetically modified crops), “but selective denials and permissions based on industry perceptions of how ‘friendly’ or ‘hostile’ a particular scientist may be toward [seed-enhancement] technology.”

Some research recently raised questions on the adequacy of Monsanto’s research on the health of GMOs (a mere 90 days) and some small scale animals studies have found consumption of Monsanto GM products are associated with organ damage. One reader noted:

I am fairly well-qualified to comment on this, as both a PhD in genetics who has made hundreds of transgenic plant lines (albeit in Arabidopsis) and a former Nature editor.

I don’t doubt for a second that Monsanto has failed to adequately investigate the potential negative effects of BT toxin (MON 810 and MON 863) and bar (NK 603) overexpression and possible toxicity. This is even more warranted by the fact that these genes are being regulated by a strong viral promoter (CaMV35S) that is producing levels of these proteins that far exceed what would normally occur in a plant–even though these gene products don’t normally in plants. (Both genes are bacterial in origin.)

That’s a long winded way of saying concerns about Monsanto, from both a health and economic perspective, are far from alarmist.

Print Friendly
Tweet about this on Twitter7Digg thisShare on Reddit1Share on StumbleUpon302Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn0Share on Google+2Buffer this pageEmail this to someone

66 comments

  1. Ronald

    Monsanto and Goldman have much in common which is unlimited access to the political class within the United States doubt much will change but at least India looks to protect itself against Monsanto after the recent close encounter with our financial giants has raised some real concerns about corporate America.

  2. john bougearel

    Thanks Yves,

    This is an evolving story that needs much more circulation. Your hyperlink to the Daily Kos Jan 10 2010 article is well worth everyone’s reading in its entirety, just to appreciate the full breadth and scope of Monsanto’s ugly underbelly. As an primary and influential actor on planet earth, their behavior is more than unethical, it is lethal to present and future generations.

    I believe the Daily Kos story also links to the documentary “Dirt” which tells the story of Earth’s most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility to its crippling degradation.

    http://www.dirtthemovie.org/pages/about-the-film

  3. EmilianoZ

    What can we do against Monsanto? In a grocery store I have no way of knowing which products ultimately come from Monsanto. Is there a list somewhere on the net? Does “organic” guarantee non-Monsanto-ness?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      EmilianoZ, there is a way possibly.

      When you eat organic food, you crap organic crap. For some people, but not all of us, that makes them morally superior.

      On the other hand, when you eat GMO food, you crap GMO crap.

      Because GMO plants are first the patented property of its inventor and then of the GMO grower, you can’t test it out in the open in the market, but your crap is your personal property and so you can take it to a lab and have it tested.

    2. bianca

      Emiliano,
      Organic has to be 95% free of GMOs to have the USDA “Organic” label. If it says 100% organic, then there are no GMOs.

      Here are a few resources to use for shopping Non-GMO:

      The Non-GMO Shopping Guide from the Institute for Responsible Technology and the Center for Food Safety:
      http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/SG/Home/index.cfm

      AND their iPhone app!
      http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=352229891&mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D6

      Here is the Shopper’s Guide: How to Avoid Genetically Engineered Food from Greenpeace:
      http://gmoguide.greenpeace.ca/

  4. attempter

    It’s good to see that the resistance to Monsanto is spreading. This is an outfit right out of James Bond. It’s literally seeking world domination:

    At a biotech industry conference in January 1999, a representative from Arthur Anderson, LLP explained how they had helped Monsanto design their strategic plan. First, his team asked Monsanto executives what their ideal future looked like in 15 to 20 years. The executives described a world with 100% of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Anderson consultants then worked backwards from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct.

    http://blogs.healthfreedomalliance.org/blog/2010/02/08/monsanto-the-worlds-poster-child-for-corporate-manipulation-and-deceit/

    Seed saving, seed libraries, decentralized seed exchanges completely outside the corporatist nexus, are an essential part of the relocalize-and-resist movement, just as much as getting our money out of the big banks and eschewing debt.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      If Arthur Anderson designed Monsanto’s strategy, and it survive the Enron shredders then it is surely above reproach.

      I’ve heard rumors of mafia-like tactics of Monsanto prosecuting farmers whose crops are inadvertently, involuntarily hybridized via pollen drift, a rather insidious racket. Perhaps that’s the basis for the Public Patent Foundation’s recent successes in denying patents. It’s a hopeful story, but what happens when Monsanto takes it to the Supreme Court of corporate high-priests?

      1. Francois T

        what happens when Monsanto takes it to the Supreme Court of corporate high-priests?

        Then, it’ll be obvious to everyone, everywhere that the Supine Court is not to be obeyed; its rulings shall be disregarded.

        Are we going to tolerate that our society is hostage to 5 ayatollahs of the corporate madrassa, just because their skin reflect wavelength on the whiter shade of pale and they shave every day?

        Got to be a fucking limit here, no?
        No judge will tell me what I can eat or not.
        Just ain’t going to happen ever, period!

  5. Peter Schaeffer

    Folks, you need to do your homework before you post on subjects like this. GMO crops are very popular and highly successful in India. To be precise, one GMO crop, BT cotton, has been widely and quite successfully planted in India. This may not sound all that significant because no one eats cotton. However, in India cottonseed oil is widely consumed and cottonseed meal is used as animal feed.

    A few data points should support this. See “Pakistan to focus on genetic crops to increase output” (http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20094\26\story_26-4-2009_pg5_9).

    “Shahzad Ali Malik speaking on the occasion said that in India BT Cotton Hybird was approved for commercial cultivation in 2003 and by 2008 in 5 years time India more than doubled its cotton production from 16 million bales in 2003 to 34 million bales last year. While Pakistan has reversed its production to 11.5 million bales after touching the peak of 14.5 million bales in 2004-5.”

    From another source “India coming on strong in cotton production” (http://southwestfarmpress.com/news/051110-India-cotton-production/)

    “Cotton producers in India have made huge strides forward in cotton production, increasing their average yields from 294 pounds per acre nationally to 391 pounds per acre over the last three seasons, a 33 percent increase. As a result, Indian cotton production rose from 10.6 million bales in 2002-03 to 19 million bales in 2004-05. The huge 2004 crop produced 4 million bales of excess supply.

    This upsurge in production was due to a combination of great weather and of Bt technology’s ability to reduce risks and costs and save Indian cotton producers from the worm invasions that used to frequently destroy their crops.

    The great weather was shared across almost the entire planet in 2004 and the yields produced will likely go down in history as a once in a lifetime happening.

    Technology’s impact on cotton production in India and around the world is still evolving. The International Cotton Advisory Committee estimates that 27 percent of world cotton area was or will be planted to officially approved biotech varieties in 2005-06, up from 2 percent in 1996-97. That 27 percent contributes to 36 percent of world production and exports.

    Meanwhile, world average yield has climbed from 534 pounds per acre in the 1990s – before Bt technology – to a surprising 652 pounds per acre in 2004-05.”

    As for the alleged risks associated with GMO corn, the U.S. approved GMO corn years ago and every living American has now consumed large quantities of food produced (directly or indirectly) from GMO corn. If GMO corn was deadly we would know it by now.

    The rest of the world is (at varying rates) reaching the same conclusion. Canada approved GMO corn more than 10 years ago. See http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/gmf-agm/appro/genetically_modified_corn-mais_genetiquement_modifie-eng.php for the position of the Canadian government. Try http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/gmf-agm/appro/genetically_modified_corn-mais_genetiquement_modifie-fra.php if you prefer the same information in French. See http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/gmf-agm/appro/index-eng.php for the list (long) of approved GMO crops in Canada.

    The EU has also approved GMO corn. See http://www.euractiv.com/en/cap/commission-allows-years-gm-maize-cultivation/article-183656 for the details. Conversely, many European governments have banned GMO corn in response to domestic political pressures. Only one country, Spain, grows GMO corn on any significant scale. It is worth noting that that the EU approval of GMO corn followed a careful safety review. I quote

    ‘Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), based in the Italian city of Parma, said the maize, known by its code number MON 810, was “as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to potential effects on human and animal health”.

    It also said MON 810 maize was “unlikely to have any adverse effect on the environment in the context of its intended uses”‘

    Given the hysteria associated with GM crops in Europe, the scientists in question were clearly under pressure to produce a negative result. They didn’t.

    There are some legitimate critiques of GM crops. Some GM crops have been specifically designed to allow for increased use of pesticides. For example “Roundup Ready” soybeans have been genetically modified to withstand higher levels of Roundup utilization. Conversely, other GM crops ( for example BT modified) have been designed to reduce pesticide utilization.

    The question of whether GM crops are good for farmers is a legitimate issue (although not the only one). Propaganda notwithstanding, farmers are not forced to use GM crops in the U.S. or presumably anywhere else. They choose to plant these crops because they see practical advantages. To put this in perspective, roughly 500,000 square miles of GM crops were planted in 2008.

    Indeed, farmers in some countries are illegally using GM seeds even though their own governments have not approved these products. Why would farmers do such a thing other than for economic gain? See http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?220514 for an article on the subject from India. See http://www.grain.org/research/contamination.cfm?id=279 for an article about illegal use of GM soy seeds in Brazil (purchased from Argentina).

    Here is an easy way to understand the global GM controversy. It is basically a green / left “birther” issue. No amount of data or collection of facts is going to change the minds of those involved.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Peter Scheeffer says;

      “As for the alleged risks associated with GMO corn, the U.S. approved GMO corn years ago and every living American has now consumed large quantities of food produced (directly or indirectly) from GMO corn. If GMO corn was deadly we would know it by now.”

      Yes Peter, and since the inception of GMO corn in scamerica we now have 65% of the population overweight with a variety of related health issues! So we, “know it by now.”

      Sure, “Roundup Ready” plants reduce pesticide use because it puts the pesticide right in the plant. Yum! Yum! Pass the corn chips. No fucking wonder we are all getting overweight and sick.

      Here is an easy way to understand the global GM controversy.

      Monsanto is an arrogant elite scamerican corporation, with a range of monopoly seeking products, stolen from the commons and modified to reduce competition from and eliminate that commons, that buys politicians to create a playing field tilted in its favor and uses the scam ‘rule of law’ to brow beat any opposition or competition.

      EmilianoZ — Demand that your produce manager in your local market stock only GM free plants, and, if you eat corn chip or corn related products, write to Doritos, corn chip,etc., manufacturers and demand GM free products.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    2. LeeAnne

      Peter Schaeffer,

      About the cheap shot “It is basically a green / left “birther” issue. No amount of data or collection of facts is going to change the minds of those involved.”

      Its just like a corporatist to malign anyone who disagrees with you. That’s a good way to destroy your credibility and continue that of the company you represent.

      “Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), based in the Italian city of Parma, said the maize, known by its code number MON 810, was “as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to potential effects on human and animal health.”

      Just as it has proven destructive for investment banking to be publicly held corporations given its public utility function, it could be even more destructive in principle for the genetic code of food seeds to be monopolized by publicly held corporations to be freely and unconditionally distributed commercially.

      Multinational corporations have proven their inherent contempt for humanity.

      1. C

        Well, the easiest and fairest way to do this is to establish (through legislation or judiciary) strict limits on what can be patented genetically.

        I’m not holding my breath on that one.

    3. Vinny

      Peter Schaefer,

      Why don’t you at least have the decency to disclose your association with Monsanto before spewing your worthless garbage here.

      Try not to insult the intelligence of the readers of this blog.

      Vinny

      1. C

        Is this how you always act when people disagree with you?

        As for Monsanto being a ruthless company trying to achieve a monopoly so that they can charge higher prices–this is the goal of every company. I think it’s a little unfair to single out Monsanto.

        And while I don’t know too much about GM food, I do know that weavils extract an enormous toll on cotton crops. I doubt you’ll get even ok yields without monsanto’s help.

      2. Peter Schaeffer

        Patriot,

        If you wish to claim that GM crops (especially corn) are responsible for U.S. obesity trends, you have to find some facts to support your argument. Since you have not attempted to do so, I will try to help.

        The CDC has statistics on obesity in the U.S. See http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/overweight/overweight_adult.htm. If you take a look at table 2 you will see that the great growth in adult obesity in the U.S. occurred before GM corn has widely planted in the U.S. Since GM corn has become predominant, the increase in adult obesity has actually slowed. See http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db01.pdf for some data.

        As for Monsanto’s alleged monopoly, if you look at the list of approved GM vendors in Canada you will see that Monsanto has plenty of competitors. Beyond that, every seed grain vendor in the world is free to sell non-GM seeds in the U.S. and U.S. farmers can and do plant non-GM soy seeds that they collect themselves. Note that this is not possible for corn because corn seeds are hybridized (and have been since the 1920s/30s).

        According to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/08/AR2006120800030.html Monsanto had less than 1/3rd or the market for corn seeds in 2006. Indeed, Pioneer had 4 times the market share as Monsanto as recently as 2000.

        LeeAnne,

        “Its just like a corporatist to malign anyone who disagrees with you. That’s a good way to destroy your credibility and continue that of the company you represent.”

        What company do I represent?

        You raised a question about the “genetic code of food seeds”. The corn genome is in the public domain. See http://www.ncga.com/12-years-dedicated-work-pay-results-maize-genome-sequencing-project-published-11-19-09. Work is underway to sequence the wheat genome in the public domain. See http://grain.jouy.inra.fr/ggpages/awn/48/Textfiles/IGROW.html. The rice genome is already in the public domain. The work was done and donated by Monsanto. See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v404/n6778/full/404534b0.html.

        Vinny,

        “Why don’t you at least have the decency to disclose your association with Monsanto before spewing your worthless garbage here.”

        That is a fair request. My (only) association with Monsanto is probably the same as yours. I live in the U.S. and consume GM food.

        My career has been in software development (general, not agriculture related). My only real connection with farming was spending a couple of years growing up around Valparaiso, IN. Back then (many decades ago), I knew a few farmers. Predictably they were too small and poor to actually earn a living farming and generally worked in factories to make ends meet.

        1. i on the ball patriot

          Peter Schaeffer says;

          “If you wish to claim that GM crops (especially corn) are responsible for U.S. obesity trends, you have to find some facts to support your argument. Since you have not attempted to do so, I will try to help.”

          Peter Schaeffer, your government pdfs aside;

          Fact: Monsanto GM corn has been planted in hundreds of thousands of SQUARE MILES of scamerica, 500,000 SQUARE MILES of GM crops were planted in 2008. GM corn was introduced in the early nineties.

          Fact: “Obesity in the United States has been increasingly cited as a major health issue in recent decades. While many industrialized countries have experienced similar increases, obesity rates in the United States are among the highest in the world with 64% of adults being overweight or obese, and 26% are obese.[2] Estimates of the number of obese American adults have been rising steadily, from 19.4% in 1997, 24.5% in 2004[3] to 26.6% in 2007.[4] Should current trends continue, 75% of adults in the United States are projected to be overweight and 41% obese by 2015.[5]

          The direct medical cost of obesity and indirect economic loss to obesity has been estimated to be as high as $51.64 billion and $99.2 billion in 1995, respectively;[6] this rose to $61 billion and $117 billion in 2000.[7] Researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and RTI International estimate that in 2003, obesity-attributable medical expenditures reached $75 billion.[8]”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity_in_the_United_States

          Monsanto GM plants have also been shown to cause organ failure in rats.

          As for Monsanto having competition — sure they have competition — other bottom line morality oriented giant corporations like; Dupont, Syngenta, BASF, etc.

          Peter Schaeffer, you sound a lot like all of those doctors who populated smoking ads in the forties and fifties telling all the scamericans what a wonderful product tobacco was …

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCMzjJjuxQI

          Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          1. Peter Schaeffer

            Patriot,

            Two problems with your argument. First, the CDC statistics show that obesity soared before any acreage of GM corn was ever planted in the U.S. (the first year was 1996). Second, you have not even tried to demonstrate causality.

            I have a better theory. It’s Bill Clinton’s fault. He made eating cheeseburgers PC. Everyone ate two many Big Macs. My theory is nuts but at least I have some facts and data on my side.

          2. RagingDebate

            Kudos to both of you for at least having a debate. I do not blame Monsanto for obesity.

            Monsanto is however, becoming due for anti-trust legislation. It is probably not going to happen in this current era of total corruption of global governance. In such an environment of monopolies, quality and safety decline.
            Your point about competition existing reminds me of the same argument as Microsoft vs. Netscape back in the 1990’s or AT&T being ordered to spin off into Ma Bells only to require anti-trust and divestiture a few years later.

          3. Peter Schaeffer

            Patriot,

            As I stated earlier, the introduction of GM corn is associated with slower growth in obesity. Check out

            “Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2008″

            http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/2009.2014

            I quote

            “The prevalence of obesity for adults aged 20 to 74 years increased by 7.9 percentage points for men and by 8.9 percentage points for women between 1976-1980 and 1988-1994, and subsequently by 7.1 percentage points for men and by 8.1 percentage points for women between 1988-1994 and 1999-2000.1 If the trends between 1988-1994 and 1999-2000 continued at approximately the same annual level, an increase of 6 to 7 percentage points between 1999-2000 and 2008-2009 would be expected for both men and women. The sample size was sufficient to detect a linear increase of this magnitude with 90% power. Between 1999-2000 and 2007-2008, there was an increase of 4.7 percentage points (95% CI, 0.5 to 9.0) for men and a nonsignificant increase of 2.1 percentage points (95% CI, –2.1 to 6.3) for women.”

            GM corn was introduced in 1996. Most of the growth in GM corn was after 2000. See supplemental table 1 in http://www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/SupplementalTablesv2.pdf for the actual numbers.

            It sure looks like the introduction of GM corn in the late 1990s reduced the growth in obesity in the 1988 to 2000 period versus the 1976 to 1988 period. The growth in GM corn after 2000 appears to have further reduced the growth in obesity.

            Warning… Correlation is not causation.

    4. LeeAnne

      correction with apologies -to make myself clear:

      Peter Schaeffer says,

      About the cheap shot “It is basically a green / left “birther” issue. No amount of data or collection of facts is going to change the minds of those involved.”

      Its just like a corporatist to attempt to malign those who disagree with you; a good way to destroy your credibility and that of the company you represent.

      “Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), based in the Italian city of Parma, said the maize, known by its code number MON 810, was “as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to potential effects on human and animal health.”

      Scientific proof isn’t enough. It says too little about changes in the taste and nutritional quality of the food it replaces or the seed’s long term marketing methods on the environmental and social impacts.

      Just as it has proven destructive to the world economy for investment banks to become publicly held corporations, it could be even more destructive for the genetic code of food seeds with the power to replace naturally evolved seeds and traditional farming to be monopolized by corporations for unlimited commercial distribution.

      Multinational corporations have proven their inherent contempt for humanity. The burden is on them to prove and insure the long term benefits of their creations on people’s health, economic independence and free choice. Its their responsibility to see that their seeds do not contaminate natural seeds.

      In the absence of that standard in my own country (Monsanto ‘works very hard’ every day for domination, non-disclosure and secrecy), I am delighted for this follow-up on the issue to learn that India has decided to push back on the Monsanto enterprise. We need their leadership.

      1. Peter Schaeffer

        LeeAnne,

        “Scientific proof isn’t enough”

        What can I say to that? We are clearly beyond the realm of facts, data, and logical arguments.

        1. patrick g

          exactly – right in the place people care most about. good luck convincing people that the rice they grow now really doesn’t taste different than the rice their grandparents served them when they were kids. no graph in the world can convince me of that.

    5. Adam

      “The question of whether GM crops are good for farmers is a legitimate issue (although not the only one). Propaganda notwithstanding, farmers are not forced to use GM crops in the U.S. or presumably anywhere else. They choose to plant these crops because they see practical advantages. To put this in perspective, roughly 500,000 square miles of GM crops were planted in 2008.”

      You obviously don’t know your facts or don’t understand patent law surounding GM foods. If I’m a farmer growing just a plain old version of a crop that monsanto has a patent on AND I save my seeds (as farmers have for 1,000s of years) AND my neighboring farmer grows Monsanto plants and his pollen infects my plans (and therefore my seeds) then when I plan those seeds next year I am in violation of Monsanto’s patent rights. Monsanto can (and has dozens of times) sue me for this infringement.

      If that’s not FORCE then I don’t know what is.

      1. Skippy

        WELL PUT ADAM!

        If they have their corporate ID via genetic finger print ie: pollen transfer.

        Then they can tort all the way to hell and all will be worse off for it.

        Skippy…upon a time, ex-plow jockey..in the old school.

      2. Peter Schaeffer

        Adam,

        The question at hand is relatively easy. Are farmers adopting GM soybeans and corn because they want to or because they are forced to. It turns out that we have a “natural experiment” to answer this question.

        In the U.S. GM soybeans are patent protected. However, they were not patent protected in Argentina years ago. In fact they weren’t even legal in Brazil. Both Argentina and Brazil adopted GM soybeans very, very quickly.

        GM corn is patent protected in the U.S. However, farmers can’t replant collected corn seeds in any case (because of hybridization). GM corn took off after it was introduced in the U.S. in 1996.

  6. Michael Fiorillo

    It should also become more widely known that the so-called “philanthropy” of the Gates Foundation regarding food issues is closely tied up with Monsanto and its efforts to privatize the gene pool.

  7. Carotid

    When GlaxoSmithKline wanted distributorship to the largest generic drug in India, Dr. Reddy, the India government stood up to GSK and said NO. GSK was allowed distributorship only to much small countries. Hence, no doubt, the desperation in the US re health care reform. The US is one country where the government lacks to spine to say no.

  8. Vinny

    Monsanto’s practices (and products) further support my prior ststements here that the US policies and the actions of US corporations have become a planetary cancer. America has become a malignant tumor that is now matastasising across the globe. From wars, torture, bank fraud, unbelievable greed, and now toxic food, this country is truly the scourge of this planet. This is truly evil.

  9. Monsanto's Crimes...

    A small benefit to Obama’s election is that the FDA and USDA is slightly less captured by Monsanto’s goons than it was during the Golden Age of GMO under Bush.

    I love how Clarence Thomas once worked as in-house counsel for Monsanto. That tells you all you need to know about Monsanto (and Clarence Thomas).

    Already Monsanto’s Roundup ready products are failing as Mother Nature cruelly tosses their futile attempts at monopolization to the wind. The insects are too numerous and adapt too quickly for Monsanto to stay ahead and farmers who buy into their scam are already having to dump greater amounts of pesticides and fertilizer on their fields despite Monsanto’s promises.

    I think a massive class-action by farmers against Monsanto is a good start. Hold Monsanto to their implied warranty about the performance of their seed. Once it is shown that it is baloney, then the farmers can go back to using time-tested techniques involving crop rotation, etc. and get away from the unsustainable industrial mono-culture. Sure our Doritos might cost more, but frankly that is a good thing for everyone (less obesity means less Medicare/health costs, which means lower deficits and better health outcomes which of course means fewer profits for Monsanto and the Anthems of the world).

  10. psychohistorian

    This story is indicative of the moral failing of US corporations and the government (ours) that they have bought.

    An earlier commenter described the process that Monsanto went through to develop its operating strategy with Arthur Anderson. You will notice their strategy talks about maximizing control and profits but says nothing about whether that strategy is good for the citizens of the world or even just America. We used to have a government that we expected to look out for humanities best interests but now that the government has been co-opted by the corporations we are reliant on more humanistic countries to push back on the greed is the only good folks.

    America gave up its moral compass when it choose Reagan over Carter, IMO and the pace of our demise continues to accelerate.

  11. john

    There is a short term utilitarian argument that supports Monsanto: higher yields derived from systematically integrated petroleum inputs into agriculture do in fact feed many that might otherwise be hungry. In the US the economy of scale of industrial production of corn has made corn sweetener the low cost calorie in or national diet while fruit and vegetables are considered by policy to be “specialty” crops: industrialization has made it advantageous to feed the American people the same diet we feed our livestock. Nice. Start looking for Purina People Chow at the supermarket, it’ll be vitamin fortified.

    Technological optimism, and the fact observed by H. L. Menken that it is difficult to get a man to believe something when collecting his paycheck requires that he does not, keeps those who benefit from these practices from recognizing the fragility they are introducing into the baseline necessity of economics: see Cantillon on the centrality of agriculture to economics, the relationship he described in 1720 has not changed, it has just become more obscure under increasingly brittle layers of complexity in economics.

  12. GM is coming...

    There is a clear reason why monsanto is the leader in GMO development in the USA: it costs around $200 million to get any GM crop through the regulatory hurdles before reaching market.

    This means that it is impossible for a small company to research, produce and market novel GM agricultural seed in the US.

    GM technology is appearing in all sorts of non-agricultural crops – there is even a frost tolerant eucalyptus that has been developed for lumber companies. So don’t be surprised to see eucalyptus in your local area in the next decade.

    Also, all that biofuels research on using plants/algae is going to be dependent on GM technology. I am not sure about the environmental impact of GM algae; but it will be coming.

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter what the US or europe population think about GM. China is now one of the biggest places for plant research and is investing more every year.

  13. Wade Phipps

    Why hasn’t someone sued Monsanto for contaminating their crops with GMO genes? Turn that into a class-action suit, and Monsanto would have to keep their crops from cross polinating, which they probably can’t do and maintain yield.

    1. alpwalker

      They have tried but usually get counter-sued by the patent holder. Which party do you think has deeper pockets and which party do you think gets forced in to settling if they are lucky or utterly destroyed if they aren’t so lucky?

  14. alpwalker

    America gave up its moral compass about five minutes after the colonies won the Revolutionary War – at best.

    Really, we have two moral compasses; a moral compass in theory and a moral compass in practice.

    The moral compass in theory is what led us to victory against King George the III and every real or invented tyrant since then – not to mention opened the west to settlement, put a man on the moon, put spray-able cheese in a can, etc.

    The primary role of the moral compass in theory is to motivate the masses and obfuscate the effect of the moral compass in practice.

    Our moral compass in practice makes it OK to destroy the Native Americans, enslave Africans, kill Filipinos and Mexicans, torture our real or perceived enemies, and create parasitical food and financial systems.

    We say we love America but it’s usually the America based on our moral compass in theory. Who loves Monsanto’s or Goldman Sach’s America? Which is more real to the rest of the world: our moral compass in theory or our moral compass in practice?

  15. Vinny

    America only loves money — that’s it. Even the rebellion against King George III was money driven, as the colonists simply wanted not to pay the king taxes anymore.

    Sigmund Freud, the great Jewish-Austrian psychologist, after visiting the United States in the early part of the 20th century, called this country “dollarland”. It remains that.

    What a pathetic moral compass.

    Vinny

  16. velobabe

    just discussing this over on ZH.
    Behavioural psychology applies to central bankers, regulators and politicians as much as it does to investors.
    behavioral finance
    behavioral regulations and regulators
    self delusional greenspan and bernanke
    our centuries of indulgence and thinking we can get off these addictions.

  17. Matt

    This is a difficult issue to discuss as emotions tend to get involved, for me included. I see comments like Peter’s above and as someone who firmly believes that GMO foods are a danger to society until proven otherwise my first reaction is to attack. But that does nothing to address the issue at hand, and that is the safety of GMO foods. In theory, the idea of GM seeds is great. Drought resistant, insect resistant crops? We could end world hunger tomorrow. But what happens when our bodies have unanticipated reactions to the genes inserted into the DNA of a regular seed? We don’t know.

    But we do know the dangers are real. Peter Schaffer in his first comment above quoted an article about the EU approving GMO corn from July 2009. But more recently, Monsanto has withdrawn its request for that very variety of corn cited above due to overwhelming evidence that MON810 and another variety of GM corn are too dangerous to allow into the open market.

    Link to full story

    “We are quite convinced that Monsanto has been fully aware, from the beginning, that line LY038 and line LY038 x MON810 are both dangerous; and yet they persisted with their applications until the extent of their scientific fraud was exposed to the public.”

    This is not the kind of company I want to send my hard earned dollars to, even if it’s indirectly. Until the science proves beyond a doubt that GMO food is safe I will continue to support food from non GMO sources and applaud decisions like that made above.

    1. Peter Schaeffer

      Matt,

      You need to read your link a bit more carefully. Monsanto pulled the applications for GM maize LY038 and the stacked variety LY038 x MON810.

      MON810 and many, many other varieties of GM corn remain fully approved in the EU (but not by most of the member states). See http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/gmo/db/ for the EU GM database (for all crops, not just corn / maize).

      The specific approval document for MON810 can be found at http://www.gmo-compass.org/pdf/regulation/maize/MON810_efsa_finalopinion.pdf

        1. i on the ball patriot

          Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food
          June 10th, 2009

          The full text of this chilling article is below.

          Via: Seeds of Deception:

          Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food
          By Jeffrey M. Smith

          On May 19th, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called on “Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.”[1] They called for a moratorium on GM foods, long-term independent studies, and labeling. AAEM’s position paper stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They conclude, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation,” as defined by recognized scientific criteria. “The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.”

          Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          1. i on the ball patriot

            Strange … comments won’t accept the web address that the above info came from … tried it with many variations in text and always got duplicate comment message.
            Only went through when I omitted the web address …you will have to google the text to find the very informative article it came from … sorry …

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. i on the ball patriot

          Tried to post the web address ALONE and it gave me the duplicate comment screen. It appears the web address is banned by comments? very strange …

          1. i on the ball patriot

            “Worst finding of all—GMOs remain inside of us

            The only published human feeding study revealed what may be the most dangerous problem from GM foods. The gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function.[26] This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.

            When evidence of gene transfer is reported at medical conferences around the US, doctors often respond by citing the huge increase of gastrointestinal problems among their patients over the last decade. GM foods might be colonizing the gut flora of North Americans.”

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Sorry, a few readers today have gotten this duplicate comments message, have pinged my tech guy to investigate. Nothing personal, I assure you.

          3. i on the ball patriot

            And I know that correlation is not causation Peter (that’s what the tobacco guys used to say) but Bill Clinton who loved Doritos with his cheeseburgers just had two stents put in his heart. I was surprised to hear that because I didn’t think he had a heart. And if Monsanto could make the deadly Roundup Ready plant products genetically specific for politicians I might be willing to reconsider my opinion about them.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          4. Skippy

            Science for profit, is like a Religious Crusade, it is an exercise of wealth, in the name of all that is Holy.

            Skippy…Peter you should do a Doco like ‘super-size me’, but only with GM foods and for one year…are you up to it??? That would should put the critics to bed…eh.

        2. From Denmark

          Good point. It reminds me of 2008 when someone posted a very well formulated comment about the creditmarkets over at RGEmonitor.com. He wrotte that people where getting the wrong view of what was happening, things did not look so bad in his view. Sadly that person goes under the group of people who does not know about, what in Denmark is called, the “DACOLOS” theory.

          That means “De Andre Kan Også Læse Og Skrive”, translated to english it means The Other Can Also Read And Writte (TOCARAW). Maybee you should ad that to all the others words like “BRIC”, “PIIGS”, “STUPIDs”.

          “DACOLOS” means some peolpe out there thinks that the rest of the world knows nothing. But we do. The internet has been a great information highway and I have been cruising along since 2006 enjoying the sunshine while listening to the radio where many danish economist did not understand anything about what was going on back in 2007.

          Great to have all these websites like nakedcapitalism, there is no excuse for not being well informed.

          Good job Yves ;-)

          P.S: Sorry for my english, I am from Denmark…….he he

        3. Peter Schaeffer

          Velobabe,

          Good question. I guess I just don’t appreciate ill-informed nonsense. My reference to “birthers” may have been poor literary style but was quite deliberate. Sooner or later people have to consider what science tells them even if they would prefer to believe that the earth is flat or the center of the universe.

          One person in this thread wrote

          “Scientific proof isn’t enough”

          That kind of mindset is problematic to say the least. The same author also wrote

          “it could be even more destructive for the genetic code of food seeds with the power to replace naturally evolved seeds”

          If you don’t know that even before (way before) GM seeds were invented, seed grains were not “naturally evolved” you shouldn’t be writing on a subject like this.

          More specifically, defending Monsanto has not been my primary goal. Indeed, Monsanto gets a certain amount of earned grief for its business practices. It’s a complex subject beyond the scope of my comments. My goals have been twofold.

          1. The great preponderance of farmers who have been planted GM crops have done so freely and quite willingly. Note that such a fact (and it is true) doesn’t prove that GM crops are a good idea. It only shows that individual farmers think GM crops are good for them.

          2. The global scientific consensus strongly backs the safety of GM food products for human consumption. There have been many, many tests in many countries. It is always possible that a negative result will show up sooner or later. Indeed given that new GM work continues and the range and variety of GM crops is constantly expanding, a dangerous GM crop will be devised sooner or later.

          Let me offer a perspective here. The U.S. is sometimes portrayed as “anti-science” compared to those data and truth loving Europeans. In this case, the “don’t confuse me with the facts” crowd is definitely on the other side of the Atlantic.

          Indeed, many Europeans are pained by the GM hysteria so prevalent over there, and reasonably concerned about the impact on European science in general. They should be.

          One final comment that may provide more insight than all of the above. My undergraduate degree was a BS in Chemistry.

          1. Kevin de Bruxelles

            Let me offer a perspective here. The U.S. is sometimes portrayed as “anti-science” compared to those data and truth loving Europeans. In this case, the “don’t confuse me with the facts” crowd is definitely on the other side of the Atlantic.

            You imply that any decision to reject GM foods is an ignorant rejection of the science associated with it. This is not necessarily so and you are blatantly using a shaming tactic to try to get your way. Another more rational explanation is that Europeans are making a simple risk / benefit analysis and deciding the huge potential risks are not worth the small potential benefits. In other words the science is irrelevant because the margin of uncertainty of any test will always be too large in relation to the magnitude of the risk and the slightness of need to take such a risk. Your lack of the virtue of humility is demonstrated by your inability to recognize the limits of human knowledge. Just look back to how “ignorant” people were 650 years ago during the Black Plague. We can read about them and smugly laugh at their cluelessness. But do you really think it is going to be that much different 600 years from now when our future descendants read about our approach to GM? They will know by then the real ending of the GM story. From their point of view in the future, either people at the beginning of the 21st century were a bit dim because they could have increased their agricultural output by a few percentage points or we were complete maniacs because through our collective hubris we unleashed a disaster that eventually wiped out half the population.

  18. Shillsville

    Shouldn’t we all be thankful Peter Schaeffer is so knowledgeable on all things GMO and that he has clearly taken it as his personal quest to spend so much of his uncompensated time enlightening the rest of us Luddites as to how silly our concerns really are? Thank you, Peter. I can only hope that some day you will get your well earned reward.

Comments are closed.