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OPINION: The Dark History of GMOs


OPINION: The Dark History of GMOs

By Rebel Fagin

Citizens for Healthy Farms & Families, Transgenic Contamination Prevention Ordinance will soon be under attack from one of the biggest corporate bullies on the block, Monsanto. This ordinance bans the growing of genetically engineered (GMOs) crops in Sonoma County. It does not stop people from selling them, conducting contained research or stop medical practitioners from using them in the care and treatment of patients. 

80% of all GMOs are produced to sell Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. Roundup is sprayed on crops grown from Roundup Ready seeds to kill everything that isn’t Roundup Ready. Naturally, some weeds will be immune and pass on this immunity to future generations so farmers will be forced to spray more herbicides on their crops. Monsanto wins twice this way. 

This self-serving plan illustrates the nature of the Monsanto Corporation. This bill isn’t about science as much as it is about ethics. Monsanto’s corporate behaviors would make a psychopath proud. Let’s look at their history.

Monsanto began in 1901. Its first product was saccharin, made from toluene and petroleum. In 1977, the FDA moved to ban the use of saccharin in prepared foods after testing showed that it could cause bladder cancer. Congress rejected the FDA’s request and instead agreed that manufacturers would provide health warnings on their packaging. In the 1920’s, Monsanto began producing pesticides and herbicides, including what came to be known of as Agent Orange. Agent Orange is a defoliant made from 2,4-D and 2,4-T. It was used extensively in Vietnam by the US armed forces during the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Veterans of America lists at least fifty illnesses and diseases and nearly twenty separate birth defects connected to exposure to Agent Orange. Agent Orange is the gift that keeps on giving, as to this day, children in Vietnam are born with ghastly birth defects and nervous disorders. During the 1930’s, Monsanto began manufacturing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are so toxic that they were banned in the US during the 1970s but still pollute today. PCBs are carcinogenic. They accumulate in plants and animals and compound as they travel up the food chain. From 1960 – 2000, Monsanto began acquiring dozens of seed and agricultural companies.

In 1976, Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide, was approved by the FDA for use on certain crops. Glyphosate is a confirmed endocrine disrupter that causes birth defects, miscarriages, infertility and sterility. The World Health Organization has ruled it a probable carcinogen. By 1982, Monsanto scientists had genetically modified a plant cell. In 1985, Monsanto began producing aspartame for their new subsidiary, the NutraSweet Company. Aspartame, a GMO derivative, is linked to disorders ranging from seizures to tumors. In 1983, rBGH growth hormones were approved of by a former Monsanto employee working for the FDA. rBGH causes health problems in cows that must be treated with antibiotics. This contributes to the development of drug-resistant bacteria that can sicken humans.

It was in 1996, that GMO Roundup Ready soybeans, canola and cotton were introduced to US markets. Two years later, Roundup ready corn joined them.

Genetically engineered Bt cotton seed was introduced to Indian farmers in 2002. By 2010, 87% of all Indian cotton was grown from this hybrid. Being a hybrid, it was sterile, so farmers had to buy seeds every year. This water-hungry cotton was developed to resist bollworms. Those bollworms who were immune to the pesticide survived and propagated, so farmers had to use more pesticides to defeat them. Then the price of the seeds skyrocketed by 8000%. Farmers had to pledge future crops, backed by their land deeds, as collateral to borrow money for seeds. When they couldn’t pay their debt, many of them went out into their fields, drank Monsanto’s pesticide and died. By 2009, 17,638 Indian farmers had committed suicide this way. In 2012, the state of Maharashtra banned Monsanto’s Bt cotton seed.

In September 2014, Enlist Duo seeds were approved by the FDA. These seeds combine 2,4-D with glyphosate, and are expected to increase the use of pesticides and herbicides by 600% as insects and weeds evolve to survive this deadly duo. 

Look at this history. Are these the kinds of people you can trust to look out for what’s best for you and yours? That’s what the campaign on the Transgenic Contamination Ordinance is all about. Ethics.

Sources: Vandana Shiva speaking at the Willits Grange 9/7/15,