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What Must Be Done About the Monsanto Corporation, and Why

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

The following is a joint statement of members of the Green Shadow Cabinet's Ecology and General Welfare branches. Signers include Ronnie Cummins, Administrator, Food and Drug Administration; Mark Dunlea, Director, White House Office of Climate and Agriculture; Margaret Flowers, M.D., Secretary of Health; Jim Goodman, Secretary of Agriculture; Diljeet Singh, M.D.  Assistant Secretary of Health for Women's Health and Cancer; Brian Tokar, Director of the Office of Technology Assessment. The statement is issued in concert with the May 25th Global Day of Action to Shut Down Monsanto.  

Monsanto Corporation Threatens Food Sovereignty, Biodiversity, Environment and Health: Immediate steps must be taken to preserve our future

The Monsanto corporation is a top "corporate climate criminal" whose drive for profit and control of the global food system threatens food safety, biodiversity, and food sovereignty. Monsanto is the world's leading producer and proponent of genetically modified agriculture. Through aggressive purchases of seed companies, Monsanto is rapidly taking control of the world's seed supply.

In addition, Monsanto produces dangerous chemicals that poison communities, add toxics to the food supply and create 'super weeds' that require increased application of even more toxic herbicides. Monsanto also promotes farming practices that severely exacerbate climate change by requiring excessive water and energy, and promoting massive deforestation to provide land for genetically modified agriculture.

Monsanto uses its political connections and market power to intimidate farmers and create a near monopoly on seeds creating a fragile, homogenous food supply as well as to protect themselves from liability for their actions. As more information becomes available, it is clear that Monsanto's practices threaten the future of our ability to grow food and live healthy lives.

Immediate steps must be taken to preserve our food system and future. We recommend the following actions:

1. Immediate moratorium on development and certification of new pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops. 
2. A long-overdue, thorough, science-based examination of GMO and pesticide safety, by scientists not tainted by the revolving door or financial ties to agribusiness industry giants and all research, past and present, must be available to the public. 
3.An urgent phase out of existing GMOs and pesticides not demonstrated to be safe for people and the environment.This would begin immediately, targeting highest risk GMOs/pesticides first. 
4. Clear labeling of all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  5. Immediate creation of economic and agricultural supports to expedite conversion from toxic industrial agriculture to sustainable, organic farming - which is healthy for people, the environment and our economy. 
6. Urgent public investment in crop breeding to increase the supply of a broad diversity of traditional seeds to meet our agricultural needs. 
7. Public investment in research and education on agro-ecological (organic) farming practices. 
8. Monsanto must pay for cleanup of the environment, the remediation of the supply of traditional seeds, remuneration to farmers whom they have adversely affected and the ongoing costs of health effects caused by their products 
9. End production of ethanol for fuel until it can be done in a way that does not adversely affect access to food and does not consume more energy than is produced. 
10. End Monsanto's influence over government agencies. As a start, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor must resign from his position, and the Monsanto Protection Act must be repealed.

Food production needs to serve the function of nourishing our communities. And food production needs to be transformed to sustainable, primarily local and organic agriculture that uses less water and energy and creates better soil and healthier food. Monsanto takes the global food system in the opposite direction toward increased use of pesticides, increased use of energy and water, a less biodiverse agricultural system and a food supply of unknown safety.

Genetically Engineered Foods

Monsanto made genetically modified seeds (GMOs) that are resistant to the herbicide, glyphosate (a.k.a. RoundUp) commercially available in 1996. They also claim to have created drought-resistant seeds, although so far they show "only modest results, and only under moderate drought conditions" and do "not improve water use efficiency." In fact, conventionally bred varieties grown with organic methods are far more capable of resisting the effects of drought than Monsanto's crops.  

Genetically altered strains of corn, soybean, cotton and canola plants are currently on the market. And Monsanto genes are currently found in 80 percent of all corn and 95 percent of all soy grown in the US. These genetically altered crops were introduced and permitted for use in commercial foods prior to adequate safety studies. Instead, in the early 1990s, Monsanto lobbyists pushed heavily on the Food and Drug Administration for de-regulation and policies that allowed genetically altered foods to be considered "substantially equivalent" to traditional foods. This effectively eliminated any requirement for safety testing of this new technology.  They also opposed labeling of foods containing genetically altered ingredients using the rationale that such labeling might cause consumers to be confused.

The few health studies that have been done were conducted on rats, are almost entirely short term and often lacking rigorous scientific methods. Nonetheless, given the systemic failure to require routine safety testing, unanswered, troubling questions have been raised by these studies suggesting liver and kidney damage associated with genetically altered foods in the diet. To continue exposing vast numbers of people to this largely untested substance violates the common sense Precautionary Principle - which states that a product must be proven to be safe before consumers are exposed to it.

Monsanto has a history of ignoring and hiding studies which found that their previous products such as Agent Orange (a major contaminant of which is dioxin) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were toxic. Although they have known that RoundUp causes birth defects since the 1980s, they market RoundUp as being safe. It is entirely within reason to suspect that the same obfuscation of information is occurring now.

Additionally, evidence from the Genome Project indicates that genes which were once thought to produce only one protein actually often code for multiple proteins, and the proteins produced cannot be predicted. This calls into question what additional proteins are being created by Monsanto genes and what health effects they may have.

That is why we call for an immediate moratorium on the development and certification of new pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops and clear labeling of all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

PESTICIDES

The stated purpose of RoundUp Ready crops was to promote no-till farming and to increase crop yield by reducing weeds. The practice of no-till farming has encouraged the farming of land that was too erodible for crops and has caused that land to erode even further. And RoundUp Ready crops are yielding 5 to 10 percent less than traditional crops. Instead of benefiting food production, these crops have caused the development of 'super weeds' with increased resistance to RoundUp requiring larger amounts of RoundUp application to crops. This has caused a number of detrimental effects.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, is contaminating air, water, land and foods. According to 2012 report coordinated by Earth Open Source, farmers who grow genetically altered crops use 25 percent more RoundUp. And RoundUp is being sprayed from airplanes in areas where people live and go to school which has been documented to increase cancer and birth defect rates in those populations.

There is also concern that glyphosate is killing aquatic organisms and contributing to the worldwide decline of amphibians. RoundUp contaminates water supplies through spraying and run-off.

Monsanto markets a number of pesticides that are known to cause cancer, endocrine disruption and to be otherwise toxic such as Acetochlor, Atrazine and Dicamba. In particular, Atrazine, which has been banned in the European Union, is used in the US, especially in farming states. In the state of Maryland, Atrazine is found in 69 percent of the drinking water.

In addition, farmers are struggling to afford the greater amounts of RoundUp and other chemicals required to grow their Monsanto crops and the skyrocketing cost of Monsanto's seeds. As a result of growing Monsanto's Bt cotton and the debt incurred to purchase seeds and pesticides, more than 270,000 farmers in India have committed suicide, many by drinking the pesticides that sent them into debt.

That is why we call for a long-overdue, thorough, science-based examination of GMO and pesticide safety, by scientists not tainted by the revolving door or financial ties to agribusiness industry giants.  All  research  - past, present and future - on genetically modified organisms, seeds and pesticides, must be made available to the public.  We also call for an urgent phase out of existing GMOs and pesticides not demonstrated to be safe for people and the environment. This would begin immediately, targeting highest risk GMOs/pesticides first.