Monsanto: Visionary or Architect of Bioserfdom? A Global
Socio-Economic Examination of Genetically Modified Organisms

Monsanto: Visionary or Architect of Bioserfdom?
A Global Socio-Economic Examination of Genetically Modified Organisms
By Andrew Hund, Graduate Student of Sociology at Humboldt State University

The proliferation of technology in the past 20 years has been a
dizzying display of human ingenuity. The pace in which technology is
altering society seems almost astonishing. Nowhere is this more evident
than in biotechnology. Biotech companies have advanced genetics to the
point they are able to alter, transform, and manipulate the DNA codes of
any plant or animal. With this new technology, biotech companies are
attempting to establish a 'consumer market' through the use, creation, and
legitimation of laws and science (hegemony).

According to Swedberg (1994) a consumer market consist of "typically few
sellers (organization) and many buyers (individuals); who are unorganized;
some public regulation but otherwise free competition" (p. 274). Hegemony,
according to the Red Feather Dictionary of Sociology (1995), is:

The use of law, religion, art, science, cinema or literature to
celebrate and legitimate one way of doing things to the discredit
of alternative ways. It is often used in preference to direct
force. Marx put it succinctly, 'In every epoch, the ruling ideas
have been the ideas of the ruling class' (Letter - H).

Altering laws and creating new scientific techniques that change the DNA
codes of plants and animals to consolidate a global consumer market has
produced a bitter controversy in Europe, Canada, India, America, as well
as various developing nations. This controversy became a mainstream global
issue in January 1999, and with most controversies in society there is
opposing factions, who have polarized the issue. The main opposition to
genetic engineering has been directed at Monsanto, a chemical,
pharmaceutical, agriculture, and consumer product company based out of St.
Louis, Missouri. However, in the middle of the debate are the world's food
supply, consumers, and billions of dollars. This essay investigates the
economic, social, political, and environmental reasons for the supporting
and opposing groups as well as the technical aspects of genetic
engineering and genetically modified organisms.

Hybridization and Genetically Modified Organisms

"Consumers are confused and concerned about genetically modified
organisms, particularly as they apply to foods, because of the 'lack of
clear, neutral information on the issue," according to Dr. Patrick Wall of
the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (The Irish Times, 1999: 1). This lack
of neutral information has created an economic disaster for the
agricultural industry and Monsanto who has invested exhaustively in
biotechnology. The difference between, genetic engineering and genetically
modified organisms are the basis for the confusion. Most people already
know about the genetic engineering of wheat, corn, cotton, soybeans, rice,
and potatoes, which has been taking place since the agricultural
revolution. However, people mistakenly perceive genetic engineering as

Hybridization is what the farmer does when s/he selects the two best
plants and cross-pollinates them in order to create a better plant. With
hybridization, the second generation is variable and the genes of both
plants are still present in the offspring (hybrid). Therefore, a farmer
who wanted to re-use the genetic material of the hybrid or its parents in
his/her breeding program would have these plants for further
enhancement(s). Currently, 51.3 million acres out of a total of 69.5
million globally is planted with hybrid "crops, including 45% of all
cotton crops, 32% of soybeans, 25% of corn, and 3.5% of potatoes" (Cummins
and Lilliston, 1999: 4; and Crouch, 1998: 3).

Genetic modified organisms (GMO), on the other hand, is when the DNA
structure of the plant is altered precisely for the intensification of a
particular species. In other words, the parents of the seeds are
geneticists, who pre-install DNA codes that can only be triggered by a

The process by which genetic information is transferred from one cell to
another is accomplished in two parts. First, an enzyme is used to cut an
opening in the bacterial plasmid of a host cell, which can either be from
an insect, plant, or animal cell. Next, a specific gene or sequence of
genes (DNA Strand) from a donor cell is bound in the host plasmid. The
donor segment is chemically adhesive, so the two parts (re) combine and
form a new plasmid that contains the new gene. The final product of this
"cut and paste" technology is a non-seed producing genetically modified
organism that has beneficial traits such as an enhanced ability to resists
insects, diseases, and weeds (Monsanto Company: Making Genetic Engineering
Possible, 1999: 3-4).

GMO's became a commercial reality in agriculture in 1998 when over 18
million acres of United States cropland were planted with Roundup Ready
(i.e., Monsanto product) soybeans, which were first introduced in 1996
(Horstmeier 1998: 16). Clive James (1998) of the International Service for
the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), claimed transgenic
crops are being used globally on: more than 20.5 million hectares in the
USA; 4.3 million hectares in Argentina; 2.8 million hectares in Canada;
0.1 million hectares in Australia; and less than 0.1 million hectares in
Mexico, Spain, France, and South Africa (p. 1).

Farmers, as a result of this new technology, who now store (brown-bag)
hybrid seeds would have to buy new GMO seeds every year. According to the
United Nations (1996) "Over 1.4 billion people depend upon saved seed for
their food security" (p. 2). In addition, eighty-percent (80%) of the
crops grown in developing countries use save seeds (Montague, Biotech
1999: 2). The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) (1998)
stressed that "patented technology could be used on over 400 million
hectares (a billion acres) of crops worldwide and could yield licensing
fees of up to $1.5 billion per annum on the terminator [Monsanto GMO]
technology" (p. 6).

Aside from saved and GMO seeds, are illegal seeds. Seeds that are not
saved by farmers or registered with the National Seed Listing (NSL) are
considered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to be
illegal and thus not for legal for private or commercial use. There are a
couple of reasons for seeds becoming illegal such as a farmer does not
sponsor the seed(s) or the seeds produces an illegal substance such as
opium, marijuana, etc. Yet, sponsorship of a seed is expensive over time;
thus most farmers are unable to maintain the seed on the NSL. Hambling
(1999) claimed "the prohibitive price involved in maintaining seeds on the
list" . . .has resulted in varieties such as two types of cauliflower
becoming extinct (p. 2). These types of cauliflower varieties were
naturally resistant to ringspots, a plant disease that destroys crops.
Hambling (1999) also claimed the "commercial varieties that are developed
for the listing are selected for their suitability for industrial
processing" and thus "ignoring growers and farmers who are developing and
sustaining localized, organic agriculture" (p. 2). Critics argue the
standardizing of GMO seeds will result in the potential lose of local
organic crops and ultimately plant diversity.

Monsanto Market Consolidation

Through the acquisition of companies, Monsanto is the leader in this field
of GMO technology and is attempting or has re-coded the plant DNA of
wheat, rice, potatoes, soybeans, cotton, and corn and has made efforts to
control the global water supplies and forestry products. The particular
DNA codes, Monsanto is developing via purchases, has the plant terminate
after it produces an edible product and thus no second-generation seeds
are produced from the science. In essence, the technology patent system
(TPS) of Monsanto turns seeds into machines so they can be patented.

"Today, the top 10 seed companies control 30% of the global seed trade"
(RAFI, 1998: 13). These ten companies have been consolidating their power
and control by forming partnerships and agreements with each other. For
example, Monsanto, since 1996, has spent $8.4 billion in establishing
agreements and taking-over other companies that have DNA code(s)
databases, patent(s), cross-pollinating procedures, and/or access to food
seed markets. The following is a brief description of the major
acquisitions and agreements conducted by Monsanto in the last three years.
This aggressive purchasing demonstrates Monsanto's desire to consolidate
the world's market and establish their TPS as the only legitimate process
for food production.

In February 1996, Monsanto and Dekalb Genetics formed a 10-year research
and development agreement. This partnership allows for the cross-licensing
agreement of corn and soybean seeds. Monsanto acquired Agracetus, a cotton
and other plant biotechnology company, with a cash payment of $150 million
in April 1996 (Robertson, 1998: 325).

Monsanto purchased the Soybean Company Asgrow Agronomics for $240 million
in February 1997. A few days later, Monsanto acquired Holden Foundation
Seeds and its germplasm (hereditary) technology for $1.2 billion. A month
later, in March, Monsanto acquired the remaining 46.4 percent of Calgene
for $218 million. Calgene had previously made an agreement with the
world's largest producer of canola, Canada's Saskatchewan Wheat Pool
(SWP). This company produces bioengineered canola oil using SWP's
germplasm (Brower, 1997: 213).

In October 1997, Monsanto and Millennium Pharmaceuticals formed a
five-year, $218 million partnership. Under this agreement, which is being
professed as "one of the largest deals in the fields of genomics," the two
giants will collaborate on genomics-based plant and agriculture products
(Marshall, 1997: 1334). Specifically, Millennium will transfer its
exclusive technologies in genomics, gene sequencing, and bioinformatics to
Monsanto who will be developing plant and agricultural products for
pharmaceutical and nutrition purposes as well as introducing new
herbicides and pesticides through the process of 'direct breeding.' The
notion of direct breeding is when pharmaceutical, nutritional, and/or
herbicides and pesticides are added to the DNA of the plant. In other
words, vitamins and medicine can be added to a plant to benefit developing
countries who lack the facilities, equipment, or trained personal to
achieve humane health standards (Nadis, 1997: 5).

Cargill Incorporated, a 79,000-employee international food marketer,
processor, distributor firm based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota was
bought, in June 1998, for $1.4 billion. This acquisition gave Monsanto
dominance of "seed, research, and production facilities in 24 countries"
and access to the sales and distribution operations of 51 countries in
five regions (Johnson, 1999:1). However, this takeover does not include
access to US, Canada, or UK markets, instead it is concentrated on Asia,
Africa, Latin America and other parts of Europe.

For $1.9 billion, Monsanto acquired Delta and Pine Land Company the
world's leading producer of cotton seeds in April 1999. In addition, Delta
and Pine Land Company is the owner of US patent 5723765, which controls
plant gene expression. Granted this patent covers a broad range of
potential applications for plant gene expressions, yet, the most cherished
feature of the patent is its ability to have plants not produce second
generation seeds. In other words, US patent 5723765 is the GMO
self-terminating license, which makes it impossible for farmers to save
and replant seeds. The takeover of Delta and Pine Land, also, gives
Monsanto control of 85 percent of the US cottonseed and over one-third of
the US soybean market (Oliver, Melvin J., Jerry E. Quisenberry, Norma Lee
G. Trolinder, and Don L. Keim, 1998: 1; & Fox, 1997: 1233).

Also, in April Monsanto formed a $60 million five year joint agreement
with the forestry companies Fletcher Challenge Forests, International
Paper, and the Westvaco Corporation. Under this agreement Monsanto, with
its GMO technology, will produce and market production timber seedlings.
Specifically, the genetically enhanced timber seedlings are anticipated to
produce "higher growth rates to allow more wood to be grown on less land
and improved fiber quality to increase efficiency in paper" (Monsanto
Monitor, 1999). These four companies anticipate in subcontracting with the
New Zealand genetic engineering company Genesis Research and Development
Corporation Limited, who is the owner of a large database on forestry
genomics (Bowditch Group, 1999: 5).

In May, Monsanto acquired a controlling stake, with the option to buy, in
Water Health International (WHI), incorporated. WHI is the owner of US
patent #: 5780860, which is a convenient and economical water sanitizer
titled "UV Waterworks." This device uses ultraviolet (UV) light to
instantaneously destroy germs (bacteria and viruses). The end result is
safe water, which may be utilized on crops and/or for human consumption.
In addition, Monsanto and WHI anticipate a joint enterprise with
Tata/Eureka Forbes, who controls 70 percent of the UV water technologies,
which allows Monsanto "market access to fabricate, distribute, and service
water systems" worldwide (Shiva, 1999: 2; Water Health International,
1999: 1).

Also, in May a micro-credit project named the "Innovative Partnerships for
Agricultural Changes in Technology" (INPACT) was initiated. This
micro-credit undertaking attempts to introduce a new cultivation processes
for Northeast Thai rice farmers via a corporate financing scheme. The
companies involved with INPACT are The International Rice Research
Institute (IRRI), Monsanto, the Population and Community Development
Association (PDA) and the Thai Department of Agriculture (Monsanto
Monitor, 1999). In short, this micro-credit undertaking provides funds to
farmers for the growing of corporate crops for corporate manufactures.

Collectively, these $8.4 billion expenditures have drastically reduced
Monsanto's capital, stock value, and have left them "vulnerable to an
'unfriendly' take-over by Dupont, Dow, or another mega- corporation" . . .
because this large debt is beyond theirs and "most analysts comfort
level" (Cummins and Lilliston 1999: 2). Consequently, this aggressive
spending of $8.4 billion has created financial difficulties for Monsanto
as well as made various groups, organizations, and other corporations
suspicious of Monsanto's motives.

Monsanto, however, asserts it is a family company that is "committed to
finding solutions to the growing global needs for food and health by
sharing common forms of science and technology among agriculture,
nutrition and health" (Monsanto Company: About Monsanto, 1999: 1).
Monsanto maintains genetically modified seeds will improve crop quality,
production, and make agriculture possible in previously barren land. The
ability to feed the growing population, which is estimated to increase by
40% or top 8 billion by 2020, is the main reason for Monsanto's
consolidation of GMO technology. Thus, from Monsanto's perspective it is
seeking to save-the-planet from an impending global food, forestry, and
water crisis (Monsanto Company: Biotechnology -- Promise for a Brighter
Future, 1999: 1).

Hegemony in Action
"In the planting of genetically changed crops around the world,
the U.S. government has done just about everything it can to help
except drive the tractor" Bill Lambrecht, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Washington Bureau

Monsanto and the other seed companies are currently building the US
government a tractor to drive with the help of politicians via
intellectual property rights, regulatory loopholes, and the World Trade
Organization (WTO). The multinational seed companies pursuit to secure the
world's food needs is based on federal, state, and international laws. In
a recent issue of the Farm Journal (1997), Monsanto ran a full page
advertisement announcing:

It takes millions of dollars and years of research to develop the
biotech crops that deliver superior value to growers. And future
investment in biotech research depends on companies' ability to
share in the added value created by these crops. Consider what
happens if growers save and replant patented seeds. First, there
is less incentive for all companies to invest in future
technology, such as the development of seeds with traits that
produce higher-yielding, higher-value and drought-tolerant crops.... In
short, these few growers who save and replant patented seed
jeopardize the future availability of innovative biotechnology for
all growers. And that's not fair to anyone (B-25).

Thus, Monsanto is appealing to farmers to respect the company's property
rights because of the cost involved in creating TPS [GMO] seeds. Further,
Monsanto is aggressive about protecting their rights by way of US and
International patent laws. According to the Financial Times (1999)
Monsanto and the other seeds companies are attempting "to prevent farmers
from obtaining its patented seeds illegally"(p. 3). Monsanto has taken
several farmers to court over this issue and has accused over 600 others
in Canada and the US of infringing on their intellectual property rights,
but many of the farmers claim the wind blew the GMO technology into their
fields (Financial Times, 1999: 3).

Other federal laws that support genetic engineering are the Steven-Wydler
and Bayh-Dole Acts of 1980. Both these federal laws allow new technology
created at federal research agencies to be transferred to private
industry. Specifically, intellectual property developed at federal
research centers can be transferred to the private sector, such as private
individuals, Monsanto, Dekalb, Dow, Dupont, or some other seed company.
These state and federal laws legitimized support for the creation of TPS
technology and makes the US government one of the seed companies biggest
indirect supporters (RAFI, 1998: 4). However, intellectual property rights
are not the only issues being advanced by US law to legitimize GMO
technology. Biotechnology has numerous political figures assisting in the
details of transforming and revising US laws and international treaties to
fit their agenda.

Four legislators, in April 1999, were honored with the "Outstanding
Legislators of the Year" award by the Biotechnology Industry Organization
(BIO) (a Washington DC based for-profit association representing 850
healthcare, industrial, and biotechnology companies). Respectfully, the
U.S. Senators were Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Connie Mack (R- Fla.) and
the U.S. Representatives were Calvin Dooley (D-Calif.), and Jim Greenwood
(R- Pa.). BIO's Vice President for government relations, Chuck Ludlam,

These legislators exhibited leadership and courage on a broad
range of issues: defeat of hastily drafted anti-cloning
legislation that would have impeded basic biomedical research;
passage of the FDA Modernization Act to streamline development of
new therapies and cures; and support for agricultural biotech
products to improve foods and farming.. . We are honored to work
with these champions to make sure the U.S. biotech industry
remains the global leader in developing innovative products for
health care, agriculture, manufacturing and environmental
management (Craig, 1999: 1).

As a result of these and various other political figures leadership
efforts, both domestic and international, numerous GMO products have been
approved. For example, in the US the USDA, FDA, and EPA have approved
thirty-four GMO products; Japan twenty; Canada thirty; the European Union
nine; Mexico three; Argentina two; and one in Australia and South Africa.
These approved products and patents fall under the regulation of the
respective countries and the WTO, which is an international body dealing
with laws that govern trade between nations. Monsanto also has numerous
GMO patents pending in 87 countries (Monsanto Monitor, 1999: 2; Monsanto
Company: Biotechnology and Imported Foods, 1999: 2).

A major indirect supporter, as mentioned above, of GMO technology is the
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Monsanto identifies the
USDA as an advocate of GMO technology because it advocates economically
driven sustainable agricultural practices, which is one of the goals of
GMO technology. The USDA claimed sustainable agriculture practices should
be based upon several premises, all of which are embedded in the
assumption of increasing the economic circumstances of regional areas.
First, is to improve the environmental quality of the community through
satisfying human consumption needs. Next, is increasing the output
capability of natural occurring resources by synchronizing the local
biological cycles which maximizes the areas nonrenewable resource usage.
Lastly, the goal is to strengthen the economic quality of life of the
farmer and their community (Monsanto Company: Meeting the Challenge of
Sustainable Agriculture, 1999: 6).

The USDA's investigative arm, that determines consumer safety of
sustainable agricultural or biotech crops, is the Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service (APHIS). Specifically, the APHIS is responsible for
regulating crop research. In order to have a biotech crop examined by the
APHIS, companies, universities, and/or associations must file a
"Determination of Non-Regulated Status" (DNRS) form. According to APHIS
guidelines, the DNRS form must be completed before any plants can be grown
or sold commercially (International Food Information Council: Food
Biotechnology, 1999: 4).

This regulatory process was made more efficient with the introduction of
two alternative procedures in 1993. These alternatives are the
"Notification and Petition Process," which means a researcher, group, or
institution can circumvent the DNRS form providing they have a consistent
history of favorable scientific reviews. In 1997, several amendments were
added to the DNRS, that outlined the "eligibility criteria and performance
standards" (IFIC: Food Biotechnology, 1999: 4). This is problematic
because certain research crops can fall through the cracks of the
regulatory process and thus go unregulated. According to the International
Food Information Council (IFIC) and Wirthlin Group (1999) the APHIS
regulatory process operates as follows:

Farmers need not obtain a permit from APHIS to move and field
test corn, soybeans, cotton, tobacco, potatoes or tomatoes. They
simply need to notify APHIS. The Petition Process permits anyone
to request APHIS to issue written documentation that regulated
plants become unregulated (IFIC: Food Biotechnology, 1999: 4).

In other words, plants can be moved from a supposed regulated to an
unregulated status without being tested and by simply filing of a form.
So, it would appear the investigative arm of the USDA (e.g., APHIS) has
established procedural regulations for investigating new crops but few are
actually being regulated on the condition the researchers have conformed
to the predetermined criteria and eligibility standards.

Aside from struggling to investigate biotech crops, the USDA claimed
"small farmers may benefit greatly if the invention stimulates the
extension of biotechnology to 'minor crops' such as tomatoes," oranges,
pecans, peanuts, etc. (RAFI, 1998: 12). These crops are perceived to be
minor because they only use a small portion of the world's cropland. In
short, these crops have high value, are harvested with minimal labor, and
only need a limited amount of science (DNA modification). Thus, raising
the economic motivations for producing, improving, and developing these
minor crops could result in a high rate of return for semi-perphirery
farmers and theoretically reduce world poverty (RAFI, 1998: 12).

Market forces, according to the USDA, would limit the spread of seed
markets to levels that are cost effective for the small producer.
Moreover, the USDA suggested that if the cost of improved seeds does not
result in greater value to the farmer, there would be no market for the
GMO varieties. In essence, the law of supply and demand will hinder the
potential price gouging of seed corporations (RAFI, 1998: 11).

Another supporter of genetically modified organisms is the United States
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In May 1992, the FDA published a
Federal Register, which was a policy statement on the procedures of how to
regulate new plants. Yet, this documents main focus was on "the
characteristics of a food [nutritional and compositional content], not the
method used to produce the food" (Monsanto Company: Ensuring the Safety of
Products, 1999: 3). In other words, the FDA is interested in the "product
-- not process" and thus is only responsible for making sure food products
are safe to ingest and to investigate "new" plants. In the investigation
of plants, research institutions, farmers, and seed companies only have to
demonstrate they can replicate the products "potency and purity" in order
to satisfy FDA regulators (Monsanto Company: Ensuring the Safety of
Products 1999: 7). It should be noted that genetically modified organisms
are not new plant varieties but genetically altered pre-existing plants
that can be replicated with better scientific precision than hybridization
and thus would appear to be not technically under FDA regulation.

As a result, of the regulation by the USDA, APHIS, and FDA many government
organizations, mainstream magazines, associations, and officials perceive
genetically modified organisms as safe and pose no environmental effects
to the public. Monsanto (1999) emphasized "the United States boasts a long
history of enjoying the world's safest food supply - thanks in part to
U.S. government tates Agency for International Development (USAID) in
Kenya, stressed: "biotechnology has tremendous value . . .not only can we
'feed the world,' but by making technological improvements available to
people in Third World countries, we can help improve all aspects of their
lives" (Monsanto Company: Meeting the Challenge of Sustainable
Agriculture, 1999: 6).

The Opposing Perspective

"Monsanto is the same company that gave us Agent Orange, DDT, and
Bovine Growth Hormone, all of which have had catastrophic effects
on people and the environment . . . [and] Now they expect the
public to believe that their Roundup Ready soya is safe to eat and
environmentally friendly to grow. That's total nonsense - it is
both dangerous and unnecessary."
-- Zoe Elford of the Genetic Engineering Network.

The commercialization of GMO seeds, according to critics, is potentially
hazardous and creates unneeded economic and environmental risks for the
public. Specifically, opponents believe TPS/GMO supporters are strictly
profit-driven corporations, who use and abuse federal, state, and
international laws to exploit consumers, small farmers, and destroy native
plants and ecosystems.

A leading opponent to the commercialization of seeds is the Rural
Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). The RAFI (1999) alleged that
Monsanto has already initiated 'pay by the generation' system through
legal means via grower agreements in America and Canada (p. 2). Grower
agreements are legal contracts in which the farmers must grow certain
seeds in order to sell crops to food processors, which are similar to the
micro-credit schemes the Thai- rice farmers are being pressured into.

The RAFI (1998) also claimed "there is no doubt that the seed industry is
attempting to create biological monopolies to self pollinated crops such
as rice, wheat, soybeans, and cotton" (p.10). David Mooney (1999), a RAFI
spokesperson, stressed:

It will be vastly more profitable for multinationals to sell seeds
programmed to commit suicide at harvest so that farmers must pay the
company to obtain the chemicals to have them re-activated for the next
planting and endash; either through a seed conditioning process
or through the purchase of a specialized chemicals that bring
saved seed back to life, Lazaus style (p. 2)

In essence, this process shifts the cost of developing seeds to the
farmer, which means the seed companies will only have to sell seeds and
not produce, transport, or stockpile them. As these seed oligopolies
increase their control of the world market, there will be diminished
interest in future plant breeding and research. Furthermore, farmers will
not have any power over what to grow or plant and will be "in a position
of utter dependency" on the multinational seed companies (RAFI, 1999: 2).
Collectively, this has the potential to lead to bioserfdom, which is when
farmers are enmeshed in a web of grower agreements, forced chemical
purchases, intellectual property rights, and disabled germplasm (RAFI,
1999: 1).

Rhonda Perry, a Missouri farmer, spoke of the corporate GMO technology
consolidation by saying, "It's killing us. If something doesn't happen,
were going to be out of here. . . [GMO technology] is about corporate
greed and control of the market. And it's time we stopped it" (Nemo, 1999:
2). University of Missouri, sociologist William Heffernan (1999) claimed
family farms are in trouble because of the "fast consolidation of seed
companies with food processing companies" (Palmer, 1999:1). An Ecuadorian
Biologist, Elizabeth Bravo, working with the Accion Ecologica group
claimed that "Farmers are [being] forced to purchase genetically modified
seeds from a single firm, on pain of losing the commercial competition
race" (Cummins and Lilliston 1999a: 2).

The rural sociologist, the Missouri farmer, and Ecuadorian Biologist are
not the only ones concerned. For example, almost 200 cotton farmers in
Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina are suing Monsanto for damages after
crop failures of Monsanto's Bt and Round-Up Ready cottonseeds (i.e., GMO
seeds). In a separate lawsuit 25 cotton farmers in Texas, Oklahoma,
Mississippi, and Louisiana are suing "Monsanto for fraud and
misrepresentation . . .also in regard to Bt cotton crop failures."
(Cummins and Lilliston, 1999: 2). Yet, the lawsuits against the biotech
industry are not limited to the US.

In a landmark case, Mangla Rai, deputy director-general of the Indian
Council for Agricultural Research directed a successful legal challenge
against a cotton patent granted to Agracetus (acquired by Monsanto for
$240 million in February, 1997). This lawsuit made public numerous
loopholes in US patent laws, which are actively being capitalized on by
multinationals. According to Rai "there is no doubt that their [the US]
patent laws are full of shortcomings which the transnationals have a
penchant for exploiting" (Patro 1999: 2).

Social and Environmental Hazards

Further evidence against using GMO technology is the potential it will
"escape" into the environment. Releasing GMOs into the wild, effects the
surrounding ecosystems by cross-pollinating [GMO/TPS] hybrids with native
plants, soils, and insects. Many investigators believe this will result in
the corruption of native second-generation offspring, turn the soil
infertile, and destroy insect larvae (Rissler and Mellon, 1996; Crouch,
1998: 6). Evidence is starting to be complied, which promotes this

In a study of GMO rice, researchers at the John Innes Institute found
there is a "recombination hotspot in the CaMV 35S promoter" . . . [and]
"these recombination events were also found to occur independently"
(Kohli, A., S. Griffiths, N. Palacios, R.M. Twyman, P. Vain, D.A. Laurie
and P. Christou 1999: 599). In other words, the cut and paste approach is
faulty. Expanding on the John Innes Institute's findings was Dr. Peter
Wills who stressed:

Genes encode protein control of all biological processes. By
transferring genes across species barriers, which have existed for
aeons between species like humans and sheep we risk breaching
natural thresholds against unexpected biological processes
(Wolfson, 1999: 2).

Wan-Ho (1999) also claimed:

Genetic engineering bypasses conventional breeding by using
artificially constructed parasitic genetic elements, including
viruses, as vectors to carry and smuggle genes into cells. Once
inside cells, these vectors slot themselves into the host genome.
The insertion of foreign genes into the host genome has long been
known to have many harmful and fatal effects including cancer of
the organism (p. 3).

In other words, the offspring are potentially variable because the
recombination of the promoter region in rice can occur in random sectors
of the DNA sequence.

In another study DeVries and Wackernagel (1998) were able to successfully
transfer a Kanamycin resistant gene to a soil bacterium (Acinetobacter),
even though the typical DNA structure of a plant exceeds six million
combinations. Specifically, these researchers were able demonstrate that
approximately 2500 duplications of Kanamycin resistant genes (about the
same as a plant cell) was an adequate number to create one new bacterium
(DeVries and Wackernagel 1998: 613). Wan-Ho and Ryan (1999) claimed this
research suggests "a single plant with say, 2.5 trillion cells, would be
sufficient to transform one billion bacteria" (p. 2). Dr. Joseph Cummins

Probably the greatest threat from genetically altered crops is the
insertion of modified virus and insect virus genes into crops. It
has been shown in the laboratory that genetic recombination will
create highly virulent new viruses from such constructions . . .
It is a pararetrovirus meaning that it multiplies by making DNA
from RNA messages. It is very similar to the Hepatitis B virus and
related to HIV. Modified viruses could cause famine by destroying
crops or cause human and animal diseases of tremendous power
(Wan-Ho and Ryan, 1999: 3).

In other words, due to the effects of this insertion technology, the new
bacterium created could launch many new diseases and the future vector
locations will remain random with each successive generation being
entirely variable.

In May 1999, Nature magazine ran an article by a group Cornell University
researchers claiming their preliminary data suggests that in a controlled
laboratory experiment selected Bt (Monsanto product) corn pollen destroyed
monarch larvae. Specifically, Cornell researchers, lead by Dr. Losey,
found forty percent of the test monarch larvae were destroyed after four
days because of the poisonous effects of the GM bt corn (Losey, Rayner,
and Carter, 1999: 214).

The Friends of the Earth (1999) organized a study of pollen distribution,
which was carried out by the National Pollen Research Unit, a bee
specialist, and a GM analysis and conducted under the Federal Environment
Agency of Austria. Specifically, the researchers were examining how far
pollen travels with the help of bees and the air because the British
government's regulations only require a 50-meter buffer zone between GM
and non-GM crops. The study found the six bee hives in the study, which
ranged from 500 meters to 4.5 kilometers from the GM crop, were found to
have oilseed rape pollen from the GM crops. In other words, the bees
carried the GM crop pollen 4.5 kilometers. The airborne pollen was
detected up to 475 meters away from the GM crop (Friends of the Earth,
1999: 1). Both of which exceed British government's regulation.

In addition, to the many scientists, research, and environmental
groups studies are numerous distinguished scientists in the fields of
genetics, biology and medicine have spoke out against the dangers of GMO
technology. In July, 1999, 85 eminent scientists signed a statement
denouncing biotechnology and requesting all such products be removed from
the TRIP agreements on the grounds, scientists do not have control over
the gene recombination process, and the technology is unethical because
"they destroy livelihoods, contravene basic human rights, create
unnecessary suffering in animals or are otherwise contrary to public order
and morality" (Wan-Ho, 1999: 1). The 85 scientists also asserted the
patents involve acts of plagiarism in that indigenous traditional medical
practices are being patented illegally (Wan-Ho, 1999: 1).

In August 1998, another potential hazard of GMO technology was discovered
by Dr. Arpad Pusztai, from the Rowett Institute in Scotland, who found
that rats fed with GE "potatoes showed serious health damage" (Canadian
Journal of Health and Nutrition, 1999). University of Leeds Professor of
Food Safety, MD, and microbiologist Richard Lacey, whom accurately
predicted the European BSE (mad cow disease) crisis, claimed "The fact is,
it is virtually impossible to even conceive of a testing procedure to
assess the health effects of genetically engineered foods when introduced
into the food chain, nor is there any valid nutritional or public interest
reason for their introduction" (Wan-Ho, 1999:2). The father of molecular
biology and eminent biochemist, Dr Erwin Chargoff, once referred to
genetic engineering as "a molecular Auschwitz." Chargoff also noted "you
cannot recall a new form of life...It will survive you and your children
and your children's children. An irreversible attack on the biosphere is
something so unheard of, so unthinkable to previous generations, that I
could only wish that a mind had not been guilty of it" (Wan-Ho, 1999: 3).
Other unknown concerns, yet to be addressed in scientific tests, are what
will be the effects of GMO technology on birds, mammals, and other insects
that eat and/or pollinate the seed products or the fungi that breakdown
the soil and/or help plants grow.

Collectively, the small farmer's situation, the lawsuits, and the real and
potential environmental hazards of GMO technology has been published
widely and have resulted in a backlash against genetically modified foods
and Monsanto throughout the world. The global resistance to Monsanto and
genetically modified organisms has provoked intellectual property rights
disputes, consumer boycotts, and a growing urgency for GMO labeling.

Global Intellectual Property Rights Disputes

"Forcing biotechnology on both farmers and consumers in order to
secure their monopoly control of this sector of world food
production, this is not a recipe for sustainability in food
supplies, it is a recipe for disaster" Ali Bastin, of Corporate
Watch (One World News Service, 1997: 1).

India, Europe, and many developing countries started the initial
resistance to GMO technology and the foods produced by them. In December,
1998, in Bangalore, India, Dr. Valdana Shiva claimed "a worldwide campaign
will be launched against" [Monsanto] "Because of the way Monsanto has
abused various countries" (The Hindu, 1999: 8 A). According to Shiva
(1998) the campaign was founded on the notion that Monsanto's introduction
into India was "illegal" and a "failure of the regulatory process" and
that this type of technology should not be accepted "blindly and
ignorantly" (p.8 A). The illegality and failed regulatory process Dr.
Shiva spoke of was that The Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation
circumvented the Genetic Engineering Approval committee, which was under
the direction of the Indian Ministry of Environment who has the legitimate
authority to approve scientific crop trials.

India's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), after a
fierce legal battle, was successful in revoking a US patent on the grounds
it was not an original invention, in September, 1999. With this victory,
the CSIR preserved the indigenous turmeric healing (used to treat wounds
and stomach infections) method, which had been patented, in December 1993,
by the University of Mississippi Medical Center. This turmeric patent is
not the only intellectual property rights infringement the West has taken
from indigenous people, but is perhaps one of potentially hundreds
globally. According to Dr. Shiva 1999, in India, "patents on Neem, Amla,
Jar Amla, Anar, Salai, Dudhi, Gulmendhi, Bagbherenda, Karela, Erand,
Rangoon-ki-bel, Vilayetishisham and Chamkura need to be revoked" on the
grounds they too were derived from traditional methods (Patro, 1999: 1).

Rather than fight lengthy and expensive court battles, the Indian and
African activists are advocating the WTO uphold their rules for
registering patents, which disqualifies patents that are not original
creations. In the November, 1999 WTO summit, Africa will "lodged a
challenge to the patenting of life forms citing that it could have a
devastating impact on agriculture, the mainstay of the majority of its
economies" (Osava and Mutume, 1999:2). It is expected these actions will
make the WTO responsible for protecting and preserving traditional medical
practices and an estimated 35,000 of plants that have a known traditional
medical benefit. Dr. Shiva (1999) also claimed that ''If we [the
developing countries] get a ruling in our favor, the problem of bio-piracy
will be solved. If the WTO does not respond, it will show the WTO's bias
towards the powerful countries'' (Patro, 1999: 1).

As a result of this intellectual rights struggle, India and Africa
officials have requested a full review of the Trade-Related Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIP) Agreement, which is a general agreement between
major Nations on tariffs and trade policies and procedures. This TRIP
agreement, according to Monsanto senior employee, James Enyart, came about
after the biotech "industry identified a major problem for the
international trade" . . . [and thus] "crafted a solution, reduced it to a
concrete proposal, and sold it to our own and other governments" (Monbiot,
1999: 1). The Indian and African officials claim they are better informed
of what the agreement entails and want to correct some of the unfair
measures of the agreement. Another revision needed, according to Indian
activists, is the 1970 Indian Patent Act. Specifically, the GMO critics
believe the 1970 Indian Patent Act should "recognize 'prior art' or
existing knowledge" to protect traditional agriculture and horticulture
methods (Patro, 1999: 1).

Collectively, these intellectual property rights disputes over
what can and what cannot be patented is only one method being utilized by
the detractors of GMO technology. Others are using various forms of direct
action to stop bioserfdom as well as the proliferation of Frankenfoods.
The tools of democracy being used by the many global activists are
consumer boycotts (real or potential), destruction GMO research crops, and
requests for labels on GMO products via petitions, lawsuits, and/or mass
public appeals.

Boycotts and Direct Action

"Don't F*ck with Our Food" -- Banners hung off the UK Monsanto
Headquarters building, in April 1997, after an activist raid by the
cape-crusaders 'Super Heroes Against Genetics' (SHAG).

Actions against GMO technology started in Europe in the early part of
1997. A handful of European Greenpeace activists helped launch the global
resistance through various public demonstrations at corporate buildings,
supermarkets, eating establishments, and raised awareness of the issue at
festivals, gatherings, and on the Internet. Eckert (1997) pointed out that
Greenpeace activists in 30 European cities, throughout the summer of 1997,
picketed numerous grocery stores and educated thousands of customers about
the uncertainties of GMO products (p. 1). Aside from educational
campaigns, actions have also included destruction of research crops,
releasing of animals in restaurants, dumping of fruits and seeds in
various places, and the destruction of seed plants.

The destruction of research crops has taken place all over the
world. One of the first incidents was in Ireland. The Gaelic Earth
Liberation Front (GLEF), in October 1997, claimed responsibility for
destroying a "one-acre crop of genetically modified sugar beet, being
grown under license by the US chemical company Monsanto on a state
research farm in County Carlow, about 50 miles from Dublin" (Garvey, 1997:
1). This destruction was a reaction to the Irish High Court decision to
grant Monsanto the right to establish three crop trials. However, due to
mass citizen protest Monsanto only establish one trial crop at the Carlow
farm, which the GLEF members destroyed (Garvey, 1997: 1).

In August 1999, Irish activists called the Genetic Concern destroyed
another Monsanto experimental sugar beet crop to raise public
awareness about GMO's. This action followed another activist group called
the 'Little Fairies' who a week early sprayed a petrol-based chemical on a
Wexford crop destroying 60% of the GM crops. Monsanto claimed there have
been four attacks, including the GLEF action, since 1997 and the damaged
caused total more than $160,800 US.

Across channel in Britain, a farmer, Fred Barker was the first to plant a
GMO research crop. However, Barker quickly destroyed the crop with
weed-killer and claimed the reason for this was the "trustees of his
family farm in Wiltshire forced him to end the trial" because they were
concerned their farm would lose its organic status (Wolfson, 1999: 12). In
May 1999 the UK group, Ambridge against Genetix destroyed five rape oil
seed research crops, throughout the UK. Activists, calling themselves
'Reclaim the Seeds' destroyed the UK Berkeley Oxford Test Track in
September 1999. In this action, the Reclaim the Seeds participants created
a crop circle and placed a "sign [in the middle] mocking Berkeley's own
$10,000 reward for previous attacks against their research corn" conducted
several weeks earlier (Tufenkian, 1999: 1). Tufenkian (1999) noted there
have been 40 such crop destructions in the last year (1998) in Britain by
groups such as the Seeds of Resistance, Lincolnshire Loppers, and the
Cropatistas too name only a few (p. 2).

Not all the actions have resulted in property destruction. In February
1999, UK Greenpeace activists drove a truck to Prime Ministers Blairs'
residences and dumped four tons of US GMO soybeans on his doorstep. The
banner on the side of the dump truck said 'Tony, Don't Swallow Bill's
Seed' (Cummins and Lilliston. 1999: 1). In June 1999 200 people had a
GMO-free picnic, which educated the public about the dangers of the
technology. The picnic took place across the street from a GM crop field.
Other types of actions have centered on theatrics such as being the
informal jesters at a group of delegates at the World Seed Conference, in
September 1999. One activists who attended the meeting walked around to
the delegates tables with a spray bottle, that had a Roundup label on it,
asking them if they "Would you like some Roundup with your meal"
(Hambling, 1999: 1).

There are numerous reasons for the British's refusal to accept the GMO
technology. One of the main reasons according to Hoge (1999) is that
"there is no government agency [in Britain] with the regulatory rigor of
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to build consumer confidence, and
government approval can arouse suspicious as much as it can provide
reassurance" (p.1). Moreover, a new MORI poll says 79 percent of the
British public say that crop testing of the Fiddaman has agreed to should
be stopped" (Hoge, 1999: 1).

In France the actions are similar to Britain but with more of an agitation
emphasis. There have been direct actions at numerous McDonald's and a
French seed laboratory. In January 1998, the 120 member French farmers
Union, Confederation Paysanne, stormed the Novartis seed developing and
storage plant and destroyed 30 tons of GMO maize seeds. Novartis estimated
the damages at $1 million in US dollars (Genetic Engineering News Group,
1998 p. 5).

Concerned French citizens dumped rotting fruit and vegetables in various
McDonald's establishments to protest the US officials decision to place a
levy on French products as a result of their refusal to accept GMO foods
(Cohen, 1999: 3). A month later several dozen French farmers "released
live chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks in McDonald's restaurants"
throughout southern France (Sightings, 1999: 1). The French rationale for
protesting McDonalds was summed up by Patrice Vidieu (1999) who stressed
"What we reject is the idea that the power of the marketplace becomes the
dominant force in all societies, and that multinationals like McDonald's
or Monsanto come to impose the food we eat and the seeds we plant" (Cohen,
1999: 3).

After a McDonald's incident Jose Bove was arrested, which caused a massive
reaction among many groups. Cohen (1999) claimed Mr. Bove emerged "as a
sort of Subcomandante Marcos of the French countryside, the leader of a
self styled, anti-imperialistic revolt over food" (p. 1). Bove's arrest
was significant because it unified numerous liberal and leftists groups
who normally are not unified. For example, labor unions, socialists,
ecologists, environmentalists, communists, and numerous farmers in France
joined together against GMO technology and demanded immediate release of
Bove (Cohen, 1999: 1).

This unification established Bove as an informal spokesperson for the
growing European anti-imperialism sentiment. Bove (1999) stressed his
struggle is still the same and he will continue to "battle against
globalization and for the right of peoples to feed themselves as they
choose" (Cohen, 1999: 1). According to Bove GMO technology is

Purely the product of technology where the means becomes the end.
Political choices are swept aside by the power of money . . . [and]
Democratic debate simply doesn't exist . . .[because] the panel of the
WTO, the true policeman of the world trade, decides what's 'good'
for both countries and their people, without consultation or a
right of appeal . . .[and] The conspiracy of silence organized by
the companies and the sovereign states is the sole logic which
prevails (Cohen 1999: 2-4).

In essence, Bove is pointing out the after effects of hegemony and how it
is played outteria derived resistance in humans (Cummins and Lilliston,

As a result of the professional groups uncertainty, the growing consumer
concerns, and numerous direct actions, European McDonalds, Burger King and
Kentucky Fried Chicken have refused to buy any products containing GMO
products. In addition, seven European grocery stores (i.e., Tesco,
Safeway, Sainsbury's, Asda & Somerfield, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, the
Co-op and Waitrese grocery) have prohibited GMO or genetically engineered
products in their stores. These boycotts have turned GMO supporters such
as Unilever, Nestle (a Swiss Firm), and the Canadian Corporation
Cadbury-Schweppes, into non-supporters (Lean, 1999:3; Montague: Biotech
1999: 1-2).

The massive citizen outcry, the grocery stores refusal to stock GMO
products and the eating establishments refusal to sell GMO products has
helped force the European Union into banning the importation of seven GMO
products. The European Union, in June 1999, enacted "the legal equivalent
of a three-year moratorium on any new approvals of GE foods or crops"
(Cummins and Lilliston 1999a: 10). This three-year moratorium was devised
so the European Union could establish more rigorous protection regulations
for the public. British socialist David Bowe claimed "a revised EU law on
approving genetically modified crops or foods must include provisions on
legal liability" (Reuters [France], 1999: 2).

However, this moratorium did not go unnoticed by the US. Senator John
Ashcroft (R-Missouri) frequently labeled the "Senator from Monsanto," told
the Washington Post "it is characteristic of the European Union to hide
behind studies such as this in order to maintain its protectionist trade
policies" (Cummins and Lilliston, 1999a: 2). US citizens have also, not
let the issue of GMO technology go unnoticed.

Like in Europe, there have been various forms of activism in the US, which
started during the summer of 1999. Actions have taken place in Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont, and California. Most of the actions have taken
place at university research centers while only a couple have, occurred at
private farms such as Lodi, California. Activist groups such as Reclaim
the Seeds, Seeds of Resistance, and the Cropatistas have claimed research
crop damage to "fields in Maine, Vermont, and California" (Sacramento Bee,
1999: 1). In Bangor Maine, the group 'Seeds of Resistance' was
responsible for cutting down 1,000 GMO corn stalks, with machete's, at a
local research plant (Burros, 1999: 1). Collectively, there has been close
to a dozen action on US soil.

US companies, food manufactures, and processors are fearful of a repeat of
what happened in Europe over the refusal of GMO foods and crops. Many U.S.
and Canadian companies are now following the lead of their European
counterparts and refusing GMO products. Archer Daniel's Midland (ADM) and
A. E. Stanley, the 1st and 3rd largest US corn processors, which announced
to the public they will refuse to accept genetically modified corn and
would pay 8 to 10 extra for non-GMO corn and requested that farmers
segregate the two types of crops. ADM stressed it "remains supportive of
the science and safety of both biotech development and traditional plant
breeding methods to improve crops". . is out to increase profits and thus
"driven by the consumer's desire to have choices"(Hsu, 1999: A3). Not
surprisingly, ADM has joined forces with Dupont (a major competitor with
Monsanto) and will pay farmers who planted Dupont's non-GMO soybeans an
extra 18 cents per bushel.

Consequently, this sort of pricing difference has farmers perturbed,
because on small farms a one or two cents per bushel is the difference
between making it and going under. According to Hsu (1999) "farmers feel
as though they have been taken for a ride by these big agricultural
companies since they have had to pay more money for the new herbicide and
pest-resistant seeds" (p. A3). Tom Glavin of the USDA asserted these are
disturbing times for because farmers "are going to be going back to
conventional crops out of uncertainty" (Hewitt, 1999: 1).

The American Corn Growers Association recommended its members not use GM
seeds the following year (2000). The Association's CEO Gary Goldberg
stressed "agriculture has been sold a bill of goods about how great
genetically modified seeds would be". . . "We're sure as hell not going to
grow a product the customer doesn't want" (Jacobs, 1999: 3). In October,
1999, Casco, Incorporated, Ontario's largest corn purchaser, went public
and urged farmers not to buy GM varieties next spring due to the
uncertainty of the market. Casco spokesperson John Peakes notified farmers
"it might be best to consider planting GM-free corn to maximize (farmers')
marketing options" (Tam, 1999: 3). Following this announcement, the
Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), in October 1999, requested a moratorium on
new genetically engineered crop (Story. 1999: 5). Story (1999) also
stressed "the whole plot is coming unraveled for those who are trying to
push GE foods down our throats (p. 5). In other words, farmers are being
played as pawns in the corporate imperialistic chess game.

US food manufacturers such as Gerber and Heinz have initiated a GMO
boycott. In July, 1999 they announced they would not allow GMO corn or
soybeans in their food (Lagnado, 1999: A1). Shortly, after this Iams pet
Food Company followed suit by claiming it would not buy any of the seven
varieties of GMO corn the European Union had refused in their foods. This
announcement was more negative news for US seed companies because they had
hoped to sell the overseas rejected corn to these markets (Lagnado, 1999:

Canada, Korea, and New Zealand have also had direct action against GMO
technology. According to Kines (1999) Canadian citizens "chopped, broke,
or stomped 400 trees and seedlings on test plots at the University of BC"
(p. 1). The citizens' demonstration resulted in an estimated $250,000
damage and subverted five years of biodiversity research. The research was
being conducted by the British Columbia subsidiary, Silvagen,
Incorporated. The tree seedlings were mostly Douglas firs and potted
hemlocks, which were no more than a meter in height (Kines, 1999: 1).

In Korea, students and environmental activists organized demonstration to
educate the public on the Korean agricultural biotechnology, the National
Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (NIAST), irresponsible
use of GMO technology. Many Korean citizens are concerned the government
allows GMO crop research but does not have a mechanism to "monitor and
regulate the experiments" (Antti-Rautiainen, 1999: 1-2). In March 1999
several dozen New Zealand citizens, calling themselves Wild Greens,
vaulted a fence and smashed an experimental GM potato crop at the Crop and
Food Research Center in Lincoln. The experimental GM potato crop "involved
mixing the genes of potatoes with genetic material from toads and
silkworms to make potatoes rot resistant" and was valued at over $200,000
(Poo, 1999:1).

These direct actions and boycotts have brought global attention to the
uncertainty of GMO technology. In essence, the small groups of European,
Indian, Canadian, and US activists helped launch and cultivate the global
resistance to GMO technology. Ultimately, these actions raised public
awareness and helped uncovering the need for GMO technology to be
abolished or at least have labels that identify them.

"Labeling is absolutely a critical acid test issue for the U.S. biotech
food industry"-- Charles Benbrook, a biotech consultant and former
director of the National Research Council's board on agriculture
(Weiss, 1999: A17).

Collectively, boycotts, reduced prices, and the global outcry against GMO
technology has promoted the need for alternative measures. One of these
measures is a label on the GMO products. In January 1999, Time magazine
conducted a poll of US citizens and found 81 percent of the respondents
wanted labels on all GMO products (Burros, 1999: 2). However, the type of
label and what should be labeled is in question and this has resulted in
much societal friction. The biotech industry wants either no labels or
simple labels that suggests the product 'may contain GMO or irradiated

Some activists, in contrast, are advocating for strict uniform labels on
all GMO products for medical purposes. For example, award winning
molecular biologist and cancer researcher Dr John Fagan, rejected a $3
million US government research grant. This was done to publicly denounce
the current misuses of biotechnology and advocate for labels on all GM
foods because "without labeling it will be very difficult for scientists
to trace the source of new illness caused by genetically engineered food"
(Wolfson, 1999: 1).

Religious groups, such as Jewish, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Buddhists
want the labels to identify any product with remote traces of products
that violates their religious beliefs. For example, religious vegetarians
such as the Seventh-Day Adventists and Buddhists want to "avoid fruits and
vegetables with insect, animal or humans genes in them" (Epstein, 1996:
4). The Buddhists and Adventists doctrinal beliefs oppose genetic
alterations on the grounds they are unholy and unhealthy, are founded in
the writings of Ellen G. White, the Holy Bible, Sutras, Dhama pada, and
Tao. Similarly, Jewish groups want labels on any food with non-kosher

Other reason why labels are needed according to Vorman (1999) is that
"unlike foodborne disease, where the government has rules in place to
handle any outbreak, there is no real regulatory review process in place
right now to keep up with all the biotechnology changes that are
happening'' (p. 2). Orfelia Rodriquez, a Cuban biosafety expert, stressed
"Governments must inform the population on the risks of using transgenics,
and must make labeling of such products mandatory, in order for consumers
to know what they are consuming" (Cummins and Lilliston 1999a: 7). In
essence, consumers have become uncertain about the effects of GMO products
and are distrustful of the corporate reassurances.

An example of this distrust and uncertainty is being seen in a 30 country
anti-trust lawsuit against the seed companies. Activists from over 30
Latin and developing countries have filed an anti-trust lawsuit against
the largest life science companies primarily Monsanto, Novartis,
AstraZeneca, Aventist, and Dupont. The law firms representing Jeffery
Rafkin, director of the Foundation on Economic Trends, and the 30 Nations
are working on 'a no-win-no-fee basis' and are seeking to challenge the
legal basis of such monopolistic practices on the state, federal, and/or
international level.

The litigants are confident they can "free agriculture from the control of
a few" who by inventing the TPS design have turned plants, animals, and
insects into machines (Osava and Mutume, 1999: 1). According to Antonio
Donizeti Beraldo, a farmers rights advocate from the National
Confederation of Agriculture, winning this legal battle creates the
"mechanisms to prevention [corporate] monopolies" (Osava and Mutume,
1999: 3).

In another lawsuit, a coalition of public interest groups,
environmentalists, scientists, and religious leaders filed a lawsuit
against the FDA seeking to require labels on all GM foods. The basis of
the lawsuit stems from the coalition uncovering FDA records suggesting
several experts were suspicious of the safety of GM products. According to
the Druker and Roth (1999):

Internal [FDA] reports and memoranda disclose: (1) agency scientists
repeatedly cautioned that foods produced through recombinant DNA
technology entail different risks than do their conventionally produced
counterparts and (2) that this input was consistently disregarded
by the bureaucrats who crafted the agency's current policy, which
treats bioengineered foods the same as natural ones (p. 1-2).

More specifically, the litigants suggest there is evidence FDA policies
(e.g., US Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act) were not followed correctly, and
scientific tests were done improperly. This resulted in the scientists not
knowing for certain the safety of GM products being allowed on the
consumer market (Druker and Roth, 1999: 2).

The Alliance for Bio-Integrity (1999) indicated "the FDA admits it is
operating under a directive 'to foster' the U.S. biotech industry; and
this directive advocates that bioengineered foods are essentially the same
as others" (p. 1). Moreover, the FDA's bending of policy to accommodate
the Biotech industry caused strong reactions from its research scientists.
Some of the FDA's experts believed the GMO technology should have been
rigorously tested for unexpected toxins and allergens. According to FDA
Microbiologists, Dr. Louis Priybl, "there is a profound difference between
the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic
engineering which is just glanced over in this document" . . .and gene
splicing "may be more hazardous" (Druker and Roth, 1999: 2).

Japan, South Korea, China, and several other Asian countries are
considering whether to legislate laws for the labeling of GMO foods.
Asia's food market is worth one trillion to the United States and other
Nations (Brynes, 1999:1). However, Japanese food manufacturers, in August,
1999, were attempting to probe for and purchase non-GM foods in order
divert labels on GMO products. The Director of Japanese Tofu Association,
Hironori Kijima, claimed "we want to avoid the GM label as it could hurt
the image of our products. We plan to switch to non-GM soybeans" (Takada,
1999:1). Fiji Oil group, who uses an average 90,000 tonnes of soybeans,
also claimed it will stop the use of GMO soybeans and search for non-GM
wholesalers (Reuters, 1999: 1).

This switch to non-GMO foods may force Japan to turn to Australia, France,
Brazil and/or other various developing nations for certified GE-free crops
and thus exasterbate the US and Canadian farmers, exporters, and
manufactures economic difficulties. Being that the US is Japan's largest
grain, canola, and soybean supplier it seems logical Japanese manufactures
would want to avoid the GM labels and seek GE free foods from the US and
elsewhere until the global resistance diminishes (Cummins and Lilliston
1999a: 6).

In October, the Agricultural Ministry of Japan claimed it would "impose
new rules requiring the food industry - retailers, farmers, and food
product makers - to ensure the verity of food labels attesting that their
foodstuffs are not genetically modified" (Japan Economic Newswire, 1999:
4). Moreover, the Japanese officials have made provisions so investigators
are able to conduct on the spot inspections of farms, factories,
distributors, and merchants for GMO products and falsified certificates.
Once violators has been discovered they will be publicly identified for
shame (Japan Economic Newswire, 1999: 4). However, it should be noted this
is still not a labeling requirement, but a strict guidelines for avoiding

In October 1999, a Philippine consumer group requested the government
impose a label on GM products. Francis de la Cruz, of the Citizens
Alliance for Consumer Protection group claimed "if we cannot prevent the
entry of GMOs...let us be given information to exercise our choice"
(Reuters Manila, 1999: 4). On the same day Australian and New Zealand
officials decided to "require detailed labeling of products containing
genetically modified foods" (Associated Press, 1999: 4).

Organized Grassroots efforts of Americans, outside legal action, has been
lethargic compared to that of Indians, Africans, and Europeans. However,
in June 1999, a petition containing a 500,000 US citizens signatures was
presented to the US Congress, which demanded labels be put on food
containing genetically-modified soybeans, corn, rice, wheat, and other
crops. This was an indicator, at the time, of the growing discontent the
US citizens were experiencing about GMO technology (Vorman, 1999: 2).

As mentioned above, the US biotech industry is fearful of labels for
several reasons. First, manufactures will experience increased labor costs
because production will have to be adjusted to produce a different
labeling for each country or geographic region. Next, exporters will
experience difficulty opening new markets with GMO food labels on the
package (Byrnes, 1999:1). Carl Feldbaum, president of BIO claimed a label
"would be seen as a stigma, like a skull and crossbones" (Weiss, 1999:
A17). Finally, many biotech companies feel the reactions to GMO technology
will be abandoned by the detractors in a couple of years. According to
Craik "in about five years time the heat will have gone out of this
debate, then countries like Japan will just gradually start to take it (GM
food)" (Byrnes, 1999:1).

However, with the billions of dollars at stake the seed companies and the
supporting governments are embarking on a "massive lobbying and PR
campaign, which includes strategies to immediately attempt to discredit
any opposition to their products, however reasonable" (Epstein, 1996: 4).
Joining in the cause promoting GMO technology is the Grocery Manufacturers
of America (GMA). The GMA represent 132 firms, such as global giants Heinz
(who in July 1999 banned GMO foods from its baby food products), Kraft,
and Procter & Gamble announced, in June 1999, a $1 million dollar ad
campaign to educate the public about the positive attributes of GMO
technology. This is being done to stop a potential consumer boycott in the
US similar to that, which occurred in Europe, India and elsewhere (Rabin,
1999:1). Several other farm groups such as the National Corn Growers
Association, the American Soybean Association, and the American Farm
Bureau Federation have embraced GMO technology (Palmer, 1999:1).

On the international level, the WTO has declared the EU ban on GMO crops
and products as unjustified, because there is no scientific evidence that
they are unhealthy or hazardous for the public (Hambling 1999: 2). The US
government has taken the position labeling will only be used as a last
resort to appease the G-15 and Asian Nations until the predicament calms.
In the interim, the seed companies and the US government are expected to
network people in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the
OECD and other institutions such as the WTO to "to rewrite global trade
agreements [TRIP, GATT] and investment policies so that nation states will
no longer have the ability to respond to citizen demands for rigid
controls over genetic engineering" (Cummins and Lilliston, 1999a: 10). For
example, the US and Canadian officials, in June 1999, filed a formal
complaint with the WTO over the elevated number of mandatory labeling on
GMO foods, which the US and Canadian officials are labeling as trade
barriers (International Trade Reporter 1999: 1006).

In addition, there has been much debate as to whether the US will create a
label for the upcoming WTO summit in November. Epstein (1996) stressed
"given the current political climate, despite valid scientific, ethical,
and religious concerns, it is unlikely that the federal labeling
regulations will be introduced in the near future" (p. 4). Charles
Benbrook, a Biotech consultant, indicated that a top-level USDA official
informed him the US government was developing a labeling proposal for the
WTO summit. USDA spokesperson Andy Solomon refuted Benbrook's remarks
claiming "there has been no such decision, and US policy has not changed"
(Hsu, 1999: 5). Peter Scher, special U.S. ambassador for agricultural
trade stressed "that is absolutely not the case". . . [and] "We have no
plans to bring a labeling proposal" (Palmer, 1999: 1). Scher also claimed
the US will focus on "the regulatory system for the approval of these
technologies are based on science and are transparent in order to assure
consumers about the safety of these products" and not a label for them
(Palmer, 1999:1).

The Global Socio-Economic Consequences

These label concerns, legal challenges, consumer boycotts, and the refusal
to accept GMO seeds and products has resulted in a financial disaster for
exporters, manufactures, and farmers (mainly Canadian and US) as well as
Monsanto. Canadian canola (rapeseed) growers lost $300 - $400 million in
sales to Europe because "government authorities followed the US model of
co-mingling GE and non-GE grains" (Cummins and Lilliston, 1999: 2). In
addition, over 50% of Canada's 13.4 million acres of canola are
genetically engineered and thus cannot be sold to European markets.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch (1999) in 1998 "American
companies lost an estimated $200 million in corn exports to European Union
Countries" (p. 1). In 1999, US soybean exports have dropped 38% and the
price is at a 27 year low. Aside from corn and soybean exports there is a
"14% decline overall in [US] exports since last year" (Cummins and
Lilliston, 1999: 4). Both these issues have alarmed the US government and
farmers, which resulted in the US Congress approving a $574-million farm
bailout. However, farmers claim the $574-million was inadequate and are
now asking the US government for $6 billion-$8 billion in financial
assistance. The Deutsche Bank 1999 noted GMO technology "with their better
yields, will only further depress prices this year" and amplify the
farmers situation (Ramey, Wimmer, and Rooker 1999: 5).

Aside from the GMO products ruinous effects on Canadian and US farmers and
exporters, this global situation has resulted in a financial difficulties
for Monsanto who was compelled them to cut 1,700 employees from a global
workforce of 28,000 (Cummins and Lilliston, 1999: 2). Monsanto's CEO
Robert Shapiro (1999) summed up the controversy by claiming:

We don't seek controversy, but obviously it has been thrust on
us. It is a direct consequence of a role we have chosen. And it is
a role which we can blame only ourselves for . . .we realize that
with any new and powerful technology with unknown, and to some
degree unknowable - by definition - effects, than there
necessarily will be an appropriate level of least, and maybe even
more than that, of public debate and public interest (p. 1 ).

As a result of the controversy, Monsanto announced, in May 1999, that it
would sell off $1.5 to $2.0 billion of its assets to recover from the
failed take-over of cash-rich American Home Products Company, last summer,
and pay off its more than $8.4 billion debt (Reuters, 1999: 1).
Specifically, Monsanto will sell stock, its lawn and garden division for
an estimated $300 million, a chemical department estimated at $125
million, the Wellbridge health and fitness firm for an estimated $15
million, the Stoneville Pedigree [Cotton] Seed Company and Alginates for
an estimated $400 million. These liquidation's of departments, stock, and
other assets is estimated to raise more than $4.2 billion for Monsanto
(St. Louis Dispatch, May 4 1999). However, none of these liquidations will
affect the acquired GMO companies. Therefore, it would appear Monsanto is
streamlining the GMO division and discarding the non-GMO divisions.

Even with the liquidation of company assets, countries refusal to make
agriculture agreements, disputes over international treaties, millions, if
not billions, lost in agricultural sales, and the global push for labeling
requirements the US government and the seed companies are working on a
strategies to press genetically modified organisms forward. The US
government is beginning to initiate a trade dual with the European Union
and other countries who have refused the GMO products via tariffs,
complaints to the WTO, and the refusal of certain European products.

According to Cummins and Lilliston (1999) the economic elite, such as
Monsanto, the US government, trade officials, and other biotech companies
are turning "to evermore extreme measures to force the citizenry to 'shut
up and eat their Frankenfoods' and attempting to manipulate farmers to
plant" the GMO seeds (p. 5). This type of strong-arm tactics may initiate
a trade war and the "collateral damage could seriously undermine GATT and
the World Trade Organization" (Cummins, et al. 1999a: 2).

According to Montague (1999) the reasons for America's enthusiastic
determination is that "from the viewpoint of U.S. foreign policy,
genetically modified seeds offer a key advantage over traditional seeds"
(p. 4). Namely, Nations will be forced to buy seeds from multinational
corporations or be excluded from the global political and economic model.
Wall Street Analysts are also optimistic about the technology. For
example, Paine-Webbers' financial analysts Andrew Cash claimed "We like
biotech genetically engineering long-term because it is a very useful tool
and eventually science will win out" (Jacobs, 1999: 4).

One of the first, US officials to discuss the future goals of GMO
technology was Stuart Eizenstat. In June, 1999, Mr. Eizenstat, then
nominee for an executive position for the US Treasury Department,
testified before the US Senate that:

Almost 100 % of our agricultural exports in the next five years
will be genetically-modified or combined with bulk commodities
that are genetically modified...The Europeans have an absolute
fear, unfounded by any scientific basis, of accepting these
products... The EU's fear of bioengineered foods... is the single
greatest trade threat that we face (Cummins, et al. 1999: 1).

In other words, the Europeans opposition is only perceived as a minor
obstacle in the over all scheme of things and in time the GMO technology
will be put in place and be a big winner on Wall Street and the stock


Corporations, organized governments, and assorted capitalists are failing
to listen objectively to the public's anxiety to GMO technology. As a
result, societal tension has increased. The citizens' anxiety, however,
centers on the transition of society to corporate rule, where the
concentration of economic power rests in the hands of a select economic
elite, and this is the cause and the main reason for the global reaction
to the technology. In short, citizens are realizing they no longer control
their local areas or life choices, but are disposable economic units or
serfs of the corporate empire.

Nonetheless, biotechnology researchers have advanced genetics to where
they are able to alter, transform, and manipulate the DNA codes of all
plants or animals. Yet, the scientists who created this technology are not
to blame for this global fiasco because they were advancing science. Their
science, however, has resulted in extensive damage to society, with
thousands of jobs lost and billions of dollars spent to control the
world's food market, modify and reverse laws, policies, and treaties. The
US governments and the seed companies steamroller approach, has resulted
in the dishonor of the US government, various international political
figures, Monsanto and the other seed giants as well as the WTO.

Nelson (1994) makes a good summation of the introducion of new technology
by claiming:

Potentially superior new alternative requires some development -
learning - before its latent superiority becomes manifest. It can
take time before that development occurs and, with bad luck, it is
even possible that it never occurs. But by and large the
potentially better technology will win out (p.126).

In essence, Monsanto used laws, spent $8.4 billion, and created a new
science in order to legitimate its consolidation of the global food
production, but did not develop the market. The US government has assumed
the role of creating the global consumer market by the way of hegemonic
actions. As of today, Monsanto, corporations, the US government, and the
WTO has failed but if Nelson's (1994) notion holds true Monsanto's
visionary technology [GMO] will win out in the future.


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Andrew Hund

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