The criminal tale of Monsanto

March 26, 2011
Image: Dees Illustration.

The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Politics & Power
Marie-Monique Robin
Spinifex Press, 2010.
373 pages, $44.95 (pb)

“What counts for us is making money,” said a Monsanto vice-president to a new employee at an induction session in 1998, reminding the idealistic novice that there is a simple, and crude, capitalist philosophy at the heart of the US chemical and biotechnology giant.

All Monsanto's talk about the ecological and humanitarian miracles of its chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is so much hot air, says Marie-Monique Robin in The World According To Monsanto.

The reduction of pesticide pollution, the end of world hunger, plants producing biodegradable plastics, corn containing antibodies against cancer — none of these promised GMO solutions have been delivered.

This is because what really matters to Monsanto, as Robin documents, is control of the world seed market and the genetic engineering of those seeds to be resistant to, and therefore dependent on, Roundup, Monsanto's herbicide with the real miracle; gigantic profits.

GMOs and Roundup, says Robin, are amongst the "most dangerous products of modern times", joining a list that is heavily populated by other Monsanto products such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin and bovine growth hormones.

In all cases, Monsanto has been fully aware of their harmfulness yet has lied about their dangers with an impunity conferred by the collusion between the company and the public health and environmental authorities of successive US governments.

Monsanto’s criminal tale began in the 1930s with PCBs which are heat-resistant industrial coolants and lubricants. PCBs polluted the planet for four decades until they were banned in 1977, leaving a continuing trail of cancers and other diseases.

PCBs are resistant to natural biological decay and are accumulative in fatty tissue through the food chain to maximum levels in top predator species like us.

Internal Monsanto memos that documented the toxic effects of PCBs reiterated the company’s obsessive concern to not “damage our sales position in the synthetic hydraulic fluid field”, arguing that “we can’t afford to lose one dollar of business”.

It said “continued sales and profits' are overriding priorities and that public lying about PCB toxicity is essential to 'protect the image of ... the Corporation'.”

The song was the same with 2,4,5-T, a powerful herbicide containing highly toxic dioxin. This product was the basis for Agent Orange, which poisoned much of southern Vietnam's crops, forests and people during the Vietnam War.

The toxicity of 2,4,5-T was denied by Monsanto, which "hid the data in a drawer and said nothing to the health authorities.”

After 2,4,5-T was banned and US soldiers and Vietnamese civilians had undertaken legal action against their dioxin poisoning, the company presented falsified scientific studies to government authorities, fraudulently claiming dioxin was not carcinogenic.

Bovine growth hormone (BGH) was a variation on the same theme.

BGH is an artificial, genetically engineered cow hormone designed to increase milk production.

It also increases mastitis (a serious infection). There are 22 recognised serious side effects, including the risk of cancer, amongst BGH milk users.

Suppression and manipulation of data from veterinary tests by Monsanto, however, secured government approval of BGH in 1994.

This well-worn theme has been continued with Roundup (Monsanto’s trade name for glyphosate).

Roundup has become the herbicide most widely used by the world’s farmers and gardeners. But its ecological claims to 100% biodegradability and non-toxicity are false and misleading.

Animal health studies find that either glyphosate or the other principal ingredients in Roundup are implicated in miscarriages, premature births, spontaneous abortions and pre-cancerous morbidities.

Monsanto maintained its usual silence on these health outcomes, however, to protect Roundup’s major revenue-stream for the company.

When Monsanto’s patent monopoly on glyphosate expired in 2000, Roundup's profitability was protected by Monsanto's move into GMO agriculture.

Monsanto now dominates the world food seed market and has genetically modified its “Roundup-Ready” transgenic seeds to withstand Roundup.

In 2005, Roundup-Ready crops made up 85% of all soybeans grown in the US, 84% of all canola, and 45% of all corn, ensuring a continued, large market for Roundup.

Again, Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready GMOs, with their glyphosate-resistant genes, escaped the regulatory net. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared toxicological testing unnecessary because of the “substantial equivalence” between GMOs and their natural cousins, a concept widely disputed in the independent scientific community.

Monsanto's extraordinary power grows out of the barrels of many guns. The private industry-government “revolving door” puts Monsanto officials in the right place to ensure regulatory conditions satisfy the needs of Monsanto. Monsanto’s presence in US representation on United Nations bodies guides the rest of the world to follow the US lead.

Monsanto’s armory also includes bribery (election funding to Republicans and Democrats) and the use of the notorious Pinkerton Detective Agency to spy on farmers suspected of illegally saving transgenic crop seeds for replanting rather than purchasing seeds anew each season from Monsanto, whose “intellectual property” rights to the genetic information in the seeds is recognised in law.

Monsanto’s deep pockets and readiness to threaten costly litigation against its critics keeps many of its opponents muted. Government whistleblowers are harassed, marginalised, defamed, fired or otherwise intimidated into silence.

The compliance of some in the scientific community is bought through Monsanto's funding of cash-strapped scientists and universities while Monsanto’s advertising dollars help to keep investigative journalists in line.

Robin’s incisive case study of Monsanto observes that ethics and public health are “abstract concepts foreign to the logic of capitalism”.

Would you trust the company that gave us Agent Orange yesterday to give us the food on our plates tomorrow? Not if you value your life.


Dear Sirs: What can we do to get rid of this man? I eat as much organic food as I can plus I buy local foods. As a teacher I try to teach students about the dangers of GMO foods, and I tell them you must eat healthy. You do not want unknown diseases. Let me know what can be done to educate "America". Thank you.
The last few lines of the above article says it all about Monsanto "Would you trust the company that gave us Agent Orange yesterday to give us the food on our plates tomorrow? Not if you value your life." Monsanto is without doubt one of the most evil companies in the world today, its control of the world-wide seed markets is extremely dangerous. And its manufacture of Agent Orange has caused the deaths of millions and left millions more suffering from horrific disabilities. None more so than the people and land of Vietnam where 80 million litres were used. Anonymous asks "What can we do to get rid of the man?" Can I suggest that he contacts any serviceman or women who served in Vietnam and is affected by Agent Orange. They can tell how Agent Orange has affected them and their children. Another means is by supporting an international boycott on all Monsanto products and that includes GM.
Unlike all other issues, this one is easy and universal. Just talk a bit about the infertility and lesions in test animals and a lack of comprehensive safety testing. No one wants it - not even Monsanto employees. The nation of Cyprus recently placed laws on the display of foods with GMO ingredients. They must be placed on separate shelving under substanttal penalty. From Britain to India, GMO crops are burned by the locals. Pure capitalism = supply and demand If they're so proud of their GMO products, let them label it and promote its virtues and let the consumer decide. check out "electron microscope microfungus GMO Purdue" It's easy to get swept up in a conspiracy theory because Monsanto's plan to control ALL FOOD surpasses the most megalomaniacal Bond villain. And the bit about using GMO corn to intentionally spread this "unique" microfungus is like a scene from the X Files with bees and corn. It's like they're trying to harm most people.
I once knew a gentleman that served at the time when Agent Orange was used and he was preparing to die, as his body was succumbing to it's effects. To get rid of all of this madness, you first have to head straight for the right people with facts, truths and plenty of literature and photos that show what it does to humans, animals, life, etc. The proof is in the pudding really is true and the pudding (facts, truths, literature) will have the proof (photos). After witnessing with the truth then you have to "bring it home" and you would do that by relating, to the people with whom you are communicating this to, that they too can be affected by (GMO foods). That they may already be affected by it but it has not become evident to them that it has. Helping a person "to take "it more personally" is the key. Results will come when (they) are scared that it is likely going to happen to them and because they do not want it to they will want to put a stop to it. It can be stopped but it takes the right people in the right positions to do the work that it is going to take to reach that goal. All for the love of riches, power and glory. At others expense.
While you bash Monsanto you fail to recognize the good that they have done for you......corn and soybeans that used to be sprayed with moutains of pesticides are now not sprayed at all because the GMO seed is resistant to many common diseases and pests. In addition they have engineered seed that produces more tonnage per acre reducing the cost of everything you eat.....while I agree the company has issues don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
People all over the world, not just Americans need to catch a serious wakeup about what these dirtbags are doing. I am spreading as much information as I can about their corrupt doings and intentions to everyone on my database and I know they are spreading it further. The internet is a powerful tool and messages we must all constantly alert people to the dangers they are up against even though all seems 'quiet on the western Front' to ignorant, lazy, unquestioning and unsophisticated average consumer. Dr. Mercola is a true hero and his works are the seeds of change. People who get harrased should be brave enough to make it publicy known. If everybody stands up to the bullies and those that empower them, the resistence from them will no doubt grow but so will public awareness and the desired effects of exposing them. I say be bold, audacious and outspoken enough to let people know through the power of emails that they are being ripped off, poisoned and fed trash in their foods. Gene New Zealand
By accepting this type of insidious business practice, we are in essence allowing self-genocide of the human race. Two rights do not = a wrong, and Monsanto's wrongs far outweigh anything they have done that may be considered right. Teacher Kym
"you fail to recognize the good that they have done for you..." - Unfortunately Mr./Ms. Anonymous, your arguments have already been invalidated. You say that no pesticides are sprayed "at all". First of all, a pesticide IS sprayed - it's called "Roundup" - duh. And what's worse, it has been shown that more and more has to be sprayed because there are weeds that have evolved and become more and more resistant to said pesticide. Argument number one - nil. Your claim that the GMO seeds produce more tonnage per acre is also errant. In Argentina as well as some Eastern Hemisphere countries, they are finding that because of the limited adaptability of the seeds to various soil and climate compositions, there have been declines in tonnage per acre. Argument number two - nil. Perhaps you'll want to research your claims with a lot more scrutiny before you spread misinformation. "In India, Monsanto convinced many farmers to buy the more expensive GE cotton seeds as it would result in higher yields and better cotton. Time has proven this not to be true, the yields for GE cotton were 5 times less than traditional Indian cotton. As the GM cotton has lower quality short fibres the income is 7 times less for a more expensive seed. Legally they are tied to Monsanto and this has resulted in farmers’ debt and suicides by the 1000s. Monsanto failed to tell them that the crop was very susceptible to bollworms, a virulent parasite, and the GM cotton required twice the amount of water as traditional crops." So......why don't you talk about all that GOOD that Monsanto has done for us with the GMOs. Take your time, I can wait.
how about this one... There is a very delicate balance on this planet of all things created by God... (or whomever /whatever you believe) The genetically modified organisms are not naturally part of our eco system or for that matter our human biology. Test on cadavers have shown large amounts of undigested DNA from these GMO products in the digestive tracts. Basically because it is not naturally "occurring" our bodies don't know know how the hell to break them down. Do you supposed that's good for us? Duh? We may as well be eating styrofoam. This is all part of the irresponsible and greedy humans on this planet raping and destroying the planet for personal financial gain. If we, as a species, as a unified society worldwide do not stand up, speak out, be brave and LOUD, companies like Monsanto will destroy not only our planet and the delicate balance of all living things, but that will include our species as well. As far as the planet is concerned, we are just another animal. Unfortunately we have become more of a parasite than anything. The sad thing is that most people in the country are totally ignorant to what's really going on, and by the looks of things, most people dont care, as long as they can get their big mac and giant size diet coke and their twinkies... It's disgusting! many have become just like sheep, following the herd with out asking why? If we don't stand up to save our food, planet and rights, we are doomed. The only other thing to do is buy a small piece of land and grow & raise your own organic food. Just dont buy this crap
Are you kidding me? Where are you getting your facts from about the common diseases and pests and the increased tonnage per acre? We farm here in Saskatchewan, Canada and the truth is we have more diseases, more pests and less tonnage with the use of these herbicides. Let's wake up people! There are far greater possibilities for growing good HEALTHY CROPS with some natural products, without the threat of Human diseases that are caused by the widespread use of Monsantos wonder products. We either change or continue to watch our nations die from the cancer causing effects of all these chemicals. Besides all the sickness caused by Monsanto, we have destroyed our soils, making them HARD as rock. How much farther do we need to go before we say enough is enough.

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