Monsanto is an infamous and large multi-national that is an example of how corporate involvement has threatened safe, sustainable agriculture. Monsanto is the world’s top producer of genetically modified (GM) seeds that can withstand the harsh herbicides it produces, such as Roundup. They account for 90 per cent of all genetically engineer seeds in the United States.
Monsanto is responsible for producing numerous toxins since it started in 1901. Known for infecting its workers with carcinogenic dioxins in 1949 and producing Agent Orange in the 1960s, Monsanto is notorious for abusing the rights of migrant and student workers. Throughout their existence the company has also wreaked havoc on small scale farmers.
Before Monsanto, farmers could spray their fields with herbicides right after a crop was planted, but not while it was growing. Through genetically altering their seeds, Monsanto developed seeds that can withstand their brand of herbicide (Roundup) which kills weeds, allowing the crops to survive. This comes with a great cost.
GM foods are unmarked in grocery stores but they’re impact on human health hasn’t been well studied. Some scientists suspect that there are a greater number of toxins in GM foods or that they could produce hard to detect allergies or nutritional problems.
Patents on life
Monsanto has patented many of its GM seed varieties. This means that farmers are not allowed to save seeds from one crop and replant them next season. Instead, even with small yields, farmers are forced to go back to the company and buy a fresh batch of seeds. To deter seed saving further, Monsanto created terminator seeds. The crops from these seeds actually don’t produce any seeds, increasing reliance on the company.
Patents get even trickier. Through pollination, seeds varieties can unintentionally migrate to another farmer’s field and grow. While many see this as the beauty and fluidity of nature, Monsanto has sued several farmers for not paying for these seed varieties that have grown in their fields. Even if a farmer doesn’t want to use Monsanto seeds, many in a given area are forced to just to avoid legal complications.
For more information about how to fight against Monsanto, go to the Monsanto facts page on the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.