The article takes the stance that according to recent research, the scientific community has come to agreement that GMO foods are safe for human consumption. Backed by studies spanning some 20 years, scientists and respected peer reviewed journals have concluded that GMO foods pose no more of a threat to us as do traditional crop breeding methods. According to a publication by Nature Biotechnology, the negative perception of GMO foods is largely due to the fact that the population in general does not directly see any benefit from GMO foods. Some of the most convincing evidence is that in the time GM foods have made their way into the food supply, no scientifically backed data has shown any adverse effects to humans
Writing for Guardian Professional (a specific portion of The Guardian’s website), Vandana Shiva returns to write about the dangers of monoculture and corporate-controlled seeds and farming. She explains the differences between natural seeds and developed seeds. Natural seeds are renewable, fit in to the natural order, and promote biodiversity. Genetically-engineered seeds are not renewable, and are filled with special pesticides and genes that don’t cross-pollinate. These seeds don’t diversify themselves like normal organisms. Shiva then brings up the current bee crisis, and how pesticides are to blame for much of the damage caused by Colony Collapse Disorder. This connection leads Shiva to her main point: that organic food and growing techniques are not only good for us, they are actually critical for life all over the planet.
In her next section, Shiva describes the rise of monocultures, at least in India. She posits (again, in a different article) that well over 250,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves since the seed monopolies formed in India. Shiva describes that when only one seed type is dominant, a monoculture is formed, and biodiversity suffers. She follows this by focusing on the concepts of greed over care, in how greed is the driving force in the rise of these monocultures. Parts of India once had thousands of strains of rice that grew in different areas and climates. Now there are only a few types left. Shiva writes that greed begets a desire for control, which then begets a lack of diversification.
Finally, Globalization is brought up. Shiva explains that the continued unification of the world is also increasing the lack of biodiversity. Things like Heinz Ketchup need special tomatoes with more pulp than juice, which means they, like many other global food products, need to be made the same way, with the same products. Also noted is how fruits now are grown to be tough and hard for transcontinental travel, whereas before they would be fresh and soft. Globalization is indeed changing the way we eat.
This piece of Vandana Shiva’s is less vitriolic than her others, but she still was able to squeeze in some dead farmers. This editorial does the same kind of thing that many editorials have done when covering either side of the GMO debate: describe a bunch of problems, but not list any good solutions. Other than “let’s do something about this!”
Which really doesn’t do much.
This article from Discover also deals with Anti-GMO, environmentalist and feminist speaker Vandana Shiva. As mentioned in a previous posting, Vandana Shiva has been perpetuating a story that over 250,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in the years since Monsanto GMO seeds were introduced to the country. Shiva describes this as “genocide”. Shiva posits that this is due to Monsanto’s business practices driving these farmers out of money. In the article, the author casts doubt on Shiva’s story by discussing how it may more likely be social and economic factors in India that are actually driving suicide rates up, and not Monsanto specifically. The author also mentions the documentary based on the Shiva story, Bitter Seeds, and mentions that while the connections to Monsanto might be more contrived, the connections made regarding India’s cultural practices and predatory lending might be more pertinent, if people were willing to pay attention to it.
The author then moves on to relating an event at which Shiva spoke at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. At the event, the author noted that when a member of the Gardens’ staff was introducing Shiva, they made it a point to mention that “over a quarter million Indian farmers have committed suicide because of GMO seed” to gasps from the crowd. This was able to prime the audience for when Shiva took over and discussed this story in more detail.
After the speech, the author had a moment to speak with Ms. Shiva, and he elaborated about how his journalism class was able to determine that Shiva’s story was overstated. Shiva’s response was simply to reiterate her point, and claim that any evidence against her version of events must be made up by Monsanto.
This kind of evangelism is concerning. A disregard for fact can severely discredit one’s position in an argument. To continue to repeat a lie until it becomes true doesn’t make it any more true than it was before. If people have genuine concern about GMO and the business practices surrounding it, then perhaps moving away from individuals like this would be advisable.
This editorial from Discover discusses certain individuals that are considered to be major boosters to the anti-GMO cause and how they are using lies and pseudoscience to push the discussion in their direction. The author cites a Vandana Shiva and Dr. Oz specifically. Shiva has apparently been going around the world telling a “lie” that farmers in India are committing suicide from the monopolistic business practices that seem to be inherent with GMOs. Vandana Shiva is well-respected in the anti-GMO sphere, and her words have carried a lot of weight. She is able to write for the Guardian, and her story about suicidal farmers was also the source for a documentary called “Bitter Seeds”.
Dr. Oz is also mentioned, as he holds a degree of influence in the health nut world. His own willingness to allow for the more firebrand-oriented anti-GMO evangelists has been shown on his website and on his show.
This editorial brings up an interesting point in the discussion of GMO. Both sides are very passionate about their positions, and this article shows that even the anti-GMO side is guilty of skewing facts and figures just as much as the corporate interests at play in the GMO corner. It also suggests that the debate is much more murky than either side would probably care to admit. Not only that, but fiery, vitriolic language can be a turn off for those individuals simply looking for the truth of the matter. It would probably be safe to assume that the kinds of language that Michael Pollan or Vandana Shiva use is specifically targeted at anti-GMO folk already, perhaps in an effort to shore up their base, and get them to evangelize their movement for them.
This article comes from a site called “gmeducation.org”. They bill themselves as “citizens concerned about GM”. The article is really more of an editorial piece. The nameless authors suggest that more than 80% of US Corn and more than 90% of soybeans are seeds licensed by Monsanto at some point in their travels. The article mentions a researcher at Michigan State University named Philip Howard, who “has traced the consolidation of the global seed industry”. His research says that 40% of all food supply in the world in under the control of four firms: Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta, and Dow AgroSciences. Apparently it’s worse in the US, as the writers at GMEducation.org consider this group of corporations more of a “cartel” because they aren’t much of a market.
The Department of Justice investigated allegations of Monsanto’s monopolistic machinations, for two years, from 2010 to 2012. At the end of that year, the DOJ had announced that it had “closed its investigation”. There was no other reason listed.
GMEducation writes that two major problems have come up for farmers since the introduction of Monsanto’s so-called monopoly. One, is that the farmers no longer have a choice of what seed to use. This can effect genetic diversification of crops, as well as push out other alternative seed. The other problem is that now that Monsanto can charge whatever they like for their product, they are raising the pricing of their GM-seed. Because other biotech firms are also moving on from non-GMO seed types, again, the farmers really have no where else to turn. Monsanto also prohibits farmers from saving seeds after harvest, citing intellectual property rights. The article mentions that there have been reports of farmers that have gone bankrupt when Monsanto’s IP lawyers come knocking. They also can’t afford to change seeds because there might be a danger of residual crops of Monsanto-owned plants growing later on, leading again to litigation.
This website and article are very much focused less as a “concerned” look as much as “highly critical” and a little inflammatory. The article spends little time focusing on the potential dangers of GMO agriculture, instead looking at the allegations that Monsanto is an out-of-control monopoly. Not necessarily an incorrect assessment, but perhaps a more balanced approach would sell the point to the undecided.
Monsanto is a very divisive company. Some think that they’re evil incarnate, threatening to enslave the world to only eating their food. Others still praise the conglomerate’s use of technology to attempt to increase food production across the world. Many people have heard of Monsanto, but not everyone knows their story.
Monsanto started as a chemical manufacturer, famous for developing saccharine, Agent Orange, and RoundUp. Over the years, they started developing and patenting GM-based seeds, after a US Supreme Court ruling in 1980. The company is well-aware of the public outcry surrounding its genetically-modified products, and does what it can to mitigate it. They suggest that farmers have a right to choose what kind of seeds they want to plant, and that laws precluding GMO-based crops are keeping said farmers from exercising that freedom. They also suggest that in light of the soon-coming food crisis that GM crops have incredible benefits in the future. The company has also been aggressive in its purchases of other seed companies, allowing it to widen its net on the agricultural market. Monsanto’s share of GM cord and soybeans is about 65%. These acquisitions have drawn the eye of antitrust regulators, but so far they haven’t had to make but a few concessions to them.
A large part of Monsanto’s profits come from the licensing of these seeds. This almost essentially creates a monopoly, but according to the article, does not truly constitute one, as even some of Monsanto’s competitors are actually licensees. And their business model requires farmers to buy fresh seed every year. Their “Violator Exclusion Policy” will actually deny farmers access to Monsanto’s seed and technology forever if they break any of the terms of the license agreement.
Monsanto is working hard to spin its business decisions into something positive. Or at least something that looks positive. They are attempting to make sure that the developing world still as access to its seed, but are still doubling down on increased productivity at whatever the cost. Maybe it’s because this technology is so relatively new, Monsanto’s quasi-monopoly, or that people don’t like companies all up in their food supply, but they still seem to have a long way to go.