Monsanto’s humiliations are all over the news these days. Last week we heard that Monsanto is actually paying farmers to spray their fields with competitors’ weedkillers. Monsanto’s latest press release announces it is offering RoundupReady cotton farmers up to $20/acre to pour on extra herbicides. In fact, The Organic Center reports that this bizarre practice—a reversal of Monsanto’s traditional exhortations to rely on its own chemical Roundup—has actually been going on for over a year now, a response to the Monsanto-induced epidemic of superweeds now ravaging the country. As Tom Philpott explains, it’s a desperate last-hour attempt by the giant seed and pesticide company to slow the wildfire spread of noxious weeds resistant to Roundup, an epidemic which essentially spells the demise of Monsanto’s entire RoundupReady “system of weed management.” Other last-ditch efforts by Monsanto to keep revenue coming in include genetically engineering its Roundup Ready seeds for “enhanced resistance,” that is the ability to withstand—at least temporarily—even heavier dousings of Roundup. Talk about trying to smother a fire with gasoline.
What is really needed, as many weed scientists and organic farmers have been saying all along, are not more chemicals in a never-ending pesticide treadmill, but ecological weed management, including such tried and true practices to suppress weed populations as mulching, crop rotations and planting cover crops. But chemical companies won’t reap the same profits if farmers shift towards reduced-chemical, agroecological farming. That is why Monsanto—and competitors such as Dow Agroscience, Bayer and BASF—are still frantically trying to engineer new proprietary seeds, double and triple stacked with resistance to all kinds of herbicides, including some really old and dangerous ones like 2,4-D (the infamous ingredient in Agent Orange, the dioxin-laced Vietnam War defoliant).
The Ship is Sinking
By now even Forbes has recanted, acknowledging it got it all wrong last year when it named Monsanto “company of the year.” After a century of bad deeds, this corporation is finally taking its karmic hit.
- The New York Times reported earlier this month the failure of Monsanto’s newest GE corn and the company’s plummeting stock—down 42% since the start of the year.
- West Virginia is suing Monsanto for failure to cooperate in the state’s investigation of the company’s advertising and pricing of its Roundup Ready 2 soybeans.
- Earlier this year, seven U.S. state attorney generals launched an investigation into whether the company has abused its market power to lock out competitors and illegally jack up its prices.
- The U.S. Department of Justice is continuing its own probe of Monsanto and other seed companies’ possible violation of anti-trust laws, in the context of unprecedented corporate consolidation in the seed and pesticide industry.
- U.S. federal courts have recently blocked the planting of GE sugar beets and GE alfalfa, ruling that USDA’s prior approvals were illegal.
- At the UN Biodiversity Convention in Nagoya, Japan, people’s movements are demanding an end to Monsanto and other corporations’ “gene patent grab.”
Meanwhile, the company’s flagship pesticide Roundup has been linked with birth defects, human cell death, and loss of soil fertility and reduced plant productivity.
For over a decade, Monsanto has been promising its GE-pesticide package as the solution to many of the world’s woes—while PANNA, along with scientists, farmers and partners around the world have been saying “no, it’s not.” Now the short-sightedness, corporate greed, and ecological illiteracy behind their broken promises are coming back to bite them. I’d savor this moment except that the environmental wreckage and loss of farmers’ livelihoods in the U.S. and around the world is too high a price to pay for the bitter satisfaction of being proven right.