Growing environmental threats of climate change on top of ever-intensifying economic stresses are pushing many farmers around the world to their edge. At the same time, a growing number of these farmers and scientists are realizing that 1) continued reliance on the energy, water and chemical-intensive industrial model of agriculture is simply no longer an option and 2) our most robust response to today’s converging stresses lies in cultivating resilience and food democracy.
Last Friday, USDA welcomed in the new year by presenting Dow AgroSciences with a bountiful gift: a virtual green light for the pesticide company’s new genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean seeds. These crops are designed specifically to be used with Dow’s infamous herbicide, 2,4-D.
Dow has been waiting two years for the go-ahead from USDA to start marketing its 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy. And it now appears the corporation will get what it wants, despite strong opposition from farmers, healthcare professionals and concerned communities across the country.
Last month, a few news outlets carried a story about Filipino farmers trampling a test plot of genetically engineered (GE) “Golden Rice.” The news triggered a swift avalanche of more stories and opinion pieces, with ample space devoted to Golden Rice proponents’ harsh accusation that skeptics and critics are holding back a desperately needed, promising technology and, in so doing, are causing children’s deaths around the world.
We’ve seen all this before: both the promises that ultimately fail to deliver, and the attempts to silence those asking important questions. Why, after 30 years of research and millions of dollars poured into development of this supposed miracle seed, are we still talking about Golden Rice?
Early in July, Monsanto rolled out the red carpet for farm media in North Dakota, promoting its new, yet highly controversial, herbicide-resistant genetically engineered (GE) seeds. Touted at an industry field day in Cass County, these new soybean seeds are designed to be used with the volatile herbicide, dicamba — a close cousin of 2,4-D.
Dicamba-resistant soy is still awaiting USDA approval, as are 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy. And after receiving hundreds of thousands of comments opposing the approval of these crops, the agency recently extended its decision-making timeline. Despite the outcry, however, Monsanto has plowed full speed ahead, planting and spraying these crops in large, field-sized “Ground-Breaker” demonstration plots in North and South Dakota and in research plots in undisclosed locations.
Last month, the 2013 World Food Prize was bestowed on Monsanto and Syngenta in recognition of their development of genetically engineered seed technologies. The news shocked the sustainable food and farming community — driving farmers, people’s movement leaders, reknowned scientists and development experts the world over to express their outrage and dismay.
Many excellent responses blasting the decision have been published (here, here and here). Perhaps the most powerful rebuke came from 81 laureates of the Right Livelihood Award and members of the prestigious World Food Council, who shredded the Prize organizers’ argument that GE seeds are feeding the world.
The surprise appearance of Monsanto’s unapproved GE wheat in an Oregon field last month dominated the “bad GE news” cycle of the day, stoking worries among farmers, millers, bakers and eaters about the extent of the contamination.
Public outcry and demands to end open-air field testing of experimental GE crops are growing louder. And the discovery of rogue GE wheat in Oregon has driven key trading partners — like Japan and Korea — to suspend some wheat imports. All this exploded just days after millions of people around the world marched against Monsanto, denouncing its control, corruption and contamination of our food systems.
Two million people, over 400 cities, more than 50 countries. These numbers from organizers of the May 25th global “March against Monsanto” tell the story of a tide that is turning fast and hard against one of the greatest corporate villains of our time. From Tokyo to Turku, from Tallahassee to Tasmania, people spanning six continents came out to declare “Enough!”
The global response witnessed this past weekend is a powerful rebuke not only to Monsanto, but also to the U.S. State Department which has aggressively pushed a self-described “active biotech agenda” in over 100 countries. And the lengths to which the State Department has gone to promote Monsanto’s interests have been charted in a new Food & Water Watch exposé.
When arch-competitors Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences make a GE seed deal and both come out looking very smug, you have to wonder. When, five days later, Monsanto and Bayer CropScience announce a deal to cross-license their competing GE seed technologies with each other, you should probably start to worry.
What are all these deals about and why should you care? Because these agreements are the latest, most visible way that the Big 6 pesticide/biotech companies are speeding up the consolidation —and their control — of the world’s seed markets.
The U.S. movement to label genetically engineered (GE) foods is gaining ground. More states introduced GE labeling bills this year than ever before. And word from D.C. is that a federal labeling bill will be announced in the next week or so. Whether or not these initiatives pass in 2013, this much seems clear: we will win labeling of GE foods. It’s just a matter of time.
Naturally, the pesticide and biotech industry players have come out swinging with a host of dire but false predictions that food prices will rise and the sky will fall if people are allowed to know what’s in our food. The latest evidence of desperation comes from a long-time GE apologist, who now claims that labeling GE foods in the U.S. will exacerbate world hunger and poverty. Seriously?
Twitter-land was abuzz last week with news that a formerly ardent critic of genetic engineering (GE) has recanted his position