Easy, Toxic, and Sterile: Monsanto's Legacy

A few days ago, NPR's program "All Things Considered" did a piece on Monsanto's monopolization of the seed market with their patented Roundup Ready technology -- a genetic modification that has made its way into about 9 out of 10 soybean, cotton and corn seeds. While farmers apparently love the ease and simplicity of Roundup Ready seeds (a spray of the insecticide of the same name kills everything except the plant you want to harvest), they very much dislike the intellectual property rights that Monsanto blankets their seeds with. With every Round-up Ready seed a farmer uses, he or she is contractually bound to not save any seeds for replanting. This is a win-win situation for Monsanto, of course, but much less so for the farmer. In fact, the farmer interviewed in the program admitted that once the Roundup Ready patent expires in 2014, he will do his best to plant his own seeds, simply for the ability to "save back" his own seed (or, plant the seed from what they've harvested). In case you expected any less, Monsanto is indeed ready for Round-up Ready's doomsday. They already have Round-up Ready 2 in the works -- a trait similar to its predecessor, but designed to increase yield as well.

While Monsanto is quite forthcoming in taking over the seed market -- VP Jim Tobin hopes "to have everyone in the soybean business, seed business using the trait" -- the company is less willing to allow research of the seeds to determine their safety for human consumption. Nevertheless, studies are making their way into the public eye, particularly one by French researchers who studied three GMO products: Roundup Ready corn and two strains of Bt corn. Here are the findings, quoted from Grist:
[I]n the three GM maize varieties that formed the basis of this investigation, new side effects linked to the consumption of these cereals were revealed, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others [4]. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal [i.e., kidney] toxicity.
Moreover, an Austrian study found that Monsanto corn causes lab mice to have "fewer and weaker babies," and change.org reports that another recent study points to other dangerous health effects as well:
...a new study -- which had to resort to analyzing data sets produced by studies conducted by Monsanto and another biotech firm, Covance Laboratories, and submitted to European governments because researchers couldn't get seeds -- has found that Monsanto corn impairs rats' kidneys and livers. The "data strongly suggests" that after just 90 days of eating GM corn, rats experienced kidney toxicity and showed effects to their hearts, adrenal glands, spleen and blood cells.
Until Monsanto releases, or is forced to relinquish, its stranglehold on the seed market, it appears difficult to avoid consuming Monsanto seeds. In the meantime, you can sign this petition on change.org to "Get Organ-Damaging Monsanto Corn off the Market."

Image: www.grist.org
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1 comment:

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