The Paw Print
Perhaps the most perplexing subject surrounding modern day agriculture is the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMO), and how their use is affecting the future of food production and biodiversity.
In early 1982, scientists at Monsanto, a multinational agricultural and Biotechnology Corporation, successfully engineered the first plant cells. Five short years later Monsanto was running field tests of these genetically engineered crops with remarkable success.
What ensued was the creation of a plethora of genetically produced plant organisms with Monsanto at the helm of their distribution. Central in the creation of genetically modified plants is Monsanto’s production of terminator seeds that are resistant to pesticides. Specifically, the patented soy bean produced by Monsanto is “Round-Up ready,” signifying its ability to resist the herbicide and pesticide Round Up.
By the mid-nineties, Monsanto had quietly monopolized the agriculture and pesticide industry effectively buying out strategic seed breeding companies, allowing them to control a large portion of seed production not only in the U.S. but globally as well.
In 2009, disgust over Monsanto’s GMO program arose from family and independent farmers who were surprised to find that Monsanto was suing them over patent infringement. Monsanto’s patented soy bean and corn crops planted throughout the American mid-west in Monsanto test crop sites and corporate farms had managed to cross pollinate with other non-GMO crops. Local and family farmers had no idea that these patented crops made their way into their corn and soy bean fields, in fact it would be impossible to determine this without laboratory testing to verify their GMO origins.
In U.S. Supreme Court, Monsanto claimed property rights of their GMO seeds and plants, decreeing sole ownership of any plant or seed produced from their laboratories. Despite the protest from biologists and family farmers, who argued that cross pollination in corn and other environmental factors made it impossible for Monsanto to claim any ownership of any plant or seed they had produced for the simple fact that nature is uncontrollable; the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto, ordering any farmers caught with Monsanto GMO crops in their field to destroy them and pay Monsanto for patent infringement.
Those who control the production of food will control the world. Monsanto is doing just that, thanks to the Supreme Court decision Monsanto is able to privatize humanities most basic and essential right, food. How can Monsanto claim ownership of a seed, if not at the same time claim ownership of our natural environment?
The severity of the GMO can be seen on a global scale, in particular with Monsanto’s GMO corn seed. In the U.S. and Mexico Monsanto began to sell corn seed to farmers through the North American Free Trade Agreement. Because the corn seed was specially designed to only work with the application of the pesticide and herbicide Round Up, this forced Mexican and U.S. farmers to buy Monsanto pesticide. In Mexico, the corn seed was a complete disaster, because of cross pollination the GMO corn planted in Mexican fields infected native strands of corn killing a large portion of the native corn due to differences in genetic makeup. The situation in the U.S. is equally troubling; the farmers who planted GMO corn seed found that the only way to grow a successful crop was to homogenize their fields with only GMO corn, which drastically decreased the biodiversity in their fields that in turn increased the outbreak of plant diseases.
Using the advances of science to increase humanities knowledge of food and food production is in itself a natural and necessary step to the evolution and survival of humanity. However, the disgraceful act of patenting seeds, the very source of life itself is something that must be resisted. The sacred tradition of agriculture is being threatened by Monsanto, farmers should have the right to collect seed and create new seed without worrying about so called “property rights.” Despite capitalistic assumptions, food is not something we own, but rather it is something we share collectively as a society. If the farmer succeeds, the collective succeeds; if the farmer starves, we all starve.
Family farmers must resist this deadly encroachment by Monsanto. The century old wisdom of effective agriculture will not be successfully replaced by the discoveries of science alone, but rather a ubiquitous approach must be taken to bring science and agriculture together harmoniously.