Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sustainable food vs. Monsanto

So, you know how antibiotic overuse leads to superbugs? Unsurprisingly enough, overuse of weed killer, such as Roundup, leads to weed resistance. Which, in turn, means more and more toxic weed killers -- in staggering quantities -- drenching our food.

Bob Cesca has a scary article here about the evil that is Monsanto. Anyone and everyone who's interested in sustainability should consider the most basic green business practice of all: environmentally sustainable farming.

Michael Pollan's and Eric Schlosser's smart, passionate discussions of healthy food from farm to plate helped create the movie Food, Inc., and people are trying more and more to be aware of how the food we eat was grown.

And every time, we run up against Monsanto. Cesca writes:

When we consider the rogue's gallery of devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporations, we generally come up with outfits like Microsoft, Bechtel, AIG, Halliburton, Goldman-Sachs, Exxon-Mobil and the United States Senate. Yet somehow, Monsanto, arguably the most devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporation in the world has been able to more or less skulk between the raindrops -- only a household name in households where documentaries like Food Inc. are regarded as light Friday evening entertainment. My house, for example. But for the most part, if you were to ask an average American for their list of sinister corporations, Monsanto probably wouldn't make the cut.

It should.


On January 15, the Obama Justice Department launched an anti-trust investigation against the corporate behemoth over its next generation of genetically modified "Roundup Ready" soybean seeds. The very next day, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, which challenges the safety of genetically modified agricultural products -- the centerpiece of the Monsanto empire. If the investigation fails, farmers will have to switch over to the next generation of Roundup Ready seeds in 2014. And the cycle of corporate abuse and monopolization will continue.

Genetically modified seeds brings us a dystopian spectacle of precipitous loss of genetic diversity -- and weed resistance.

Scientists are trying to raise attention to the fact that global overuse of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide is leading to weed resistance. "Farmers are planting too many Roundup Ready crops," said Stephen Powles, an expert on weed resistance at the University of Western Australia. Mark VanGessel, a weed scientist at the University of Delaware spoke of the Roundup (glyphosate) pesticides saying, "My gut reaction is that we do need to limit the use of glyphosate-resistant crops."

In response to the issue that farmers are purchasing and applying a toxic chemical that is no longer working, Monsanto spokesperson Greg Elmore said people are overreacting. In other Roundup news, Denmark officially banned the pesticide this month, saying the toxic chemical is not breaking down in the soil and, as a result, is polluting their water at a level that is 5 times what is considered safe for the environment and human health.

Factory farming is obviously cruel and immoral, extremely unhealthy and dangerous for animals, soil health, and workers -- and for us. By the time factory farmed food ends up on our plates, no amount of antibiotics or washing in ammonia can protect us from superbugs like MRSA or increasingly toxic chemicals soaking our food as resistance increases.

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