Sunday, 04 August 2013 22:05
You think I'm mad. Perhaps I am. But listen, Henry Frankenstein. While you were digging in your graves, piecing together dead tissues, I, my dear pupil, went for my material to the source of life. I grew my creatures, like cultures, grew them as nature does, from seed!
— Doctor Septimus Pretorius, from The Bride of Frankenstein
Ah, the Frankensteins ... it seems that whatever they create turns out badly. Whether it be Victor's creature in the book, or Henry's in the film, or his later attempt at a bride. Even his son Wolf has disastrous results with his experiments.
And even though the creature has no name, so powerful was the evil and so great the wanton destruction caused by the House of Frankenstein that we have come to use the name for the monster itself.
It seems the Frankensteins had not one, but two fatal flaws: hubris, the usurping of god-like power, and unaccountability, the failure to take responsibility for their creation after endowing it with life.
Is there such a house at work in the world today? I'm afraid there is ... the house of Monsanto.
In 1905, John Francisco Queeny, a purchaser for a wholesale drug house, formed the Monsanto Chemical Works in St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to World War I, the United States sourced almost all of their chemicals from Europe. The oncoming war meant that we would soon need our own chemical manufacturers. Monsanto leapt into the market relying solely on its own limited knowledge and technical ability. "There was no choice other than to improvise, to invent, and to find new ways of doing all the old things," Queeny's son Edgar remarked, when asked how the company operated without any access to the European technical methodology. The company made clever acquisitions that led to military contracts and its profitable role in all of the wars of the twentieth century. Today, it is responsible for the introduction of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, sometimes called "Frankenfoods," into our food supply.
More than half of consumers say they "won't eat" GMOs. Why don't people trust GMOs when so many scientists say that GMOs are safe? Perhaps it is the companies that make them, like Monsanto, that consumers don't trust. The consumer group GMO Awareness compiled a history of the products they have brought us over the years. Let's review a list of the monsters produced by the house of Monsanto.
Monsanto's first product was a sweetener for the Coca-Cola Company. Saccharin is commonly manufactured by combining anthranilic acid (used among other things as a corrosive agent for metal) with nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, and ammonia.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are used in coolant fluids for electrical transformers, capacitors, and electric motors beginning in the 1920s. It took until 1979 for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban PCBs, even though internal company memos existed that proved that Monsanto had known about the dangers of PCBs thirty years earlier. Those dangers include liver disease, neurological disorders, and cancer. Nearly 30 years after PCBs have been banned from the US, they are still showing up in the blood of pregnant women.
In 1941, Monsanto began creating plastics, notably polystyrene, or styrofoam, widely used in food packaging. It is ranked 5th in the EPA's listing of chemicals that generate the most hazardous waste.
The Atom Bomb and Other Nuclear Weapons
Between 1943 to 1945, Monsanto coordinated key production efforts of the Manhattan Project —including plutonium purification and production and techniques to refine chemicals used as triggers for atomic weapons. It was this project that caused the deadliest industrial accident in American history, the Texas City disaster, a fire and explosion that killed at least 581 people, and which claimed a total of 8,485 victims.
In 1944, Monsanto became one of the first manufacturers of the insecticide DDT. Despite decades of Monsanto propaganda insisting that DDT was safe, the true effects of DDT's toxicity were at last confirmed through outside research and, in 1972, DDT was banned throughout the US.
In 1945, Monsanto began promoting the use of chemical pesticide with the manufacture of the herbicide 2,4,5-T (one of the precursors to Agent Orange), containing dioxin. Dioxins are a group of chemically related compounds that since have become known as the "Dirty Dozen" — persistent environmental pollutants that accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals. In the decades since it was first developed, Monsanto has been accused of covering up or failing to report dioxin contamination in a wide range of its products.
During the early 1960s, Monsanto was one of the two primary manufacturers of Agent Orange, an herbicide/defoliant used for chemical warfare during the Vietnam War. Vietnam estimates that Agent Orange killed or maimed over 400,000 people, that 500,000 children were born with birth defects, and up to one million people were disabled or suffered from health problems — with similar effects on the health of over three million American troops and their offspring. Internal Monsanto memos show that Monsanto knew of the problems of dioxin contamination of Agent Orange when it sold it to the US government for use in Vietnam. Despite the widespread health impact, Monsanto and Dow were allowed to appeal for and receive financial protection from the US government against veterans seeking compensation for their exposure to Agent Orange.
In 1955, Monsanto began manufacturing petroleum-based fertilizer after purchasing a major oil refinery. Petroleum-based fertilizers can kill beneficial soil microorganisms, sterilizing the soil and creating a dependence, like an addiction, to the synthetic replacements. Not the best addiction to have, considering the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil...
During the clinical trials conducted on seven infant monkeys as part of aspartame's application for FDA approval, one monkey died and five other monkeys had grand mal seizures — yet somehow aspartame was approved by the FDA in 1974. In 1985, Monsanto began marketing the product as NutraSweet. Twenty years later, the US Department of Health and Human Services released a report listing 94 health issues caused by aspartame.
Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)
This genetically modified hormone was developed by Monsanto to be injected into dairy cows to produce more milk. Cows subjected to rBGH suffer excruciating pain due to swollen udders and mastitis, and the pus from the resulting infection enters the milk supply, requiring the use of additional antibiotics. rBGH milk has been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer in humans.
During the early 1970s, Monsanto brought us RoundUp (glyphosate). Because of its ability to eradicate weeds literally overnight, RoundUp was quickly adopted by farmers. Its use increased even more when Monsanto introduced "RoundUp Ready" (glyphosate-resistant) crops, enabling farmers to saturate the entire field with weedkiller without killing the crops. While glyphosate has been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide and is widely used, concerns about its effects on humans and the environment persist. It has been linked to the proliferation of superweeds. Studies in rats have shown consistently negative health impacts ranging from tumors, altered organ function, and infertility to cancer and premature death.
In the late 1990s, Monsanto developed the technology to produce sterile grains unable to germinate. These "Terminator Seeds" would force farmers to buy new seeds from Monsanto year after year, rather than save and reuse the seeds from their harvest as they'd done for centuries. Fortunately, this technology never came to market. Instead, Monsanto requires farmers to sign a contract agreeing that they will not save or sell seeds from year to year, which forces them to buy new seeds and preempts the need for a "terminator gene." Lucky for us... since the terminator seeds were capable of cross-pollination and could have contaminated local non-sterile crops.
Genetically Modified Crops/GMOs
In the early 1990s, Monsanto began gene-splicing corn, cotton, soy, and canola with DNA from a foreign source to achieve one of two traits: an internally generated pesticide, or an internal resistance to Monsanto's weed killer RoundUp. Despite decades of promises that genetically engineered crops would feed the world with more nutrients, drought resistance, or yield, the majority of Monsanto's profits are from seeds that are engineered to tolerate Monsanto's RoundUp — an ever-rising, dual-income stream as weeds continue to evolve resistance to RoundUp.
To be fair, there is consensus among scientific and medical institutions that GMOs are safe to ingest. For example, The Royal Society of Medicine in England concluded that "Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health) despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA." And the European Commission says, "the main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects ... 25 years of research, and ... 500 independent research groups, is that ... GMOs are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional breeding technologies." These findings both come from Europe, which is extremely anti-GMO.
There still may be some issues with the research. Because the industry holds patents on the seed, independent researchers whose findings are "unflattering" to the industry, and to Monsanto in particular, are denied access and the right to publish their findings. Cornell University's Elson Shields, the spokesperson for a group of scientists who oppose this practice stated, "as a result of restrictive access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology."
The House of Monsanto's rise has peaked with the production of genetically modified crops. Like Dr. Pretorius, who collaborated with Frankenstein on the creation of his "bride," Monsanto "grew" these creations, by introducing DNA from other species, even animal species, to the DNA of food plants. The resultant genetically modified organisms were new species, created by humans, with no sure way to know how they will fit in once loosed on an elaborate natural ecosystem, or how they will interact with other manmade compounds.
So the villagers have lit their torches and are storming the houses of Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta AG, BASF, and Bayer, right?
Wrong. When a new study raising concerns about the negative health or environmental impacts of GMOs emerges, Monsanto attacks the study and its scientists by flooding the media with counter claims from "independent" organizations, scientists, industry associations, blogs, sponsored social media, and articles by "private" public relations firms — frequently founded, funded, and maintained by Monsanto.
Many former Monsanto VPs and legal counsel are now holding positions with the FDA. And don't forget Clarence Thomas, former Monsanto attorney who is now a Supreme Court Justice, ruling in favor of Monsanto in every case brought before him. And your food producers are content to sell you GMO food without your knowledge.
Until there is legislation to limit the god-like power of businesses like the House of Monsanto and force them to be responsible for their actions, we villagers must act to protect ourselves. The issue is simple. People want to know what is in their food. Because most businesses will not willingly label their products, GreenStar has joined with the Non-GMO Project.
The Project is North America's first and only independent standard of best practices for avoiding GMOs during the production of seed, food, supplements, personal care products, and animal feed.
Designed with a concern for practical solutions to GMO contamination, the Non-GMO Project's core components are: a Third Party Product Verification Program, a "Non-GMO Project Verified" seal that offers transparency and consistency, and a collaborative space within which organizations at every level of the organic and natural food chain can work together to solve problems and meet challenges related to keeping GMOs out of their products.
The goal of the Project is to protect the long-term availability of non-GMO choices, and also protect a consumers' right to choose non-GMO by providing them with that choice.
In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is finally tortured by premonitions of the havoc his work might wreak, and so he destroys his unfinished mate for the creature fearing it might breed an entire race of monsters that could beleaguer humankind forever.
The makers of GM crops have no such trepidation, so we who do must take matters into our own hands.
For more information visit www.nongmoproject.org.
By Alexis Alexander,
In response to several requests, I am happy to announce that we're offering a new information session for member-owners and nonmember customers this summer, called Co-operative Enterprise 101. Membership Administrator Laura Buttenbaum, who developed a similar and well-received training for staff this past fall, will lead the session. Join us for one of two scheduled sessions on Thursday, July 9 or Monday, August 24. Classes will run from 7 to 9 pm in the Classrooms @ GreenStar. I...