Weekend thoughts on Obama, Monsanto & food

The corporate money-vacuuming beast known as Monsanto has scored a major under-the-radar victory in the last few months, and few but organic farmers have noticed. From Food Democracy Now (my emphasis):

[In January] the Obama administration has unbelievably chosen to approve three biotech crops, Roundup Ready genetically modified (GMO) alfalfa, Roundup Ready genetically modified (GMO) sugar beets and a new industrial biotech corn for ethanol production. Obama’s recent approval of them will allow them to be planted as early as this spring, despite widespread acknowledgement that these crops are certain to contaminate both conventional and organic farmers non-GMO crops. … [T]he USDA’s approval of the new industrial biotech corn for ethanol production occurred despite massive outcry from major food companies who know that it will contaminate and possibly ruin the food they sell to you everyday.

These decisions are a devastating blow to our democracy and the basic rights of farmers to choose how they want to grow food on their land and the rights of consumers who increasingly choose organic and sustainably grown food for its positive health and environmental impacts.

This spells the end of organic farming in the United States. Listen to David Murphy of Food Democracy Now in an interview with Sam Seder of Majority Report:

Here are some links for the story on corn, alfalfa, and beets. There’s also plenty more here on why this is all so bad, including this tidbit:

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa – Jan. 27th, 2011 – Over the objections of hundreds of thousands of American citizens, the White House approved this unnecessary crop – despite the fact that 93% of alfalfa hay grown in the U.S. does not use herbicides and that genetic contamination with conventional, non-GMO and organic alfalfa threatens the livelihoods of tens of thousands of family farmers and the food choices of more than 50 million organic consumers.

It’s appalling. As Mr. Murphy states, Monsanto:

■ Won over Tom Vilsack because of pressure from the White House.

■ Can go into the fields of organic farmers, collect samples, and sue farmers if the fields contain any of Monsanto’s patented products.

(By the way, did you notice how tired he sounds? It’s exhausting work, what he does.)

The beast called Monsanto now has a license to print money, issued by a man (Obama) who represents a corn, wheat, and alfalfa state (Illinois). In that sense, Obama is the “President from Monsanto” in the same way that Joe Biden was the “Senator from MBNA.” (For more on Obama and corn, read the introductory story in this 2006 profile. It’s an eye-opener; and remember, Ken Silverstein wrote it in 2006.)

I’ll say this about food and my fellow countrymen. Americans are not less “moral” about their eating than they were before. We always ate like pigs in the post-war years. Food was cheap and plentiful, and we eagerly ate our fill.

In addition, since most of us came from ethnic-beer backgrounds (German, English, Dutch, Swedish) as opposed to ethnic-wine backgrounds (French, Italian), we tended toward meat-and-potatoes “big” in any case. The combination always produced large Americans. Remember, the all-you-can-eat “smorgasbord” came to the U.S. in 1939. That’s a lot of potatoes ago.

So no, our eating hasn’t changed, but the food sure has. To see the difference — overweight then vs. overweight now — try this experiment. Watch the Lawrence Welk show on PBS (if you can stand it) and notice what “uncomfortably large” looked like for the over-fifty crowd in 1960. Now watch the people in the background of Antiques Roadshow — or go to the airport — and see what ït looks like today. Literally the difference between soccerballs and beachballs.

It’s not the eating, it’s the food; and the food is killing us. Now that Monsanto has been granted a White House-enabled monopoly on grain-crops — including the ability to force out of business anyone growing from uncopyrighted grains — the future looks even deadlier than the past. Good for corporate profit (or better, CEO compensation); but bad for the whole rest of the world.

So thank you, Mr. President-from-Monsanto. (And nice touch with Michelle’s little victory garden. Smells like … misdirection.)


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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