US Government Is On Your Side ... If You Are Monsanto
A report by Food & Water Watch documents the efforts of US ambassadors acting as sales reps for the biotech industry. They "twist the arms of countries" pushing sales of GMO seeds, it says, at US taxpayer expense.
Besides Monsanto, the biggest biotech companies are DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow Chemical.
The group obtained more than 900 State Department diplomatic cables spanning 100 countries through WikiLeaks, which reveal pro-biotechnology public relations campaigns and outright attempts to influence government policies and laws that ignore "commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules - including opposing genetically engineered food labeling laws."
The report says, "The U.S. State Department has launched a concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology, often over the opposition of the public and governments, to the near exclusion of other more sustainable, more appropriate agricultural policy alternatives."
"It really gets down to twisting the arms of countries and working to undermine local democratic movements that may be opposed to biotech crops, and pressuring foreign governments to also reduce the oversight of biotech crops," Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, told Reuters.
The State Department also works with the US Trade Representative promoting these crops and forcing nations to accept unwanted imports of US companies' GMO food and seed.
"An overwhelming number of farmers in the developing world reject biotech crops as a path to sustainable agricultural development or food sovereignty," says Ben Burkett, president of the National Family Farm Coalition, a US member of the international peasant farmer organization, La Via Campesina.
"The biotech agriculture model using costly seeds and agrichemicals forces farmers onto a debt treadmill that is neither economically nor environmentally viable."
"This report provides yet another distressing example of how Monsanto and its ilk have a stranglehold over the global food supply and how it does everything it can - including influence U.S. diplomacy - to silence people who only want to make informed choices about the food they feed their families," says Pamm Larry, a leader of the US grassroots movement to label GMO foods.
Lobbying Pays Off In US Government
A Maplight analysis shows that biotech companies contributed $1,260,384 for Senate campaign contributions from 2009-2013. Monsanto spends about $6 million a year on lobbying - its current target is the Farm Bill.
Under Tom Vilsack's leadership as Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), he has brought more attention to the National Organic Program - professional, knowledgeable management, more staffing, more resources - but that's nothing compared to his support for GMOs.
"He's s presided over a rapid roll out of new GMO crops and foods. Change he implemented included a series of agency adjustments designed to speed up the approval process for GMOs. Under Vilsack's watch, the agency has never denied the approval of one GMO crop," says Will Fantle of Cornucopia Institute.
For the USDA, speeding up the approval process means that Monsanto and other biotech companies should conduct their own environmental impact assessments to determine whether GMO plants are problematic.
"And Vilsack's team has pushed hard for the organic community to swallow a policy of co-existence, the strange view that pollen and DNA recognize fence rows, that rain, winds, birds, insects and other natural forces will refrain from carrying GMO contaminants to non-GMO plants and crops," he says.
More research shows that Monsanto's GMO crops are not doing what they are designed to do - prevent pests from eating crops without the use of lots of insecticides.
The latest research is from Illinois where pest problems on GMO corn are worse than ever. Rootworms are growing ever more resistant to pesticides, according to a report by Michael Gray, professor of crop sciences at University of Illinois.
Rootworm larvae feed on the roots of corn plants, making it hard for the plant to grow.
Oregon Bans GMO Canola
This month, Oregon passed legislation that bans commercial planting of canola - which is 90% GMO - in the 3 million acre Willamette Valley Protected District, one of the world's top vegetable seed producing regions.
Oregon's Department of Agriculture approved the planting but they were sued by the Center for Food Safety. Canola readily cross-pollinates with brassica specialty seed crops like broccoli, kale and cabbage; spreads plant diseases and pests to those crops and can contaminate organic seeds, rendering them unsalable.
Protests in Chile
Also this month, there were protests in 10 cities in Chile against the "Monsanto Law," currently moving through parliament. It would allow corporations like Monsanto to patent seeds, putting basic food sources in the hands of a few multi-nationals.
It would also prohibit people from saving seeds, as in the US where farmer's have been taken to court and slapped with huge fines.
Stay Out of Europe
Meanwhile, Monsanto officials are giving up on most of Europe for now because of strong opposition to GMO crops there.
They've decided to pursue only those countries where there is broad support, company spokesman Thomas Helscher told Reuters.
"We're going to sell the GM seeds only where they enjoy broad farmer support, broad political support and a functioning regulatory system," says Helscher. In Europe, that leaves Spain and Portugal, he says.
Monsanto's latest target countries are Ukraine, Eastern Europe and South America.
Read the report, Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry's Global Agenda: