The World According to Monsanto

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In a recent new Web feature, The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows how agribusiness giant Monsanto fails to deliver on its claims that its genetically engineered Roundup Ready seed and herbicide system will lead to an agricultural future that minimizes environmental pollution, addresses global warming, and feeds the world.

In fact, UCS finds quite the opposite. The U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world lists eight ways Monsanto undermines the sustainability of our nation’s agriculture system.

“Monsanto talks about ‘producing more, conserving more, improving lives,’ but its products are largely not living up to those aspirations,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with UCS’s Food and Environment Program in a press release. “In reality, the company is producing more engineered seeds and herbicide and improving its bottom line, but at the expense of conservation and long-term sustainability.”

Monsanto is known for its development of hazardous chemicals such as Agent Orange, PCBs (now banned) and the bovine growth hormone (rBGH), Monsanto is also known for its monopoly on genetically modified seeds of food crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans. Despite the uncertainty of the long-term health effects of consuming and growing GM foods, the company’s GM seeds are now widely used in much of North and South America.

For those of us who follow the doings of Monsanto, the UCS news comes as no surprise. Watchdog organizations such as Moveon.org, Slow Food, the Environmental Working Group, Spilling the Beans, Food and Water Watch and the Institute for Responsible Technology — not to mention organic farmers who haven’t drunk Monsanto’s Kool-Aid — have been warning us for years about the dangers of Monsanto’s products.

So with all its products’ adverse effects and Monsanto’s fearful, ruthless business practices, why is it then, in some circles, Monsanto is still thought to lead in sustainable agriculture? Why is that Monsanto is the dominant player in commercial genetically engineered crops? Why is it that Monsanto is the biggest seed company in the world? And most importantly — why is it that the U.S. government continues to approve Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops despite the known — and unknown — risks? In large part, it’s by spending tens of millions of dollars annually to influence the public and policymakers.

Monsanto spent $8 million lobbying members of Congress and federal officials in 2010, according to UCS, and more than $400,000 more in political contributions in that year’s election cycle. At the same time, Monsanto spent $120 million in advertising.

The U.S. government has drunk Monsanto’s Kool-Aid.

Monsanto often gets its way with government because of its revolving door with federal regulators. Traditionally, key figures at the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have held important positions at Monsanto or are destined to. Right now, there is a large Internet petition urging Obama “to cease FDA ties to Monsanto” and remove Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, from his post. Taylor had previously worked for Monsanto. Groups fear that Taylor doesn’t have the best interest of family farms or American consumers at heart.

French journalist and director Marie-Monique Robin documents Monsanto’s whole story in “The World According to Monsanto.” After watching the film, you will be happy to know there’s still independent farming and gardening happening in the U.S.

To get you revved up for the film, here are four of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ list of eight ways it believes that Monsanto is undermining efforts to promote sustainability:

1. Fostering weed and insect resistance. Monsanto’s RoundupReady and Bt technologies lead to resistant weeds and insects that can make farming more difficult and reduce sustainability.

2. Increasing herbicide use. Roundup resistance has led farmers to use more herbicides, which threatens biodiversity, sustainability and human health.

3. Expanding monocultures. Monsanto’s focus on a few commodity crops contributes to reduced biodiversity and, as a consequence, to more pesticide use and fertilizer pollution.

4. Falling short on feeding the world. Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops have done little to increase crop yields. Regardless, the company stands in the way of proven, scientifically defensible solutions.

This article originally appeared on vaildaily.com. It is re-posted here with permission from the author.

Have you seen the film? What did you think?