Spend any time on Facebook and you’ll see frequent posts about the horrors of Monsanto and the scourge they’re unleashing upon the world. *yawn* I don’t join in the bitching and in fact, I find it quite tedious, even annoying. A lot of it is simply spreading rumors and crazy rants.
Why don’t I care? For the same reason I don’t make attacking food processors my focus. Your energy is far better expended on doing what you can and what you can do is buy organic food if that’s what you’d prefer and eat whole foods instead of processed foods as much as possible. There you go. Monsanto does not have to be much of an issue in your life. If you have the time and energy to spare to fight a multi-national conglomerate and to be all concerned about everybody else, go for it if you want.
Other reasons I do not stress over Monsanto. First of all, it’s futile. Here’s what people never put together in their heads. Genetically-modified seeds have been the most rapidly-adopted and widely-applied technology in the history of agriculture, worldwide, because FARMERS BUY IT. Farmers buy Monsanto’s products because they want them. Nobody’s “forcing” them. There’s no monopoly they can’t escape. They’re not victims. Farmers make money by selling their crops so the more they can grow, the more money they can make. GMO yields always beat non-GMO. How do I know this stuff? I’m a former commodities broker, specializing in grains. I created a website called GrainAnalyst.com. It’s still online; I sold it a few years ago. When I was a broker, most of my clients were farmers. I learned a lot about the ag business. I went to all the big conferences; I read the big publications.
The National Corn Growers Association has been sponsoring a yield contest for the past 50 years. Winners are up to the high 200s of bushels of corn per acre. The top winners are now into the 300s and are getting close to 400 bushels of corn per acre. The highest yields have actually been achieved by seeds from DuPont, a Monsanto competitor, but I never see any Facebook postings decrying the tyranny of DuPont.
Before the 1980s, corn farmers could expect less than 100 bushels per acre. With corn prices now routinely around $6/bushel and even reaching into $7, if you could double or even triple your yield, do you think you’d ever go back? No, you wouldn’t.
What IS a GMO food, really? I laugh at those ridiculous photos you always see of a hypodermic needle and an ear of corn. GMO seeds will grow a plant that is resistant to various disease threats and insecticides. The plant could be sprayed with insecticide and the bugs will be killed but the plant will not. Seeds are also being engineered to grow with less water and in shorter growing cycles.
GMOs have been developed for the big commodity crops that are used as animal feed and have industrial applications. If you buy something like organic plums, it just means they didn’t use certain chemicals.
A few things to know about GMOs. Research is being conducted and GMO products are being marketed all over the world. A lot of the research is coming out of Europe, especially Germany and Switzerland, and east Asia where there are regions with less arable land. DuPont, Syngenta, and Bayer Crop Science probably laugh their butts off that they stay under the radar while everybody picks on Monsanto.
GMO seeds are approved by the FDA. There was a collective hissy fit thrown over a clause added to the recent Agricultural Appropriations bill signed by the President. Remember there is no line-item veto, got that? The clause did not have an official name. “Monsanto Protection Act” was a media invention. A clause intended to limit legal action against Monsanto was also intended to shield the FDA. And it would only be in effect for six months and would apply only if somebody filed a lawsuit against Monsanto. File all the lawsuits you want against DuPont but apparently everybody is distracted by Monsanto and that scary needle they see in all the Facebook memes.
America was built on an agrarian economy and we preserve that legacy today. Farm subsidies are intended to help farmers manage the cash flow challenges of ag business. ANYBODY who grows ANYTHING can apply at their area’s Farm Service Agency office. Everybody from the organic blueberry grower to the beekeeper to the farmer with 4000 acres can qualify for a subsidy. No, small organic farmers are not excluded and Monsanto plays no role in determining who qualifies.
Monsanto does not grow anything. Monsanto is not monopolizing America’s farms. “Corporate farms” taking over is a myth. Both the EPA and the USDA closely monitor America’s farmland. This is essential to manage food prices which are determined by supply and demand. Satellites are now used to monitor farmland acreage. About 95% of America’s farms are still owned by the families who have owned them for generations and by farmer-owned cooperatives.
GMO seeds are regulated similar to chemicals. Purchasing them requires complying with regulations for how GMO and non-GMO acreage must be separated by enough land to prevent cross-pollination. A farmer who does not comply with these regulations is breaking the law with possible penalties as high as losing his land. Farmers who have been charged with violations have been treated in the media like innocent victims of Monsanto. If a farmer mishandled chemicals, perhaps by dumping them into the local water supply, wouldn’t you be outraged?
GMO food will not be going anywhere. Farmers will never go back to lower yields and lower income. Corn will remain America’s cash crop as it has been for centuries now. If you don’t approve of GMOs, buy organic food. It WILL cost more because growing it is more labor-intensive and more costly and the yield is lower. If you don’t want to ingest corn syrup with everything you eat, eat whole foods and not processed.
These are facts that are not going to be changing no matter how many petitions you sign or how often you post rumors to your Facebook wall. And no, Monsanto never forced Whole Foods to do anything but rumors that had to be quelled with a costly PR campaign ensured that Whole Paycheck’s prices will stay high. Gee, thanks for spreading that Facebook meme.