Monsanto As Anathema
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Let us, after the fashion of Martin Luther, nail our 15 theses to the corporate gates of this firm.
On the cover:
A Few Good Men
Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan Jessep, screaming the iconic line from the movie, "You can't handle the truth!" The quote is currently #29 on the all-time best movie quotes list (AFI) Plot: Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is a military lawyer defending two U.S. Marines charged with killing a fellow Marine at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Although Kaffee is known for seeking plea bargains, a fellow lawyer, Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) has other suspicions. Director: Rob Reiner, Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin
Their first product was, prophetically, saccharin.
In biblical times--and terms--none were seen as quite so loathsome as those labeled as 'anathema', a thing accursed. It is posited here that despite its not having been precisely within the ken of the august writers of the Latin Vulgate those authors were sufficiently inspired as to have forseen the applicability of this term of loathing to the corporation in question.
And while it is of relatively modern vintage, the global firm (grip) of St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto, since its founding in 1901 by John F. Queeny ('Monsanto', his wife's maiden name, 'saccharine' its first product) has so evolved to a diversified agribusiness of such deep and wide penetration of pertinent marketplaces as to warrant its proposed acquisition via merger with the equally storied Bayer of Germany.
So, then, with this condemnatory context as proverbial door, let us, after the fashion of Martin Luther, nail our 15 theses to the corporate gates of this giant of nefarious doings.
Thesis One: Saccharine.
"An often derogative term for someone who is so sweet, it's (almost) annoying. Used for people who are overly-optimistic, unflinchingly-kind, and innocent to the point of disbelief that anything bad happens to the world." This colloquial repository seems to have had the website of Monsanto in mind given its penchant for such tone-deaf statements as the following:
"At Monsanto, we work to bring better seeds for farmers. We do this by having a world-class breeding program that aims to keep finding the best plants adapted to local conditions. And, sometimes, we use genetic modification to bring beneficial traits to the plant, such as the ability to tolerate drought better, resist herbicide applications or ward off pests." In a stunningly casual follow-on, seeming to damn the enormously controversial GMO debate with faint praise (in the form of mere mention), the company adds:
"In countries where genetic modification (GM) of plants isn’t adopted, Monsanto sells conventional seed to farmers. This seed is produced via breeding—we find two really good parents and breed them to produce offspring that has the best plant characteristics for that farmer’s area. For example, France is a country where we sell non-GM corn hybrids."
If this website's facilities possessed aural properties, one might expect a tepid recording of 'Vive la France...', exclamation advisedly excluded.
Searched though we have, nowhere is found so much as a link to augment their 'sometimes we use genetic modification...' to the Genetic Modification Organism controversy which has cause France and the rest of the EU to ban them. Ahem. One can almost hear the standard ironic refrain of 'nothing to see' so popular in police phraseology wherever much is to be seen.
Apparently an oversight has been committed, albeit deliberately, given this:
"We operate under a genuine value system—our pledge—that demonstrates integrity, respect, ethical behavior, perspective and honesty as a foundation for everything we do." 'Who We Are'
Finally, this lack of care in its own scrivening is perhaps symptomatic of a corporate culture which arrogates the very connotation of its incipient product, to wit: "Saccharin vs. saccharine", given that saccharin, with no 'e', refers to a white crystal powder used as a calorie-free sweetener. It is always a noun. Saccharine, meaning (1) sweet, (2) cloyingly sweet, or (3) excessively sentimental, is always an adjective. The words are pronounced alike, but that e is pivotal in writing.' One must wonder as to what other white powders may have been prevalent in the halls of its corporate governance given such blithe indifference.
Thesis Two: The Bare Facts About Bayer
The Bare Facts About Bayer, Proposed Acquirer of Monsanto by Merger; "This is a company that’s joined at the hip with the Nazi’s, during World War II. They produced a clouding agent for hemophiliacs, in the 1980s, called Factor VIII. This blood clotting agent was tainted with HIV and then, after the government told them they couldn’t sell it here, they shipped it all over the world, infecting people all over the world. That’s just part of the Bayer story. Right now, they’re facing lawsuits over products like Yaz, Xarelto, Essure, Cipro. In fact, the company, in 2014 annual report, listed 32 different liability lawsuits that the company’s now facing." [Mike Papantonio, Esq., Attorney/Co-Founder, 'Ring of Fire', Interviewed on Trofire.com, 9/16/16]
As for the proposed merger, Papantonio opined in that same interview concerning the combination with Monsanto:
"There are two huge issues with this Bayer Monsanto merger. The first is, that it’s going to raise food prices all across the United States and even beyond our boarders. Farmers have already experienced a 300% price increase in recent years, on everything from seeds to fertilizer, all of which are controlled by Monsanto, and ever forecaster is predicting that these prices are going to climb even higher because of this merger. We’re going to have this massive price hike, at a time when 14 million Americans have already been unable to provide food for their families, and then we’re going to have this ethical problem that’s plagued both of these corporations for decades.
Let’s start with Monsanto. This is a company that produced Agent Orange, which resulted in one of the largest human-induced health epidemics in modern history. They made dioxin, they created and distributed PCB’s across the planet, and now, pending litigation against them for Roundup is right there. Looking at their rap sheet would scare the heck out of anybody with a brain. They’re in the business … Actually, really, when you drill down to it, it looks more like a cancer business than anything. They’ve been hit for false advertising and bribing public officials."
These direct quotes from the transcript of the recent interview are taken from the well-respected iconoclastic radio program, 'Ring of Fire', founded by Robert Kennedy, Jr., Thom Hartmann, et.al.
Thesis Three: Agent Orange---James Bond It Ain't
While maintaining objectivity, it is disclosed that this intended agency of death most cruel prematurely ended the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings, including the father-in-law of this writer.
Here's what Monsanto itself has to say about its complicity at the 'Newsroom' part of its site:
"Ongoing Research and Services: The use of Agent Orange as a military herbicide in Vietnam continues to be an emotional subject for many people. Asian Affairs Specialist Michael Martin notes, “[a]t the time the herbicides were used, there was little consideration within the U.S. military about potential long-term environmental and health effects of the widespread use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.”
As a result, the governments that were involved most often take responsibility for resolving any consequences of the Vietnam War, including any relating to the use of Agent Orange. U.S. courts have determined that wartime contractors (such as the former Monsanto) who produced Agent Orange for the government are not responsible for damage claims associated with the chemistry."
Tellingly, the corporation's fig leaf for this 'emotional subject' smacks of the 'guns don't kill people' mantra of another disreputable denier of common sense culpability for those fallen. Walt Whitman speaks to us, still:
"4. Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad,
(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested,
Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)" ['The Wound Dresser'/'Drum-Taps']
Thesis Four: Dioxin
Integral to the production of Agent Orange, this polychlorinate chemical has found its way from U.S. industrial facilities of Monsanto in West Virginia to Vietnam, Korea, the jungles of Colombia, and, as with chemistry, into many food sources.
It is one of the deadliest man-man substances on Earth. Given that "More than 90% of human exposure is through food, mainly meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish..." it is notable that to the extent Monsanto's seedstock and/or crop protection products are to be found in these foodstuff chains, their dominant market share is inculpatory. "The seed industry is more concentrated today than it ever was before. The ten largest seed corporations dominate three quarters of the commercial seed market. The top three of these, Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, represent more than half (53 percent) of the market."
As of June 30, 2016 Monsanto's own executive, Ms. Sara Miller, Senior Communications Manager made the following public statement concerning its seed market share:
"Interestingly, there are many more than 1,000 separate seed companies that supply the many types of commercial seeds globally, and hundreds of seed companies that sell corn and soybean seed to American farmers. In fact, aggregate commercial sales by all seed companies account for about 40 percent of the total volume of seeds used globally. Of those commercial seed sales, two-thirds of the seed volume comes from private breeding programs and one-third comes from national or public institutions. The remaining non-commercial seed volume is seed saved and replanted by farmers. Monsanto participates in only a few crops, with the two largest being corn and soybeans. While Monsanto is one of the largest commercial seed companies, even in those crops the company probably accounts for less than one-third of global commercial volume. Therefore, if a farmer wants to plant seed from someone other than Monsanto, it’s pretty easy to do that." This statement was even accompanied by a friendly 'active mom' photograph, describing her five year tenure at Monsanto: " I’m a proud St. Louisan and young mom who is passionate about learning about agriculture and talking with people about all things food. In just the five years I’ve been with Monsanto, I have a much greater understanding of how my family’s food is grown and a huge respect for the farmers who make it all happen!" (As an aside, perhaps you, like this author, recall that caution by your grammar teacher about the tell-tale use of the exclamatory mark, that signifier of both amateurism and general insincerity).
The data concerning market share by country as of 2012-2014 are codified by a respected nonprofit entity; it is noteworthy that, as above, Monsanto consistently strives to diminish its market impact, a logically counterintuitive action given its competitive public company status and consequent fiduciary relationship to its shareholders.
Thesis Five: Lysol & Lies
"Lysol, a product made from Monsanto's Santophen, was contaminated with dioxin with Monsanto's knowledge. Lysol is recommended for cleaning babies' toys and for other cleaning activities involving human contact. The manufacturer of Lysol was not told about the dioxin by Monsanto for fear of losing his business."
Thesis Six: PCB
PCB, A Network Not Easily Confused with Public-Interested PBS: Closely connected chemically to the foregoing Dioxin, with its phonetic menace, PCBs have a decades long history of deceitful manipulation of both scientific study and public awareness of the lethality of these, now, ubiquitous substances; one excerpt from hundreds of examples should highlight Monsanto's corporate arrogance, well before it had the regulatory heft now enjoyed and exploited in America's federal government:
"A memo dated February 10, 1967 from Dr. Kelly to Monsanto Europe discussed the concern Monsanto had about the probability that the American public would learn about the PCB problem through the media as the European public had, and also discussed the company's concern about customer inquiries regarding toxicity:
'We are very worried about what is liable to happen in the states when the various technical and lay news media pick up the subject. This is especially critical at this time because air pollution is getting a tremendous amount of publicity in the United States.'"
Thesis Seven: The Monsanto-ization of Government
"While there are numerous points of overlap between Monsanto and the United States Government under the Obama administration, the three most important connections are that of Michael Taylor, Roger, Beachy, and Islam Siddiqui—all three of these Monsanto affiliates were appointed to high level positions within the government by the Obama administration."
While this quote may at first glance be seen as a biased opinion, it is noteworthy that the respected nonprofit Canadian research entity, Global Research, reprinted the source article in whole, calling it a 'carefully documented incisive article'.
That these appointments are not peculiar to one Administration nor confined to one pertinent regulatory agency supports the thesis that such lofty access and decision-making heft would have been envied by even the most powerful of mafioso in the heyday of organized crime in America. And, inasmuch as lobbying is effectively enshrined in American jurisprudential free speech protection, it may be safely concluded that, in the infamous words of a former American President, 'If the President does it, that means it's not illegal.'
Thesis Eight: Patented Seeds
The High-Handed Court of Monsanto's Patented Seeds: In an rigorous effort to enforce its patent rights for its various genetically modified seedstock, Monsanto has effectively intimidated many farmers whose crops may have, beyond their control and in Nature's, been 'contaminated' via wind-borne pollination.
If this sounds a bit like the relatively lawless wild West of the range wars and the infamous Regulators employed by cattle ranchers a la Billy the Kid, et.al., your hunch may be more right than wrong. "In an effort to enforce their legal patents on their genetically engineered genes, Monsanto regularly sends their seed police out in rural America to trespass on farmer’s fields and steal their plants to take them back to their labs for testing."
These alleged trespasses nothwithstanding, the same judiciary which is there to provide redress for so basic a property right against them serves an opposite end in the name of patent law:
"Since 1997, one year after the approval of Monsanto’s GMO Roundup Ready soybeans, the world’s leading chemical and biotech seed company admits to filing 150 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. During this time, Monsanto has investigated an average of more than 500 family farmers each year. Due to these aggressive lawsuits and investigations, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy."
Thesis Nine: Shareholder Beware
Even its own shareholders, be they hidden under layers of legal separation via 401 (k) plans or other such investment contract vehicles, are not immune to the selective observation of clear and long-standing outlawed reporting practices:
"Recently, the Security and Exchange Commission awarded $22.5 million to a former Monsanto executive who exposed the company’s questionable accounting practices involving its toxic herbicide, Roundup. This is the second-largest whistleblower award since the program was started in 2011."
Thesis Ten: Homicide/Suicide by Herbicide?
That same product unlawfully accounted for on Monsanto's public books brings far more than mere humiliation to its executives who may prove to be executioners by default on par with those infamous perpetrators of more overt 'crimes against humanity'.
"There is a reasonable correlation between the amount ingested and the likelihood of serious systemic sequelae or death. Advancing age is also associated with a less favourable prognosis."
Contrasted with the above-cited National Institutes of Health study is this sobering proposition: the EPA, largely via apparent Monsanto influence-peddling, has deemed this finding rather moot:
"EPA scientists used highly conservative and protective assumptions to evaluate human health and ecological risks for the new uses of 2,4-D in Enlist Duo. The assessments confirm that these uses meet the safety standards for pesticide registration and, as approved, will be protective of the public, agricultural workers, and non-target species, including endangered species."
Prior to this press release's release, this happened:
"On Friday, April 29, the EPA posted on its website a series of documents related to its long-awaited risk assessment for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and other weed-killing products sold around the world. The risk assessment started in 2009 and was supposed to conclude in 2015. But questions about whether or not glyphosate may cause cancer are dogging the agency’s review, and have slowed the process.
On Monday, after the contents of the documents started to generate questions from media, EPA yanked those documents from its website..."
EPA allowed as how this had been simple administrative error. A reasonable conclusion, beyond that of political pressure, is the classic child-like rationale that 'everyone's doing it', the traditional parental retort concerning 'the jumping off of roofs', notwithstanding.
Thesis Eleven: Et tu, Europa?
As follow on to the latter thesis, apparently the 'kids are alright', the citizenry of the Union notwithstanding.
"Despite the fact that an overwhelming number of Europeans support a ban on the use of glyphosate-based weed killers such as Roundup®, the EU parliament recently passed a “non-binding resolution”, giving Monsanto’s flagship product market approval for an additional seven years. Although it is less than Monsanto had asked for, a spokesperson is hopeful that the license will be extended come June. Ursula Lüttmer-Ouazane said, “We welcome that the European Parliament has always voted for the renewal of the authorization.” She adds that “Due to positive safety assessments…an extension for another fifteen years should technically not pose any problems” (emphasis added)."
As a journalist in awe of that profession's illustrious proud moments in a now seemingly remote era of self-regulation thereof I must allude simply to the late great Edward R. Murrow's seminal 'Harvest of Shame' expose.
The Paul Simon tune resonates...'where have you gone...our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.'
Thesis Twelve: W.H.O.'s Who?
Continuing their corporate culture of deep denial, even the globe's preeminent fact-finder is wrong, and it's suing California, so threatening a market as the state so large that it would be a top-five nation. Given that at least under American judicial precedent insofar as speech and other functions go corporations are people, isn't a psychological intervention in order?
"Monsanto is so certain that its product is safe that it has filed suit against the State of California in order to stop its Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) from listing it as a chemical known to cause cancer. The company is also asking the WHO to retract its report on the connection between Roundup® and cancer."
Thesis Thirteen: Fourth Estate Sale?
Having seemed to have largely coopted governing bodies at home and abroad, Monsanto, perhaps following the unrelated lead of Jeff Bezos' acquisition of 'The Washington Post' brand, has set its sights on key influencers, be they personalities or entities.
"'Exploring the Future of Food and Agriculture.' Here’s a description of the training which will take place July 24-27, 2016, in St. Louis:
It’s an age of abundance, one in which the ability of farmers to produce has never been greater. At the same time, the way that food is grown, marketed, sold and, unfortunately, wasted is filled with controversy – over labels, growing methods, GMOs, pesticide and herbicide use, antibiotics, global trade and government regulation.
Over four days, journalists will dive into a range of topics, taking them from the fields to the dinner table to a peek into the future of agriculture. Included will be field trips to an organic farm and to Monsanto MON -0.67%’s research facility. The all-expenses-paid fellowship covers airfare, ground transportation, hotel costs and most meals. NPF offers this professional development opportunity for journalists to enhance skills, increase knowledge and recharge their reporting on one of today’s most critical issues. This program is for U.S. based journalists only."
By the way, the Society of Professional Journalists advises strongly against such compensation.
Thesis Fourteen: Goliath Stumbles, for Now
Like its ancient biblical historical antecedent, could this tiny impoverished nation also prove as David, savior of his people and nation?
"El Salvador stood up to this corporate bullying by demonstrating that locally-produced, non-GMO seeds actually did better in the country’s environment – and at a lower cost. In the end, locally-based agriculture won the day. Although the El Salvadoran government was forced to compromise by allowing the sale of non-GMO seed from the U.S., it has managed to hold Monsanto at bay – for the moment."
Notwithstanding this weakened form of largesse, Goliath may well have clones--after all, the human seed is still a seed.
Thesis Fifteen: Butterflies
Are Butterflies Still Free to Fly? The brilliant song by Sir Elton John, 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight', features the lilting lyric concerning butterflies and their epic symbolism of both freedom and transformation.
It appears that both that freedom and transformation may be in jeopardy, leading in part to unintended transformation in opposition to the song's title.
"The WWF started monitoring the migratory habits of monarch butterflies in 1993. Shortly after the WWF began monitoring monarch butterflies, monarchs had a dense population. During its peak in 1996, monarch butterfly hibernation colonies in Mexico covered a 45 acre area. Last November, they covered only 1.6 acres. Although the WWF indicated illegal logging as one of the culprits, university researchers have found another cause. University of Minnesota biologist Karen Oberhauser found that increased use of Roundup brand herbicide in America and Canada contributed to declining monarch butterfly populations. Across the American Midwest, the agriculture industry used the herbicide to kill milkweed, the exclusive location where monarch butterflies lay their eggs."
J b Pravda, Philosophic Opinion: Born Brooklyn, NY, US Government Attorney during Watergate, when he 'Felt' uneasy about governments, and laws; later, public company CEO, lobbyist, now, multimedia artist, published produced playwright (paid royalties), columnist for leading magazines; his paintings have been published & exhibited as well as included in a national touring exhibition as well as several multimedia exhibitions in NY and other venues. Published diversity author via major university, winning Finalist in Stymie... (more...)