After 20 years of controversy, Monsanto is looking for a buyer for recombinant bovine somatotropin, the growth hormone that increases milk production in dairy cows. How come? According to the New York Times, Monsanto says this has nothing to do with problems selling the hormone and didn’t say a word about consumer opposition. I think consumer opposition had plenty to do with this, don’t you?
Currently browsing posts about: GM(Genetically Modified)
Even I am astonished by this one. Greg Miller of the National Dairy Council sends me all the studies that favor eating dairy products. This one is a classic (of sorts) from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association . The study compares the nutrient value of conventional milk, rbGH-free milk, and organic milk and finds–surprise!–no significant difference. In case you need a reminder, rbGH is recombinant bovine growth hormone, the genetically engineered hormone that increases milk production in cows. Monsanto makes it. OK, class: it’s quiz time. The study has ten authors. Guess who seven of them work for (or used to work for)? Guess who paid for the study? And what are the other three authors doing there?
Think what you like about genetically modified crops; farmers love them. How else to explain the latest data from USDA? GM soybeans are leveling off a bit – at close to 90%–and corn at close to 60%. The public doesn’t like GM much. They aren’t labeled. What’s in this for farmers?
Thanks to Pam Wunder for sending the link to an investigative report on Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops. Made by the French journalist and filmmaker, Marie-Monique Robin, it aired March 11 on ARTE, a French-German cultural TV channel. It gives a decidedly European and international perspective on the pros and cons (mostly cons) of GM foods and requires a bit of a commitment to watch as it is nearly 2 hours long. If this sort of thing interests you, by all means take a look if you can (the video does not seem to be available sometimes).
The intrepid investigative reporting team of Donald Bartlett and James Steele has taken on Monsanto in the current issue of Vanity Fair, of all places (I am most familiar with their prize-winning but controversial work for Time, which fired them in 2006). Monsanto is the company that brought us genetically modified bovine growth hormone and Roundup-Ready corn and soybeans, and, of course Roundup itself. Bartlett and Steele have much to say about the company’s methods for enforcing its patent rights and casual dealings with worker safety. It’s a long article, but worth reading.
According to a report in Food Chemical News, Robert Paarlberg, a professor of political science at Wellesley who has written extensively about agricultural policy, says “environmental populists” in the United States and the European Union have imposed on Africa, their [our?] favoring of “small, traditional farms that grow organic crops and heirloom varieties…[equating] agricultural science with large farms, mistreatment of animals, enrichment of agribusiness corporations, and unpalatable and unhealthy food.” The resulting “hostility to science-based farming” has been devastating to Africa and other impoverished regions. How? “No African country allows cultivation of biotech crops except South Africa.” Is biotechnology the solution to Africa’s agricultural problems? As I read it, the technology is still in its infancy and still has a long way to go (see the March 20 Nature article on development of drought-resistant crops). But then, I still think Africa’s agricultural problems would be easier to solve with social, not necessarily technological, changes. But I guess that makes me an environmental populist. How about you?
Why Monsanto chose to go after Percy Schmeiser is beyond me. You might remember the case: Monsanto sued this Canadian canola farmer for growing the company’s genetically modified (GM) seeds without paying for them. But Mr. Schmeiser claimed that GM canola pollen blew over and contaminated his fields.
In 2002, Canadian courts said it didn’t matter how Monsanto’s GM plants got onto his fields; Schmeiser had to pay for them. So Monsanto won the case but looked like a big bad bully. Now Monsanto has agreed to an out-of-court settlement, surely something it should have done a long time ago.
This case reminds me of the infamous “McLibel” trial of the late 1990′s when McDonald’s sued a couple of young activists in London for saying rude things about the company. You would think the threat of a public relations nightmare would encourage companies to back off in such David-and-Goliath situations, but no such luck. I’m glad this one is over. Next?
Monsanto, the maker of recombinant bovine growth hormone (scientific name, recombinant bovine somatotropin or rBST; trade name, Posilac), is embarked on a national state-by-state campaign to get legislatures to rule that food products cannot be labeled that they are rBGH-free or rBST-free. In his weekend column, The Feed, Andrew Martin details how Monsanto has organized its very own “grass-roots” group, Afact, to campaign on the company’s behalf. As Martin puts it, “consumer demand for more natural products…has certainly interfered with Monsanto’s business plan for Posilac.” As I discuss in my book, Safe Food, Monsanto’s aggressive stance (in this and so many other issues that concern its products) has elicited much suspicion of its motives and of genetically modified foods in general. In 1994, Monsanto worked hard to convince the FDA that GM foods did not have to be labeled as such. Now, this company has only itself to blame for consumer resistance to its products.