"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" -Santayana
Having just finished reading The Unhealthy Truth by Robin O'Brien, I've had activism, agriculture, and our corrupt and flawed system on the brain. It reveals the alarming relationship between the manipulation of our food and both the increase in dangerous allergies in our children as well as the increase in cancers in our families. Just a few days ago, I was reminiscing about an article written by Michael Pollan, author of An Omnivores Dilemma, one of the most influential authors in my life thus far. After reading his writings for the first time, a fire was sparked within me to do anything and everything I could to bring about change in our corrupt food system and educate people about the importance of high quality food. In his 1998 New York Times published article, Playing God in the Garden, he challenges the reader to examine the nature of genetically modified organisms and grasp the depth of what is happening. The first GMO crops were introduced by Monsanto in 1994. That was 24 years ago, and today, our concerns are just as valid as ever, as more and more people are getting sick, and life expectancy is decreasing. Where we stand now, a few major heartless corporations now hold the keys to life and death for a vast majority of species (including our own) on planet Earth.
The US Justice Department has approved the merger of Bayer and Monsanto giving this new conglomerate, the worlds largest producer of seeds and pesticides, enormous power to control farm practices, putting private profits over the public interest and our health. For those unfamiliar with these two corporations and their dark history, allow me to shine a little light on their storied past.
Lets begin where it all starts, with the birds and the bees. They're dying. In record numbers. Two new studies from Europe show that the number of birds has plummeted by a third in just 15 years in agricultural areas of France, with some species being almost completely wiped out. The collapse in the bird population is a reflection of the discovery that more than three fourths of all flying insects in Germany have vanished in just thirty years. Insects are the staple food source of birds, the pollinators of fruits, and the aerators of the soil. When these crucial systems begin to fall out of balance, nature find a way to correct herself. The food chain is called such for a reason, survival for the top is dependent upon those at the bottom. To anyone who has been paying attention, it should be no surprise that we are losing the bees in rapid numbers too, along with the magical migratory monarch butterflies. Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services.
While there are many potential reasons for this mass extinction, the chief suspect is the aggressive use of neonicotinoid pesticides, particularly imidacloprid and clothianidin, both made by the Germany-based chemical giant Bayer. These pesticides, along with toxic glyphosate herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup, have delivered a one-two punch to insects, monarch butterflies, honeybees and birds. Not to mention the copious amounts of nitrogen based fertilizer needed to grow these nutrient deficient crops pouring into our waterways and polluting our environment.
To understand the magnitude of this threat, it is necessary to delve into some history. This is not the first time Monsanto and Bayer have joined forces. In both world wars, they made explosives and poisonous gases using shared technologies which were sold to both sides. After World War II, they united as MOBAY (MonsantoBayer) and supplied the ingredients for Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.
In 1904, Bayer joined with German giants BASF and AGFA to form the first chemical cartel. After World War I, Germany’s entire chemical industry merged to become I.G. Farben. By the beginning of World War II, I.G. Farben was the largest industrial corporation in Europe, the largest chemical company in the world, and part of the most gigantic and powerful cartel in all history.
After the trial at Nuremberg following World War II the I.G. Farben cartel was technically disbanded. What actually happened, was that it merely split into three new companies—Bayer, Hoescht and BASF—all of which remain pharmaceutical giants today. (Wait, WWII chemical cartels split to form Pharmaceutical companies? Something seems amiss.) To conceal its checkered history, Bayer orchestrated a merger with Monsanto in 1954, giving rise to the MOBAY Corp. In 1964, the U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against MOBAY and insisted that it be broken up, but the companies continued to work together unofficially.
History check. We've already been here. Monsanto and Bayer were merged, and the US Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit and insisted it be broken up. Now in 2018, they have just agreed to allow them to merge? What!?
The European Union already conditionally approved the deal after Bayer agreed to sell off more than $7 billion worth of assets to "rival" BASF SE . The sales include Bayer’s soybean and cottonseed businesses, as well as Bayer’s glufosinate weedkiller, which competes against Monsanto’s Roundup. Note that BASF and Bayer were both a part of the I.G Farben cartel before WWII...
William Engdahl states in “Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation” (2007), that global food control and depopulation became U.S. strategic policy under Rockefeller protégé Henry Kissinger, who was secretary of state in the 1970s under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Along with oil geopolitics, these policies were to be the new “solution” to the threats to U.S. global power and continued U.S. access to cheap raw materials from the developing world.
“Control oil and you control nations,” Kissinger notoriously declared. “Control food and you control the people.”
Global food control is reaching alarming new heights by reducing seed diversity and establishing proprietary control of GMO seeds distributed by a handful of companies. A massive, taxpayer-subsidized propaganda campaign supporting GMO crops and their neurotoxic pesticides is a massive part of United States agriculture. A de facto cartel of giant chemical, drug, oil, banking and insurance companies connected by overlapping directorates now reaps the profits at both ends, waging a very lucrative pharmaceutical assault on the diseases created by their toxic agricultural chemicals and genetically modified food supply. Is it possible that our food is making us sick, and the companies making and selling us that food are also profiting on the drugs we must take to 'get better'? Yes. It's possible, and it's real. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Circling back around to the pollinators we depend on for survival. Even if you were to go completely organic today and never consume a single product one of these massive corporations has their hands in, it's disheartening to know that they are still creating the poisons that are destroying the soil and killing off the pollinating species. Without them, our crops, en masse, cannot survive. If the bees were to die off tomorrow, it would only be a matter of time until our species became extinct as well. Here is another interesting fact. Most crops are pollinated by bees, birds and butterflies, thus creating substantial incentives for most farmers to care for these insects and winged friends. There are a few crops, however, that instead are pollinated by wind. Namely a majority of the GMO crops. Interestingly enough, without the bees, birds, and insects, we can still have corn, soy, wheat... take note of the top 15 GMO crops below. What incentive might Bayer or Monsanto have to grow crops that don't require living pollinators? Does it ultimately increase their bottom line?
Alfalfa - doesn’t really need bees, because we only care about the stems and leaves for hay, not the fruit or seeds
Canola - doesn’t need bees because it can self-pollinate, but it does better with bees
Cotton - doesn’t need bees because it can self-pollinate
Corn - doesn’t need bees, is pollinated by the wind
Soybeans - doesn’t need bees because it can self-pollinate, but it does better with bees
Beets - doesn’t need bees, because we don’t care about the flowers or seeds, we eat the roots.
Eggplant - doesn’t need bees because it can self-pollinate, but it does better with bees
Poplar - doesn’t need bees, pollinated by the wind
Carnation, Rose, and Petunia - doesn’t need bees, we don’t care if the flowers get pollinated because we just use the flowers
Papaya - needs bees (or sometimes moths)
Potato - doesn’t need bees because we don’t care about flowers or fruit, just the roots.
Squash - needs bees
Sugar Cane - doesn’t need bees, we don’t care about the flowers or fruit, only the stems
Tobacco - doesn’t need bees, we don’t care about the flowers or fruit, only the leaves
Rice - doesn’t need bees, is pollinated by the wind
Some great resources for more information:
Here's what you can do:
If you do nothing else, please educate yourself on these companies, their policies, and their impact on you and your health. Don't buy anything they touch, without sales, they have no business. We are far beyond the ability to trust the FDA to look out for our health and the health of those that we love. We are given the opportunity to fight with our dollars and our forks. So pick up your fork, and fight.
If you can, grow your own food, buy non-GMO open pollinated seeds from seed banks like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (their seed catalog is dreamy). Meet gardeners in your community to exchange seeds and learn about your growing region. If you are unable to grow your own food, buy local, organic food whenever possible. I know access is a huge issue when it comes to food in this country. If you are lucky enough to live where you can find a farmers market, shop there. Meet the people who are working hard to grow nourishing, seasonal food and support them. Many farmers markets offer a match program for SNAP and WIC, where you get $2 for every $1 spent on produce. This offer is also available for produce in some convenience stores located in food deserts. Buying whole fruits and veggies to feed your family, and learning some basic cooking skills can truly change your life.
I sometimes feel powerless against these behemoths, but I realize that with enough small change , comes big change. Unless we want to sit idyll by while we allow mega corporations to control what we put into our bodies, and the future of our life on this planet. We can vote with our dollars and our forks, we can chose to support them, or not. We must demand genetically modified labelling and transparency in our food supply. Many countries have completely banned GMO seeds. American companies have even changed their ingredients and removed artificial coloring and flavoring abroad due to consumer concern and demand. Why would they change their products to be healthier to people overseas, but not care about the health of their own country? The system is seriously flawed, and I refuse to sit silent. "Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, its the only thing that ever has" -Margaret Mead