Saturday, April 4, 2009

Let's talk Texas ... and Monsanto

Let's talk Texas farmers.  

Texans likely have no idea the kind of trouble their farmers are in from Monsanto.

When the Pure Milk Company in Waco, Texas, advertised their milk as rBGH-free -  the truth - Monsanto sued, claiming a statement of actual truth could be false advertising, because actual facts could induce consumers to believe that Monsanto's product was less than exemplary, and thereby cost the company money."   

Currently, Monsanto is pushing state laws to prevent all US milk made with rBGH and all genetically-engineered food products from being labeled.

The problem goes beyond labeling.  Monsanto patents its GMO-seeds and claims all produced from them as its "intellectual property."

The Omaha World-Herald in 2004 reported Monsanto would investigate 500 farmers that year, "as it does every year."  Based on this, the number of farmers already investigated is in the thousands. 

Farmers usually have one lawyer. "Monsanto hires a number of law firms for almost every suit it files."

One man said "When they [investigators] came up here, they were bragging to other farmers about all of the farmers they had put out of business."

"Farmers are being sued for having GMOs on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will not use and cannot sell," says Tom Wiley, a North Dakota farmer

Monsanto holds the most plant biotech patents.  Their Technology Agreement enforcing those patents "opens farmers' books and fields to virtually limitless scrutiny and incursion."  One man said, "They say they don't trespass—that's bull."

Monsanto employee told one farmer, "We own you- we own anybody that buys our Roundup Ready products." 

Farmers found in violation of the agreement face huge liability.  Bankruptcy is common, with farmers losing land that's been in their family for generations.  Yet a good portion of the "signed" agreements with Monsanto have been forged by the seed agents - possibly as much as 40%."

Monsanto sued Homan McFarling for 120 times the actual amount of claimed damages, or $780,000.  "A lot of farmers just settle. I can't afford it—I ain't got no money," said Mr. McFarling.
But some Texas farmers have joined with others to sue Monsanto for crop failures.  BB Krenek, a Wharton, Texas cotton consultant, says "We feel like Monsanto's been lying to us all along."

So, why not go back to real seeds?

A Texas cotton farmer says: "Just about the only cottonseed you can get these days is [genetically engineered].  Same thing with the corn varieties.  There's not too many seeds available that are not genetically altered in some way."

But aren't GE-seeds more profitable?  

American Farm Bureau estimates farmers have lost $300 million per year because Europe won't take our GE-corn.  Because Europe established labeling/traceability requirements, US State Department officials said the U.S. could lose up to $4 billion annually in agricultural exports.

But at least genetically engineered crops are supposed to use less pesticides ...

Former Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower said:  "Farmers are now using from six to 10 times more chemicals because what has happened is that we've developed a new super-weed from genetic engineering."  8 billion poinds of pesticides a year - 20 for each American.   

"Monsanto is not going to stop until we stop it," he said, and quoted a 19th-century woman's words - "raise less corn and more hell." 

Nelson, a farmer being sued, had asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to help his family.  Reply?  "It´s not our policy to get involved in private litigation matters." But  Ashcroft asked the Supreme Court for protection of plant patents.  Nelson said when the main US law enforcement officer acted to "uphold plant patents to protect corporations, yet refused to help farmers - felt like a cold slap in the face." 

"It makes a person wonder if all government is up for sale to the highest bidder."  

Hightower said "arrogance goes by the name of Monsanto.  Monsanto is a bully.  Monsanto is a thug.  For fun and profit, it has long been tampering with the world's food supply.  ...It's been a leader over the last 40-50 years in dousing our earth, our sky, our water, ourselves ... the entire ecosystem with so many pesticides that every single one of you in this room, everyone in the world, every critter on earth is contaminated with these pesticides, in deed, with dozens of these pesticides.

"Pesticides ... are killing the farmers and literally killing farming.  The run off of these pesticides from the fields are getting into the water.  More than 100 pesticides are now in the ground water in 40 different states."  

Never mind the 8 billion dollars a year to buy pesticides or that 1000+ farmers going out of business each year.

Hightower said the American public, Europe and Japan don't want pesticides.  "If ignorance ever goes to $40 a barrel, I want drilling rights on their (ag establishment) heads, I'll tell you that!" 

Monsanto is "tampering with the very DNA of our food," blocking labeling of GE-organisms and getting away with it because Monsanto and the FDA rotate back and forth between each other.  He said the issue is not a few farmers, or any crops or even tampering with the food supply.

"The issue is the most fundamental issue of democracy.  It asks this question, the same question that democracy seeking people have always had to ask:  Who the hell is going to be in charge?  A handful of corporate greed-heads, or we, the people?' That's what it comes down to," said Hightower.

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