Food Justice: Monsanto, Factory Farming, and Beyond
„In nature’s economy, the currency is not money, it is life.“
– Vandana Shiva
On May 25, 2013, millions marched against Monsanto across the globe. I took part here in New York City, of course, and was fortunate to have the opportunity to lead a teach-in called: „Food Justice, GMOs, & the Vegan Option (Eat Like a Revolutionary).“
The ostensible goals of this event included:
- Present GMOs as much more than a single issue.
- Suggest that GMOs offer a powerful entry point for outreach to the mainstream.
- Provide facts to be used for such outreach.
- Explain why there’s more to food justice than screaming „Fuck Monsanto.“
At the request of those who attended the teach-in, I’ve compiled some of the material in an article of sorts. This is not meant to be the definitive word on any of these topics. Rather, I strongly encourage all readers to follow-up with their own research and, of course, share what they find.
Monsanto is not a food company.
Monsanto a chemical company that made its name, for example, selling saccharin to Coca-Cola and Agent Orange to U.S. military. Its products also include PCBs, dioxin, DDT, and rBGH.
Monsanto records annual sales of roughly $11.8 billion and operates 404 facilities in 66 countries, over 6 continents with products grown on more than 282 million acres worldwide.
Monsanto is one of three corporations (along with DuPont and Syngenta) that control 70 percent of the global seed market — aiming for monopoly power over the planet’s food and water supplies.
GMO 101 GMO is short for „genetically modified organism“ and is the result of corporate scientists taking genes from one species and inserting them into another species in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic. GMOs are also known as „transgenic organisms“ and the process is often called „genetic engineering“ or GE.
Examples of genetic engineering include:
- Inserting spider genes into goat DNA in an attempt to produce goat milk that contains spider web protein to be used in the manufacturing of bulletproof vests.
- Arctic fish gene spliced into tomatoes and strawberries to make them tolerant to frost.
- Potatoes that will glow in dark when they need water.
All this and so much more is happening even though, as any non-corporate scientist can tell you, our current understanding of the way DNA works is extremely limited. Any change to DNA can have side effects that are impossible to predict or control. Still, the industry forges on, e.g. 94 percent of soy is GM, 90 percent of cotton, 88 percent of corn, and 95 percent of sugar beets.
Reality: 80 percent of processed food contains at least one GM ingredient.