From Health Treatment to Food Supply
When it comes to long term health concerns in
and the world we are inundated with controversy over two principal issues, the
health care system in America
and the food production system in . America
The first was supposed to be resolved by passage of Obamacare yet nothing has been resolved to date as implementation of the massive federal law, after it was approved by Congress and signed by the president, has been, well, about as effective as Congress.
Far more activity took place in the food production business far from the front pages of newspapers and harking of political pundits. Obama has clearly done a lot in this area but to date the principal beneficiary is not the public, or middle class, but the six giant agrichemical companies that control the growing of food in the world.
As Obama looks forward to his last 3 years in office perhaps he will be more concerned that his legacy is shaping up as a stark reminder of his abandonment of the very people he claimed to be championing.
Political talk has always been cheap. Political action has always been lacking. The Obama administration has given us more talk and less action on these issues than any president in recent history and his legacy may be as the first president to guarantee liberty and justice for some but certainly not all Americans.
These areas are complex, the players are muddled and the public interest is secondary to corporate greed and unfortunately the opposition is fragmented, prone to lack facts and figures, and far too easily seduced by the sensational when cold, hard facts tell us all we need to know.
World hunger drives the production of genetically engineered seeds. The estimates for deaths from hunger each year are all over the place ranging from 1.5 million to 15 million children worldwide and maybe 5 million others. While no deaths should be allowed, the extent of hunger is massive and millions surely die every year.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people, or one in eight people in the world, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing counties. There are 16 million people undernourished in developed countries.
The number of undernourished people decreased nearly 30 percent in
and the Pacific, from 739 million to 563 million, largely due to socio-economic
progress in many countries in the region. The prevalence of undernourishment in
the region decreased from 23.7 percent to 13.9 percent.
Latin America and the
Caribbean also made progress, falling from 65 million
hungry in 1990-1992 to 49 million in 2010-2012, while the prevalence of
undernourishment dipped from 14.6 percent to 8.3 percent. But the rate of
progress has slowed recently.
The number of hungry grew in
Africa over the period, from 175 million to
239 million, with nearly 20 million added in the last few years. Nearly
one in four are hungry. And in sub-Saharan Africa,
the modest progress achieved in recent years up to 2007 was reversed, with
hunger rising 2 percent per year since then.
In order to meet the vast and tragic food needs of the world we have the producers of genetically engineered seeds.
And this is where our president faces a quagmire with grave consequences because in March he signed an appropriations bill which included seemingly innocuous language regarding the Farmer Assurance Provision.
The "Monsanto Protection Act" is the name opponents of the Farmer Assurance Provision have given to this terrifying piece of policy, and it's a fitting moniker given its shocking content.
President Barack Obama signed a spending bill, HR 933, into law on March 26, 2013 that includes language that has food and consumer advocates and organic farmers up in arms over their contention that the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act" is a giveaway to corporations that was passed under the cover of darkness.
There's a lot being said about it, but here are five terrifying facts about the Farmer Assurance Provision -- Section 735 of the spending bill -- to get you acquainted with the reasons behind the ongoing uproar:
1.) The "Monsanto Protection Act" effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future. The advent of genetically modified seeds -- which has been driven by the massive Monsanto Company -- and their exploding use in farms across
came on fast and has proved
a huge boon for Monsanto's profits. America
But many anti-GMO folks argue there have not been enough studies into the potential health risks of this new class of crop. Well, now it appears that even if those studies are completed and they end up revealing severe adverse health effects related to the consumption of genetically modified foods, the courts will have no ability to stop the spread of the seeds and the crops they bear.
2.) The provision's language was apparently written in collusion with Monsanto. Lawmakers and companies working together to craft legislation is by no means a rare occurrence in this day and age. But the fact that Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, actually worked with Monsanto on a provision that in effect allows them to keep selling seeds, which can then go on to be planted, even if it is found to be harmful to consumers, is stunning. It's just another example of corporations bending Congress to their will, and it's one that could have dire risks for public health in
3.) Many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the "Monsanto Protection Act" even existed within the bill they were voting on. HR 933 was a spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown and ensuring that the federal government would continue to be able to pay its bills. But the Center for Food Safety maintains that many Democrats in Congress were not even aware that the provision was in the legislation:
“In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”
4.) The President did nothing to stop it, either. Obama signed HR 933 while the rest of the nation was fixated on gay marriage, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument concerning
Proposition 8. But just because most of the nation and the media were paying
attention to gay marriage doesn't mean that others were not doing their best to
express their opposition to the "Monsanto Protection Act." In fact,
more than 250,000 voters signed a petition opposing
the provision He signed it anyway. California
5.) It sets a terrible precedent. Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right.
And this takes us to the role of agrichemical drug companies in our food production business. Who are these companies and what do they do? For one thing they hold a worldwide monopoly on seed production.
For the record those six agrichemical businesses are chemical giants Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Agrosciences, BASF, Bayer, and Pioneer (DuPont).
In practically every case the company rose to become multi-billion dollar behemoths by supplying the pesticides used to fertilize our vast agricultural economy. For decades these companies supplied the sometimes deadly chemicals used to control bugs, droughts, weeds and other obstacles to increased crop production.
But in the last 20 years, as it became more and more obvious that some of these very chemicals were causing dangerous side effects, the chemical companies began to take over the seed production and agricultural research businesses and used them to create seeds resistant to the very chemicals they supplied.
Now they were in a position to dominate both the seed production and chemical business. For example, Monsanto is the world's largest seed company and 5th largest agrichemical company. Syngenta is the world's third largest seed company and second largest agrichemical company.
Here is what they stand for!
Top Ten Seed Companies in World
1. Monsanto USA $7.3 billion annual sales2. DuPont (Pioneer)
3. Syngenta Switzerland $2.6 billion annual sales
4. Groupe Limagrain
5. Land O' Lakes/Winfield Solutions USA $1.1 billion sales
6. KWS AG Germany $997 million annual sales
7. Bayer CropScience
8. Dow AgroSciences USA $635 million annual sales
9. Sakata Japan $491 million annual sales
10. DLF-Trifolium A/S Denmark $385 million
The Big Six (agrichemical) companies generate $50 billion a year in sales of seeds and agrichemicals.
They spend $4.7 billion on agricultural research and development.
They cross license between each other to eliminate competition.
They control 76% of the world's private sector R & D spending for seeds and chemicals.
The top ten seed companies control 73% of the world's commercial seed market.
The top three companies control over 50% of the proprietary seed market and 75% of all patents issued between 1982 and 2007.
Of the $22.9 billion spent on seeds annually, $16.8 billion goes to chemical companies and $6.1 billion to farmer saved seeds.
1.4 billion people still depend on farmer saved seeds.
Part 2 of this series seeks the truth behind the myths for and against this type of activity.