MONSANTO NK603: Doubts cast with claim that French study ‘only used ten rats’,

French researcher refuses to release findings for EU verification, but the Russians are worried enough to put brakes on Monsanto’s GM crop NK603

Russia yesterday suspended the import and sale of Monsanto’s genetically modified NK603 corn while  it reviews the latest research information on the product’s safety. Scientists at Russia’s Institute of Nutrition have been asked to review in particular a recent French study which raised questions about the long-term effect of NK 603 corn on rats.

A week ago, the French  study showed that rats fed on the corn strain suffered mammary tumors, and severe liver and kidney damage at double the rate of rats in a matched sample fed natural corn – 50% of males and 70% of females died prematurely, compared to 30% and 20% in the control group. Although the study is tainted by the person in charge – Gilles-Eric Seralini – being violently anti-Monsanto, the data would seem at first sight to be compelling: either Gilles-Eric has engaged in wholesale fiddling of the results, or there is a serious potential problem with NK603.

However, one East European and one French source suggested to me last night that there were only ten rats in the control group. If true, then that’s a near homoaeopathic sample size. But we must wait to see the raw data in full: it wouldn’t be the first time that Monsanto had planted black disinformation such as this into the blogosphere.

The Russians aren’t renowned for being good on the detail of safety. Chernobyl stands as a memorial to that obvious fact, and the cavalier attitude of its culture remains intact to this day. The extremely dodgy and fractious joint venture between ExxonMobil and Rosneft to exploit oil reserves under the Arctic sea was given a gung-ho-go-ahead earlier this week to crack on with the project, deftly sidestepping environmental groups who had called for a clean-up prior to exploration of the area. The site – in the Kara Sea off Russia’s northern coast – was for many years the dustbin of choice for a USSR using its navy to dump ageing, leaky nuclear reactors, and a staggering 17,000 drums of radioactive waste.

But now, this huge country – dependent on grain for survival and exports – has abruptly pulled the plug on the use of a biochemical GM product that could solve many of its problems. My commonsense reaction is, therefore, that they too think there might be a whopping NK603 problem too.

They’re not alone. Although the Canadian government airily gave the strain a clean bill of health eleven years ago, Europeans are not so sure: last Thursday, Austrian agriculture minister Niki Berlakovich called on the European Commission to review its approval process for GM food.

However, as ever when there are potential consequences to be assessed, the motherlovers on Wall Street are keen as mustard to dismiss any and all tentative frontal-lobe thinking – in favour of Goforit: Goldman Sachs’ response to the evidence of rat-organ damage was to upgrade Monsanto shares, a move that saw the company’s stock price power ahead by 2.8% on the day (September 19th). “Monsanto’s doing a lot of things right,” OptionMonster’s Jon Najarian told CNBC  the same afternoon. Perhaps not if you’re a rat, Jonny baby.

What’s the real issue here?

GM crops represent a subject not unlike the case for and against ‘man-made’ global warming. On one side sits an axis of the usual fluffy suspects – from Prince Charles to organically unmodified vegans – suggesting that the development of genetically mutated grains is dangerous and reckless for any number of ecological and health reasons; on the other stands a Top Ten Forbes company weilding enormous power, and attracting the best political support that money can buy. In the middle are the remaining 94% called The Rest of Us – who are anything from sceptical to bored.

Monsanto wasn’t the first to genetically modify a plant cell, but it was the first outfit to bring into agriculture the now standard biotechnology industry business model. Under this, Big M has forced through long-term patents, and dismissed the customary practices of farmers to save, reuse, share and develop plant varieties as backstops against catastrophic strain death, unprecedented bug attacks and so forth. Monsanto’s unremittingly aggressive approach to litigation, its seed commercialisation practices, and its history as a chemical company, have made it widely hated. This isn’t entirely Greenpeace nuttery: lest we forget, these are the beautiful people who gave us DDT, Agent Orange, and of course Roundup.

So I became concerned when I noted at the weekend that the collateral marketing materials from Monsanto were branding NK603 as ‘Roundup Ready’: that’s to say, mutated to ensure complete resistance to the weedkiller. You can kind of discern a double sales-bonus for Monsanto in all this; you can also be assured that NK603 (already casting doubts throughout the international farming community) will itself be pounded with Roundup throughout its growing season. Let’s hope those washing products employed by cereal manufacturers are effective. (For all I know, they’re made by Monsanto too).

I can’t tell you much about Roundup beyond the fact that if you have pets, it would be sound policy to keep them indoors while applying the product to those pesky weeds. Even agro-retailers look frightened when you suggest indiscriminate use of Roundup with little terriers running free and sampling everything in the garden.

In short, the summation here is that ensuring continuity of reasonable grains for the human race, and health concerns in relation to chemical fertilisers being sprayed with abandon onto a potentially carcinogenic GM mutation, are at least worth a temporary production halt while further investigations can get under way.

What’s the broader issue?

Not being scientific myself (beyond a keen layman interest in physics and neuroscience), the only two parts of the GM debate that cause me occasional anxiety are first, the statistics on whether we actually need to use GM in the first place; and second, the track record of the Men from Monsanto. Neither inspire me to believe that the risk here is worth taking until we have seen some considerably more categorical evidence.

I’d like in the near future to return to those subjects in more detail. For today, I merely register, as an objective observer, is that this whole episode has an air of “never mind those big doubts, feel that bottom line” about it.

Earlier at The Slog: The mind-boggling hypocrisy of Shell

 

63 thoughts on “MONSANTO NK603: Doubts cast with claim that French study ‘only used ten rats’,

  1. Aeons ago I worked in the seed trade and even gained a qualification, never since put to use. Food rationing had stopped less than a decade before, so attitudes were different and what we would now call the “green lobby” was without influence. The Swedish State Plant Breeding Institute (in particular) had done a huge amount of experimentation on irradiation of seed grain to produce millions of genetically modified “sports” on the off chance that one or two might be commercially useful. A few were and they became part of new varieties which have since been cross- bred many times to produce yet more new varieties. There were prophets of doom then who reckoned it was “unnatural” but nobody grew two heads and everybody now must have eaten some of the progeny of these varieties.
    Of course, this is different from modern GM techniques but I am more concerned about the patenting and monopoly control of the stuff than safety per se, If this variety has been going 11 years, we will all have eaten some of it, I guess.

    What were then called “Plant Breeders’ Rights” were only just beginning when I was in the trade. Up to then the plant breeder lost control of and revenue from his variety once it had been grown for two generations. The crop was the absolute property of the farmer who grew it and he could sell it to a merchant who could sell it for seed. I think it was a fair idea to give the plant breeder some income from his long-term research and efforts but the modern practice seems far to restrictive and weighted in favour of Monsanto and their like.

    • Edward
      The monopolism concern is mine too: typical neocon control freakery. I’m about to update the pce as more jiggery-pokery on both sides has come to light.

  2. DDT . I forgot to mention. DDT was overused and this did have ill effects on bird life etc. but, as far as I know, there has NEVER been a case of human illness firmly attributed to DDT. In South American countries, people used to put a pinch into their cocktails! Because Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring” died of breast cancer, her devotees decided it must have been the demon DDT.
    In fact, the banning of DDT in Africa caused deaths from malaria on a scale which Hitler & Stalin might aspire to. Like many long-used products, DDT was cheap and out of patent. So big Pharma was quite happy to see it banned. At one stage African countries which allowed DDT anywhere on their territories were unable to export agricultural products to the EEC. So people died, literally by millions. “Deep Ecologists”, who regard the human race as a cancer on the earth, were very happy with this result.

    • “Like many long-used products, DDT was cheap and out of patent. So big Pharma was quite happy to see it banned”

      You put your finger on it.

      The same reasoning applies to the banning of Sodium Chlorate*, and many other cheap and simple products. Why use a widely-available commodity** when you could use a very expensive patented product that’s only half as effective? I mean, why?

      My own view on GM is that we’re meddling with the source code of a gigantic program, of which we have only the dimmest understanding, as a result of studying nothing except its outputs. Any programmer would know this is a recipe for all sorts of unexpected and unpredictable effects. We may get away with it, but if something bad happens I can already hear the apologists: “Who would ever have thought THAT would be connected….”

      * The “terrorism” angle is a smokescreen – you can very easily inhibit these strong oxidisers.

      ** Incidentally, salt (as in good old NaCl) makes a pretty effective patio weedkiller. Dump it, solid, on those dandelions and watch them wither away. I’d like to see the nannies try to ban salt. Oh, wait…

  3. Mankind has been modifying the genetic make-up of everything it has domesticated for millenia. I am all in favour of crop improvements and we stand little chance of feeding the future world without GM development to facilitate this.
    HOWEVER I absolutely agree that big business in general and Monsanto in particular is just not to be trusted with it. I am all against the English tree-hugging fluffies who are just scared of GM on principle. But that does NOT mean we should rush into the arms of commercial crooks.
    Every GM case has to be measured and assessed on its merits. Which is why we should have independent tests and evaluations from organisations we can trust (and that maybe a problem – is there ANY kind of institution you could trust these days – everyone gets tainted by money sooner or later).
    For sure the R&D in GM and has to be paid for and the investment rewarded – but we have to find a better way of funding than globalised agro-cowboys from the USA. And mankind would be better served if the sole objectives of the developers weren’t just to sell their own pesticides or one-time only seeds. Would I trust General Foods, Kraft, Pfizer or Monsanto with my breakfast cornflake? I don’t think so.

    • Duncan

      Disclaimer: I speak as a fully paid up fluffy.

      GM technology takes no account of what the plants themselves need. It is based only on apparent results. These, after all, are provable. Take a look at my comment below about commercial seed in a realistic setting.

      A modern commercial seed will not grow if sown the following year. I will add that commercial parsnip seed is famous for not being usable the next year – yet the ones I grow will germinate for anything up to six years. The only reason they did not last longer was that we ran out of them.

      The real issue here is one you address, but do not answer. It is that of economics. What is it about food that means it must be the cheapest possible? That does not tally with quality, and certainly not with the sort of quality I can produce in my garden, even now. It takes time and effort, and is not always rewarded. Big business is only interested in the bottom line, after all, it is a simple metric. It has no interest in the safety or healthiness of the food it produces. Just because a certain GM crop produces 35% more grain per acre does not mean that it can do this for the next ten years.

      That is something I can do on my vegetable garden, even if the yields are less. Is that not a more sensible guarantee?

      • “What is it about food that it must be the cheapest possible” – facepalm. Cart/horse syndrome from the cretinous Gemz as usual. Cheap is good: it means there is plenty of it. That means we all get to eat and no one dies of malnutrition. For that state of affairs to continue we need GM. What “it” is, is several billion people and rising who need to eat on a planet which isn’t getting any bigger. So we need more cereal crops per acre. “Organic” farming (that is, inefficient hobby farming for smug rich people shopping in Waitrose worrying about getting the right organic sun-dried mung beans or whatever) isn’t going to feed us all. The billions of people on less than $100 per month need that cheap food you so despise in order not to die.

      • @seb w.

        The burgeoning billions of mouths is a problem but there’s nowt wrong with lentils and legumes, as I can personally testify. And perhaps you have never eaten organically reared meat? The quality is superior (raw organic steak smells of fresh cream), it has a higher density so less is sufficient, hence is better value for money than you might think.

        I suppose it really depends on how much importance we are willing to place on living sustainably. If the “cheap” solutions are actually bad for the planet then we shall all end up malnourished or dead.

      • Aflatoxin

        Thankyou for that; there are always the apologists for the way things are. Usually bottom feeders who have never experienced real life (or real food!)

        If the “cheap” solutions are actually bad for the planet then we shall all end up malnourished or dead.

        Which is a very real danger.

  4. 62 million people live in the UK. The UK is 243,610 square kilometres. There are 247.1 acres of land in each square kilometre. I make that 60,196,031 acres of land in the UK. One acre can feed two people for a year acording to this website.

    http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=15&cad=rja&ved=0CD0QFjAEOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fstealthsurvival.blogspot.com%2F2011%2F01%2Fbackyard-food-production-how-much-land.html&ei=ltZiUMz7BqK-0QXjmIHgAg&usg=AFQjCNGpOHHDLAR8uvqhatuR8Mt5bKNa7g&sig2=69IndCvr9yxRwg23hYnhyQ

    • This idea will only work if folk are prepared to eat seasonally, learn to preserve food in all manner of ways and generally work damned hard!
      Not counting the weather of course!!
      We had 25lb of eating cherries from our tree last year, zero this year.
      Carrots, lettuce, beetroot, winter cabbage, potatoes, onion and leeks are dismal or non existant. As we try very hard to be self sufficient in 1/2 an acre, we have lived off tree spinach, peas early on, beans later, courgettes and just now tomatoes which finally have ripened in the polytunnel. The garage is full of raspberry and blackcurrant jams, lots of bean pickles and chutneys, and now we are collecting haws, sloes and blackberries from the local hedgerows. It is endless, often boring, but VERY satisfying if a crop succeeds. The reverse is heart-breaking.
      I can see why plant breeders are so important (indeed we save all our own seed just incase we find a better version of something), but the GM monopolies are truly scary. Having worked in Uni labs and seen how people ‘tweak’ results to make the experiment work, trusting anyone so huge to do a faithful job is plain barmy.
      Nature will generally provide enough, if you are prepared to be a bit different, but you need a whole new mindset first :)

      • Five hundred experts analysed vast quantities of data and produced what they claim is the first coherent body of evidence about the state of Britain’s natural environment.

        Having looked at all the information, they calculated that “6.8% of the UK’s land area is now classified as urban” (a definition that includes rural development and roads, by the way).

        The urban landscape accounts for 10.6% of England, 1.9% of Scotland, 3.6% of Northern Ireland and 4.1% of Wales.

        More details;
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18623096

  5. Pingback: John Ward – Monsanto NK603 : Doubts Cast With Claim That French Study ‘Only Used Ten Rats’ (Could It Be Planted Disinfo By Monsanto) – 26 September 2012 | Lucas 2012 Infos

  6. JW you are bang on the money with the statement “GM crops represent a subject not unlike the case for and against ‘man-made’ global warming.”

    Certainly in the latter case many of the noisiest protagonists – the prime example being the CRU at UEA (an academic disgrace) – are statistical numpties (failed Stats 101?).

    In the current case we will see, if/when the raw data becomes available.

    Monsanto’s commercial model depends upon patents and grwoesr having to return annually to obtain Monsanto seeds. Good reasons not to take anything Monsanto says on trust.

  7. A note: I have started my own small vegetable garden – which even now after several months is providing me with some nice things to eat. What I noticed was that my organically grown seed was having a hard time of getting out of the ground. It seemed that they needed more cosseting. The myriad weeds on the other hand did not. They just spring from the soil and do what weeds do!

    If you look at a weed in the usual way – that it is to be hoed out – you are missing out on a lot. A weed can tell you a great deal about the type of soil you have for one thing. The other thing I realized is that weeds are extremely well adapted to their environments. This should not surprise you if that weed has been around in your area for the last 50,000 years or so. It has had time to become attuned to whatever is going on.

    A seed that is imported from another region – even organic ones – will be weaker. That is to say, less well adapted. I was able to “prove” this after several years of consistent seed saving. Our runner bean seed would consistently out perform our neighbours’ who used commercial seed bought in packets. I tried it with their seed next to ours as a control. Our seed germinated faster, and grew faster. The plants flowered and set seed earlier too.

    Monsanto are not in the business of feeding you. They are there to make money, and make money they will. They care not how it happens just so long as it does. They are not being mendacious, only ignorant. They care not how the bottom line is found, only that it shows numbers that are bigger than last year. That has nothing to do with the quality of seeds.

    • Gemz, weeds are by definition something growing where it is not required to be, so a beautiful rose bush in a field of wheat is a weed! Try eating them, it’s much more fun!!
      (try nettles cooked, chickweed, wild garlic leaves and young beech leaves chopped finely into salads, lots of wild flowers…the list is huge if you do a little research).
      And I agree, your own seeds will win hands down over ‘imports’ but it takes a few years…….

      • Jo
        there are weeds and there are weeds. There is chickweed – which as you say is edible. That is in my book a “nice” weed, along with those that are an imposition but do not do much damage to the soil. Nasty weeds – bindweed, buttercup and couch are to be gotten rid of. That does not mean that they do not have their medicinal uses …

        One of my favourite dishes that for me is a “yippee! it’s springtime” is a nettle roulade!

        A thought about boring work: and yes, I have done plenty of that! There is one thing I realized that sort of helped here, and it is to realize that every leaf, berry and plant is unique. Sure, it is a blackberry, but it there will never be one exactly like it ever again – and there will never have been one exactly like it before. Just think of those myriad leaves turning red and yellow this autumn, and think that they will never exist again in quite that form.

  8. John,
    I am from a scientific background originally (microbiology) and your comments on whether we actually need to use GM in the first place and the track record of the Men from Monsanto are completely agreed with by me.

    I own a fast sports car. I get pleasure from driving it responsibly with advanced driving technique, not fast (unless the conditions warrant it and there is no other traffic on the road). The fact we CAN do something doesn’t mean we HAVE to do that thing.

    DavidC

  9. Most GM crops only produce higher yields because they are resistant to high doses of herbicides and insecticides. The funders of GM research are the chemical companies who all want to sell more chemicals. So much for reducing the chemical footprint of factory farming.

    There is far less money in just making seeds stronger and self resistant to disease and pests.

    It is iniquitous that peasant farmers in many countries are being hoodwinked into buying seed that produces sterile crops, so ensuring the purchase of new seed every year.

  10. This is not an isolated case – there are many tales of Monsanto witch hunts against scientists who get the ‘wrong’ results when testing their GM crops. the problem is that industry funds directly or indirectly most of the research. As a recovering scientist, I know that it is good politic to get the result your paymasters are looking for.

    Such behaviour is also present in big pharma e.g. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/sep/21/drugs-industry-scandal-ben-goldacre

    I am very sceptical about GM food, not least because all of the claimed advantages (higher yield, reduced chemical usage etc) are demonstrably untrue – the mass suicides of Indian farmers are testament to that.

  11. Meanwhile many of us gardeners are doing our damnedest to preserve old varieties in the hope they are not lost for ever. And you know what ? The old varieties are often much more hardy, tasty and easier to grow.
    All this buggering about with genetics is done for commercial reasons and for nothing else. They do not have the welfare of humanity or, more importantly, Gaia at heart.
    At our present state of knowledge allowing a scientist to mess with DNA is like giving a monkey a spanner and letting them loose to fix your BMW.

  12. The biggest problem I have with GM is one of choice…..like it or not GM strains will infect the whole food chain sooner or later not only in UK/US but everywhere. I think big money has forced the technology on to everyone without doing any long term testing…… and there is no effective way to control this industry from the point of view of the consumer……..

    • 2eyes

      you are not wrong in your thinking! There is far more to GM than meets the eyes. Making your crops spray resistant has led to many weeds developing the same resistance through interbreeding. Charlock and wild turnips are two!

      The bigger danger is that farmers are now habituated to using herbicides, and are now using far more than they did ten years ago. This has serious implications for human health.

      One wonders what will happen when they can no longer afford to buy these chemicals.

    • @2eyes

      depends how evangelical you care to be: the answer is to grow your own using seeds obtained from organic suppliers etc. But as many have already said, this is labour intensive, though definitely not boring!. And of course, is always subject to the weather: if I’d had to rely on my allotment this year I’d be dead from starvation by now.

      At the moment in the UK, shop products labelled organic are GM-free. But check the labels carefully to be sure.

  13. DDT itself isn’t that toxic (yes, it is somewhat toxic, which is why its used as a herbicide, but it’s not THAT toxic). The reason Agent Orange – produced by Montesanto – was so destructive is because (from Wikipedia):

    “A 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, it was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical. The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange was later discovered to be contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, an extremely toxic dioxin compound. It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped 55 US gallon (208 l) barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called “Rainbow Herbicides”.[3]”

    What you have to really consider with the GM-foods that have been modified to be herbicide- or pesticide-reisistant is that they are covered with herbicide or pesticide! Even though it hasn’t killed the plant, its still there, being consumed by humans, and no-one knows what the cumulative effects will be. I’d much prefer farmers to use correctly-formulated DDT rather than RoundUp, the problem is that the DDT isn’t as good a herbicide as RoundUp because it’s less toxic.

    • If I remember correctly DDT metabolites are not excreted but build up as deposits in our fat. There is also some evidence that DDE (a metabolite of DDT) binds to the androgen (male hormone) receptor, blocks the action of male hormone and could therefore theoretically act as a gender bender. So it is probably just as well its use has been withdrawn/banned.

      • I do agree with you, but remember that even Spelt can be sprayed with poisonous chemicals! Then of course, there is the water that you use and the other things you put in there – these poisons are now ubiquitous in our lives. A study in Germany showed that some organic food showed high levels of pesticides, which had come through the groundwater.

        It is not an easy thing to avoid! By the way, Dinkel (as it is called in Germany) is much used and is, as you say, very tasty. There is even a beer made from it where we used to live in Stuttgart — auf dem Tübinger Straße http://www.dinkelacker.de/

      • yes I eat spelt instead of wheat based products when possible. But rumour has it that spelt is not exempt from gliadins?

  14. I think there are some myths to clear up here about Roundup first.

    1. It is out of patent, so as Glyphosate can be bought from a wide variety of companies. Roundup resistance = Glyphosate resistance – so probably of little benefit to Monsanto’s Roundup sales as you can get the same cheaper elsewhere.

    2. It is not particularly toxic – unlike Gramoxone (Paraquat). Weedkiller suicides, like Isobella Blow and the Indian Farmers mentioned above would have used Paraquat, not Glyphosate. And Gramoxone is not a Monsanto product.

    However, to add two points to the debate (I am anti GM)

    1. You have not mentioned the GURT, or the terminator gene – by which GM crops can be made sterile so you have to buy more each year and cannot just reuse kept seed. This has the potential to destroy lives and livelihoods. Imagine you neighbour plants such a crop and via cross pollenation your non-GM crops inherit the characteristics – your kept seed will now be sterile courtesy of Monsanto. Are we prepared to accept this risk?

    2. People often quote F1 seeds as an example of existing GM technology to justify GM. This is rubbish – F1 is taking pollen from one variety and using it in another variety of the same or similar species to produce a hybrid with certain characteristics. It is not taking bacterial genes and inmcorporating them into an animal or plant.

    J

  15. Monsanto’s track record with soy beans in the USA speaks for itself. Their pursuit of farmers who save seed and the willingness of government agencies to give them free reign to ruin these people’s lives by drowning them in litigation means that, for me, I wouldn’t trust a single word they say.

  16. I guess there are lots of issues relating to our current state of well being in this thread. Here are few thoughts. I have a small grazing property in Australia and survive with what we call off farm income, I made the money that I spend to keep what is really an indulgent lifestyle by working in areas unrelated to agriculture and gathered lots of worthless paper credentials in the process but I sure have read a lot, I have worked close up with high levels of government and private enterprise and see the stupidity at first hand. All the money we made and have goes into changing things here on this farm we live on, the way we manage it, what we can have etc and as we prepare and adapt for a changing climate and it costs heaps in lost revenue and income as you wait for nature and ecosytems to be salvaged, repaired and for nature to take its course. We have nearly given up several times but love the life.. So those are my biases. Here’s what I think.

    May I say that growing your own food, (veggies, fruit and the odd animal to eat) is hard work subjected to the vagarities of the weather, animal welfare and health, soil fertility and plant diseases and pests, always has been, always will be, nature of the game. It aint no virtual world and there are no nifty apps to do the shit work and hard yakka. The routine of caring for crops and animals, harvesting and processing them is also repetitive and hardly intellectually stimulating but that is farming, which is why so few people do it these days, oh and it is very badly remunerated, everybody wants to eat cheap and not pay a fair price to growers and husbanders, then there is no end of middle personages who take what is raw product and value add, market it, transport it and sell it etc and put a hefty mark up as they do so. (I get $3.60 a kilogram for beef cattle that then retails at $20 plus in the supermarket).

    Now growing food for lots of people is a different matter altogether and has for a long long time been dependent upon surplus production from farms all over the world which is then traded for all sorts of stuff. The basis of surplus depends upon soil fertility, variety and techniques. We have been through two major crises, of which people are completely ignorant and oblivious, in soil fertility, the first in the 19th Century the second in the 20th Century. Both were solved by the miracle of first bird shit (rock phosphates) and then petroleum byproducts (ammonium phosphates). The use of GM modified grain and oil seeds (such as provided by Monsanto) merely covers up the underlying loss of both soil and soil fertility over time and creates the impression that growth in output and soil outputs is possible for ever and it is simply not. We are fast running out of topsoil (There is actually only about 50 years of viable soil left on the planet), water (its going into the oceans not onto the land and arable land (Population growth means more land for housing and the acoutrements of modern life). We solved the problem of labour in farms for large scale production by mechanisation which in turn is highly dependent upon oil. We produced a problem of agri-businesses and large scale farming from the great depression and the need to feed the world post WWII. Agri businesses and all the trappings of that production model go hand and hand with the neocon neoclassical economic delusions of endless growth and the substitution of mechanics for labour and synthetic chemicals for natural inputs. We can thank both globalisation and neocon madness but the seeds of these changes were sown with soviet collectivisation and the american shift to mechanised aggragate farms that emerged out of the great depression and WWII decimating family and small scale enterprises all over the world, the ripples from that implosion continue to this day. To give you an idea of how fast these changes have happened, most farms, world wide used horses until at least the 1950′s and not tractors and look at the memorials to the fallen of WWI to see how the population of rural communities has shifted to the urban existence.

    Agricultural marketing and the markets for agricultural products is rigged to the extent the world and local stock markets are and are now merely plays by hedge funds and other similar agri-financial businesses in other words the same madness that has infected the financial realm of our societies has infected the agricultural realm; demutualisation, aggragation, the push for economies of scale, large scale production and increasing mechanisation and labour reduction, not to mention a severe dependence on oil based machinery and chemicals. Agri-speculation is rife and the ensuing bubble and busts hide a more serious and worrying issue, the climate is changing and food is harder to grow, you cannot manufacture water and you cannot manufacture growing temperatures, mother nature provides those elements.

    Monsanto is but one of many similar businesses who have become agri giants, they all follow the Microsoft or American neocon model and love (un)free trade agreements, the use of intellectual property right law and coercive and predatory behaviour in their determination to grow endlessly. They cannot help it, they cannot see any other way of life or way of doing things. But they are dinosaurs whose end is coming.

    You will not change the bulk of farmers who have adopted Monsanto methodologies, Caterpillar technology and who are in up to their necks with the banks, they have no way out but to keep doing what they are doing, Monsanto, the oil companies, chemical companies and the banks have them by the balls, simple. Government subsidies and slavish adherence to globalisation and neocon mania merely feeds the whole mad merrygoround, small farmers who have resisted are busted and hurt by supermarket cartels and market machinations, why? to produce cheap food and they are all going to keep doing it until the whole process implodes upon itself which it will when some new fandangled GM seed or a left field disease of crops or animals arises and then the whole game goes tits up, OR they can no longer adapt to the changing climate and the price of their inputs finally brings the whole thing to a halt. In the meantime the world will be in chaos as people realise the endless bounty and the mirage of non seasonal food availablity evaporates with the chaos of this implosion, which by the way is evident about you now, you haven’t noticed? thats because your relatively rich, their are a lot of people starving and going without food and not just in the so called underdeveloped third world, they just got hit first, casualities of growth. Now add into this mix I have described above, the agri-demographic time bomb about to go off, all the worlds farmers are elderly and getting older with few replacements in most countries around the world, check out the figures for the UK you will be shocked how old and how few those good folk who grow some of your food are. When they are gone they are gone. Yep it is a shitstorm in the making, and nobody seems to realise the gravity of the problem.

    Kick Monsanto all you like, they deserve it but they merely are a large representation of the problems not ‘the’ problem.

    • Mike,
      I can attest to much of what you say. There are answers though, and they are not hard to implement. Composting is my number one. It is relatively easy to make and use; it does take time but that time is more than rewarded in the health of your crops (and thereby the animals that live on them).

      A few examples from my own experience and those of my friends.

      1) A friend of mine in Cornwall lost his hay crop to a leaky roof after a storm. It was a black soggy mass. He bought in some hay (organic of course) yet the sheep would not eat it. after a few days of this, he put some of the tatty black stuff out for them – to have it wolfed down. He was using a “Clifton Park Ley” for his hay meadows and his farm was Demeter accredited*

      2) Friends in Berkshire lost their healthy herd of cattle in 2001 after the foot and mouth epidemic. Their cows were happily munching grass whilst all around were slavering horribly. Their health was due to the ways in which they were husbanded – that is to say, with care. A herd that had taken two generations to breed was slaughtered at the behest of a deaf bureaucrat’s pen. he could not listen because the pieces of paper told him to do something else. The cattle he slaughtered resisted developing the disease, which if you are a farmer you will quickly understand that pests affect the weakest plants, not the strongest. Doesn’t it tell you something that his cows could carry the disease, yet not suffer from it?

      *The toughest of the organic standards by a good margin.

  17. Hi Gemma Your comments are so accurate that you will get attacked by morons.

    The ANSES or French regulators spent 51 pages to say they didnt like the research of Professor Seralini as it proved the harm from NK603 Monsanto Maize.

    To prove Seralini was talking rubbish they spouted off about GM soya and how harmless the industry hacks found it after feeding a meal once and testing before the animals dropped dead.

    What has soya and its goodness or badness to do with NK603 Monsanto maize?

    Monsieur MORT or whatever his name is should be killed off before 60 million French die after being forced to eat killer NK603 Monsanto maize.

    And that 51 pages was half filled with filler and bits of absolutely no relevance to the proven harm shown by Professor Seralini who was surprised himself when he found the worst problem was massive breast cancer for women with no problems for the males or much anyway.

    No wonder men can take this killer food. Is it to prove their manliness?

    Give me one single proper use for GMO food?

    Talking of the poor dying, I just noticed that our food has gone up 5 fold in 5 years. Is this supposed to make the poor eat more?

    If anyone wants to reply to my criticism he or she will need to tell me how much GMO seed is if we say non GMO seed is at 5 euros:kg ie in proportion. You will not be shocked but apalled how Monsanto hold farmers to ransom and the little farmers in India lose their land and are often killed by the round up they spray euphemistically called suicide. Some of course do get suicided.

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