Monsanto’s Mutant Alfalfa and the Feral Pig Invasion

Agribusiness giant Monsanto is strengthening its hold over the food system both in this country and abroad, with some help from the U.S. government.

Food safety advocates have been trying to derail the roll-out of the company’s newest product, Roundup Ready alfalfa, or at least limit its use, Mike Ludwig reports at Truthout. But Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced recently that use of the alfalfa seeds would be fully deregulated and available for use across the country.

“The decision squashed a proposed compromise between the biotech industry and its opponents that would have placed geographic restrictions on Roundup Ready alfalfa to prevent organic and traditional alfalfa from being contaminated by herbicide sprays and transgenes spread by cross-pollination and other factors,” Ludwig reports.

Home and away

President Barack Obama’s food safety and agriculture team includes quite a few Monsanto supporters. Michael Taylor, the deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, worked on public policy for the company for three years, for instance. And the agriculture department’s chief scientist, Roger Beachy, came to administration from a research organization co-founded by Monsanto.

Obama administration officials are also working with Monsanto on a plan called “New Visions for Agriculture,” which promotes global food security, Kristen Ridley reports at

“This particular plan uses taxpayer dollars through Obama’s Feed the Future initiative to ‘advance market-based solutions’ to increase yield in the developing world,” she writes. “In other words, these companies will be exporting the Big Ag system to developing nations in the name of ‘feeding the world,’ but the only thing they’ll really be feeding is their profits.”

International impacts

For the developing countries involved, the pitch for food security might sound good now. But the United States doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to international interventions on behalf of corporate interests. In Colombia, for instance, local activists are pushing back against a new Canadian goal mining project in part because their communities have already experienced environmental destruction at the hands of U.S.-based mining interests, Inter Press Service’s Helda Martinez reports.

While GreyStar, the Canadian company pushing the project, has promised it will not harm the environment, leaders like former environment minister Manuel Rodríguez are pointing to similar claims made by U.S. coal companies in the past.

“The U.S. firm ‘Drummond told me the same thing 20 years ago,’ Rodríguez said,” according to Martinez.

“The former minister was referring to the proven environmental damages caused in the northern province of Cesar by Drummond’s coal mining — a disaster compounded by serious allegations of violations of the human rights of local residents and mineworkers,” she writes.

Unwelcome visitors

As Eartha Jane Melzer reports for The Michigan Messenger, here in the United States, some lawmakers are pushing back against Canadian interests, as well. Bruce Power, a Canadian nuclear energy company, wants to to ship “16-school bus sized steam generators from the Bruce Nuclear Station on Lake Huron to Sweden for reprocessing and reintroduction to the commercial metals market,” Melzer writes.

The generators would pass through U.S.-controlled portions of the Great Lakes. A cadre of senators from states touching the Great Lakes (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and New York) have asked the agency responsible for approving the trip, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, to take a close look at Bruce Power’s application.

Pest control

Here’s a different strategy for dealing with unwelcome visitors: Kiera Butler is chronicling her encounters with invasive species at Mother Jones. When the problem is feral pigs, however, the strategy is not diplomacy: it’s hunting them. As Butler explains,

Jackson Landers, a.k.a the Locavore Hunter, aims to whet American appetites for invasive species like lionfish, geese, deer, boar, and even spiny iguanas by working with wholesalers, chefs, and restaurateurs to promote these aliens as menu items. As Landers recently told the New York Times‘ James Gorman, “When human beings decide that something tastes good, we can take them down pretty quickly.”

Check out Butler’s account of her hunt in Georgia. She also learns that the attitude towards the pigs—and invasive species in general—goes beyond a desire to simply be rid of them. “In Florida, the spiny iguanas are pests, but they’re also kind of pretty, so some people kind of like having a few of them around and object when people try to get rid of them,” she writes.

Home turf

Of course, not all negative environmental impacts happen abroad, or on account of invaders. Henry Taksier has a sad piece in Campus Progress showing the long-term problems that a wood-treatment factory has created in Gainesville, Florida:

For 93 years, Koppers, Inc. operated a wood-treatment facility at 200 NW 23rd Ave, releasing industrial toxins—including arsenic, hexavalent chromium, creosote, and dioxins—into Gainesville’s air, water, and soil. The area is now ranked as one of the nation’s top-100 polluted sites. It has been designated a Superfund site—a place so heavily polluted with toxic waste that it poses a threat to human health and the environment—for 27 years.

Even so, the area has yet to be fully cleaned up, and families live in close proximity to the site, worrying about their health and warning kids to stay away from the area.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. 

Photo credit: NASA Kennedy Media Gallery
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Claudia Acosta
Claudia Acosta3 years ago

What you can do when and international company "Drummond" goes to your country, destroy the environment, kill people, and my national country is unable to do justice?

Claudia Acosta
Claudia Acosta3 years ago

Please Drummond hasn't stop its evil work in Colombia, and the goverment is doing nothing!!! what they can do when is this goverment who gives the licenses to exploit the territory?

federico bortoletto
federico b4 years ago


Barbara G.
Barbara Godwin5 years ago

As usual the animal gets the short end of the deal, no matter it was man who put him in this predicament to begin with. But do we really want hunters flying the skies anywhere? Can you imagine the range of these weapons, and if I were the helicopter pilot, I'd be wearing a bullet proof helment and vest. Besides, this isn't hunting, its a callous high dollar ride for people who like to brag about what they did over the weekend. It is poor representation for those who view "hunting" as a genuine sport. I do not wish to partake of either, but it smacks of being unethical as well as inhumane. Leave it to Texas to promote wholesale slaughter. As far as Monsanto, they've been pushing the envelope for a long time. If they are banned from their bio genetics in Europe, how do we go about getting it accomplished here? We are losing our bee populations which will eventually cause a bigger shortage than I care to think about, and I often wonder if along with the monarch butterfly, they and the human race will eventually just fade away....greed and power will destroy the world as we know it Whether Monsanto has any connection to these particular phenomena or not is not the issue. The issue is we don't know what is causing their demise tho everyone suspects pesticides and gmo and Monsanto and their ilk cannot be ruled out. For every change they make in natural occurrance, their has to be a reaction. Unfortunately, we usually don't find out what the reaction is until its too late

Margaret Paddock
Margaret Paddock5 years ago

No one yet knows the effect of these genetically engineered products on the growing bodies of children. What ill effects might it have on them and the aged. The adults that fall in between might be able to ward it off better yet no one knows.

"Don't mess with Mother Nature" is the only safe way to go. The less man interferes with most anything the better it seems to balance itself out. If man had not interfered with turning loose the pigs, whatever natural predator the iguanas had, etc. there would be no problem.

Man has always had an incredible ability to destroy the natural good like introducing species of plants into an area they do not belong in, manufacturing plants that pollute and kill wildlife and humans all in the name of being productive beings. How ludicrous. Nothing productive kills.

Monsanto has long been a chemical producer with no conscious. The government needs to get its' thinking straight and put a stop to companies like this. There are many safer ways to feed the world than with chemicals. The native Indians and prehistoric man did just fine or we would not have people today. Rid the world of greedy war mongering groups that destroy the land and force people into areas that can not sustain them and you have won half the battle.

Michaela Guenter
Michaela G5 years ago

Hey Americans, where are you? Here in Europe we keep fighting and banning GMO abominations! Remember your original love of freedom and send these Monsanto profitmakers to hell!

Deb R.
Past Member 5 years ago

Frankensanto ... evil

Khat Bliss
Past Member 5 years ago

No wonder they grow a garden in the white house...but, please actions speak louder than words. Quit giving Monsanto and others the green light to "feed the world". If we kept our seeds we could feed ourselves. Sad, sad situation and not getting any better.