Movements Against Monsanto
Monsanto has been the center for many GMO controversies for the past several years due to its patents and lack of long-term studies of their plants. Recently more countries have been standing up against Monsanto, and today Federal Courts in the US have ordered the destruction of Monsanto beet crops.
In August of 2010 federal courts banned the planting of genetically modified beets despite the fact that the USDA had approved these plants. According to the judge the USDA had not done enough environmental study to determine the possible setbacks of planting these crops. Environmentalists stated that these Round-Up ready crops, in fact, would lead to a higher usage of the herbicide Round-up and could potentially increase the amount of herbicide resistant weeds. Not only that, but the high usage of the herbicides could also contaminate non-GMO crops and could cause unknown ecological damage. Faced with this lack of USDA documentation, the court prohibited the planting and sales pending the agency’s compliance with NEPA and other relevant laws [Source: MSNBC], the USDA continued to approve permits to allowing companies to plant these plant seedlings. Several days ago, federal judge Jeffrey White ordered for these seedlings to be removed from the ground, making it the first court-ordered destruction of GMO crops. While Monsanto had limited standing during the case, it had no comments this past Tuesday during the trial. Other companies and farmers also sough to intervene, arguing that there needed to be limited planting for research and development, seed production and the ability to create future genetically engineered seed varieties for the future [Source: Reuters]. This comes after the planting ban was lifted on Monsanto alfalfa in June 2010. The first of its kind, the Supreme Court overturned the decision of a lower court in prohibiting the planting of GM alfalfa until the government completed a more rigorous environmental study [NY Times].
Besides the US other countries are also fighting against Monsanto. In 2009 Germany banned Monsanto maize, otherwise known as MON 810. This is the only GM crop widely planted in much of Europe. While the plant had been allowed since 2005, Minister Ilse Aigner believed that “there is a justifiable reason to believe that… MON 810 presents a danger to the environment”, though there is little evidence to prove without a shadow of a doubt that the crop damages the environment. Still, with the little data concerning the long-term effects of these crops, many countries in Europe, including France, Greece, Luxembourg, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Austria and Switzerland have also banned MON 810 [Source: BBC]. Other countries require permits for the planting of these GM crops, though Greenpeace has spotted various farms on Italy illegaly planting MON 810 on their fields without a permit [Source: Greenpeace]. Switzerland is also fighting against MON 810 as well as other GMO, placing a moratorium on the cultivation of these crops. In fact, the moratorium was extended to another three years and will expire in the year 2013 despite opposition from Parliament, House of Representatives, the government and Senate. When put to popular vote, the moratorium was accepted though some sowing was allowed under strict conditions [Source: Swiss Info]. While Monsanto has been attempting to send its seeds to poorer countries such as Haiti, Uganda and Malawi, they have met with resistance. Still In conjunction with large corporations like DuPont, they have begun to consolidate seeds in South Africa. This would lead to a duopolised seed market in the country, forcing farmers to become dependent on these two foreign seed companies. Most of the farmers from these poorer countries fear rises in prices and general lack of seed diversity. South African farmers have addressed these fears to the Competition Commission of South Africa and hope to have other sources of local seeds in the region [Source: The Ecologist].
While Monsanto continues to state that their crops are as benign as normal crops. Despite few environmental studies, Monsanto’s dangers lie primarily in monopolizing the seed market by merging with other seed companies like DuPont or buying out others. Not only that, their policy of forcing farmers to purchase seeds year after year shows that the company is only focused on profit rather than actually creating seeds that are not only resistant to pests, but also beneficial to the environment. In some cases, Monsanto has admitted their failure, such as in India where the pink bollworm developed a resistance to the Bt cotton. With the lack of information, many consumers all over the world are beginning to oppose Monsanto, leading to bans in many countries against the GM seed giant.
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