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Who Owns The Rights To The Food You Eat?

Who Owns The Rights To The Food You Eat?

Monsanto’s genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” seed line now accounts for 93 percent of the soybeans and 82 percent of the corn produced in the U.S., according to a recent Bloomberg article

Should you be concerned? As Michael Pollan has pointed out, corn is the “keystone species of the industrial food system, along with its sidekick, soybean”:

“Take a typical fast food meal. Corn is the sweetener in the soda. It’s in the corn-fed beef Big Mac patty, and in the high-fructose syrup in the bun, and in the secret sauce….The “four different fuels” in a Lunchables meal, are all essentially corn-based. The chicken nugget—including feed for the chicken, fillers, binders, coating, and dipping sauce—is all corn….even the salads at McDonald’s are full of high-fructose corn syrup and thickeners made from corn.”

The implication is that in the U.S., we are becoming beholden to a single corporation for our food supply. This appears to be an emerging issue globally as well: Economist Magazine reports that, “more than three-quarters of the soyabeans grown around the world are now genetically modified, as is roughly half the cotton and over a quarter of the maize (corn).”

Supporters of genetically modified crops (GMOs) see them as a key part of the green revolution that has allowed the planet to sustain 6 billion people, and a potential boon to poor and unproductive farmers. But one of the many concerns about GMO crops is the risk created by reducing biodiversity and relying on high intensity monoculture. Like a billion computers all running the same operating system, a billion plants with identical genes are highly vulnerable to viruses (as well as fungi and bacteria.) Perhaps more concerning is the idea that the food genome could be privately owned by a single firm, with monopolistic power.
 
The New York Times reports that seed prices have been on an “unprecedented climb that began more than a decade ago, stemming from the advent of genetically engineered crops and the rapid concentration in the seed industry that accompanied it.” Last year alone, Monsanto raised corn seed prices 32 percent and soybean seed prices 24 percent. While many think of Monsanto as a chemical firm, a staggering 70% of Monsanto’s revenue now comes from the sales and licensing of seeds.

All this raises the question of whether we want to put our trust in a few mega-corporations for the food we eat. The Chinese don’t: They are declining assistance from Western firms, in favor of public research. And India is taking a very cautious approach, recently refusing to grant approval for the planting of a Monsanto marketed genetically modified food crop, citing problems of public trust and “inadequate” science.

Here in the U.S., there is now a “push by the Obama administration to take a closer look at competition — or the lack thereof — in agriculture, from the dairy industry to livestock to commodity crops, like corn and soybeans.” 

Monsanto certainly has a right to profit from innovation and investment in R & D. But farmers and consumers have rights as well: The right to choose, and the right to exercise some control over what we eat and grow.  Let’s hope the market swings back towards a more competitive balance.

For more, read Beth Buczynski’s recent post A Month Without Monsanto: One Woman’s Attempt To Avoid GMOs.

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Photo copyright: http://www.flickr.com/photos/flydime/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

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154 comments

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3:46PM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

Noted & Voted.

11:03AM PDT on Sep 1, 2012

ty

2:50PM PDT on Aug 30, 2012

(Guessing where this will cut off...)

There's still money to be made by the richest, even from the poor - and let the utterly impoverished starve/die from lack of money for health care, as the Republicans exuding corporate culture say

They won't miss a trick, as long as anyone has anything in a world that's all rightfully theirs.

Americans, please check to be certain that you still have the right to vote - over on Daily Kos I've been reading about people discovering they'd been disenfranchised 'by mistake', in states not suffering more obvious voter repression, in time to fix it - because they checked.

Can't copy-paste on this thing, so didn't copy the URL when reading this yesterday...

But we've never needed GM foods, which are damaging/destructive in all aspects, except of corporate profit and control, until the whole mess falls apart even for them.

We cannot have the lunatics running the asylum, government, Justice system, elections, our personal choices, the world.

2:37PM PDT on Aug 30, 2012

Hey, that's the idea - they own the food supply, and finally life itself.

Whatever the GM industry didn't directly patent, it infects with patented genes.

This includes us, and if you think companies like Monsanto would have a problem with owning the human population, take a closer look at the general corporate culture and Monsanto's blatantly psychopathic utterances via spokespeople and PR agencies, up until fairly recently.

On a global basis, corporations have been gaining control - or working toward gaining control - over food, water, and perhaps it all.

People losing their homes are forced to rent or live on the streets, if they can and for however long - who will control housing, as wages continue to drop under industrial/conservative policies inflicted around the world, when many can already no longer afford to buy a home, and who will control freedom of movement when private industry owns/controls once-public thoroughfares?

There's still money to be made by the richest, even from the poor - and let the utterly impoverished starve/die from lack of money for health care, as the Republicans exuding corporate culture say

They won't miss a trick, as long as anyone has anything in a world that's all rightfully theirs.

Americans, please check to be certain that you still have the right to vote - over on Daily Kos I've been reading about people discovering they'd been disenfranchised 'by mistake', in states not suffering more obvious voter repressio

12:07AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

Interesting article, thank you.

12:07AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

Interesting article, thank you.

12:06AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

Interesting article, thank you.

3:41PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

I'm going to try my hand at growing my own veggies and canning some for the winter. I also have gone back to seasonal eating. I knew I was keeping those jars for something. I have not reached the point where as one woman told me "I buy organic food I can afford and let Got take care of the rest". Monsanto reminds me of a large sinkhole that is growing and sucking in everything in its wake. Helping poor farmers...why are governments buying this line of crap?

1:24PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

Looks like the Bloomberg article has been removed :o( I really wanted to read it.

6:26AM PDT on Jun 4, 2011

Monsanto sounds like Microsoft

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