Monsanto controversies - Germany, SDSU, the world
2.Seedy Monsanto to the rescue
3.SDSU president's dual role as head of Monsanto concerns some
1.Monsanto takes Germany to court over GM maize battle
The Guardian, 29 April 2009
Germany, Luxembourg, Greece, Austria and Hungary have all banned Monsanto's genetically modified MON 810 maize on environmental grounds, but Eco Soundings' favourite corporation has now had enough of defiant cheese-eating Euro monkeys and is taking the German government to court to try to have the ban lifted.
So why is the world's biggest GM company acting now when it could have sued the countries years ago? Apart from the fact that its seed was due to be planted on 3,600 hectares (9,000 acres) of German farmland this year, it seems Monsanto has lost patience with the European bureaucrats and powerful lobbying groups who work on its behalf in Brussels.
The EC has tried four times to have the national bans lifted on behalf of Monsanto, but despite help from Britain, which has always voted for the crop, has failed every time. Now it's time for the professionals to step in.
”¢ Eco Soundings is our regular bite-sized blog series. It appears every Wednesday in the Guardian newspaper
2.Seedy Monsanto to the rescue
Wood River Journal, 29 April 2009
"Producing more. Conserving more. Improving farmers' lives. That's sustainable agriculture. And that's what Monsanto is all about." - From a full back page Monsanto advertisement in a recent New Yorker magazine.
The adjective 'seedy' has several definitions, including "having many seeds," as does the adverb 'seedily' and the noun 'seediness.' Monsanto, which calls itself an agriculture company, is currently best known for what it calls its "advanced hybrid and biotech seeds" and is by definition a seedy company.
The ad mentioned starts "9 billion people to feed. A changing climate. NOW WHAT?"
Seedy Monsanto to the rescue. That's what. The ad says, "Providing abundant and accessible food means putting the latest science-based tools in farmers' hands, including advanced hybrid and biotech seeds. Monsanto's advanced seeds not only significantly increase crop yields, they use fewer key resources””like land and fuel””to do it. That's a win-win for people, and the earth itself."
What could be better than to win-win with Seedy Monsanto? And that is what Monsanto is all about. Winning for Monsanto.
Monsanto is in the business of selling seeds, among other things. They used to be in the business of and best known for selling things like the now-banned dioxin Agent Orange, 72 million liters of which were sprayed over a million Vietnamese civilians and 100,000 American troops unfortunate enough to have been in the jungles of Vietnam between 1962 and 1970. Tens of thousands of birth defects in Vietnamese children have been attributed to Agent Orange, and thousands of U.S. troops have claimed disabilities caused by Agent Orange. Monsanto also used to have a virtual monopoly on the lucrative business of producing the now-banned industrial coolants known as PCBs. In both cases Monsanto withheld from the public information they had about the dangers to humans and the environment of PCBs and Agent Orange.
But as the dangers of its products become apparent, Monsanto appears to have changed into something different, like the jungles of Vietnam and its inhabitants after a dosing of Agent Orange. A current Monsanto company history reads, "Monsanto is a relatively new company. While we share the name and the history of a company that was founded in 1901, the Monsanto of today is focused on agriculture and supporting farmers around the world in their mission to feed, clothe and fuel our growing world. We are an agricultural company."
A recent scientific study in Argentina revealed that Roundup, Monsanto's current best-selling herbicide, "... could cause, brain, intestinal and heart defects in fetuses."
Monsanto makes and sells rBGH (bovine growth hormone), a synthetic hormone banned for health reasons in every industrialized country except the U.S. where Monsanto enjoys phenomenal long-term connection with the highest levels of American government. For instance, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was a lawyer for Monsanto; former Secretary of Agriculture Anne Venemen and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld both served on the boards of directors of Monsanto companies, and former Secretary of Health Tommy Thompson and former Attorney General John Ashcroft both received substantial Monsanto donations during their political careers. Every member of Idaho's current congressional delegation has received donations from Monsanto.
Since 1996 Monsanto has been in the business of selling genetically modified (advanced hybrid and biotech) canola, corn, soy, sorghum, alfalfa and cotton seeds. As of this writing they are still working on genetically modifying wheat. What the modification does is allow each crop to be sprayed with Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides without killing it. Each crop planting requires genetically modified seeds that Monsanto owns the patents for. Nobody, including Monsanto, knows the long-term consequences of genetically modified food, just as in another time nobody knew the long-term consequences of Agent Orange and PCBs.
Consequences there will surely be, not all of them improving farmers' lives.
Just ask any of the hundreds of farmers being sued by Monsanto for a variety of supposed infractions. For example, Oakhurst Dairy of Portland, Maine, was sued for the infraction of labeling its products as free of rBHG, putting a small business in the position of doing legal battle with a behemoth. Percy Schmeiser is a small farmer in Saskatchewan, Canada, whose non-genetically modified canola crops were polluted by pollen from the farm of a neighbor who had bought genetically modified seed from Monsanto. Schmeiser is just one of many others sued by Monsanto to pay a technology fee for growing genetically modified crops, even though they did not want those crops.
Monsanto may be producing more for Monsanto and conserving more for Monsanto, but it certainly isn't improving the lives of farmers like Percy Schmeiser.
It is, however, really seedy.
3.SDSU president's dual role as head of Monsanto concerns some
Rapid City Journal, April 28 2009
South Dakota State University president David Chicoine is the newest member of the board of directors of agribusiness corporate giant Monsanto, a fact that has some faculty and students concerned about a conflict of interest.
But Chicoine insists the company, which pays for and supports the university’s research efforts, won’t get special treatment.
His decision to join the board was a career move, he said, in a telephone interview.
“I thought it would be from just a practicing professional economist perspective, a great learning experience,” he said. “I think the university hopefully will benefit from an administrator that has a broader base of experience and capabilities. ”¦ I would hope what I learn there is going to be enable me to do my job better.”
Chicoine's appointment to the board was effective April 15, and he will be up for election in 2010. He will also earn $195,000 a year, and stock shares worth about $195,000.
But some faculty and students have questioned Chicoine about a conflict of interest, and the company is known for controversial biotechnical products such as Agent Orange and DDT.
Holly Tilton, a student and president of the university’s chapter of the Sierra Club, said she is worried about Chicoine’s ties to a company she has little faith in.
“I’m not a supporter of genetically-modified foods, so knowing that I’m attending a university where the president is sitting on the board of (Monsanto) is unnerving. It makes me question whether we’re accepting funds from Monsanto. A lot of stuff could change.”
Chicoine, who met with the university’s academic senate Tuesday, told the Journal things won’t change. He said Monsanto, which is a publicly-traded company, will go through the same process other companies do.
Kevin Kephart, vice president for research, said Monsanto supports several campus projects including a $1 million, five-year, doctorate fellowship program for graduate students studying plant breeding that was recently announced. The company and the university also have a research agreement for a Roundup Ready trait in soybeans, and a multiuniversity project about the use of corn-plant harvest waste as an ethanol feed stock.
Chicoine said those projects were reviewed before his appointment to check for a possible conflict of interest.
“I would suspect that since these projects were (approved), those of a similar nature in the future would also be viewed as appropriate,” he said.
Kephart said he signs the final agreements with corporate sponsors, not Chicoine.
“We have a conflict-of-interest process, but since it’s the president, it’s unique,” he said. “He needs to communicate with his supervisors, which is the Board of Regents, and I’m assuming he told them before he was appointed.”
Chicoine said the university, which is a land-grant based school, is almost entirely federally-funded for academic research. About 3 or 4 percent comes from corporations.
Academic Senate president Doug Malo said there are positive and negative aspects to the news and that some faculty questioned a potential for impartiality with research funding.
In a separate interview, Chicoine said the companies would take their resources where they can form collaborative relationships with the best faculty and the best projects.
“Frankly, whether or not Monsanto views the capabilities at this university in a way that they want to create a partnership, is going to be based on the capabilities found at that university, not because (someone) sits on an advisory board.”
Chicoine said there are questions about his appointment, because it’s an uncommon practice in South Dakota but not in other places.
He said the role of a university is to educate people and do research that solves problems.
“You best do those things collaboratively with the people who know the problem and that’s the private sector,” he said.