Speech from Linda Coenen from ASEED during the March Against Monsanto in Wageningen.
Monsanto, there we are. ‘Improving agriculture, improving life’ is their slogan. But what kind of company is Monsanto really?
Founded in 1901 its first product was the artificial sweetener saccharine. The next decades Monsanto developed into an agricultural chemical company, selling all kinds of poisonous chemicals and herbicides. Not surprisingly, Monsanto plays a mayor role in the chemical-based industrialisation of agriculture since WW2, and profiting massively from it.
In 1975 they introduced the well known herbicide Roundup. In the same period they became interested in biotechnology, genetic engineering of plants in particular, and from there developed into a global leader in GE seeds.
To secure the market for their Roundup herbicide, Monsanto used Genetic Engineering to develop Roundup Ready bulk crops like soy, corn, rapeseed, sugar beets. These crops are resistant to the herbicide Roundup, so you can spray Roundup over a field, all weeds will die except the crop you are growing. All other agrochemical giants were looking to develop GE crops resistant to their own herbicide resistant crops, but Monsanto was the first who managed to do so. But in the mean time, companies like Syngenta, BASF, Dow and Dupont all have developed their own herbicide resistant crops. In fact, this is what the bulk of the ‘great promise’ of biotech companies adds up to: herbicide resistant crops, and the so-called BT-crops that produce their own insecticide.
To be able to control the seed market for these crops, and push farmers to buy Monsanto’s, they simply started buying up seed companies and selling their patented GE technologies to other seed breeders. They even tried to develop sterile seeds (the so called Terminator technology) to prevent farmers from sowing their own seeds from one harvest to the next. This however caused so much opposition that this plan has so far failed.
By now Monsanto has become the biggest seed company in the world, controlling 23% of the seed market. They monopolise our food with GMOs and patents on plants, seeds, genes. In the US alone almost all soy and 4- 5th of the corn is grown from seeds containing Monsanto-patented genetics. 99% of the soy grown in Argentina is Roundup Ready from Monsanto. In Europe, they own 75% of the conventional varieties of broccoli, paprika and tomato. Imagine, you’re in the supermarket, you want to buy a broccoli, 3 of the 4 come from a seed owned by Monsanto.
How? They have been buying up vegetable seed companies, especially in The Netherlands, like Seminis seeds we see over there. Also De Ruiter Seeds near Rotterdam where also a protest march is taking place today. Monsanto targeted the Dutch seed companies specifically for its leading position in the international vegetable seeds market.
By taking over the market of seeds they have virtual monopolies on several crops. They can rise seed prices, force farmers to buy their seeds and their Roundup pesticide year after year with combined contracts. And the US farmers that don’t want to use Monsanto seeds? The company sends their lawyers and bullies the farmers with legal threats into paying thousands of dollars of license fees, even though they did not intentionally use Monsanto’s patented seeds.
GMOs and conventional patented crops are an important power tools for Monsanto and the other seed giants. 80% of the GMOs is resistant to herbicides like Roundup (glyphosate), causing the poisoning of our food and environment.
An increasing number of scientific studies show that even in low quantities Roundup causes cancer, birth deficits and other health problems. Many farmers, authorities and private gardeners use it to kill weeds.
There are also numerous signs, experiences from cattle farmers, that Monsanto’s herbicide tolerant and bt-crops themselves cause health and fertility problems.
In India Monsanto took over the cotton seed market, pushing up the seed prices, driving small farmers into dispair and even suicide. This same bt-cotton is now in bloom causing allergic reactions sometimes resulting in deaths.
But Monsanto promotes their products as sustainable with misleading advertisements and blatant lies. Time after time, the company escapes responsibility for the damage its products cause. How? Monsanto has an unbelievably strong influence on government policies all over the world, buying up politicians, putting their people in governments and state authorities, buying up scientists and shutting up critical ones. In the US they have prevented labelling of GMOs on food products. And now the new US Farm bill protects Monsanto from health damage claims against GM crops.
Why? They know their products are dangerous but they don’t care. For Monsanto only profits, rising stock values count. ‘improving agriculture, improving live’, Monsanto? No, improving power and improving profits, that is the true meaning of your slogan.
Also here Monsanto influences patent and seed laws to meet its profit driven needs. Also here Monsanto has a strong influence on science, on what kind of agricultural crop breeding money is invested in, on what kind of research WUR does. We have heard earlier today about the ties between WUR university and the biotech and agro-chemical industry, and its not very refreshing….
Is it possible that WUR’s dependence on money from Monsanto and other GM companies has anything to do with its GM potato project called DuRPh? We can see one of the field trial sites of this GM promotion project of WUR right here, next to Monsanto.
It’s no surprise that All over the world there is strong resistance against Monsanto and GMOs. In Mexico farmers, students, civil society is fighting to stop Monsanto’s GM corn. In the US and Canada more and more farmers want to stop growing GM crops. Also in Europe there still a strong resistance against GMOs, no less than 9 countries have banned cultivation of Monsanto’s bt corn including France and Germany.
So there is hope for improving agriculture and improving life, not Monsanto style, but the real thing: so far we have managed to keep GMO cultivation in Europe very limited. Their are several herbicide tolerant GMOs about to get approval for cultivation but we can stop this. We don’t want GMOs, not from Monsanto, not from any other GM seed company. So join the stop the crop campaign, sign up for cyber actions online. Let’s work together and prevent these poisonous GM crops from entering our fields!
Because what do we want?
We want to protect the future of our food. We cannot feed the world with more polluting, intensive large scale agriculture, dependent on fossil fuels, artificial fertilisers and chemicals. We are running out of those resources and we are destroying the planet with it. To feed the world, we need seed diversity and ecological small scale crops, adapted to local circumstances. We want the people to have full control over the seeds, not farmers being dependent on a few big companies making a lot of money with a few GM crops. Therefore its time to claim back our food from the likes of Monsanto, we demand seed sovereignty now!