The World According to Monsanto, the last film in the Good Foods Market and Cafe 2011 series, is a devastating exposé that provides an in-depth look at the domination of the agricultural industry by one of the world's most powerful and controversial corporations. This free screening at the Central Library on Aug. 23 is a must-see for anyone who is interested in learning more about the omni-powerful and controversial Monsanto.
Most Kentuckians know Monsanto because of what it sells to put on our lawns and farms: the weed killer Roundup. What they may be ignorant of is that the company now profoundly influences — and one day may virtually control — what we put on our tables.
For most of its life span Monsanto manufactured chemicals which have left us with some of the most contaminated sites on Earth.
During the last two decades, the company has sought to shed its polluted past and change into something much different and more far-reaching — an "agricultural company" dedicated to making the world "a better place for future generations."
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It's almost like changing from Count Dracula to Frankenstein, creating a new generation of frankenfarmers, frankencrops and frankenseeds.
Given Monsanto's current dominance in the field of bioengineering, it's worth looking at the company's own DNA.
Monsanto Chemical Works, founded in 1901, first began producing saccharin and soon extended its reach into a wide range of products that included fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. From 1929 to 1995, Monsanto operated a chemical plant in the town of Nitro, W.Va., where they made the powerful herbicide known as 2,4,5-T which left dioxin as a by-product. In 1949 a massive explosion rocked Monsanto's Nitro plant and sent a cloud of white smoke out over the plant and town. The company assured the contaminated workers and town residents that the herbicide residue was harmless.
In the 1960s, the plant produced Agent Orange, the herbicide which the U.S. military used to defoliate jungles during the Vietnam War, and which later was the focus of lawsuits by veterans contending that they had been harmed by exposure.
The manufacturing of Agent Orange also created dioxin as a by-product. The Nitro plant's waste was burned in incinerators, some dumped in landfills or storm drains and some allowed to run into streams.
In 1969 Monsanto stopped producing dioxin in Nitro, but the toxic chemical can still be found well beyond the plant site. Decades later many former Nitro employees and residents won lawsuits in federal court, charging that Monsanto had knowingly exposed them to chemicals that caused long-term health problems, including cancer.
Monsanto operated chemical plants in Anniston, Ala. and Wales that produced polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which have been linked to liver damage, reproductive system disorders and is now classified as a probable carcinogen. Today, 40 years after PCB production ceased in Anniston and Wales, and after tons of contaminated soil have been removed, these areas remain some of the most polluted spots in the U.S. and Britain. Monsanto, which is now held potentially responsible for more than 50 Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites, moved its focus to agriculture production.
In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, laid the groundwork for a handful of corporations to begin taking control of the world's food supply by allowing seeds to be patented.
Monsanto developed genetically modified seeds that would resist its own herbicide, Roundup. Since the 1980s, Monsanto has become the world leader in genetic modification of seeds, has won 674 biotechnology patents and is radically altering global agriculture. Controlling the seeds is not some abstraction. Whoever provides the world's seeds controls the world's food supply.
The Obama administration, like the Bush and Clinton administrations before, has become a revolving door for Monsanto operatives. More than one-third of U.S. cropland is already contaminated with genetically modified organisms. as evidence mounts that GMOs cause cancer, birth defects and serious food allergies.
The same people who brought us toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs and now GMOs are asking us to trust our lives and the future of our children to their frankenfuture. Millions of health- and environmental-minded consumers understand that if we want justice, a healthy food and farming system and a sustainable future we must say "No!" to out-of-control chemical companies like Monsanto.