Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in North America today have been genetically modified. Supporters credit GMO to higher crop yields and nutritional value while critics say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment. The use of GMOs has been a growing issue of contention in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labeling of genetically modified products even though the federal government and many scientists say the technology is safe.
You may not be aware just how Monsanto finds its way into your home. It's not simply a matter of avoiding corn, or corn-based products. It also includes soybean, sugar beet, canola and wheat and rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) used in dairy cows to produce higher volumes of milk. And then there's that spotty record related to it's PCB production in the United States and the inproper disposal of chemicals in the United Kingdom and other legal problems in Argentina, Brazil, China and Haiti.
Last week, the U.S. Senate approved HR 933, a short term funding measure designed to avoid a March 27 government shutdown. Hidden within HR 933 is section 735, the “Farmer Assurance Provision.” Called the “Monsanto Protection Act” by critics, this section gives the USDA the power to allow the planting, harvest and sale of genetically engineered crops, even if a court rules that they were not properly approved. Short of a Presidential veto, the provision is a certain victory for genetically engineered foods.
The provision was slipped in anonymously while the resolution was in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The rider should have been brought in front of the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees, but was not. Senator John Tester (D-MT) proposed an amendment to strip section 735 from the bill, but the amendment never came up for a vote. According to the Center for Food Safety, there were no hearings on this provision and most Democrats did not know it was part of the larger bill.
A major UN/World Bank-sponsored report compiled by 400 scientists and endorsed by 58 countries concluded that GM crops have little to offer global agriculture and the challenges of poverty, hunger, and climate change, because better alternatives are available. In particular, the report championed “agroecological” farming as the sustainable way forward for developing countries. Imagine that.