Monsanto Guilty of Chemical Poisoning in France
Most people do not realize that genetically engineered foods were only approved in the U.S. because the FDA hid 40,000 documents indicating their extreme toxicity.
Countries around the globe are making it increasingly clear that they're not going to continue to let Monsanto abuse the health of their people and environment without putting up a fight.
On the heels of being sued by India's National Biodiversity Authority on biopiracy charges, France has found the biotech giant guilty of chemical poisoning in a case involving a French farmer.
Monsanto Chemical Caused Farmer's Neurological Problems
After inhaling Monsanto's Lasso weed killer, which was later banned in France in 2007, grain farmer Paul Francois said he experienced neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering.
A court in Lyon, France ruled in his favor, with the sum of damages to be awarded forthcoming.
Francois is not the first farmer to come forward with health problems linked to pesticide exposure -- not by a long shot. France alone receives about 200 such alerts each year.
However, in the last decade only about 47 of the cases have been recognized as being caused by agricultural chemicals like pesticides, mostly because the farmers are exposed to so many chemicals over the course of their lives, that it is difficult to place blame on one over another.
As Reuters reported:
""It's like lying on a bed of thorns and trying to say which one cut you," said a farmer, who has recovered from prostate cancer and asked not to be named."
France, at least, appears to be taking the issue seriously. As the largest agricultural producer in the European Union, the country plans to cut pesticide use by 50 percent between 2008-2018.
Perhaps they're simply fed up with Monsanto's toxic products and questionable business ethics. A few years ago, a French court again found Monsanto guilty, this time of falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as "biodegradable," "environmentally friendly" and claiming it "left the soil clean." France has also recently asked the European Commission to suspend Monsanto's authorization to plant genetically modified MON 810 corn, citing "significant risks for the environment" shown in recent scientific studies (Germany has also banned the cultivation of MON 810 corn).
Monsanto Accused in Suit Tied to Agent Orange
The guilty verdict in France's pesticide poisoning case is nothing out of the ordinary for Monsanto, and given the fact that it involves only one farmer is not likely to faze the chemical giant. On the other hand, in the town of Nitro, West Virginia, tens of thousands of people are involved in a class-action lawsuit that alleges the company spread toxic substances, primarily carcinogenic dioxins, all over the city.
For a period spanning 20 years, a Monsanto chemical plant in Nitro produced the herbicide 2,4,5-T, which is a component of Agent Orange, the extremely toxic herbicide used to defoliate jungles during the Vietnam War. The suit claims poisonous residues from the chemical have polluted the area, putting residents' health and the environment at serious risk. It is calling for Monsanto to monitor residents' health and to clean up polluted properties, although recently a court rejected the cleanup request.
According to NPR:
"At issue in this case: whether Monsanto will have to pay millions of dollars to monitor the health of everyone included in the case ... This is not the first time lawyers have sued Monsanto over health effects in Nitro. In the 1980s a lawsuit was brought on behalf of seven former employees ... The cleanup issue is still being appealed. Meanwhile the medical monitoring case is headed to trial after settlement negotiations failed."
Why is the Head of FDA Food Safety Tied to Monsanto?
Michael Taylor, a former vice president of public policy and chief lobbyist at Monsanto, is now the deputy commissioner for foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Taylor, sometimes called "Monsanto Mike," has become the flashpoint for public anger at the FDA over issues that include failure to require labeling of GM (genetically modified) foods, failure to enforce and punish food safety violations by large producers, and ongoing efforts to drive raw milk producers out of business.
In case you're not familiar with him, Taylor is the person who "oversaw the creation of GMO policy," according to Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology.
"If GMOs are indeed responsible for massive sickness and death, then the individual who oversaw the FDA policy that facilitated their introduction holds a uniquely infamous role in human history. That person is Michael Taylor. He had been Monsanto's attorney before becoming policy chief at the FDA. Soon after, he became Monsanto's vice president and chief lobbyist," Smith said.
This may surprise you at first, but once you realize just how many of Monsanto's employees have shifted into positions of power within the federal government, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to see how this biotech giant managed to rake in a net income of $126 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2012,i despite being the mastermind behind some of the most dangerous products known to man, including Agent Orange, dioxin, aspartame and genetically modified seeds.
Even if you have friends in high places, it never hurts to spend millions of dollars lobbying the U.S. government just to make sure legislation goes in your favor, and Monsanto does just that.
In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government -- a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter. If we all had several million to drop solely on lobbying efforts, suffice it to say the world would be a very different place. Unfortunately, it's primarily multinational corporations like Monsanto that have this type of clout, and they use it to increase their power, wealth and control -- not only in the United States, but throughout the entire world.
You Can Fight Back Against Monsanto
The revolving door between Monsanto and the biotech industry as a whole and the agencies in charge of industry legislation makes it very difficult to stop the ongoing madness of chemical pollution and the spread of genetically engineered (GE) crops. That does not mean it's impossible, however. But it does require your active participation.
First and foremost, Monsanto is the world leader in GM seeds, so avoid buying GM foods! Since the industry has so far successfully squelched every attempt at getting genetically engineered foods labeled, avoiding them requires you to be an educated consumer.
- Print out the Non-GMO Shopping Guide and refer to it often. It can help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
- Better yet, always buy USDA 100% Organic products when possible, as these do not permit GM ingredients, or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers. The majority of the GMO's you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with GM ingredients.
- When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.
- For ongoing updates, follow our Non-GMO's page on Facebook.
We CAN shift the balance by simply voting with our pocketbooks and forks. Europe successfully did this over a decade ago, without any government assistance, and Americans can drive GMO's out of our food supply as well, but it requires educating the public about what GM foods are.
Important Action Item: Support California's Ballot Initiative to Label GMO's!
In 2007, then-Presidential candidate Obama promised to "immediately" require GM labeling if elected. So far, nothing of the sort has transpired.
Fortunately, 24 US states have (as part of their state governance) something called the Initiative Process, where residents can bring to ballot any law they want enacted, as long as it has sufficient support. California has been busy organizing just such a ballot initiative to get mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods sold in their state. The proposed law is on the ballot for 2012.
Michigan and Washington are also starting similar campaigns.
Since California is the 8th largest economy in the world, a win for the California Initiative would be a huge step forward, and would affect ingredients and labeling nation-wide. Last month, a coalition of consumer, public health and environmental organizations, food companies, and individuals submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to the State Attorney General. Now, they need 800,000 signatures to get the Act on next year's ballot.
I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can.
If you live in California, volunteer to gather petition signatures. If you live outside of California, please donate to help support this Initiative and spread the word to everyone you know in California. Be assured that what happens in California will affect the remainder of the U.S., so please support this important state initiative, even if you do not live there!