In this week’s post, I am going to highlight Monsanto and some of the controversy surrounding it. Monsanto is an international, billion dollar corporation that focuses on agriculture. It has revolutionized agriculture in the United States with new technologies and research. These innovations have greatly increased productivity of the United States and have helped the country as a whole. However, many of these ideas and innovations that were supposed to be revolutionary, are not as great as they seem on the surface.
One of these innovations was the development and research into genetically modified crops (GMOs). Genetically modified crops are plants, such as corn or soy, that have altered DNA structures to allow them to flourish in adverse conditions or to provide additional nutritional benefits. They take DNA from different plants or animals and put it into the desired organism to produce a desired result. For example, Vietnam used to have a huge eye problems. Many people in their population would develop cataracts once they got older. Researchers had no idea how or why this was occurring. After studying the situation for a while, they realized the problem was a lack of vitamin A in the population’s diet. To combat this, a genetically modified rice was created that had extra vitamin A in it to help counter the cataract problem. The results are still yet to be seen, but researchers think it will be promising. Another idea researchers proposed was to create corn that could survive in drought-stricken conditions. This corn could be used in places like Africa where drought and food shortage are common problems. In theory, genetically modified crops seem to be revolutionary and incredibly beneficial. However, there are many problems associated with them. These problems are also being perpetuated by Monsanto and their business practices.
Very little research has been put into genetically modified plants and their effects on consumers and the environment as a whole. My focus is not going to be on the human side of genetically modified crops though. There is too much debate, and you can not really be sure what is true and what is false. One side says genetically modified crops cause cancer and other health problems. The other side says they are perfectly healthy. However, ignoring the health effects, and looking entirely at the effects these have on the environment, there is much less debate. There is a strong theory in the scientific community that says genetically modified crops are what is perpetuating colony collapse disorder in honey bee colonies. There is also research suggesting that genetically modified crops are damaging the biosphere by decreasing biodiversity. You can see this in bananas. The bananas you buy from the store are genetically modified bananas. They are not the original banana fruit. The original banana fruit was being threatened by disease, so they created this type of banana that was resistant to that disease. Now the only bananas you see are these bananas. However, the same problem is happening, except now the bananas are dying much faster than they were before because they are all genetically the same. A disease is wiping out of all these bananas and there is nothing we can do about it.
Another problem with Monsanto and their policies surrounding genetically modified crops is that they patent the genetically modified seeds they create. To purchase these seeds, you need to sign an agreement with Monsanto limiting what you can do with it. If you violate it, they will find you, and they will sue you. They sue for everything to protect their name. Because of this, you need their permission to perform research on the seeds they create. You can see the issue with this. Independent labs can not perform research now, only labs that are paid for by Monsanto can research their seeds. Now, they may do unbiased, good research, but when a company who wants to stay in business is providing money for your research, it makes you question the results of the research. Part of the problem with Monsanto is the amount of money they have. They can easily lobby congress, and if they have to, they can even buy elections. They have found ways into positions of power, which is perpetuating Monsanto’s abuse of the system.
I obviously could not touch on everything surrounding this complex issue. What I wrote is a very abbreviated summary of the problems associated with Monsanto, but I hope it opened your eyes to something you may have not already considered. With this post, I am not trying to advocate against genetically modified crops. I think they could be great for the Earth, but you have to weigh the costs of them. The European Union and many other countries banned the use of genetically modified crops. These all came from the unknowns associated with genetically modified crops. Before we push this issue any farther, the Monsanto problem needs to be addressed to allow for a fair assessment of the situation at hand. Nothing will change until the influence Monsanto has on the government in the United States can be addressed.