August 24, 2012. Washington. Banned by countries throughout the world but embraced by multi-national food producers such as Monsanto, genetically modified foods have faced surprisingly staunch resistance from grassroots consumer groups across the US. But the stalemate appears to be crumbling with the government and corporations putting on a full court press to get control of the globe’s food supply.
Genetically modified corn fields dominate the US farm belt. Image courtesy of Discover Magazine.
Ever wonder why canned corn tastes so plain but looks so perfect? It’s because the corn’s DNA has been altered to look perfect, be hard and durable, immune from insects and toxic poisons that kill everything else and purposely engineered to not grow if Monsanto branded fertilizer isn’t purchased at higher than industry average prices. That’s how the genetically modified food industry works and what it’s all about.
The downside is that all the best aspects of the food appear to be sacrificed in exchange for higher corporate profits. Another tragedy is the example of corn. One often debated statistic is that the only country left on Earth where the natural corn crop hasn’t been infected by the dominant GMO strain is Mexico – the ancient home of corn. But it’s only a matter of time before the plant vanishes from the planet all together, followed by soybeans, canola, potatoes, tomatoes, alfalfa, papaya, beets, cotton, and probably coming to a grocery store near you – goat’s milk and salmon.
With little mention by the corporate media, genetically modified foods have rapidly spread throughout American society, all while still being banned by much of the rest of the world. And after two decades of battle, the gene-altering multi-nationals have gained the upper hand.
Walmart says yes to GMO sweet corn
At the beginning of 2012, a number of consumer advocate groups challenged the world’s largest retailer to reject genetically altered sweet corn. Groups like Food & Water Watch and Greenpeace gave Walmart a deadline of April 1 to make a final decision. As the groups pointed out at the time, Walmart is so large, its decision would effect whether or not thousands of American farms would be planting safe, natural sweet corn, or laboratory-engineered Monsanto GMO corn.
Four months past that deadline, Walmart has reportedly agreed to begin selling genetically modified corn to its customers in the US. It’s a devastating blow to opponents of GMO food-like products.
Sarah Alexander of Food & Water Watch made the announcement and asks supporters not to give up the fight just yet. “It's official. Despite opposition from you and nearly half a million other concerned consumers, genetically engineered sweet corn is coming to Walmart,” Alexander writes in an email announcement, “The Chicago Tribune published an article this weekend confirming our worst fears that unlabeled, untested and potentially unsafe sweet corn is hitting Walmart shelves in the near future.”
Food & Water Watch goes on to ask supporters to spread the word and boycott Walmart. “You were a crucial part of our campaign against GE sweet corn, and so we wanted to make sure you heard the news,” she continues, “Also, we think this is important information that everyone deserves to know. So we want to ask you to help spread the word about Walmart’s sale of GE sweet corn by asking your friends not to buy sweet corn from Walmart! By selling GE sweet corn, Walmart has made a clear statement that it refuses to put consumer safety over profits.”
For more information about the battle against genetically modified sweet corn at Walmart, read the February Whiteout Press article, ‘Greenpeace vs Monsanto – Battle over the World’s Food Supply’ and the April article titled, ‘Time’s up for Walmart, Activist Deadline Today’.
Farm Bill and Monsanto rubber-stamp
Food & Water Watch warns us again that Monsanto and its corporate allies in the halls of Congress have launched another assault on the nation’s food supply. The group’s announcement says, ‘The House Agriculture Committee has passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill, and it includes some dangerous provisions for genetically engineered crops.’
F&WW’s website goes on to explain, ‘Several “riders” were included in the House Farm Bill at the last minute that would allow for the rubber-stamp approval of genetically engineered crops if the USDA doesn’t finish its approval of the crops within a year. These weaken the requirements of the USDA’s environmental analysis, allowing the agency to do even less of an assessment of the potential harm posed by the crop, and they endanger the entire organic market, by sanctioning the contamination of non-genetically engineered crops.’
Food & Water Watch’s Sarah Alexander remarked, “I know that Monsanto will go to great lengths to introduce more genetically engineered crops, but I didn't think Congress would just grant them blanket approval for anything they want to introduce. That's essentially what's happening.” She went on to urge readers and supporters to take action.
“If these provisions stay in the Farm Bill, there will be even less testing and regulation of genetically engineered crops than there is now, leaving Monsanto in charge of deciding the future of our food,” Alexander warns, “Don't let Monsanto decide the future of your food. Stop the rubber-stamp approval of GE crops.” She asks supporters to go to the group’s website for details on how to fight back.
Obama and genetic engineering
From the trenches of its battle against genetically modified food, Food & Water Watch points out one seldom discussed fact. While Monsanto has been pushing its GMO foods, seeds and pesticides for decades, it’s under the Obama administration that the multi-national corporation has seen its most success. See the below history of genetically modified foods in the US.
From Food & Water Watch
1992 – Calgene’s GE Flavr SavrTM tomatoes become first GE food on the market after approval by FDA.
1994 – Calgene’s GE canola approved by USDA.
1994 – Monsanto’s first Roundup Ready soybean approved by USDA.
1995 – Monsanto’s NewLeafTM potato, the first pest protected plant, approved by the EPA and FDA.
1996 – Monsanto’s first GE insect-resistant corn variety approved by USDA.
1997 – Calgene’s GE insect resistant Bt cotton approved by USDA.
1999 – GE papaya strains developed by Cornell University and the University of Hawaii approved by EPA.
2005 – Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa approved by USDA. This approval was challenged in court and planting of GE alfalfa was prohibited.
2005 – Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets approved by USDA. This approval was challenged in court and planting of GE sugar beets was prohibited, although USDA allowed some of the crop to be planted.
2009 – Start of Obama Administration
2009 – Food and Drug Administration approved ATryn, an anti-clotting agent that is produced in the milk of transgenic goats. This was the first U.S. approval of a GE animal.
2009 – GE papaya strain developed by University of Florida approved by USDA.
2010 – USDA approves Syngenta’s “stacked” corn variety (MIR162) that contains multiple GE traits, including resistance to a variety of corn pests.
2010 – Pioneer’s GE soybean, modified to produce increased amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic) and decreased amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic) approved by USDA.
2011 – Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa is approved by USDA, with no planting restrictions.
2011 – USDA allows planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets despite unresolved legal challenges to the department’s approval of the crop.
2011 – Syngenta’s corn variety, genetically engineered to produce an enzyme that facilitates ethanol production, approved by USDA.
2011- Monsanto announces its intention to bring its stacked Roundup ready and insect-resistant sweet corn to market in 2012.
2011- Syngenta’s insect-resistant Bt cotton is approved by USDA.
2011- Monsanto’s insect-resistant Bt soybean, the first of its kind, is approved by USDA.
2011- USDA approves Bayer CropScience’s stacked herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant cotton.
For more information on the fight against genetically modified foods in America’s food supply, visit Food & Water Watch.