Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

July 12, 2013

'What? Who wins the prize?'

By Charlotte Shivvers
The Journal Express

---- — I woke abruptly when a friend asked, “Did you read Reka Basu’s column about Monsanto winning the World Food Prize?”

“What?” This was a bad dream.

But, yes, Basu had written in the Des Moines Register, appalled that Robert Fraley of Monsanto was one of three winners of the 2013 World Food Prize. I applauded as she detailed why it was terrible that a prominent Monsanto scientist won a prize for improving the “quality, quantity, or availability” of food in the world.

I go way back with Monsanto. In 2004, I wrote an essay saying that we need to apply our ethics in food choices because much of our food is produced in ways that harm our land or are unnecessarily cruel to animals. Ethical choices are particularly important because genetically modified organisms or GMO’s are present in more and more of our food. Mr. Fraley of Monsanto was critical to the creation and promotion of those GMO’s which require genes from one plant or animal to be spliced into another.

My research inspired my vow to buy organic as much as I could. Other than raising my own food, it’s the only way to avoid GMO and to avoid supporting Monsanto.

I don’t call Monsanto evil because they created GMO’s, but evil for the sly – successful – way they promote themselves, ignoring the risk to all of us and the only earth we know.

Monsanto uses food scarcity and the world’s expanding population as a way to promote its biotech seeds. In fact, there is enough food to feed the world now, if we could only DISTRIBUTE it more fairly. And the GMO seeds most widely used aren’t engineered to enhance nutrition but to resist Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready herbicide when it’s sprayed on the weeds that threaten crops. Their biggest seller is Round-Up Ready.

Monsanto doesn’t admit that their Green Revolution success in selling industrial ag products in poor countries like India brought only a brief increase in food amounts and a huge increase in farm suicides – poor farmers can’t afford expensive, high-tech, imported farm supplies (270,000 farmer suicides in India, 1995 to 2012).

Monsanto doesn’t publicize that the plant world has created super weeds that defy Monsanto’s herbicide – and call for stronger herbicides. GMO’s have created the need for more rather than less herbicide use.

They don’t acknowledge that almost all research promoting the health of Monsanto products has been done by Monsanto. They don’t reveal that they and their GMO cohorts spent $46 million to defeat California’s referendum that would have required labels on GMO products.

They don’t say that GMO is ultimately a risk to the planet because GMO pollen does not recognize fences, and we do not know where the cross pollination might lead. Our whole fragile ecological system is subject to floating pollen which can immutably change other plant forms – like pouring a teaspoon of salt into a gallon of water. It threatens to contaminate any natural, organic seed source.

And they do not reveal how they got the “Monsanto Protection Act” through Congress, and secretly inserted into the Farm Bill, that allows Monsanto and others to ignore food safety rules and continue selling GMO seeds even if a court says “No.”

There is yet cheer: Connecticut just became the first state to require GMO labels. Others must follow. I’m cheered that many countries will not allow Mr. Fraley’s GMO’s to cross their borders. Cheered that some Senators work to end the “Monsanto Protection Act.” Cheered that the American Medical Association has revised policy to call for safety testing of GMO’s. And cheered the most that despite all Fraley-Monsanto-GMO pressure, the organic food movement grows at least 5 to 10 percent a year – even in hard times!

That is a real world food prize – people intelligent enough to seek uncontaminated food. We could be the winners!