On March 26, President Obama signed H.R. 933 with a provision called the Monsanto Protection Act. Monsanto is a large agricultural corporation focused on providing genetically modified seeds to farmers and agribusinesses. They have created revenue by applying biotechnology techniques to the farming industry that include modifying DNA of seeds such as the “terminator seed” which will produce plants that will never yield fertile seeds. Monsanto has also created seeds that could endure pesticides and herbicides.
Food justice activists are furious with the backdoor signing of the Monsanto Protection Act for a number of reasons. The act would protect Monsanto from being sued for health damages caused by the use of their genetically modified crops. Additionally, if health damages were discovered by the use of GMO foods, then the United States government would not be able to ban them from consumption.
What these complaints do not address, however, is the fact that Monsanto's practices with GMO seeds can do more than just hurt the public health; they can also destroy traditional farming methods in communities around the world.
Apparently, the large corporation has been able to disingenuously protect its malpractices by taking advantage of its multi-million dollar business of destroying cultural farming practices all over the world.
Monsanto created the genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds in order to monopolize the seed industry across the world and thus create more revenue. Technically, GMO is simply the result of a lab process that takes genes from one species and inserts them into another to obtain a certain characteristic of the seed. But what kind of projects have these profits been funding?
One way they have been able to monopolize the seed industry is by cutting a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). When countries are in debt, they can ask the IMF for loans to rejuvenate the economy. Some of the conditions of the IMF loan include sustainable practices the country must implement in order to revitalize the economy with western capitalistic development. However, one of the conditions of the IMF includes preferential access to markets by agricultural conglomerates such as Monsanto. Countries impacted by Monsanto include India, Mexico, Liberia and Paraguay.
This is an issue because farmers are not informed about the changed seed and suffer from inadequate water supply and expensive irrigation methods required. Instructions for the GMO seeds given to non-English speaking farmers across the world are of course printed in English. The seeds are also 10 times more expensive than natural seeds and can force farmers to take loans from local banks. Moreover, farmers are required to continuously buy the expensive seeds, as those provided by the conglomerate are infertile.
Even if the farmers required to use GMO seeds were given adequate instruction and could afford to purchase the expensive irrigation techniques required to grow the GMO seeds, this could be considered a form of cultural genocide. For thousands of years, communities in places like Mexico and India have been farming without the use of technologically modified seeds that require special instructions. They have prospered well without the monopolization of cotton, corn and rice. Monsanto is actively participating in an attempt to eliminate other countries' inherited and culturally sound practices of growing seed and producing food.
President Obama likely did not think about the cultural impact of protecting Monsanto in its use of genetically modified seeds. Nor did he likely think about the amount of power he gave to Monsanto when signing the Monsanto Protection Act.
The IMF, the United States and Monsanto should come up with a way to use science and sustainability practices to ensure the health of all peoples, the earth and our individual cultures, rather than profit from greed and destruction.