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The Free Thought Project

Justin Gardener

May 30, 2014


How do you come to dominate the majority of commodity crops in the U.S.? How do you convince government that your products are the savior of agriculture? How do you convince people that your products pose no danger to their health, the environment, or the food system itself?

Don’t allow research on your product. Take over the funding of research at agricultural universities. And all the while, spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying. This is how Monsanto has been able to shove its genetically-engineered crops onto so much farmland in the U.S. without adequate testing. It’s a giant experiment. Our food system, public health, and environmental health are the victims.

26 university researchers submitted a complaint to the Environmental Protection Agency, stating that Monsanto and the biotech industry restrict independent research into the effectiveness and environmental impact of GMO crops. Most of the researchers withheld their names for fear of being cut off from research.

“No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions.”

How does Monsanto manage to prevent independent research on its crops? Under U.S. law, GMO seeds are patentable inventions. This allows the companies broad power over who can study their products and how.

Using this power, Monsanto refuses to provide seeds to independent researchers, and when it does it imposes restrictive conditions that limit research options. Or the findings must be submitted to Monsanto before being published. Buyers of their seed must sign an agreement that their crops will not be grown for research.

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Even when the government is deciding whether to allow a GMO crop on the market, the agencies have to rely on studies submitted by the company itself.

We have plenty of reason to be skeptical about Monsanto’s own “research.” Before the introduction of RoundUp Ready corn in 1993, Monsanto claimed that RoundUp is “considered to be a herbicide with low risk for weed resistance” and it was “highly unlikely” that resistant weeds would emerge. But after only a few years, “superweeds” developed resistance to RoundUp and we now have no fewer than 20 RoundUp-resistant crop weeds.

When someone does manage to do meaningful research with unfavorable results to Monsanto, it sets up smear campaigns against the scientists. A 2007 study suggested that beneficial insects were suffering from Monsanto’s insecticidal Bt corn. Even though there was broad support for the quality of the research, somehow there arose accusations of scientific misconduct against the researchers.

Monsanto does not stop with simple strong arm tactics. It now plays a major role in research funding at agricultural universities and institutions. This makes scientists dependent on financing or technical cooperation from the owners of the products they are trying to independently study. 

“People are afraid of being blacklisted,” Dr. Shields of Cornell said. “If your sole job is to work on corn insects and you need the latest corn varieties and the companies decide not to give it to you, you can’t do your job.”

In classic doublespeak propaganda, Monsanto and the biotech industry repeatedly use government as a foil when defending their suppression of research. They say they must protect their “relationship with governmental agencies by having very strict control measures,” yet they use government patents to protect their products from scrutiny.

The dangers of this situation will worsen with time. Monsanto and other biotech companies are planning to unleash numerous other GMO crops in the coming years. And they never seem to have a problem getting government regulators to approve these products.

Monsanto claims to be a “sustainable agriculture company,” but its relentless clampdown on independent scientific information is diametrically opposed to the sustainable philosophy. It is a disservice to all people who, willingly or not, are exposed to Monsanto’s GMO world.

Below is a Venn Diagram showing the virtual revolving door between those in the regulatory field and those in the gmo corn field.