L'Humanité in English
Translation of selective papers from the french daily newspaper l'Humanité
decorHome > Society > Monsanto Threatens Biodiversity
 

EditorialWorldPoliticsEconomySocietyCultureScience & TechnologySportInternational Communist and Labor Press"Tribune libre"Comment and OpinionBlogsLinks
About Agriculture, read also
decor’Famine is an Absurd Massacre’ decorJean Ziegler: There is Nothing Inevitable about World Hunger decorNearly a million acres of vineyard targeted for uprooting
Society

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Monsanto: menace sur la biodiversité

by Marie Barbier

Monsanto Threatens Biodiversity

Translated Thursday 13 March 2008, by Isabelle Métral

The genetically modified MON810 maize seed has just been banned [1] Marie-Monique Robin draws an alarming portrait of Monsanto, the firm that invented it.

“You should carry out an investigation into Monsanto. We all need to know the truth about this American multinational, seeing that it is laying hands on the world’s seeds, and therefore on the world’s food.” The request came from an Indian farmer; it did not fall on deaf ears, for the journalist nearby was Marie-Monique Robin, who was an experienced investigative reporter and had already made several documentaries on biodiversity and what threatens it. The name was familiar to her: a North-American multinational with a frightful record, one of the industrial age’s worst polluters, world leader on the GM plants market, which threatens to grow into a monopoly that will jeopardize food safety the world over.

Marie-Monique Robin plunged into the investigation and spent days and nights on the internet. Her first surprise was to find that “Everything was there, and had been there, before our very eyes, for quite a long time. The company has been so often taken to court that lots of its in-house data are now de-classified and available on line. Then I went to check the data in the field.”

For three years the journalist travelled the world, all over South and North America, Europe, and Asia. She meticulously put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. Although Monsanto’s chief executives refused to be interviewed, she made a point of giving the company’s viewpoint through written and video records. Nicolas Hulot [2] makes this clear in the preface: “Her book is no pamphlet based on fantasies and gossip. It brings to light a dreadful reality.” The company’s story as told by Marie-Monique Robin is instructive indeed. Orwell himself would have done no better.

The company will stop at nothing

Lies, falsified studies, lobbying of politicians, scientists and the media… such are the unscrupulous methods most didactically exposed in the two-hour-long documentary and in the book: the company will stop at nothing to make money. The testimonies show up Monsanto’s incredible capacity to worm its way into decision-making bodies: UNO’s Food and Agriculture Organization, or the US Food and Drug Agency in charge of food and drug safety, and even the White House… By extending its influence over the highest decision-making bodies, Monsanto managed to pull off an unprecedented conjurer’s trick: it succeeded in having “the principle of substantial equivalence” adopted, by which a genetically modified plant is held to be similar to a traditional plant. This principle has been taken up all over the world, which has made for the dissemination of OG plants worldwide without their effects on nature and human health being thoroughly investigated.

Since the late 1990s, Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds have found their way all over the world. By 2007 they covered a hundred billion hectares (7% of the world’s arable land). Monsanto claims that by selling those GM plants on the markets it is promoting “local farming for local markets that can alone guarantee food self-sufficiency”. How can that multi-national, after developing Agent Orange and PCBs, possibly believe its current mission is to solve the problem of hunger in the world? To Marie-Monique Robin, the case is clear: “Food self-sufficiency depends on biodiversity. As Monsanto’s GM plants have an adverse effect on biodiversity, so they run counter to food self-sufficiency…Not that I am against GM plants in general: I am against Monsanto’s.” Far from promoting seed diversity, the North-American company spreads single-crop farming across the planet, and single-crop farming imperils the survival of farmers. For beyond the health risk that GM plants might involve, their economic effects right now are dramatic. Monsanto is bleeding farmers all over the world thanks to an ingenious ploy: patents. This intellectual proprietary right compels farmers to buy seeds yearly. From India to the United States farmers live in the fear of being taken to court, when they are not ruined by the exorbitant prices of the seeds.

It will be clear by now that Monsanto is not going at it piecemeal. Those that were bold enough to oppose it have paid dearly for it: scientists have been pushed to one side or fired; journalists have been sued.... Marie-Monique Robin’s revelations are simply alarming: “When you make that kind of investigation, you tend to get paranoid”, she confesses.

Public awareness is growing

The pressure on her has been relaxing for the last few days: a highly protective wall is being erected between the journalist and Monsanto, as citizens become acquainted with her investigation. “It all started very suddenly; in no time, there were over 10,000 internet occurrences. “Even before the documentary had been released and the book had come out. This new awareness is her best rampart against the multinational, as well as being her objective. “Reporters are not there simply to hand microphones around. Ours is a political and social function. My aim is to make people develop an active interest in what concerns them.” Her investigation might well be a decisive testimony in the National Assembly’s current debate: the film will be shown there on March 31st.

[1"Le Monde selon Monsanto. De la dioxine aux OGM, une multinationale qui vous veut du bien” (The World According to Monsanto : from dioxin to GMOs : a multinational that wants to do you good) La Découverte. Arte éditions. 20 euros.

[2A famous reporter and ecologist who entered the political arena during the 2007 presidential campaign


Follow site activity RSS 2.0 | Site Map | Translators’ zone | SPIP