Now let me say for the record; I'll be the first to suspect Monsanto of any and all of the sorts of corporate malfeasance that corporations have got up to since the first couple of Sumerians got together to lowball the other guys in the Tigris Co-op.
But a lot of this stuff just seems...insensate.
For example, one person posted a link to some beekeeper who had his colonies confiscated by the Illinois Agriculture people. The article stated that this was connected in some nefarious way with corporate Big Ag; Monsanto was mentioned because of a connection between the Roundup pesticide and colony collapse.
"The Illinois Ag Dept. illegally seized privately owned bees from renowned naturalist, Terrence Ingram, without providing him with a search warrant and before the court hearing on the matter, reports Prairie Advocate News. Behind the obvious violations of his Constitutional rights is Monsanto. Ingram was researching Roundup’s effects on bees, which he’s raised for 58 years. “They ruined 15 years of my research,” he told Prairie Advocate, by stealing most of his stock."Which makes absofuckinglutely no sense at all.
Look, I'll happily convict Monsanto of poisoning wells and sacrificing babies to Moloch. But pollinator and especially honeybee deaths are terrible publicity for the company; every time someone brings up honeybee problems pesticides are one of the major villains.
Why the hell would a company making pesticides want to stop someone from researching how to develop pesticide-resistance in honeybees?
I'm not saying that they didn't. I'm not saying that couldn't.
I'm saying that on its face the charge makes no sense. The saying in geology is "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". If you were trying to prove that Monsanto's Roundup was killing honeybees then it'd make sense for Monsanto to want to shut you down. But the article is quite specific; "...they (the bees) could have been turned over to Monsanto to ascertain why some of his bees are resistant to Roundup." Roundup resistant bees? Whoa! Monsanto for the win!
Why the hell would Monsanto want to stop that kind of research?
I'll buy that they could - but you're going to have to produce a hell of a lot of proof before I do.
Along with this anti-Monsanto agitation there was a general irruption of anti-GMO posts, almost all of them talking about the horror of GM organisms. There was little if any actual biology involved. Here's a typical one: GMO Wheat Found In Oregon Field..How Did It Get There?
A sensible person would answer "It got there the way any other volunteer plant gets anywhere, probably; bird or animal ate a seed, pooped it out in a corner of the field. Somebody dumped a pocketful of GM seed out on the ground. Wind. Act of God..."
The "why" - which is the breathless center of the whole fevered article - doesn't seem to be the real big issue here.
The bigger question that this article doesn't address is "Is there any evidence - hard, scientific evidence - that this GM wheat is a "problem"; that it endangers the mainstream wheat genome, that it produces harmful effects when ingested, that it has problematic genotypic characteristics that, if allowed to diffuse into the wheat genome, might cause trouble down the road"?
Well, because that's a goddamn hard question. And it probably doesn't have a quick or easy answer. Or one that lends itself to scary headlines about spooky GM wheat suddenly appearing like Freddy Kruger in a slasher movie.
There's a much, much better article tucked away in Scientific American that asks "What DO we know about GM organisms, what don't we know, and why don't we know it?"
"For a decade their user agreements have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research. Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects."Humans have been modifying organisms for millennia. We can now do it in a single generation unlike the previous breeders that had to work in lifetimes. And those changes are and should be daunting; who knows what genetic twist will torque a simple organism into the next Spanish Influenza, a new Potato Blight?
But how is the best way to deal with this to simply fear and forbid them? To demonize and scare-tactic about them, to set up a counter-anti-science in opposition to the GM organizations' anti-science? Is a blanket condemnation any better than the GM companies blanket denial of independent research?
About the same time there was also a flurry of "March Against Monsanto" posts in my in-box, and apparently this past Sunday about one-fourth as many people wandered around downtown Portland marching against Monsanto as turned out to see the Portland Thorns FC play the Washington Spirit a couple of weeks ago.
I didn't go. Neither did this guy, and he has a terrific post explaining why:
"Monsanto isn’t out to poison us or the environment. They are just one part of a system that is meeting demand for plentiful, cheap food. If Monsanto went away tomorrow, our food system would look almost the same, including all the problems. I believe that most people who went to marches today are actually concerned about the same thing I am: how do we produce enough food, fairly, for all with minimal impact on the environment? How do we achieve that? Setting up cartoon villains isn’t the way to do it."That's kind of the crux of the biscuit, isn't it?
My Facebook friend(s) that post this stuff, and my bride's dear friend who shared her "MILFs Gone Wild" weekend, seem to have the same sort of thing going on. They are concerned. They protest, they agitate about certain causes, they march, the write letters. They do change their own lives; Geochick is a strict vegan and her family is, too.
But for all that they don't seem to be able to go further than "setting up cartoon villains". Wall Street. Monsanto. Obama. FOX News. GM wheat.
But they never seem to be able to actually change the things that power up those villains and their villainy.
A lot of these "villains" are villainous because the world and our society makes their villainy profitable. If it wasn't them it would be someone like them. To change the villain isn't enough. There must be a change in the world that profits the villainy.
But that sort of change?
It won't happen because three thousand of you march around Lloyd Center.
It can happen when tens of thousands of you storm prisons, and palaces. It can happen when you destroy those prisons, those palaces, your life and the lives of those around you. But that sort of change is fearful; it often replaces the bad with the worse, and the Tsar is overthrown only to set Stalin in his place.
The great promise of the U.S. is that it offers the public some of that change without the need to destroy. You can vote. You can woo and threaten and try and influence legislators. Hell, you can even buy one or two; ain't tradition wonderful?
I don't know what the hell to do about GM crops. But I do know that running and hiding in pure fear of them isn't a good option.
And using laws and patents to stifle research on them and prevent skeptical inquiry about them isn't one, either.
And most of all I wish to hell I thought that the U.S. circa 2013 was in any condition to make an intelligent and reasoned decision one way or the other.