RN: more on Monsanto


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,    Jan. 22

Yesterday Richard (rkm) posted information on Monsanto's Terminator
technology to the cyberjournal. Meanwhile, I have been collecting quite a
bit of information on Monsanto of late, thinking of this list. By now, there
is way too much to send to you, so I will post only 3 items. The first is a
summary of the latest news on set-backs for the biotechnology industry, in
particular, Monsanto. It is written by another Nova Scotian, Antoni Wysocki,
whose analyses of "what's happening" are often bang on, in my estimation.
His MAI-alert list was started for the local region, but some of you might
want to ask Antoni to be included on that list as much of the information is
pertinent to people everywhere.

Antoni sums up his message by saying that we have reason to be encouraged by
some recent set-backs for biotechnology but that we must not slip into

I would add to that cautionary note by saying that it is impossible for us
activists to keep on top of all the corporations and their misdeeds and it
looks like Monsanto has become a sort of lightening rod for activist ire.
Let's not let our obsession with Monsanto blind us to other problems. Just
one example: According to the _Ecologist_ article excerpted below, "In 1995,
Monsanto ranked
fifth among US corporations in the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, having
discharged 37 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, land, water
and underground.25" Monsanto is "only" FIFTH among corporations. Now get
this: the Ottawa-based Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (contact:
•••@••.••• (Richard Sanders) informs us that "The Pentagon
generates more toxic waste each year than the five largest chemical
companies combined."

See what I mean? ... Let's avoid Nutrasweet and Roundup and so on ... but
let's not forget to get on top of what our governments do in the name of

all the best, Jan
PS If any of you would like me to send along more detail on Monsanto and GE
(genetic engineering)in general, let me know.
Date:   Fri, 18 Dec 1998 23:36:32 -0400 (AST)
From: Antoni Wysocki <•••@••.•••>
Subject: trouble for biotechies

Hi everybody,

As a corollary to the message I forwarded from RAFI about the Terminator's
"image problem" I decided to offer a brief "round-up" of some other recent
reverses suffered by the biotech industry. 

Perhaps because it has been so aggressive in its campaigns Monsanto seems
to have attracted the greatest amount of negative attention. As a result
it has become a preferred target for activists and is now feeling the heat
in a number of ways (sometimes literally; see below).

As I reported about a week ago, the Indian NGO KRRS has resorted to direct
action in its bid to oust Monsanto from the subcontinent, burning all
genetically modified (GM) crops. Now, KRRS has announced that it has asked
that criminal charges be filed against Monsanto for allegedly carrying out
unauthorized field trials of genetically modified Bollgard Cotton seeds. 

Monsanto also faces legal action in the United Kingdom. The British
government is suing the company for failure to comply with regulations
designed to control the spread of pollen from GM crops. 

Monsanto is also experiencing difficulties in North America. This is in
large part due to testimony from six Health Canada scientists who, in a
brave and unprecedented move, came before the Senate earlier this year
with revelations about bovine growth hormone (BGH). Their depositions have
led to a continued freeze on the use of BGH in Canada as well as calls
from US Senators for an investigation (BGH has already been used by the US
dairy industry for several years).

Monsanto has done its best (or perhaps I should say, worst) to pass off
BGH as harmless, but to less and less avail. In 1997 Monsanto managed to
bully a Fox-TV affiliate station into suppressing a story on BGH. Only two
months ago an entire press run of the British environmental periodical The
Ecologist was scrapped by its printer (the issue was a special number
devoted to criticism of Monsanto; you guess why the printer trashed it). 
However, recently Monsanto was unable to stop ABC News from airing a
highly critical documentary on BGH, featuring damning comments from the
Health Canada scientists.

France's Council of State, at least for the time being, has derailed the
plans of Swiss multinational Novartis to put GM corn seed on the market.
The Council has placed a moratorium on sales pending a decision from the
European Court of Justice on whether France must permit the vending of GM
seed (as per a directive of the European Commission). It is thought that
the Court will not hand down a ruling for up to 18 months.

The Australia-New Zealand Food Standards Council has voted to introduce
mandatory lablling of genetically-engineered foods. New Zealand's
inveterately neoliberal representative on the Council had opposed the
measure but fortunately was outnumbered by the Australian 
state/territorial appointees.

Having listed these bright spots I nonetheless must weigh in with some
cautionary notes. 

First, these developments are generally only positive inasmuch as harm has
been avoided, not benefit attained. 

Second, as RAFI warned in their advisory on the Terminator, having been
bloodied Monsanto and its ilk are likely to become twice as cagey - hence
twice as dangerous. Already the biotech firms have begun to retrench by
moving their operations to regions with fewer resources to fight back as
this week's issue of BRIDGES Trade News Digest reveals : 

        Africa  is being targeted by multi-national corporations desperate
        for a market to sell genetically engineered products which have
        been rejected elsewhere, environmental groups have warned. Another
        problem is the privatisation of state-owned seed distribution
        companies in countries such as Zimbabwe, said participants in the
        first Euro-African Green Conference, held in Nairobi early this

To sum up : as with respect to the international trade agenda,
progressives have recently gained ground in the struggle against life
patents. Certainly we should be encouraged by this but we can hardly
permit ourselves to become complacent.


Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 01:05:53 -0800
From: Aaron Koleszar <•••@••.•••> (note from Jan: AARON IS ANOTHER
Subject: The Monsanto Files - The Ecologist September October 1998
  (which the Printers, Penwells of Saltash, Cornwall destroyed the
  14,000 print run without notice just hours before it was due to be


The Monsanto Files
 The Ecologist September October 1998
 Monsanto: A Checkered History

by Brian Tokar

Monsanto's high-profile advertisements in Britain and the US depict the
corporation as a visionary, world-historical force, working to bring
state-of-the-art science and an environmentally responsible outlook to the
solution of humanity’s pressing problems. But just who is Monsanto? Where
did they come from? How did they get to be the world's second largest
manufacturer of agricultural chemicals, one of the largest producers of
seeds, and soon — with the impending merger with American Home Products —
the largest seller of prescription drugs in the United States? What do
their workers, their customers, and others whose lives they have impacted,
have to say? Is Monsanto the "clean and green" company its advertisements
promote, or is this new image merely a product of clever public relations? A
look at the historical record offers some revealing clues, and may help us
better understand the company's present-day practices.

[<snip> of pages of interesting detail on the Monsanto legacy of damage to
people & the environment, cover-ups, fines paid and the often over-looked
truth on products such as 245-T, PCBs, aspartame (Nutra-sweet & Equal),
Roundup, rBGH (or BST), Roundup Ready Soybeans (RRS), the "Bollgard" cotton
fiasco, illegal importation of genetically engineered corn seed into Brazil,

Note re: the next section: What I find most fascinating is to see how
image-making works. Monsanto's CEO is reportedly "anxious to demonstrate
that he is in step with the widespread desire for systemic change"; he
mouths truths such as this: "It’s not a question of good guys and bad guys.
There is no point in saying, ‘If only those bad guys would go out of
business, then the world would be fine.’ The whole system has to change;
there’s a huge opportunity for reinvention." and then goes on to tighten
Monsanto's grip on independent seed production in the name of keeping pace
with population stresses!]

Shapiro, The Image-Maker
Given this long and troubling history, it is easy to understand why informed
citizens throughout Europe and the US are reluctant to trust Monsanto with
the future of our food and our health. But Monsanto is doing everything it
can to appear unperturbed by this opposition. Through efforts such as their
massive advertising campaign in Britain, their sponsorship of a new
high-tech Biodiversity exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in
New York, and many others, they are trying to appear greener, more righteous
and more forward-looking than even their opponents.

In the US they are bolstering their image, and likely influencing policy,
with the support of people at the highest levels of the Clinton
administration. In May 1997, Mickey Kantor, an architect of Bill Clinton’s
1992 election campaign and United States Trade Representative during
Clinton’s first term, was elected to a seat on Monsanto’s Board of
Directors. Marcia Hale, formerly a personal assistant to the President, has
served as Monsanto’s public affairs officer in Britain.51 Vice President Al
Gore, who is well-known in the US for his writings and speeches on the
environment, has been a vocal supporter of biotechnology at least since his
days in the US Senate.52 Gore’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor, David W.
Beier, was formerly the Senior Director of Government Affairs at Genentech, Inc.

Under CEO Robert Shapiro, Monsanto has pulled out all the stops to transform
its image from a purveyor of dangerous chemicals to an enlightened,
forward-looking institution crusading to feed the world. Shapiro, who went
to work for GD Searle in 1979 and became the president of its Nutrasweet
Group in 1982, sits on the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy
and Negotiations and served a term as a member of the White House Domestic
Policy Review.54 He describes himself as a visonary and a Renaissance Man,
with a mission to use the company’s resources to change the world:

"The only reason for working at a large company is that you have the
capability of doing things on a large scale that really are important," he
told an interviewer for Business Ethics, a flagship journal for the
"socially responsible business" movement in the United States.55

Shapiro harbours few illusions about Monsanto’s reputation in the United
States, recounting with sympathy the dilemma of many a Monsanto employee
whose neighbours’ children might wince when they find out where the employee
works. He is anxious to demonstrate that he is in step with the widespread
desire for systemic change, and is determined to redirect this desire toward
his company’s ends, as he demonstrated in a recent interview with the
Harvard Business Review: "It’s not a question of good guys and bad guys.
There is no point in saying, ‘If only those bad guys would go out of
business, then the world would be fine.’ The whole system has to change;
there’s a huge opportunity for reinvention."56

Of course, Shapiro’s reinvented system is one where huge corporations not
only continue to exist, but exercise an ever-increasing control over our
lives. But Monsanto has reformed, we are told. They have successfully cast
off their industrial chemical divisions and are now committed to replacing
chemicals with "information", in the guise of genetically engineered seeds
and other products of biotechnology. This is an ironic stance for a company
whose most profitable product is a herbicide. It is an unlikely role for a
company that seeks to intimidate critics with lawsuits and suppress
criticism in the media [see Peter Montague in this issue].

Monsanto’s latest Annual Report, however, clearly demonstrates that it has
learned all the right buzzwords. Roundup is not a herbicide, it is a tool to
minimize tillage and decrease soil erosion. Genetically engineered crops are
not just about profits for Monsanto, they’re about solving the inexorable
problem of population growth. Biotechnology is not reducing every-thing
alive to the realm of commodities — item’s to be bought and sold, marketed
and patented — but is in fact a harbinger of "decommoditization": the
replacement of single mass-produced products with a vast array of
specialized, made-to-order products.57 This is Newspeak of the highest order.

Finally, we are to believe that Monsanto’s aggressive promotion of
biotechnology is not a matter of mere corporate arrogance, but rather the
realization of a simple fact of nature. Readers of the Monsanto Annual
Report are presented with an analogy between today’s rapid growth in the
number of identified DNA base pairs and the exponential trend of
miniaturization in the electronics industry, a trend first identified in the
1960s. Monsanto has dubbed the apparent exponential growth of what it terms
"biological knowledge" to be nothing less than "Monsanto’s Law". Like any
other putative law of nature, one has little choice but to see its
predictions realized and, here, the prediction is nothing less than the
continued exponential growth of Monsanto’s global reach.

But the growth of any technology is not merely a "law of nature".
Technologies are not social forces unto themselves, nor merely neutral
"tools" that can be used to satisfy any social end we desire. Rather they
are products of particular social institutions and economic interests. Once
a particular course of technological development is set in motion, it can
have much wider consequences than its creators could have predicted: the
more powerful the technology, the more profound the consequences.

For example, the so-called Green Revolution in agriculture in the 1960s and
seventies temporarily increased crop yields, and also made farmers
throughout the world increasingly dependent on costly chemical inputs. This
spurred widespread displacements of people from the land, and in many
countries has undermined the soil, groundwater and social land base that
sustained people for millennia.58 These large-scale dislocations have
fuelled population growth, urbanization and social disempowerment, which
have in turn led to another cycle of impoverishment and hunger.

The "second Green Revolution" promised by Monsanto and other biotechnology
companies threatens even greater disruptions in traditional land tenure and
social relations. In rejecting Monsanto and its biotechnology, we are not
necessarily rejecting technology per se, but seeking to replace a
life-denying technology of manipulation, control and profit with a genuinely
ecological technology, designed to respect the patterns of nature, improve
personal and community health, sustain land-based communities and operate at
a genuinely human scale. If we believe in democracy, it is imperative that
we have the right to choose which technologies are best for our communities,
rather than having unaccountable institutions like Monsanto decide for us.
Rather than technologies designed for the continued enrichment of a few, we
can ground our technology in the hope of a greater harmony between our human
communities and the natural world. Our health, our food and the future of
life on Earth truly lie in the balance.

Brian Tokar is the author of Earth for Sale (South End Press, 1997) and The
Green Alternative (Revised Edition: New Society Publishers, 1992). He
teaches at the Institute for Social Ecology and Goddard College, both in
Plainfield, vermont, USA.

  Copyright © The Ecologist 1998
Aaron Koleszar <•••@••.•••>
"Forests precede civilizations and deserts follow."       Chateaubriand

Prince Edward Island PROPAGANDA JOURNAL 
look at http://www3.pei.sympatico.ca/brad/

To: •••@••.••• (Jan Slakov)
From: •••@••.••• (James Crombie)
Subject: More on terminator
Date: Thu, 7 Jan 1999 12:01:11 -0400

There's actually a super article on terminator by none other 
than the geneticist Lewontin in the latest Monde diplomatique
(available free in French on the web).  <snip>

This is the same Lewontin who was on the Massey Lectures a 
few years ago.

His main thesis is that genetic engineering is being used mainly 
to ensure that farmers will not be able to reproduce their own 
seed (and livestock) and to make them dependent on the 
big companies.  It has nothing to do with increasing food 
production or food quality, and it is the prolongation of what 
was already going on with hybridization, etc.