March Against Monsanto Case Study
The March Against Monsanto movement aims to address the issues of GMOs, chemical use, and seed/genetic material control in the agricultural industry. They hope to illuminate the negative health effects that are caused by the products of the Monsanto company. The March Against Monsanto movement was first conceived in February, 2013 and the first rally was held on May 25, 2013. The first protest was observed in 436 cities from 52 countries worldwide (USA Today, 2013) and support has grown to date. A series of international marches were held in October later that year. Since 2013, the movement has held annual rallies every May and is scheduled to protest again on May 19, 2018. The group currently boasts almost 1.5 million followers on Facebook and makes global headlines every year. Their approach is to raise awareness about the health and ecological consequences of GMOs and make it required to label GMO foods. The movement works to hold Monsanto executives accountable by collecting scientific research on the environmental and health effects of GMOs. Many of these postings are available through their main website (march-against-monsanto.com). One particular study found that Monsanto’s large scale bioenergy crop expansion resulted in levels of chemicals unsafe for human and ecological health (Love, 2011). Through public outreach, both digital and physical, the movement continues to fight for the right of citizens to make educated decisions about their food and have non-GMO, organic food accessible to everyone.
March Against Monsanto does not only march against the Monsanto corporation itself; the people who lead and follow the march participate for a number of various causes. Among the thousands of participants, there are those who march for the required labeling of GMO’s on food products, health concerns for consumers of GMO’s, others for addressing the injustice caused to farmers, other environmental concerns, etc. It is no secret that the Monsanto corporation has been in the middle of numerous law suits. Being such a powerful and influential company, Monsanto has the ability to fight many of the lawsuits filed against them without bringing any further attention to the matters. The common people however, and those closely affected by the actions of Monsanto are determined to bring light to the issues that Monsanto can so easily sweep under the rug.
March Against Monsanto marchers claim that Monsanto has created a food supply monopoly by essentially driving small scale farmers out of business. It winds down to farmers either buying seeds from the corporation itself or going out of business by the competitors (buying from Monsanto). Clearly, this is reason to be upset when the corporation leaves little to no option for running an independent, family owned farm. Marchers voice this injustice during their participation in the annual march.
Environmentalists concerned with the effects of roundup on the environment are also very vocal about their concerns and among the marchers. Although Monsanto claims that roundup is not dangerous to the environment, there have been many studies that prove that the glyphosate in roundup is toxic to beneficial soil organisms and other animals that come in contact with it. In addition to the hazards associated with it, glyphosate is very persistent in soils and sediments, even remaining in some crops like lettuce and carrots (Friends of the Earth, 2001). Roundup therefore seems to be detrimental not only to the environment, but to species of animals in contact with it. This leads to the question that marchers bring up themselves – what are the effects of the chemicals within roundup on humans? These concerns are another large motivation for marching against Monsanto.
Furthermore, there have been many concerns with the governmental involvement of Monsanto in formal legislation. Former executives of the corporation have been appointed as leaders of the FDA, resulting in political preferentialism and conflicts of interest. This unfairness is among another of the more reasons for marchers to march against Monsanto.
Most countries in the world have no formal GMO-free platforms. According to an article form Organic Consumers Association (2013), Monsanto has planted 282 million acres with GMO crops. This is a huge increase from only 3 million acres in 1996. The U.S. alone groes 40% of the worlds genetically modified crops, totaling about 151.4 million acres (Kaldveer, 2013). This clearly shows capitalism’s role and the consequential dominance of the globalized market. Despite a reliance on their global consumer base, Monsanto seems to have no regard for the health effects of their products, but rather, embraces the capitol they recieve from a globalized economy. According to Market Watch, Monsanto’s annual net income is $2.25 billion (2018). With such a large net income and widespread control over the global market, they also have significant control within the American government and agricultural regulatory agencies.
In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s globally produced pesticide “RoundUp”, is a probable carcinogen. Monsanto continues to produce the chemical and promote its use amongst global food producers, despite growing scientific discovery to glyphosate’s negative impacts to the environment and human health. Within the United States, there is a scientific consensus that food derived from GMO crops poses no greater risk to human and environmental health and that it is not required to label products or make distinction to organic produce. A recent Los Angeles Times article by Geoffrey Mohan reported that a federal judge had stopped California environmental officials from requiring cancer warnings on products that contain glyphosate. Major agricultural industrial groups sued the state, alleging that a warning label on food would violate 1st Amendment free speech protections by compelling retailers to post ‘false, misleading and highly controversial statements’ on their products (Mohan, 2018). Clearly, there is a connection between big industrial agricultural firms and U.S. politics. Monsanto inherently expresses their interest to reduce regulations and continue their business practices, having generously donated to politicians to sway political decisions in their favor. Additionally, Monsanto has supplanted the corporation’s own employees to high ranking positions within the US government’s health and agriculture sectors. Many of these politicians who now make the laws have personal economic investment in agro-businesses. One of the many Monsanto-affiliated government workers is Michael Taylor. The previous Vice President of Monsanto and current Monsanto lobbyist plays a high level advisory role in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Through their domination of the economy, Monsanto has continued to have significant power in politics and legislation. In response to March Against Monsanto’s protests, the corporation said it respected people’s right to express their opinion, but maintained that their methods improved agricultural production by having their GMO seeds efficiently improve crop yields while reducing need for labor and fertilization. The corporation continues to reiterate that genetically modified foods were safe.
After failing to pass legislation for mandatory GMO product labeling, the resistance against the GMO-crop agribusiness industries persists. The Non-GMO project, along with other ecolabel schemes, countered the lack of mandatory labeling by producing their own labels for organic and GMO products. At the same time, Monsanto affiliated companies have surreptitiously gained control over their competitor, the organic industry. Previously an industry consisting of small-scale organic operations, the corporate consolidation of the organic system has largely shifted while totally hidden from consumers. According to Dr. Phil Howard’s findings, many organic brands are owned by the same corporations that spent millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California and Washington (no date). His findings are displayed on his widely circulated infographic “Who Owns Organic?” (cornucopia.org). They reveal conflicted interest within the organic industry. One chart enables consumers to see at a glance the dominant corporations that have alliances and acquisitions in the organic industry. Dr. Howard’s work continues to be updated and has been featured to support March Against Monsanto’s mission. Other efforts to oppose the corporate domination include opening a store, “Shop Against Monsanto”, an online grocery store which only sells products made by unaffiliated, non-GMO, organic, independently owned producers.
March Against Monsanto as an organization has made a strong foundation for their claims. They have contributed to the networking of their supporters and sponsors and collaborated with well-known scholars such as Dr. Vandana Shiva. Dr. Shiva revealed that Monsanto's GMO seed crop and pesticide use in a farm village in India had caused disproportionately high levels of birth defects. Dr. Shiva, concerned scholars, and global organic organizations have united and are supporters and partners of March Against Monsanto.
During the agricultural boom, Capitalists backing the Green Revolution covertly built a system to turn land to productive machine. Now it is seen that they turned traditional farmlands into massive areas of GMO monocrops. During economic recession, the agricultural sector was protected instead of the mass public for fear of inflation and to maintain a stable flow in the food economy. Currently Monsanto agribusiness is selling its patented seeds to over 325,000 farmers globally (Monsanto Corporation, 2018). This poses a problem for farms all across the globe. Since the genetics are patented, Monsanto has the ability to take any farmers or persons found with their copyrighted material to court. If pollen of a neighboring Monsanto carrying farm gets to a farm that does not carry GMO seeds, that farm can now possibly have their whole crop destroyed or their farm taken from them for carrying or keeping their patent seeds without permission. This is just one of many examples showing the corporate efforts to overthrow traditional and under represented farmers worldwide.
To reaffirm, the March Against Monsanto is avidly against all of the capitalistic, exploitive, and corrupt actions that have been discussed in this report. Unfortunately, there is not much of a counter argument because the severity and duration of Monsanto’s disregard for basic human rights and environmental consequences is simply horrendous. The fact that the public has to congregate to protest Monsanto’s actions year after year while continuing to tolerate the consequences of their totalitarian methods showcases just how much capitalism has overtaken basic decency. The March Against Monsanto movement has been working to help spread awareness of the hidden dangers that we face every day. As long as corporate agribusiness steps on local producers, taking their land and livelihood, as long as our supermarkets are flooded with carcinogenic laced products, as long as the health of the earth and its creatures is jeopardized in the name of privatized capitalistic gluttony, the people will continue to march against Monsanto.
Howard, Phil. “Who Owns Organic?” The Cornucopia Institute. (no date) https://www.cornucopia.org/who-owns-organic/.
Kaldveer, Zack. “U.S. and Monsanto Dominate Global Market for GM Seeds.” Organic Consumers Association, 7 Aug. 2013
Love, Bradley J, et al. “Effects on Aquatic and Human Health Due to Large Scale Bioenergy Crop Expansion.” 1 Aug. 2011.
Mohan, Geoffrey. “Glyphosate Cancer Warning in California Halted.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 27 Feb. 2018
Monsanto. (2018). Monsanto, www.Monsanto.com
“Monsanto Co.” MarketWatch, wwwMarketWatch.com
USA Today. “Protesters Around the World March Against Monsanto.” USA Today. (2013) https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/05/25/global-protests-monsanto/2361007/