Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Support Local Infrastructure Donate to NPI

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to stop Monsanto, for good

Tuesday, NPR's Marketplace program reported that Germany has moved to ban Monsanto's "MON-810" strain of genetically modified corn. This is a significant win for the sustainable agriculture movement, and a significant loss for one of the most environmentally reprehensible companies on the planet, Monsanto.

MON-810 is, purportedly, resistant to the corn-borer worm. This product was supposed to be Monsanto's wedge to crack open the European Union, which has to date fiercely resisted allowing genetically modified (GM) crops to be grown there.

It's a big bummer for Monsanto, because now they don't get to charge farmers an arm and a leg for GM seed corn that, in all probability, won't yield any better than the corn they've been growing since corn came to Europe hundreds of years ago.

We applaud Germany's move, here, and hope that the rest of the European Union nations quickly follow suit. Monsanto needs to be told, in no uncertain terms, that it's business model is fundamentally broken.

Why? Because Monsanto's business model is built upon a strategy of lies, exploitation, and strong-arm tactics when it doesn't get what it wants.

You don't have to look very hard in your favorite search engine to dig up dirt on how Monsanto's practices have savaged the livelihoods (and even the lives) of farmers all over the world.

In India, for example, Monsanto peddles GM cotton seed, which they say yields more bushels of cotton per acre than the indigenous cotton varieties that Indian subsistence farmers have been growing for literally thousands of years.

Except, what they don't say, is that to actually get those yields the farmers will need to coddle those mighty Monsanto seeds with huge quantities of petrochemical fertilizers and much higher levels of irrigation than farmers in those areas are accustomed to - or even able to - provide.

Sustainability? Not, apparently, a concept Monsanto gives a damn about.

The end result is that these farmers get tricked into spending what little money they have on Monsanto seeds that, when the chips are down, end up producing less cotton than the traditional crops.

And little wonder: those indigenous varieties have had thousands of generations of human-aided selective breeding to become attuned to the natural soil composition and irrigation levels in the places where they are grown.

The farmers end up with failed crops, economic ruin, and end up committing suicide in vast numbers.

Evil? Not, apparently, something Monsanto has a problem with.

That's Monsanto's business model: Spend lots of money developing special seeds that you can only get from them, which supposedly have some miracle property like blight resistance or high yields or whatever, then force-market the seeds on unsuspecting farmers who have no real means to find out that they're being duped.

At least not before it's too late. And when the farmers resist, Monsanto's lobbying arm goes into action, buying laws and regulations that make it ever more difficult for farmers anywhere to go organic.

If a few small-scale farmers go bankrupt or kill themselves, what does Monsanto care? That land will probably end up being sold to a larger farming corporation that, because of its economies of scale and need to perform industrial agriculture (as opposed to sustainable agriculture), will be willing to take Monsanto's seed, spray it with pesticides, drown it with fertilizers, and soak it with more water per acre than Noah's flood.

It's a business model that is diametrically opposed to the very ideas of sustainable living that will enable humanity to survive the next 100 years. Monsanto's business practices are, quite literally, making it harder for my children and their (future) children to live on this planet.

They're lowering the chances that our species will live to see the year 2100.

That's not okay.

But what, as individuals, can we do about it? After all, odds are nobody reading this post is on Monsanto's board of directors.

But we could be.

Monsanto's stock (NYSE: "MON") closed today at $82.31 per share, with a market capitalization of 44 billion dollars, and 545,749,000 shares outstanding.

That's a lot of shares, and that's a lot of money.

But if we imagine that there are maybe 100 million people in the United States who care about sustainability (probably a conservative estimate), and another 50 million or so in Europe who care, then for $300 per person we could literally buy enough of Monsanto's stock to control the company.

In reality, it wouldn't even take that much. If some group were to come into existence to lead this effort, if they were to do it publicly, loudly, and in the open, it would probably cause a precipitous drop in Monsanto's share price.

After all, the people holding Monsanto stock now are the ones betting on that evil business model. If we come along and say "we're going to force that model to change," then their bet becomes a bad bet and they'll dump the stock.

If nothing else, it signals long term uncertainty about Monsanto's profit margins, which achieves the same effect.

When we take over, we can re-organize Monsanto into a non-for-profit sustainability company, working to preserve seed diversity worldwide and subsidize seed acquisition for subsistence farmers in underdeveloped nations.

What a beautiful dream: turn the world's worst enemy of sustainable agriculture into its biggest supporter.

All it would take is the collective power of the masses to put their money where their mouths are, before Monsanto ends up doing to the worldwide food production system what the mortgage bankers and other greedy financial types did to the worldwide financial system.


Blogger Piper said...

How can an ordinary person do something substantial to change this situation? There must be other organizations that we can be brought together to stop GMOs, rBGH and PCBs.
Organization must happen before this can be stopped!

April 18, 2010 12:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home