Avoiding Monsanto Seeds

Once upon a time, Burpee Seeds would have been my go-to for the garden. But in a world of questionable corporate takeovers, I can no longer rely solely on Grandma and Mom’s tried and true wisdom. To know who I’m really doing business with—thus putting my money where my mouth is in terms of living […]

Once upon a time, Burpee Seeds would have been my go-to for the garden. But in a world of questionable corporate takeovers, I can no longer rely solely on Grandma and Mom’s tried and true wisdom. To know who I’m really doing business with—thus putting my money where my mouth is in terms of living Green—I must research. And while Burpee isn’t OWNED by Monsanto (they deal with Seminis, one of Monsanto’s “dedicated platforms”), I’d like to avoid everything that Monsanto has on the market. Why would I make such a broad, overarching statement about a single multinational corporation? For the answer we need a (comparatively) brief history lesson of Monsanto (wikipedia).

Since its founding in 1901, Monsanto has brought us:

Monsanto’s first contribution to the world was the artificial sweetener saccharin, which it sold to the Coca-Cola Company. They were later sued by the US government (1917) regarding saccharin’s safety. Monsanto also introduced caffeine and vanillin to Coca-Cola, and they are the makers of aspartame (NutraSweet).

The corporation then became a lead manufacturer of plastics and synthetic fibers, expanding their repertoire by manufacturing the herbicides / insecticides 2, 4, 5-T, DDT, and Agent Orange (of Vietnam fame). Monsanto operated the Dayton Project and Mound Laboratory for the Manhattan Project, the development of the first nuclear weapons.

Monsanto is the largest producer of glyphosate herbicides through its brand Roundup.

Monsanto was the first to genetically modify a plant cell and genetically engineer crops. Their patented ‘Roundup Ready’ seeds ensure that spraying the weed killer on growing crops will not inhibit crop production. Because of the patent, it is illegal for farmers to save these genetically engineered (GE) seeds from one year to the next. To ensure that farmers don’t save their seeds, Monsanto has introduced “Terminator” technology into their product, thereby producing plants with sterile seeds. This requires growers to purchase new seeds from Monsanto every year.

Monsanto is the maker of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH / rBST), a synthetic hormone injected into cows to increase milk production.

More recently, Monsanto “filed two patents for processes which controlled the breeding and the herds of pigs,” causing farmers who do not use their technique to fear being sued like soya and corn farmers who have been accused of patent infringement.

“Since the mid-1990s, Monsanto has sued some 150 US farmers for patent infringement in connection with its GE seed.” Claims have been against farmers who have either saved Monsanto GE seed or whose crops were pollinated by Monsanto’s GE crops via the wind.

Monsanto also sued Eagleville, Missouri resident Gary Rinehart in 2002 for patent infringement of their Roundup Ready Soybean. Rinehart is neither a farmer nor a seed dealer. “Monsanto eventually dropped the lawsuit, but never issued an apology, admitted to making a mistake, or offered to pay for Rinehart’s legal expenses.”

Monsanto “has admitted to paying bribes to a number of… high-ranking Indonesian officials between 1997 and 2002.”

The debts of farmers in India who gambled on Monsanto’s GE seed when promised higher yields “have led some farmers into the equivalent of indentured servitude and alarming suicide rates in the thousands.”

The destruction of Monsanto’s styrene manufacturing plant at Galveston Bay (1947), known as The Texas City Disaster, is considered the largest industrial accident in US history with the highest death toll.

Monsanto knowingly deposited mercury and PCB-laden waste into Anniston, Alabama creeks for over 40 years, causing severe contamination of the community’s drinking water and soil.

Monsanto is responsible for 56 of the EPA’s Superfund sites (abandoned toxic waste sites), as well as toxic dumping in the UK.

Many politicians are linked with Monsanto, either going to work for the corporation after their tenure in office or running for office after they’re finished at Monsanto. Sometimes both.

Lately, Monsanto has been criticized for the new Food Safety Bill H.R. 875 which is currently in committee. Introduced by Rosa DeLauro, a known supporter of Monsanto, the bill “would place small farmers and organic producers at [a] heavy disadvantage.” If they fail to meet its restrictions and quality controls, farmers will be subject to “heavy fines and product seizure.” The bill will even go so far as to “criminalise community based food production such as 4-H programs and community gardens.”




MONSANTO SEED COMPANIES (from Esmaa’s Sense of Things)
Monsanto’s seed interests are vast, focusing propagation on just a few breeds compared to the hundreds of heirloom, open-pollinated varieties that die off each year if growers don’t seek them out. Their published seed “platforms” are through De Ruiter Seeds, Seminis, and International Seed Group (ISG). Other seed companies that have been linked with Monsanto are:

You can peruse Monsanto’s website or Google “Monsanto” for further reading. You won’t be disappointed.

Next I’ll be talking about where I am getting my seeds this year. Organic and heirloom varieties abound!

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