05 September 2011

Wikileaks reveals Monsanto's close relationship with the US government

In cables released by Wikileaks this past August, 2011, US diplomats asked the State Department for funding to send biotechnology experts to "target countries" for discussions with high-profile politicians and agricultural officials.

The "target countries" include African, Asian and South American countries where genetically modified (GM) agriculture has yet to gain a foothold. Even some European countries have been targeted, such as France, since it has been slow to adopt GM foods.

The close relationship between the US government and Monsanto has unfortunately continued into the Obama administration. President Obama nominated the former pro-biotech governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, as USDA Secretary; he nominated Michael Taylor, former Monsanto Vice President, as the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods; and he nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who took Monsanto's side against organic farmers in the Roundup Ready alfalfa case, to the Supreme Court.

Studies on the health effects of GM food consumption have often been damning. For example, a Russian study with rats fed GM foods showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce. An additional study also suggests a link between GM and infertility. GM cotton has been linked to thousands of deaths among sheep, buffaloes, and other livestock, plus allergic reactions in their human caretakers.

Despite the evidence against GM foods, powerful corporations such as Monsanto have been able to keep such research out of the mainstream. As reported by Jeffrey Smith of the Huffington Post:

"Whenever these studies or reports surfaced, scientists should have charged in to conduct intense follow-up research. Instead, the funding--to find and expose the cause of the problem--often mysteriously dries up; scientists are transferred, threatened or fired, and the health risk link to GMOs is vehemently denied.

Take the Russian rat study [mentioned above], conducted by Irina Ermakova, a senior scientist at the Russian National Academy of Sciences. After we presented GMO health risk info at the EU Parliament in June 2007, she told me about the backlash that occurred after doing her study. Samples were stolen from her lab, documents were burnt on her desk, and her boss, under pressure from his boss, ordered her to cease all future research on GMOs. One of her colleagues tried to comfort her by saying, "Maybe GM soy will solve the human overpopulation problem." She wasn't comforted."

The promotion of agricultural biotechnology in dozens of countries was referenced in U.S. embassy documents ranging from 2005 to 2010.

Jonathan Reynolds
Jonathan is a freelance writer and blogger residing in upstate New York.

Photo: Zimurg