by James Corbett
May 22, 2013
In any honest ranking of the world’s most hated corporations, Monsanto is almost certain to find itself at the top of the list. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a company that has affected the lives of so many around the world, either directly through its coercive and litigious practices against small farmers the world over, or indirectly through the pollution of the food supply with their genetically modified crops. And despite what corporate apologists and paid shills would have the public believe, the company’s abominable reputation is not based on knee-jerk anti-corporatism, but the documented record of Monsanto’s own history and actions.
Many are familiar with the company’s sordid past, including its role in the development of Agent Orange and its contribution to the epidemic of farmer suicides in India, but in recent years Monsanto has gained special notoriety for its attempts to push the boundaries of patent law in a self-admitted attempt to gain a monopoly over the world’s food supply. [See this and this and this.]
The company’s remarkable record in court has helped it set worrying precedents in the field of patent law, not just in the United States but in numerous districts around the world. Some might attribute the company’s success to blind luck, or to the vast resources it has available to prosecute its cases against cash-strapped farmers, but the real secret to Monsanto’s court victories is to be found in the infamous Monsanto / government revolving door.
The list of Monsanto employees and consultants who have also held key roles in the U.S. government is truly staggering. It includes such names as Dennis DeConcini the US Senator who also served as Monsanto Legal Counsel, Mickey Kantor, Commerce Secretary under President Clinton who also served as a Monsanto board member, Michael Taylor, Obama’s Deputy FDA Commissioner who also served as Monsanto’s VP for Public Policy, Linda Fisher, a senior EPA official who later became Monsanto’s VP of Government and Public Affairs, US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who served as a corporate lawyer for Monsanto in the 1970s, and literally dozens of other examples.
These judicial successes culminated in recent weeks in what may be the company’s largest victory to date: the passage of the so-called Monsanto Protection Act, which stacks the deck even further in Monsanto’s favour.
For a company so universally reviled there has been remarkably little coordination of grassroots resistance to Monsanto and its agenda. Protest has been haphazard, and, while occasionally symbolically effective, have done little to derail the Monsanto freight train from its path of worldwide domination of the food supply.
Later this month, however, a new grassroots movement seeking to galvanize resistance to the multinational will stage an unprecedented worldwide protest rally against the company, coordinating marches in hundreds of cities involving tens of thousands of people all across the globe.
Earlier this month I had the chance to interview Tami Canal, the organizer and founder of the March Against Monsanto, about the movement and what it is seeking to accomplish.
The March Against Monsanto is necessarily only the first link in a potential chain of reaction that could help to galvanize grassroots resistance to the Monsanto juggernaut and encourage people around the world to participate in a boycott of the company and the products derived from its seeds. Like any chain, it will take time and patience to forge, and it will be created link by link, as more and more people are educated about the dangers of Monsanto, its seed patents, and its seeds themselves. Ultimately, what becomes of such a movement depends on the grassroots itself: either it will re-commit itself to the fight against the company and its practices, or it will opt to maintain the status quo, hoping that some government officials not bought off or in the employ of the company will somehow pass some piece of legislation that will make everything better again.
Whatever the outcome, it cannot be denied that the struggle itself is of paramount importance. If there is any truth to the age-old dictum that you are what you eat, then the population of the world is slowly turning into Monsanto. Given the chilling nature of that thought, can there be any doubt as to why the public needs to engage in this fight?
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