First, meet John, a volunteer at Community Supported Everything, here. Then, read his culminating project.
I wrote a letter to the editor of The Oregonian about an article they published on May 29th about an Oregon farmer who found genetically engineered wheat in his field that was traced to the company Monsanto. I did research on Monsanto to inform my letter.
The Research Question and Collection
Question: What is so bad about Monsanto? And what can be done about it?
Note: The research collection is a series of resources that sheds light on possible answers to the research question.
1.”Tell Congress to Dump the Riders.” Western Organization of Research Councils. N.p., 2013. Web. 1 June 2013. Info on the “rider” currently trying to make its way through the U.S. Congress, that would allow Monsanto to continue growing GMO crops that have been illegally approved for planting by USDA. The article advocates readers to push congress to block the rider from passing.
This is a very recent issue that has arisen from Monsanto. “Riders” are basically smaller pieces of legislation tacked on to bigger bills. The problem with Monsanto putting a rider on a bill is that it makes it look like they are trying to sneak a law into place that would benefit them. It betrays the trust of consumers.
2. Mortenson, Eric. “Genetically Modified Wheat: South Korea Now Wary of Oregon Imports.” Oregonlive.com. The Oregonian, 31 May 2013. Web. 01 June 2013. May 31st news article on a farmer who found genetically engineered wheat in his field that he didn’t plant. The discovery threatened trade between U.S. and various Asian countries that buy Oregon wheat.
As I read about GM food, I’m starting to think that genetic engineering isn’t inherently bad, it just so happens that the companies that do genetic engineering have no integrity in their business practices. It seems irresponsible of Monsanto to accidentally let their products leak into an unknowing farmer’s field, especially with international trade at stake.
3. “Supreme Court Rule Favors Biotech Patent.” Western Farm Press [Online Exclusive] 20 May 2013. Agriculture Collection. Web. 31 May 2013. Article about the Supreme Court case that ruled that seed-saving of genetically engineered crops is illegal. Analyzes the different opinions of patent laws: some think that there should be different patent laws for plant genetics, others think that there shouldn’t be exceptions for patents on plant breeds.
Here, again, I don’t think that genetic modification is a problem, but it is a problem that a corporation feels a right to bully a farmer for doing a common farming practice.
4. Cohen, Marc J. “Crop Circles: Spin Notwithstanding, Can GM Food Still Save the World?” Natural History Oct. 2003: 58+.Agriculture Collection. Web. 31 May 2013. This article takes a more or less non-biased look at the genetically modified organism debate. Proponents of GM food crops say that the new strains of crops could help solve world hunger. The author compares the current “Gene Revolution” with the 1970’s “Green Revolution” when high-yield seeds were introduced, and points out the flaws with food biotechnology being completely in the hands of private companies rather than public institutions.
I like this article because of how level-headed it is. It looks seriously at the benefits that GMOs could bring, which many activists are unwilling to acknowledge or look into. It also avoids looking at the environmental or health arguments from the anti-Monsanto side, and instead looks at it from an economic perspective. It doesn’t make sense for a basic human right like food to be controlled by just a few private companies.
5. Bouchie, Aaron. “Organic Farmers Sue GMO Producers.” Nature Biotechnology 20.3 (2002): 210. Agriculture Collection. Web. 31 May 2013. Gives information on a Canadian organic farm that tried to sue Monsanto for negligence that led to cross-contamination. Highlights the company’s avoidance of responsibility and manipulation of the legal system to get their way.
It would be one thing if Monsanto had listened to the organic farmer’s complaint, admitted that they had made a mistake, and tried to give him compensation or make amends somehow. Instead, the company defended their actions by saying that the cross-contamination rules are “only guidelines, not laws”. To me that’s like insulting someone at the dinner table because there are no laws saying you can’t. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s decent.
The Public Writing
This article highlights the real problem with Monsanto. Unlike many who were at the March Against Monsanto last Saturday, I still hold it as a possibility that GMOs could be a good thing, if their use is carefully observed for any ill effects. But corporate irresponsibility is intolerable. It’s not the farmer’s fault that his field violates federal law, it’s the negligence of Monsanto. They don’t know how to keep track of their test field crops. The company seems oblivious to the fact that this little mess could not only cost an innocent farmer $1 million, but even threatens our trade with Asia. Or maybe they just don’t care. No matter what your opinion of GMOs, you have to admit that this incident (and the many others like it) shows a complete lack of integrity.
Author’s Note: I learned over the course of this assignment, that it is actually quite easy to get your voice and opinion heard. To get your opinion published in the paper, all it takes is an email. Writing to a politician is just as simple (I looked into it because I thought about doing that). The office addresses and emails of congressmen and senators are posted on the internet for anyone to write to. Whether they listen is another matter, but it’s empowering to know that if I want to give my representative a piece of my mind, there’s really nothing stopping me but my own inertia.