Monday, 5 August 2013

Review of Monsanto vs The World: Monsanto, GMOs and Our Genetically Modified Future, by Jason Louv

Monsanto vs The World: Monsanto, GMOs and Our Genetically Modified Future, by Jason Louv. Pub. Ultracuture, www.ultraculture.org, ultraculturegate@gmail.com
Book mini site: http://monsanto.ultraculture.org
11,000+ words, $3.02 ebook, $4.49 paperback

This is a cross between a book review and some propaganda for the resistance to Monsanto, which this book is a part of. As such, I shall treat the book as a set of resources for information and action.

It opens with a thorough breakdown of the appallingly corrupt arrangement that President Obama signed into law in March 2013, which can enable the planting of GM crops even against judicial rulings.

Then we are introduced to Monsanto, their history of producing weedkillers and the infamous defoliant weapon Agent Orange. The death statistics, both Vietnamese and American from the latter make grisly reading. Louv mentions the generous campaign donations Monsanto made to a variety of political campaigns.

Louv then introduces genetic modification, focusing on the most controversial kind, transgenic, where genes from widely differing organisms are combined, such as animal or bacterial genes being introduced into plants. Some of the failures of the exalted claims made for transgenics are mentioned.

One of the more sinister aspects of GM crops from the point of view of human health (which, as we shall see, is not the only issue with GMOs) is the introduction of herbicide resistance genes, making crops resistant to herbicides used to kill the weeds around them. This means that more herbicide chemicals will get into the food chain, and into our bodies. Unlike the crop, we won't have the gene to resist the toxin, so we will get toxic effects. There are apparently already reports of this happening, as well as trials which show carcinogenic effects from Monsanto's herbicides.

A possible threat, this time to agriculture and the ecosystem at large, is gene transfer, in which GM genes migrate into other organisms, such as herbicide-resistance genes appearing in weeds which grow in fields of traditionally-produced crops.

Even with apparently benign crops, there are great dangers. Once a farmer has stopped using the seed from last year's harvest and is dependent on some company for the higher-performance seeds he is now using - which will be sterile, so he has to buy them every year - he is in hock for all time. This is of the most worrying aspects of the GMO world. An example is Golden Rice, a GM rice variety engineered to produce large quantities of Vitamin A. Critics 'have suggested that the benefits of Golden Rice are minor compared to the threat posed to farmers who will have to submit to the policies of the seeds' patent holders'

In light of Monsanto's persecution of opponents and investigators (http://www.panna.org/blog/guest-blog-declaring-independence-monsanto-co is just one example) their acquisition of notorious mercenary outfit Blackwater is particularly chilling. As more than one commentator has noted, this is getting like a badly-scripted dystopian SF film.

Louv looks at the toxicity to wildlife of Monsanto's agri-poisons. One issue which has helped bring the entire Monsanto mess into the public eye is their pushing of neonicotinoid insecticides, which overwhelming evidence links to the mass die-offs of bees in recent years. This horrific threat has even raised the ire of Putin's Russia: http://entomologicalphilosopher.com/2013/05/28/russia-warns-obama-monsanto-and-neonicotinoids/

Monsanto's arrogant rapacity is given another creepy post-apocalyptic twist by the announcement that bee-size drones are being developed which may be used as pollinators in place of bees when the latter become extinct. 'Daddy, what happened to the honey bees?' 'We poisoned them, son.'

Louv covers some features of third-world resistance to biotech, including the Indian farmer suicides, and moves on to the 'revolving door' between government and biotech companies. He references the studies showing that GM crops do not produce the promised great yields, and examines the evidence that GMOs could cause direct harm to those eating them.

There is little hard evidence for such harm, but even if GMOs were shown to be completely harmless in themselves that would not vitiate one bit the host of other reasons for subjecting them to much stricter control, not to mention clipping the wings of arrogant companies who care nothing for farmers or the environment.

The book gives advice on avoiding eating GMOs. For a pocket-size list of companies to avoid, check out http://fracturedparadigm.com/2013/04/02/boycott-monsanto-a-simple-list-of-companies-to-avoid/#axzz2b5sWerMs 

Like I said at the beginning, this is not just a book review, and as such I have nothing negative to say about any book that contributes positively to the struggle against the rapists of the ecosystem. I would though respectfully suggest to Mr Louv that he start to offer the ebook version free of charge, so it can fulfil more widely its function as a resource for agitprop. Further, I'd suggest that he treat the book as a continually-evolving document, almost like a wiki, where contributors can help update the information in it by sending in links to news items, protest events and so on, keeping up to date with the latest horrors. That could become a resource for people fighting legal battles against the Monsta.

Hopefully, this little book will have some impact on the appalling ignorance of the US public. Europe and the third world have so far led the world in protest. This just shows the power of American media - the public have been tranquillized by lies. Come on, America wake up and catch up!

Considering the issues from the point of view of what outcome would be best, what we have to remember is that our opponents do have some right on their side. Some aspect of what they are doing is good. So people will recognize that and, even discounting the believe-anything-idiot level of public approval, there are also informed positions of approval of genetic manipulation.

There can be little doubt that GM has some great potentials. This means that people will support it with intelligence and passion. Which means we have to consider what we are working towards here, not just shoot from the hip on the basis of revulsion at Monsanto's rapacious, irresponsible behaviour.

For example, let's take a look at the best-known use of a transgenic organism - the production of human insulin. Before GM, diabetics had to use pig insulin, with all the problems that injecting a protein from another mammal can cause. Then the present system was devised, in which human insulin genes are snipped out from the human genome and transplanted into the bacterium E. coli. This bacterial-human combination produces perfectly good 'human' insulin. Would anyone want to go back to the bad old days of pig insulin?

Of course, adding a human gene to a bacterium which is going to be kept in a fermenting flask all its life is not the same as producing a transgenic plant which will then be sown out in the world, for the ecosystem to take its chances with. Therefore any problems with transgenicity are a matter of context, not the fundamentals of the technology itself.

The problem then comes down to the behaviour of biotech companies. Extreme secrecy and aggressive sneakiness, let alone the acquisition of private armies, argues that they are up to no good, on a very large scale. They need drastically restricting, and it does seem that our elected governments cannot be relied upon to do that job, if we look at how easily Obama signed away the rights of the American public.

On the other hand, a government powerful enough to bring them down right now would be a very scary organism.

We have to rely on overwhelming public opposition, prolonged and trenchant. Total, unbending insistence by the vast majority of the population might just give weak and nominally-democratic governments like USA the balls to bring GM under strict, publicly-accountable control.

What models do we have for this level of public outrage? What kind of baseline attitude might give the public a chance of forcing their governments to instigate proper controls? I think we are looking at an attitude of disgust, the sort of utter, visceral loathing that most people reserve for death camps. That emotion will probably quite naturally follow continued exposure of the behaviour of rogue biotech firms. That might just give us a chance of living in a world where most of the global food supply is neither contaminated nor owned by 2 or 3 companies, a world where bees still exist, a world where farmers can save their own seed for next year. A world where the ecosystem has a future.

No!Monsta! : Say NO! to the Monsta!