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Why We’ll March Against March Against Monsanto, Part 1

I’ll get right to it. I’ve grown weary of the antics of March Against Monsanto. Along with two of my friends, I’ve started a movement to oppose the misinformation this organization propagates. Known as MAMAM, our acronym stands for both “March Against March Against Monsanto,” and “March Against Myths About Modification.”

March Against Monsanto’s Wikipedia page describes it as follows:

“The March Against Monsanto is an international grassroots movement as well as a protest against the Monsanto corporation and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”

From the March Against Monsanto website:

“Research studies have shown that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects. In the United States, the FDA, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the population, is steered by ex-Monsanto executives, and we feel that’s a questionable conflict of interests and explains the lack of government-lead research on the long-term effects of GMO products. Recently, the U.S. Congress and president collectively passed the nicknamed “Monsanto Protection Act” that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.”

For the past two years, the March Against Monsanto has held annual events worldwide. Estimates have put international participation from hundreds of thousands to two million protesters. While many participants march with good intentions, and aspirations of improving our food system, organizers and NGOs backing this movement have spread fallacies about biotechnology and agriculture.

As I’ve stated time and again, the weight of scientific consensus shows that GMOs do not cause deleterious health effects. Further, MAM’s claim that there is a lack of governmental research on the long-term effects of GMOs products is blatantly wrong. I challenge MAM and anyone claiming otherwise to query the GENetic Engineering Risk Atlas (GENERA) website, “a searchable database of of peer­-reviewed scientific studies on the relative risks of genetically engineered crops.” There have been hundreds of government-funded studies worldwide on the effects of GMOs on health, the environment, specific GM traits, and more.

MAM:  Disingenuous, delusional, and offensive:

Not only are March Against Monsanto’s messages often inaccurate, but also disjointed, and even offensive. In addition to opposing Monsanto Corporation, they seem to oppose GMOs, and biotechnology in general. In recent times, MAM has jumped on the anti-vax, naturopathic cancer cures/”they” are withholding cures for cancers, and even chemtrail conspiracy bandwagons. MAM has compared its movement to the Civil Rights Movement, co-opting images and quotes from American heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks. MAM, if you truly believe that your civil rights are being infringed upon and that you’re justified in comparing yourselves to the Civil Rights Movement, you’re delusional.

MAM talks chemtrails

 

We at MAMAM believe in the public’s intelligence:

We stated the following in our movement’s official announcement, which you can read here:

 

“Fringe activists like the leaders of March Against Monsanto spread unscientific propaganda, promote distrust of scientific consensus, use junk rhetoric, and leverage fear. Conversely, we hope to leverage the public’s thirst for reason and knowledge to showcase the potential of GMOs to alleviate hunger and promote sustainability. While fringe anti-GMO activists play on consumer ignorance using scary, fallacious imagery like syringes in tomatoes, we’re convinced the majority of the public is intelligent, albeit misinformed, and eager for an objective view of food, farming and biotechnology.”

We aspire to remain as positive as possible, and assume intelligence and non-conspiratorial thinking in the majority of the public. The myths and misconceptions running amok on the internet will be detrimental to scientific progress, and to the development and improvement of technologies and products with the potential to alleviate hunger, malnutrition, and harm to the environment.

March Against Monsanto presents its followers with an illogical set of choices. We present our own set of choices:

MAMAM choices image

My regular readers are aware that sometimes I speak in frustration and angst about these issues. Nevertheless, the primary reason I am so outspoken in my support for GMOs and biotechnology is love. If I assume that all people love their families as much as I love mine, then I must advocate for the best bet for everyone worldwide. I am aware that this might sound absurdly lofty, but I can’t enjoy my privileged existence and be silent while beneficial technologies are thrown under the bus.

Please stay tuned to see how the MAMAM movement develops. In the meantime, you can follow along or help us promote by:

1. Reading and sharing our official announcement here

2. Following or tweeting along with hashtag #MAMAM on Twitter

3. Joining our movement here

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Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy is a mom of two, co-Executive Director of March Against Myths, public speaker, Forbes contributor and author in Madison, WI. She is also co-author of "The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari's Glass House". Follow her on Facebook and twitter @ksenapathy

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28 Comments

  1. Would someone with a scientific background be able to explain why I shouldn’t be worried about Monsanto replacing heirloom crops with ones that depend on a particular pesticide to thrive, thus forcing all farmers to keep paying for commercial and environmentally hazardous pesticides?
    I’m not against GMOs, and I like the idea of GMO crops being created that reduce pesticide use, except for the fact that pests always manage to become immune to the pesticide even when it’s embedded in the plant’s DNA.
    I think those who think Monsanto will solve world hunger are forgetting that Monsanto has no interest in allowing farmers to stop paying a lot of money to Monsanto for their seeds or pesticides.
    I’m very annoyed by the spurious claims that GMO foods are unhealthy to humans directly (though I’m sure pesticides aren’t healthy). But isn’t the capitalist way that GMO foods are actually being used unhealthy to us as a species, not to mention unhealthy to other species?

    1. I don’t have a scientific background but I can see right away that you have a misconception about Roundup ready plants.

      They are not dependent upon a certain pesticide, they are resistant to that pesticide allowing the farmer to use that pesticide without worrying that it will kill the crop, which it normally would do, (that can lead to over use of the pesticide but it doesn’t have to and farmers aren’t given to throwing money at their field if they can help it). That crop can be grown without the pesticide, you would just be giving up a benefit provided by the modification of that organism.

      GMOs are a tool that can be used to help alleviate world hunger, they are not a panacea and I agree that too many people look at it as the solution instead of a part of the solution.

      There are many problems with the way GMOs are being used but they stem from over-reliance on corporations and deregulation of those corporations, in other words symptoms of capitalism, not from the organisms themselves. Genetic modifications have been around since before Gregor Mendel, only back then it was cross-breading, artificial selection, and grafting that produced the results. It is what agriculture and animal husbandry are all about, the fact that the modifications are more targeted now changes the chances of getting an unintended consequence not one iota unless those doing the modification are trying to create the problem at which point it is no longer unintended. In the old day they feared Dr. Moreau, today they fear Monsanto, neither fear is justified.

      If you want to fear Monsanto fear their business practices and fight to dismantle the corporatist state, it does far more harm then GMOs ever will.

      1. Actually, from what I hear, the weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to Roundup due to the use of Monsanto Round-Up Ready crops, and these “superweeds” require farmers to spray ever higher quantities of weedkiller to kill them. This gets on the crops and into the environment. I hear it is such a problem that they are trying to breed crops that are resistant to an even more poisonous weedkiller, because they anticipate that Roundup won’t work at all in the near future.

        As for claims that GMO method of breeding crops is similar to other plant husbandry practiced throughout the years, I believe that is false. What I do know is that in Europe, they do not use GMO crops, yet their yields are every bit as good as the GMOs claim to be. So it is not as if Monsanto is really feeding the world in a way no one else can. They just want to corner the market and force people to buy their seeds (In Columbia, they actually passes a law banning the sale or trade of native seeds and requiring farmers to buy and certify that they bought these GMO seeds. Farmers were going out of business with the costs and protested, whereupon police shot and killed them. Who says GMOs aren’t hazardous to your health!).

        An please don’t say Monsanto’s practices are indicative of capitalism. They are not. Killing the competition unfairly (without out-competing them in the marketplace) is not indicative of capitalism, but rather oligarchy.

        1. Yes weeds evolve, that is how it works and how it would work without GMOs. In fact, according to the International Survey of Herbicide Resistance Weeds all areas surveyed have multiple weeds resistant to herbicides, even areas where GMOs are banned and even before the wide spread use of GMOs. Overuse of herbicides is an issue but that is not solely the purview of GMOs.

          As to GMO vs. selective breeding, I’ve heard geneticists say that they are essentially the same so I believe it is not false, but feel free to believe as you like.

          The goal of GMOs are better yields with less inputs, the yields are similar but the inputs are not therefore profit is higher.

          And why should I not say that Monsanto’s practices are indicative of capitalism? They are the product of unrestrained capitalism so it seem they are the result of said capitalism, after all oligarchy is also the result of unrestrained capitalism so it is a difference without a distinction.

      2. There are many problems with the way GMOs are being used but they stem from over-reliance on corporations and deregulation of those corporations, in other words symptoms of capitalism, not from the organisms themselves.

        I was going to say this but you said it better than I could. Cheers.

    2. I realize that you may have been talking about Bt corn which produces a pesticide that allows farmers to use less pesticide. Again, the possible unintended consequences are no bigger then in conventional breeding, and I say actually lower because they are testing the hell out of this particular product.

    3. >> Would someone with a scientific background be able to explain why I shouldn’t be worried about Monsanto replacing heirloom crops

      How would they do that? 1) Heirloom crops haven’t gone away, and are enjoying something of a revival among gardeners. 2) Anything which is an heirloom crop is already by definition something which is not commonly grown in agricultural production anymore.

      >> I think those who think Monsanto will solve world hunger are forgetting that Monsanto has no interest in allowing farmers to stop paying a lot of money to Monsanto for their seeds or pesticides.

      Except Monsanto’s patent on glyphosate expired in 2000, so making a glyphosate resistant crop is counter to a strategy of forcing farmers to use glyphosate. And the only way Monsanto can get farmers to pay for their seed is to have better seed. :/

      >> (though I’m sure pesticides aren’t healthy)

      Funny thing about glyphosate. It’s less toxic to humans than caffeine is. It’s a hell of a lot more ecologically benign than the pesticides which glyphosate resistant strains have allowed it to replace.

      >> But isn’t the capitalist way that GMO foods are actually being used unhealthy to us as a species, not to mention unhealthy to other species?

      I’m a democratic socialist, and I have no idea what you’re on about.

    4. My background is in molecular genetics. (I worked on the genetics of insect-transmitted parasites.)
      It is recommended that farmers planting Bt GMOs plant a buffer of non-Bt strains of the same crop around the Bt crop in order to slow the spread of resistance in insects.
      Bt crops are also more selective. When you use insecticides in agriculture, you use a lot, it’s found throughout the environment, so you end up selecting for insecticide resistance in many insect species. If Bt is exprssed in say the leaves of a particular crop, you’re only selecting for resistance in species that eat that crop’s leaves. Bt is used for mosquito control, so Bt crops can extend the viability of Bt for mosquito control, which is really important for malaria control.
      As for Monsanto and capitalism, well, they’re going to make what they can sell. Most of the GMO soy feeds animals. Oscar Meyer and whoever it is who makes pop tarts is at least as much to blame as Monsanto.

    5. What heirloom crops are you worried about? Heirloom is a marketing term which are just old seeds that have little market demand. Outside of a hobbyist or a farmer going for a niche market they are not used because they grow 25 bushels per acre compared to 200 bushels per acre of the new seeds but the market is nowhere close to supporting 8 times the price.

      Yes pest evolve its a 12,000 year fight now that man is finally starting to win. Where modern farming is used it takes less people on less land to grow more food. This is because for the first time in history man has started to get ahead of the fight against weeds and pests. We no longer lose half the crop to insects. The “super weed” problem is blown way out of proportion and there are products coming out over the next 2 to 3 years that will mitigate much of the problem and in the worst case if they don’t there are still plenty of other easy fixes.

      Monsanto is not the largest seed company in either the States or the world. They are also not the largest well anything. Round Up is off patent and has been for 15 years. China has been dumping off label for years. The reason to go with brand name Round Up is for the warranty.

      Also, this is just another version of farmers are dumb which seems to be most of the anti GMO/Monsanto arguments. Farmers purchase GMO products because they end up cheaper despite the higher up front costs. Farmers have to weed. Its either going to be a herbicide or its going to be mechanical both cost money. Round up works better and better for the land because it allows for conservation tilling.

  2. Bwahahahahahah!!!! I thought this was an onion article!! Seriously folks, GE is a very repuatable field, and I’m well-aware the good it has and will continue to do for the world. But Monsanto? Really? They give the industry a bad name and if you really believe in GE don’t get behind this. It makes you look comically shilly.

    1. Yes, because comically wrong science is OK if you are fighting Teh Ebil

      Name another company that is doing GE that these hucksters wouldn’t see as evil? I can’t come up with any. Monsanto may be the boogie man but there are other firms that are arguably worse (ADM comes to mind) and while that doesn’t excuse Monsanto is does point out the indiscriminate targeting used buy anti-GMO folks.

      Fight Monsanto for the reasons Monsanto is bad, not the scary, scary reasons that pseudo-scientists say you should fear them.

      1. It’s a variation of the anti-vax argument: “The corporation involved with this is evil, ergo the science must be bad.” It’s like a modern twist on a classic fallacy; we can call it ad corporatum.

        Monsanto could be holding Satanic black masses complete with human sacrifices at their weekly board meetings, and it STILL wouldn’t mean anything about whether or not GMOs in general are safe.

    2. “But Monsanto? Really? They give the industry a bad name and if you really believe in GE don’t get behind this. It makes you look comically shilly.”

      Perhaps you could specify your concerns with the company…

  3. MAMAM isn’t a pro-Monsanto March. It’s an anti-misinformation, pro-GMO movement. Nevertheless, let me dispel some of the more common myths about Monsanto:

    -Monsanto has never sued a farmer for drift.
    -GM seeds from Monsanto are comparable in price to other seeds.
    -Yes, Monsanto patents proprietary seeds, as do other companies. A variety does not have to be a recombinant GMO variety to be patented.
    -Patents expire. Companies like Monsanto get to hold a patent to get a ROI for the extensive time and R&D that goes into this work. Now, GMO soybeans are off-patent. They are essentially “open-source GMOs.” http://www.biofortified.org/2014/12/off-patent-gmo-soybeans-what-happens-now/
    -There is actually no causal link between farmer suicides and adoption of GMOs/Monsanto

  4. Bottom line: If you believe in GMOs, then stop fighting labeling. This makes you look corrupt. The market can correct itself. Stop second guessing the consumer. You don’t own science.
    I happen to think many GMO foods are fine. I don’t however think it makes sense to class all of these comampanies together. Monsanto is far less ethical. Once again, I’m ok with many GMOs. I’m NOT ok with Monsanto.
    BTW I’m thinking of forming a group called the march against the march against the march against monsanto lol.

    1. Have fun with that, while you’re at it maybe you can figure out how only the people who are shitting themselves about GMOs could be made to pay for that labeling that you want. Like maybe the voluntary labeling that has already begun and not my tax dollars, K?

    2. Whose bottom line is that? Kavin did not mention labeling at all.

      I don’t think labeling GMOs is useful, unless vastly more information is included. It’s not like nuts or phenylalanine or lactose or gluten, where a tiny quantity will cause problems for susceptible people. I think compulsory labeling caters to ignorant people who believe in nonsense, but so does 99% of TV advertising and most of modern capitalist culture. I doubt you could convince me to support labeling, but perhaps there is some argument for it, or for not strenuously opposing it that I haven’t thought of.

      To be useful, the label would need to tell you what genes in what ingredients were modified, what the quantity of the resulting proteins is, what other nutritional or pharmacological effects those proteins have on the organism making those proteins (e.g. causes the plant to produce more beta carotene) and what the effect of eating those proteins and their products is.
      This is an enormous amount of obscure technical information to put on a food label, and you would have to go shopping with a biochemist and a doctor to understand most of it.

      As for voluntary labeling, food producers already do it, so what’s the problem? I’ve never heard of any pro-GMO person claim that voluntary labeling should be banned, just that it shouldn’t be compulsory.

    3. Its important to fight against labels because labels are too important to become political. When a product is required to have something labeled its telling the consumer its important. Sure most people ignore it but there will be enough people that will pay attention that it can have important effects though out the market. In the US we only label when their is a legit safety concern or for nutritional value. You label something where their no harm and nothing to gain from a nutritional standpoint you might as well start putting the immigration status of the pickers or the phase of the moon when it was planted.

  5. There is also a pernicious tendency among corrupt governments (I live in Mexico, and we have a doozie) to grant Monsanto and similar multinationals multi-year rights to exploit their resources. A great many Mexican peasants in the agricultural sector DONOT HAVE THE CHOICE to plant other seeds, it being quasi-illegal if they are participating in any sort of agricultural assistance. And then that puts them on the hook for a while, patent expirations notwithstanding; they cannot plant seeds from Monsanto-grown plants the next growing season without paying vig to Monsanto. The government forced this deal upon them, with Monsanto’s “Economic Hit Men” steering the deal.

    So I have no sympathy for some rich white vegan post-docs in Cambridge or Berkeley who are worried about eating a Frankenberry. And yes, of course, GMOs have great potential to increase yields (although at present most of the claims are over-stated, or at the very least, other variables have not been regressed out of the analysis). But rest assured, the collaboration between Monsanto and the NAFTA enforcers has been toxic to the Mexican agricultural sector. Period.

    1. “A great many Mexican peasants in the agricultural sector DONOT HAVE THE CHOICE to plant other seeds, it being quasi-illegal if they are participating in any sort of agricultural assistance.”

      Are you saying the Mexican govt has limited the seed market and forced farmers to ONLY buy Monsanto seed? I’m gonna need something to back that up…

      “So I have no sympathy for some rich white vegan post-docs in Cambridge or Berkeley who are worried about eating a Frankenberry.”

      Actually I know of a few white vegans in Berkeley who are directly involved in creating the next frankenberry, or milk producing microbes, and most are working or middle class though, not rich. You will also find a good number of similar folks supporting MAMAM. Might wanna rethink your stereotypes.

  6. Thanks for all the responses, even the snarky ones :-)
    While I am aware that the issues are very complex, it really looks to me like the irrationality of the anti-GMO crowd tends to make some people err on the other side. Implying that Monsanto does no harm, just because GMOs are generally safe, is not, in my opinion, an effective way of expressing support for GMOs. And the fact that the makers of Poptarts are just as bad isn’t a particularly telling argument.
    Also, I still think world hunger can only be solved by political change, though I’d love to be proven wrong about that.

    1. I didn’t see anyone state or even imply that Monsanto does no harm, just that they are not the evil that their opponents insist they are. They are a huge multinational corporation so of course they are far from goodness and light, some of their business practices are downright deplorable, but that doesn’t change the truth about GMO safety.

    1. Then you really need to read the post again, the MAMAM is about correcting their science, which is horrible, not about excusing Monsanto.

      If you are that staunch about “evil is evil” then I’m not sure how you live in the world because literally everything harms someone.

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