Marching Against Monsanto? What You Need To Know First

22423735_SAOn May 8th, Vermont became the first US state to require labels on food with genetically modified ingredients, a historic landmark for anti-GMO, anti-Monsanto activists. In the anti-GMO/Monsanto campaign, I see a lot of misinformation, scare tactics and an opportunity for organic food companies to expand their market reach. Scaremongering and relying on easily digestable talking points has been the modus operandi for manipulating the uninformed masses since the beginning of human civilization, and it’s rather interesting that people who say that they just “want people to know what’s in their food” in the name of transparency are using misinformation to accomplish their mission.

Industrial farming is indeed a very real problem for both our health and the environment. The Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone seen in this video is an ecological disaster caused by fertilizers used in industrial farming as well as runoff from those perfectly green, manicured lawns from subdivisions across the Midwest. In addition, herbicides and pesticides are also hazardous to us, as well as the rest of the ecosystem. We have facts and scientific research to show that herbicides and pesticides are indeed harmful. But what we don’t have is any real evidence out there that GM plants themselves are actually toxic to human beings, despite all the science-ignoring signs about “Frankenfood” that we see both on Facebook and at anti-Monsanto rallies. Yes I said it, when it comes to the science on vaccines or Monsanto, the left has a problem with ignoring science just like they accuse the right of when it comes to climate change. To go further, I’d be willing to bet that quite a few people in the upcoming “March Against Monsanto” could not name another company that also produces genetically modified seeds. Many also have little to no knowledge of how genetic modification works or that it has actually been done since the first humans began farming.

I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a supporter of Monsanto, nor any other major corporation that seeks to create a stranglehold on a market. However, the false information and hysterical comparisons to Frankenstein aren’t going to make me jump on the anti-GMO bandwagon unless I see some consistent scientific data that shows an actual health risk from the product itself. As I previously wrote:

Let’s get one thing clear — I’m no fan of Monsanto. As a health conscious, gluten-intolerant person who tries to follow a healthy diet, I don’t like the idea of companies trying to hide their suppliers and ingredients, but some of the absolutely insane conspiracy theories pushed by for-profit entities against Monsanto and others only hurts the legitimacy of a worthwhile cause. It’s incredibly frustrating to be called a shill for Big Pharma or Monsanto when all I’m trying to do is lend some common sense to the argument. Over and over again, we hear people talk about “chem-trails” or how food companies are trying to poison us while citing some fear-mongering website like Infowars or Natural News as “proof” that the Illuminati or other secret society is behind it all. (Source)

As people loudly celebrate the new labeling law that was passed in Vermont (which will certainly run into legal challenges that cite the commerce clause), let’s take a look at who will benefit from this if it is upheld. It will certainly affect companies that rely on GM plants from Monsanto and other companies as part of large scale industrial farming. It will also very likely will drive consumers who are already fearful of a tomato genetically engineered to ripen more slowly to demand “natural” grains and vegetables which will in turn drive food costs up. Why? Because “organic” products cost more and labeling something as having ingredients which have not been scientifically determined to be harmful will cause uninformed people to abandon products with a label forced upon it by legislation. Who stands to benefit from this market upheaval? The “organic” food industry, that’s who. And while I fully support locally-grown, organic foods, I also have a serious problem with people using misinformation and scare tactics to undermine the competition and bolster their cause.

Before you start drawing your “Frankenfood” signs and posing for photos next to your local grocery store, please take what I have said into consideration. Yes, we should be concerned about what is in our food and yes, we should always research every product that goes on the market as much as we possibly can. But making broad, uneducated statements based off NaturalNews or some other company that is trying to sell you another product is asinine and it only detracts from a movement. We need independent research, not funded by either organic food companies or Monsanto, that once and for all decides which, if any, genetically modified organisms are harmful or safe. And no, one retracted study on GMO corn does not count as proof. As the world’s population continues to grow, we are going to have to find ways to both feed the planet and not completely poison it at the same time with herbicides, fertilizers and other chemicals relied upon by industrial farming operations – and uninformed, emotion-only activism isn’t going to get us there. In fact, it could only make things worse.

Note: my opinion has changed since this was written. See here.


Facebook comments

  • Nancy

    Since you agree that herbicides & pesticides are harmful, and since GMOs require ever increasing doses of these, it follows that the food supply is endangered. I hope you study a little before posting another irresponsible, denigrating, article like this.

    • Nevadan

      If you think GMO foods require MORE pesticides and herbicides you are markedly wrong. Organic producers actually use more of both, they just use “natural” deadly toxic chemicals. You are against something you know literally nothing about. Grats.

      • Donna

        Nevadan so far I’ve seen 2 of your replies attacking others for not knowing what they are talking about. This from a person who uses natural (existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind) to describe a chemical (
        a compound or substance that has been purified or prepared, especially artificially).

        Organic farmers do not use more pesticides or herbicides than GMO farmers. I have had the privilege of working on an organic farm and minding the lady bug larvae (eating the aphids on the kale) while pulling weeds by hand. Neither of these methods of pest and weed control utilize any type of chemical substance. This is the type of pest and weed control that was used throughout the entire farm.

      • Jude I⚡caяiot

        Natural chemicals exist. If you don’t know that, don’t talk.

      • Donna

        Interestingly enough I cited definitions which can be found in any dictionary to make my point that chemicals are not really natural they generally require some form of manipulation. You on the other hand just used an excessive number of words to basically tell me to shut up. I realize that at this point you may feel pretty good about that but what intellectual piece of information does your comment offer?

        Chemicals can be extracted from natural substances yes. That’s what purified or prepared means. However, once a substance is purified or extracted by man even via simple methods such as boiling in water or juicing a fruit the substance or chemical is no longer in its natural state. Therefore becoming unnatural. Really simple stuff. I’m actually not 100% against things that are unnatural but we don’t need to be creating extra ways to make ourselves sick or kill ourselves. Nature has plenty of that for us all ready.

        As for the original argument. GMO’s are increasing our herbicide use. As for insecticides we shouldn’t have nor should we continue with huge industrial farms that offer no other forms of management due to their sheer size.

      • Jude I⚡caяiot

        Are you retarded or what?

        Chemicals occur in nature. They are manipulated by nature. They are simply a bond that cannot be broken without manipulation. Salt is a chemical and occurs in nature. Sugar is a chemical and occurs in nature. Tons of acids exist in nature in foods and are chemicals.

        Even if boiling something takes it out of its natural state, that changes nothing. It’s not suddenly bad for you…

        And GMOs are DECREASING herbicide use. It’s been stated by 20 other people on here…

      • Randy Cirbo

        BS on your thoughts. Organic is a biodegradable natural substance, if used correctly harms nothing not even bees so yea I call you on your BS. How do you compare roundup to neem oil? You are defiantly not the one to listen to as you have no idea what your talking about. I imagine you sitting at a desk in the Monsanto head office as you type this, PS your lies are garbage.

      • RealityCheck131

        Typical anti-GMO nut. Thinks everyone who disagrees works for Monsanto. You’re right, pesticides for organic food harm nothing. The insects swim in it while giggling and playing with the unicorns on rainbows.

      • nomardw

        Maybe you should do a little more reading on the super weeds that excessive round up use is causing. You should also look up the bugs that are becoming resistant to the BT strains of corn.
        The entire point of round up resistant plants is to use more round up.

    • Mackinz

      BT variety GE crops require zero application of the (considered organic) insecticide BT.

      “Round-up Ready” ones do use more glyphosate but reduce the use of other more toxic herbicides. If you do factual research on glyphosate, you’d find it to be a very, very mild herbicide which is much safer than many other herbicides previously in use and has considerably less environmental impact.

      As those are the main two varieties of GE crops, I’m happy to say that I’d rather have those used than anything grown with excessive amounts of organic fertilizer and organic pesticides.

      • nomardw

        Several insects are developing immunity to BT. It was only a matter of time.
        Now, as for the herbicide, the fact is that over a dozen weeds have developed immunity to round up as well. Another 2 or 3 are expected to start developing the same resistance. As a result, now, Monsanto is inserting a genetic component of Agent Orange into several crops. Needless to say, its only a matter of time until this too is useless.

      • Mackinz

        Okay. So? Neither of those is an argument against GE crops, as immunities occur regardless of how a crop is made. It’s how evolution works. Round-up resistance in weeds came about before Round-up Ready crops, too.

        Funny thing is, those immunities would not have developed had farmers heeded the warnings from scientists to rotate their fields instead of planting the same crops over and over again.

        Also, there are crops which are pesticide-resistant by artificial selection, and virtually all plants produce their own pesticides so…

        As for your Agent Orange claim… what?

        Agent Orange does not contain genetic components, first of all. It is impossible to add something which does not exist. Perhaps you are referring to a resistance?

        Second, one of the two components used to make Agent Orange, which you are likely referring to, has been a common farming pesticide for a long time and is not too toxic.

        Third, so what? Do I need to explain why Agent Orange was toxic to humans (hint: Not because of the.component I referred to above)?

        Fourth, Source for this claim? I’ve not heard of this, before.

    • Jeremy Rawley

      Then why do GE foods REDUCE pesticide use?

  • Guile Williams

    Granted, their is no scientific evidence that suggests that GMO foods are bad for us, yet. I don’t want to be the human ginnea pig that finds out the hard way if it is. Our bodies are walking chemistry machines and changing the chemical makeup of fruit, for example, so it repels bugs genetically cannot be good for the human body when bees and other bugs die just from landing on the plant. You are what you eat. I’ll use high fructose corn syrup as my next example, I bet most people don’t know that a diet that consists mostly of high fructose corn syrup causes type 2 diabetes. It does this because its chemical structure is similar to sugar and the body can’t tell the difference when converting it to fat. The problem comes after it is converted to fat, since chemically the fat from hfcs is harder than normal. When the body uses it to line the cell walls the fat from hfcs does not allow nutrients to flow through to the cell as easily and you end up with a starved cell. So yeah, there is no scientific proof GMO foods are bad for you, but there is no evidence that it is completely good for you either.

    • BilbySA

      Your first example wasn’t a good one. You used the example of a fruit that is engineered to ‘repel bugs’, then in the same sentence claimed that the fruit kills the bugs ‘just from landing on the plant’. I hope you understand that ‘repelling’ and ‘killing’ are two completely different things. I would indeed be concerned about a food which kills bugs on contact, but not a food that repels them via a smell or texture that they don’t like.

      Your second example may well be true, but I don’t see what that has to do with genetically modified food, unless you think all GM food has high fructose corn syrup in it, which obviously isn’t the case.

    • Gulie, we’re not the human guinea pigs that find out the hard way. We can be absolutely certain that any food modification procedure, especially genetic modification, is subjected to rigorous and extensive testing long before it enters the marketplace. Our system has many safeguards set up to ensure this, and the FDA is only one of them. After all, we live in a lawsuit-crazy nation, where people sue McDonald’s for making them obese. Large companies and corporations are deathly afraid of lawsuits. Anti-GMO folks like to use Merck’s Vioxx as an example of “how Big Pharma is out to poison us,” but Vioxx is actually an example of how the system works. They tried to cover it up, and they FAILED. They got into big trouble over it, and paid billions in penalties. “So what, that’s the cost of Big Pharma doing business!” Err, any business does not want to pay out BILLIONS in damages. Far better for them to produce a product that is safe — and that’s what they are working toward with their testing process. If we’ve been eating food from crops produced using GMOs, then you can be sure we’ve been eating foods from crops that were extensively tested, to the best of their ability, before being approved by the FDA and thereby release. (“Monsanto owns the FDA!” is a foolish conpsiracy theory, if not an outright lie.)

  • shopper11

    GMO foods are still better then starving to death which could be the result of global warming as we see more and more areas of drought and/or flooding. If you can afford the more expensive organic foods or grow your own, that’s great for you but many can’t. Label them if you feel the need, but don’t outlaw them.

    • nomardw

      GMO crops use the same amount of water as nonGMO.
      Also, just so you know, NO GMO crops have been approved for human consumption in the USA. However, you can count on all corn products being contaminated with GMO corn.

      • Cairenn Day

        WHAT are talking about? There are 8 approved GMO crops in the US. GMO papayas are common, squash less, there is some GMO sweet corn available. The others give products that go into foods—all are approved for human consumption.

      • RealityCheck131

        Typical anti-GMO nut can’t make it through one post without posting a lie.

  • Kevin Pickle

    I tend to agree in principle that thus far the science doesn’t support the paranoia. However, there are definitely historic examples of the dangers of feeding large populations with a genetically homogeneous monocrop. And Monsanto’s aggressive and despicable legal tactics with regard to farmers hardly paint them in a good light. And finally, a little truth in advertising would be nice. Nothing about the labeling of GMOs as such is out of step with the way we label foods. And no matter what, being told that I don’t need to know makes every defense of GMOs suspect. There is no way to get from “You don’t need to know,” to “It’s perfectly safe.” Science doesn’t work that way and neither should commerce.

    • Mackinz

      “However, there are definitely historic examples of the dangers of feeding large populations with a genetically homogeneous monocrop.”

      Monocropping does not have anything specific to do with GE crops so much as farming in general. Farmers gravitate towards monocropping to maximize yields reduce costs, etc., and this is true if you grow “GMO”, “conventional”, or “organic”.

      The cool thing about GE crops, however, is that it is much easier to restore genetic diversity to these crops via GE than spending decades breeding with wild varieties to arrive at useable crops with good yields. Cisgenic crops are a potentially major boon in the fight for genetic diversity. Not too much to worry about there.

      “And Monsanto’s aggressive and despicable legal tactics with regard to farmers hardly paint them in a good light.”

      Which “aggressive and despicable legal tactics” are you referencing? I’ve read up on some of the litigation Monsanto has pursued and could not find one where the farmer was not intentionally trying to bootleg or steal patented seed so…

      “Nothing about the labeling of GMOs as such is out of step with the way we label foods.”

      Except, yeah, it is. The things which are labelled now (such as nutritional information) have been shown to have effects on human health. Ditto for chemical listings, as chemicals like aspartame have effects on people with the genetic disease phenylketonuria.

      What purpose would labelling “GMOs” serve? It is not health related as:

      1) You cannot label all GE crops under the same brush as they are all different from each other,

      2) There has been no demonstrated health effects on “GMO” crops that are any different from non-“GMO” crops and

      3) There is more evidence to suggest that “GMOs” are safe than there is evidence that anything (emphasis here) made by conventional breeding, including “organic” crops.

      The labelling of “GMOs” would not inform anyone of anything. It would be akin to telling someone their food was made by artificial selection, as GE is a process. All that labelling would do is feed into the paranoia you mentioned at the beginning of your comment, and is actually advocated for by “major” groups for that reason.

      • nomardw

        GMOs DO NOT RESTORE genetic diversity. It contaminates it. Why do you think that are so many countries that will not allow any GMO crops. They know that pollen drift can contaminate plants for miles around.
        Monsanto has destroyed dozens of fields contaminated with pollen from GMO farms. Dozens each year.
        There is NO EVIDENCE what so ever on any kind of organic cross breeding EVER producing toxic food.
        There is no evidence what so ever that GMO foods are safe for humans to eat. Monsanto will not allow any outside researchers to touch and report on their products.
        Finally, your argument about aspartames PROVES the argument about GMOs.

      • Mackinz

        “GMOs DO NOT RESTORE genetic diversity. It contaminates it.”


        This alone shows you’ve no understanding of how genetic diversity works, and conflates politics (“contaminates” as if cross-pollination is contamination) with biology.

        “Why do you think that are so many countries that will not allow any GMO crops.”

        You really want to know? Paranoia, propaganda and politics.

        “Monsanto has destroyed dozens of fields contaminated with pollen from GMO farms. Dozens each year.”

        Unless you can cite an actually trustworthy source on this matter, the claim you are making is bullshit.

        “There is NO EVIDENCE what so ever on any kind of organic cross breeding EVER producing toxic food.”

        What is “organic cross breeding”? I’ve never heard of it. I have plenty of evidence that conventional artificial selection and genetic recombination, however, has produced toxic (to humans) crops.

        “There is no evidence what so ever that GMO foods are safe for humans to eat.”

        Except, you know, for all those thousands of studies that have been done already, and the widespread consensus in the scientific community world-wide that the foods are safe to eat.

        Finding that information would require leaving the NaturalNews/Mercola bubble, though.

        “Finally, your argument about aspartames PROVES the argument about GMOs.”

        …How? A chemical that has been conclusively shown to affect the health of certain humans with a certain genetic disorder “PROVES” the argument that GMOs may cause some harm to someone, somewhere, somehow, without any evidence to suggest that that would even be possible?


      • RealityCheck131

        This whole argument is factually incorrect and illustrates how uneducated most anti-GMO activists are on the topic.

    • RealityCheck131

      The proposed labels have nothing to do with science and everything to do with fear. It’s out of step because it provides no nutritional or safety information.

    • Christian Abel

      “despicable legal tactics with regard to farmers”

      like what?

  • Shelley Jones Beek

    Research your subject better. What is happening with GM foods has not been done since the beginning of farming. We weren’t placing intact genes from other species in plant genomes thousands of years ago. As a molecular biologist I don’t even care about that aspect of GM foods. It is the fact that crops now live in the presence of Round-up, when they used to die. Round-up is now inside our food when it couldn’t even be on the outside of our food 20 years ago. And it is now more and more Round-up, since the weeds are starting to become resistant themselves. Any new long term (not 90 day) studies with these new concentrations? Face it, we are part of an uncontrolled experiment that we won’t know the results of until our children are middle aged. That’s why I buy organic.

    • None Provided

      As a supposed molecular biologist (you know, someone who reads books and studies things rather than just makes conjecture) you ought to know that the crops that are now being treated with glyphosate, which is one of the least harmful pesticides out there, were in the past treated with much more toxic cocktails that are now the province of organic farming.

  • anonymous

    Monsanto is an evil, money grubbing company that puts profits above health. They will let you die over spending $1 to save you. When their genetically modified franken-crops infest neighboring farm crops they SUE the neighbor for trademark infringement and STEAL their farms! This fukkin peice of schiit company MUST BE STOPPED…AT ALL COSTS!

    • Nevadan

      Citation Please. Or do you not have the faintest idea what you’re talking about? Yeah, that’s what I figured.

  • Oye Vey!

    An article written in support of fake food by a writer with a name of a fake wine!

  • Betty

    My biggest concern is the lack of transparency. Why are Monsanto & others fighting labeling of the products? Yes it will cause some people to make other choices. If there is truly no harmful chemical residue left int he food, then Monsanto should encourage testing which would reduce the impact of labeling, at least among consumers who choose to educate themselves.

    • Edward Delaney

      Monsanto has had its products tested and it doesn’t reduce the impact.
      There’s a very simple reason for this: It’s far easier to read some blogs and conspiracy theories and think to yourself “I’ve researched this topic” than to read through study after study, especially when the studies avoid attempting to manipulate you using hyperbole, this makes the study far less exciting to read.
      The main study backing up the anti-GMO stance is the seralini study, which is cited by them over and over, this study was retracted for reasons so obvious that even someone with no knowledge on the study can see how flawed it is just by reading it. The anti-GMO side just republished the study on a less credible source and counted the fact that it was re-published as evidence. They should have taken note of the many flaws in the study and started from scratch, but they didn’t because the people it was created for don’t care. They have a bias and they want something to confirm it. That’s why the study was covered in fear mongering pictures instead of actual facts.
      Mosanto labels all of their products, but people using their products shouldn’t have to place warnings as though it’s allergy advice or it contains something harmful, because there’s no reason to think it does.
      If people just wanted to avoid eating GMOs arbitrarily they already have that option, people make more expensive products labelled as organic and GMO-free already.

  • Mackinz

    A stream of rationality in an ocean of abject paranoia.

    Thank you for making a rationalistic post on this matter!

    Even though we disagree on some other stuff (why eat local “organic”” How about just local?), the sentiment is a refresher. 🙂

  • nomardw

    Alright. Let us start on these points.
    One, Monsanto will NOT allow any other company to do research on their products. The only reliable research out there was sponsored by Monsanto themselves.
    Two, we know far more about genetics now than we did when this was started over a decade ago. A considerable amount of DNA in cells was considered “junk DNA” that did nothing. Now, we know that many of these genes are regulatory in nature. They only express themselves under certain conditions and times. We also had no idea how much RNA controls the process either.
    They are combining more and more genes in these so called plants. The truth is that these chimera mix genes from many creatures. These haven’t been around any where near long enough to determine harm in nature.
    Three, it is a proven FACT that pollen drift also takes along the attendant gene contamination. Corn fields many miles away have been contaminated by pollen from another plot, but Monsanto can still destroy that crop for having unpaid for genetic material.
    Four, GMO crops DO NOT use less pesticides. In fact, that is the point, they are resistant to a specific pesticide or herbicide, such as round up. Now, because of excessive use of round up, over a dozen weeds are immune to it now.
    GMO’s don’t use less water either.
    So far, not a single GMO has boosted nutritional levels. Not one.

    • None Provided

      One is wrong, independent researchers study GMOs all the time.
      Two can be said about any science.
      Three is not correct, Monsanto has never destroyed a plot based on supposed pollen drift.
      Four is wrong, GMO crops use less pesticides and what ones they use are much safer.

      Thanks for playing.

  • kurty

    what about Monsanto producing seeds what plants do not reproduce on their own so the farmers need to go back to them every year. And what about concerns that Monsanto would copyright all the genetic materials to grow food? I think that there are other concerns beyondthe health risks of eating GMO food.

    • Edward Delaney

      Those seeds are not on the market but if you sign a contact with them to use their seeds you can’t replant. How else could they hope to make their money back from it? Otherwise each seed would have to have a completely unaffordable price attached.
      You buy seed, plant them, but the next batch and plant them, simple enough.
      Monsanto can’t copyright every plant, that’s just silly, they copyright their products as do other companies, including plant breeders that don’t make genetically engineered plants.
      Patents don’t last forever. People don’t complain that pharmaceutical companies patent medicine (“they want to own all of the cures and treatments”) or games companies patent sources of fun (“they want to monopolize all of the fun!!”). It would be absurd to complain about this, but people are being worked into hysteria by people pretending that monsanto can monopolize all food, merely because they produce seeds.

    • Jude I⚡caяiot

      There are no terminator seeds on the market. Sorry.

  • Marcos Nowosad

    I am not an anti-GMO nut. But I have not seen any single reasonable article that is able to justify why we should not ask companies to disclose if the food contains GMO products or not. It is relevant information that consumers are entitled to know.

    Increasing costs for printing additional 11 letters (“Contains GMO”)? Please…

    And, please, don’t give me this “it will scare away people and favor the Big-Organic”. Because then you will sound like a “conspiracy-theorist, anti-Organic nut”, exactly the kind of unreasonable nut you are criticizing in this article.

    And you will be implicitly stating “consumers are too stupid to take the correct decision if you give them too much information”.

    • Christian Abel

      Please explain how it is relevant and why have have a “right to know”.