By Rady Ananda
First, we spit out our coffee over President Obama’s appointments of former Monsanto goon Michael Taylor as Food Safety [sic] Czar and ‘biotech governor of the year’ Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture. Then we choked on our grits when he made Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddiqui, the US Ag Trade Representative. Now, the real food movement has completely lost its appetite with Obama’s nomination of Monsanto defender, Elena Kagan, to the US Supreme Court.
In December 2009, in her capacity as Solicitor General, Kagan intervened in the first case on which SCOTUS will rule involving genetically modified crops, Monsanto v Geertson Seed. She defended Monsanto’s fight to contaminate the environment with its GM alfalfa, not the American people’s right to safe feed and a protected environment.
The lower court ruled that “contamination of organic and conventional alfalfa crops with the genetically engineered gene has occurred and defendants acknowledge as much. Such contamination is irreparable environmental harm.”
That other fields, not those of Geertson Seed, et al., had been contaminated does not bother Kagan. “The district court failed to find either that respondents had suffered or were likely to suffer irreparable harm…”
This flies in the face of reality. The biotech industry has admitted it cannot prevent contamination of natural fields. When Bayer CropScience contaminated nearly a third of the US rice supply with its GM version, its defense lawyers told jurors that “Bayer’s containment protocols were equal to or exceeded industry standards when the test rice escaped into the general supplies.”
If the best containment protocols don’t work, then contamination cannot be prevented. That is clearly an indication that natural crop farmers are “likely to suffer irreparable harm.”
Geertson Seed explains some basic facts about alfalfa and GM contamination:
“Alfalfa is not just a prolific field crop, but feral alfalfa and weedy alfalfa is commonly found beyond the fields by roadways, irrigation canals, backyards and beyond….
“Contamination of conventional alfalfa from genetically engineered alfalfa is a major concern. The primary mode of contamination is from the movement of pollen by bees from plant to plant. Alfalfa is pollinated by many different bees and other insects that fly long distances. Sudden wind gusts like those associated with summer thunder storms can carry pollinators over greater distances. When a pollinator visits an alfalfa plant that has the Roundup Ready (RR) gene inserted, it will pick up the pollen that contains the RR gene and carry it to a distant conventional alfalfa plant. If that pollen fertilizes the blossom of the conventional plant, the resulting seed will contain the RR gene.”
This contamination becomes especially important because contaminated alfalfa will continue to sprout for years: “The seed produced by alfalfa can have 50% or more dormant seed [which] can lay dormant in the soil for many years.”
Glyphosate is one of the most toxic herbicides in use today. Monsanto’s trade name for it is Roundup. Geertson Seed explains that:
“Roundup Ready alfalfa will have a selective advantage over non GE alfalfa and will become the dominant weed variety. In turn, the weedy Roundup Ready alfalfa will be difficult to kill and will become a source of pollen and seed that will contaminate other feral plants and conventional alfalfa seed fields in the area. In a few years, it will be extremely difficult to avoid contamination from GE alfalfa.”
Worse, researchers at the University of Caen found that Monsanto’s particular formulations of glyphosate in Roundup “actually amplified glyphosate’s toxic effects,” which include human cell death.
Kagan seems to believe that the biotech industry’s inability to prevent contamination is not an issue for farmers, the environment or we the people. Her repugnance toward our human right to reject the deployment of genetically engineered crops comports with corporate views.