Monday, 21 November 2011

MONSANTO'S MINIONS: The White House, Congress, and the Mass Media

Hamlet Act 1, Scene 4
'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark'

There's a reason he says "state of Denmark" rather than just Denmark: the fish is rotting from the head down—all is not well at the top of the political hierarchy. Fast forward a few hundred years and substitute USA for Denmark.

For those readers interested in the close links between President Obama, his administration and Monsanto the following paras give the details - at

The United States is rapidly devolving into what can only be described as a Monsanto Nation. Despite Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton's) campaign operatives in 2008 publicly stating that Obama supported mandatory labels for GMOs, we haven't heard a word from the White House on this topic since Inauguration Day. Michele Obama broke ground for an organic garden at the White House in early 2009, but after protests from the pesticide and biotech industry, the forbidden "O" (organic) word was dropped from White House PR. Since day one, the Obama Administration has mouthed biotech propaganda, claiming, with no scientific justification whatsoever, that biotech crops can feed the world and enable farmers to increase production in the new era of climate change and extreme weather.

Like Obama's campaign promises to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; like his promises to bring out-of-control banksters and oil companies under control; like his promises to drastically reduce greenhouse gas pollution and create millions of green jobs; Obama has not come though on his 2008 campaign promise to label GMOs. His unilateral approval of Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa, overruling the federal courts, scientists, and the organic community, offers the final proof: don't hold your breath for this man to do anything that might offend Monsanto or Corporate America.

Obama's Administration, like the Bush and Clinton Administrations before him, has become a literal "revolving door" for Monsanto operatives. President Obama stated on the campaign trail in 2007-2008 that agribusiness cannot be trusted with the regulatory powers of government.

But, starting with his choice for USDA Secretary, the pro-biotech former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, President Obama has let Monsanto and the biotech industry know they'll have plenty of friends and supporters within his administration. President Obama has taken his team of food and farming leaders directly from the biotech companies and their lobbying, research, and philanthropic arms:

Michael Taylor, former Monsanto Vice President, is now the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods. Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, is now the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Islam Siddiqui, Vice President of the Monsanto and Dupont-funded pesticide-promoting lobbying group, CropLife, is now the Agriculture Negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative. Rajiv Shah former agricultural-development director for the pro-biotech Gates Foundation (a frequent Monsanto partner), served as Obama's USDA Under-Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist and is now head of USAID. Elena Kagan, who, as President Obama's Solicitor General, took Monsanto's side against organic farmers in the Roundup Ready alfalfa case, is now on the Supreme Court. Ramona Romero, corporate counsel to DuPont, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as General Counsel for the USDA.

Of course, America's indentured Congress is no better than the White House when it comes to promoting sane and sustainable public policy. According to Food and Water Watch, Monsanto and the biotech industry have spent more than half a billion dollars ($547 million) lobbying Congress since 1999. Big Biotech's lobby expenditures have accelerated since Obama's election in 2008. In 2009 alone Monsanto and the biotech lobby spent $71 million. Last year Monsanto's minions included over a dozen lobbying firms, as well as their own in-house lobbyists.

America's bought-and-sold mass media have likewise joined the ranks of Monsanto's minions. Do a Google search on a topic like citizens' rights to know whether our food has been genetically engineered or not, or on the hazards of GMOs and their companion pesticide Roundup, and you'll find very little in the mass media. However, do a Google search on the supposed benefits of Monsanto's GMOs, and you'll find more articles in the daily press than you would ever want to read.

Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don't hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers' right to know what's in their food. In a decade of Congressional lobbying, the OCA has never seen more than 24 out of 435 Congressional Representatives co-sponsor one of Kucinich's GMO labeling bills. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the outrageous "Citizens United" case gave big corporations like Monsanto the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent. Keep in mind that one of the decisive Supreme Court swing votes in the "Citizen's United' case was cast by the infamous Justice Clarence Thomas, former General Counsel for Monsanto.

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