Monsanto Corporate Officer Wins “World Food Prize”

Monsanto chief technology officer Robert Fraley was awarded the World Food Prize (the agrarian equivalent of a Nobel Prize) for his technological contributions to food. In other words, for his work developing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). He won this prize because many people (including the illustrious Bill Gates) think that GMOs will end the world hunger problem. Then there are other people who think GMOs will just end the world.

First thing, we need to talk about what GMOs actually are. They’ve been around (technically speaking) since the first herder of animals paired his strongest and healthiest male animals with his strongest and healthiest female ones. Through selective breeding and hybridization, humans have been manipulating the genetics of domesticated organisms and crops for thousands of years. Even Jacob did it in biblical times to gain an economic advantage over his grasping father-in-law (Gen. 30:25ff). Technically speaking every ear of corn and grain of wheat in the entire U.S. has been genetically modified through selective hybridization. These are things proponents of GMOs will bring up. But there’s more to this story.

What Monsanto (among others) has been doing is a different thing than cross-pollination or selective breeding. They would like to talk like it is in the same category, but it really isn’t.  What they are doing is gene splicing. In other words, they are manipulating the genetic material of an organism without using creation’s preferred method of genetic recombination. The argument from GMO proponents is that the natural method is slower (you have to wait for multiple generations to develop) and it isn’t possible to achieve some desirable characteristics through selective breeding and hybridization. GMO scientists have therefore experimented with gene splicing within the same species (called cisgenic recombination) and splicing genes from plants and animals that are not sexually compatible (called transgenic recombination).

Obviously, it has been the transgenic variety that has been most hotly contested, since people tend to be afraid that such an abberant tampering with nature could trigger an apocalyptic outbreak of mutant organisms. It is hard to know what impact such organisms could have on our health if they are introduced into our diets, and almost impossible to determine what impact such organisms will have on the future of our food supply should an unintended consequence be crop failure or disease a few unforeseeable years down the road. Many of the opponents of GMOs have less of a problem with cisgenic modification, since such changes could conceivably be achieved through the normal process of reproduction after a kind.

And of course, the companies responsible for producing genetically modified food can produce a slew of studies indicating that GMOs are not bad for you or for the world. The cigarette companies did the same thing, by the way. And for the same reason: money. Even Jacob did it for the money. And that is what the real problem here is. So that’s what we should really be focusing on.

I don’t know what GMOs will do for or against our food supply. I am wary of human tampering in ecological matters. If our previous attempts to “improve” on the ecological status quo are any indication, we should probably quit while we’re behind (rabbits and dingos in Australia, kudzu as a fix for soil erosion, etc.). But that is not really what worries me.

Monsanto got (somewhat) famous for being the first company to patent a living organism. They have also become the ugly face of big agriculture and crony capitalism. This is not about world hunger. It’s about money. And dirty money at that. I have no problem with pursuing the bottom line if the way to achieve a higher bottom line is to provide a better service. But Monsanto isn’t doing that. Most studies have shown that GMOs do not yield more crops than “normal” organisms. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case. But GMOs are very effective at making more money for the companies that copyright them. Monsanto has a track record of suing family farms out of business. They have a track record of getting their lobbyists and former executives into places of political power. And they have used this power to make even more money and strong arm people in spite of the fact that their products are dubious at best and diabolical at worst. We need more research into GMOs for sure, but in the mean time, we need to excise the mutant corporations that are bleeding traditional farming dry, purportedly in the name of science and progress.

24 responses

  1. Great Line – Monsanto “the ugly face of big agriculture and crony capitalism. This is not about world hunger. It’s about money. And dirty money at that. I have no problem with pursuing the bottom line if the way to achieve a higher bottom line is to provide a better service. But Monsanto isn’t doing that.”
    We’ll be better off if/when we can excise crony capitalists (corporatism) from our lives. This is one of the worst aspects of our current civic culture (if not the worst). Corporatism is killing our liberty.

      • RedMeatState thebigo I prefer using the term corporatism (as opposed to mercantilism)… http://www.distributedrepublic.net/archives/2006/03/14/capitalism-corporatism-mercantilism

    • thebigo – As long as we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and try and take capitalism out is if it is a problem. Capitalism is the only thing that allows any farmer to succeed. It only takes a short look at farmers around the globe that are not in a capitalist society to see how much worse off those farmers are.

  2. Science has finally lost it. It can do something that GOD has never chose to do??? If it is to be perfect it will have to be a robot., with no will of it’s own.
    Why is “science” forever trying to outdo GOD. There is no way possible !!!!Forget it.no need to prove what we already know, this is only a bunch of fools.

    • Just look at the three words “genetically modified food” followed by a mention of
      Bill Gates and then you know how much trouble we are in.

    • Nanashi How much money has greased the wheels from the FDA, USDA, Congress and the WH in order for Monsanto, ADM, and the other agri-giants to be able to completely bypass, ignore, and be unaccoutnable for any violations of all the Anti-Trust Acts ever passed!/???
      There is blood on these mens hands!!  Oceans of blood!!!  And it cries out to God for Justice!!!  Criminal scumbag corporations and criminal scumbag politicians exploiting and looting and poisoning the populace!

  3. The man won the prize because thousands of farmers whose failing GMO crops in India drove them to suicide… were not present to vote.

  4. I am so glad to see the article called out hybridization and selective breeding as naturally occurring. Whenever I talk about how food is made and how to choose where to buy food, people that don’t understand GMO creation think that everything is a GMO. The callouts here for cisgenic recombination and transgenic recombination are both important and alarming. This is where Monsanto and others have decided to play God and this is where it negatively effects the human body and the farmers. For the farmer, these mutated animals and crops that can’t simply be replanted or bred at will anymore is making food about the legal & money ramifications instead of the health benefits. For the consumers, it is putting GMO products in front of them that they no longer know if what they are seeing is the actual genetic item it appears to be on the package. GMO crops create problems with herbicide tolerance, virus tolerance, and bacteria tolerance that are all more dangerous for humans than the non-GMO counterparts. As the article states, GMOs are now about money and not about more crops.

  5. Please read “Wheat Belly” by  Dr. William Davis.  For me, NO WHEAT or products with wheat in it … 
    I eat more enjoyable,  went from 235+ to 205-,  LDL down, HDL up,  Diabetic symptoms decreasing,  better sleep, more energy and a lot of other things Monsanto would not like me to say.
    I know three others who also stopped eating GMO foods and Wheat … Their report makes mine a Ho-Hum.

  6. It may be too late but the word needs to get out about GMO and the long term consequences to food supplies and future growing capabilities.  This is what happens with large corporations and liberal governments have closed door meetings concerning our health and their pocket books!!!!

  7. Sorry Monsanto- any company that makes Agent Orange is not considered a good company for genetically altering seeds to grow for food. YOU LOSE!

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