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Aliza Fishbein

Aliza Fishbein

Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

The GM Stranglehold

Monsanto brand corn used all over the world; courtesy of Flickr

Monsanto brand corn used all over the world; courtesy of Flickr

In recent weeks some 280 South African corn farmers went to harvest their corn and discovered that although the exterior of the plants looked lush the interior was bare. An article by the Digital Journal reports that millions of dollars were lost to farmers when their three varieties of Monsanto brand corn seeds failed to produce. Monsanto’s “on the record” statement that 75,000 hectares, or 25 percent of the total planted hectares were damaged while other sources choose to emphasize an 80 percent reduction in crop yield for some farmers. Many activists are taking this opportunity to criticize genetically modified (GM) seeds and food in efforts to ban their use in South Africa. Monsanto insists that there was no error in the production technology, rather in the fertilization process and has offered to compensate affected farmers in this instance.

My criticism is focused not at the broad category that is GM but at the single company that has come to control the world’s agricultural production and transitively the fates of many countries. The problem is that Monsanto is a monopoly in global GM seed production and sales. When their seeds prove as unreliable as they have been, the world’s (or at least the countries that depend on Monsanto products, primarily India, Brazil and South Africa) ability to feed itself and all the economic and political complications that follow famine are at the mercy of one company. And that is what it comes down to, Monsanto is a company and its goal is ultimately profit, not the welfare of the people who rely on them. Read More >

The AMA’s Support for Sustainable Food Systems: They Sure Can Talk the Talk

President Obama spoke at the AMA conference last week

President Obama spoke at the AMA conference last week

Last week at the American Medical Association’s 158th annual meeting in Chicago members passed a resolution that supports the advocacy of sustainable healthy food systems. This is a landmark time for environmentalists since the AMA had previously endorsed healthy food alternatives and minimizing the environmental impact of certain foods, but never before has it publicly recognized the dangerous effects of the current industrial food manufacturing system. The AMA issued a statement making clear the benefits of more healthy and sustainable food systems. They get it: “Healthy food is part of a sustainable food system, in which food is defined not only by its nutrient content, but also by how and where it is raised, grown, processed, and distributed.”

The resolution piggybacked a report issued by the AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health that recognizes the ecological footprint of industrially produced food, understanding that it contributes to antibiotic resistance, climate change and air and water pollution. Combating these causes of damage to the environment is a preventive treatment for illnesses and conditions such as asthma. This preventive approach is all the rage as it is consistent with President Obama’s stance on healthcare reform, and who wouldn’t want to be in the President’s good graces?

The major buzzword of the week is “sustainable,” a term used by the President himself when addressing the large AMA meeting on June 15th. Sustainable food systems seem to fit into the sustainable healthcare picture that the President is pursuing. Not to mention, the idea of sustainable food systems has already been on his radar, something he implied when describing the White House victory garden which is in place to educate children on the significance of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Read More >