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Back Room Dealings of GMO’s

Cadyn Cole-Dombroski

Arizona State University


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Back Room Dealings of GMO’s

In the years between 1856 and 1863, Gregor Mendel, a friar and abbot decided to work

with seven favorable characteristics of peas, cross breeding them and recognizing which was a

recessive gene and which was a dominant gene. From there, he was able to choose which plants

he would cross pollinate to get the desired plant he would like.

Flash forward one hundred and sixty years or more! Scientists use Mendel’s

revolutionary findings to create genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). Scientists find

characteristics they want in a plant, seed, or animal and insert those genes into another plant,

seed, or animal to create the product they would like with the desired traits from the other

organism.

A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism, or other

organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or

transgenic technology (non-GMO project). GM seeds were created to help improve farmers’

yields, produce enough food to support an ever-growing world population, and have the same or

more nutrients in them as their natural counterparts (Verhaag, 2009). Scientist genetically modify

seeds so they could withstand drought, be tolerant to certain weathers, and be able to survive

with certain pesticides or chemicals.

The large growth of GM products created the idea of the Green revolution. The Green

Revolution started in Yaqui Valley Mexico (Matson, 2011). So how did the green revolution

start? Well, the Mexican government and the international development community decided the

Yaqui Valley was the perfect area for agricultural research (Matson, 2011). In the mid twentieth

century, a group of researchers led by a man named Norman Borlaug looked into new

technologies to grow wheat such as, different types or irrigation and fertilizers (Matson, 2011 ).
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While these researchers and scientists were looking into wheat the region of the Yaqui

Valley, it was going through an eight-year drought (Matson, 2011). This, as well as an

exponentially growing population, led to a complete loss of some crops and the need for a new

way for crops to grow in a higher yield (Matson, 2011). The increased need for better ways to

farm led the farmers to be very interested in the research Norman Borlaug and the team of

scientists were working on (Matson, 2011).

Yields from farmers are now less than they ever were with non-GMO seeds (Shiva,

2016). Many of the crops have less nutrients than their organic or traditionally grown

counterparts (Shiva, 2016). GMOs were introduced into the world as a safe product farmers

could choose to grow if they wanted to (Verhaag, 2009). This, however, has not been the case;

there is no coexistence once GMO’s are introduced into an area (Verhaag, 2009). Most or all of

the plants and seeds are contaminated by GMOs within a few years or even months (Shiva,

2016).

India is one area greatly affected by GMO’s. India’s seed sellers sell a strain of cotton

seed called Jai BT (GM) seeds, these have become the only seeds available to the farmers, the

public supply of seeds has stopped allowing them to create GM seeds to be the only seeds left

(Shiva, 2016). The farmers allowed this to happen because the seed sellers and large corporations

originally told the farmers they would increase their yearly yields and less pesticides would be

needed (Peled, 2011). This was a lie; the seeds need three times the amount of fertilizer and still

needed pesticides for certain pests that have become immune to them don’t have a resistance.

About 90% of farmers in the village don’t have irrigation and rely only on rainfall (Peled, 2011).

The seeds need a specific amount of water because if they don’t get enough water they will dry

up and if they get to much they will be pushed too far into the ground (Peled, 2011).
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The GM seeds are very expensive and the suppliers give no discounts to the farmers

(Peled, 2011). Many farmers take out bank loans, however the bank only lets a farmer take out

one loan at a time (Peled, 2011). Many farmers do not have enough money to buy new seeds

every year and with banks only giving out one loan the farmers have to turn to moneylenders

(Peled, 2011).

Ran Krishna Kopulwar was unable to obtain a loan from the bank so he ended up at a

money lender who was only willing to give him money if he put his land in the moneylender’s

name as a collateral (Peled, 2011). His land was the only item of value Ran had, if he was

unable to pay back the loan with a 7% interest rate his land would not be his anymore (Peled,

2011). These moneylenders charge extreme interest rates and often work illegally.

Almost all of the Bt GM seeds sold in India are produced by Monsanto (Peled, 2011).

Monsanto helps the local seed selling companies promote the GM seeds with Bollegard II

because Monsanto gets a higher royalty on these products (Peled, 2011). Bollegard II is a

different strain of GM BT cotton produced by Monsanto and is supposed to protect against

certain pests (Peled, 2011). Monsanto also helps the companies convince farmers Bollegard II is

better through advertisements and commercials that show how much better life is when using the

Bollegard II. It also produces more yield equating to more money (Peled, 2011).

Ran Krishna was a lucky farmer who made it through his difficult times, while many

farmers don’t. India has the largest community of farmers in the world, and in the past sixteen

years one quarter of the farmers have committed suicide (Peled, 2011). This equates to a farmer

killing himself every thirty minutes (Peled, 2011). The documentary Bitter Seeds, follows the

difficulties farmers face in a region of India called Vidarbha which has become the epicenter of

the crisis (Peled, 2011). The film specifically focuses on a farmer named Ran Krishna Kopulwar
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and a young girl named Manjusha Ambarwar who wants to become a journalist so starts

interviewing the farmers about GM seeds (Peled, 2011).

The issue farmers have with GMOs and the industry isn’t only in India or third world

regions, many first world countries like the U.S. and Canada are also affected by the

corporations. Percy Schmeiser was an average farmer in Canada until a large storm blew his

neighbors Monsanto GM seeds into his fields. His seeds he had spent lots of time on were now

contaminated by Monsanto’s GM seeds (Verhaag, 2009). He expresses his anger by saying “It

was very disgusting and hard to take that I lost something that I had worked 50 years on”

(Verhaag, 2009). Monsanto soon found out he had their seeds on his land and turned him into the

perpetrator instead of the victim. In 1998, Monsanto sued Percy for illegally planting the

corporations patented GMO canola and he was to be forced to pay $100,000 (Verhaag, 2009).

Percy then decided to file a countersuit on grounds of chemical pollution, seed destruction and

slander (Verhaag, 2009). Once this was filed Monsanto started to spy and pursue him (Verhaag,

2009).

In 1999, the situation became hostile detectives and people working for Monsanto parked

in the Schmeiser’s drive way, following them into the fields, watching their every move

(Verhaag, 2009). At one-point Percy carried a rifle in his tractors and combines. He said he was

“concern[ed] for my wife…I was concerned something could happen to her” (Verhaag, 2009).

His wife, commenting on the situation, said, “It was scary at times…I felt like a prisoner in my

own home” (Verhaag, 2009).

In 2001 a judge ordered Percy to pay $400,000 in damages and costs, the decisive

witnesses in court were either Monsanto employees or had been payed off by Monsanto

(Verhaag, 2009). When the judge’s ruling came out everyone was shocked. When the judge had
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ruled it did not matter how a farmer is contaminated even against there wishes, they the farmer

no longer owns his seeds or plans they become property of Monsanto under patent law and it

doesn’t matter how many plants are contaminated even if it is just 1% all of a farmer’s seeds and

plants are not his anymore (Verhaag, 2009).

Percy continued to fight, he took the case all the way to the Canadian supreme court. The

judge decided he did infringe on the patent owned by Monsanto illegally seeding his canola

contaminated with Monsanto’s GMO seed and because he did not actively use the patent he is

not required to pay any damages to Monsanto (Verhaag, 2009). Many farmers try to fight against

Monsanto however end up taking a deal because they can’t afford the legal costs and they

become too intimidated by the corporations (Verhaag, 2009). Percy has been the only farmer to

continue their fight against Monsanto and win (Verhaag, 2009).

Monsanto is a leading company for GMO in the US their soybeans are very well known.

Almost all soybeans in the world are now GM from Monsanto. Monsanto was given approval for

their roundup ready soybeans in 1994 (Verhaag, 2009). Monsanto creates many types of GM

seeds and then patens them.

GMO’s cause economic harm to farmers. Companies like Monsanto force the farmers to

buy their chemicals and pesticides. The Monsanto seeds also have a terminator gene within them

which makes the farmers biologically dependent on the corporation (Verhaag, 2009). Terminator

genes cause the seeds to only be able to germinate once; this means the farmer cannot clean the

seed and use it for the next year like most farmers have been doing for years (Verhaag, 2009).

The terminator gene can also spread and effect other plants around the plant with the terminator

gene making those plants unable to germinate again (Verhaag, 2009).


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With each harvest season farmers have to purchase new chemicals, pesticides and seeds

(Verhaag, 2009). Monsanto constantly changes the seeds so the pesticides from one year’s

harvest will not work on the next years seeds. This forces the farmers to continuously buy new

pesticides and chemicals. This continuous loop forces farmers to take out loans to be able to pay

for the new products they need, and many get direct loans from the large corporations (Peled,

2011). These loans put the farmers in debt with these companies which results in the farmers

basically being owned by the corporations (Peled, 2011).

The small family run farms most people think of have either been dramatically changed

(Shiva, 2016). Some small farms do exist still but many of the farms are now growing GM seeds

resulting in the influence of large corporations on how they grow their crops (Verhaag, 2009). As

Percy Schmeiser stated in an interview, “companies want total control of seed supply so that they

can have total control of the food supply” (Verhaag, 2009). These companies take over every

part of the farming industry while taking away any control farmers once had.

A 2003 contract Monsanto had farmers sign stated, a farmer could not sue or take

Monsanto to court no matter the reason (Verhaag, 2009). Many farmers signed this and now

have no rights to sue if they are being treated poorly by the company. Monsanto takes control of

these farmers and then creates a feeling of betrayal and unease between farmers. Each year

Monsanto publishes a number to call if a farmer suspects another farmer or neighbor of using

Monsanto seeds without a license. (Verhaag, 2009) Many farmers report that if they would rat

out another farmer they would be rewarded with a leather jacket (Verhaag, 2009).

GMOs have been a large debate in the news and among large groups of citizens;

however, most of the time when people think about GMOs they think about food and if it is safe
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to eat. This is an important argument, however there is a lot more behind GMOs than just food

safety. The industry and farming of GMOs is one of back room meetings and payoffs.

If they can regulate the price and availability of foods, especially important ones like soy,

they can use it as a bargaining chip to get whatever they want.

Stop this mindless control from large corporations by refusing to buy GMO products.

One way to support farmers and stop using GM products is to use a verified Non-GMO search

like the one on The Non-GMO Project website (https://www.nongmoproject.org/find-non-

gmo/verified-products/). This search allows people to research a brand or product to find out if

they are non-GMO. This website also allows vendors or companies to become registered and

have a non-GMO project stickers on their products.

We need to wake up and act against these industries, GMOs do more harm than good to

communities. They allow large corporations and industries to take over the economy and control

food. They monopolize food by controlling the production, price and availability of food. We

have let them take over and control us.


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References

Matson, P. A. (Ed.). (2011). Seeds of sustainability: Lessons from the birthplace of the green
revolution in agriculture. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-
com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu

3.1 Mendel’s Pea Plants. (2016). Retrieved


fromhttps://bio.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Introductory_and_General_Biology/Book%3A_Introd
uctory_Biology_(CK-12)/3%3A_Genetics/3.1%3A_Mendel%27s_Pea_Plants

Peled, M. (Director). (2011). Bitter Seeds [Documentary].

Shiva, V. (2016). Seed Sovereignty, Food Security: Women in the Vanguard of the Fight Against
GMOs and Corporate Agriculture. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. Retrieved from
http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=98787
2&site=ehost-live

Verhaag, B. (Director). (2009). David vs. Monsanto [Documentary].