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Environmentalists battle agricultural giant

By Lacy Hilliard

Monsanto is a multinational corporate giant that is responsible for producing the majority of the world’s genetically modified seeds, herbicides, and pesticides. Monsanto is also a world leader in agricultural biotech research. Some of the company’s products, past and present, include Agent Orange, bovine growth hormone, saccharin, and dioxin. The Fortune 500 company is a frequent occupant in the headlines and the connotation is most often negative. Because Johnson County is rooted in agriculture, many local farmers have felt the effects of this corporate powerhouse whether through the use of its products or the victim of its legislation.
Monsanto comes under fire for several questionable business practices but the enforcement of its seed patents is where the company receives the most criticism in current times. To date, Monsanto has filed lawsuits against hundreds of small farming operations claiming that the farmers violated contractual law by harvesting Monsanto patented seeds from their crops and saving them for future use. The company argues that by filing suit against these small time operations they are protecting their revenue. With over 11 billion dollars in reported revenue in 2011, it isn’t difficult to realize that Monsanto has an impressive legal team at its fingertips. The majority of Monsanto’s lawsuits are settled out of court. For those cases that haven’t, Monsanto has proven victorious in every case that has reached the courtroom floor.
The seed Monsanto produces is genetically modified most specifically to be resistant to Monsanto produced herbicides like Roundup for example. The altered seed will produce a crop that can withstand the poisonous herbicide whereas the weeds cannot. The use of GMO’s is becoming more and more publicized as science works to research the health impact of these not-so-natural additions to the food chain. Currently, scientific links are beginning to form between GMO’s and health conditions such as infertility, allergies, and decreased immunity. One study even found a link between GMO’s and antibiotic resistance. Though none of these studies have been accepted as fact, science is working diligently to investigate these links. Monsanto opponents believe that the proof is apparent and tested. Many independent researchers claim that Monsanto utilizes its enormous corporate and alleged political status to discredit scientific findings that may prove to be harmful to the future of Monsanto’s products.
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