Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monsanto and Genetically Modified Organisms

After so long hearing of so many egregious practices by Monsanto, and in particular after reading an article by SourceWatch and viewing "The World According to Monsanto" by Marie-Monique Robin - ARTE ,  I came upon a petition to "Bring Down Monsanto". While I have little faith that this will ever happen, I thought I would share what I wrote in the petition's opinion box accompanying my signature.

How do I feel about GMO (genetically modified organisms) and Monsanto?

GMOs are not tested by the FDA due to a politically motivated policy of "equivalence",  whereby GMO versions are assumed to be nearly equivalent to the non-GMO versions, and as such are considered inherently safe. This "equivalence" policy was instituted in the U.S. under George H.W. Bush's direction as part of the deregulation fever which started under President Reagan. This policy holds even when scientific studies contradict those safety claims. Food products which are genetically modified are no longer required to be labeled as such.

Genetically modified (GM) plants contaminate non-GM plants during fertilization, so that diversity is reduced. The farmers trying to grow non-GM crops end up with contaminated crops, which leads to both export problems and to problems with the companies that have patented the GMs. Monsanto in particular is very aggressive in its treatment of farmers with contaminated crops, preventing them from using their own crops for seed, and basically suing for patent violations (even though it was their company's product which contaminated neighboring crops).

Sometimes it is not the modified gene itself that is problematic; it is the location in the genome of the plant where it is inserted that is the problem. The location in the genome is not consistent, and different locations of the gene can produce very different results. Thus, the process itself of producing GMOs can cause adverse effects.

Roundup-ready crops in particular are a problem, because Roundup is an herbicide which kills most other plants. The company's claims of environmental safety have proven over and over to be outright lies, claims which are dis-proven by the company's own research as well as independent research. Studies presented to the FDA have also been doctored to hide problems.

Research which contradicts Monsanto's claims is routinely attacked, and scientists involved in such studies have dirty tricks campaigns waged to discredit them.

Monsanto products often contaminate water supplies, and have resulted in local animal population die-offs. Many family farms have difficulties when in the neighborhood of Monsanto crops, since the use of Monsanto's herbicides may contaminate adjoining areas.

Unprotected workers applying Monsanto chemicals have adverse health effects. Local or imported bee populations with access to Monsanto crops end up with colony collapse disorder, and many bee farmers have gone bankrupt as a result.

In short, it is way past time for regulations and policies to be put into place to protect our health and our food from both unregulated GMOs and Monsanto in particular. Products which are genetically modified must not be allowed on the market without testing. With its equivalence policy, the FDA is subjecting us to essentially unregulated and untested genetically modified food and animal products. Monsanto, a company which now has a 70% share of our food market with its GM products, must be dealt with. Its ruthless and illegal practices must be stopped. At the very least, anti-trust and anti-monopoly legislation should be brought to bear against this morally bankrupt company.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Payroll Tax Increase Used In Pay-As-You-Go-Act

Not only is the payroll tax holiday mixing general revenues into the Social Security Trust Fund (which has U.S. Treasury bonds and has not been "stolen"), but now politicians are using payroll tax increases as an offset for the purposes of the "Pay-As-You-Go-Act of 2010"? The proposed increases in payroll taxes are limited in scope (applies only to "certain shareholders of a subchapter S corporation engaged as a partner in a professional service business"), and is thus limited in its effectiveness as to reforming Social Security revenues, and mixes the bookkeeping of payroll taxes with general revenues. The accounting for Social Security is supposed to be kept separate from other federal programs, and this proposal undermines that division.

If an offset is needed for keeping student loan interest rates low, then why not propose getting rid of big oil subsidies to pay for it? Democrats should have proposed this while daring Senate Republicans to vote NO.

Yes, the cap on income subject to payroll taxes should be raised (it should be indexed instead of static; the raising of the cap is the only fix Social Security needs), but doing it piecemeal while mixing it in legislation for other purposes is one more step to dismantling the most successful federal program ever. Maybe you want grandma and grandpa in poorhouses as was common before 1935, but I think a self-funded retirement insurance program which is not subject to Wall Street shenanigans, mismanagement, high administrative fees, or personal or corporate bankruptcy is a much better idea. This messing with payroll taxes is alarming, and we have to get it stopped.

See "Student Loan Vote: Republicans Block Bill To Extend Low Interest Rates", and "Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012".