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Monsanto and PCBs 580

Posted by michael
from the three-eyed-fish dept.
blamanj writes: "While this story isn't about the gadgetry that typically appeals to /.ers, it's worth a look. The Washington Post has acquired documents showing how a Monsanto Corp. PCB plant polluted a small town in Alabama with full knowledge of what it was doing. Their own tests showed that when fish were placed into a local stream, "Their skin would literally slough off." They showed no concern for the residents, only about potential expensive regulations or bad publicity. Why is this relevant? Well, Monsanto is currently one of biggest proponents of GM (genetically modified) foods." Very thorough investigative article about how a corporation reacts when a profitable business line is threatened, or a cautionary tale about wonder technologies, take your pick.
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Monsanto and PCBs

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  • Large biotech firms (Score:4, Informative)

    by cadfael (103180) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @02:35AM (#2777590) Homepage Journal
    Be not surprised by this sort of actions. These people are so bottom line centered, they hired a private investigator in Canada to determine if a farmer was using their GM seed for a crop without their permission (or without paying a fee...something to that effect).

    I love the smell of greed in the morning. It reminds me what a miserable bunch of animals humanity really is...
    • by green pizza (159161) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @02:51AM (#2777633) Homepage
      Living near the Candian boarder I've been reading about this in our local newspapers. Seems a canadian farmer obtained some freshly harvested canola seed which he planted the very next year. Well, this wasn't the cheap stuff, it was Monsanto RoundUp-Ready canola (GM to resist RoundUp... spray field with RoundUp, kill everything but the canola... better yields, only downside is possible glyphophosphate poisoning). But, the license for Monsanto RR canola specifically states that it cannot be harvested for use as seed (that is, you have to keep buying your seed from Monsanto each year). Somone reported the farmer and Monstanto investiaged and sued. Farmer made some pretty weak excuses, but at least did grab some media attention.

      What he did was illegal, but I don't blame him. Farming is hard business these days, especially when only certain crops get subsidies and the seed and fertiziler companies are out to suck the farmer's wallet dry.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I believe that farmer counter-sued Monsanto because he made it a point to grow non-GM crops. Neighboring farms used the Monsanto seed and genetic drift caused the farmer's crops to become Monsanto patented soy, even though he didn't want it. He contended that Monsanto's GM seed polluted his seed. Of course his counter suit was crushed by the Monsanto legal machine, but it was an interesting point.
        • I believe that farmer counter-sued Monsanto because he made it a point to grow non-GM crops.

          Correction: The farmer *claimed* that he wanted to grow non-GM crops.

          To quote the judge who ruled on the case: "Based on all the available expert testimony, I find it hard to accept that cross-polination could have resulted in an entire field possessing the genetic traits of Monsanto's proprietary seed."
    • Slashdot had a link to a story [slashdot.org] on the Percy Schmeiser case a long time ago. It may also be worth checking out this site [percyschmeiser.com] on his continuing conflict with Monsanto; whois records indicate it's run by a relative of Percy, and it seems rather thorough.

      Monsanto is nasty corporation that fights dirty and wants to control everything it touches. It's Microsoft crossed with tobacco companies. Monsanto was one of the companies that produced the Agent Orange defoliant for the US military during 'Nam, and currently produces Roundup and Roundup Ultra. The latter is being indiscriminately dumped [witnessforpeace.org] on various locations around Colombia [witnessforpeace.org] as part of the US War on (Some) Drugs. This doesn't even get into Monsanto's legal and technical games with genetics.

      Monsanto is also a candidate for being "first up against the wall" when "the revolution" comes. Whatever that turns out to be, it can only mean good things for life on Earth to evolve and exist outside of manipulation for profit.
    • It's quite a coincidence that I just finished watching an expose' on my local PBS station about the chemical industry's pattern of cover ups and how they have made the US government their puppets.Trade Secrets [pbs.org]

      To those who wonder what GM crops have to do with PCB/chemical dumping, they're missing the point. The point is that if a company has a history of putting profits over public safety and have blatant disregard for human life, then how can you trust them when they say GM crops are safe? They may be safe, they may not be, but I for one do not find their opinions credible.

      Show Summary:

      Surveys of public opinion show that the majority of Americans believe that the government is making sure that they are protected against harmful chemicals. Is their understanding justified? Journalist Bill Moyers and producer Sherry Jones report on how the chemical revolution of the past 50 years has produced thousands of man-made chemicals that have not been tested for their effect on the public's health and safety. The report is based on documents never before published and interviews with historians, scientists, and physicians who are exploring how chemicals affect the human body.

      Here are some quotes from industry documents from transcript of Trade Secrets [pbs.org]. I'll let you interpret them yourself:

      September 28, 1981. Government Relations Committee. Pebble Beach.

      "The Committee believes that the new climate in Washington is more reasoned and responsive. ...The election of the Reagan Administration appears to have produced changes which bode well for our industry."

      "President Reagan directed EPA to delay proposing or finalizing regulations until it could be determined that they were cost-effective and necessary."

      January 11, 1982. CMA Board of Directors. Grand Ballroom, Arizona Biltmore. "Just ten days ago, TSCA celebrated its fifth birthday. The first five years of TSCA have seen numerous rules proposed by the Agency. To date, we have seen none of these types of rules finalized."

      [TSCA: the Toxic Substances Control Act, one law intended to give the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to regulate toxic chemicals]

      [Fact:To this day - almost 25 years after the Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted - only five types of chemicals, out of thousands, have been banned under the law.]

    • by ahoehn (301327) <andrew@@@hoe...hn> on Thursday January 03, 2002 @06:25AM (#2778050) Homepage
      If an individual had systematically poisoned a river running through a town we would call it Terrorism and imprison or execute that person. When a corporation like Monsanto does the same thing, we call it business, and most likely we will simply fine the corporation for a minuscule percentage of their wealth, and let them continue these practices.
      • by mpe (36238)
        If an individual had systematically poisoned a river running through a town we would call it Terrorism and imprison or execute that person.

        As would be the case if they were an organisation.

        When a corporation like Monsanto does the same thing, we call it business, and most likely we will simply fine the corporation for a minuscule percentage of their wealth, and let them continue these practices.

        But someone forming a corporation primarily for terrorism, e.g. Al Queda Inc, would probably not get protection. Even if they also enguaged in legitimate business, even if they did it long enough that that was their major activity.
        It's also most a case of something which started off as a law abiding entity is always viewed that way, regardles of how it might actually be behaving now.
  • Corporate... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by darkov (261309) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @02:36AM (#2777594)
    ...fuckwits. They should be made to move to the town they polluted. With their families.
    • Re:Corporate... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by debiandude (515835)
      Well don't you think that a little harsh. I sure not everyone that worked for them new. For instance my aunt worked for a dry cleaners in Maopac New York. At this establishment they were poring the chemicals down the drain. My aunt didn't know this. Any today the whole shopping center where this dry cleaners was the water is polluted. Now obviously I think the moron pouring it down the drain should drink the water there, but I wouldn't sentance my aunt to the same sentance.
      • Re:Corporate... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by darkov (261309) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @02:48AM (#2777625)
        My comments were aimed at the people making the decisions. They are the ones who should take responsibility, not people who just do what they are told.

        The best way to punish corporate fuckwits is not to impose financial penalties. That can be factored in as an expense and risk factor. These people should be made to live in their own filth. We should show them complete disregard for their lives, just as they have for others.

        Why is it that if I kill someone by accident, I'll go to jail (most probably). But if some corporate idiot kills tens or hundreds of people in a cimmunity, he'll still get his bonus?
        • Re:Corporate... (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          You sir have hit the nail on the head. Corporations are faceless entities - you can't point a finger at an individual. Remember the days when corporations couldn't use the 5th amendment? But in 1976 [nancho.net], US v. Martin Linen Supply was the first time a corporation used the 5th. Now corporations are beginning to take on more of the freedoms as individuals while possessing freedom inherent of being commericial - they can get away with anything.
        • Re:Corporate... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Big Dogs Cock (539391) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @04:53AM (#2777893) Homepage Journal
          After a couple of well publicised incidents in the UK (Hatfield train crash etc.) the subject of "corporate mansluaghter" (manslaughter in the UK is, I think, similar to 2nd degree murder in the states). Obviously not popular with big companies because it could actually mean executives going to jail when their negilgence results in someone getting killed. It doesn't make a lot of sense that if you drive a car dangerously and kill someone, you go down; if you drive a company carelessly and kill someone, you might get a fine of 0.0000001% of your turnover.

          One thing I've noticed in the UK, is since the privatisation of our railways, almost all incidents have been blamed on the driver - who is normally dead so can't fight back. This way nobody can sue the company. Hatfield was one of the first ones where they couldn't do that 'cos unless the driver stopped the train, got out, broke the rail himself, got back in, backed up to get some speed and then drove round the corner he couldn't possibly be at fault.

          If corporations want the same rights as citizens, they should have the same responsibilities. Mind you, when they do send execs down (fraud or whatever), they get a nice open prison with full access to laptops, cellphones etc. so they can just carry on working. There is no justice.
        • "They are the ones who should take responsibility, not people who just do what they are told."

          If you don't know how to say "NO!" when you are told to do something wrong, you are also part of the problem.

          The Nuremberg Defense: 'as it has become known, provides that private citizens have a duty and a privilege under international law and state crime prevention statutes to prevent crimes against the peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Federal and state courts traditionally have rejected the Nuremberg Defense. The Nuremberg Principles are a part of customary international law, however, and as such should be applied in domestic courts. In addition, the justifications offered by courts for rejecting the Nuremberg Defense wither under careful analysis. After concluding that it is proper for the courts to permit the Nuremberg Defense, this Note examines several recent cases that allowed the Nuremberg Defense, and argues that these cases offer a more rational and legally sound approach to the issue. '
          --http://www.uchastings.edu/hlj/abstracts/abstr4 02 .html

          "They told me to do it!"
          "I didn't want to get fired"

          For fuck's sake... wrong is wrong.
    • Why not? These sorts of sentences are accepted for slumlords; they either clean up their act, or move into their own crappy property.
  • by Carnage4Life (106069) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @02:41AM (#2777604) Homepage Journal
    I never thought companies like Monsanto existed outside of the paranoid writings of science fiction writers or in surreal alternate reality fantasy stories until I found out about their infamous Monsanto Terminator Seeds [google.com]?

    Selling third world farmers infertile seeds so they have to keep buying your seeds with the full knowledge that these sterile seeds could spread and render entire regions infertile is so nefarious, mere words cannot convey the feelings of disgust I feel.
    • I couldn't agree more. Ordinarily I roll my eyes when I see articles about "corporate evil" on Slashdot, but Monsanto is an exception. Unequivocably, without doubt, Monsanto's corporate charter should be revoked, the CEOs should be stripped of all but their posessions but $500 and a suit, their assets should be auctioned and checks cut to any shareholders who are not involved with day-to-day decision making.

      They are just pure evil. I already knew about the terminator seeds, and as shocking as the PCB article was when I read it this morning, it didn't surprise me.

    • by streetlawyer (169828) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @04:25AM (#2777846) Homepage
      This is a massive red herring, and needs to be squashed because it obscures more legitimate criticisms of both Monsanto and GM technology.



      In general, all hybrid seeds are "infertile", in that the seeds of the plants grown from them do not have the desirable properties of the hybrid. This is a fact about hybridisation. Of course, if you produce new kinds of seed through genetic modification rather than hybridisation, then the resulting seed will not be a hybrid and will "breed true". By putting the terminator gene into their roundup ready seeds Monstanto were actually restoring the status quo ante rather than unleashing some new horror on the world.



      Second, farmers ,always buy new seed every year, because retained grain is a poor and inefficient way to grow your pants. New seed comes from new healthy hybrids grown for seed, rather than second generation plants. Anyone trying to live in this hypothetical idyll of sowing the seed kept back would quickly (over about four to six growing seasons) find themselves back at the sort of yields enjoyed in the Middle Ages. Even the Third World isn't particularly interested in that kind of farming any more.



      Finally, your assertion that "sterile seeds could spread and render entire regions infertile" is interesting. I was not previously aware that sterility was a hereditary property. In any case, if "sterile" seeds spread, all you would have to do would be to plough the "sterile" seeds into the ground and plant a different kind of seed. It's done all the time with weeds.



      My main problem with this is that there are huge, massive problems with Monsanto - a total disregard for safety testing, obsession with secrecy and a tendency to corrupt governments, encouragement of the overuse of pesticides, etc - and this obsession with "Terminator [wooooh!] Genes" obscures it. It implies that if only Monsanto would stop making terminator genes, there would be nothing wrong with the rest of the GM industry.

      • by jayed_99 (267003) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @06:40AM (#2778083)
        Your comment contains a number of falsehoods which I will be more than happy to address:

        1. all hybrid seeds are "infertile"

        This happens to a false and incorrect statement. With canola [uoguelph.ca] it is difficult to create hybrids that are fertile and increase crop yield. Please note that this does not mean infertile; it just means difficult to reproduce. Cross-fertilized plants are rarely fertile. But that's nowhere close to never fertile.

        2. farmers ,always buy new seed every year, because retained grain is a poor and inefficient way to grow your pants [must control bad jokes...]
        (By the way, how does your first point of "all hybrid seeds are infertile" tie in with your second point of "new seed comes from new healthy hybrids grown for seed"? If the hybrids are all infertile, why would I grow hybrids for seed)?

        While, yes, as a farmer I supplement my existing gene-lineages (both plant and animal) with external lines for hybrid vigor and outside traits every year; I also breed my existing plants and animals for specific traits. If I started off with one line of genes, and attempted to maintain that line forever, yes, I might have problems. But I don't. I select outside strains to enhance certain qualities that I believe my strains are deficient in. However, assuming I made a good starting selection of lineages, I don't need to acquire outside stock. You're talking about a minimal initial genetic selection that doesn't allow for cross-breeding over a number of generations. Sorry, but I'm aware that this could be a problem and either: start off with a reasonable selection of different genetic strains, or supplement my breeding stock every year. But if I start off with a good selection, I don't need to buy new seeds every year.

        3. our assertion that "sterile seeds could spread and render entire regions infertile" is interesting

        Seeds aren't the issue here. Pollen is. For example, corn cross-pollinates. If I've got some sterile corn that swoops across the pasture and cross-pollinates with my good "breeding" corn, I've got a problem. And we haven't had a chance to get to the seed part yet.

        And, also, sterility is the final "hereditary property". If I've got a ewe that hasn't bred by the time she's two, I'm going to cull her. And, guess what, all of the genes that I've worked on breeding into her are gone.

        By the way, if I plough the "sterile" seeds into the ground and plant a different kind of seed, I've lost time, money and productivity. The things that I grow aren't comparable to "weeds".
        • All of what jayed_99 says is true.

          However, the original idea with terminator seeds was that they would (I'm not sure how well it works - I gather it doesn't but Monsanto policy seems to be that objective truth is foreign to their religion) produce non-fertilising pollen. So, the seeds that monsanto sells are a hybrid of line A (fertile) and line B (fertile) which produces line C, which they sell, and which doesn't produce fertile pollen OR fertile seeds. In addition to meaning that you can't grow up line C yourself, or make your own lines that include whatever favorable genes where transgenically introduced into line C, this means that line C's pollen can't contaminate non engineered crops nearby, which is a huge problem with other GM foods (pause, looks askance at my Dorito.)

          Now, terminator seeds are basically a dead issue because folks like jayed_99 simply refused to buy them.

          This means that people are growing up (or being forced to grow up, by cross polination) the GM crops that Monsanto sells without paying for new seeds each time.

          So, the next part of Monsanto's evil plan is to make their money selling chemicals (which they also make) instead of the GM crops themselves. Enter roundup ready [monsanto.com] Corn. You want evil, there's your classic Monsanto evil. The idea is that they can go ahead and give away the GM crops (although they'll continue to charge while they can), because the only thing the GM crops are good for is buying mroe roundup.... from Monsanto.

          So, the trend in agro genetic engineering is to do stuff like that. Genetically engineering crops that resist perishability better, or which inherently resist pests, or are more nutritious, may be a losing proposition because the product is a living thing that is not easily controlled. However, genetically engineering pesticide resistance lets you sell more of your pesticide, which is where the big money is, anyway.

          Of course, as a medical geneticist, I may have an unfair bias against evil (which seems to be Monsanto's position vis a vis the union of concerned scientists [ucsusa.org])
      • Having worked as a hired hand in my youth, and my father working in a grain elevator for >20 years. I can say with complete certainty, farmers do grow their own wheat seed for next year. Normally keep a few truckloads off to the side, pay the elevator to get it cleaned properly (removing as much of the impurities as possible). True, they don't do it for tens of years on end, but saying they do it every year or every other year is very much a false statement.

        In todays grain market there is no way that a single family farmer could buy grain every year, he would be out of money in very short time.
        • True enough, for small values of "farm" and first values of "world". But this isn't what we're talking about. The emotional rhetoric about terminator genes is all in the context of the third world, where the grain is sold much cheaper, because otherwise nobody could afford to buy it. And Monsanto only sells in the third world to large-scale farming businesses of the scale where they do buy new seed every year; this picture of subsistence farmers being drawn into a hellish spiral of terminator seed isn't right.
      • My main problem with this is that there are huge, massive problems with Monsanto - a total disregard for safety testing, obsession with secrecy and a tendency to corrupt governments,

        It's irresponsible to make that kind of broad accusation without background. Here's some:

        Round up ready corn contaminating other crops. [www.tao.ca]

        The 60 minutes story about how they covered up the fact that working with PVC monomer melts people's bones. [metrojustice.org] This isn't the best possible link, unfortunately.

        Ooh! Here's a whole page dedicated to how wicked monsanto is [seizetheday.org]. You can learn about how Monsanto tried to cover up that fact that DDT was wiping out all the birds in California (yes, the evil corporation is the classic Silent Spring is none other than Monsanto.) They also made agent Orange, which had health effects that they tried to cover up.

        Those really interested in the subject of chlorinated organics should read Pandora's Poison. [gristmagazine.com] The up-shot is that they are a technolgy which simply isn't safe, and that we should abandon them entirely, especially chlorine based pesticides. The book is highly informative, and also a good introduction for someone who's background is more in, say, computers.

        So, the long and the short of it is that this is nothing new. Monsanto has been doing lots of stuff like ever since its inception.
    • Selling third world farmers infertile seeds so they have to keep buying your seeds with the full knowledge that these sterile seeds could spread and render entire regions infertile is so nefarious, mere words cannot convey the feelings of disgust I feel.

      It is more offensive that they use planes to spray herbicide over fields of farmers who refuse to buy their product, just to see if their crop is resistant, and then sueing those farmers whose seed stock was pollenated by their neighbours monsanto patented GM crop.

      Patenting genes is infinitely more evil than software patents...
  • Monsanto is the Microsoft of the ag world. They are constantly buying up smaller seed and chemical corporations and/or their patents. They have no regard for safety, only their bottom line financial figures. Some of their more scary research and development involves genetically engineered plants (and seed) that reacts to only certain (Monsanto-brand) chemicals and fertilizers.
    This is certainly a company to be watching. At least Microsoft only fiddles around with computers and home entertainment gizmos. Monsanto plays god with our food supply at all levels. It's scary and it gets more scary each year.
  • by DevilJeff (243585) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @02:46AM (#2777622)
    Unfortunately, stuff like this happens all too often. Here in Ohio our EPA is so bad that they actually fired someone for reporting that a school was built on a Military waste dump. I work for a group [ohiocitizen.org] that deals with these political and corporate problems everyday, and it's really eye-opening to see the disregard some people have for public health and the enviroment.
  • by Gorimek (61128) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @02:53AM (#2777639) Homepage
    Why is this relevant? Well, Monsanto is currently one of biggest proponents of GM (genetically modified) foods.

    It should be obvious, but it probably needs to be said:

    To claim that GM foods are bad because a corporation that have done evil things is a proponent of it, is no more valid an argument than claiming that since Hitler claimed that 2+2=4, the real value must be something else.

    If there are any real factual arguments against GM foods, by all means present them. But if this is the best argument, it's a big endorsement of GM foods.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      How about this: we can't trust Monsanto's claims that GM foods are safe, because they lied about PCBs.
    • I think that the point is not that GM foods are evil because Monsanto is making them, but rather the fact that Monsanto has a long history of covering up even known problems that would adversely affect profits, and therefore would perhaps not be forthcoming in admitting any health issues related to GM foods, and therefore must be watched closely.
    • by metis (181789) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @03:12AM (#2777691) Homepage
      To claim that GM foods are bad because a corporation that have done evil things is a proponent of it, is no more valid an argument than claiming that since Hitler claimed that 2+2=4, the real value must be something else.

      Not exactly. The main line of pro-GM arguments is that we can trust the science and the corporations. First, we are supposed to trust GM producers to do safety tests for the product and publish immediately any health issue that comes up. Second, we are supposed to trust the GM industry as a whole with essentially taking over the management of agricultural bio-diversity and become the unofficial management of the planet's supply of food.

      Most critics of GM focus on the first problem (health) because it is more concrete and easy to explain ( and to scare with). But the second problem is by far the most dramatic. The possibility of a disaster that will make the Irish famine look like small potatoes should scare the bejesus out of everyone.

      The science is an unknown, as research and commercial deployment go in lockstep. It isn't 2+2=4. Furthermore, the most important aspect of GM is management of food supplies (practical ad hoc decisions), not theoretical scientific questions. So it all boils down to an issue of trust. Can we entrust the future of the food supply of the planet to entities whose time is measured by wall-street ticks?

      The new information simply reinforces the feeling that the only sane answer is NO.

      • Amen! There is a quote in some anti-GM food screed I read which said "We are not affraid of making new mistakes (viruses, etc.), we are affraid of perfecting old ones."

        There are a few subtile Health risks assosiated to GM crops, but I think we should accept these risks. The real threat comes in the form of a threat to bio-diversity. Your comment about the Irish potatoe famine is right on. What happens when some bug desides that Roundup ready is lunch time. Will if only corn is Roundup ready then we don't eat corn. If all our staples are Roundup ready then we starve. With a little luck this will hit about 3 years after the baby boomers create a second great depression by retiring.. :)

        I think the solution is to make all farm subsadies based on biodiversity, i.e. you recieve zero if 30%+ of the crop (corn, etc.) grown by U.S. farmers is of the same genetic background. This would both prevent monopolies in the GM food buisness and enshure that there were profit margins for Organic foods.
        • With a little luck this will hit about 3 years after the baby boomers create a second great depression by retiring.. :)

          No, baby boomers retiring should free up jobs, not make them more scarce. Plus, retired baby boomers will probably be busy consuming goods such as motorhomes and other retirement toys, creating new jobs.

          Retired baby boomers may cause inflation, since there may be more people (dollars) chasing goods than people producing them (limited goods). But I fail to see how they could create the severe deflation that marks the great depression.
          • I don't agree with you.
            Your pension fund scheme is biased.
            As more people retire, the need for cash will increase, and the funds will have to sell part of their assets to cover this need.
            The scale of this is so big, that it will have an impact on the market. Numerous nett sellers will crush the stock prices.
            My bet is that this will create a selling market starting in 3-7 years.
            THEN, the economic crisis will begin, with people ceasing to buy thing to save money "in case of".

            Remember that in the US, 60% of your GNP is internal consumer activity.
            Once people stop buying goods, then you have the start of your deflation scenario.
      • by dangermouse (2242) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @03:49AM (#2777782) Homepage
        ... make the Irish famine look like small potatoes ...

        Um, small potatoes would have been an improvement on the Irish situation. ;)

      • by Ichoran (106539) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @06:23AM (#2778045)
        The main line of pro-GM arguments is that we can trust the science and the corporations.

        That is only the line of argument to people who are unwilling to spend the time and effort necessary to examine the science--and I am not aware of too many people who argue that we can trust the corporations! Rather, it is people who understand the science who should keep an eye on what the corporations are doing.

        For instance, GM crops that
        * Allow massive pesticide use
        * Do not produce fertile seed
        * Massively overexpress the natural BT toxin
        are all really stupid ideas in the long term, since they, respectively,
        * Increase toxic residues in food, runoff, etc.
        * Lead to a catestrophic situation (no crop) instead of a bad one (crop from poor stock) if for any reason the seed cannot be obtained next year
        * Rapidly generate resistance to a substance that could otherwise be safely used for decades

        On the other hand, GM crops that
        * Increase the nutritional value of the crop
        * Increase yield (all other things being equal)
        * Increase natural resistance to disease (but not by having the plant make tons of one particular toxin)
        are all really useful, for hopefully obvious reasons.

        The sane answer is: pay attention to what corporations are doing, and (try to) call them when they do something stupid. If you don't have the background to decipher their claims yourself, find someone who can. But the bottom line is that GM crops are not inherently bad; just that a few of the simplest, greediest, short-sighted implementations by corporations are.
    • by TheAJofOZ (215260) <adrian&symphonious,net> on Thursday January 03, 2002 @03:51AM (#2777787) Homepage Journal
      To claim that GM foods are bad because a corporation that have done evil things is a proponent of it, is no more valid an argument than claiming that since Hitler claimed that 2+2=4, the real value must be something else.

      A number of people have stated that this analogy is incorrect already, but none of them seem to be getting the point through to people, so let me try an analogy to show why these actions are in fact reason to question the GM production from Monsanto.

      Let's say that you have a friend who you've known for a fair while and trust. You tell this friend a secret which is really important to you that it is kept secret and they break your trust by telling a whole bunch of people your secret with no reasonable justification for these actions. Needless to say you're pretty annoyed, you yell and scream etc, etc. Then you notice that your friend gets on really well with your girlfriend.

      Now, there is no evidence to suggest that your friend is doing anything with your girlfriend and before this friend betrayed your trust you never would have even thought he would steal your girlfriend - but you never would have thought he'd breach your trust either. It's pretty clear in this situation that while you shouldn't jump to conclusions you probably shouldn't put blind faith into your friend who has clearly and blatantly betrayed your trust.

      Now lets suppose that you know a corporation who makes weed killer and the weed killer works really well - you've been buying it for a fair while now. Suddenly you discover that in producing this weed killer the company has been dumping all kinds of dangerous chemicals into a river - affecting a significant number of people - with no good reason.

      Then you notice that this corporation is producing genetically modified foods (which you regularly eat). Clearly it's not a time to go jumping to conclusions, but it's also not all that wise to continue to put your blind faith in the corporation.

      Whether or not there is evidence that the GM foods produced by Monsanto are good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant. When a company shows this much flagrant disregard for the health and saftey of people, it is probably worth taking a closer look at their other areas of operation - not doing so is akin to burying your head in the sand.

    • The situation with PCBs and GM foods is quite analogous: in both cases, large corporations, driven by short-term profits, assert that a productthey desparately wanted to produce because is safe. In the case of PCBs, those assertions turned out to be false. It would be prudent to assume that the same could happen with GM foods decades from now.

      The burden of proof that GM foods (or any other products, for that matter) are safe in the long term for consumption and the environment rests entirely on the shoulders of their proponents, the people who want to release those organisms into the environment. And biotechnology and ecoology are such new fields that we really can say very little about long term effects.

      Personally, I think most GMOs are likely to be non-poisonous and non-invasive. But I think they will be harmful indirectly--by allowing human populations to push further into previously non-arable lands. Ultimately, GMOs don't hold the answer for hunger or human suffering; at some point, we have to limit our growth, and we might as well do it as long as there is still a little bit of earth left.

    • by jayed_99 (267003) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @04:27AM (#2777849)
      If there are any real factual arguments against GM foods, by all means present them.

      What about the recent unexpected contamination of natural Mexican corn by genetically modified corn? If you're not familiar with this, here's the scoop: the Mexican equivalent of the US Department of Agriculture tested some corn-seed in Oaxaca and found that it had between a 3-60% rate of transgenetic contamination from species of corn that had not been imported into Mexico.

      from:
      UC Berkeley [eurekalert.org]
      Reuters [northernlight.com]
      Nature, Vol. 413, September 27, 2001 [biotech-info.net]

      My real factual argument against GM foods follows.

      One: until a GM food product has existed for a number of years it is impossible to be 100% certain what effects it might have. (Think about drugs the FDA approved as good...thalidomide for one).

      Two: apparently, based on the links mentioned above, it is impossible to control the dissemination of GM foods -- even the Monsanto Terminator gene isn't going to stop corn pollen.

      Thus: we can't be what effects a GM food might have on the environment.

      Ergo: this is a good argument for the strict control of GM foods.

      And I might add, you probably don't trust Microsoft with Passport. Why would you trust Monsanto with GM foods?
    • Hmmm, let's turn your argument around and look at the corporation as if it were a person (it has the legal rights of a person after all). If I poisoned 1 person I'm pretty sure I'd go to jail. If I poisoned a whole town I'm pretty sure my body would be torn apart in a mob uprising and trampled, then my tattered clothing would be sold on Ebay to people who would then burn it in effigy. One week later I would be the subject of a "ripped from the headlines" episode of Law and Order. Two weeks later I would be the subject of a best selling book, "Fleener: Looking into the Face of Evil." Four months later I would be the subject of a TV Movie, "Hellspawn: The Fleener Story."

      So, uh, why should be trust anything this company says, given its track record? Please keep this in perspective. We're talking about a lot of peoples lives.
    • Why is this relevant? Well, Monsanto is currently one of biggest proponents of GM (genetically modified) foods.

      To claim that GM foods are bad because a corporation that have done evil things is a proponent of it, ...

      Neither the story nor the slashdot blurb claims that GM foods are bad. That seems to be your own knee-jerk reaction to the letters "GM".

      For what it's worth, I'm a supporter of GM foods and I'm strongly opposed to Monsanto. You don't need to be anti-GM to want to spread the word about the evils of Monsanto.

      Monsanto should not be allowed to develop or sell GM foods without extra strict regulation. The normal GM food regulations are not enough for this evil, evil company.

      This company cannot be trusted.

    • "To claim that GM foods are bad because a corporation that have done evil things is a proponent of it, is no more valid an argument than claiming that since Hitler claimed that 2+2=4, the real value must be something else. "

      Nah. Just because this isn't the 'ONE GREAT ANSWER' to the GM question doesn't mean its worthless.

      That Monsanto is willing to overlook undeniable environmental damage in pursuit of profits does not prove GM to be a bad thing. What it indicates is that we have to take everything Monsanto says about GM with a grain of salt - because they have been proven to lie and deceive in one line of business they cannot be trusted in others.

      If Bill can lie about Monica, he'll lie about anything!

      Personally, I'm unsure about GM. Its promising, but its also a bit scary. Should we stop research? Never. Should we allow widespread use of untested GMOs? No. Should we listen to Monsanto when considering these issues? certainly not.
  • by blueHal (9304)
    Well, Monsanto is currently one of biggest proponents of GM (genetically modified) foods.

    Philip Morris is currently one of the biggest proponents of Macaroni and Cheese; it even markets this product to children! (Kraft is a subsidiary of Philip Morris, a company widely considered to have manipulated nicotine content in cigarettes and marketed addictive cigarettes to children).

    Study the safety of genetic modifications, sure, just don't assume that because a corporation has been evil, everything it touches magically turns cold and dark. In other words, just because they concealed what they knew about PCB's, there's no reason to trust Monsato more or less than any other genetically modified crop producer.

  • by TheSauce (243403) <rick@luigi.com> on Thursday January 03, 2002 @02:54AM (#2777642)
    More interesting and relevant from the article is the premise that they were aware as early as the late 1930's that they were doing lasting damage--and worked very hard to keep that from surfacing--since they had a complete monopoly on PCB's period. And production continued until two years before PCB's were banned for good in 1979.
    Good corporate citizenship it wasn't. Worse, at the level intimated in the article (if true,) that particular factory and its overseers were committing mass murder. One has to wonder about our corporate law structure on that note.
    Are fines and clean-up measures a reasonable response?
    • It's like the Nazi's who said they were just following orders. If your boss asks you to sweep a toxic chemical into the drain and you do it... you're just as guilty.

      I think if these criminals get prison terms for the rest of their natural lives I think we might get a few whistle blowers among our friends working on GM foods...

      Cynic inside me {
      Of course that's about as likely as getting the president that won the election (No I didn't vote for him, but I can tell an election from an appointment.) }
  • OK don't get me wrong here, I think it is totally repugnant that they pump this shit into waterways wherever they can get away with it. In a local sense this is a tragedy of major proportions.

    BUT... We have a major multi-national manufacturing corporation polluting the environment and being worried only about public image. This is hardly newsworthy. In a global sense, so what?

    In and of itself, that has nothing to do with their genetic engineering division, does it? Sure, it may say something about the overall corporate morality (yeah, I know. oxymoron and all that) of Monsanto, but is it really news?

    Unless of course, Monsanto are genetically engineering a whole range of crops that are either resistant to or actively break down PCB's. Their polluting activities take on a whole new, somewhat darker perspective under those circumstances, don't they now?
  • by FFFish (7567) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @03:02AM (#2777664) Homepage
    Write your representatives and demand the institution of a Corporate Death Penalty.

    Corporations have made huge strides in gaining "personhood" rights, with none of the responsibilities.

    They have evolved to become wholly irresponsible citizens of the nations. This must stop. Either send the corporate structure back two hundred years, withdrawing all the privileges they've gained in that time; or make them take on the responsibilities that all other citizens must accept.

    Write your representative. Make a difference.
    • A corporate death penalty is for the most part, a silly idea. The problems are with the people RUNNING the corporation, not the corporation itself. What is to stop a dead corporation's entire board and employees from just creating a totally new corporation doing exactly the same thing?

      And what about corporations that have many subsidary corporations? Do they die too?

      There are waaaay too many sides to this issue for you to just demand a "corporate death" and not account for them.
      • I think what the poster had in mind was a corporate death penalty not for the corporation itself, but for individual members of the board of directors.

        Think about it. If the penalty for a crime with lethal consequences, is financial and (relative to the annual turnover) insignificant, who on the board is going to vote against it?

        On the other hand, if individual board members who vote in favour of a criminal action are going to be punished with the death penalty, who among them would vote against it now? Significantly more, I would suggest.

        Personally, I think the death penalty is a bit harsh... for any crime. After all the death penalty *IS* kind of final (in case of error, monetary compensation for lost years is an acceptable trade-off, IMHO) A mere 10-15 years incarceration for all board members who voted in favour of the action found to be criminal, would be sufficient disincentive to prevent corporations from this sort of gross breach of law.

        On top of all the above, government seizure and control of all corporate assets and operations would make for a pretty strong deterrent.
      • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @09:19AM (#2778328) Homepage Journal
        What is to stop a dead corporation's entire board and employees from just creating a totally new corporation doing exactly the same thing?
        Cash?

        A CDP means that the original corporation is disolved. It no longer possesses assets. Its shares are worthless. Its patents no longer belong to it, and may even be public domain depending on how the corporation is dissolved.

        In order to create Monsanto II, the shareholders are going to have to buy new offices, new labs, new vehicles, new everything. They'll have to do this in the face of a strengthened competition and in the face of every broker on Wall Street knowing that the people who put together Monsanto I lost the original investment completely. The two facts together, with the knowledge that Monsanto II shares are just as likely to become worthless as Monsanto I's were if its business plan involves doing exactly the same things again should make raising investment a tad tricky.

        The only question really is how do you make sure a CDP power is fair and not routinely abused by the kinds of corporations that buy government?

  • The PCB story should be no surprise.

    I was doing a little light reading a week back and discovered that an absolutely RAGING but hopelessly ignored debate regarding the toxicity of Nutrisweet and the apparently spectactular corruption throughout the food manufacturing/safety industry.

    Get this: Aspertame is apparently highly unstable, especially in fluid form, (the reason they put best before dates on Diet Pepsi).

    Did you know that when Aspertame breaks down, about 10% of the by-product is Methyl Alcohol!, --which in turn breaks down into Formadyhide, which in turn causes a mess of neurological damage including the dissolving of the optic nerve.

    --One of the ways the Monsanto P.R. people deal with this is to quickly point out that there's more Methyl Alcohol in a glass of Tomato juice. --But further research explains that Tomato juice also naturally contains more than enough Ethyl alcohol to neutralize the effects of the wood alcohol, which Nutrisweet does not.

    Anyway, there's a TON of information on this and it makes for fascinating reading. Do yourself a favor and spend twenty minutes with Google over this.


    -Fantastic Lad

    • Do yourself a favor and spend twenty minutes with Google over this.

      Or you can ignore all the ravings of web lunatics, and read this page [snopes.com] which gives some useful information and links about this crapola.

      • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @06:26AM (#2778052)
        Or you can ignore all the ravings of web lunatics, and read this page [snopes.com] which gives some useful information and links about this crapola.


        Do you even realize the multi-million dollar P.R. bullshit you're parroting?

        Did you even read the page you linked to? It didn't hold any actual core information, but it did suggest that you read through the available papers before rendering judgement.

        Now maybe there has been a mountain of new data made available since you last looked at the question. But from my searches, based on the thousands of documents collected over the last thirty years from every imaginable level of the medical/scientific/governmental community, the conclusion you reached seems to me, frankly, ill-considered to say the least.

        It seems to me that you are jumping very, very quickly to pre-set conclusions, your thought processes masquerading under the guise of scientific rationale. Sorry Charlie. You may have read a few clever books, but Real scientists aren't made into fools by the P.R. jockeys.

        Honestly. People think that just because the X-Files were stupid that bad things don't actually happen in the world. "I don't believe in Conspiracies." Well genius, do you believe in "Corruption"?

        Go look at the fish in Anniston.

        Better hurry, because in another year, there'll be some new & dangerous fool just like you, sir, declaring that it never happened because he's been programmed since birth to reject everything but the 'official' story.

        Do you even understand the basic principals behind advertising and mass persuasion?

        Sheesh.


        -Fantastic Lad

  • by bcrawford (302664)
    While it could be said that Win XP is useless because it was brought to us be the makers of edlin, it doesnt validate the argument, regardless of your opinions on either.
    GM foods can be a good thing (see golden rice), and pollution is a bad thing (see earth), please be carefull not to base any futher flames on the fact that one company is guilty of both.
  • For those who don't know, Neil Stephenson's 2nd novel is Zodiak, about a drug-abusing, hell-raising, hippie chemist who makes life miserable for polluters in Boston harbor. He also finds monstrous amounts of PCBs in the water, and the story goes on from there.:)

    Also, Neil's [slashdot.org] been mentioned here on /. much more than PCBs. :)
  • TalkInternational [talkinternational.com] has a short but well worth reading blurb on a similar incident where the Monsanto plant dumped 40-50 tons of liquid mercury into a storm drain during the 1950's. The article goes on to say how the dumped mercury, caustic soda, and chlorine reacted to form PCBs.

    Not only does Monsanto have no respect for the environment, they are also dishonest:

    "In 1999,
    Monsanto's spin-off Anniston company, Solutia, gave state regulators a brief description of the site's use of mercury," wrote reporter Elizabeth Bluemink. "But, company records show that the information Solutia supplied about the potential for mercury discharges was incomplete and inaccurate." Officials at Solutia told the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) that Monsanto had "likely" not released any mercury to the environment.

    And it's not like activists haven't been fighting Monsanto. Early as 1967, Dr. Denzel Fergusen reported Monsanto's mercury discharges where killing nearby fish. The same article links to a 404 at Annistonstar (a newspaper for one of the highly affected areas), but a quick search reveals several relevent articles:

    At least Monsanto is doing something about their situation. Paul and Joyce Guldin [annistonstar.com], residents whose backyard includes Choccolocco Creek, received a $999.33 settlement check from Monsanto. Hopefully, many more checks are to come.

  • by Weezul (52464)
    MON is looks like a good day trading stocks this year. Specifically, It seems highly cyclical with a very short cycle [yahoo.com]. It's still on the decreasing part of the cycle, so you might still manage to short it (or sell it god forbid you own it). If I cared to day trade this I would go look at how GE preformed during it's PCB issues (course GE poluted something lots of people care about).

    Anyway, I feal that some limited ammount of polution problems like this are acceptable as "growing pains," *but* the additude of corperate America towards these sorts of problems is truely dispicable. "we did a studdy and surpressed the results" or "we choose not to do a studdy because we knew what the resutls would be" are totally unacceptable behaviors. The natural deduction is that corperations are simply not being held sufficently accountable, but I think this could be incorect. People, not faceless abstractions, are making these decissions. The problem is that the faceless abstraction, and not the people, are being held accountable. Here are two proposals:

    1) Make is easyer to throw corperate executives in jail for "statistical manslaughter," i.e. shortening a number of people's lives.

    2) Remove the limited liability for shareholders, i.e. corperations would issue a one share "liability dividend" for each share of voting stock; these liability shares could be traded on the open market, but they would caust money to get rid of; those holding the liability shares for the relevent years get tagged for all clean up expences. Alternativly, you could just remember who voted that years and tag those people for the cost of the clean up (people who voted would buy inshurance). Anyway, the point is that share holders would get used to seeing the financial fall out of ignoring their companies enviromental policy.
  • Wow.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sarcasmooo! (267601) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @03:17AM (#2777710)
    Just glad to see this on slashdot. I would've submitted it myself if I thought it had any chance of being posted. Some of my favorite tidbits are....

    1. 'The (Mosanto) committee even drew up graphs charting profits vs. liability over time.'

    2."It is our desire to comply with the necessary regulations, but to comply with the minimum,"

    3. "Please let me know if there is anything I can do . . . so that we may make sure our Aroclor business is not affected by this evil publicity," (hazard warnings)

    4. "It only seems a matter of time before the regulatory agencies will be looking down our throats,"

    5. '...the memo did not go so far as to propose a cleanup -- "only action preparatory to actual cleanup."'

    To raise a little dissent, I have to say that I really despise the way this story is put out, apparently without any copy of the 'confidential' documents. It seems like a routine thing with most stories of this nature. God forbid they put up a .pdf or something. To put it simply, I trust the corporate media about as much as I trust Mosanto. And when the quotes trail off as if to say "I love.............hitler", I find the word-chasm annoying. I'm sure it's not misrepresentation in this case, but goddamnit, they have the full version and I don't see why they can't put that out......
  • Equal Time (Score:5, Funny)

    by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Thursday January 03, 2002 @03:49AM (#2777783) Homepage
    Before this discussion gets biased, we must present equal time for the Libertarian side of the argument:

    If the people of Anniston simply stopped buying products from Monsanto, then they could use their "market forces" to stop this kind of activity.

    If all we do is ask for "government regulation" then companies will just start producing thier deadly chemicals outside our borders. Then America would lose twice!

    So remember, kids: Trust the market, it is perfect.

    And don't eat the fish.
    • Re:Equal Time (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ninjaz (1202)
      Before this discussion gets biased, we must present equal time for the Libertarian side of the argument:

      If the people of Anniston simply stopped buying products from Monsanto, then they could use their "market forces" to stop this kind of activity.

      What you're talking about is anarcho-capitalism, not Libertarianism. Libertarianism has always been about responsibility for your actions. By Libertarian standards, if your actions result in polluting the land and water of others, you are responsible for your crimes.

      In gaming parlance, anarcho-capitalism and the current regime in the US is akin to the difference between chaotic evil and lawful evil (Monsato cultivated the complicity of the powers that be)

      A simple visit to the party platform [lp.org] explains this:

      Pollution of other people's property is a violation of individual rights.

      ...

      Toxic waste disposal problems have been created by government policies that separate liability from property. Rather than making taxpayers pay for toxic waste clean-ups, individual property owners, or in the case of corporations, the responsible managers and employees, should be held strictly liable for material damage done by their property.

  • by koekepeer (197127) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @04:08AM (#2777819)

    I'll probably burn the little karma I built up, but what the heck.

    I think writers of these headlines should try to maintain a certain level of objectivity and integrity when posting it. Let's separate the issues.

    1st: Monsanto is a big corporation that does bad things.
    2nd: Monsanto is a Biotech company.

    The author most likely isn't very fond of the idea of GM food, I quote:

    Why is this relevant? Well, Monsanto is currently one of biggest proponents of GM (genetically modified) foods.

    However, this has nothing to do with the fact that Monsanto produces GM seeds. If it were some chemical plant, it would be just as relevant .

    Maybe I'm overreacting, it's just that a lot of people bash genetic modification as a "bad thing" perse, which is something I don't agree with.

    Meneer de Koekepeer

  • by AL9000 (125154) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @04:14AM (#2777833) Homepage
    I have begun to consider corporations a separate evolving lifeform. Corporations have committed many acts inimical to human life. Tobacco companies, Monsanto, Hooker Chemicals - all acted to maximize their selection function (profit). Every superfund site has a similar corporate story. Unfortunately for those of us who have to live on this planet, maximizing health (human, animal or environmental) is not a part of their fitness-selection function.

    Employees in cash stressed companies knows that in questions of "cash" vs "morals", cash usually overrules.

    Corporations have totally warped the political process in the US since the mid 1970s when they were granted "equal" free-speech right in the political forum. Deep pockets and harassment lawsuits have allowed them to drown out public discourse and common sense.

    Our problem is corporate survival has nothing to do with human survival.
    • I've developed this ame theory myself. evolution in our capitolistic society has become beared on the direction of cash rather than the ideals we'd hope to evolve with. The two directions are not wholly out of whack, perhaps a few degrees only. Still, over time, this gradual slipping away from the direction we intend may lead us far from where we wish to go. Where that is, I do not know.
    • Read Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the [amazon.com]
      Economic World.

      In a similar vein, though I haven't read it, there is a book called Emergence [amazon.com]...

      You are hitting on something fundamental - the idea of complex systems, composed of a myriad of simpler, interchangable "units", being "alive", and sometimes "intelligent" (possibly in ways individual human being fail to understand - it is akin to the neuron vs. brain idea, or cell vs. body, or bee vs. hive). The complex system can be anything - groups, societies, corporations - but they all seem to have similar forms of emergent behavior, and some of this behavior can even be considered "intelligent".

      What is even more curious, IMO, is that it seems like most of the time, this behavior, when it manifests itself in corporations, tends to degenerate into psychopathism, when they hit a certain number of units (people in the corporation). Individually, the people themselves may not be, probably aren't - in any way evil, or psychopathic - but the sum total of the corporation, when looking at "its" actions, seems to be...

      I tend to wonder, if we follow this to an extreme conclusion - whether such entities can become "infected" with a "disease" - a "virus" in some manner - and further, what form would that "virus" or "disease" take...?
  • by Mercaptan (257186) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @04:29AM (#2777851) Homepage
    The reasoning here:

    PREMISE A - Corporations only care about profit and nothing else. After all, without profit they're not going to be around for very long. And they seem capable of doing anything to protect the profitable product lines (see Pinkertons beat up union organizers, PCB cover-up, Microsoft strong-arm tactics, Just Following Orders, etc.)

    PREMISE B - We're capable of manufacturing products of incredible potency: carcinogenic chemicals, genetically modified organisms, and someday self-replicating nanotech bots that can reduce North America to chum.

    PREMISE C - Corporations tend to be the ones manufacturing these products.

    PREMISE D - Some of these products have a negative impact on our quality and length of life, the number of limbs our children are born with, and the aesthetics of the world around us.

    CONCLUSION - Perhaps we should be a little worried about the impact free market rules have on the world around us and our own livelihoods. When corporations have the ability to let loose technological advancements purely in the name of profit, the results may be less than desirable.
  • by Ether Trogg (17457) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @04:35AM (#2777853) Homepage
    As long as agriculture has existed, plants have been genetically modified to produce harvests with particular attributes, including resistance to pests, resistance to harsh climate, or resistance to disease. The process of genetic modification was done by combining the seeds of two or more plants that had the desired traits.

    The plants produced by this genetic manipulation weren't called "genetically modified," they were called "hybrids." Still, the end result is the same: the genetic structure of a plant was purposefully changed by humans to produce a new plant that had desired traits.

    Ever eaten corn? It's a genetically modified plant. The corn you eat is not "natural." It was made, through trial and error.

    How about potatoes? The potato itself is a natural plant (well, tuber.) However, farmers have modified potatoes for 1000s of years to produce different strains that have resistances, or have a higher nutritional value, or keep longer, or have a different taste.

    Ever seen a white orchid? Not natural. Genetic modification. Orchids are not white by nature. (Granted, you're not supposed to eat orchids, but I think you get my point.)

    So, what's the big to-do about genetically modified foods? It's not a new science, merely a new approach to an ancient art.

    However, I will agree that Monsanto is a perfect example of a sleezy coorporation. But I also think that Micheal needs to lay off the scare-tactic propoganda. That, or he should go work for Microsoft as Chief FUD Officer.
    • by Dolly_Llama (267016) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @05:36AM (#2777963) Homepage
      You have a valid, if simplistic, point. What you're missing however is that GM foods are a radical departure in the degree that an organism can be manipulated generation to generation. These new hybrids are introduced with minimal testing and as a large scale monoculture. This is bad.

      In a larger sense, the tragedy of this industry is that the "science" that goes on loses much of its objectivity when research is results and profit driven, and not released for public scrutiny. We as the consuming public and we as educated people are forced to trust a faceless organization with limited liability and a very poor track record for honesty.

    • The problem is not in the genetic modification as such. It's more a matter of what gets grafted into the plants. When you add a banana gene into corn, that's a bit of a problem if you're allergic to bananas (and some people in fact are), especially if you eat corn without knowing that the gene is there.

      There are two actual problems with GM food. The first is allergies. GM food contain new genes that we haven't encountered before, and it turned out in practice that quite a few of these are seriously allergenic for many people. The other, more serious problem is that GM plants are so often produced to make them more resistent to pesticides. Thing is, some of these pesticides persist, and well, humans are /not/ GMed for resistency.

      ----
  • by tulare (244053) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @04:50AM (#2777885) Journal
    If you look at the article, there's an email this story [washingtonpost.com] link which enables you to send the story off to someone of your choice, along with comments. My choices were: NPR [npr.org] and PBS [pbs.org], both organizations which rely heavily upon corporate donations, notably the Monsanto Corporation. In the comments, I requested that they consider refusing donations from Monsanto, which would have the dual effect of making a public stand for what is right as well as denying Monsanto a hefty tax write-off. Like they need it. I agree with a previous poster who compared them to Microsoft. No doubt a merger is in the works :)
    Other good choices for the email link would, of course, be your state and national representatives, particularly if you live in a state which Monsanto has operations in (Like, almost anywhere?)
    Fortunately, the Post is a big paper with a good reputation. Stories like this need to see the bright light of day. It is what evildoers fear most.
  • Regulation Problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rlp (11898) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @05:02AM (#2777907)
    Many (many) years ago I took a B-School class (Organizational Behavior) where I read a great article called "On the Folly of Rewarding A While Hoping for B" (still have it, it's by Steve Kerr if you want to read it). It gave numerous examples of skewed reward (or regulatory) systems and their consequences. One example was pollution regulation, where a simple calculation would show that it was to the companies benefit to risk the fine, rather than clean up the problem. Kerr's solution was to change the reward system as follows: The President of XYZ Corporation had to choose between a) spending $11 million dollars for anti-pollution equipment or b) incurring a fifty-fifty chance of going to jail for five years.
  • There's quite a sinister story about Aspartame, Monsanto and the FDA, essentially ignoring brain tumors in animal testing, politely put: extremely shoddy to non-existent documentation of research and outright fraud and cover ups by Monsanto and FDA officials to get Aspartame (Searle - the manufacturer of Nutra Sweet - is a Monsanto subsidiary) approved.

    Try this Google Search [google.com] as a starting point. You might switch to Mineral Water (not genetically engineered) after reading some of that stuff.

  • by HalfFlat (121672) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @06:20AM (#2778039)

    The most telling quote is, I believe,

    Monsanto's critics, Kaley says, do not understand capitalism.

    The critics understand unchecked capitalism all too well. If monetary profit is all that matters, then the evidence clearly demonstrates that people suffer. This is yet another datum.

    There is absoloutely no guarantee that an unregulated market will lead to an optimal outcome for actual people. On the contrary, some people will suffer greatly.

    Frankly, we can't trust an invisible hand.

  • There used to be a Monsanto plant in Everett, MA a couple of miles from where My grandmother lived. On hot summer days the smell from the plant would give you migranes. I meal literally the whole neighborhood would get sick from the smell. It had to be even worse closer in! You could see all kinds of different colored smoke wafting up into the air from various vents at the plant. The newspaper looked into it and was basically blown off. Fortunately, the plant closed in the mid 70's, but I still wonder what they were putting out into the air and if anyone suffered permanent damage from it. Based on this story that just may be the case.
  • I could not believe my eyes when I read this quote, "Robert Kaley said it is unfair to judge the company's behavior from the 1930s through 1970s by modern standards."
    Of Coures you judge a company by the past. It's the same as saying sure he killed 100 people in the 1960's and then spent years hiding it. But hey he's a nice guy now so let's forget about it.....

    It's just another case of Big Bussiness sticking it to the little guy and not caring what the out come is.
  • I haven't heard any good rumors about Monsanto, they have all been bad. There is the rumor that they manufactor Nutrasweet and that product causes tons of illnesses [bragg.com].There is also the lovely terminator seed [bragg.com] which is designed to make sure that farmers can't reuse their seed and are forced to buy new seeds from Monsanto every season. This news doesn't suprise me, this corporation really needs to reigned in!
  • Robert Kaley, Monsanto's whore, mentions 2 things that are really interesting: (environmental affairs director for Solutia who also serves as the PCB expert for the American Chemistry Council)

    "Did we do some things we wouldn't do today? Of course. But that's a little piece of a big story," he said. "If you put it all in context, I think we've got nothing to be ashamed of."

    Then another gem at the end. . .
    "I'm really pretty proud of what we did," Kaley said. "Was it perfect? No. Could we be second-guessed? Sure. But I think we mostly did what any company would do, even today."

    Now if this doesn't scare you I'm not sure what will. No remorse, nothing. Sad thing is that opinions like this end up getting to politicians after getting campaign contributions.

    Hmm.. also, I wonder who introduced micheal to www.fark.com.. Quite a few stories have been taken off their front page today (i.e. all) Anyways...
  • by acomj (20611) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @10:29AM (#2778607) Homepage
    At least there are no PCB's in my foods. PCB's are very very toxic and persistent material (they don't break down). Good old General Electric is going to have to dredge the Hudson river to clean up the PCB mess it made years ago, and hopefully it will cost about 500 million $$ so hopefully it will discorage them and others from this kind of pollution. Seems fines are the only remedy corporations understand which is sad...
    The times [nytime.com] has a short abstract [nytimes.com] about the GE cleanup.
  • by code_rage (130128) on Thursday January 03, 2002 @12:15PM (#2779124)
    At the very end of the article is the scariest quote, from a Monsanto 'environmental affairs director':

    "I'm really pretty proud of what we did," Kaley said. "Was it perfect? No. Could we be second-guessed? Sure. But I think we mostly did what any company would do, even today." [emphasis added]
  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Thursday January 03, 2002 @01:08PM (#2779486) Homepage Journal
    Please note that this is my personal opinion, but as a libertarian, its heavily set on punishing those responsible for hurting another person or persons.

    First of all, you must understand that the majority of environmental damage is caused by government regulations, subsidies, intervention or on land owned by the government and leased to a corporation. A great website that speaks about free-market environmentalism is www.perc.org [perc.org].

    A libertarian knows that Monsanto doesn't care so much BECAUSE they're so heavily in bed with the government -- and our government can subsidize or "free up" environmental rules for any corporation they want to, because we've given them the power to.

    In a libertarian society, the federal government would have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL over environmental regulations -- people would be free to pollute as they please. But here is the restriction in a free society: if you pollute your own land, that land will now be useless for you, and have absolutely no value for you in the future. In a free-market society, government won't own land, so you can't lease it only to treat it badly and move on. Secondly, if you pollute your own land, and the pollution crosses over to someone else's property, airspace, or drinking water, YOU WILL BE LIABLE. Bar none.

    Today, the government lets the polluters pollute, and really just keeps the big pro-earth groups happy with thousands upon thousands of regulations that have loopholes for government's greatest supporters. Get government out of this mess: the environment is not what you want to protect, you want to protect private property.

    If you're worried that pollution done now might contaminate someone's property 100 years down the road, I can see where a little government intervention on a local level is necessary -- ON A LOCAL LEVEL. Let the city or county government enact rules as to what corporations or individuals can do now. If a corporation wants to, they can always move to a city that lets them do what they want to do (and the people of that city they move to made the decision to live there and accept it).

    I know, its not a perfect answer -- BUT ITS FAR FAR BETTER than what we have now.
    • "Let the city or county government enact rules as to what corporations or individuals can do now. If a corporation wants to, they can always move to a city that lets them do what they want to do..."

      There's a small problem with that. The communities become businesses, competing with one another for business. "Sure, you can polute here so long as you create jobs".

      Globalization has caused the same problem. When big American companies were pushing Free Trade, they talked about how it would create more jobs, mean more money, etc. And as soon is it got passed, they shut down plants in North America and moved them to Mexico where labour and environmental laws were lax.

      In addition, PCBs in Alabama means PCBs in the Gulf of Mexico, which means PCBs in the seafood bought in New York or Seattle.

      This is a global problem, not a local problem. Certain regulations should be world-wide. Competition should not be based on lax environmental laws and poor labour laws.

      Yah, I agree, a bunch of regulations hasn't solved the problem either. Perhaps the law should change so that the punishment suits the crime. Make every Monsanto executive and their family move there and live in that poisoned environment, and then see how fast it gets cleaned up.
    • The one glaring problem I've found with the libertarian ideals is that they assume either perfect information or perfect honesty.

      if you pollute your own land, and the pollution crosses over to someone else's property, airspace, or drinking water, YOU WILL BE LIABLE. Bar none.

      When big polluters pollute, are they going to be so kind and say, "Oh, yes, that's our toxic waste in your drinking water. We dumped it six miles upstream on the piece of propery our shell corporation owns. It has nothing to do with the gas station beside the town resevoir."?

      If you're worried that pollution done now might contaminate someone's property 100 years down the road, I can see where a little government intervention on a local level is necessary -- ON A LOCAL LEVEL. Let the city or county government enact rules as to what corporations or individuals can do now. If a corporation wants to, they can always move to a city that lets them do what they want to do (and the people of that city they move to made the decision to live there and accept it).

      Cool. So pollution is going to respect political boundaries now? I live near the border of a no-nuke zone. Nuclear Waste Disposal Inc. moves to just the other side, buries their 200 plastic pails of heavy water perfectly legally, then closes down.

      If what a company did was legal where they were, how do you sue them fifty years after they're defunct once the groundwater has carried the pollution over to you?

      Get government out of this mess: the environment is not what you want to protect, you want to protect private property.

      The environment IS what I want to protect, I don't give a shit about who owns it.
      Because sooner or later, I'm the one who's going to be living in it.
  • by vrmlguy (120854) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <esywmas>> on Thursday January 03, 2002 @01:26PM (#2779623) Homepage Journal
    A quick history lesson. In 1997, the original company (that was named Monsanto), spun off its chemicals business as Solutia [solutia.com] to focus on "life sciences". Among other things, Solutia got the PCB-polluting factory, plus the lion's share of those executives who were around when the decisions were made. It's Solutia that has all the legal and financial responsibilites for the dumping, and don't worry about them being some sort of "shell" company, they have assets of several billion dollars.

    Fast forward a few years to 2000, and Monsanto was merged into Pharmacia [pharmacia.com] and ceased to exist as a seperate company. The new company decided that it wanted to be just a pharmaceutical company, so it spun off a big piece of itself and named the new company Monsanto [monsanto.com], because of the "proud heritage" of the original name.

    This is obviously not such a good idea in retrospect, as the new company, which has nothing to do with PCBs, is now getting a big black eye in the media. However, if you check the markets, it's Solutia whose stock price has plummeted, which indicates that the big investors, at least, know which is which.

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