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The Montreal Gazette

Frightening Food for Thought

John Griffin

Content conquers craft in Marie-Monique Robin's devastating exposé Le Monde selon Monsanto (The World According to Monsanto).

The French journalist's documentary format is pedestrian -- lots of phone calls, talking heads, cheesy mock-dramatic background music. But her seriously researched critique of the international chemical "life sciences" giant Monsanto will freeze the blood in your veins.

You may know Monsanto for its role in those old chestnuts PCB, dioxin and Agent Orange, poisons so pervasive and so stubborn they have spread their toxic stain from pole to pole.

But did you know the 100-year-old company is a major player in the GMO revolution? Under the plausible guise of eradicating world hunger with genetically modified seeds resistant to Round-Up, a best-selling herbicide it also developed, Monsanto has launched an insidious campaign to achieve worldwide market supremacy, regardless of the social cost to small farmers and rural economies.

It's all laid out in previously classified documents, and confirmed by scientists, politicians and victims. What the evidence suggests is that Monsanto has long waged a dirty war of pressure campaigns, corruption, collusion with government and prevarication, also known as big fat lies.

We know where Robin stands on Monsanto. We also know she tried early and often to get the company to talk for her documentary. It refused, on the grounds it would not come off looking good. It doesn't.

As far back as 1937, a study showed the "systemic toxic effects" of PCBs. Its production continued for decades, with shattering results still felt today.

Repositioning itself as an agricultural company, Monsanto developed Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production in dairy cows. Despite flawed science and obvious health risks, the company rushed the product to market, using such subtle measures as attempting to bribe Canadian government officials.

It failed, and the drug never crossed the border. But it was accepted in the States, where deregulations initiated during the Reagan years have put the company into bed with successive governments committed to leading the biotech revolution. Yes, that's Bush senior checking out the mutant Monsanto seeds when he was Ronald Reagan's VP.

As someone says, "biotech is so important, we can't let problems get in the way." Which explains the current GMO saturation of global markets and the stealth penetration of those seeds through "transgenics" into native seed stock.

It's not scary. It's terrifying. Like a Kurt Vonnegut Ice Nine effect, Monsanto's GMO market penetration looks to turn the world to mono-culture and potential environmental catastrophe. Rather than feed the planet, says Robin in this essential wake-up call, Monsanto is well on the road to ruining it.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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