Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do you know what you need to know?

‘Superweed’ explosion threatens Monsanto heartlands by France24

In late 2004, “superweeds” that resisted Monsanto’s iconic “Roundup” herbicide, popped up in GM crops in the county of Macon, Georgia. Monsanto, the US multinational biotech corporation, is the world’s leading producer of Roundup, as well as genetically engineered seeds. Company figures show that nine out of 10 US farmers produce Roundup Ready seeds for their soybean crops.

Superweeds have since alarmingly appeared in other parts of Georgia, as well as South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, according to media reports.


And, of course, no real surprise to anyone with any sense. If you overuse antibiotics, you get resistant bacteria. The way it works is that all you need is one random genetic mutation to occur to create the resistant types. They then have a massive competitive advantage in a field where all other weed plants die off in a field because of the pesticides. Soon, you have a field full of the resistant weeds.

Like I said, obvious to anyone with any sense. And companies like Monsanto do pay big bucks to keep at least some people with some sense around, albeit twisted to an evil purpose. Monsanto patented their proposed solution to the problem in 2001, three years before the superweeds appeared in the fields of Georgia.

According to the UK-based Soil Association, which campaigns for and certifies organic food, Monsanto was well aware of the risk of superweeds as early as 2001 and took out a patent on mixtures of glyphosate and herbicide targeting glyphosate-resistant weeds.

“The patent will enable the company to profit from a problem that its products had created in the first place,” says a 2002 Soil Association report.

But what really struck me was that the story came from France 24, apparently a French TV network. Since this is happening in America, why wasn't this from an American network? Thinking that maybe it was just because I'd followed that link from Progressive Review, I did a Google search on "monsanto superweed". I read through 3 pages of search results without seeing the name of a single major US media company. No CNN articles or FoxNews articles on the problem. Nothing from the NY Times or any American paper who's name I could recognize. The Independent over in England did show up on the results. Everything else seemed to be blogs or small groups. Nothing from any American media shows up.

By comparison, I typed "Rev. Wright" into Google, and ABCNews was second on the list. CNN, FoxNews, Newsweek, and MSNBC all made the first page of results.

Monsanto buys a lot of ad time on network news shows. Or at least they did the last time I watched any. I'm guessing it hasn't changed. There has been at least one credited case in Florida of reporters being fired from a local Fox affiliate for pursuing a story Monsanto wanted killed.

All of which leads to some questions:

  • Why I am seeing this story only from a French TV network?
  • If the telecoms like AT&T, Comcast, and TimeWarner get their way, and are able to impose limits on what I can see over the internet, would I still be able to see this story from a French TV network? Or, would I then be limited to only what CNN and the other American companies decide I need to know?
  • Today, do we know what we need to know?
  • If network neutrality dies in the Democratic Congress bought off by the telecoms, will we know what we need to know tomorrow?

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