[permaculture] Outrageous Lies Monsanto and Friends Are Trying to Pass off to Kids as Science | Food | AlterNet

Lawrence F. London, Jr. venaurafarm at bellsouth.net
Fri Mar 23 11:44:12 EDT 2012

[Christian: Maybe you could forward this on to your local lists. LL]

Outrageous Lies Monsanto and Friends Are Trying to Pass off to Kids as 
Science | Food | AlterNet

AlterNet / By Ronnie Cummins
comments_image 12 COMMENTS
Outrageous Lies Monsanto and Friends Are Trying to Pass off to Kids as 
The claims made in a book from the biotechnology industry are laughable. 
But these blatant lies are passed off as 'science' for schoolchildren.
March 20, 2012  |

It's not enough that the biotech industry -- led by multinational 
corporations such as Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, BAS, and Dupont -- is 
poisoning our food and our planet. It's also poisoning young minds.

In a blatant attempt at brainwashing, the Council for Biotechnology 
Information (CBI) has widely circulated what it calls a Biotechnology 
Basics Activity Book for kids, to be used by "Agriculture and Science 
Teachers." The book -- called Look Closer at Biotechnology -- looks like 
a science workbook, but reads more like a fairy tale. Available on the 
council's Web site, its colorful pages are full of friendly cartoon 
faces, puzzles, helpful hints for teachers -- and a heavy dose of 
outright lies about the likely effects of genetic engineering on health, 
the environment, world hunger and the future of farming.

CBI's lies are designed specifically for children, and intended for use 
in classrooms.

At a critical time in history when our planet is veering toward a 
meltdown, when our youth are suffering the health consequences (obesity, 
diabetes, allergies) of Big Ag and Food Inc.'s over-processed, fat-and 
sugar-laden, chemical-, and GMO-tainted foods, a time when we should be 
educating tomorrow's adults about how to reverse climate change, how to 
create sustainable farming communities, how to promote better nutrition, 
the biotech industry's propagandists are infiltrating classrooms with 
misinformation in the guise of "educational" materials.

Brainwashing children. It's a new low, even for Monsanto.

You don't have to read beyond the first page of Look Closer at 
Biotechnology to realize that this is pure propaganda:

     Hi Kids! Welcome to the Biotechnology Basics Activity Book. This is 
an activity book for young people like you about biotechnology -- a 
really neat topic. Why is it such a neat topic? Because biotechnology is 
helping to improve the health of the Earth and the people who call it 
home. In this book, you will take a closer look at biotechnology. You 
will see that biotechnology is being used to figure out how to: 1) grow 
more food; 2) help the environment; and 3) grow more nutritious food 
that improves our health. As you work through the puzzles in this book, 
you will learn more about biotechnology and all of the wonderful ways it 
can help people live better lives in a healthier world. Have fun!

Before we take a closer look at the lies laid out in Look Closer at 
Biotechnology -- lies that are repeated over and over again, the better 
to imprint them on young minds -- let's take a closer look at the book's 
publisher. The Council for Biotechnology Information describes itself 
as "a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization that communicates science-based 
information about the benefits and safety of agricultural biotechnology 
and its contributions to sustainable development."

According to the Internal Revenue Service, a 501(c)(6) organization is a 
"business league" devoted to the improvement of business conditions of 
one or more lines of business. The mission of a 501(c)(6) organization 
"must focus on the advancement of the conditions of a particular trade 
or the interests of the community."

The bottom line is that CBI exists to advance the interests of the 
corporations that it was formed to promote -- in this case, the biotech 
industry. While it purports to communicate "science-based information," 
in fact, that's not its mission at all. Its mission is to maximize the 
profits of Monsanto and the biotech industry.

Not surprisingly, CBI is funded largely by the biotech, chemical, 
pesticide, and seed industry giants: BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow Agro 
Sciences, Dupont, Monsanto, and Syngenta.

There's nothing new about corporations lying to the public. Corporations 
routinely lie to their employees. They lie in advertising. They lie in 
the lopsided so-called studies and research projects that they self-fund 
in order to guarantee the outcomes that support their often false, but 
self-serving premises. They buy off politicians, regulatory officials, 
scientists, and the media.

Although here we're focusing on the biotech industry trying to brainwash 
our kids, CBI certainly does not limit its propaganda to just children. 
CBI recently contributed $375,000 to the Coalition Against the Costly 
Labeling Law -- a Sacramento-based industry front group working to 
defeat the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act of 
2012. If passed in November, this citizens' ballot Initiative will 
require food manufacturers and retailers to label foods containing 
genetically engineered ingredients, as well as ban the routine industry 
practice of labeling or advertising GE-tainted foods as "natural" or 
"all natural." CBI, the Farm Bureau, and the Grocery Manufacturers 
Association are campaigning furiously to preserve their "right" to keep 
consumers in the dark about whether their food has been genetically 
engineered or not, and to preserve their "right" to mislabel 
gene-altered foods as "natural."

Clearly, the Council for Biotechnology Information has little or no 
regard for "science-based" information. But lies aimed directly at kids 
-- under the guise of science education? In our schools?

Let's take a closer look at the claims made in Look Closer at Biotechnology.

Lie #1: "Biotechnology is one method being used to help farmers grow 
more food." (page 7)

This statement is patently false.

In 2009, in the wake of similar studies, the Union of Concerned 
Scientists examined the data on genetically engineered crops, including 
USDA statistics. Their report -- Failure to Yield -- was the first major 
effort to evaluate in detail the overall yields of GE crops after more 
than 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization in the 
United States. According to the definitive UCS study, "GE has done 
little to increase overall crop yields." A number of studies indicate in 
fact that GE soybeans, for example, actually produce lower yields than 
non-genetically engineered varieties.

Research conducted by the India research group, Navdanya, and reported 
in The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes turns up the same results:

     Contrary to the claim of feeding the world, genetic engineering has 
not increased the yield of a single crop. Navdanya's research in India 
has shown that contrary to Monsanto's claim of Bt cotton yield of 1500 
kg per acre, the reality is that the yield is an average of 400-500 kg 
per acre. Although Monsanto's Indian advertising campaign reports a 
50-percent increase in yields for its Bollgard cotton, a survey 
conducted by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology 
found that the yields in all trial plots were lower than what the 
company promised. (Page 11).

The claim that GE crops increase agricultural yields is a blatant lie. 
Equally untrue is the industry's claim that it is motivated by the 
desire to feed the hungry of the world. As the Union of Concerned 
Scientists points out: "For the most part, genetic engineering 
techniques are being applied to crops important to the industrialized 
world, not crops on which the world's hungry depend." Where does all the 
genetically engineered soy and corn -- two of the largest GE crops -- 
end up? In animal feed, processed junk foods -- and school lunchrooms. 
Precious little goes to feed the hungry in impoverished regions.

One of the sub-arguments related to increasing yields is the biotech 
industry's claim that GMO crops are more resistant to pests -- hence 
more of the crops survive. In Look Closer at Biotechnology kids are told 
that agricultural biotechnology is a "precise way to make seeds with 
special qualities. These seeds will allow farmers to grow plants that 
are . . . more resistant to pests . . ." In fact widespread 
commercialization of herbicide-resistant and Bt-spliced GE crops has 
engendered a growing army of superweeds and superpests, oblivious to all 
but the most powerful and toxic pesticides.

What we should be teaching kids in science class is what scientists have 
been warning for years -- that any attempt to increase resistance to 
pests through genetic engineering will ultimately fail. Insects -- and 
diseases -- will build up a tolerance over time, and evolve into 
stronger and stronger strains. That's how nature works -- and even 
Monsanto can't fool Mother Nature. Organic agriculture, on the other 
hand, utilizing crop rotation, biodiversity, natural fertilizers, and 
beneficial insects, reduces crop loss from pests and weeds, without the 
collateral damage of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

Recently, 22 leading scientists told the US Environmental Protection 
Agency that it should act with "a sense of urgency" to urge farmers to 
stop planting Monsanto's genetically engineered Bt corn because it will 
no longer protect them from the corn rootworm. Bt corn is genetically 
engineered with bacterial DNA that produces an insecticide in every cell 
of the plant, aimed at preventing corn rootworm. Except that corn 
rootworms have now developed resistance to these GE mutants.

Just as scientists had predicted years ago, a new generation of insect 
larvae has evolved, and is eating away at the roots of Monsanto's Bt 
corn -- a crop farmers paid a high price for on Monsanto's promise that 
they would never have to worry about corn rootworm again. Scientists are 
now warning of massive yield loss and surging corn costs if the EPA 
doesn't act quickly to drastically reduce Bt crops' acreage and ensure 
that Monsanto makes non-GMO varieties of corn available to farmers.

"Massive yield loss" doesn't sound like "more food" -- whether you're 12 
years old or 112.

What we should be telling kids is what responsible scientists and 
farmers -- experts at the United Nations -- have been saying all along: 
Eco-farming can double food output. According to a UN study:

     Eco-farming projects in 57 nations showed average crop yield gains 
of 80 percent by tapping natural methods for enhancing soil and 
protecting against pests.
     Projects in 20 African countries resulted in a doubling of crop 
yields within three to 10 years.
     Sound ecological farming can significantly boost production and in 
the long term be more effective than conventional farming.

Lie #2: "Biotechnology can help farmers and the environment in many 
ways." (page 8)

Two lies for the price of one.

Biotechnology -- specifically genetic engineering -- helps neither 
farmers nor the environment, according to the majority of legitimate 
scientists and economists. In fact, the opposite is true. Genetic 
engineering of seeds has wreaked havoc on the environment and brought 
misery to hundreds of thousands of small farmers all over the world.

The majority of farmers in developing countries struggle to afford even 
the most basic requirements of seeds and fertilizers. Their survival 
depends on the age-old practice of selecting, saving and sharing seeds 
from one year to the next. When multinational corporations move into 
areas previously dominated by small farmers, they force those farmers to 
buy their patented seeds and fertilizers -- under pretense of higher 
yields, and under threats of lawsuits if they save or share the seeds. 
Every year, they're forced to buy more seeds and more chemicals from 
corporations -- and when the promises of higher yields and higher 
incomes prove empty, farmers go bankrupt.

Compounding their corporate crimes, when Monsanto's patented seeds 
contaminate the non-GMO crops of small farmers (because the seeds drift 
across property lines) Monsanto routinely sues farmers for growing their 
patented seeds illegally, even though the seeds were actually unwanted 
trespassers. Further, the company has ruined the livelihoods of small 
farmers by harassing them for illegally growing patented seeds, even in 
cases where no patented seeds have been grown, either knowingly or by 

As Monsanto and others have expanded worldwide, into India, China, 
Pakistan, and other countries, the effect on small farmers has been 
devastating. In India, for instance, after World Trade Organization 
policies forced the country in 1998 to open its seed sector to companies 
like Cargill, Monsanto and Syngenta, farmers quickly found themselves in 
debt to the biotech companies that forced them to buy corporate seeds 
and fertilizers and pesticides, destroying local economies. Hundreds of 
thousands of India's cotton farmers have committed suicide.

And according to a Greenpeace report, poorer farmers in the Philippines 
were sold Monsanto's Bt corn as a "practical and ecologically 
sustainable solution for poor corn farmers everywhere to increase their 
yields" only to find the opposite was true: Bt corn did not control 
pests and was "not ecologically sustainable."

Which brings us to one more of the Council for Biotechnology 
Information's lies to kids: That agricultural biotechnology is good for 
the environment.

Study after study, over more than a decade, has warned us of just the 
opposite. Even the pro-biotech USDA has admitted that GE crops use more 
pesticides, not less than non-GE varieties. Genetic engineering results 
in evermore pesticides being dumped into the environment, destroying 
soil and water, human and animal health, and threatening the 
biodiversity of the planet.

How about telling kids instead that numerous reports, including one from 
the German Beekeepers Association, have linked genetically engineered Bt 
corn to the widespread disappearance of bees, or what is now referred to 
as Colony Collapse Disorder? And while we're at it, maybe we should 
remind kids of the Albert Einstein's quote: "If the bee disappeared off 
the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life 
left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more 
animals, no more man."

Maybe we should also tell them that glyphosate, the active ingredient in 
Monsanto's herbicide, Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the 
world, kills Monarch butterflies, fish, and frogs, destroys soil 
fertility, and pollutes our waterways and drinking water.

The fact is, widespread use of Monsanto's Roundup in all agricultural 
and urban areas of the United States is destroying the environment, pure 
and simple. US Geological Survey studies released this month show that 
Roundup is now commonly found in rain and rivers in agricultural areas 
in the Mississippi River watershed, where most applications are for weed 
control on GE corn, soybeans and cotton. Here's the real truth, from an 
article published this past week: Monsanto's Roundup is actually 
threatening the crop-yielding potential of the entire biosphere. 
According to the article, new research published in the journal Current 
Microbiology highlights the extent to which "glyphosate is altering, and 
in some cases destroying, the very microorganisms upon which the health 
of the soil, and -- amazingly -- the benefits of raw and fermented foods 
as a whole, depend."

Lie #3: "Scientists are using biotechnology to grow foods that could 
help make people healthier." (page 11)

This is the perhaps the most outrageous lie of all. Telling kids that GE 
foods are more nutritious is tantamount to telling them Hostess cupcakes 
and Coca-Cola are health foods.

Genetic engineering -- of human food and food for animals that humans 
eat -- has been linked to a host of diseases and health issues, 
including auto-immune disorders, liver and kidney damage, nutritional 
deficiencies, allergies, accelerated aging, infertility, and birth defects.

There's a growing and alarming body of research indicating that GMO 
foods are unsafe, and absolutely no research whatsoever proving that 
they are safe. And yet the USDA and FDA continue to approve, and just 
this past month even agreed to speed up approval of these crops that 
scientists and physicians increasingly link to poor health.

Instead of force-feeding kids lies in bogus activity books, how about 
having them read some truthful articles?

The study Bt Toxin Kills Human Kidney Cells says Bt toxins are not 
"inert" on human cells, and may indeed be toxic, causing kidney damage 
and allergies observed in farmers and factory workers handling Bt crops. 
The article supports previous studies done on rats, showing that animals 
fed on three strains of GE corn made by Monsanto suffered signs of organ 
damage after only three months.

Or how about this: "19 Studies Find That GMOs Aren't Up to Consumer 
Safety Protection Standards" which reports:

     It is abundantly clear that both GMOs made to be resistant to 
herbicides (aka "Roundup Ready") and those made to produce insecticides 
have damaging impacts on the health of mammals who consume them, 
particularly in the liver and kidneys. We already know that from the 
trials of 90 days and less. In looking a little deeper into the info, we 
found a number of issues that point to a probable increased level of 
toxicity when these foods are consumed over the long term, including 
likely multi-generational effects.

Multi-generational effects. Eating GMO foods harms not only our health, 
and our kids' health -- but quite possibly their kids, too -- even if we 
stop eating them today.

In a recent report to the United Nations General Assembly Human Rights 
Council by Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, 
Schutter outlines the case for sustainable agricultural practices (the 
antithesis of industrial agribusiness, with its GE crops and heavy 
reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides). He also addresses the 
links between health and malnutrition. In the report, Schutter shows why 
undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency and overnutrition are different 
dimensions of malnutrition that must be addressed together through a 
life-course approach. From the report's summary:

     Existing food systems have failed to address hunger, and at the 
same time encourage diets that are a source of overweight and obesity 
that cause even more deaths worldwide than does underweight. A 
transition towards sustainable diets will succeed only by supporting 
diverse farming systems that ensure that adequate diets are accessible 
to all, that simultaneously support the livelihoods of poor farmers and 
that are ecologically sustainable.

Corporate greed plus a complicit government have allowed for the rampant 
poisoning of our food and environment, and the demise of sustainable 
agriculture practices -- practices sorely needed if we are going to feed 
the world's population, and avoid a world health crisis. And we've 
exported the same misery and destruction to foreign countries far and wide.

Propaganda like the CBI's Look Closer at Biotechnology has brainwashed 
many of our kids into thinking that the biotech industry has people -- 
not profits -- in its best interests. The book's claims are laughable. 
But framing blatant lies as "science" for children in schools borders on 

For parents and teachers out there, here's an alternate lesson plan. 
Because world hunger is a concern, because saving our planet does 
matter, and because better health is a worthy and achievable goal, let's 
ask our kids to think critically, instead of accepting at face value 
"information" attractively packaged by multinational corporations.

Don M. Huber, emeritus soil scientist of Purdue University puts it in 
terms everyone, kids included, can understand. Huber talks about a range 
of key factors involved in plant growth, including sunlight, water, 
temperature, genetics, and nutrients taken up from the soil. "Any change 
in any of these factors impacts all the factors," he said. "No one 
element acts alone, but all are part of a system." "When you change one 
thing," he said, "everything else in the web of life changes in 

This is what we should be teaching the future stewards of our planet.
Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic Consumers 
Association. Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including 
"Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers" 
(Second Revised Edition Marlowe & Company 2004).

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