Culleny: Poison control

If you don’t eat, what follows is irrelevant. But for those of you who enjoy life-giving morsels now and then, did you know that what you eat is determined more and more by interests that have nothing to do with the physiological benefits of eating, not the least of which is staying alive?

In fact, if you looked into agribusiness practices, you’d think the fundamental purpose of eating is not to live but to provide profits to monstrosities like Monsanto. Monsanto and all other profit mills are not in the business of caring. They’re in business of making money regardless of your health, not to mention your liberty or pursuit of happiness.

Before Monsanto started tampering with the genetic makeup of food crops, it was just a toxic chemical company, which by 1930 had become “ ... responsible for some of the most damaging chemicals in our history — PCB’s and dioxin,” according to the progressive news organization Truthout.

It takes a certain mindset to blithely manufacture deadly poisons without moral attention to their effects. There’s arrogance in it, a devil-may-care, stuff-happens attitude.

Monsanto has lately exhibited a will to control world food sources by patenting its manipulation of natural substances it had no part in creating. It manufactures genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — seed stocks that have the potential of corrupting our food supply and what happens within our own bodies. If past is prologue, we can expect a potentially lethal cornucopia of genetic food toxins to spill from Monsanto’s think tanks into the breadbaskets of nations.

It’s a crime really, but Monsanto’s puppets in government are so in cahoots with corporate pushers they’ve made certain crimes legal. They think they’re immune from the likely aftermath. But it’s a fool who contaminates his food supply for profit or political donations.

Here’s how profit-obsessed agribusiness thinks: One of Monsanto’s cash cows is called Roundup. It generated 27 percent of the corporation’s 2011 take, according to Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flows at Roundup is also known by another name: glyphosate, a herbicide. Cleverly putting their eggs into more than one basket, Monsanto engineers have genetically modified seeds to be “Roundup Ready” or glyphosate ready, i.e., they’re immune to Roundup. Having such resistant seeds then assures Monsanto even greater profits because farmers are incentivized to spray crops with Roundup.

Home run: Roundup is now the most widely used herbicide in the history of the world! reports this is not great news for the planet: “A new review of ... scientific studies surrounding glyphosate ... sheds light on its effects within the human body (and) describes how all of these effects could ... trigger health problems in humans ... like gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.” The review specifies that Roundup residues are found in the main foods of the western diet: sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Everything we eat is pretty much loaded with these in one form or another.

But Monsanto is dangerous to our wellbeing beyond the effects of Roundup and the genetic ripples in the natural world of its manufactured genes — in the latter case, we simply don’t have a clue as to how these manipulated genes let loose in the environment will affect not only what goes on in plant cells, but in our own. And that’s just a part of Monsanto’s profit-driven malevolence.

How can Monsanto have so much power over food production in the United States and the world? Like so much else that makes our government unresponsive to the dictates of good sense and the life needs, of people, it boils down to money in politics.

A move by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., to overturn the recently passed “Monsanto Protection Act” (so unnecessarily signed by Barack Obama) was quashed by Republican senators, one of whom, Roy Blunt, R-Mo., had slipped the Monsanto protection provision into a March spending resolution. Blunt has received $95,750 in political donations from Monsanto.

You may have missed the opportunity to join the May protests against Monsanto scheduled in 36 countries, but look for future events to air your concerns. For those of us here in Massachusetts, especially, give Elizabeth Warren a piece of your mind. Warren, who has had my support, sadly voted to protect Monsanto.

Since it’s unlikely we’ll boycott Monsanto by not eating, the only protection we have is our commitment to challenge politicians who choose the welfare of corporations like Monsanto over that of people. We’re left with our collective voices, bodies and our votes — either we join together, or we fall apart.

Culleny lives in Shelburne Falls, works in construction, is a singer/songwriter, and has done commentary for National Public Radio. His email address is

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