Montana’s senior U.S. Senator, Max Baucus, has already announced he will retire from the Senate and not seek re-election next year. But in the meantime, Baucus continues to do the dirty work for the mega-corporations that own and run Congress and the White House these days. His latest gaffe? Being one of the 71 Senators, of whom 28 were Democrats, who voted against an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill that would have done nothing except allow states to protect their own citizens by requiring labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Unbelievably, Baucus’ vote flew in the face of a global protest on May 24 in 436 cities in 52 countries by an estimated 2 million people who oppose Monsanto’s ceaseless efforts to pollute the entire world with its genetically modified seeds and the food products in which they are used. Even more outraged are those in the U.S., who are rallying en masse to oppose what’s known as the Monsanto Protection Act, a rider placed on the House version of the Farm Bill that would protect Monsanto and other makers of genetically-modified foods against lawsuits for damages caused by their Frankenfoods.
And make no mistake, no matter how much these mega-corporations spend trying to hide the damages caused by their genetically modified seeds, plants and animals, the evidence is piling up worldwide as farmers, fishermen, citizens and responsible governments do their best to stop the rolling juggernauts piloted by the GMO corporations.
Baucus’ vote flies in the face of his endless platitudes about “serving the people of Montana.” How, for instance, does prohibiting Montana from enacting food safety laws – such as labeling GMO products – serve Montanans? Simply put, it does just the opposite. Those who, for any reason, chose not to ingest genetically modified foods now find themselves helpless to even determine which foods contain the genetically modified constituents.
Instead, hiding behind the thinnest of curtains, Baucus claims we need a federal standard instead of allowing states the right to protect their own citizens. But of course Baucus also knows that Monsanto not only owns Congress, but that former Monsanto executives are now filling the ranks of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is supposed to protect our food supply but that, from the top down under President Obama, is now full-speed-ahead on approving even more genetically modified seeds, plants and animals.
Take, for instance, the genetically modified salmon nearing approval by the FDA. AquAdvantage is the trademarked name for Atlantic salmon that, thanks to genetic tinkering, is supposed to grow faster and larger than natural salmon. But what do you know? Despite claims of their “safety,” scientists are already finding that not only could the Frankenfish that escape their pens breed with wild salmon and contaminate the natural gene pool, they could also cross-breed with brown trout, potentially bringing their gene-bending organisms into freshwater rivers where they can interbreed with totally unforeseen consequences.
Or how about the recent discovery of GMO wheat in Oregon? The New York Times reported on May 29 that Monsanto produced a genetically modified version of wheat a decade ago and “field-tested” it in 16 states before deciding not to offer it for commercial use in 2005. Unlike many of the genetically modified crops such as corn and soybeans which are used as animal feed or incorporated into food products, wheat is eaten directly by humans and there is no genetically modified wheat legally approved for commercial use in any country in the world today.
But Baucus’ pals at Monsanto seem to have lost control of their genetic experiment and, when the Oregon farmer found the wheat patch growing where it shouldn’t be, he tried to kill it with Roundup, Monsanto’s leading herbicide. But the wheat didn’t die and later analysis found out why – it’s Monsanto’s illegal Frankenfood, now unleashed upon the nation.
Wheat is one of Montana’s leading exports, contributing significantly to the $8.1 billion exported nationally last year, and the news of the unsuspected GMO wheat in the food chain has already resulted in Japan cancelling a bid on 27,500 tons of wheat from the Pacific Northwest. With other nations around the world following suit, how could this possibly be good news for Montana’s wheat farmers?
Plainly put, the world is rebelling against genetic manipulation of our food supply. Protecting Monsanto is not protecting Montanans. And Max Baucus, who isn’t even running for re-election, should find the courage to vote with his constituents, not his corporate puppet-masters.
George Ochenski writes a weekly column for the Missoulian’s Monday Opinion page. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.