We’ve been conditioned to root for the little guy. The underweight and underdog boxer, your timid 8-year-old neighbor who’s brave enough to believe he’s the next Superman, the farmers who work hard to ensure we’re all fed.
However, rooting for the little guy becomes a lot more complicated when that little guy is so intricately tied to the big guy. Being the little guy becomes a lot more intimidating when the big guy’s place in your life becomes a bit too comfortable.
On March 26, President Barack Obama signed the Monsanto Protection Act, which inhibits federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of genetically engineered (GE) seeds produced by the big guy.
Monsanto, according to Science teacher Jennifer Wolf is, “a biotech company that develops and manufactures GE seeds which they then market and sell to farmers.” While there is no proof the seeds are directly harmful to human health, they are damaging in other ways.
“The seeds that Monsanto creates have not been proven to be harmful for human consumption,” Wolf said. “However, over a period of time, the use of GE seeds has and will continue to affect the genetic diversity of plants, which could cause problems for agriculture in the future.”
To dismantle Monsanto and GE seeds entirely seems both counterproductive and difficult. They are an intricate part of the agricultural culture. According to Monsanto’s website “more than 275,000 farmers a year” use GE seeds. However, the Blueprint staff feels that the government should be working to restrict Monsanto, rather than to protect them.
This law does very little to protect the farmers using Monsanto, and even less to protect us- the consumers. Despite there being no proof that Monsanto is hazardous to human health, this protection act limits federal court intervention if issues are detected, meaning it would be much harder for major problems with the seeds to be reworked.
Senior and Advanced Placement Biology student Ammar Kalimullah feels the risks this act has put the consumers in is entirely unreasonable.
“The act makes it very difficult for the courts to protect people from [GE] foods if the foods lead to health risks,” Kalimullah said. “It benefits the companies that make [GE] seeds, but leaves the people in a very vulnerable position…I think this type of legislation is simply disgusting.”
More than that, the act makes it extremely difficult for farmers or consumers to sue the company if problems with the seeds are found. The act stifles the voices of farmers using Monsanto and gives the big guy complete control.
Although it is the farmers’ choice to use Monsanto in the first place, in this current economic state, it’s difficult not to. Despite these seeds being unable to be reused, the crops grown through GE seeds prove to grow quicker and turn out larger quantities than standard crops do. In order to keep up with their competitors, it seems almost unfeasible not to use GE seeds.
On top of that, Monsanto products help to benefit both the environment and farmers in different ways.
“The benefit of using GE seeds is that the farmers can cut down on pesticides that are necessary to deter insects from eating their crops,” Wolf said. “By reducing the amount of pesticides used on the crops, there are less toxic chemicals being put into the ground which affect the ecosystem. The farmer can [also] save money by not purchasing as many pesticides which could reduce the amount of money he has to charge for his crops.”
Despite this, the Blueprint staff does not believe farmers should be completely at the mercy of Monsanto. We believe that the little guy should have a right to question Monsanto, an ability the protection act almost entirely stifled. We believe that farmers should be able to sue Monsanto if anything goes wrong, as well as negotiate with them as they see fit.
The Blueprint staff also proposes that the government require mandatory testing procedures for Monsanto products to ensure they’re safe. Although the protection act does not address labeling, we feel that the government should put into effect a law that ensures all Monsanto products are labeled.
Kalimullah feels that due to the possible risks, products grown with GE seeds should indubitably be labeled.
“Right now there isn’t much scientific evidence that genetically modified food crops are harmful, but people still have the right to be informed about what they are eating,” Kalimullah said.
Ultimately, the government should not work to protect Monsanto but rather the farmers and consumers. Monsanto needs to be monitored and tested to make sure those eating their products are safe.
As individuals, we need to recognize that knowing exactly what is in our food is a right, not a privilege. By refusing to eat products that are not properly labeled, we can send a message to the big guys. One that asserts that our health and diets are a conversation we demand to be in on.
This protection act disconnects imperative conversations: the one between the consumers and what they’re consuming, the farmer and the corporation, the big guy and the little guy. To hand the megaphone over to the established power is both harmful and unjust. Instead, the government should work to foster the conversation between all these parties and make Monsanto liable for the products they produce.