I have several friends both in real life and on Facebook who are planning on voting third party this year. I'm sure we all do. They are hardcore liberals who are going to vote Green party because for many of them the difference between the two parties just isn't that much to cause them to vote for the "lesser of two evils" (their argument not mine). In most cases having spent months trying to convince them that there are more differences than they are aware of (or willing to admit) I have mostly given up, realizing I would accomplish as much simply beating my head against a wall. However this last week an excellent article came out that seems to have the potential to sway some of these hardcore far left voters at least in my case.
Mitt Romney, Monsanto Man talks about the strong connection between the rise of Monsanto and Mitt Romney's Bain career. Now I admit I haven't paid as much attention to the whole issue of food safety and how it impacts our environment as I probably should, but for many people this is one of the biggest issues of the election. The close relationship between Monsanto and the FDA serves as one more reminder of how our government is in the pockets of corporate America and is merely a different battle of the constant war between the little people and those who only desire is to stuff as much money into their pockets as they can as fast as possible. A different branch of the tree that brought us the financial meltdown but equally important. Thus the points made in this article could serve as a persuasive argument for those who are planning to vote Green Party this fall to change their vote to Obama.
In addition, if you like me haven't paid much attention to this issue, this article is a great primer on many of the issues with regards to food safety and how products created by Monsanto have caused or are suspected to have caused both environmental issues and health issues and how they have been on the forefront of so many changes to the food we eat.
The first part of the article talks about how Mitt Romney's ties to Monsanto go back to the very beginning of his career with Bain. He first started working with Monsanto in 1977 and worked closely with them until he was "fired" in 1985. In 1977 Monsanto was dealing with the legal/financial fallout of the PCB ban Congress had enacted the previous year and it began working with Mitt (their go to guy at Bain) that caused Monsanto to shift its focus into areas that would draw less public scrutiny and outrage:
...Bain was certainly “aware” of the “PCB and dioxin scandals” because they created “a negative public perception that was costing the company money.” So Bain recommended focusing “on the businesses that didn’t have those perceptions,” Beaver recalls, starting with “life science products that were biologically based,” including genetically engineered crops, as well as Roundup, the hugely profitable weed-killer. “These were the products that Bain gave their go-ahead to,” Beaver contends, noting that Romney was a key player, “reviewing the data collected by other people and developing alternatives,” talking mostly to “the higher muckety-mucks.”Skipping forward to the present day, Monsanto is under increasing scrutiny as their business practices have been brought to light. For example, their contracts forcing farmers to buy new seeds each year instead of using seeds they collect is drawing public backlash. In addition their first major biotech product - Bovine Growth Hormone - was pulled off the market and sold at a substantial loss after it led to deformed cattle and possible health issues in humans. More recently their genetically modified plants have been outright banned in many countries and their prime weed killer, Roundup is being linked to cancer and birth defects
And of course the company was turned in this direction when Mitt as the leader of the Monsanto team at Bain was helping shape Monsanto's strategic decisions:
The critical shift to “life sciences” started in 1979, when Monsanto installed a University of California biologist, Howard Schneiderman, as its research director and began investing hundreds of millions a year in biotech hormones and seeds. Monsanto’s website reports that by 1981—when Bain was intimately involved in determining the company’s strategic direction—biotech was “firmly established as Monsanto’s strategic research focus.”In fact it was Bain and Romney that pushed Monsanto that direction:
(one of Bain's founders, Patrick) Graham, who claims credit for recruiting Romney to Bain, described him as “an important guy in delivering the work” at Monsanto, saying he “cut his teeth” at the company. Graham also laid out how he and the Bain team worked with Monsanto: “We worked on the seed business, the herbicide business, some of the basic chemical businesses. We’re kind of the right-hand man. We present to the board of directors. We’re friends and partners. We understood it down to its roots.” Bain’s brass, recalled Graham, would meet “Hanley and his five top people every time we went to St. Louis,” which he said was as often as “two to three times a week.”Graham continues:
The most important contribution Bain made to Monsanto... was concluding that “the biggest opportunity” was to bring “an entirely new value product,” namely biotech and herbicides, “to the whole farming industry in America, soybeans and stuff.” Graham exalts in what Bain did—saying it “completely changed the economics of farming in America” and made Monsanto “the biggest agricultural business in the world.”Of course all of that was then. Now, Mitt's running for President (for Pete's sake) and that means it's time to pack his agricultural adviser committee with Monsanto people. For more on that click below the squiggle...
In March, Mitt formed an eleven member Agricultural Advisory Committee and packed it with people with Monsanto ties:
including its principal Washington lobbyist Randy Russell, whose firm has represented Monsanto since its founding in the 1980s and has been paid $2.4 million in lobbying fees since 1998.The Co-Chair of Mitt's Committee, Mike Johanns received $9500 in contributions from Monsanto and has lobbied European governments on behalf of Monsanto products:
Among those also appointed to the panel were another Russell client and Monsanto partner in the marketing of GM alfalfa, Land O’ Lakes CEO Chris Policinski; and Chuck Conner, whose National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) is closely linked to Land O’ Lakes. Conner and Policinski, an NCFC director, publicly supported Monsanto’s 2010 attempts to win USDA approval for its alfalfa. Other members of the initial Romney council were Tom Nassif, whose Western Growers Association receives annual grants from Monsanto, and A.G. Kawamura, the former California agriculture secretary who championed Monsanto’s alfalfa despite a federal court ruling in the state against it.
Johanns was George Bush’s agriculture secretary in between his six years as Nebraska governor and three years in the Senate. In 2002–03, he headed two associations of governors, one of which included Romney, and went abroad to push GM foods and assail European Union efforts to require labeling of them. While Johanns ran USDA in 2005, it approved Monsanto’s alfalfa without obtaining the minimal environmental impact statement required under Reagan’s regulatory framework, a decision overturned by the federal courts. Johanns’s agency did the same for Monsanto’s sugar beetsAs for Mitt, well he's mute on many of these topics.
Romney won’t answer our questions, or anyone else’s, about where he stands on the two pending farm bills—the Senate version backed by Obama that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (including Johanns and Blunt), or the House bill that made it through the agriculture committee with two Republican amendments dubbed “Monsanto riders.” Having lost the alfalfa and other GM lawsuits, Monsanto spent more on lobbyists, including Russell, than any other non-tobacco agribusiness and convinced House Republicans to add these riders, which would virtually immunize its products from regulation, allowing farmers to plant crops even if a court has ordered an environmental review and short-circuiting the reviews, as Johanns tried to do.Meanwhile:
Congressmen Jack Kingston and Frank Lucas, each of whom sponsored a Monsanto rider, were listed in August as national co-chairs of a new general election committee called the Farmers and Ranchers for Romney coalition, which also includes all eleven members of the March group and (Monsanto's home state, Missouri, senator) Roy Blunt.Obviously there is a lot of work to do with regards to food safety and questions to be asked about GMO's, herbicides, pesticides and industrial farming. Recent revelations about corporate farming techniques have put a spotlight on how our food animals in particular are treated. People are becoming ever more aware of how these products and systems affect our health. Obviously we need to have a national conversation on corporate farming and it's influence on the decisions our government makes about what is and isn't safe. With child obesity at epidemic proportions and going up and more and more food related health issues coming to light all the time, it is clear somewhere we have gone astray and allowed too many shortcuts in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Both parties share some blame here as the problems have become institutionalized to some extent, but if you have to bet on which party is more likely to enact the change we need or at the least not ignore and rollback the changes that are already in the works, it's obvious Mitt Romney is not the answer. He not only is deep in the pocket of the Monsanto it was in part his leadership that helped create the very mess we are in.