When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Henry David Thoreau after the latter’s arrest for tax resistance (to avoid paying towards the Mexican-American War), he asked him what he was doing in jail. Thoreau’s famous reply was to ask Emerson why he wasn’t in jail. This is the story that, when someone asks me why, as a liberal-to-moderate by nature, I’ve tended to become more radicalized in recent years, I want the ask them how it is that they haven’t.
Here’s an example of a story that makes me wonder why people aren’t continually screaming at the abuse of our political system by corporations. (Honestly, when a friend put this story up on Facebook, my first reaction was that it must be from The Onion. Sadly, though, it’s not satire.)
As you may know, various parts of the world have been facing a die-off of honeybee colonies.. Lots of various information keeps coming up about why that is, but aside from viruses and fungi and whatnot (which may play a role in this Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) without being the entire cause), one continual theme is concern over the use of pesticides and of the role that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may be having on bees. This would deprive us of a lot more than honey; honeybees play a critical role in pollination of all sorts of produce.
Concern over GMOs may take many forms, but a simple and illustrative one is that bees have evolved to derive nutrition from food with certain characteristics, and that if Monsanto (the Dr. Frankenstein behind the Frankenfoods movement) unwittingly changes something that makes the food biologically unusable, bees may not be able to metabolize it. Obviously, Monsanto can’t do all possible experiments in advance; on the other hand, if its products do have terrible and widespread effects, Monsanto can’t write a large enough check for the amount of damage it could cause through its negligence. Essentially, it wants the profit — and if there is an unexpected cost, it wants to dump it on society at large.
So far, pretty much standard corporate behavior. Not admirable, but not unexpected — and the rest of us just have to try to hold Monsanto in check.
I don’t want to just jump onto any theory regarding CCD that comes along wearing a pretty smile. It could involve GMO, but maybe it doesn’t, or maybe it does at certain time or under certain conditions. I don’t want to prejudge anything — but at the same time I don’t want to shrug and be complacent about it. I want honest and objective science to study the situation and I want the media to report those honest results honestly.
Is that so much to ask? Apparently so. Here’s the headline and a taste of the contents:
Monsanto, the massive biotechnology company being blamed for contributing to the dwindling bee population, has bought up one of the leading bee collapse research organizations. Recently banned from Poland with one of the primary reasons being that the company’s genetically modified corn may be devastating the dying bee population, it is evident that Monsanto is under serious fire for their role in the downfall of the vital insects. It is therefore quite apparent why Monsanto bought one of the largest bee research firms on the planet.
It can be found in public company reports hosted on mainstream media that Monsanto scooped up the Beelogics firm back in September 2011. During this time the correlation between Monsanto’s GM crops and the bee decline was not explored in the mainstream, and in fact it was hardly touched upon until Polish officials addressed the serious concern amid the monumental ban. Owning a major organization that focuses heavily on the bee collapse and is recognized by the USDA for their mission statement of “restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination” could be very advantageous for Monsanto.
What’s more, Beelogics is recognized by the USDA, the USDA-ARS, the media, and ‘leading entomologists’ worldwide. The USDA, of course, has a great relationship with Monsanto. The government agency has gone to great lengths to ensure that Monsanto’s financial gains continue to soar, going as far as to give the company special speed approval for their newest genetically engineered seed varieties. It turns out that Monsanto was not getting quick enough approval for their crops, which have been linked to severe organ damage and other significant health concerns.
Honest to God, I don’t want to be anti-business. I don’t consider myself to be anti-business. I think that private commercial innovations are a critical and welcome part of our society. All I want is for them to be good citizens — and when it comes to the trial of their actions not engage in what in another context would be jury tampering.
Is that so much to ask? Apparently so.
The world is flooded with information about CCD, much of it pointing in different directions. We can’t expect Monsanto to stop doing what it can to control information related to the debate, because the demands of its corporate imperative render it essentially sociopathic. But we can do something in the media.
So hey, media! No matter how much you make from Monsanto commercials, no matter how many call girls it or other corporations may send you at fancy conferences, this is what you now have to do:
(1) Find out what claims about CCD and GMOs are being made by Beelogic
(2) Always label Beelogic as “Monsanto subsidiary Beelogic”
(3) Trace the path of stories that originate with Monsanto subsidiary Beelogic through the rest of the scientific media and always point out that certain explanations about CCD have to be considered in the light that their sponsor, Beelogic, is a Monsanto subsidiary with a substantial stake in arguing that GMOs and pesticides have little or nothing to do with CCD.
Just don’t let Monsanto successfully buy Truth Itself. I hope that that’s not too much to ask.