Today, Monsanto is the largest grossing seed company on the planet. They own approximately 27 percent of all seeds used in mono-crop farming and pull in about $11.8 billion per year. They are an enormous force in modern agriculture and spend billions on lobbying. Yet their products and their practices have been linked to major health crises around the world.
In Denmark, Ib Borup Pedersen believes the company is to blame for the malformed pigs born on his farm. For three years, the man fed his pigs with non-genetically-modified soy, until he ran out and switched to Monsanto’s cheaper GM version.
His herdsman noticed a loss of appetite amongst the pigs and that the piglets developed diarrhea. Then Pedersen noticed a sharp increase in piglets born with genetic deformities: missing limbs, a hole in the skull, a female born with testicles, malformed bones and intestines. In all, 38 pigs were euthanized and sent to a lab for testing.
The results of the dissections were published in the April 2014 issue of Journal of Environmental and Analytic Toxicology. The piglets’ organs all tested positive for glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s “Roundup” herbicide – the most popular herbicide on Earth.
Glyphosate first hit the agricultural sector in the 1970s and was marketed as one of the best herbicides farmers could buy. Monsanto claimed that glyphosate attacks an enzyme system absent from vertebrates and so was perfectly safe for animal and human consumption. But that does not appear to be the case.
Glyphosate has been linked to fatal kidney failure in farm workers around the world and researchers in Argentina have recorded higher rates of miscarriages and birth defects among families that live within meters of glyphosate spraying. Studies in the 1980s recorded absent kidneys, enlarged hearts and deformations of various organs, limbs and bones in rats and rabbits – among a host of other birth defects.
It is believed that glyphosate interferes with vertebrates’ Cytochrome P450 enzyme system and inhibits aromatase, the process whereby testosterone is converted to estrogen. The combined effect is an impairment in fertility, an elimination of helpful bacteria in the digestion system and an increase in gastrointestinal ailments.
Yet glyphosate use continues to increase, and as certain plants become resistant to it, more herbicide is required per each spray.
And that is not the end of Monsanto’s troubling relationship with its farmers. In India, where small farms make up 92 percent of all farms, pressure has been increasing on local farmers to give way to Monsanto’s larger monoculture farms.
The shift from organic to GM cash crops has been a major factor in the suicides of over 100,000 Indian farmers by drinking Monsanto’s Roundup. Often farmers killed themselves to make their families eligible for death insurance payments.
The exploitation of Indian workers have led some to label Monsanto the modern day East India Company, and as these stories become public, it is more difficult to separate the tragedy from the facts. One thing is certain: Monsanto is a company that bears close scrutiny, both in its products and its practices.