I recently came across a beautiful, glossy website that claims to show the new face of American farming. It’s called America’s Farmers. And on this website, you’ll “Explore the Family Farm” and “Meet the Families.” You’ll also read about the “Evolution of Farming” in America. And you’ll learn about your favorite foods’ “Humble Beginnings” as American crops.
But the website is pure propaganda, filled with outright lies, put out by the agro-business giant Monsanto.
If you’re a long-time reader of my Daily Dispatch, you know Monsanto makes the herbicide Roundup. It’s also a major producer of genetically modified (GM) seeds. In fact, this company tinkered with natural seeds to make them resistant to Roundup. So farmers could spray all the chemicals they wanted…and their altered crops would still grow.
A win-win for Monsanto. But not so much for consumers.
A few weeks back, I also told you Vermont might become the first state in the nation to require labeling of foods made with GM crops, regardless of whether or not adjacent states go along.
But with widespread propaganda like the “America’s Farmers” website out there, the truth about GM farming is becoming harder and harder to discover. For example, on Monsanto’s website you don’t see anything about today’s industrial farming system. Instead, you see a friendly, “down home,” association of small, family-owned farms that are thriving and prosperous, producing what seem like healthy and wholesome crops.
But it’s all just an illusion.
I actually learned about Monsanto’s bogus website from the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH). This legitimate, non-profit organization promotes the values of sustainable farming. And their diligence drew my attention to several myths promoted on the deceitful “America’s Farmers” website:
Myth 1: “American agriculture supports 23 million jobs and grows the U.S. economy with a trade surplus of $34 billion.
According to the ANH, nearly 90 percent of farm income comes from sources outside the farms.
Plus, the non-profit organization insists, “many farm households must rely on off-farm income to support farm households because income from the farm operation is insufficient.” Real American farmers struggle to make ends meet.
Plus, Monsanto is definitely not watching out for the little guy. It went all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to sue small farmers, potentially putting them out of business altogether.
Myth 2: “Farmers have been adopting technology and practices that use fewer chemicals.”
You won’t find one single reference on the “America’s Farmers” website about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But the implication that new GMO technology reduces the amount of pesticides farmers use could not be further from the truth.
As I mentioned earlier, many farmers use Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds so their crops can withstand the toxic poison Roundup. However, Mother Nature has responded with weeds that are tolerant to these chemicals. In fact, we now have “superweeds” that require more and more poisons to kill them. (Doesn’t this practice remind you of man-made, antibiotic-resistant, killer bacteria?)
Last summer, the Council for Biotechnology Information (which includes Monsanto) launched another deceitful website called “GMO Answers.” It aims to soothe public concern about GMOs.
On that website, you’ll find this statement: “The biotech industry stands 100 percent behind the health and safety of GM crops on the market today, but we acknowledge that we haven’t done the best of communicating about them…”
Ah, the old trick of pleading guilty to a lesser, meaningless “charge”: failing to explain themselves adequately. Our products are completely safe. We just haven’t done a good job of explaining why
Well, pardon me, but scientists readily refute these “facts.”
GMOs are not safe. And they haven’t even been extensively tested for human safety. And they do NOT reduce pesticide use.
Myth 3: “Most U.S. farms are owned and operated by families.”
As the ANH points out, the USDA definition of “family farm” is far too loose. The operator–and individuals related to the operator by blood, marriage or adoption–must own the majority of a “family farm.” But it doesn’t matter if they live in the household or on the farm. Plus, it defines a “farm” as any operation that sells at least $1,000 of agricultural products each year.
But, as the Farm Aid organization points out, these definitions, “allow for almost anyone dabbling in growing food for sale…to be classified as a farmer.” So this allows Monsanto to fudge with the statistics.
On a personal note, we live on property with less than an acre. And we board one or two horses at a local field. But we invariably lose money on this venture. Though sometimes we do generate a very small amount of revenue from giving riding lessons to recreational riders, leasing the horses to other riders, and for non-profit rehab programs for “wounded warrior” veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Every other year, we receive a long and complicated form we are required to complete “under penalty of law,” regarding operation of our own “farm.” I’m sure some bureaucrat’s office is kept quite busy processing these essentially meaningless forms. (At the taxpayers’ expense, of course). Under the USDA’s silly guidelines, I qualify as a “farmer.” It certainly suits Monsanto’s mission to represent our home as another one of the mythical millions of American family farms. And I would be proud to wear that label, if only it were true.
In reality, true family farms are a dying species. Two generations ago, most Americans still grew up on farms. But during WW I and WW II, many young Americans left the farms to go fight in Europe and Asia. After the wars ended, they never went back to the farm. In fact, a popular post-WW I song by Al Jolson went, “How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paris?” (Of course, Jolson pronounced Paris as “Paree.”)
America was never the same again. And American farming never recovered.
In fact, only about 950,000 true family-run farms remain in the United States, according to the ANH. And currently, just 12 percent of all farms produce 84 percent of our food. In other words, the big industrial farms feed most of the country.
You can help change this sad state by buying local, organic produce. Remember, not all local produce is organic. So, the only way to guarantee you’re not buying GM produce is to buy organic.
1. “Monsanto’s Latest PR Stunt,” Alliance for Natural Health U.S. (www.anh-usa.org) 6/10/2014