Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Farmer's Freedom

Last night I watched most of this 2008 documentary (I missed the beginning), Food Inc, A Controversial PBS Documentary | HyTek Gamer, in which Monsanto Corporation, the huge agri-corporation based in St. Louis, MO., controls 90% of grain producing farms in America. Controlling more that 60% of any market used to be a monopoly, but maybe not anymore. And, it's a damned shame. When I was a kid working on my brother-in-law's and sister's farm, we kept some of the grain we harvested for seed for the next year; corn, soybeans and wheat in silos or barns. And, I got the impression, although I was way to young to understand, that we sold the extra seed we had on occasion, and once or twice gave it away to a few farmers that were really hurting. Farmers can't do any of that anymore, even very small farmers. In one example, a farmer who owned only three acres, hardly more than a gardener, grew soybeans for seed to sell to local farmers at a much cheaper price than other sources, primarily Monsanto. But, Monsanto sued him, "blacklisting" him, scaring away all of his friends and those farmers who bought seed from him and bankrupted him. He only owned three lousy acres and they sued him! The message was that Monsanto will sue whether it will win or not just because it can. With legions of lawyers and billions of dollars to spend, Monsanto can bully just about anyone, government and farmers.

The other message I got was that farmers are not free to grow what they want, set land aside for nature to restore the land when they want or even sell their crops when they want. And, always, they must return to Monsanto, their boss, for instructions. I once thought that being a farmer would have been the best life I could want. That there was a "Freedom" in farming like no other occupation I could have chosen. I regretted not trying it, even if I failed. But, after watching the documentary, I have to say that my temperament would have gotten me in a lot of trouble. If there's anything that gets me riled, it's somebody else telling me what I can and can't do with the things I own as long as I live within the law and I don't harm anybody doing what I want. The message from the documentary was that farmers are not free. They are slaves to Monsanto. I would have had a very difficult time living with that.

It is curious that Monsanto knows what farmers do. How does it know when a farmer who owns only three acres is growing soybean seeds? How does it know that he is selling the seed? And, how does it know who buys it? A three acre farm is so small, that it just barely registers on a detailed map. It is a shocking revelation that through the electronic and digital transactions that record a sale and purchase of grain that Monsanto would learn the minute details of that transaction. It must be through Monsanto's government connections, perhaps with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that Monsanto gets a record of all grain sales and purchase transactions that it can then match to its own corporate records to generate an "unmatched" list that it passes to its lawyers; a "target" list. Otherwise, how could it happen? Does the FDA do the processing and give Monsanto the unmatched list? Na, I have a problem believing that the FDA is THAT corrupt.

But, one item of interest the film reported is the swapping of Monsanto Executives in and out of FDA Executive positions, and other government positions, year after year, in the past sixteen years of the Bush and Clinton Administrations. There have been plenty of opportunities to blend together the two data processing systems, FDA and Monsanto, into nearly one data management system. That's easy to me. I understand how that is possible. It was also easy in today's world of corporate lobbying and government corruption to get Congress to pass laws requiring that farmers, mill and elevators, grain storage businesses and the Farm Bureau report grain production and transactions to the FDA.  So, I don't doubt that there's a trench dug from the FDA directly to Monsanto with a high-speed optical fiber sending transaction data, even bank accounts, to Monsanto's data processing center. Ten seconds later, or less, Monsanto's lawyers know who the culprits are who are asserting their freedoms. That's scary.

So, keep Monsanto's in business - Vote Republican, the corporate flunkies! I want another chance to say "I told you so!"

Or, you could watch the documentary. It's worth it, but it will make you angry if you're for "Freedom." It may even change your politics.


1 comment:

Dan said...

How can someone watch, or listen, to that and NOT be upset? A profession that was 'the' beginning for all of our families at some point...has fallen to this. It's's insulting.