Have You Eaten Your GM Food Today? (11/9/2007)

NOTE: Useful graphs on the web page.

COMMENT from Robert Vint: The $689,000,000 income for Monsanto comes purely from sales of unlabelled produce - from GM feed (possible only because produce of GM-fed animals is not labelled as such) and from sales of GM food in the USA (where it is not labelled) and biofuel crops (which are not labelled GM and, by their nature, are not a direct health threat to customers). It still seems true that virtually no-one knowingly buys and eats GM products - whether they are in the USA, EU, Japan or Africa.


Have You Eaten Your Genetically Modified Food Today?
By Alexis Madrigal
Wired News, September 11 2007

Monsanto, the real and symbolic leader in genetically modified crops, is a company that environmental groups love to hate. A 'Monsanto +antichrist' Google search turns up 53,000 hits. The virtual hate carries over into the real world, too. Last month, Monsanto claimed that activists damaged 65 percent of its test fields in 2006. And yet, in the last 5 years, Monsanto's stock price is up over 700 percent, and the company's directors keep snapping up more shares.

But Americans don't eat GE specialty crops, which include vegetables and fruit. As a 2004 USDA workshop found:

Relatively few GE specialty crop varieties have been submitted to regulatory agencies for clearance, and most of those that have been approved are not available in the marketplace today‚ The number of products in development is approaching zero.

In August 2006, the Center for Food Safety released a factsheet that stated, "the depth of market rejection of GE foods is arguably unparalleled by any other consumer product." It's hard to square these statements with Monsanto's $689,000,000 in net income during 2006.

There are two parts to the explanation of this seeming paradox. One is that American public opinion is not nearly as hard-edged as the CFS statement suggests. Scores of polls and surveys by both sides can be reduced to three simple ideas. One, American consumers know just about nothing about genetic engineering, more than ten years after its introduction into the market. Two, American consumers intuit that they don't really want their food genetically modified. Three, that belief is not very strong for most people, i.e., one study found that only 2 percent of respondents had done something or "taken action" because of their concerns over biotechnology.

The other part of the explanation is that US consumer attitudes don't actually matter very much to the current GM food business. All Monsanto needs is for you to love Twinkies and Coca-Cola, the food machinery of this country does the rest. Monsanto's model is business-to-business (B2B), like server sales or logistics. Monsanto is more like Oracle than Apple. To the average consumer, GM crops are invisible, especially because you don't have to label them in the US. The attitudes towards GMO that matter to Monsanto are those held by big agribusiness seed buyers and corporate farmers, not Joe Six Pack. And the IT managers of the farming world love Monsanto. The chart is of US GE crop adoption of their big three products, corn, soybeans, and cotton, which just happen to compose 75 percent of the revenue generated from non-fruit and vegetable cash crops.

If you're an opponent of GM foods, here comes the scary punchline. A big chunk of all that genetically modified corn and soy go right into our processed foods and into feed for the animals we eat. So chances are, unless you are a raw or organic foodista, you ate a GM food derivative this very day.


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