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The Virus in Our Food Supply

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by guest blogger Alberto Gonzalez, founder and CEO of GustOrganics

President George Washington once said, "It is miserable for a farmer to be obliged to buy his seeds; to exchange seeds may, in some cases, be useful; but to buy them after the first year is disreputable."

Now, I'm all for making money, but profits should never be made at the expense of human health, fairness, and our food system. Unfortunately, this is happening right before our eyes.

I have many reasons for being against GMOs: They've been linked to an increase in pesticide use, the proliferation of superweeds, our bee population decline, and an array of adverse health effects like immune problems, reproductive health issues, and behavioral abnormalities. But added to that list are the disturbing practices of agricultural giant Monsanto, which, in its relentless pursuit of profits no matter what, has dedicated countless hours and dollars to persecuting and prosecuting U.S. farmers for "patent infringements."

I won't get started on how wrong I think it is to be able to patent living organisms, but I will say this: If the wind carries a GMO seed onto a farmer's land and takes root there, it's the farmer (if anyone) who should have reason to prosecute, not the seed company. And yet, Monsanto has been allowed to sue farmers for growing its seeds without paying for them.

This is the height of ridiculousness.

In 2007 Monsanto sued and won a case against Indiana soybean farmer Vernon Bowman, who used Monsanto's patented seeds when they were sold in a mix of undifferentiated "commodity" seeds.

This brave 75-year-old farmer appealed the decision, putting Monsanto's patents at risk, and the case is now in the U.S. Supreme Court. For those interested in more information, please check some highlights and opinions in the Cornell University Law School site.

Due to the obvious asymmetry of resources between Monsanto and Mr. Bowman, this case will probably not go in favor of the farmer. Not to mention the fact that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a former Monsanto lawyer and has no plans to recuse himself from this case.

I was under the impression that our laws are made to serve and protect the collective well-being of the people and should not be bent to serve the interests of corporations, who, no matter what people say, are not people--they are profit machines. The fact that Monsanto can sue farmers for using seeds should send one message to the American public: The food on which we all depend is being controlled through patents by a handful of corporations (profit machines). And don't think for a moment that when those corporations are done discussing their bottom lines, they'll then have a conversation about how their products affect public health.

Let me say that another way: Corporate profit machines have no interest in protecting public health, their only concern is their bottom line. Yet they control our food. Any alarm bells going off yet?

How did we get to a point where corporations control the majority of our food and the farmers who actually grow the food are sued on a whim? One of the arguments the corporations use is that patented GMO seeds are the only way we can feed our growing population. But who determined that this was the only way we can feed ourselves? Corporations did. The reason? Profits.

I think it's time to get loud. Seeds--those irreplaceable basic components of our food supply--don't need to be tinkered with on a genetic level in order to feed the masses. The only reason to tinker with them in this way is so they can be patented and "owned" by big companies who want to make big profits and the expense of everyone and everything else.

And since these companies only respond to ideas that will help their bottom lines, I have an idea for them: Why not use your countless resources to find ways to replenish our nutrient-depleted soils that, according to the USDA, have lost around 30 percent of nutrients in the last 30 years, mainly due to overuse of the pesticides required for use with your GMO seeds? Why not invest in organic farms that mimic natural systems and use livestock to rebuild fields and restore soils?

Apparently, they'd rather sue farmers....

The Center for Food Safety and the nonprofit Save Our Seeds published a report titled "Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers" and, according to this report, by the end of 2012 Monsanto received more than $23.5 million from patent-infringement lawsuits against farmers and forced other farmers to pay hundreds of millions more through confidential out-of-court settlements.

Angry yet? Monsanto is infecting our food system in more ways than one and the results have been simply devastating. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has a great opportunity to do something to stop Monsanto's greed and prevent its unscrupulous GMO virus from spreading. Let's hope the court stands up to this mindless profit machine for the sake of the rest of us.

Alberto Gonzalez is the founder and CEO of GustOrganics, the world's first certified-organic restaurant using 100 percent organic ingredients, and one of the greenest and most progressive restaurants on the planet,

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