food, inc.

Last night PBS ran the documentary Food, Inc. If you haven’t seen it, its well worth checking out- (you can see the whole thing by clicking here). While there are many controversial and disturbing things about our food supply the film addresses, there were several things that really caught my attention. First off,  I didn’t know it but apparently there are laws on the books that make it illegal to publicly criticize food processors and manufacturers.This originally saw daylight in the 1998  11 million dollar celebrity lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey by the Texas Cattle Producers, who blamed her for their fledgling market following the mad cow scare, after she said “eating beef made her think twice about having a burger”. While she won that case, she was only able to do so because she could throw as much money into the legal case as the cattlemen could, while anyone without her resources would simply have to concede. Of course the larger question is how can it be that certain corporate interests can have laws passed that criminalize speech critical of those corporate interests?

The second point made in the film was especially troublesome, as it also involved the legal system in a more profound sort of way. Former Monsanto employee and (current) Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was part of the Courts decision to enable genetically modified crops to become a patented product. The film illustrates just how this decision and process has taken ill effect in soybean agriculture. Monsanto’s genetically modified  “Roundup Ready” soybean product is sold to farmers only with the stipulation that the seed is not to be harvested for later use. The product has become pervasive enough in fields that cross pollination has now affected the genetic makeup of over 90% of all soybeans – which means that Monsanto now has a total monopoly on  the entire soybean crop in the United States, and makes it illegal to reuse or resell seeds. The film then focuses on the last remaining farmers who still wash, process, and sell  seeds for replanting. And how Monsanto then hires detectives to track them down like dogs, slapping them with huge lawsuits (that they could ill-afford to fight) that force them to divulge lists all the other farmers that traditionally have bought seeds from them.

This is just the beginning, and the predictable result of where corporate power has not only infiltrated the political realm, but has made headway into co-opting the judicial branch of government through the same revolving door system as well. This business of tracking down the violators of corporate power is nothing less than  corporate McCarthyism, for the new corporatist world that is emerging on all fronts.

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