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NewsNotes, May-June 2010
Vol. 35 No. 3


Going one month without Monsanto

April Dávila, a writer living in Los Angeles, declared the entire month of March a “month without Monsanto.” She created this blog to record her daily struggle to completely rid her life of Monsanto products and bi-products.

It all started when a friend of Dávila’s sent her an article published in the Huffington Post reporting on an International Journal of Biological Sciences [IJBS] study that linked Monsanto’s GM corn to organ failure. The IJBS study completed in 2009 used the same data that Monsanto had used to test three varieties of Monsanto’s GM corn (Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup® herbicide-absorbing NK 603) when these varieties won approval for consumption in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. The IJBS study, however, differentiated the data based on the sex of the animal and dose, and observed the results in animals over a longer period of time.

One of the scientists involved in the study, Gilles-Eric Séralini, explained: “Monsanto systematically neglects significant health effects in mammals that are different in males and females eating GMOs, or not proportional to the dose. This is a very serious mistake, dramatic for public health.”

The study prompted Dávila to swear off all things Monsanto for good – but after research she wondered if she could do it. She then challenged herself to try it for one month. She states in her blog: “I’m not doing this as a political statement…I am simply fascinated by the fact that one company can have such a profound grasp on the human species and I’m ultimately curious – if we decide, as individuals, we don’t want Monsanto products to be a part of our lives, is it even possible to live without them?”

Through the entire month of March Dávila details how difficult it is to avoid Monsanto. She cut out processed food (including Girl Scout cookies – a personal favorite), stopped dining out and turned to local sources of whole foods purchased at farmers’ markets. But even there she constantly consulted her iPhone to ensure that the seeds farmers used for their produce were “Nonsanto” – her word for Monsanto-free. She rejoiced at finding Johnny’s Seeds, an organic seed supply company that has struggled to stay independent since Monsanto began buying up seed companies in its quest for consolidation. Most of Johnny’s line of seed remains independent, but they source less than four percent from Semenis (now owned by Monsanto).

Dávila found that Monsanto’s reach is much broader than processed foods and vegetables. When buying animal products she looked for eggs and meat from grass fed animals to avoid the possibility that these animals had been fed Monsanto corn or soy. She also took to washing her hair with hemp-based and USDA organic soap since she could not verify whether organic shampoos could be traced back to Monsanto seed sources or not.

In addition to monitoring her food, Dávila took a look at her clothing. Her research revealed that Monsanto owns the patent on most of the cotton in the world – so she found herself painstakingly ordering clothing made from organic cotton, or cotton alternatives like hemp to guarantee that it was “Nonsanto.” She also found herself laundering frequently since she was limited to a few guaranteed “Nonsanto” pieces of clothing.

Dávila admits that the greatest challenge of the month was the inconvenience, but she also found that her experiment made her feel more connected to the sources of her food. The more she got to know people who grew her food, the more they replaced brands in her head. Dávila ends her month-long experience encouraging consumers to be informed and aware. The blog continues as a forum for discussion. 

The Month without Monsanto blog highlights the stronghold that Monsanto has on seeds, and the reality of corporate consolidation in the U.S. food system. Of hundreds of brands of food we see in grocery stores, the vast majority are owned by a handful of industrial food companies like Kraft, Conagra and General Mills. Dean Foods and Dairy Farmers of America control most of the milk we consume and Smithfield, JBS and Cargill dominate meat processing. Decades of deregulation and governmental inattention to industrial consolidation have had a negative impact on U.S. and other family farmers around the world; and have created a food system that is “convenient,” but impersonal and quite possibly unsafe.

See related NewsNotes article here.

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