The GM food front

Citizens, the feds, and Big Ag

December 14, 2012

Right after Thanksgiving, when everybody was lulled into a turkey-induced stupor, the federal Department of Justice quietly ended a two-year-long investigation into possible anti-competitive practices in the U.S. seed industry.

As Tom Philpott noted on Mother Jones, this should’ve been a no-brainer: “It’s not hard to see why the DOJ would take a look. For the crops that cover the bulk of U.S. farmland, like corn, soy, and cotton, the seed trade is essentially dominated by five companies: Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, and Dow. And a single company, Monsanto, supplies nearly all genetically modified traits now so commonly used in those crops, which it licenses to its rivals for sale in their own seeds.”

But Philpott couldn’t extract much from the DOJ or from industry reps about why the investigation simply closed. He’s pretty sure the industry is a closed circle anyway: “A high degree of concentration, high and rising prices, limited choice, stagnant innovation — these are the hallmarks of an uncompetitive industry. . . . Perhaps the Department of Justice’s antitrust regulators considered all of this and had good reasons for ending its investigation with a thud and no action. We can’t know until they show us their work.”

Meanwhile, the Pesticide Action Network is busy trying to rouse citizens to protest the genetically engineered seed industry — specifically the new pesticide-resistant GE corn and soy seeds from Dow and Monsanto, which, states the PAN petition, will not only lead to the increased use of dangerous pesticides but encourage the development of pesticide- and herbicide-resistant insects and plants.

And a rant by the comedian Bill Maher was recently posted on, showing Maher criticizing GM foods, along with the news commentator Rachel Maddow arguing in favor of labeling GM foods.

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