Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monsanto and the approaching Zombie Apocalypse


I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!

Ishtar, the Assyrian goddess of fertility, war, love, and sex... and Monsanto board member.

   So it's all Ishtar's fault! And here I thought it was just a crappy movie.
   At midnight last Sunday I happened to be watching the SyFy channel while consuming a nice salami and cheese sandwich, and right after the American Ninja Warrior competition failed to produce an American ninja warrior, the 2011 film, "Zombie Apocalypse," came on starring the talented actor Ving Rhames of "Pulp Fiction," and "Mission Impossible," fame. Yeah, the same Ving Rhames who gave his Golden Globe for best actor in a TV miniseries in 1998 to Jack Lemmon. I know, WTF is he doing these stupid low budget SyFy Channel movies for? I suppose one does have to pay the bills.
   He seems to have a penchant for zombies (who doesn't?), as he also starred in the big budget film, "Dawn of the Dead," with our lovely friend, Sarah Polley, and "Day of the Dead," with our other lovely friend Mena Suvari (now all we really need is a "Night of the Dead (oh please, somebody make one!), and "Afternoon of the Dead," and "Evening of the Dead," movies to fill in that 24 hour cycle.
   Not surprisingly, we've discussed zombies before in this post entitled "Irresponsible Climate Zombies,"
   which was really about Republican's inaction in Congress (to be fair, and I don't know why I should be, Democrats are practically just as culpable) concerning climate change. However we did discuss zombies, their sources of energy, and civilizations chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse, which quite frankly are not very good.*
   In Ving's "Zombie Apocalypse," film, for instance, one single, tiny French woman gets infected with the VM2 virus, which of course as everyone knows, will turn an infected person into a zombie. Within 28 days (a very important number in zombie lore), 83% of the entire European population becomes infected, and continues to spread globally, even to the United States. Republican members of Congress denied the spread of Zombiism, and that it was man made, until they became infected themselves and turned into zombies... however no one seemed to notice as they behaved just the same as they did before being infected.
   After six months 90 % of us Americans are zombies, which meant 10% were zombie food. The film then narrows down to a small group of survivors (low budget) who are making their way to Catalina, which is a small island off of the coast of Los Angeles, which is supposedly zombie free, as zombies are notoriously bad swimmers (theoretically, as zombies are dead and all, they could walk to Catalina on the ocean floor as they don't need to breath... because they're dead). Ving is part of that group.
   There's a lot of zombie abuse in this film, and people being eating by zombies, which is their way. I've seen it all before. I'm pretty sure I've seen "Zombie Apocalypse," before, so I turned the TV off and watched the first episode of "The Americans," on my computer, which involved sticking fingers up people's asses, and old Fleetwood Mac and Phil Collins' songs (for a moment I thought I was watching a rerun of "Miami Vice"). After that was over I turned my television back on and the zombies were still there, so I turned the sound off and went to sleep surrounded by brain eating zombies.
   With AMC's "The Walking Dead," and Brad Pitt's "World War Z," coming out soon, zombies seem to be very popular these days.
   Fictional ones at least.
   I don't know why.
   The next morning I read this article concerning Monsanto, the giant American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri, and the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act," which is aptly worded as that's all it does, protects Monsanto.
   The company tried passing the same act last year, but a huge outcry from consumers, and organizations such as The Center for Food Safety, the National Family Farm Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists stopped the Senate from including the provision in the 2012 Farm Bill and the 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill.
   Yet giant multinational corporations can at times be very persistent, and lobbyists for the company got somebody in the Senate (Sen Roy Blunt) to slip in what is known as a legislative rider into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill, which the Senate passed in a 73 to 26 vote, which keeps the federal government operating past the March 27th expiration date of last year’s continuing resolution. The rider, entitled Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735, grants Monsanto immunity from federal courts pending the review of any genetically modified (GM) crop that is thought to be dangerous, by anybody! Under the section, courts would be helpless to stop Monsanto from continuing to plant GM crops that are thought even by the US government to be a danger to health or the environment.
   The provision also gives Monsanto blanket immunity from any United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) action regarding the potential dangers of its GM products while under review (if the USDA was ever inclined to take action, which is debatable). The USDA would be unable to act against any and all new genetically modified organisms (GMO) that are suspected to be adversely effecting either human health or the environment.
   So why would Congress give up so much power to Monsanto?
   Good question. We've previously discussed comprehensively the possibility that Congress may be an itsy bitsy corrupt here:
   Right now nothing short of a presidential veto will put an end to the ruling. Is the president expected to veto the ruling? Not really.
   If you're concerned about this issue and would like it for President Obama to veto this provision, here's a petition you can sign urging him to do so:
   But Rick... what's a GMO?
   Funny you should ask. GMOs are plants or animals created through gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional cross breeding. Once genetically modified crops are seeded and grown, cross pollination can occur with non GM crops, thus creating contamination.
   So what's the big deal? We've got a lot of GM crops out there already as this list indicates:
Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
Also animal products like milk, meat, fish, eggs, honey, etc. because of contamination in feed and intentional modification.
   Well the big deal concerns several possible problems with GMOs, and controversies, such as:  risk of harm from GM food, whether GM food should be labeled, the role of government regulators, the effect of GM crops on the environment, the impact of GM crops for farmers, including farmers in developing countries, the role of GM crops in feeding the growing world population, and GM crops as part of the industrial agriculture system.
   Wikipedia tells us: "Advocacy groups such as Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund have concerns that risks of GM food have not been adequately identified and managed, and have questioned the objectivity of regulatory authorities. Opponents of food derived from GMOs are concerned about the safety of the food itself and wish it banned, or at least labeled. They have concerns about the objectivity of regulators and rigor of the regulatory process, about contamination of the non-GM food supply, about effects of GMOs on the environment, about industrial agriculture in general, and about the consolidation of control of the food supply in companies that make and sell GMOs, especially in the developing world. Some are concerned that GM technology tampers too deeply with nature."
   Wikipedia also tells us that as yet no reports of ill effects have been documented in the human population from GM food.
   So why don't we just label these suckers and let consumers make their own choices about what they eat?
   My own state of California tried to pass a Proposition, number 37, to be exact, last November, but it narrowly failed. The huge amount of money supplied by agricultural and industrial interests, like Monsanto let's say, which opposed the measure might have had something to do with this.
   If it had passed California would have been the first state in the nation to pass such a law.
   Oregon's thinking about doing it right now. Last Thursday lawmakers heard testimony on several bills that require labels on genetically modified food and prohibit importing genetically modified fish.
   Supporters say consumers should know what kind of food they are buying at the grocery store, and genetically engineered fish threaten Oregon's native fish.
   Opponents say labeling foods would stigmatize the products, and the engineering process has been proven safe.
   Proven safe. That sounds pretty certain. But when you're talking about a living organism released into the environment that changes and mutates as all living organisms do, how can we be so certain?
   The answer is we can't. As powerful and as rich as Monsanto is, it still cannot predict the future, because it's an agricultural company, not a time travel company.
   No one knows for sure what these creations may or may not turn into once loosed into the world, which has already happened.
   Perhaps GM foods will safely feed the billions of starving people in the world that exist today and in the future.
   Or perhaps it will mutate into something like the ebola virus, or worse yet, the T-virus of "Resident Evil, or VM2 virus of the "Zombie Apocalypse," movie above.
   And once a zombie apocalypse starts... well it's awfully hard to stop.

*"According to a 2009 Carleton University and University of Ottawa epidemiological analysis, an outbreak of even Living Dead's slow zombies 'is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, unless it is dealt with quickly.' Based on their mathematical modelling, the authors concluded that offensive strategies were much more reliable than quarantine strategies, due to various risks that can compromise a quarantine. They also found that discovering a cure would merely leave a few humans alive, since this would do little to slow the infection rate.
On a longer time scale, the researchers found that all humans end up turned or dead. This is because the main epidemiological risk of zombies, besides the difficulties of neutralizing them, is that their population just keeps increasing; generations of humans merely "surviving" still have a tendency to feed zombie populations, resulting in gross outnumbering. The researchers explain that their methods of modelling may be applicable to the spread of political views or diseases with dormant infection." -Wikipedia

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