A deadly spray of droplets, that formed a yellow cloud over waterways, crops and trees, was scattered routinely by US Army C-123 planes over Vietnam. During the war, the sweet smelling but deadly herbicide Agent Orange was the more widely used to strip foliage from trees, and expose the Vietcong’s routes throughout the jungle.
Over 19 million litres (same say as much as 76 million litres) of Agent Orange was sprayed across 10 percent of South Vietnam’s land. Over three million Vietnamese citizens suffered the long-term effects of the toxin, and around 2.8 million veterans were exposed. Agent Orange being indiscriminate to everything and everyone it encountered, today, is still killing via birth defects (recorded at 150,000), miscarriages, leukemia in children, cancer, and other serious health issues.
Eerily enough, one of its two active ingredients – that has been described as “probably carcinogenic” – is still routinely used in around 1,500 pesticides today. Mirroring the past, a global network of corporations still control what lives and dies, and now, what grows and what we eat. Agent Orange, which was partly manufactured by Monsanto and partly manufactured by Bayer back in the day, two companies now merging in a historic billion dollar deal, lead a global network that controls two-thirds of the global seed supply and around three-quarters of the agrichemical market.
Today, it is fair to say that the same agrichemical giants who produced Agent Orange now control our diets. Just how poisonous is our food, remains the question.
The ‘probably carcinogenic’ glyphosate works like Agent Orange. Everything it touches it kills. The only plants resistant to the potent herbicide are those genetically modified to resist it. Those plants genetically modified are those that belong to the global agrichemical network and are more commonly known as GMOs.
Although farmers are well aware of the consequences of herbicide use, particularly that of glyphosate, its use has increased by 400 percent over the last two decades. And why not, the farmers argue. It’s cheaper than pulling out weeds. Unfortunately, the dependence on using glyphosate perpetuates the use of GMOs and manufactured seeds.
More alarming is the 12,000 pending patents on plants and animals that extend into the harvesting process of our foods. What was once a “common heritage” right where seeds were passed down farmer to farmer, is now almost defunct with the privatization of agricultural knowledge. What was once freely available to farmers is now a seed patented with strict regulations for those who use them.
With Monsanto’s history of suing farmers not in partnership with them, particularly over cross pollination because of how the wind blows, our food is no longer our own. In 2012 alone, 142 lawsuits were filed and 72 of them won – giving Monsanto a $23.7 million windfall.
Although the EU and Russia are actively banning the use of GMOs and dangerous pesticides, western nations remain largely commercialized. As with Agent Orange, the dangers of glyphosate are only being recognized, with more to come in the decades of our adulthood and those of our children.
The only way to truly counter this problem, short-term, is to grow your own produce.
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