The Hightower Report
Watch Out for Superweeds; and Let's Try Good Government
Watch Out for Superweeds
As an old TV ad used to say: "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."
Monsanto, however, still has not taken Mother's advice. This giant chemical maker became a veritable Frankenstein in the 1990s, genetically engineering new organisms in an effort to fool Mother Nature for fun and profit. But Mama got mad – and now she's kicking Monsanto's butt all across the country.
Here's the background: Monsanto marketed a weed-killer labeled "Roundup" to farmers. But the weed-killer also tended to kill the crops. Thus, Monsanto's mad scientists artificially manipulated the genes of corn, cotton, and soybean seeds to produce crops that – hocus-pocus! – could absorb mega doses of Roundup without croaking. These patented seeds, called "Roundup Ready," helped Monsanto sell oceans of its weed-killer.
But Mother Nature's weeds are smarter than the Frankensteins in Monsanto's labs, and they've quickly evolved into tenacious superweeds that Roundup can't kill. There are now 10 resistant species of these superweeds infesting some 10 million acres in 22 states – and spreading.
Monsanto sold its Roundup Ready seeds as a miracle crop, charged far more for them, and scoffed at concerns that the weeds would adapt. But there they are, and farmers are now having to use extra-toxic herbicides to kill the aggressive mutant weeds that have invaded their fields. The result is higher costs for farmers, lower crop yields, more poisoning of land and water, and a rising chorus of farmers saying, "Some miracle, Monsanto – thanks for nothing!"
All of this because one arrogant, profiteering corporation thought it could fool Mother Nature. As an Arkansas farm leader says of Monsanto's creation of the spreading superweed crisis: "It's the single largest threat to production agriculture we have ever seen."
Let's Try Good Government
If you're an aficionado of ironic justice, try this morsel: On the day that BP's Gulf oil rig blew up, seven of the corporation's executive muckety-mucks happened to be on the platform, having gathered there for a ceremony to tout the project's safety record! They were injured but survived.
Adding to the irony of a safety celebration literally exploding in the face of corporate big wigs is the fact that BP's bosses have been primary pushers of successful lobbying efforts in Washington to water down America's environmental and safety rules. So this epic oil catastrophe is not an accident. It's the inevitable result of industry-government collusion to put Big Oil's profits ahead of human life, ecological vitality, and the economic well-being of others.
Indeed, the Minerals Management Service (the agency that supposedly regulates offshore drilling) has blithely adopted nearly 100 loosey-goosey "rules" that were written by the industry's chief lobbying group. For example, the agency does not require these inherently risky rigs to have a backup shutdown system, as required by other nations with offshore wells. Thus, BP, which soaks up billions of dollars in profits each year, chose not to install a remote-control shutoff valve on this disastrous well, simply because it didn't want to spend the $500,000 it would've cost. Now – because of such ridiculously reckless laissez-faire laxity – BP, the people of the Gulf, and our nation face untold billions of dollars in economic losses, plus unfathomable environmental destruction.
BP's blowout in the Gulf – along with Wall Street's unbridled rampage through our economy and Massey Energy's deadly disregard for mine safety – stands as a monument to mindless anti-government ideology and as a testament to the urgent need for good government.
Don't miss "Swim Against the Current: Highlights From the Jim Hightower Archive," on exhibit currently as part of Texas State's Witliff Collections. Through July 31. Texas State University, San Marcos, www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu.