The Weston A. Price Foundation has filed a lawsuit in the state of Illinois, seeking a permanent injunction against the serving of soy-based prison meals. In a recent press release on the case (westonaprice.org/press/press-13jul09.html), we noted that if the state succeeds in continuing the high level of soy protein in prison meals, other institutions will be next, including schools for young children. In fact, the state of Illinois has a pilot program to increase the use of soy protein in several school district lunch programs. This article is based on a letter we received in response to our press release.
The threat of children being the targets for meals of toxic soybeans is not at all farfetched. In fact, this has already been happening for years in Argentina through soy food aid. Rural populations, whose traditional food crops and grass-fed cattle have been displaced to make way for the cultivation of GMO soybeans, have now no choice but to eat soybeans. Ironically, the large monocultures of soybeans, generously sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate (Round- Up), grown for export to feed the pigs, cows and poultry in Europe and China, are now proposed as a solution to fight malnutrition for poor Argentineans. Even churches, which should be speaking out about the problem of soybeans in Latin America, are not saying anything because some are accepting donations of soy to distribute to their congregations.
It is important to be concerned about whether eating GMO soybeans or eating soybeans at all is good for our health or not. Soybeans themselves, however, are not the culprit. We should get to the root of why there is this push to replace our customary foods with soybean-based products and look at the other issues around growing soybeans, particularly GMO soybeans.
If there is such a push it is because someone is making a lot of money selling soybeans. Multinational companies like Monsanto, Syngenta (which produces the seed and chemicals for GMO soybeans), Cargill and companies that ship the beans have a strategic plan, which they have been implementing since 2006, to turn Latin America into a large soybean monoculture. Little by little, through aggressive incentive policies, not devoid of violence, they have been spreading the crop in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia, placing soybean processing plants in strategic ports for export.
The interest of these companies is not to solve world hunger or protect the environment but to reap great profits. Among the consequences of GMO soybeans in Latin America are displacement of small farmers, as they cannot survive in the middle of large monocultures of soybeans sprayed with glyphosate from the air, and direct glyphosate poisoning of children and adults from the sprays.
Apart from destroying rural communities and poisoning the soil and water, the soy expansion is destroying fragile ecosystems in Latin America. It is destroying the mollisols of Argentina, which were among the richest soils in the world, and the Chaco forest, which used to be known as “El Impenetrable,” making it no longer impenetrable. The Amazonian forest in Brazil and Bolivia is turning into the Amasoja instead.
This has a consequence on global climate change and nutrient flows. The deforestation that occurs to make way for the soybeans causes local drying of the climate, which has the snowball effect of causing more forest fires and more drying of the climate, therefore further deforestation and climate change. The specter of the entire region becoming desertic is real, and this would jeopardize the water supply for the entire continent. Furthermore, as soybeans are very efficient extractors of nutrients, enormous amounts of plant nutrients are being extracted from South American soils to end up in the oceans via European and Asian waterways, from the manure of soy-fed animals. This results in eutrophication—nitrate leaching—which then leads to destruction of mangroves, coral reefs and other marine ecosystems that serve as the nurseries for the world’s fish.
The outcry against the excesses of soybean monocultures has forced the companies involved to react by adopting so-called “responsible soybean production,” which has the approval of some conservation organizations including the World Wildlife Fund. However these methods do not solve the problem but only attempt to legitimize it and might in fact accelerate the rate of deforestation because they do not consider secondary forest to be valuable as forest.
The soybean issue illustrates what can happen when our foods, which are the basis for our health, culture, communities and survival, are considered to be mere commodities to generate financial profit.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
• “Genetically Modified Soya in Food Aid Programmes” by Elizabeth Bravo, www.lasojamata.org/files/soy_republic/Chapt04GMsoya-FoodAid.pdf
• United Soy Republics: The Truth about Soy Production in South America, available on line at: www.lasojamata.org/en/node/91
• “The Crop-sprayed villages of Argentina” by Lilian Joensen in: http:// www.lasojamata.org/files/soy_republic/Chapt07CropsprayedVillagesArgentina. pdf
• Articles on direct glyphosate poisoning of children and adults: upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/412/44/ and www.toxicsoy.org/toxicsoy/irresponsible.html
• Amosoja, a documentary film: www.insomnia-sales.com/pro/fiche_ pro.php?ID_Film=69
• Article on eutrophication: archive.corporateeurope.org/docs/soygreenwash. pdf
• The Round Table on Irresponsible Soy: archive.corporateeurope.org/ docs/soygreenwash.pdf.
WARNINGS ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SOY
Traditional soybeans contain a variety of toxins that can slowly poison those that eat even small amounts of it on a regular basis. Genetically engineered (GM) soy now appears to be much, much worse. According to Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles, “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.” GM soy contains two new proteins with allergenic properties and has seven times more trypsin inhibitor, a known soy allergen. When GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks, compared to a 10 percent death rate among the control group fed natural soy. The GM-fed babies were also smaller and had fertility problems. When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles actually changed color, from the normal pink to dark blue. Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm (www.responsibletechnology.org, May 2009).
Monsanto has always insisted on the safety of the herbicide RoundUp, used heavily on genetically engineered crops, claiming that “drinking a glass of glyphosate is healthier than drinking a glass of milk.” But new research reveals that the herbicide could cause brain, intestinal and heart defects in fetuses. According to one of the study’s authors, embryology professor Andres Carrasco, the doses used “were much lower than the levels used in fumigations.” The study also indicated that glyphosate does not degrade.
In Argentina, farmers each year use between 180 and 200 million liters of glyphosate on RoundUp Ready soybeans. After news of the study appeared in the Argentine press, Dr. Carrasco received a visit from four men at his laboratory who “acted extremely aggressively.” Two of the men were said to be members of an agrochemical industry organization but refused to give their names; the other two claimed to be a lawyer and a notary. Dr. Carrasco has also received offensive phone calls (www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_17680.cfm).
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2009.