How You Might Be Investing in Monsanto’s Toxic Legacy Without Realizing It

Video image: Food Democracy Now!

Monsanto didn’t achieve $11.8 billion in sales and 404 facilities in 66 countries all on its own.

The company is valued at $60 billion in the marketplace with 525 million shares outstanding, but the three largest mutual fund shareholders, Vanguard, Fidelity and State Street, own nearly 16 percent of Monsanto stock. By comparison, the seed giant’s CEO Hugh Grant owns less than 1 percent.

This all means there’s a solid chance that the toxic law manipulator may be nestled somewhere in your mutual fund or 401(k) plan. Those findings are part of a six-month investigation by Food Democracy Now! that results in the launch of a global divestment campaign against Monsanto.

Whether it’s by contacting a financial advisor to dump Monsanto investments or strategically opting into funds that aren’t linked to Monsanto or other chemical or biotech companies, the organization is encouraging people around the world to divest.

“Monsanto is a ruthless corporation that operates beyond the ethical boundaries of what is acceptable for a healthy democratic society, said Dave Murphy, founder and Executive Director of Food Democracy Now!, said in a statement. “For decades its executives lied about the harm of its toxic chemicals, intimidated scientists and bullied farmers to put profits over human health and public safety.

“It’s time to broaden socially responsible investing to confront the significant harms that Monsanto has caused.”

The organization likens Monsanto to tobacco corporations like Philip Morris and RJR Reynolds that most never knowingly invest in.

Last year, Monsanto spent $4.5 million in opposition of a Washington State bill to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. In February, an International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study linked Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer to a fatal chronic kidney disease impacting poor farming areas around the world.

Food Democracy bills its campaign as a way for people to stop unknowingly profiting from such activities and stop “financing them as they poison the planet, contaminate our food supply and corrupt our democracy.” Here’s an excerpt from the letter to executives at Fidelity, Vanguard and Street State that the organization is asking people to sign:

“As the manufacturers of Agent Orange, DDT, and PCBs, Monsanto’s corporate executives intentionally ignored the warning of their own scientists for decades regarding the harmful and even deadly effects these products had on their workers, communities where the chemicals were manufactured and even America’s veterans …

Remove Monsanto’s stock from any open-ended fund under your management.

I urge you to take this important step for people and the planet. 

It’s time to take a stand for future generations.”

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China Has 8 Million Acres of Land Too Polluted to Grow Food

China's Ministry of Environmental Protection says it will spend billions of yuan to transform its polluted land. Photo credit: Chindia-Alert.org

For as much news as China’s smog situation makes, another large problem has lagged in attention—the pollution of 8 million acres of farmland across the country.

The land is far too polluted with heavy metals and chemicals that it can’t be used to grow food, Wang Shiyuan, deputy minister of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said Monday.

The Ministry found “moderate to severe pollution” on 3.3 million hectares (8.3 million acres) of land, according to Huffington Post. The country needs at least 120 million hectares of arable land to meet the large population’s needs. The nation began the year with 135 million hectares of arable land, but contamination and efforts to convert farmland to forests, grasslands and wetlands dropped that amount to 120 million hectares, ThinkProgress reported.

“These areas cannot continue farming,” Wang said.

China's Ministry of Environmental Protection says it will spend billions of yuan to transform its polluted land. Photo credit: Chindia-Alert.org

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection says it will spend billions of yuan to transform its polluted land. Photo credit: Chindia-Alert.org

Wang added that he would spend “tens of billions of yuan” per year to rehabilitate polluted land. Farmers are already prohibited from raising crops for humans in areas deemed too badly polluted, though tainted rice and other crops still wound up in the food supply.

China’s main grain, rice, has been hampered by Cadmium, which is a carcinogenic metal that can cause kidney damage. Chinese authorities began investigating rice mills in May after test results found that nearly half of supplies sold in Guangzhou were contaminated with cadmium.

“Cadmium has a tendency to accumulate in the kidney and liver,” Chen Nengchang, a scholar at the Guangdong Institute of Eco-environment and Soil Sciences, told The New York Times. “When the accumulation reaches a certain point, it will pose a serious health risk for the organs.”

Wang’s press conference comes at the end of a year when the Chinese government received complaints about its refusal to release results of a nationwide soil pollution survey. The Ministry came under fire after declaring the results a “state secret.”

“We think it’s always the right of the public to know how bad the situation is,” said Ma Tianjie, a Greenpeace East Asia researcher. “The Chinese public can accept the fact that our environment is polluted. The important thing is to give them the means to challenge polluters and improve the environment, and not just keep them in the dark.”

Visit EcoWatch’s FOOD page for more related news on this topic.

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