Saw an excellent documentary a few days back called the Future of food
which provides an in depth look into genetically modified food and the nexus that big companies , specifically Monsanto in the film , have with the highest political levels.
Genetically modified food and Monsanto
go hand in hand as Monsanto developed genetically modified food for the first time. Monsanto started as a chemicals industry with a number of patents to their name including saccharin and agent orange . Their foray into the food industry began with Roundup
, a broad spectrum herbicide . Soon after Monsanto got into genetically engineered seeds which were engineered to withstand Roundup . So in principle if you sprayed a field of Monsanto cropp wtih Roundup , everything else but the crop would perish . In principle this sounds great (i.e if you are willing to have copious amounts of herbicide in your food ) , to a certain extent it works as well and then things start to get dirty . It begins with the patenting of GE (genetically engineered) seeds . Once Monsanto holds a patent on it if John Doe wants their product he has to pay for it . Traditionally farmers stored their own seed , ready for the next planting but the patent Monsanto holds makes them buy the seed everytime they plant .Replanting the seeds would lead to John Doe being sued . Then it gets dirtier . If a few seeds find their way to a field which doesn't plant Monsanto , Monsanto can come and claim that the the farmer is using their seed illegally , which means fines , penalties etc . And's whats more , since the crop is indistinguishable from traditional strains even the seed for subsequent years can be contaminated and hence it is not possible to keep your own seed .
All through this Monsanto is helped along in its goal by dubious judgements in the highest courts of law , the whole issue of testing the crop is circumvented by employing ex employees of Monsanto in the role of the watchdog . John Ashcroft , Donald Rumsfeld are a couple of names among many others that crop as being direct beneficieries of Monsano largesse , either in ways of election funds or being employees of Monsanto at a certain point in history . To quote Sourcewatch
"The connections between Monsanto and the new Bush administration are also very solid. G.W.’s pop, Bush Sr. appointed Clarence Thomas, a Monsanto attorney, to the Supreme Court. Thomas played a key role in the selection of G.W. as president. John Ashcroft, the current attorney general, was the top recipient of Monsanto contributions when he recently tried to get reelected to the U.S. Senate. Donald Rumsfeld, the current secretary of defense, was president of Searle Pharmaceuticals, now owned by Monsanto. Tommy Thompson, now the secretary of Health and Human Services, helped the biotech industry by getting the state of Wisconsin to set up a $37 million biotech zone there. He received $50,000 from the biotech industry for his reelection campaign. The current secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, was on the board of directors of Calgene Pharmaceuticals, an affiliate of Monsanto. Recently, Linda J. Fisher, a former Monsanto official, was nominated by Bush to be second-in-command at the EPA. She was Monsanto’s representative in Washington from 1995 to 2000 and coordinated the company’s strategy to blunt resistance to genetically modified food"  (http://web.mit.edu/thistle/www/v13/4/food.html) See also GM lobby takes root in Bush's cabinet (http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,431727,00.html). Other high level government connections include Stansfield Turner, former Director of the CIA and member of the Monsanto Board  (http://www.nndb.com/people/964/000022898/) and Earle H. Harbison former president of Monsanto and CIA officer for 19 years  (http://record.wustl.edu/archive/1995/06-22-95/3766.html).
Definately a must see .
Here is more on Monsanto at sourcewtch .sourcewatch