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Food Safety

Biodiversity / Fair Prices / Fair Trade

by Bill Christison,
Chicago, Illinois

Bill Christison, president of both the U.S. National Family Farm Coalition and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center delivered this speech on October 28, 1998, in Chicago, Illinois at a meeting hosted by Greenpeace.


Good morning to members of the press and others. I am Bill Christison, a family farmer from Chillicothe, Missouri. We farm 2,000 acres and our major crop is soybeans.

I am here this morning to alert you to the possibility of major food safety problems across the U.S. and other parts of the world.

These problems have been brought about by the Monsantos of the world, through their manipulation of plant genes and the patenting of seeds


Genetically modifying organisms is an experiment, which is using our entire population as guinea pigs and should be halted immediately.

One of life's greatest pleasures is the ability to consume nutritious and delicious food which is clean and pure. With the advent of GMO's (genetically modified organisms), this is no longer possible for most people.

Consumers, unknowingly, are forced to consume transgenic foods. Approximately, 60% of processed foods contain GMO's. We should try to understand why we have this problem in the first place.

The producers of GMOs make the claim that they are the heroes in the battle to produce enough production to feed the masses of people around the world and that this can be accomplished with less pollution of our environment. Many politicians condone this thought. Even USDA and member of the European parliament have been sucked into this thinking. On the other side of the issue, we have many family farmers and most consumers of the world, backed up by leading scientist like Dr. May-Wan Ho from the Open University in London who says in her recent book that GMOs are a much larger threat to humanity than the nuclear threat.

When we look more closely at reality, the truth is gene manipulations narrows the Biodiversity of nature. We need larger gene pools in production agriculture, not smaller, in order to assure food security.

It is a certainty there are health risk involved when we consume genetically altered products. Recently, new reports have come to light in Canada which does not allow BGH and for good reason, the threat of cancer. Our own FDA should consider these reports and recall BGH licenses in United States, until that research in Canada is proven wrong.

The human body's resistance to antibiotics after consuming GMO products is another negative to allowing GMOs.

There is an economic price to be paid by family farmers through lowers prices for their production because their clean products are mixed and blended at terminal elevators. Most countries of the world do not want those contaminated products.

There is a great demand for GMO free grain and oil seeds, but multinational grain companies claim it is impossible to separate clean grain and oil seeds from those that contain GMOs, while at the same time, they have no problems not combining corn with soybeans.

It is significant, the increase in organic production in this Country and around the world. It is also significant, the number of comments received by USDA on organic standards recently. This shows people are concerned about what they put in their bellies.

Seed Patents and Terminator Technologies

Farmers are upset about seed patenting fees and contracts, where you agree to purchase certain chemicals. In my operation those charges would multiple my seed cost by about 400% and could easily double my chemical cost. And, as to their claim about increased production, it is certainly not true. In fact, Pioneer Seed Co.'s test results for the entire state of Missouri show about a 5 bushels per acre lower yield for GMO varieties. On our farm, we use a great deal less chemical per acre; therefore, less pollution than if we used GMOs and Roundup.

Family farmers take a very dim view of the new terminator gene technology which renders sterile all production. This technology in conjunction with the threat of the transfer of genes which could produce super weeds requiring stronger chemicals in something that doesn't work anyway.

I can tell you this technology's only purpose is to assure the Monsantos of the world that they do not get bad PR when their Pinkerton Police Forces chase down farmers who have not paid royalty on the seeds which they produced. There are nearly 500 cases already filed against farmers for unauthorized use of Monsanto's seeds which could cost fines of $30,000.00 to $50,000.00 each.

I think we should recognize the situation for what it is. It is simply a grab by well-funded huge corporations to dominate the production of food for their own economic grain with no consideration for the people that are forced to consume products that they don't want. The consumers of the world owe a debt of gratitude to Greenpeace and Chef's Collaborative 2000 for their part in making known the hazards of GMO production.

Bad Agriculture Policy

One of our primary problems is bad agriculture policy at the national level. This policy encourages concentration and vertical integration. It benefits the mega corporation's takeover of the production of food and fiber in this country.

I firmly believe, corporate agriculture and gene technology will both fall under their own weight given enough time; but, at what cost will that be to the environment and the people of the earth? We must make every effort to sound the alarm before it is too late.

In the United States, we must make our voices heard in the political process. We must demand our land grant universities fulfill their mandate. We need a labeling law immediately. We must get serious about providing an alternative supply of clean soybeans to countries that want and need those products.

Second, we must educate consumers. We can do this if we all join hands and work together.

The only way food security throughout the world can be ensured is through Biodiversity and independent family farmers that receive fair prices for their production along with a fair trade policy.

Related articles:

Family Farms and U.S. Trade Policy:
Part 1: The Impacts on Family Farms of 20 Years of Corporate Trade Agreements
Part 2: Citizen Opposition to Corporate Domination of U.S. Trade Policy

Interview with Dr. Vandana Shiva
"The deeper you can manipulate living structures
the more you can control food and medicine."

Published in In Motion Magazine - December 15, 1998