Big Biotech, the chilling combo of genetic engineering, Big Chem, seed giants and Big Ag, is forging ahead in its hopes of dominating global agriculture and even patenting food production. Successfully fighting GMO labeling at home, the well-funded makers of Frankenfoods are also desperate to open overseas markets for Biotech which most of the world does not want.
Products like the genetically modified golden rice, said to provide Vitamin A, are spun as charitable efforts to feed the world. Yet they are widely seen as a publicity stunt to “humanize” Biotech while getting a foot in overseas markets for billions to be made by herbicide, pesticide, and chemical fertilizer makers. The “very concept of relieving suffering throughout the developing world with a monoculture of genetically altered ‘super gruel’ at face value is both undignified and untenable,” writes geopolitical researcher and writer Tony Cartalucci. Biotech companies also preempt traditional, localized food systems and development programs Cartalucci points out.
Now Elanco, Eli Lilly’s animal drug division, is launching a campaign to make Biotech look like a new arm of the UN/WHO. It is exhorting activists to “feed the world” through supporting Biotech food technology and becoming “an advocate for a food secure future.” What? Activists who join the “ENOUGH” movement, rolled out on the web site Sensible Table, will get a T-shirt, “tool kit” and the glow of knowing they are making the world a better place.
If you have never heard of Elanco, you are not alone. Animal Pharma companies tend to fly under the radar because their end customers are not food consumers but food producers. Unlike human Pharma, Animal Pharma’s livestock drugs seldom make the news or force hearings on Capitol Hill. (Nor do its antibiotics, growth producers, hormones, vaccines, wormers and anti-parasite and anti-fungal drugs appear on the food labels.)
Elanco is the “Monsanto” of animal-based agriculture. Even as U.S. food chains renounced Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) milk drug Posilac, Elanco bought the drug in 2008, redoubled marketing and built a new production plant for it in Augusta, Georgia. Elanco is the reason most U.S. pigs, and many cows and turkeys are now grown with the unlabeled and dangerous asthma-like drug ractopamine.
Elanco recently went on a drug company acquisition binge, acquiring Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Animal Health and Heska Corp., (which makes veterinary diagnostic and specialty products) in 2011 and, this year, Novartis Animal Health and Lohmann Animal Health which makes poultry vaccines and feeds. The Novartis acquisition added 3,000 new employees, 600 new products and nine manufacturing sites making Elanco the second largest Animal Pharma company in the world.
Elanco is now doing the heavy lifting for Big Biotech trying to pry open markets in Europe, Africa and Asia by pretending it is addressing world hunger.
Here are six outrageous lies found in Elanco’s “How We’ll Feed The World” report.
1. Unadulterated food is “luxury” and “status” food
“In developed countries, most consumers have many choices when it comes to their food supply. . . . Some choose to spend more on foods that reflect their value systems. Yet in developing nations, choices are more limited, and so is the ability to treat food as a luxury item or a lifestyle choice.” So begins Elanco’s redefinition of unadulterated, normal, non-Biotech food as a “luxury.”
And there’s more. GMOs, food made with antibiotics and chemicals, milk made with synthetic hormones and eggs produced with battery cages are “innovations” to help world hunger. “Organics and ‘luxury food’ produced without innovation have almost become a status symbol for those who can afford it,” says Elanco. “Is it fair—or justifiable—for shoppers living in comfort to disregard innovations that can help feed others?”
2. Consumers who want unadulterated food are a fringe minority
Despite the throngs who shop at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and local markets, food consumers seeking unadulterated food are a “fringe minority voice that does not represent the consumer, but a socially charged agenda,” says Elanco. They only appear to be large numbers because of the way surveys are written. Instead of asking, “What’s important to you when you purchase beef?” surveys lead the witness, says Elanco, by asking “Are you concerned about factory farms growing your food?”
This “fringe minority . . . does not represent the consumer, but a socially charged agenda,” says Elanco. It operates out of “vegetarian/vegan principles, support for organic systems, local food, and other ideologies.” Wanting to be healthy is an ideology?
3. The Web spreads lies about “innovations”
There is a reason Big Pharma and Big Food fear the Web and social media. It can’t be bought, manipulated or spun! Big Ag has forced through “Ag Gag” laws in eight states that criminalize free speech and whistleblower activity. When Idaho lawmakers were confronted with grotesque undercover video from Bettencourt Dairies Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen, Idaho showing workers beating trapped cows and dragging a cow by a chain around her neck they had a swift response: They passed a law to criminalize videotaping of farms. Yet even leading pro-animal ag voices say streaming live video on factory farms might be the only way to stop abuse,
Recently Big Pharma got approval from the FDA to make “corrections” to “factually incorrect postings” on the Web and Twitter without having to balance them with the side effects found in its ads. Why the new leniency? “Correcting the many incorrect posts is an important tool for drug companies whose reputation can be shattered by bloggers,” said the FDA about its industry buddy.
4) Biotech food is green
It was a great moment in factory farming disingenuity. In 2009 the National Turkey Federation’s Michael Ryblot told Congress if they took away his antibiotics it would increase manure and pollution and be less green because the animals couldn’t be crammed together. Similar arguments swirled around Monsanto (now Elanco’s) recombinant bovine growth hormone because Posilac made each cow “unit” produce more milk. “Fewer cows means less methane produced by bovine intestinal tracts, and manure production is cut by about 3.6 million tons” per year said an op-ed in the Washington Times. “At the same time, more than 5.5 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel (enough to power 8,800 homes) are saved, greenhouse gas emissions are lowered by 30,000 metric tons.”
“More innovation not more animals,” asserts the Elanco report, repeating the same Biotech green-washing. “Simply by using practices available today or already in the pipeline, cows around the world can increase their output by a mere half glass per cow, enough to satisfy future global demand,” in a veiled commercial for GMOs like rBGH. Adding the “innovations” would save “747 Million Tons of feed, 388 Million Acres
of farmland . . . [and[ 618 Billion Gallons of water” a year says the report. Why does Big Ag only admit to environmental destruction when selling Biotech?
5) Transporting food across the world is green
Even as many in the U.S. embrace the carbon footprint friendly idea of locally grown food, Big Ag and Biotech tout the opposite. “Growing food in highly productive areas where the resources exist, then moving it to areas of need, offers far more efficient use of resources,” says Elanco’s report. “In fact, transportation accounts for less than 4% of the environmental impact of food production. Further, it’s cost effective. Refrigerated freight for a pound of meat to Asia adds just 15 cents on average to the cost.”
The U.S. chicken industry has done similar computations. Last fall, the Obama administration approved the sale in the U.S. of chickens raised and slaughtered in the U.S. or Canada, “processed” in China and sent back to the U.S. Presumably the outsourced labor is cheap enough to offset transportation and refrigeration costs, though no one is addressing the carbon footprint. Sending chickens half way around the world and back for U.S. consumers also has a precedent. “The U.S. currently allows shrimp to be sent to China for processing, including breading,” reports Bloomberg, and imported $1.9 billion worth of seafood from China in 2012. Recent KFC, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s scandals show the dangers in China food production, especially meat.
6) Lack of biotech foods is causing world hunger
It takes a lot of gall for Biotech, which patents foods, corners markets and annihilates indigenous farmers and small farms to accuse its critics of causing world hunger. But in the Elanco report, critics of Biotech “innovation” are blamed for world hunger even though the World Food Program, a more credible source, puts the blame squarely on climate change, poverty, unstable markets, war and displacement. The World Food Program also affirms that “the world produces enough to feed the entire global population of 7 billion people.” But of course by “hunger” Elanco means lack of meat, milk and eggs which are its profit centers thanks to the antibiotics, growth producers, hormones, vaccines and other chemicals it seeks to sell.
Without Biotech, “consumers in Asia, Africa and Latin America will lack choices and have diminished ability to nourish their families with high quality animal protein,” warns Elanco, thought animal protein is often not a big part of indigenous food traditions. (For example the Kenyan runners who consistently win U.S. marathons eat little meat.) Like the controversial Christian live animal charity Heifer International which Elanco supports, “food shortages” really means lack of animal food which is deemed “better” than other sources of protein. But better for whom? Countries that currently lack the heart disease, diabetes and obesity that come from the Western diet? Or better for Biotech?
Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed “Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health,” published by Prometheus Books. Check her Facebook page.