Monsanto Whistleblower Says Genetically Engineered Crops May Cause Disease
By Jeffrey M. Smith
Monsanto was quite happy to recruit young Kirk Azevedo to sell their genetically engineered cotton. Kirk had grown up on a California farm and had worked in several jobs monitoring and testing pesticides and herbicides. Kirk was bright, ambitious, handsome and idealistic—the perfect candidate to project the company’s “Save the world through genetic engineering” image.
It was that image, in fact, that convinced Kirk to take the job in 1996. “When I was contacted by the headhunter from Monsanto, I began to study the company, namely the work of their CEO, Robert Shapiro.” Kirk was thoroughly impressed with Shapiro’s promise of a golden future through genetically modified (GM) crops. “He described how we would reduce the in-process waste from manufacturing, turn our fields into factories and produce anything from lifesaving drugs to insect-resistant plants. It was fascinating to me.” Kirk thought, “Here we go. I can do something to help the world and make it a better place.”
He left his job and accepted a position at Monsanto, rising quickly to become the facilitator for GM cotton sales in California and Arizona. He would often repeat Shapiro’s vision to customers, researchers, even fellow employees. After about three months, he visited Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters for the first time for new employee training. There too, he took the opportunity to let his colleagues know how enthusiastic he was about Monsanto’s technology that was going to reduce waste, decrease poverty and help the world. Soon after the meeting, however, his world was shaken.
“A vice president pulled me aside,” recalled Kirk. “He told me something like, ‘Wait a second. What Robert Shapiro says is one thing. But what we do is something else. We are here to make money. He is the front man who tells a story. We don’t even understand what he is saying.’”
Kirk felt let down. “I went in there with the idea of helping and healing and came out with ‘Oh, I guess it is just another profit-oriented company.’” He returned to California, still holding out hopes that the new technology could make a difference. But soon Kirk Azevedo experienced another shock, when he learned firsthand how Monsanto responds to potentially serious safety hazards in its GM products.
Ignoring Possible Toxins in GM Plants
In 1997, a few months after he was set straight by the Monsanto Vice President at headquarters, a company scientist told him that GM Roundup Ready cotton plants contained new, unintended proteins that had likely resulted from the gene insertion process. No safety studies had been conducted on the proteins, none were planned, and the cotton plants, which were part of field trials near his home, were being fed to cattle.
Azevedo “was afraid at that time that some of these proteins may be toxic.” Azevedo asked the PhD in charge of the test plot to destroy the cotton rather than feed it to cattle. He argued that until the protein had been evaluated, the cows’ milk or meat could be harmful. The scientist refused.
He approached everyone on his team at Monsanto to raise concerns about the unknown protein, but no one was interested. “Once they understood my perspective, I was somewhat ostracized,” he said. “Once I started questioning things, people wanted to keep their distance from me. I lost cooperation with other team members. Anything that interfered with advancing the commercialization of this technology was going to be pushed aside.”
Azevedo believed that Monsanto’s irresponsible practices might devastate the health of consumers. “These Monsanto scientists are very knowledgeable about traditional products, like chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides,” he said, “but they don’t understand the possible harmful outcomes of genetic engineering.”
He tried to blow the whistle. “I spoke to many Ag commissioners. I spoke to people at the University of California. I found no one who would … even get the connection that proteins might be pathogenic, or that there might be untoward effects associated with these foreign proteins that we knew we were producing. They didn’t even want to talk about it really. You’d kind of see a blank stare.”
Azevedo decided to leave Monsanto. He said, “I’m not going to be part of this disaster.”
To learn more about the health dangers of GMOs, and what you can do to help end the genetic engineering of our food supply, visit www.ResponsibleTechnology.org.
To learn how to choose healthier non-GMO brands, visit www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com.
International bestselling author and filmmaker Jeffrey Smith is the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods. His first book, Seeds of Deception, is the world’s bestselling and #1 rated book on the topic. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, provides overwhelming evidence that GMOs are unsafe and should never have been introduced. Mr. Smith is the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, whose Campaign for Healthier Eating in America is designed to create the tipping point of consumer rejection of GMOs, forcing them out of our food supply.
Monsanto Whistleblower Says Genetically Engineered Crops May Cause Disease
An Open Letter to all employees of Monsanto
In addressing you today, I wish to draw your attention to the background of Monsanto, a company whose name and products are held in contempt not only within the United States, but also in every country where it has offices, its products sold and used. The reason for the contempt goes back to the United States War on Vietnam, in particular August 10th 1961.when the first use of the herbicide Agent Orange began.
President Roosevelt speaking of the attack on Pearl Harbour December 7th 1941 stated, “it will be a day that will live in infamy”.
So too friends will August 10th 1961, for on that day began the spraying of 80 million litres of Agent Orange – manufactured by your company along with others. The spraying was to continue for ten-years. I ask you to imagine every day for ten-years A Vietnamese Pearl Harbour. The loss of life on that day in 1941 was indeed tragic, but consider the loss of life over ten-years, and the millions born years after the war ended in 1975 crippled in mind and body due to Agent Orange.
Today in Vietnam there are over three million victims suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, and the company you work for Monsanto, is one of those responsible.
Hugh Grant who holds the positions of President, Chairman, and Chief Executive of your company was just three years of age when the spraying began and 13 years when it stopped. So we cannot blame him then. But, on reaching the age of 23 in 1981 – six-years after the Vietnam War ended, Hugh Grant joined Monsanto, and would have known the history of the company and its products including Agent Orange, its use on Vietnam and the effect on the people and land.
When he became President, Chairman and CEO if he did not know of Agent Orange and its use, then he is unfit to remain with the company. Shamefully Monsanto’s public relation office to this very day continues to deny any responsibility for the illnesses and deformities that Agent Orange has caused to the people of Vietnam. Nor have they made any financial compensation to the Vietnamese victims. Yet the evidence is plain to see if Hugh Grant or the people who write these denials were to visit the victims in the hospitals, clinics, or in their homes as I have done many times indeed, the offices of Monsanto and Dow Chemicals – another company responsible for Agent Orange – are just a ten-minute car ride away from the Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
In my visits to these offices I have asked that the director or manager to visit or come with me to the Tu Du Hospital, each time they have refused, instead they give me a statement that denies all responsibility.
But Hugh Grant and/or his board members do not have to go to Vietnam to see some of the victims of Agent Orange; they can seen in many cities of the United States, for those who served in Vietnam were also affected and are suffering from the same illnesses and disabilities that the Vietnamese have. Many, again like the Vietnamese victims, have died as a result of Agent Orange.
Friends, next year 2011will see the 50th anniversary of the spraying of Agent Orange on Vietnam. Remember the date 10th August. It will be a day when millions in Vietnam and its friends in many countries around the world will commemorate as a day of infamy.
Tomorrow, as you walk through the gates of your company Monsanto, I ask you to remember the deaths and disabilities that Agent Orange has caused, especially to the many thousands of innocent children who died in their mother’s womb, and those who survived born with deformities and ask yourself:
Why am I working for such a company as MONSANTO?
Len Aldis. Secretary
Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society