You probably don’t think “GMO” when you buy a cotton t-shirt. But it’s Monsanto that now grows about half of the world’s cotton. On more than 40 million acres. The top three countries producing GE cotton? India, China and the U.S.
Monsanto’s control over the cotton seed market in India has been agriculturally and economically devastating. Millions of small cotton farmers have been duped into buying Monsanto’s high-priced GE seeds, only to go bankrupt. In despair, more than 200,000 cotton farmers have committed suicide. Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop in the world. Cotton farmers and farmworkers, and the people living in cotton-growing communities, are exposed to deadly doses of toxic chemicals. Most of the world’s cotton clothes are produced in sweatshops, where people are paid low wages to work long hours in unsafe working conditions. In a tragic example of how dangerous conditions are, a building collapse in April 2013 left more than a thousand people dead or missing. Inside that building workers produced many of the leading brands for the U.S.’s $340-billion dollar garment industry.
It’s taken decades, but finally the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food has gone mainstream. We’re poised to win what everyone agrees will be the deciding GMO labeling battle – I-522, the Washington State initiative that will require mandatory labeling of GMO ingredients in food sold in Washington. Combined with recent wins in Maine and Connecticut, a win in Washington will force food manufacturers to label nationally.
What’s next? More education and more consciousness-raising. Because truth is, most GMO crops don’t go into the food we eat. They go into animal feed, biofuels and clothing. Without proper safety testing. Without adequate environmental impact analysis. We can do better. Let’s win the GMO food labeling battle. Then let’s take on GMO animal feed, biofuels, cotton and clothing.