Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

I Think We Should Call It “That Evil Company that Tries to Ruin Farmers”

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Well, we’ve kind of gone on a food industry kick lately.  We’ve covered a number of topics.  I started with vegetarianism and veganism, juice fasts, and other things.  The kids jumped in on learning about the corn industry.  Now we’ve taken it one step farther, a direction I didn’t intend to go, but kind of ended up there anyway.  I’ve also been gifted with learning that not only do I have a feminist in my house, but she’s quite the little activist.  Now I just need to steer her towards acting on those ideas.

It all started with watching Fed Up! Genetic Engineering, Industrial Agriculture and Sustainable Alternatives. I’d put it on because it sounded interesting and Corde jumped on board. Knowing how she is with questions, I decided to pause frequently to discuss what they were talking about. Working on cross-stitch and listening to her brothers’ noise doesn’t exactly make understanding terribly easy, but we got through it pretty well. She got most of it, but I was surprised when she started to latch on to the GM food concept. She had a lot of questions about it, especially the fact that farmers were being forced to pay for crops they never intended to plant because Monsanto can’t seem to control the way their product contaminates other crops.

I suggested we watch another movie about the food industry. I thought I might have her watch one of the movies I had already watched. Some of them were a bit more on the positive side. Of course, Corde was having none of it. She already had in her mind what she wanted to learn about. That’s when we ended up watching David vs. Monsanto.

We talked a good deal about the movie as we watched it.  She was shocked and horrified that a company such as Monsanto could have so much control.  If it had been a chemical contamination they would force the company to pay thousands of dollars to each family effected because they contaminated the soil, drinking water, or whatever else.  Shouldn’t contaminating our food be the same way?

Corde was infuriated.  How could a company such as Monsanto exert so much control over the farm industry?  How can a company confiscate an entire farm’s crops and seeds because some of them were found to have been contaminated with a Monsanto GM pollen.  They gave all this advice about buffer zones and everything else to prevent contamination, yet none of that stopped it.  Monsanto can’t control how far that pollen travels.  They have no right to steal people’s goods, their profits, and everything else, all on suspicion of a patented gene being in the seeds.  They have no right to harass people or take samples without even informing the owner of the property.  Their contract requires those who use Monsanto seeds to only use Monsanto seeds, Monsanto fertilizer, and Monsanto pesticides.  They take their right to look over any records or any product without even asking permission and can enter the grounds for inspection any time within three years of the contract, no matter how long you produced their GM food.  They also have a clause in their contract disallowing Monsanto seed customers to sue Monsanto for any reason.  As Corde put it, “That just sounds wrong.  I’d wonder why they put all that in their if they were making things that are good for us.  If it was good for us they wouldn’t need to worry about people taking them to court.”

More frustrating than their company practices was the effect it had on the world around them.  Monsanto seed products have never been tested by the FDA or EPA.  In Japan the products have been proven to be unsafe and not reasonably similar to their original food products to warrant being untested.  That being said, why are the people at Monsanto taken at their word.  After having a talk about what Monsanto’s roundup ready crops and the BT crops Corde decided that just the fact that they exist alone should be reason to have these foods tested for safety for human consumption.  What about the damages they are doing on the rest of the farms.  Other plants are picking up this genetic code and are now dropping sterile seeds.  While most people are worried about how this could effect other crops, Corde has a much more practical concern.  What if that starts effecting normal, every-day vegetation.  Are we going to have to buy seeds for everything from Monsanto or not have any vegetation on the Earth anywhere?  While I somehow suspect it’s not that easy, with all of the crops that are picking up the gene I can’t help but wonder how long cross-pollination between species starts effecting plants that aren’t crops.  (Good call on Corde for this one!  I wouldn’t have even thought of it!)  I know it’s not that simple.  Plants don’t just cross-pollinate with anything, but over time as species after species starts to mix with those Monsanto genes, I can see it starting to take hold.  It could wipe out vegetation as we know it, even if it’s not in any of our lifetimes.

Monsanto’s practices for getting it’s way also bother Corde.  They wouldn’t need to be this aggressive if they “didn’t know they were being the bad guys.  They know they’re doing something wrong and they’re trying not to get in trouble for it.”  They’re trying to get their corner on the market by willingly allowing their product to effect other farms through contamination.  As Corde put it, if they can engineer their seeds to drop to the ground dead and if they can engineer their crops to be immune to weed killer and bugs, why can’t they engineer their crops not to spread pollen at all.  Wouldn’t that solve the problem?  No pollen to contaminate other crops means they won’t be forcing their product on people who don’t want it.  Instead she thinks they’re playing the evil genius card by forcing everyone to convert to an inferior and possibly deadly product.  They’re trying to maximize profits by forcing everyone to buy their seeds year after year instead of collecting their own seeds from harvest as they’ve always done.  They’re trying to force everyone to use their pesticide and weed control.  If their products were so great they wouldn’t have to go to those lengths.  The products would sell themselves.  It all points to Monsanto being wrong.

That being said, I find it positively terrifying that my 9 year old thinks something should be done about this, but the US government doesn’t want to be bothered with it.  She’s only watched all of three videos on the food industry and she’s already set to boycott high fructose corn syrup and GMOs.  She’s ready to act towards demanding GMOs be labeled and for GMOs to be tested by the FDA and EPA to assess their damage on both the people who use the products as well as the areas they’re grown in.  She’s already decided that the presence of GMOs is contributing to our farm industry going under and requiring government subsidies to get by, even though those low prices contribute to the junk food epidemic this country faces.  She’s decided that food should be made at a reasonable cost to all people, real, natural, healthy food, and that farmers shouldn’t have to worry about what happens when Monsanto products drift their way.  If she gets all of this, why doesn’t the government take action?

Corde isn’t some kind of child-prodigy.  She’s not a super-genius.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking her intelligence in the least.  She is really bright, but so are most kids when given half the chance to shine.  I’m just trying to illustrate that she is a child.  She comes at the world from the point of view of a child.  She’s not some adult that’s spent a good deal of time studying the system and how it works.  She’s watched exactly three movies on the food industry and already she can tell you with good reasoning why she feels that Monsanto is an unethical company and why the government should be regulating what it’s doing.  She can illustrate where things need to change to make for a healthier world where everyone can afford to eat.  If a 9 year old can figure out a plausible solution to the world hunger problem by getting rid of GMOs and no longer subsidizing crops that require being highly processed to be useful to anyone then why can’t the government do the same?  Sure, I know it’s not quite that simple, but she’s got the right idea, and has a lot of suggestions for implementing it.  She’s only 9!  And I haven’t helped her come up with any of her ideas!  She’s done it on her own!  All I’ve done is lead the horse to water in showing her the first two documentaries.  She specifically requested to watch the third of her own accord without so much as a suggestion or hint from me.  I was about ready to pass over it entirely.

Since that documentary on Monsanto, Corde has decided Monsanto should be called “That evil company that tries to ruin farmers” from now on.  Beekee, who is only 5, mind you, thinks that Monsanto is a “real-life Lex Luthor” and that the company is a real example of a super-villain.  He thinks that’s incredibly dangerous because there’s no superhero to combat their evil corporation.  These are just kids and they get it.  If they get it, why can’t the big guys who run the country, the ones who are supposedly trained to do this kind of work?  Do they really want to be shown up by a 9 year old and a 5 year old?


Author: Fox

With four kids, who has time for much? We spend a lot of time together, which translates to a lot of knitting time for me when we hang out. We've been trying to get back to our unschooling roots. We watch a lot of videos, play a lot of games, and pay attention to the things we notice in our everyday life. It's been quite the big adventure!

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