The internet has been buzzing over the past few years at the prospect of biotech company Monsanto registering the names of a range of cannabis strains in order to trademark them, with the ultimate master plan of cornering the (presumably legal) cannabis market.
In response to all of this, the Monsanto Company tweeted “Happy 4-20. Time for our yearly reminder: Monsanto has not and is not working on GMO marijuana”. Indeed, Charla Lord, a spokesman for the company has reiterated this on their GMO Answers site. They have continued to deny involvement in cannabis as recently as May 2nd of this year, and the whole episode has been written off as a hoax; “The Monsanto GMO Cannabis Hoax”, no less. End of story. Except that it really isn’t.
It has proven to be impossible to find any substantiated evidence that the company has any interest in cannabis at all. Certainly, there have been strains trademarked e.g. (Gorilla Glue #4), but this appears to have been done by their developers. So it is being done, just not (apparently) by Monsanto.
However, where there is a lack of hard evidence, circumstantial evidence is abundant. First, some background information for you.
Imagine, if you will, two deeply unpleasant people getting married. The unpleasantness is doubled and then some. Such is the situation with the merger of Monsanto and Bayer; two dishonest multinationals with individual histories of legally and ethically questionable practices come together to form the marriage from Hell.
” American multinational, agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation” Monsanto seems about to be bought by “German multinational, pharmaceutical and life sciences company” Bayer for between 62 and 66 billion dollars (the reported amount varies, but really, what’s $4 billion between friends?).
As mentioned, neither of these has a particularly great record. Here are a few details regarding each company:
Monsanto were a major producer and supplier of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, and (possibly connected) developed the controversial weed killer “Roundup” in the 1970’s.
They were also (with Solutia Inc) fined $700 million for the contamination of an entire town with carcinogenic PCB’s.
Another of their “breakthroughs” from the 1990’s is “genetic use restriction technology” involving modified seeds that can be used only once. Any seeds produced via the modified seeds are sterile, meaning anyone wishing to grow more of the same will have to buy more seeds from the original source. They’re still involved in a number of controversies internationally.
Monsanto have been buying out seed companies for the past two decades and have recently been rumoured to have set their sights on the cannabis seed market.
Bayer are rather a different beast. Originally founded in 1863, they are perhaps best known for introducing aspirin and heroin to the world. In the 1920’s, they became a part of the IG Farben conglomerate, known – among other things – for being involved in the production of Zyklon B for use in the gas chambers, use of slave labour in their factories, with thirteen of their board of directors being sentenced to prison sentences in the Nuremberg Trials following World War 2. There is also the matter of the sale of HIV contaminated blood products from the late 1970’s to the mid 1980’s.
Bayer is involved in the distribution of cannabis based products made by GW Pharma, who are a British biopharmaceutical company specialising in cannabis based treatments such as Sativex and Epidiolex. GW are currently on the peripheries of a scandal of their own, with their raw cannabis supposedly legally grown and supplied by a UK company, and sanctioned by the UK government, who simultaneously deny that cannabis has any medical benefits.
On the face of it, neither Monsanto nor Bayer appear to be bothered by anything that might even vaguely resemble a conscience; both of them now tend to work with what’s legal as opposed to what’s moral or ethical. And between them, they currently control 29% of the world’s seed supplies.
Given the number of people in the world who use cannabis either recreationally or for medical purposes, it would seem quite reasonable for Bayer-Monsanto to focus their greedy eyes on the cannabis market. However, a major stumbling block for them in this regard is that in most countries cannabis remains illegal.
Even for a multinational company as vast as Bayer-Monsanto, knowingly working in an illegal market is potentially very bad press, should the truth ever come out. Worse than that, it’s bad for business and would be very bad indeed for their shareholders for whom illegal markets would present an unacceptable risk.
And here is the fundamental problem; they very possibly want to move into the cannabis market, but it has to be legal and “above board”. The question would then become how to solve the issue of legality and illegality?
Step forward, George Soros.
The name of George Soros polarises people. He is one of the thirtieth richest people on the planet, and for many years has been actively campaigning for – i.e. funding – the reform of the drug laws both domestically and internationally, specifically those around cannabis, and a number of pro-legalisation groups benefit from his largesse through funding via his Open Society Foundation (one of these groups and a main beneficiary is the Drug Policy Alliance, of whom more presently).
In the eyes of many, this makes Mr Soros something of a hero (along with the likes of Richard Branson), which is a most curious situation.
His reasoning around the issue is as follows:
“Regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and incarceration costs, while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually.”
He has also made a number of statements regarding medical cannabis and denying individuals access to “the wonder drug”.
All of which rather creates the impression that his motives are born out of selfless philanthropy and general benevolence. However, George Soros is also a major Monsanto shareholder, leading one to consider where his interests really lie. People really should be asking “what’s in it for George Soros?” Could it truly be, as some optimists think, that he has made enough in the way of personal wealth and is now turning his attentions to making the world a better and more equitable place, beginning with largely eradicating organised crime and its influence in the drug trade? Or is it more as a cynic might see it and all of this work by these people is aimed at creating a huge (legal) market, while simultaneously crushing the competition?
To return to an earlier point, the Soros funded Drug Policy Alliance have been feted and applauded as hugely influential in the legalisation of cannabis in the US. They continue to be a mover and shaker in the international cannabis legalisation movement and, irrespective of the views of the US Department of Justice on the matter, it looks highly likely that their ongoing efforts will mean that more states will follow Washington, Colorado and the others and legalise cannabis. Inevitably, countries outside of the US will follow suit.
None of this is to undermine the efforts of the pro legalisation groups, but in short, they are creating precisely the “legal” situation required by Bayer-Monsanto in order to allow them to legitimately move into the cannabis market. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot.
As mentioned, circumstantial evidence abounds, and this is all very much conjecture, and ultimately it could amount to seeing a pattern where none exists.
But there is also a permanent sense of doubt about the whole thing, and if it transpires that all of these rumours are in fact correct, then the possible overall outcome of all of this could be that individuals or small scale growing set ups could legally be prevented from growing their own weed.
Of course, maybe all of this is way off the mark. Perhaps Monsanto are indeed a shining example of benevolent capitalism. They have claimed, as recently as 2016, that their overarching aim is to address a looming world food shortage (based on predictions that demand for food will jump by 70% by 2050) and that, really, they’re the good guys in all of this. How they will do that is through genetically modified crop production.
Without getting into the many other arguments for and against it, there was (and remains) a question mark over whether or not introducing GM crops to the food chain and consuming GM food might be harmful over the longer term. The other side of this is that an increasing number of hungry people will need to be fed somehow, and that that Monsanto are just “doing the right thing”.
Alternatively, this could reasonably be regarded as a cynical example of two faced capitalism, where they appear on the face of it to be saving the day, while in actuality pursuing a much longer term and deeply sinister plan. The overall, ultimate aim here seems to be all about control; in this case the control of the plant world, the control of the food supply.
Ultimately, the real threat is that the natural cycle of planting a seed, growing the crop, using the crop while saving the seeds for the next planting and growing cycle will be gone.
All of that will be gone, and let’s be honest, cannabis grown for recreation and relaxation purposes should really be the least of our worries. Consider, for a moment, the effect this will have on (for example) maize production in the developing world? The implications of this are very serious indeed and rather puts “not being able to grow a couple of weed plants so I can get high” in the shade, doesn’t it?
Before the start of every planting season, the a significant proportion of the seed supply will have to be bought anew from these big bio-tech interests or their subsidiaries. If you’re not prepared to do that or can’t afford to do it, “well then that’s very unfortunate, but business is business and we can’t just give the stuff away as we’ve shareholders to keep in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed”.
A possible future, and a dystopian future: the weed in your pipe; the medicine you need to keep you well; the food on your plate; all of it monopolised and regulated by scientists and money men at a real life Tyrell Company.
What to do? No answers here, I fear. Grow your own food; grow your own cannabis; keep your seeds; boycott Bayer-Monsanto and any other company dealing with them.
What is for certain is that sooner or later, we will all have to take a stand.