Listening to American Public Radio’s Marketplace is kind of an accidental habit with me. It is on at 6:30PM locally which is a time I seem to usually choose as a wash up time. Since that is an area of my house that the wifi can’t reach, I am left to terrestrial radio for entertainment during this time. Since commercial radio in Iowa is so awful and mostly right wing to boot, this leaves some form of public radio as the choice.
And thus I usually listen to Kai Ryssdal on Marketplace. As business shows go it is not the usual boring stock report followed by praise of business as most are. They do often report on trends or practices that most business shows ignore.
So Wednesday evening I was listening when Ryssdall had a short conversation with an unusual business guest. The guest that evening was Max Brooks. Brooks is the author of the horror novel “World War Z” among his successful books. He is also the son of Hollywood elites Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.
The interview with Brooks was quite short – you can quickly read it here. Within that interview was an insight that really struck me. Brooks talks about his dyslexia and how it has caused him to view things differently than others.The following example which seemed to show a brilliant insight was cited:
Ryssdal: Just to make a turn here off what you said about your dad and him being a World War II veteran and having that combat experience, you too, although not a veteran, have ties and interest in military affairs.
Brooks: Yeah, a little bit. My initial experience was in ROTC in college, in which my main memories are simply running track and then dry vomiting every morning. But now I’m on a think tank at West Point called the Modern War Institute. And part of my job is to study military issues embedded in nonmilitary stories like Monsanto, or logistics in disaster preparedness, or Venezuela.
Ryssdal: Tell me about the Monsanto thing, because that’s actually fascinating.
Brooks: Well, ironically, it all started from an NPR story, probably was Marketplace, where it was the initial Supreme Court case of Monsanto turning seeds into intellectual property. The idea that for the first time in history, America is vulnerable to food blackmail. Because now that Monsanto has a legal claim to 80 percent of our corn and 90 percent of our soybeans, they have sold themselves to Bayer, which is a German company, which we have a security treaty with, which is great. But there’s nothing in the bill of sale to stop Bayer from selling it to China. And there is nothing to stop China from using food the way OPEC used oil in the 1970s.
What’s that??? As Monsanto pushes to merge with European ag giant Bayer AG, Brooks has this insight that such a move could lead to a situation where the once US based powerhouse could become a pawn in a game of world control through food.
Monsanto has made little secret that it wants to move it’s headquarters out of the US for a long time. In 2015 Monsanto was pushing hard for a merger with Syngenta just so Monsanto could move it headquarters out of the US. That deal fell through and Syngenta is now in the process of being acquired by the Chinese state company ChemChina
This insight from Max Brooks also highlights the fact by implication that the continuing consolidation in the agricultural leaves the world and farmers at the mercy of just a few agricultural giants. Besides the merger between BayerAG and Monsanto and Syngenta and ChemChina, there is also another mega-mega merger nearing completion between DuPont and Dow Chemical which has major agricultural implications.
As control of seeds, fertilizers, herbicides and pest controls comes under the control of fewer and fewer hands one could see how smaller companies will get squeezed out. This is our food supplies we are talking about here folks. The world seems to be marching to letting a few companies have control of the food supply.
And so that short statement above by Max Brooks which sort of seems a bit out there is actually a very possible reality.
While many of us have major concerns over Monsanto’s chemicals that are sprayed over our food supply causing cancers or other diseases, few thought that their control of seed supplies and chemicals could ever come back and bite the country that allowed them such economic controls.
This is a great example of why the US must maintain real competition enforced by the people through its government,