Cloning America Part III

Cloning America Part III

American cloning can also be found in the vital arena of big agriculture – a keystone industry that is often overseen by pigeonholed demographics. In his article, “Breadbasket of Democracy,” author Ted Nace describes the Red River Valley of North Dakota as “football-on-Friday-night country, where Clear Channel Radio sets the tone, and patriotic themes blend smoothly with corporate ones. Broad and pancake-flat, with topsoil measured in feet rather than inches, it possesses some of the most prized agricultural land in America” (Nace 53).

The article focuses on a particular wheat farmer named Todd Leake. He explains how relatively new legislation has allowed a company called Monsanto to impede on farmers’ lives and lifeblood. It was always a common practice for farmers to Brown-bag their seed. In other words, they replanted seed from their own harvests instead of purchasing new seed in the name of efficiency.

“But lately the term has come to possess a second meaning, that of a crime, a consequence of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1980 decision in Diamond v. Chakrabarty allowing private companies to obtain patents for lifeforms, and the Court’s 2001 decision in J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer affirming that the saving of seed constituted a patent violation” (Nace 54).

Of course, there are ulterior motives at work here. As the interests of corporate companies like Monsanto merge with government institutions at all levels, it is not surprising that the Brown-bagging of seed should be labeled a crime. Monsanto wants to sell farmers everywhere their brand of genetically modified wheat, corn, soybeans and alfalfa. Seeing as North Dakota accounts for 47 percent of the United States’ acreage for spring wheat, Monsanto was bound to interfere with Todd Leake’s business.

“Roundup, Monsanto’s leading product, is the trade name of an herbicide based on the chemical glyphosate. Normally, herbicides cannot be applied once crops have sprouted. But by using genetic engineering to create glyphosate resistance in common crops, Monsanto made it feasible for farmers to apply Roundup directly to fields at any time in the growing season, killing weeds without killing crops” (Nace 54).

Once again, out with the old processes and in with new and equally questionable ones. These genetically modified crops that sprawl across the country’s diverse landscapes may look like the America of yesteryear and even taste the same when harvested, but they are most certainly mutating. The overarching hand of the nation’s big brother is cloning agriculture both figuratively and literally.

Like the situation in Nevada County, there is small, but dedicated resistance to these encroaching corporate interests. Leake is one of them.

“As Leake began contemplating the proposed introduction of Roundup Ready wheat, he found himself wondering whether the new seed would end up actually hurting farmers. One worrisome possibility was that “Frankenfood”-averse European or Japanese markets would reject GM wheat, causing the price to collapse” (Nace 54).

However, the resistance to such agricultural tampering is far too small to make a difference. Red and blue state politics aside, these populist farmers are the exception to the rule of cloned America. Their national identities are inextricably linked to their livelihoods. This enables them to be the vast minority — the last torchbearers of the original, stubborn and imperfect American spirit.

“It may be tempting to dismiss agrarian populism as a marginal phenomenon, as something with little relevance to a corporate economy dominated by the likes of ExxonMobil, Citibank, and Google. And there would be some truth to that assessment. Nowadays the legacy of 1915 and 1932, which so inspired Todd Leake and his fellow farmers, remains an obscure chapter in American history” (Nace 59).

In conclusion, it is clear that the United States has, in many ways, cloned itself. The superpower is almost a parody of its once rebellious self. As the interests of corporate capitalism and the few torch-bearing dissenters collide, the complexities of American identities only multiply. But, one thing is for certain. Corporate capitalism is winning. It continually eclipses and replaces the interests of America’s aesthetic, agricultural and independent aspirations. Curiously, this political machinery is operated by and comprised of citizens who know as little about rewriting or recreating history as any civilian armed with their local library and an inevitably subjective mind.

Is this all good or bad or neither? It is more than difficult for any human in an isolated bracket of history to answer this question or make a value judgment about these facts. Regardless, that is a subject for an entirely different paper written with maximum objectivity, diplomacy and carefully chosen words.

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