Keeping up with Monsanto

Yes-on-37 up against big-bucks campaign from Monsanto and other big corporations

Don’t judge this book by its innocuous-looking cover.

Don’t judge this book by its innocuous-looking cover.

Do you know what your kids are reading?
I was recently given a copy of a colorful booklet called Look Closer at Biotechnology (pictured), put out by the Council for Biotechnology Information, and offered as a no-cost “activity book for kids,” as the organization’s website ( puts it. Amanda Bosschart, the local leader of the Yes on Prop. 37—California Right to Know GMO-labeling campaign, is the woman I have to thank for bringing this item to my attention.

Why do I mention this? For starters, the book is filled with a lot of disconcerting information about biotechnology, which largely has to do with genetically modified food, but nowhere in the book is the term “GMO” or the like mentioned. Instead, the friendlier-sounding “biotechnology” is the term of choice throughout the publication.

“Hi Kids,” the book begins. “Welcome to the Biotechnology Basics Activity Book. This is an activity book for young people like you about biotechnology—a really neat topic. Why is it such a neat topic? Because biotechnology is helping to improve the health of the Earth and the people who call it home. … You will see that biotechnology is being used to figure out how to: 1) grow more food; 2) help the environment; and 3) grow more nutritious food that improves our health.”

The book, which is sprinkled with happy drawings of people discovering the joys of bioengineered foods, goes on to say that “[b]iotechnology allows scientists to look closer at genes and make improvements in them. … [S]cientists can now insert a specific gene into a plant that will help it adapt to its environment, make it more pest resistant, or even make it more nutritious.”

From the section titled “How can biotechnology help the environment?”: “Thanks to biotechnology, a farmer can manage … weeds without having to plow. This saves energy as well as the soil!” Tell that to those GM-crop farmers in the Midwest and the Southeast United States that are battling six-foot and taller “superweeds” that have developed a resistance to the Monsanto herbicide, Roundup, after having planted genetically engineered “Roundup-ready” seeds. (Go to for more on the relationship between superweeds and GMO crops.)

Even more scary: “In the future, bananas could be grown with medicines inside them. This means people could grow their own banana trees to provide the essential medicines to protect against illness and disease.” I know I’m not alone when I say that I do not want to eat bananas “with medicines inside them.” Bosschart had this to say on the topic of pharmaceuticals engineered into our food supply: “We are all aware of cross-contamination [of GMO crops with non-GMO and organic crops]—you could then cross-contaminate crops with pharmaceuticals and we’d no longer have a clean food supply.

“This book is just more propaganda and now they are trying to get it to the youth, and brainwashing them,” said Bosschart. “This is going to target children, and teachers … through public education.”

There’s even a curriculum section at the back outlining other “agricultural biotechnology educational materials” available for schoolchildren of all ages, through the 12th grade. A downloadable version of the book is available at

Oh, by the way, the Council for Biotechnology Information is made up of the following members (are you ready??): BASF Plant Science, a biotech firm based in Germany; Bayer CropScience; Dow AgroSciences LLC; DuPont; Syngenta and … Monsanto.

Go to to learn more about the Yes on 37—California Right to Know campaign. The local Yes on 37 group meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at the Chico Grange Hall (2775 Nord Ave.) from 6 to 7 p.m.