Once upon a time, in order to grow corn, farmers around the world would do the same thing their parents and grandparents did: plant simple, ordinary corn seed. But now, in the twenty-first century, they have marvelous new choices. They can purchase potent seeds such as Bollgard, Yieldgard Plus, or Genuity SmartStax. Behind the fancy monikers are promises of unprecedented crop yield.

All of these choices are courtesy of the global mega-corporation Monsanto, a world leader in genetically modified food. They are part of a great tradition of human technology that insists that, with a bit of scientific tinkering, we can improve on the limitations and blandness of Mother Nature. And of course, Monsanto, its PR machine insists, is simply putting technology at the service of the people, helping to feed a hungry world.

But grassroots activists and critics of globalization tell a different...

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