Monsanto: still reading blogs/All hail Monsanto!
2.All hail Monsanto!
3.Never mind GM food, we need GM people
EXTRACT: Is it common practice in business these days to roll out promises for categorical, but as yet unspecified, products that may or may not come along 12 to 22 years from now?
And Hugh Grant told The New York Times that the timing of [Monsanto's] press release, coming during the Rome meetings, was just a coincidence.
1. Monsanto: still reading blogs
Grist, 13 June 2008
*PR firm Edleman launches charm offensive for the GMO giant
Not so long ago, I was an utterly obscure farmer-blogger dashing off indictments of industrial agriculture for some 30 loyal readers (many of them house-mates and relatives).
And then, evidently by the miracle of the Google search, a functionary from Monsanto's legal office discovered my blog and fired off a cease-and-desist letter. I published it, added a tart response, and alerted a few editors to the exchange. Within days, my site meter showed thousands of readers piling in. Within months I had a paid writing gig. Thanks, Monsanto! Evidently, the GMO seed giant is still paying folks to scan Google for blogs that dare criticize it -- only now it has evidently outsourced the task to the PR-flack powerhouse Edelman.
Just today, a week after we published a (highly sarcastic) guest post by Claire Hope Cummings titled "All Hail Monsanto," a gentleman from Edelman wrote to one of my Grist colleagues to offer his services "tracking down information or putting one of you in contact with a representative from Monsanto that can insightfully answer any questions you may have concerning the company and its sustainability goals."
You never know -- we might just take him up on that.
I have recently heard similar tales from other food-politics bloggers who have had the unbridled nerve to question Monsanto's benevolence: A cordial email from an Edelman employee offering informational services that might better explain Monsanto's intentions.
In her post that inspired the Edelman missive, Cummings had some fun at the expense of Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant for declaring that "Skepticism is a commodity the world can't afford right now." What he meant was: Let us benevolent experts take care of the food supply -- you consumers just shut up and eat!
Well, I'm here to inform our readers over at Edelman that while we're always open to new information, we'd prefer to keep our skepticism well-honed, thank you very much.
And while we're happy to engage in friendly email exchanges, we also remember that Monsanto is fully capable of turning that smile upside-down -- and even baring its fangs. I remember that cease-and-desist letter. I also note that, according to a 2005 Center for Food Safety report (PDF), Monsanto wields an "annual budget of $10 million and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers" deemed to violate its draconian gene-patent claims.
2. All hail Monsanto!
When the benevolent seed giant declares it's going to save the world, why be skeptical?
Grist, 06 Jun 2008
This is a guest post from Claire Hope Cummings, an environmental journalist covering food and farming stories for print, broadcast, and online media. She practiced law for for 20 years, including four years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She has farmed in California and Vietnam and is the author of Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds (2008).
Do you worry about where your food comes from? Are you concerned that farmers might use too many toxic chemicals, or that health and safety agencies of the U.S. government might not be looking out for your best interests?
Well then, you suffer from too much skepticism. You probably need to learn to trust what you are told more often. Maybe you should consider some pharmacological support for your worry problem. I know. My name is Claire and I'm a skeptic.
I thought all you other skeptics out there might like to know that the latest word on our problem comes from a company who knows a lot about food, farming, and chemicals. This week, the CEO of Monsanto Corporation, Hugh Grant, told Public Radio International's Marketplace that he expects people to be skeptical about what Monsanto says but also, given the food problems the world is facing, "skepticism is a commodity the world can't afford right now."
OK, I admit that I may not be ready to heed Hugh's advice and give up on a lifetime of well-honed skepticism. But I was curious about what Monsanto is up to. (And I admit, I was even wondering why Monsanto says skepticism is a commodity -- or have they decided to just go ahead and commodify everything?)
Anyway, much of Monsanto's June 4 press release begs disbelief.
It says they will double the yield of corn, soy, and cotton by 2030; "develop seeds that will reduce by one-third the amount of key resources required to grow crops" by 2030; "conserve resources;" and "help improve the lives of farmers, including an additional five million people in resource-poor farm families by 2020."
Allow me just this one question. I won't make a big issue out of the fact that they did not define their terms or give details. We're used to that (it is, after all, campaign season). But what I wonder is this: Is it common practice in business these days to roll out promises for categorical, but as yet unspecified, products that may or may not come along 12 to 22 years from now?
What's really their point? Maybe there should be a 12-step program out there for those of us who just can not take Monsanto's word for these things anymore, something like a "Monsanto Anon" for us skeptics.
That might help us forget the company's past, products like aspartame, Agent Orange, 2,4,5-T, and their ubiquitous herbicides. We can ignore the thousands of farmers who have been threatened, sued, and harassed by Monsanto over their patented seeds. Delete those bookmarks for Monsanto Watch and the far-too-skeptical Organic Consumers Association who should immediately cease their campaign to "End Monsanto's Global Corporate Terrorism." We can drink a toast to Monsanto sustainability with milk from cows injected with their patented recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone -- unless, of course, you live in one of the countries that have banned it.
Maybe we should be grateful. After all, Monsanto has done so much for us skeptics. All that pollution and suffering from their products and even their early commitment to both nuclear and genetic engineering. Those two technologies alone have provided us with so much to fret about over the years.
Still, I can't forget. Their press release triggered my doubt problem. It was the timing. It was issued just as world governments were meeting in Rome to address world hunger. And suddenly, up pops Monsanto, singing the praises of their promises and potential products but not actually offering anything the world needs now.
The international scientific community already knows they simply need to help small third-world farmers grow for the local market and save seeds. They just completed a major study at the behest of agricultural biotechnology companies and concluded that GMOs are not the answer to world hunger.
Monsanto doesn't have a record of accomplishment on solving the real problems facing agriculture. Their herbicide-resistant soybeans produce less and use far more chemicals than other equivalent crops. And now that Monsanto owns most of the world's seeds, farmers are having problems getting non-GMO seed for their crops. No, they just wanted to let us know they cared.
And Hugh Grant told The New York Times that the timing of their press release, coming during the Rome meetings, was just a coincidence.
Monsanto's surprisingly well-timed reminder of who is really in charge of the food system came just as the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, who hosted the meeting, was saying that "the problem of food insecurity is a political one." He suggested that developed nations -- which were spending billions of dollars on subsidies for their own farmers, producing biofuels, and spending billions more on weapons -- should reconsider their priorities.
For a moment there, I had hoped that the deeply political nature of how the world feeds itself would get the attention it deserves. Maybe the media could foster an informed public debate about how to solve these problems. Maybe pigs can fly. No, forget that -- Monsanto is working on it.
I have to warn you. Skepticism is addictive. Start asking questions, and you might not be able to stop. Why, just today, after considering all this, I found myself questioning the media's coverage of this growing problem of world hunger.
3. Never mind GM food, we need GM people
The Times (Careers section), June 14 2008
To Monsanto in respect of R&D opportunities
Dear Sir or Madam:
I understand that you have "research and development opportunities" within your magnificent company and, quite frankly, you would be a fool not to hire me.
Ethicalinvesting.com says: "Monsanto has recently begun to unleash the most dangerous threat to the health of world population - genetically engineered foods."
What on earth is wrong with these people? Don’t let it get to you. I am full of ideas that will make your company even wealthier. Here’s just one of them.
Have you thought about adapting breeding technologies to develop a line of inbred Africans with improved drought tolerance? No? I have drawn a sketch of what I imagine these camel-like people would look like but I am reluctant to include it for fear that you will steal my idea. Forget Frankenfoods! Africa needs Frankenpeople!
(Status: Awaiting reply)