Quantcast

6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Monsanto

monsantoSeed manufacturer Monsanto Company has been the target of a lot of criticism over the past few years, including a couple of articles that I wrote when I first started writing for Forward Progressives. In 2013, the first annual March Against Monsanto took place. It was supposedly in response to the failure of California Proposition 37, in 2012 which would have mandated labeling of foods that came from seeds that were genetically enhanced.


After a couple of articles on the subject in which I expressed concern over certain Monsanto practices, I was urged by people who have a background in science to “do some research” – so since then I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours researching not only Monsanto itself, but GE technology as well. As a result of this research, I came to the conclusion that Monsanto – and genetic engineering of seed technology – isn’t the horrible Frankenstein experiment the March Against Monsanto crowd would have people believe.

Here are a few of the things that I’ve learned that I want to share with you.

6. You’ll often hear about how Monsanto is suing farmers for alleged cross-contamination. However, out of the hundreds of thousands of farmers the company sells seed to annually, they’ve only sued 144 between 1997 and 2010 and that was for violating their patent rights or contract with the company. The company also notes that out of all of those lawsuits, only 9 have gone to trial and any recovered funds are donated.

Even though Monsanto’s policy of enforcing patents might seem strict, other companies that sell biotechnology-enhanced seeds enforce their patents. In other words, it’s not a some evil plot, it’s simply a business being a business. “Monsanto is not the only seed company that enforces its intellectual property rights,” Baucum said. “Pioneer, Agripro, Syngenta, all these companies have engaged in enforcement actions against other people who had violated their rights in seed and seed products they’re creating.”

Baucum also said people should weigh the small number of lawsuits against the “hundreds of thousands of people” to whom the company has licensed seed to over the past ten years.

Overall, both Baucum and Reat agree growers are usually more than willing to settle matters with Monsanto representatives in a polite, respectable way out-of-court. “A lot of times growers are worried that Monsanto is going to take their farm, but we will do everything possible to reach a settlement in these matters,” Reat said.

Whether the farmer settles directly with Monsanto, or the case goes to trial, the proceeds are donated to youth leadership initiatives including scholarship programs. (Source)

5. Monsanto is not the only seed company out there that uses biotechnology to modify seed lines to create plants that are more resistant to drought and pests. Dow, Syngenta and Pioneer are just a few other companies that do the same thing, but you will probably never hear a March Against Monsanto activist talk about them. I wonder why that is?


4. Monsanto received a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights campaign for LGBT equality in the workplace in 2013, and this wasn’t a one-time fluke either.

It’s the fourth consecutive time the company has been designated a “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign.
The campaign’s Corporate Equality Index rates companies based on LGBT-friendly policies and procedures. Monsanto, for example, offers domestic partner and transgender-inclusive health care coverage to employees.

“We are proud of our company’s diversity and our focus on inclusion to insure that every voice is heard and every person is treated equally as these are critical to our success,” said Nicole Ringenberg, Monsanto vice president and controller, as well as the executive sponsor for the company’s LGBT employee network, Encompass. “We’re thrilled to share the news that we are being recognized again by the Human Rights Campaign.” (Source)

3. Monsanto and GE technology have often been blamed for the decline of the monarch butterfly, but the actual decline of the butterfly is due to farming practices which have killed off a lot of the plant they depend on, the milkweed.

Milkweed is the only plant on which monarch butterflies will lay their eggs, and it is the primary food source for monarch caterpillars. Despite its necessity to the species, the plant decreased 21 percent in the United States between 1995 and 2013. Scientists, conservationists, and butterfly enthusiasts are encouraging people to grow the plant in their own yards and gardens. (Source)

Monsanto has since pledged $4 million to restore the habitat needed for monarch butterflies and is encouraging people to leave patches of milkweed intact whenever possible.

2. Monsanto is often vilified by Big Organic activists (Yes, organic is a very real industry with a global market of $63 billion dollars. Been to Whole Foods lately?) as trying to starve or poison the world, but they’ve actually done a lot to combat hunger and promote agriculture in the developing world, including countries like Bangladesh. Monsanto actually supports common sense labeling laws, but does not agree with labels lobbied for by the organic industry which attempts to vilify GE technology despite the absence of any scientifically proven risks – and no, the retracted Seralini study doesn’t count.

1. Monsanto doesn’t control the United States government, including the FDA. You’re thinking of defense contractors, the oil industry, and Wall Street. While it is true they’re a multi-billion dollar company and may have some lobbyists, they pale in comparison to companies like Exxon, Lockheed Martin, Verizon, or Goldman Sachs.

In the interest of fairness, Monsanto isn’t a perfect company. In their past, they’ve been involved in lawsuits over PCBs contaminating creeks from their chemical division Solutia, which was spun off in 1997 and is now owned by the Eastman Chemical Company (which itself was spun off from Eastman Kodak in 1994). Another surprising fact is that their transition from a chemical company that notoriously produced Agent Orange for the United States (along with other companies) as well as some other environmentally-damaging products, to a bio-tech corporation was partially steered by one Mitt Romney who worked for Bain Capital at the time. In other words, they’ve moved from a polluting chemical giant to a player in the green biotech world along with companies like Dow, Pioneer, Syngenta and others with the help of a former presidential candidate.

Many are also concerned about the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, saying it has been linked to cancer – but there’s more to that story as well. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s official stance currently is that there’s no evidence that glyphosate can be linked to cancer. However, the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared in March that glyphosate “probably” raises the risk of cancer in people exposed. What’s important to note here is that the levels of exposure according to the UN’s findings have to be extremely high and sustained over some period of time, which means farmworkers are the main group who would be most at risk – if there is a risk. Due to the new findings from the UN, the EPA is reviewing glyphosate’s risks and expects to release a new assessment later this year, which could include new restrictions on use but will not call for an outright ban on the chemical.

Another common claim by the organics industry and their blogs is that GMOs are killing off the bees. That claim is false. Neonicotinoid pesticides (which are not a feature of GE seeds) have been implicated as a possible culprit in colony collapse along with a variety of parasites and fungi. It’s also worth pointing out that Rotenone, a similar pesticide based on nicotine, has been used for decades in the organic industry and has also likely killed its fair share of pollinating insects. When I was a kid and we did organic farming, we used Rotenone pretty heavily on crops and nobody ever discussed how toxic the pesticide could be to the ecosystem, including bees.

Now, I understand that vast majority of my audience is left of center and most of them laugh at conservatives who believe climate change is a liberal conspiracy, despite the fact that science has shown over and over again that climate change is a very real thing. What is very troubling is that these same people who believe Fox News viewers are idiots for denying climate change or evolution, deny science themselves when it comes to topics like GE technology or even vaccines. It is also important to point out that corporations can and do change over time based on science, profit, and public image. That’s why Monsanto isn’t producing industrial insulators these days, forgoing PCBs and designing new strains of vegetables, including organic vegetables using traditional cross-breeding methods.

I support sustainable, locally sourced produce and independent farmers wholeheartedly every chance I get. Trust me, I’d much rather spend my money on food where I can go see the farm from which it came, but that’s because I prefer food that hasn’t been in a storage locker for months or possibly produced in countries using slave labor. However, it’s arrogant and ignorant to insist that farmers and consumers in developing countries follow first world ideals, which aren’t based on ethical concerns, but rather on the inability of some to understand science, business law, or how capitalism works.

There are important things for us as liberals and progressives to work on, including making sure that all Americans have access to fresh, nutritious food – but demonizing a company out of uninformed fear peddled by conspiracy nuts and snake oil salesmen like Dr. Oz takes us backwards, not forward.



Comments

Facebook comments

  • “The Agribusiness/Koch-funded Genetic Literacy Project”

    You’re insane. You’re just a conspiracy theorist.

    • kfreed

      Last I checked, the Center for Media and Democracy bases its research on actual Koch-sponsored/ALEC model legislation. Not to mention, the scientific communities both here int he U.S. and in Europe are not impressed with the Libertarian Koch line.

      “conspiracy theorist”… the exact words used by Koch and it’s pet corporate bill mill, ALEC, to describe progressive/environmental activists, journalists, and the scientific community contradicting Koch propaganda:)

  • MarkStolzoff

    ” a Koch-funded Monsanto front group, ”

    You can’t type idiotic things like that and expect to be taken seriously

    • kfreed

      I most certainly CAN refute Libertarian Koch propaganda (utilizing respected sources) when engaging Know-Nothings and their cousins, Don’t-Wanna-Know-Nothings:)

      • Dianne Tea

        Better tighten up that tin foil cap before they come after you.

      • tonymengela

        Koch are not LIBERTARIANS,,,,, there are part of a fascist group and philosophy get it right

  • Tiny Hands

    This is certainly something about them that is very special and no one else does that.

    • Stephen Voss

      You mean like Apple.

      • Tiny Hands

        Yes, that was a joke.

    • Lari AtLarge

      Just because other people do it doesn’t make it right.

  • Reginald Fancyman Knickerbache

    It says a judge was convinced. Not a scientist.

    • Aislynn125

      Well, here is some real research showing how dangerous GMO’s are. I AM a scientist.

      Aris A, Leblanc S. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol (2011), doi:
      10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.02.00

      Spisák S, Solymosi N, Ittzés P, Bodor A, Kondor D, Vattay G,
      et al. (2013) Complete Genes May Pass from Food to Human Blood. PLoS ONE 8(7):e69805. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069805
      Mesnage R, Clair E, Gress S, Then C, Szekacs A, Seralini GE. Cytotoxicity on human cells of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac Bt insecticidal toxins alone or with a glyphosate based herbicide. J Appl Toxicol . 2013; 33 (7):695-699.

      Shehata AA, Schrodl W, Aldin AA, Hafez HM, Kruger M. The
      effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro. Curr Microbiol . 2013;66 (4):350-358

      See Press release from The Institute for Responsible
      Technology: http://responsibletechnology.org/media/images/content/Press_Release_Gluten_11_25.pdf

      This study was originally published in 2012 but Monsanto
      paid a group of scientists to discredit the study. Monsanto and these scientists were just found guilty of perjury on the topic and sentenced to jail in the EU. Monsanto lost the lawsuit filed by the scientists below and the study was republished while Monsanto’s garbage was retracted.

      Seralin, G., Claire, E., Mesnage, R., Gress, S., Defarge,
      N., Malatesta, M.,Hennequin, D., de Vendômoi, J. (2014). Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Environmental Science Europe. 26:14 DOI: 10.1186/s12302-014-0014-5

      Paganelli, A., Gnazzo, V., Acosta, H., López, S. L., &
      Carrasco, A. E. (2010). Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signaling. Chemical research in
      toxicology, 23(10), 1586-1595.

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    Perhaps you should read the judgments against schmeiser etc. before running your keyboard with such nonsense as using the center for food safety as a source.

  • Eskil Jonsson

    1. The UCS is an ideological organization more than anything that e.g. promotes organic despite lack of net environmental benefits while opposing nuclear – a general appeal to nature. The scientific consensus of GM crops is clear among the majority of the most prestigious scientific bodies [1] – i.e. there’s no general evidence of harm according to meta-analyses [2] and there’s no biological mechanism to indicate it according to toxicologists for very obvious biological reasons. [3]

    2. Environmental Sciences Europe is a journal with no impact factor and is known to post fraudulent research like that of Seralini.

    More specifically: “The journal, part of SpringerOpen, is too young to have an official Impact Factor (IF). Using the same calculation, however, the journal would have an IF of .55. That would place it about 190th out of the 210 journals in the “environmental sciences” category at Thomson Scientific. (For comparison, Food and Chemical Toxicology has an IF of just above 3, and a ranking of 27th.)” [4]

    [1] http://www.gmac.gov.sg/Education/Index_FAQ_Genetically_Modified_Foods.html

    US National Academy of Sciences: http://bit.ly/13Cib0Y
    American Association for the Advancement of Science: http://bit.ly/11cR4sB
    American Medical Association: http://bit.ly/166OUdM
    World Health Organization: http://bit.ly/18yzzVI
    The Royal Society of Medicine: http://1.usa.gov/12huL7Z
    The European Commission: http://bit.ly/133BoZW
    American Council on Science and Health: http://bit.ly/12hvoyg
    American Dietetic Association: http://1.usa.gov/12hvWnE
    American Phytopathological Society: http://bit.ly/14Ft4RL
    American Society for Cell Biology: http://bit.ly/163sWdL
    American Society for Microbiology: http://bit.ly/13Cl2ak
    American Society of Plant Biologists: http://bit.ly/13bLJiR
    International Seed Federation: http://bit.ly/138rZLW
    Council for Agricultural Science and Technology: http://bit.ly/11cTKq9
    Crop Science Society of America: http://bit.ly/138sQMB
    International Society of African Scientists: http://bit.ly/14Fp1oK
    Federation of Animal Science Societies: http://bit.ly/133F79K
    Society for In Vitro Biology: http://bit.ly/18yFDxo
    Society of Toxicology: http://bit.ly/13bOaSt
    Royal Society of London, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, Mexican Academy of Sciences, Third World Academy of Sciences: http://bit.ly/17Cliq5
    French Academy of Science: http://bit.ly/15Hm3wO
    Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities: http://bit.ly/17ClMMF
    Consensus document on GMOs Safety (14 Italian scientific societies): http://bit.ly/166WHYZ
    Approx. +100 national academies of science
    Approx. +30 scientific unions
    etc.
    etc.
    Opinion polls at 88% of AAAS scientists compared to 87% consensus on antrhopogenic climate change.

    http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/29/public-and-scientists-views-on-science-and-society/

    [2] http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/07388551.2013.823595
    http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v33/n2/full/nbt.3133.html
    http://genera.biofortified.org/

    [3] http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/71/1/2.full

    [4] http://retractionwatch.com/2014/06/24/retracted-seralini-gmo-rat-study-republished/

    • saijanai

      Actually, an impact factor of 0.55 would give it an impact factor ranking of about 400th out of 1300, according to the organization that calculates impact factors:

      http://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php?category=0&area=2300&year=2013&country=&order=sjr&min=0&min_type=cd&page=8

      • Eskil Jonsson

        Like I said, the journal is young. Bad journals often degrade over time when they keep publishing bad science, lowering the overall IF. ESE is ranked among the lowest in Thomson Reuters and thus its review process should be taken with a grain of salt – as evidenced by Seralini who retorted to this low IF journal because the higher ones wouldn’t accept his ‘study’ due to high criticism.

        From what I can see; all of Seralini’s papers in Food and Chemical Toxicology are commentary, not studies. [1] Despite that, it’s irrelevant.

        Why should’t a paper be rejected if its methods are questionable, data random noise, and conclusion misleading and inaccurate?

        The topic was GMO safety which comes in terms of both safety of humans and non-human animals and also the overall environmental/economical impact. So I don’t know what your point is with the “Food and Chemical Toxicology isn’t even counted amongst teh “environmental sciences” journals”

        [1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleListURL&_method=list&_ArticleListID=-815197737&_sort=r&_st=13&view=c&md5=74a65010b49eedce32df3e4f6b8f8c0b&searchtype=a

  • cha ching

    Maybe add a couple of things to that list

    Glyphosate, the key ingredient in their signature product Roundup, was initially used as a descaling agent to clean out calcium and other mineral deposits in pipes and boilers of residential and commercial hot water systems by the Stauffer Chemical Company.

    In 2010, Monsanto registered glyphosate as an antibiotic.

  • Carol

    What do you mean monsanto doesn’t run the government? Have you seen how many former government workers are now monsanto workers? At least 15 in top positions. How can that now be a “conflict of interests”?

    • That doesn’t mean that Monsanto runs the government; it means the government runs Monsanto! :)

      • Carol

        Well, they just bought the representatives who voted to pass the DARK act. And mrz80, if you had enough money, you too could run the government.

  • Pingback: Bill Blocking GMO Label Requirements By States Passes U.S. House()

  • Pingback: No, Hillary Clinton Does Not Work For Monsanto()

  • Pingback: Gentechnik: Anti-GVO Aktivismus nach Gutsherrenart @ gwup | die skeptiker()

  • CaptainFabulous

    How much were you paid to write this shill piece?

    • How much were you paid to come post accusations on a blog article that is five months old?

      • CaptainFabulous

        My apologies. I didn’t realize there was a statute of limitation on shilling.

      • gskibum

        No, really. How much were you paid to call the author a shill?

  • Pingback: A Catalog of Information on GMOs, Monsanto, and Related Topics | Inside the Mind of Michael Kovich()

  • missy k

    You are so full of shit. They’re not a perfect company? Who paid your ass off to lie for them and Clinton. Shill. BIG TIME

  • Aislynn125

    This author is an IDIOT!!!!!! I AM A SCIENTIST AND EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCHER. THE RESEARCH SHOWING GMO DANGERS ARE SUPPRESSED IN THE STATES. Here is a short list from the many many studies that show just how dangerous GMO’s are. There are many more!

    Aris A, Leblanc S. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to
    genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol (2011), doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.02.00

    Spisák S, Solymosi N, Ittzés P, Bodor A, Kondor D, Vattay G,
    et al. (2013) Complete Genes May Pass from Food to Human Blood. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69805. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069805

    Mesnage R, Clair E, Gress S, Then C, Szekacs A, Seralini GE.
    Cytotoxicity on human cells of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac Bt insecticidal toxins
    alone or with a glyphosate based herbicide. J Appl Toxicol . 2013; 33
    (7):695-699.

    Shehata AA, Schrodl W, Aldin AA, Hafez HM, Kruger M. The
    effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of
    poultry microbiota in vitro. Curr Microbiol . 2013;66 (4):350-358

    See Press release from The Institute for Responsible
    Technology: http://responsibletechnology.org/media/images/content/Press_Release_Gluten_11_25.pdf

    This study was originally published in 2012 but Monsanto
    paid a group of scientists to discredit the study. Monsanto and these scientists were just found guilty of perjury on the topic and sentenced to jail in the EU. Monsanto lost the lawsuit filed by the scientists below and the study was republished while Monsanto’s garbage was retracted.

    Seralin, G., Claire, E., Mesnage, R., Gress, S., Defarge, N., Malatesta, M.,Hennequin, D., de Vendômoi, J. (2014). Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Environmental Science Europe. 26:14 DOI:
    10.1186/s12302-014-0014-5

    Paganelli, A., Gnazzo, V., Acosta, H., López, S. L., & Carrasco, A. E. (2010). Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects
    on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signaling. Chemical research in
    toxicology, 23(10), 1586-1595.

    Stop protecting the big businesses that are raping the planet and exploiting the people! GMO’s ARE DANGEROUS!!!!!!