Monsanto’s False Advertising

| 2/2/2012 4:33:18 PM

Tags: Monsanto, greenwashing, sustainable agriculture, Roundup-Ready, genetically modified, GMO, GE, corn, soy, Robin Mather,

You may see advertisements in print and on TV or radio for a clever advertising campaign, America’s Farmers. It’s a feel-good series of ads that purports to show America’s family farmers — working hard, caring about sustainability and the Earth, taking every care to bring you safe, clean and healthy food.

Trouble is, you have to read the tiny print to see that the campaign is sponsored by Monsanto — now the world’s largest seed company and the largest producer of both toxic herbicides and seeds genetically modified to resist them.

Monsanto FarmerThe campaign, with its sophisticated website, “webisodes” and touching family photos, features a group of farmers carefully selected for racial diversity, regional representation and gender balance. All run large-scale farms — several are more than 1,000 acres. All grow commodity crops: soybeans, corn, industrial beef, pork and poultry. None are organic, at least not according to their biographies on the website (see below for link, but don’t honor Monsanto with the click-through unless you must).

Don’t be fooled by Monsanto’s efforts to present itself as a supporter of sustainable agriculture. The company’s website includes this: “Monsanto is one of the world’s leading companies focused on sustainable agriculture. We discover and deliver innovative products that support the farmers who feed, fuel and clothe our world.”

In fact, Monsanto’s contributions to agriculture have been:

  • increasingly expensive seed
  • a huge reduction in biodiversity, as Monsanto snaps up smaller seed companies and gains more ownership of seed strains
  • lawsuits against farmers whose own crops have been contaminated by Monsanto’s patented seed
  • overwhelming rises in the applications of its herbicides, including Roundup — which has been linked to a host of health and environmental problems
  • the creation of “super weeds” and “super pests” that no herbicide or pesticide will control

This is a classic case of greenwashing. I’d find it blackly hilarious if it weren’t so infuriating.

justin william
2/16/2012 4:17:50 AM

You all are talking like Monsanto is the only company selling seed and genetics. There are also other companies doing the exact same things as Monsanto that receive no attention. As far as being sued for pollen blowing in the wind and pollinating the neighbors field, this is a non-issue unless the farmer uses organic practices. Even then organic farmers are required to plant a buffer boundary around the organic part. The only reason for the lawsuit is because someone makes a big deal out of it. If the crop would have been harvested and taken to market and nothing was said it would be a non issue. You obviously have never been anywhere near any agriculture. If you had you would know that this cross pollination of different brands happens all the time. As far as planting bin-run corn as i pointed out before this is to protect the farmer and the environment. Monsanto will NEVER be a monopoly because there are other large seed companies that are almost as large as Monsanto. Try visiting someone who has farmed all their life instead of believing everything you read on the internet. Get the real facts before pointing a finger.

justin william
2/16/2012 4:03:30 AM

Thank you for pointing this out. You are exactly right. GMOs are just accelerated selective breeding. Another good point is that something can be considered toxic but it just depends on the species in question. As far as humans are concerned herbicide is no more toxic to humans than vehicle exhaust fumes.

roland green
2/15/2012 10:16:23 AM

Mr. Mather uses emotive language, he describes herbicides as being 'toxic'. Surprise! By their very nature they are toxic, that is the point of a herbicide, being toxic.I agree with much of what Mr. Brandt and Mr. Williams have to say, look at the facts and then make a judgement. Many of the Anti-Brigade rely on the fact that once an accusation is out there it's very difficult, often impossible, to disprove and counter. And one other thing, could not genetic modification just be considered 'selective breeding'? Something farmers and horticulturists have been doing for centuries. Just faster and more specific, rather than the hit-and-miss of the natural way. And we won't talk about the introduction of non-native species into the environment. like the North America grey squirrel into the British Isles - all but decimated the native red squirrel population. The invading greys are bigger, stronger and carry a pox that is fatal to the native reds. Or rabbits into Australia. Far more damaging than GMO's.

2/15/2012 3:18:18 AM

If Monsanto corn seed pollen contaminates the corn at the farm next door, they are sued by Monsanto for theft of their patented gene! And that farmer cant save his seed to reuse next year! Once Monsanto destroys all the competition, it will have a monopoly on the available seed and can charge whatever they want! That is what I call a bad farming practice!

t brandt
2/14/2012 9:20:01 PM

I'm a physician. My work requires that I contiually review scientific studies and evaluate their contents for sound methods and conclusions. Then I have to put them into the context of the real world to see if they make any real difference. ...It seems that the TreeHugger types like to make a decision on course of action based on emotional arguments rather than evaluating the science and applying it for the greatest good...As I've said here before, all solutions involve compromises between the competing factors. No medicine is without its potential side effects. Monsanto may make life difficult for farmers who break contracts, or make it possible to use pesticides which may have ill effects, but in the end, ag yields are increased because of their efforts and we can continue to feed a growing population. ( If that growth stopped, then maybe we wouldn't need Monsanto.)..Remember that in theory, a feather falls as fast as a stone. And in the artificial world of the lab, it does. But not in the real world.. It would be nice if we didn't need GMO or pesticides or Monsanto. But we do...BTW- you've accused me of being a shill, but you wouldn't happen to have an economic incentive to encourage the sales of organic food, would you, Organoponics?

t brandt
2/14/2012 9:00:11 PM

You've repeated many of the myths in circulation about health effects of GMO. Repeat The Big Lie often enough and it becomes The Truth. Use of GMO increases yields a geat deal in the less developed nations and less so here. ( Increasing yield by 5bu/ac when you 're only getting is a 10% increase; increase by 5 when you're getting 150bu/ac is only a 3% increase.) See the Wikipedia article on GMO food for a synopsis of the studies on yields & health effects and the obvious faults with the studies proclaiming there's a problem. You've misrepresented the study of patients (7 of them) with colectomy. That's how these myths get started and perpetuated...Don't forget that the genes artificially transferred to food plants are naturally occuring genes: we're exposed to them from the environment to some extent anyways.

justin william
2/14/2012 8:55:41 PM

In this article you discuss Monsanto who is leading innovation in the agriculture industry. One thing i want to know is have you ever visited a farm, or do you just sit in you office and pass judgement? I am a senior agronomy major and one of the main things we are being taught is ways to control pests and preserve soil structure without the use of harsh chemicals. Also as a farm kid i have worked for many different farmers and many different farming methods. I also interned at a local coop where chemicals from Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF, and others were applied and in every case we have used only the amount of chemical required to control the problem. You say that toxic chemical requirements are increasing with these crops and I just want to call you out on that. Today's chemicals are strictly regulated and are less toxic than those of the past. You may find a few farmers that still opt for the old chemicals but even they are regulated by only being allowed in certain places and not within feet of any water source. Today's chemicals break down quickly in the field as well. Roundup for example is a contact herbicide that only kills weeds that it comes into contact with and breaks down naturally within two and a half weeks i believe. As far as the increasing seed cost, it is true that seed is more expensive than in the past but so is everything else. Advancements in technology need have made farmers more efficient and the GMOs have allowed for less insecticide and fungicide to be applied. GMOs are the best thing to happen to this world as far as agriculture is concerned. It allows us to produce more on less land and with less inputs. Hippies like you calling out a few bad farming practices and passing them off as what everyone is doing is what the problem is with this world. Bottom line is that today's farmers are much more responsible than you give us credit for. Monsanto and other such companies have made farming sustainable for even the small farmer. The grains are made in to fuel and the livestock feeds the world. I've notices all of the people posting on here are most likely city folks that don't have all of the facts and that just isn't right.

claudia laufer
2/14/2012 2:53:55 AM

They know better. They don't even serve GMO foods in their own cafeteria!

claudia laufer
2/14/2012 2:53:02 AM

The problem is that Monsanto corn actually has lower yields than a lot of normally grown crops. This whole marketing scam they put on about feeding the world is a bunch of BS - the only things these crops do is tolerate more round-up (also Monsanto owned) and they produce their own pesticides. Monsanto has suppressed and falsified studies that clearly proved GMOs were dangerous to human health. There have been tons of studies surfacing in the last year about GMOs being unsafe. It is linked to infertility, is it linked to organ failures and changes in organ function. They found GMO DNA in cancerous cells removed from patients with colon cancers, and the list goes on and on. I am a health care practitioner, and I can second all of that, because I see it day after day in my clinic - and not in people eating organic or growing their own. Monsanto will be the end of humanity as we know it if they are not stopped.

claudia laufer
2/14/2012 2:48:45 AM

Seeds of deception has a great non-GMO shopping guide. Find a list of ingredients that contain corn or are made from corn, usually listed as allergens, and avoid all the ingredients on the list - you will be horrified to see just how many ingredients are corn-based, and with that, most likely GMO. Try to avoid any and all products containing corn or soy, unless specifically listed as non-GMO. Support your local organic farmers at farmer's markets, or even better, start a garden yourself. You can even get together with your neighbors and plan different crops for each yard and then do a harvest exchange. AND, make sure to vote for the initiative in California this election to make labeling of GMO ingredients mandatory!

orgaponics organics
2/14/2012 12:53:08 AM

T Brandt. It sounds like you are another one of Monsanto's employees or one of there stooges.

anne lupton
2/13/2012 6:48:39 PM

Robin, is there any update on the lawsuit against Monsanto that was filed last Spring?

marilyn gabler
2/13/2012 6:21:17 PM

Correction to comment I just made- 300,000 people have brought a lawsuit against Monsanto.

marilyn gabler
2/13/2012 6:19:37 PM

30,000 people have filed a lawsuit against Monsanto. Hopefully, this will attract some attention. You can read the details in an online publication called "Nation of Change."

t brandt
2/4/2012 5:29:06 PM

I just did a search on the Monsanto suits. They've gone after a hundred and half of farmers in court who saved seeds after signing sales contracts explicitly prohibiting that (They would settle for $15/ac for corn worth ~$1000/ac.). It seems pretty straight forward and fair to me: make a promise & keep it or suffer the consequences...There seems to be two high profile cases where the farmers deny buying the seeds from Monsanto, but their crops showed up with 90% testing positive for the Round-Up Ready gene. The expert geneticists claim that's way too high a rate to be caused by accidental contamination from neighboring fields....Without legal protection for their intelectual property, and thus insurance of adequate profit, there's little incentive to do research or provide improved products for the market. Who suffers most in the end, the producer or the consumer? Without hi tech ag, we can't feed 7 billion people. I grow my own, so it doesn't make that much difference to me. How much do you pay for your food? Will it always be available without fighting for it?

alex martin
2/4/2012 2:14:19 PM

Give Monsanto some credit - they aren't lying. They're trying to create agriculture that sustains Monsanto, as Rex Smith noted. T Brandt - "only 10%" is an interesting point to make when the larger issue isn't the cost of their seeds being overpriced (if only it were that simple) but the fact that Monsanto has been suing farmers for "stealing" their seed after testing for "their" GMO markers in these farmers' crops. Especially corn, but also other common field crops can be very promiscuous. This means that said farmers may NEVER have bought seed from a large company (Monsanto or otherwise) and yet these markers may STILL be in their crops after cross pollination from other nearby farms! Many farmers traditionally NEVER or very rarely have bought seeds - they are seed savers! That is the traditional way of farming, since agriculture was first cultivated by humanity, and these companies are trying to make that illegal, adding to the farmers' cost (and thereby control the entire food system - from the purchase of seed, pesticides, and so on up process, and indeed food-chain). Let's be real though, buying organic or products labeled as non-GM is a good start, but nothing more than a cute plastic bandage over an infected wound of a problem. Research and development into perennial grains and tree crops might be a more realistic start. Cutting consumer demand for products that are only efficiently grown in a monoculture might be a good start.... As for not giving Monsanto the click-through? Just a little note on search/internet marketing - if you want to sink your competition DO encourage people who aren't going to be paying customers to click through. You'd be wasting advertising dollars (potentially) and skewing your competition's click value negatively. Of course you'd also be wasting your reader's time with something designed just to infuriate them.

t brandt
2/3/2012 11:24:20 PM

Almost forgot: Sustainability: The only thing "non-sustainable" about modern ag tech is that it's so dependent upon energy input, supplied mostly by fossil fuels, which have a finite, non-renewable supply. We can replace nutrients in the soil easily, and keep on making pesticides as long as the energy to produce & distribute them holds out. We have 3-5 centures to figure out how to make electricity efficient enough to replace petroleum/natural gas.

t brandt
2/3/2012 11:07:57 PM

Once again, I'm not defending Monsanto, I'm defending SCIENCE vs mythology. Expensive seed?- Seed cost is only about 10% of input costs of a crop. The increased yield & profit from hybrids far outweigh costs.... Super Weeds? That's evolution. Should we stop using antibiotics to cure infections just because rsistant bacterial strains occur?... Dangerous glyphosate? It's one of the most safe. That's why it's important to keep on using it. Others are much more dangerous.... Law suits? Please document a suit against an "innocent bystander." (I don't know if there's really such a case or not. Monsanto claims no.)... Health problem from GMO food? ZERO cases. Provide proof of such, if you can.

ben hurst
2/3/2012 1:16:52 AM

Genetically :/

ben hurst
2/3/2012 1:15:37 AM

I wish monsanto would genittcally modify themselves!

kathryn simmers
2/3/2012 12:29:48 AM

Monsanto is the wicked witch inviting Hansel and Gretel in for cookies just before she stuffs them in the oven.

rex smith
2/2/2012 11:34:24 PM

I do believe that Monsanto is trying to "redefine" the word sustainable. Unless they really mean that they are providing products that make their BANK ACCOUNTS sustainable. What they are doing is not helping the Earth.

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