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.
The 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.
I’ve been writing about genetic modification of crops and livestock since the early 1990s. My piece on the very real dangers of genetically modified food, all well proven by scientific research, will appear in the April/May issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
My best advice?
Avoid Monsanto at all costs. Boycott manufactured foods with GM corn and soy. Buy organic whenever possible. Know your farmer. Eat locally. Sign SignOn.org’s petition to President Barack Obama demanding that he cease Monsanto ties with the FDA. Tell the FDA you want genetically modified foods labeled at the Just Label It! Campaign. Ask your friends and family to do the same.
Oh, yeah. The link to the Monsanto-funded feel-good-about-farmers website is www.americasfarmers.com. But don’t click through unless you feel you absolutely must.
Robin Matheris a senior associate editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS and the author of The Feast Nearby, a collection of essays and recipes from her year of eating locally on $40 a week. In her spare time, she is a hand-spinner, knitter, weaver, homebrewer, cheese maker and avid cook who cures her own bacon. Find her on Google+.