Commentary: March Against Monsanto is misguided

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On Saturday, May 25, a rally to protest Monsanto was held across the United States and in other countries to allow naysayers to publically bash the global company. These protestors took part in March Against Monsanto, a Facebook-organized event. Local news media in Kansas City covered the event and interviewed several of the participants, who shared their views that Monsanto was poisoning the world and had a stranglehold on farmers.

The participants seemed to pat themselves on the back for attending the rallies. They seemed giddy about getting their message out that Monsanto is the “Satan” of the agriculture world, destroying the planet and our children.

But they seemed so sadly misguided. A blog written by Rachael Ludwick at Fancy Beans, hit the nail on the head. (Here’s a link to read the blog, http://tinyurl.com/obvga22). She writes, “There are real problems in our food system and the sustainability of our civilization. There is a lack of transparency. There is a lack of fairness. But Monsanto, as far as it does ‘bad’ things, is a symptom, not a cause. Monsanto is a cartoon villain we’ve created to give us a sense of control, a real target to direct our anger at. Unfortunately the problems we have are diffuse and we’re all part of the problem.”

Monsanto has become the whipping boy for activists angry at so many things beyond their control. These activists often forget that genetically modified corn encompasses many different types of modification. One GM corn is not the same as another. They seem to forget that these seeds are sold not to average consumers but to farmers. They also forget or don’t know that Monsanto also sells non-GMO seed.

Monsanto is supplying the consumer (the farmer) what they need and what the market appreciates. If farmers didn’t find a benefit to using these products, they wouldn’t buy them. Activists forget the marketplace’s influence on global companies. “Vote with your wallet,” is a common refrain among those who support locally produced food and goods. The same applies to agriculture. If enough farms demanded non-GMO because it was better seed, produced more crops, simplified production and/or offered particular benefits to the end user for a premium, more farmers would buy non-GMO seed. Although some have returned to non-GMO seed, the majority of corn and soybean producers continue to use GM seed.

Another issue activists forget is that the majority of GM corn and soybeans goes to feed livestock and fuel our cars in the form of ethanol and biodiesel. These activists don’t seem to be discontinuing the use of their cars.

Ludwick goes on to say, “What we value (either in making law or making purchases) drives what farmers grow and thus why Monsanto is so successful. Throughout human history, the problem has been producing enough food, mostly grains (no one dies if the tomato crop fails, but they do if wheat fails). So our government agricultural subsidies have been setup to support that. Now we are in an era of plenty. Food is cheap, nutritious, safe and plentiful.” Historically, we haven’t worried as much about local or global pollution (whether it’s carbon emissions or pesticide and fertilizer runoff) in the past as much as we are today. As a society, we haven’t reward farmers who produce high yields with the least impact.

Activists like to point to Monsanto as a representative of holding a monopoly on agriculture. That is so far from the truth. Monsanto is not the only company investing in agricultural technology. But the names of the other companies are rarely mentioned. You never hear of a March Against Syngenta or March Against Bayer CropScience or March Against DuPont Pioneer.

Monsanto is also criticized for lobbying members of Congress. Nearly every corporation and association in the country has Political Action Committees set up. It is not illegal or unusual for lobbyists to ask representatives and senators to change or support various laws favorable to their business.

Monsanto is no different from General Motors, Ford, Honda, etc. in having a monopoly or lobbying Congress, yet we don’t see rallies against GM or Ford, etc. These companies are giants in their industry, just as Monsanto is. If these activists are against corporate greed, why only attack Monsanto? Surely, there are other global companies much larger to attack. Why don’t we see the vitriol directed at them?

Ludwick also reminds readers of the old adage, it is better to be for something than against. Until people inside agriculture and outside can work to solve the world’s food problems together, a comprehensive solution will be evaded, and activists will continue to protest with no clear directives or solutions being offered.


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AgLander    
Missouri  |  May, 29, 2013 at 08:21 AM

The common denominator among these anti-GMO activists is their shrill and hysterical approach is hurling invectives at all aspects of modern, science based agriculture. Add the fact that their arguments are intellectually starved and irrational 99% of the time and you end up with a group filled with phobias that are at clinical levels in the way they see conspiracy at every turn, with Monsanto being their convenient target. The question I always ask is: "What kind of upbringing did these misfits experience to still approach life like screaming children in the supermarket"? Unfortunately for us, their parents are no longer there and we are the ones who have to put up with their childlike petulance and immaturity.

Greenfarm    
Michigan  |  May, 29, 2013 at 09:12 AM

Or perhaps, as we watch more and more of our friends become ill with digestive issues, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, chron's etc. we tend to be concerned with the other views. Farmers didn't know they would be feeding us poison when they bought into the higher production of GMO seeds. And then there is the killing of the bees. Perhaps we are not against all GMOs but we are against the poison ones and the ones that change our human cells. Here is one concern: http://thewatchers.adorraeli.com/2013/05/24/new-study-reveals-how-glyphosate-in-monsanto-s-roundup-inhibits-natural-detoxification-in-human-cells/

Lynne Tiemeier    
Stilwell KS  |  May, 29, 2013 at 09:13 AM

The "farmers" you refer to are huge corporations unlike the farmer in the dell you want us to believe. The organic farmers are growing in number and whose crops polluted by Monsanto lose in the courts.

sv    
India  |  May, 29, 2013 at 09:18 AM

How can you say it? 2 million people across 40 nations and 430 cities have marched against them! They are projecting that next year 15million people from more than 100 countries will march against them! Who are misguided? these people or FDA/UDSA/other govt bodies! Please get your facts right. Monsanto is the most evil company ever. You go to which ever forum (of people) they hate this company. The only people who are with them are the senators and other govt officials who have been sold. Thanks for reading.

sv    
India  |  May, 29, 2013 at 09:20 AM

95% of the public hate Monsanto! http://amplicate.com/hate/monsanto This will soon become 100% Check tomorrow or later this week! Bye.

Dave    
Europe  |  May, 29, 2013 at 09:33 AM

I am sorry, in my personal opinion you provide only one study (not relevant for GM as it deals with one herbicide) in addition you mention anumber of health claims caused by GM, but you do not provide evidence. In fact you are showing that AgLander is right. You use fear to pass your message but when people rely on science your message is empty.

dbj    
DesMoines, IA  |  May, 29, 2013 at 09:38 AM

Ok. You go feed yourself on what you can grow from your heritage seeds and manure. What do propose to the rest of the soon to be 9 billion people on the planet? Most of whom reside in urban areas with nary a clue as to how their food is produced or where it comes from. Your view that all food must be toxic if it derives from any type of genetic modification just does not pass the sniff test. How do you explain things like dramatically increased life spans when we are all eating poison? Excepting the fact that it is the marked over consumption of carbohydrate calories that is making our society obese and diabetic, you cannot find one single peer reviewed piece of research that draws a direct causal link to death by consumption of genetically altered crops. The fact that you still try to purvey this nonsense based arguement is laughable and cannot be taken seriously.

dbj    
Des Moines, IA  |  May, 29, 2013 at 09:48 AM

Why do you hate MON? Give a good reason! By-the-way, A good reason is not that a minute percentage of the 7 billion people on planet started a hate group (you called it a forum) on the internet and asked others to join. Your thoughts are so selfish, small, and baseless that you should be ashamed at your civil disobedience

AgLander    
Missouri  |  May, 29, 2013 at 10:10 AM

To the commenter Lynne Tiemeiyer who stated: (Quote) "The 'farmers' you refer to are huge corporations, unlike the farmer in the dell you want us to believe. The organic farmers are growing in numbers..." My dear Lynne......you again help make my point that your little group is steeped in ignorance about the subject matter you seem so convinced in understanding. Are you aware that the organic industry is dominated by those "huge corporations" you despise? The overwhelming majority of the organic produce you blissfully purchase at your supermarket does not, as you would believe, come from the small organic farmers "in the dell". It comes from "Big Food", mega corporations, like Kellogg which owns "Kashi", "Bear Naked" and "Wholesome and Hearty"; Naked Juice is operated by PepsiCo, and Heinz Corporation controls "Walnut Acres", "Health Valley", and "Spectrum Organics". And the list is growing as big companies like Coca Cola, Cargill, Con Agra, Kraft , M&M's and General Mills have gobbled up most of the nations organic food industry as they are more than willing to enter a market of inflated prices and extra profits. Sorry to break it to you Lynne, but the extra you pay to feel good about your irrational phobias is going to "Big Organics"! And you thought Satan only roamed the halls of Monsanto!

    
May, 29, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Really?

Robert    
Richmond, Virginia  |  May, 29, 2013 at 10:59 AM

I don't believe the March Against Monsanto is misguided. Sure, there are plenty of other horrors which have infiltrated our market and our diets, but this sort of protest is just a small start. In America, more and more citizens are beginning to realize that we can't trust the regulatory agencies with our health. That we can't assume, as we once did, that cigarettes must be safe if they are legal, that soda and fast food must not be mild poisons, etc. We are realizing that it takes activism to remain healthy in sick societies. So, for those concerned with the future of our children, families, friends... why not consider the voices of these beekeepers, international farmers and activists? Our government has too much financial incentive to recklessly push these biotech 'advances' on us and the entire world. Regardless of your political affiliations, you can't really believe this state-sponsored business would care to consider the safety of our families. Just stop and think about it. http://occupy-monsanto.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/individual_monsanto_federal_position-large.jpg

dbj    
Des Moines, IA  |  May, 29, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Robert, Really??? So fine, you have the power to choose what you eat and you have the power to make your own health choices. The goverment is not telling you to eat food you do not believe in, or feel safe about. You are free to spend your food dollars as you see fit. Just go your own way and do that. I won't bother you and tell you that you are making the wrong choice you are free to choose, its natural selection. Why are you so adament that you need to step into my choices and then blame the goverment, those bad corporations, those evil farms that produce food for the masses...###ETC, ETC, ETC. What is your thing really? Do really even know why you are lashing out? Are you just another lemming following the one in front of you? Why do you hate so much that others are prospering? Why is that you and your activist brethern are so intent on sending us back to the stone age to starve and eat berries and insects? Have you ever in your entire life been even the least bit hungary? My bet is that you have not!

tara    
Texas  |  May, 29, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Speaking of Hungary - Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar. Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods. Read more at http://www.realfarmacy.com/hungary-destroys-all-monsanto-gmo-corn-fields/#l5zkpWCBvC8oG0Qy.99

tara    
texas  |  May, 29, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Speaking of hungary! Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar. Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods. Read more at http://www.realfarmacy.com/hungary-destroys-all-monsanto-gmo-corn-fields/#l5zkpWCBvC8oG0Qy.99

Tara    
texas  |  May, 29, 2013 at 12:46 PM

GMOs have been removed and banned by Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Madeira, New Zealand, Peru, South America, Russia, France, and Switzerland.

Jim Bob    
May, 29, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Monsanto – A Half Century Of Health Scandals http://networkedblogs.com/LtXJZ

    
May, 29, 2013 at 01:07 PM

Destroying 1000 acres of perfectly good corn when there are people starving around the world. Yeah that's bold alright.

Robert    
Richmond, Virginia  |  May, 29, 2013 at 03:42 PM

dbj, In part, I'm right there with you. Just label the products and give Americans the right to make an informed decision about what they consume. I think people should be allowed the freedom to drink rBST milk, HFCS soda and to eat insecticide-producing GMO corn all day long, but please inform the public about the potential health risks, label potentially hazardous ingredients and practices, and give the rest of us the ability to opt out. The arguments over GMO labeling now are really just like those over the rBST growth-hormone twenty years ago: http://www.preventcancer.com/press/editorials/march20_94.htm http://www.preventcancer.com/press/releases/aug24_99.htm Who do you trust? The profiteers? ...why would you? Don't you have a children or some sort of family to consider? Also, you are a foolish to suggest that food production and not distribution is the problem. "Forty percent of food in the United States is never eaten, amounting to $165 billion a year in waste... more than 20 pounds of food is wasted each month for each of 311 million Americans..." http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/22/40-of-u-s-food-wasted-report-says/

AgLander    
Missouri  |  May, 29, 2013 at 04:17 PM

Tara: If you were a student of history instead of internet sites devoted to food anarchy and misinformation you would realize that your "list" of countries is actually demonstrating the geo-political factors in play overseas and not safety issues surrounding GMO crop improvements. Europe is a maize of closely positioned central governments that make it nearly impossible to reach a consensus on macro-sized issues; GMO's qualify as a macro sized issue. Imagine if we had a centralized federal government like we have in D.C. located every 150-200 miles or so across the U.S.......we'd never get any consensus reached on anything. In fact, if you study your history you would learn that the history of hybridized corn and its adoption worldwide tracked exactly like GMO's story today......hybrid corn was developed back in the 1920's but it took 30 years for it to gain widespread adoption. It It was adopted early in the U.S. (especially after the great drought experienced in the 30's) but Europe and it's conglomerate of small countries and governments, led by France, resisted out of fear it being a dangerous product. We laugh at that today with the wonders of hybrid corn now on 100% of acres since the 1960's but phobia led fear born from ignorance had a direct impact on the adoption rate of this wonderful advancement in corn production. GMO's today are experiencing the same growth curve........Europe and its many competing government agencies are slow to respond whereas larger areas where small countries are not so tightly placed embrace GMO's as the next great leap in science based agriculture benefitting mankind. China is just one example and Japan imports millions of tons of GMO canola from Canada.

AgLander    
Missouri  |  May, 29, 2013 at 04:45 PM

GMO's are planted by farmers in at least 29 countries. Europe's lag is due more to geo-political factors. (See previous comment) No one had ever been made ill or died from consuming a GMO food, although the food phobists believe every ache or pain they experience on any given day is due to GMO's. Thousands are made ill or die every year from food borne illnesses, (food poisoning) due to human caused contamination during processing in plant or in field due to contaminated water or animal based fertilizer (manure). As Uncle Si would say......."Hey, that's the facts, Jack".

Gordy    
Illinois  |  May, 30, 2013 at 08:48 AM

If you dummies would march a little harder then you wouldn't have an issue with obesity. According to sv from India who said, "Monsanto is the most evil company ever." How is that true? Why not march against Syngenta? How about Dow Agrosciences or Bayer. BASF has come up with a few traits. Oh yes, but Monsanto is the evil one! Here is the solution. For the idiots that think GMO crops are harmful, go to your organic market and buy the food you want. It would be a safe assumption that most food not labeled organic is produced with GMO crops. When you do this though, dont complain that your food cost is higher. However, if you think that you are being poisoned by the traits in corn that kills bugs you will be very excited about this next part. They are introducing a trait that greatly increases the water efficiency of the plant. The plant will require much less water to function. what this means is that if you stay true to your previous theory of being poisoned, then with this new trait you shouldn't ever be thirsty again!!!! Exciting?!?!?! You guys can march against Monsanto and not even have to bring water bottles!!!!

Gluten Free    
Illinios  |  May, 30, 2013 at 09:20 AM

Greenfarm, digestive issues are more with Wheat (i should know) currently they are not GMO. In the furture yes but not yet so if wheat is causing these issues it is not GMO issues. Where does that leave us? IAgain I can not eat any wheat products I do like soy and corn products.

Dandy Dan    
Central MN  |  May, 30, 2013 at 10:28 AM

GMO crops produce more bushels per acre than non-GMO crops. Food prices stay low, more people can eat. Thats a good thing. GMO crops have lessened the amount of herbicides and insecticides used by farmers. That is a good thing. More traits are coming, including the drought gene which will help grow crops in normally arid areas or lessen the need for irrigation. That is a good thing. Man has been playing around with crops for a long time. Wheat has been crossed to resist blight and yield more. That practice alone has fed millions of starving people around the world. Apple trees are grafted. Strawberries are crossed. Tomatoes are inter-bred. All in the name of better plant health, better yield, individual taste, tolerance to climate, etc. All good things. Are all GMO's automatically good? Probably not. But most are. And new technologies are coming out of the research done by these large corporations. The R&D budgets of Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, duPont, etc. show that the so-called greedy profits are being reinvested to make agriculture even better. Not everyone can relocate to a 10 acre parcel somewhere and be totally self-sufficient. That is impossible. The world cannot feed itself that way. There must be some production agriculture. Let's keep working to make it the best and safest we can. Science is a wonderful thing. Amen.

DeBoer    
Chile  |  May, 30, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Unfortunately the mayority of the comments here seem to follow the track of many previous ones, regardless of position on the subject(s) at hand. Ridiculing, and the use of derogatory vocabulary is not helping to create more understanding on anyone´s part around a topic as fundamental as our daily food, how it is produced, and how this impacts the world we and future generations (will) live in. Clearly, there are no silver bullets, and question marks should be placed by all involved, again regardless of position on the subject(s) at hand. These discussions are not getting any easier. Especially as participants are becoming increasingly aware that one of the questions to ask is "who funded it?", when reading science in support of a certain position. This makes public relations all the more difficult, regardless of the message and its target audience. Agriculture in this respect has a challenge in front of it, as probably one of the more misunderstood human endeavours. By the way, Tara, Brazil and Argentina have adopted GMO row crops on a grand scale.

AgLander    
Missouri  |  May, 30, 2013 at 02:21 PM

DeBoer: Regarding your comment about civility of tone, I would agree with you up to a certain point. Up until 4-5 years ago, discussing the science of GMO's with those who opposed or had concerns was on a completely different level and with a different tone. It was characterized by a civil tone on both sides and a Socratic discussion. In recent years, however, a new and militant group of food anarchists has replaced the first group and they have no intention of engaging in civil discourse. Their game plan revolves around shrill, hysterical attacks and deliberate dissemination of false and misleading information meant to demonize and diminish anyone standing in the way of their narrow minded goals. They lost the science part of the debate some time ago and have now moved to words like "Satan" and "crimes against humanity" as the premise in any conversation associated with GMO's, the science and scientists/companies behind it. It is this militant group which now regularly trolls the internet sites and ag publications (like this one). It is impossible to engage in a civil discussion with anyone who is convinced they are dealing with Satan. It's also kind of scary because these people seem to be filled with so many irrational phobias that they have lost touch with reality.

anonymous    
June, 03, 2013 at 10:16 AM

2 million people out of a soon 9 billion. What an irrational thought to think that that could do something horrible to Monsanto. Monsanto actually sells more than just one kind of seeds. You guys are just disagreeing with the kind of seeds that the farmers chose to buy. Monsanto still sells these seeds because farmers continue to buy them. Obviously, if farmers stopped buying them, problem fixed. Monsanto has many other options for seeds.

Seedsaver    
Missouri  |  June, 03, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Aglander, interesting you have an obvious agenda; my guess is you have some vested interest in the success of GMOs just like the company I work for but don't agree. THE SCIENCE IS NOT SETTLED my friend. No LONG TERM (>6 months) studies have been published on human health effects, period. ALL I WANT IS A LABEL so I can make an informed decision. If MON had any clue they would get aboard the labeling because they see GMOs as a PREMIUM. Put your money where your mouth is MON and we may forgive the years of blatant deceipt (do some research on the history of this company, Bud.) geez, you would think with 90% of people wanting labeling, they would figure out that the DEMAND IS NOT GOING AWAY!!!

John Mag    
Minnesota  |  June, 20, 2013 at 11:16 PM

It sounds a bit arrogant and blind to describe those who oppose GMO as basically nut cases who know nothing about the real world. GMO seeds have some real problems. The one farmers are having to deal with is after years of GMO crops is the weeds that escaped the GMO hebicide.Some have become almost impossible to kill with most herbicides. And that problem is becoming bigger as different crops with the same GMO technology are intorduced. Also, whether GMO is safe or not does not matter when it comes to some huge US markets. The problem with the escaped wheat in Oregon, underscores seriousness of losing markets because of GMO contamination. I suppose you can call the Japanese, the Philipinos and those in Tiawan a bunch of hysterical nut cases for not wanting to eat GMO products, but that doesn't do much for marketing. GMO may have a niche, but it certainly isn't the cure for world hunger, when so many questions about safety, cross pollination, weed tolerance, and other enviromental problems are still to be fully studied. DDT was great too. But, we found it had some safety problems when it was fully studied. Maybe we should back off the GMO a bit and look into the concerns people have. In the end it will be good for the farmer, good for the consumer and good for Monsanto too. I doubt Monsanto is interested in billion or even trillion dollar lawsuits.


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