In defense of Monsanto

I want to talk about something today, and I hope that it does not result in my office getting burned down. But I work in a basement, so I guess its not that much of an issue. Genetically modified crops — devil incarnate or world savior? Solution to the hunger problem, or a capitalist venture? Each of these holds a little bit of truth, and I want to explore a side of the debate that isn’t normally discussed in the press — GM crops as the good guys.

When talking about genetically modified crops, Monsanto is, for the most part, the centerpiece of conversation. Debates, if they can even be called that, are riddled with hearsay, rumors, myths, “I read this” or “I heard that.” It seems to me that most people simply have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. And those who do have some knowledge on the subject are focusing on all the wrong things.
As bad press and political heat goes, Monsanto is on the sharp end of it more often than not. The “liberal” media paints Monsanto as a mean, heartless company, set on destroying any and all competition.
So Monsanto has some rather shrewd business practices … all successful companies do. They have some of the most consistently stable stock prices on Wall Street, and have earned massive investments from both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. So what is it about Monsanto that the public finds so appalling? Most of the arguments I have heard against this company are that Monsanto destroys the small farmer. While many small farmers are bankrupt by lawsuits with Monsanto, it is merely the result of Monsanto defending its intellectual property … to the death.

Monsanto makes a large percentage of its money from licensing patented genes to other companies. They have contracts with Dow Chemical, Syngenta, Novartis and many others. Monsanto is truly ruthless in its negotiations when licensing out its patents, and it should be.

No one is forcing these companies to license with Monsanto, no one is forcing farmers to buy Monsanto seeds. But good products cost more, and consumers (farmers and other corporations in this case) are willing to pay the premium that Monsanto charges for good products. Good products cost more. That’s business. That’s how the world works.

There is some humor I find in this situation, and that is the complete hypocrisy of the hoards of internet users who rush to vilify Monsanto. How many of the people writing about this company are typing on a computer made by Apple and manufactured by Foxconn? A computer made in factories with such terrible working conditions that Foxconn had to install bars on the windows to prevent suicides due to low pay and illegal overtime. Employees even need to sign away the right for their family or any of their descendants to sue the company in the case of death. I myself am guilty of owning multiple Apple products. I am willing to pay that premium because Apple products are beautiful and functional.

How many of these writers are wearing Nike shoes, manufactured by children paid pennies per day? I find it completely asinine that these individuals who claim to hold themselves to such a high moral standard are so selective in their moral battles. They buy a $2,000 computer and then blog about the unfairness of big corporations.

Now don’t get me wrong — I do understand that there is a fundamental difference between bad labor practices for something you wear or use, like a computer, and a genetically modified food product that you assimilate into your body. There is an intimacy related to food that does not exist with shoes or computers; the food that you eat is broken down on a molecular level and literally becomes part of you.

After doing my homework for this column, I came to the realization that there are in fact many reasons to hate, or at least avoid, Monsanto.

First, the excessive enforcement of patents. Monsanto has customers sign end-user license agreements (EULAs) that prevent the replication and even the study of their seeds. These EULAs forbid independent research and can block unflattering findings from being published.

Another frowned upon practice is the implementation of the Terminator and the Zombie. The infamous Monsanto patent #5,723,765, a.k.a., the Terminator gene, is for a gene that makes all seeds of Monsanto crops completely sterile. The Zombie gene is similar to the Terminator gene except that sterility can be reversed by spraying a chemical, made by Monsanto, that triggers fertility.

One of the last points I want to make is that the general public has an uncanny knack for remembering every mistake in history and forgetting the good parts. Monsanto is often condemned as as the manufacturer of Agent Orange and the other “Rainbow Herbicides” during the Vietnam War. What surprises me yet again about the public is that they cry murder for a chemical that was meant to kill crops, and had the unfortunate side effect of stillbirths and infant deformations, but that same public seems to develop complete amnesia regarding companies who design products with the sole purpose of taking life. There are easily close to a hundred weapons manufacturers just in the United States.

And finally, I want to talk about consumer stupidity. Hate me, don’t hate me; I really don’t care, but it is my honest opinion that the average consumer is not educated enough to know what a GMO is, or educated enough to make decisions about GMO legislation. I read dozens of bloggers’ posts about GMOs and many of them are under the idiotic impression that GMO is a chemical that is added to plants.

Monsanto may have questionable-at-best legal practices, but they have achieved the ultimate corporate success — government support the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the times of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. Our government turns a relatively blind eye toward Monsanto’s activities because Monsanto has branded itself as “agents of a future prosperity that will trickle down to all.”

Let’s for one moment imagine a world without Monsanto. Without the Golden Rice engineered by Monsanto, millions of malnourished individuals would die every year of Vitamin A deficiency, and nearly half a million more from blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency.

I am by no means suggesting that Monsanto is a good company. Their level of social standards leave much to be desired. What I am saying is that if you want to launch a campaign of hate and protest against a multinational, multi-billion dollar company, at least educate yourself enough to know what you are talking about.

And ask yourself this: Is it worth sacrificing the hundreds of thousands of lives saved every year by Monsanto’s products just to destroy the company that bankrupt the small farmer down the street?

HUDSON LOFCHIE can be reached at science@theaggie.org.

24 Comments

  • Sabonten
    November 5, 2013

    Most people against Monsanto are also against those corporations and agribusiness is even more dangerous because not only does it contribute to labor violations and pollution and local warming but directly compromises the health of its consumers, and can do so covertly. Also GMO seed studies can only be one by independent researchers by permission which immediately is cause for suspicion that the science behind GMO safety is tainted. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research

  • 1Finngal
    August 6, 2013

    You state, “I really don’t care, but it is my honest opinion that the average consumer is not educated enough to know what a GMO is, or educated enough to make decisions about GMO legislation.” I would say you are not educated enough to know what you’re talking about. ” What is carefully kept out of the Monsanto and other agribusiness propaganda in promoting genetically manipulated crops as an alternative to conventional is the fact that in the entire world until the present, all GMO crops have been manipulated and patented for only two things—to be resistant or “tolerant” to the patented highly toxic herbicide glyphosate chemicals that Monsanto and the others force farmers to buy as condition for buying their patented GMO seeds. The second trait is GMO seeds that have been engineered genetically to resist specific insects. Contrary to public relations myths promoted by the agribusiness giants in their own self-interest, there exists not oné single GMO seed that provides a greater harvest yield than conventional, nor one that requires less toxic chemical herbicides. That is for the simple reason there is no profit to be made in such.” You need to do your own research and stop listening to Monsanto’s propaganda.

  • mrgreenbud
    June 21, 2013

    Humans are animals and are therefore natural (actually, the whole definition of ‘natural’ assumes and relies on the premise that humans are separated out from animals and all other living things on the planet). Following this, all human inventions are natural. Stupidity and groupthink are natural. Motivation through resources (i.e. money$) is natural. Famine, due to overpopulation and scant resources, is natural. Balance will be found, in the short term and in the long run. Revolution challenges oppression, predator seeks prey. Don’t fight it…scramble for your position: the one that secures you reproductive success and the promulgation of your genes. My friends and associates, this is ecology.

  • Followthemoney
    June 16, 2013

    DEFENSELESS~~! Now we know Monsanto is the cause of bee deaths nationwide. They have purposely poisoned bees to kill them off so, just like the terminator seed, you will have to purchase ‘super bees with immunity to these toxins, from Monsanto.
    This has cost billions of dollars in unfertile crop failures. No way of counting the farm failures and other losses in the infrastructure, processing and sales of food stuffs.
    “In Defense of………” . You sir are a joke and an embarrassment to the journalistic profession. So, what were your perks for attempting to put a positive spin on the most negative corporation on the planet? Huh? Not gonna tell us I bet.

    • October 23, 2013

      I am proud to state that I am in no way shape or form associated with Monsanto. I received no compensation, no job offers, and I own no Monsanto stock.

  • jzakary
    May 31, 2013

    Good for you to offer a “Reality Check” when it comes to Monsanto.

    I absolutely agree the Monsanto is a terrible corporation, but what big company doesn’t have blood on its hands? Is Monsanto any worse then what BP did in the Gulf of Mexico, or what Union Carbide did in Bhopal, India? Monsanto should be held accountable for any illegal actions they commit, but to label them as the epitome of evil, is stretching it a bit. I think Hitler still has that title!

    I am constantly amazing how so many people can get swept up in a cause against a person, government, or company without every really knowing what the facts are.

    • albringing
      May 31, 2013

      Before you call Hitler the epitome of evil, I would suggest looking at what the United States did in regards to eugenics. As you have stated, it’s time to learn the facts before accusing.

      http://hnn.us/articles/1796.html

  • rcap
    May 28, 2013

    News flash to everyone Monsanto is a product of capitalism. If you want to be angry at Monsanto you need to be angry at every company out there Disney, Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Tiffany, and all other capitalist companies. It is profits, profits, and more profits that is CAPITALISM 101. That the hole story even companies that are “for-profit” that “do good” are out there to make money for shareholders. Our economy runs off of intellectual property rights. If we did not have protections of these rights the US would be in trouble (much of our economy is intellectual or service based)

  • schirch
    January 18, 2013

    No one is forcing farmers to buy Monsanto seeds???? REally??? As I see it, if a farmer’s crops are pollinated by a GMO crop of Monsantos, then MONSANTO owes that farmer money for polluting his crops. Instead, Monsanto (and their ruthless 75 lawyers who are hired to sue the socks off of small farmers)hounds these small farmers until they can no longer pay attorney fees and fold or buy Monsanto seeds. How’s that for not forcing farmers to buy their seeds. Get your facts straight before you print.

  • highlydubious
    January 17, 2013

    ^^ Just wanted to say what everyone else is thinking. The two comments above are hilarious and prove Mr. Lofchie’s point. I will take these 2 comments and file them away in a special place so that when i feel down i can read them and feel better about myself.

  • tagraves
    January 17, 2013

    Mr. Lofchie, you call consumers stupid and uneducated. It sounds to me as though you have been educated into stupidity and compliance. I am a UCD graduate, I do not usually admit it. Everything coming from UCD is suspect of contamination by Monsanto. This is a brilliant example of the twisted logic that is necessary to continue to pull in the money the university has prostituted themselves for. There is nothing public about UC Davis, or any other UC system school these days.

    • highlydubious
      January 17, 2013

      Im calling you out.. you are not a UCD graduate because you sound like an idiot. I’m sure everything at UCD is contaminated by Monsanto, literally everything, I bet you cant think of a single thing that isnt contaminated by them. Do you think the text books were written by undercover monsanto operatives, I suspect so.

      • tagraves
        January 23, 2013

        Yes, I am a graduate. I said “Everything coming from UCD is suspect of contamination by Monsanto.” Not that everything is…
        But, you do have a point, I should have perhaps qualified that. Monsanto is currently planning a thirty one million dollar expansion of their Woodland research center. This is because of the working relationship that they have with the University of California Davis. This has been stated as positive both by the university (in my alumni magazine) and by Monsanto in press releases, especially with the California Farm Bureau publications.
        You mention the text books. Most of my texts were written by my professors. If you do not think that the professors research projects and the outcomes of these projects are not influenced by the source of the grant money (not just for their own project) you live in utopia. So called “public” Universities are competing for dollars to survive and they are selling there values and curriculum to the highest bidder. Professors who do not comply find themselves looking for new jobs. Do not underestimate the power of money.

  • reginabee
    January 17, 2013

    Mr. Lofchie, You were paid to write this “in defense of Monsanto” why would monsanto need you to defend them when they have enough barracuda attorneys that are out there suing innocent farmers who are “stealing” the wind blown biotech pollen.
    Anyone can see this article is a joke, “thousands of lives monsanto products has saved, honestly, I am laughing at the sheer irony of this. Over 100 years of poison: KNOWINGLY poisoning the people of Aniston, Alabama releasing dioxin into the environment and let’s not forget that DDT is good for you! So is saccharin if you don’t mind the side effect, cancer. Monsanto has contributed SO many “good” things for us and the earth we live in. Their latest, GMO, a very bad idea if you live on planet earth, not only has made them tons of money by having the government (Michael Taylor is holding the revolving door open)subside the genetically engineered crops so farmers plant the gm seed, they then have to use the toxic chemical Roundup, to go with these crops. To date, gmo crops have not produced better tasting crops, faster growing crops or crops that require less chemicals (herbicide/pesticide). IN fact, in almost all cases , the opposite is true. The golden rice you speak of was also a fail. Do yourself a favor and find out more about the villains you choose to “defend”. Monsanto for sure, WORST company to ever exist on earth. They even won the award for this. Corporate greed over the well being of the planet and its citizens, sadly is monsanto’s gain, our loss.

    • October 23, 2013

      Like I mentioned above, I am not associated with Monsanto. I was not paid to write this, and I own no Monsanto stock.

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