Food, Farmers, Demons and Monsanto
Demonizing companies and individuals through the use of misleading and false information is never productive. More times than not, fissures are created, within families, communities, states, the country and even the world. It is very acceptable to question actions and results, but let us remember to remain objective in our assessment, research the origins of the information and pass on only that which is true. Passing this type of information along, without doing research on it, is just as irresponsible as passing along an email that says the world will end if you don’t forward to your whole address book.
I have seen a number of people posting on Facebook and Twitter lately, that they have signed one of a couple of petitions currently circulating with a host of claims against Monsanto. Many of these people I consider to be friends and respect. I felt inclined to write this post to provide some additional information in order to clarify several of the accusations that are being claimed. I, for one, as a small farmer and rancher, am very grateful for the work that work that Monsanto and others are doing to help farmers be more efficient and holistic in their management opportunities.
Testing of Products
Monsanto has met every requirement and tested all of their products for safety to the environment, animals and humans. The employees there have an equally shared interest in the products developed, as they and their families also plant and consume the foods resulting from scientific and technological advancement. There have been no verified links to health issues resulting from the consumption of GMO products in animals or humans. In fact, what is often not shared, are the products that companies pull from development, not only when results indicate a clear potential risk, but also when there is minimal risk.
Monsanto has never taken legal action against a farmer whose crop was “contaminated.” All of the farmers who have had legal action taken against them knowingly planted GMO seed and/or violated the agreement that they had signed to not keep seed for planting. Any farmer who purchases seed from Monsanto, that is GM, signs a technology agreement. It is very clear and understandable, in terms of what is allowed and what is not. Further, annual visits occur, GPS mapping is done and communications are regular. If a farmer does not want to enter into a technology agreement, they are free to purchase from another company.
In the case of Schmeiser, which is most often cited, he claimed that a GM crop contaminated his non-GM crop. Tests of his 1998 canola crop revealed that more than 90% percent of his 1,000 acres was Roundup Ready Canola. A non-GM crop does not become 95-98 percent Roundup Ready (GM) through contamination.Furthermore, a farmer would not use Round Up on a crop that he “thought was non-GM,” which records indicate that he did. The court also agreed, through scientific probability, that it is improbable that canola seed could “carry in the wind” far enough to “contaminate” over 1000 acres.
Monsanto Helping Farmers
Through my involvement in multiple facets of agriculture, I have had the privilege of being able to tour two of Monsanto’s facilities. In both cases, I have been very impressed with how they are working to develop seeds to meet the needs and requests of farmers. They are some of the most professional and caring people I have met at companies of that size.
Certainly, there are some who simply oppose any manipulation of plant DNA whatsoever and while I do not agree, I respect that position. However, as a person who has traveled the country and seen the needs of farmers in every region, I feel we are truly blessed to have companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF and Dupont, to develop plants that are more drought tolerant, resistant to fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects and nematodes, resistant to excessive moisture and resistant to insecticides and herbicides that are more environmentally friendly.
I must also mention that during my visit to Hawaii, I was fortunate to be able to visit the Monsanto Kunia research farm. Yes, they focus primarily on developing corn and soybean seed for mainland farms, but what really impressed me was their partnership in the Hawaii Ag Foundation and the Kunia Ag Park. Due to the loss of farm land from development and the departure of many of the sugar cane plantations, there are a multitude of farmers and farm workers with skills and no where to put that knowledge and desire to use, at least in an economically feasible way.
Monsanto has partnered to provide small acreage farmers reasonably priced, yearlong leases, on land that has had preliminary ground work already done, and discounts for fuel and repairs. Most of the farmers who take advantage of this opportunity, market their fresh fruit and vegetables at local farmers markets and now have the opportunity to grow, expand, provide jobs and potentially have the opportunity to be able to buy their own land. I encourage you to check out this blog from the AFBF Annual Meeting, “Farm Bureau Members Get to See Hawaiian Agriculture.”
In conclusion, you may despise companies like Monsanto, or even individuals. You are free to do so. I simply ask that we all refrain from “demonizing” those that we disagree with and simply stick to sharing objective, valid, tested and verified information to have productive discussions about that which we may disagree with. I see demonization occurring in national politics, state politics, local communities, against individuals and companies; I for one have seen enough to last several lifetimes. Let us instead, have conversations and dialogues to discuss the differences we might have, work together to find solutions when we can and not blindly take a video, a commercial or an article as truth and spread it about without verification.
Below are some links to take a look at as they relate to several of the recent posts I have seen regarding Monsanto:
Videos, Fox News and Steve Wilson
“FAQ: Are there hormones in my milk?”
“The Strange Case of Steve Wilson”
Monsanto Sues and Threatens Small Farmers
“Genetic Contamination May Not Mean What You Think It Means”
“Round Up Ready Alfalfa – Understanding Practices”
“What The Heck Is Alfalfa, anyway?”
Monsanto Is Killing People
“Response to de Vendomois et. al’s Report on GMO’s & Organ Damage
“Why Did The Atlantic Publish This Piece Trying To Link miRNAs and GMOs”