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.

Lawsuits

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?”

http://gilmerdairy.blogspot.com/2012/01/faq-are-there-hormones-in-my-milk.html

“The Strange Case of Steve Wilson”

http://reason.com/archives/2006/05/05/the-strange-case-of-steve-wils/singlepage

Monsanto Sues and Threatens Small Farmers

“Genetic Contamination May Not Mean What You Think It Means”

http://www.biofortified.org/2011/08/genetic-contamination-may-not-mean-what-you-think-it-means/

“Round Up Ready Alfalfa – Understanding Practices”

https://commonsenseagriculture.com/2011/01/21/roundup-ready-alfalfa-understanding-practices/

“What The Heck Is Alfalfa, anyway?”

http://www.biofortified.org/2011/01/what-the-heck-is-alfalfa-anyway/

Monsanto Is Killing People

“Response to de Vendomois et. al’s Report on GMO’s & Organ Damage

https://commonsenseagriculture.com/2010/01/15/response-to-de-vendomois-et-als-report-on-gmos-organ-damage/

“Why Did The Atlantic Publish This Piece Trying To Link miRNAs and GMOs”

http://www.biofortified.org/2012/01/why-did-the-atlantic-publish-this-piece-trying-to-link-mirnas-and-gmos/#comment-102238

  1. February 1, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    Well said Jeff!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 1, 2012 at 8:15 PM

      Thank you Mark.

  2. February 1, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    Well said.

    It is my practice – and have incorporated into how our business operates – to always focus on the positive.

    I posted this video:

    I find to be inspirational…the story of a multi-generational farm; the story of a man doing what he loves to the benefit of many.

    The video was produced with assistance from Monsanto.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 1, 2012 at 8:24 PM

      Thank you for the comments and sharing the link to the video!

  3. weldon melton
    February 1, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    Excellent post. Lots of information. I agree that we can disagree about using gmos, ges or whatever people want to call it but we need to be civil in our disagreements and listen to both sides. Farmers tend to get their “backs up” when told how or what to grow on their land. However, when dealing with those that disagree with us we really need to refrain from name calling and such. That does our vocation no good at all and we really do need to remember all of those folks are our customers or potential customer. A kind word does a lot to diffuse most argumentative consumers. Thanks for all the info.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 1, 2012 at 8:27 PM

      Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  4. weldon melton
    February 1, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    Is it ok to share this on another sight?

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 1, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      Certainly 🙂

  5. February 1, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    Jeff: Great post! And good to hear this argument from someone ‘on the ground’! My colleagues and I often discuss this and various related topics. As you may know, Schmeiser case happened here, close to me, on the Canadian prairies. We watched this fiasco play out in the courts and in the media and also watched this man accept international humanitarian awards for his ‘plight against Goliath’. So frustrating on so many levels. I add to your line below…

    “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.”

    …and in straight rows. ;o)

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 1, 2012 at 8:28 PM

      Thank you Cami!

      Appreciate the kind words and thank you for filling in the end 🙂

  6. February 1, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    Thanks for taking the time to write this, Jeff. You’ve provided me with a lot of info I haven’t yet taken the time to find for myself. This link is going into my favorites right now!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 1, 2012 at 8:29 PM

      Your welcome Brian. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  7. February 1, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    Very well said! I will keep this post in mind for “down the road” discussions/arguments/talks/references

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 1, 2012 at 9:12 PM

      Thank you!

  8. February 2, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    I’m sorry Jeff, but I have an entirely different view of the matter.

    There’s not a single clinical human trial on genetically modified ingredients that has ever been published.

    To claim they (Monsanto) tested all of their products for safety to the environment, animals and humans is a dubious assurance.

    I look at the stealth way in which patented GMOs were foist upon US consumers with FDA assurance of food sameness. Patents are only granted to inventions that are “distinct and new” so claiming GMOs are the same as normal foods while meriting patent protection exposes their deceitful marketing-scientific construct. The circular argument taken from Monsanto’s web site: GMOs are the same as normal food. Normal food isn’t tested for human safety. Therefore, GMOs don’t have to be tested for human safety. Amazing.

    Profit is the corporate charter. Safety is regulated by regulators. In human terms, safety is defined in terms of acceptable risk. A degree of harm is a given in the corporate industrial model. Someone calculates how many parts per million or billion an organism can tolerate. Risks are always measured against the rewards (profits), a delicate balance, or not, that always places human and environmental health in competition and counter-balanced with making a buck. Monsanto’s corporate marketing message is that 100s of millions of GMO meals have been served without any documented evidence of harm. It’s pretty easy to make this claim when your products haven’t been labeled and aren’t traceable through the food supply.

    The makers of Oxycontin released it onto the market under false claims of its addictive qualities. They were fined over $600 million dollars for the infraction. Was the product pulled from the market? No. The profits more than covered the fine, which we’ve seen countless times across many many industries. The axiom: it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission is the norm in corporate America. When forgiveness can be paid out of profits coupled with a vicious legal team to keep future risks to a manageable level, permission to act responsibly won’t be embraced.

    Whatever the firsthand users of GMOs have to say about their efficacy and profitability is massively different from an end-consumer standpoint. Food with pesticide engineered into every cell, introduced into our food supply without warning, labels or telling mothers and fathers of this fact, just plain old sucks. Consumers have every right to pillory the industry. Deceitful practices and boastful propaganda about feeding the world doesn’t help public perception especially when feeding the world has a license agreement attached preventing those starving African farmers from saving their seed.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 2, 2012 at 10:23 AM

      Always appreciate your thoughts, thank you.

      I’ll work from bottom to top in my reply.

      I’d be interested in seeing what information you have on the issues in Africa. I am aware of Monsanto and other companies providing seed, farming tools and irrigation efficiency equipment to the country at reduced prices and in many cases for free, along with personnel to train.

      While I can understand the comparison you make with the drug company, I believe that we are talking two very different issues. GM plants are not being “infused” with pesticides. GM plants are created using naturally occurring enzymes that exhibit a particular trait, naturally, and then are spliced into the desired plants DNA. For example, we have plants that naturally resist glyphosate, so the gene that allows that plant to resist has been spliced into corn, soybeans, alfalfa, etc. It is all plant genetics, natural occurring enzymes, not artificial, which is where I see the major difference between your drug example.

      We will have to agree to disagree on your point about profits and patenting. I have and probably always will support the right of companies to earn profit and have the ability to patent products, in order to pay for the investment of expense of creating new technology.With out companies like Monsanto, improvements in technology and farming practices would be dramatically hindered. Improvements and innovation, like it or not, are coming from the private sector.

      As for the idea that products have not been tested for use or consumption, we may have to simply agree to disagree here as well. I believe that Monsanto has met the existing requirements for introducing new seed technology. Should those requirements me modified or improved? I would certainly entertain a discussion on that subject.

      You stated, “clinical human trial[s] on genetically modified ingredients that has ever been published. While the testing results are provided to the FDA for product approval, I would ask (sincerely, not trying be snide) where are the test results that show negative impacts resulting from the ingestion of GM plants? I have seen the results from one such test, that in the end, came to conclusion that nothing out of the normal occurred. Yet, that test was then taken by another individual and the results were manipulated to try an show a cause-effect relationship.

      As I have shared with you before, I am always open to discussion and facts from objective and scientifically sound studies. Perhaps my opinion and thoughts may change in the future. However, at the current time, I continue my appreciation and respect for Monsanto and others, who I believe are truly working to help farmers become more efficient and environmentally friendly.

      Thanks again for your thoughts. I look forward to more. I hope the rest of your week is pleasant and if you watch football, have an awesome Super Bowl Sunday! 🙂

    • February 2, 2012 at 4:36 PM

      Thank you for your civility, GM Know, but please read Monsanto’s entire page at http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/food-safety.aspx and you’ll see that there is no circular argument. The only part of the crop that is different from non-GM crops is the introduced protein, and it has been tested at very high levels in animals. The finding is that it does not cause cancer or any other illness that would raise concerns related to human consumption. To say there’s been no testing of GM crops, which you didn’t say but many of your fans often say, is either disingenuous or ignorant of the research. You were careful to say there has been no published clinical human trial. The Monsanto page discusses why human testing is not needed (because animals were tested). One really has to read the entire page to understand it. Let’s keep up the good dialogue.

    • February 6, 2012 at 8:24 AM

      Hey. I think I love you. Hehehehe. Any chance we can hook up via facebook? I’m trying to start a slow food movement in my community. Can find my on facebook at Erinn O’Shea location Oregon. Hope to hear from ya!

  9. February 2, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award 🙂
    http://nebraskawheatie.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/whats-this-i-am-honored/

  10. February 3, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    Jeff, it looks like you have done a lot of research and learned enough to be knowledgeable in this issue! It’s good to hear from someone so close to the situation instead of hearing bits and pieces here and there! I appreciate you sharing your experience!

  11. February 4, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    Great Post

    I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award
    http://farmchiclogic.wordpress.com/

  12. February 5, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Dude, I hope to reach your level. It’s way up there, and will take me some time, but I believe I can do it. Agriculture will help me do it, just as it helps EVERYONE everyday quell stomach rumblings and suppress goose bumps. Food and clothes—what else do we need?

    We appreciate your voice, and wish you success!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 26, 2012 at 7:34 PM

      I appreciate the kind and humbling words Anthony. Best of luck in your endeavor. Don’t be a stranger 🙂

  13. Tim Vermillion
    February 6, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    With a shrinking land base (food and fiber factory) and an increasing population, the only way to meet this demand is through GM plants.
    I realize that not all companies can please everyone but in my opinion we are lucky to have Monsanto.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 26, 2012 at 7:33 PM

      Thank you for posting Tim.

      I agree that GM plants will play an important role in the future of agriculture. However, I also think it is essential that we produce food through a holistic approach and that other countries improve their ability to grow food. Technology, in its many forms, must continue to improve and be implemented where appropriate.

      I also agree that we are lucky to have companies like Monsanto, BASF, Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow, etc. They allow us to be more environmentally friendly, more water efficient and help us to optimize production.

      Thanks again Tim.

  14. GH
    February 16, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    I’ve always thought the reason Monsanto is viewed the way it is viewed is because it has to be to hold the anti-GE position together. If you look at the sum total of the evidence on the topic, you find that GE crops are both safe and effective. If you are against GE crops, you are left with two options: one, acknowledge these facts and present something else to support your position, or two, find a way to dismiss these facts. Unfortunately the latter seems the more popular option. How to do that, it seems the favored option is to link everything back to the largest seller of GE seed: Monsanto. Rather than deal with the whole as a myriad of individuals, the sum of the data becomes a web, with Monsanto as the central nexus. Now, anything that says something positive about GE crops is now connected to Monsanto, and by giving the whole of scientific consensus a unified core, striking at that center point takes down the whole and can be used to dismiss all the evidence that disagrees with the claims of the anti-GE position.

    Also, by making it so, you characterize an abstract concept. If Monsanto does something wrong, then it reflects on GE, and if one defends GE, then they defend Monsanto. By doing this, you can hit genetic engineering really hard by hitting Monsanto really hard. even though otherwise that would make as much sense as saying, for example ‘McDonalds is bad therefore cooking is bad.’ But if you tie the technique to a singular entity, you can get people to think that. It is, I recently learned, Rules of Radicals #13. Fallacious and weaselly, but undeniably effective. Anyone who has been called a Monsanto astroturfer for defending what should be considered basic facts about genetic engineering knows how common it is that people assume there is always a connection back to Monsanto. The whole thing is pretty clever in a twisted sort of way.

    Maybe I’ve just been called a paid shill one too many times, but that’s how it looks to me anyway.

    • February 16, 2012 at 5:56 PM

      That’s really interesting, GH, and it makes a lot of sense. You’ve sent me searching for all the rules of radicals–or is it rules for radicals? I’m finding mostly mathematics rules related to square roots–and a little botany. Thanks for posting.

      • GH
        February 16, 2012 at 7:00 PM

        Thanks. Yeah, that was supposed to be ‘Rules for Radicals.’ I guess that was a pretty crucial conjunction.

        • February 16, 2012 at 8:38 PM

          Thanks! It’ll be fun to learn the rules for radicals.

  15. scott
    February 26, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    fact is, monsanto has a war chest of money, power, and political pull. they have stacks of lawyers, and a PR campaign that could prove that cancer is good. GMO, the poisons they use, produce more crops, fact. which in turn provides greater profits, fact. so i can see why there is a spin campaign to jock monsanto. but the reality is there is a LOT of evidence that proves these chemicals (products of agent orange) are 100% harmful. monsanto wants its food on shelves, and has been fighting organic farmers sadly whole foods, stoneyfield, and other big names could not afford the fight. that’s money. when profits win over health, that’s when you can count me out.

    oh, and yes, monsanto has indeed taken over crops from seed spread.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 26, 2012 at 7:19 PM

      I appreciate your sharing your thoughts Scott.

      I make no argument that Monsanto is large company that has been very successful financially. I also welcome you to share any scientific studies that show conclusive evidence that GMO’s are harmful. This is a subject that I have tried to remain very current on and have yet to find an objective study that follows proper scientific procedure and has been able to be repeated with the same results that actually shows a link.

      I am not certain I understand your last statement…could you clarify?

  16. scott
    February 26, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    links showing studies where monsanto products indeed harm mammals

    http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm#headingA11

    http://organicjar.com/2010/2527/

  17. scott
    February 27, 2012 at 5:18 PM
  18. February 27, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    I tire of seeing references to Agent Orange when the discussion is about agriculture. Talking about a mix of herbicides used in a war forty years ago is an entirely different conversation than what the author is trying to discuss here. Farmers don’t go around blasting massive amounts of herbicide on their land. That would be irresponsible and not very smart financially. We want to get the most effective weed control possible with the greatest return on investment.

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