Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto?

Hazardous-pesticideIn recent years, no company has been more associated with evil than Monsanto, says Lessley Anderson, asking “why?” for Modern Farmer:

The house was raised above the ground, like a mushroom or a white ray gun, its rooms radiating out like spokes of a wheel. It was 1957 and this was the “House of the Future,” a prototype modular house created by Monsanto, in collaboration with M.I.T. to help solve the housing crisis baby boom America was in the middle of. Not coincidentally, the house was made of plastic, one of Monsanto’s products at the time.

“They imagined fast subdivisions of this house, like Levittown,” says Gary Van Zante, curator of architecture and design at the M.I.T. Museum.

While that never happened, Walt Disney did select it as an exhibition at his new Disneyland. For 10 years, until it was torn down, the chemical giant’s creation stood peacefully in The Happiest Place On Earth, where millions of people marveled at it.

It is safe to say that if Monsanto’s pod house were erected there today, it would not be such a happy home.

Over the past decade, Monsanto has become a pop cultural bogeyman, the face of corporate evil. The company and its genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds have been the subject of muckraking documentaries (“Forks Over Knives” and “GMO OMG“), global protests, and assaults by everybody from environmental activists to “The Colbert Report.” Facebook and other social media are awash in memes (here’s a blog devoted to the topic) and hashtags like #monsantoevil. And it seems everyone, from your plumber to your mother, has an opinion about the company. This past year, when Monsanto bought a weather data company called the Climate Corporation for about $1 billion, David Friedberg, the company’s CEO, found himself bending over backwards justifying his decision to sell.  (As if the money wasn’t enough reason!) Friedberg told the New Yorkerthat even his father disapproved: “His first reaction was, ‘Monsanto? The most evil company in the world? I thought you were trying to make the world a BETTER place?’” (Friedberg also felt compelled to write a letter to his entire staff, laying out his rationale for Monsanto’s aptness as a new owner.) In short, you don’t need to have a degree in marketing and communications to see that Monsanto has a PR problem.

How did this happen? How did Monsanto go from the future of American innovation to a late-night punchline? Critics point to their role in GMOs, creating “frankenfood,” but Monsanto is not the only company that produces genetically modified organisms. And though it has a bad environmental record, so do lots of companies. Also, unlike, say, other corporate villains like General Motors (the antihero of Michael Moore’s “Roger & Me”) Monsanto is not a consumer facing company, and its actual biotechnological workings are mystifying to the average person. Yet somehow it manages to serve as a focal point for popular fear and rage about everything from political pandering to globalization. Why?

[continues at Modern Farmer]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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52 Comments on "Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto?"

  1. I don’t think that is an accurate headline, not everyone hates Monsanto. I mean, the employees, shareholders and paid lackies all love Monsanto, as do their customers. For good reason, $$$.

    I’d bet those who hate Monsanto are really just envious of Monsanto’s profits and power, and I’m sure a large subgroup also hate the Mexican name. Immigration is a big media topic nowadays, so it’s understandable why no one likes “Monsanto”. Go back to Mexico, jerks!

    • Plenty of employees hate their employers.

      • And that’s why we need to root them out and get them fired. We don’t need those lazy laggards putting a drag on the bottom line with paychecks. And we don’t want them hanging around to sap the morale of the merely bored employees who show up to keep the seats warm. Per Human Resources, Teamwork is the name of the Game, if you want to make Bank as a CEO.

  2. Jordan Campbell | Mar 5, 2014 at 10:56 am |

    So….where’s the rest of the article?

  3. Thurlow Weed | Mar 5, 2014 at 10:59 am |

    Fax this article to the Koch brothers for remuneration.

  4. luther_blissett5 | Mar 5, 2014 at 11:06 am |

    A better question would be “why does Monsanto hate humanity and the environment?” The likely answer is because they’re run by greedy psychopaths.

    • melitagnm105 | Mar 6, 2014 at 7:59 am |

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    • GMOfreeGuy | Jul 6, 2014 at 10:16 pm |

      Yes real greedy guys..

  5. Ben Althauser | Mar 5, 2014 at 11:31 am |

    This is like asking why we don’t trust Microsoft.

  6. Kevin Leonard | Mar 5, 2014 at 11:56 am |

    So, people hate Monsanto because they have a shitty PR department?
    What apologist tripe.

  7. Odd. One minute Ms. Majestic is the cynical skeptic (usually about conspiracies) next she’s post apologist garbage for a company known to produce, for profit, dangerous products. I see a pattern emerging.

    • VaudeVillain | Mar 5, 2014 at 5:47 pm |

      Blindly adopting anyone’s rhetoric and propaganda is foolish, dangerous, and inevitably leads to being a pawn in somebody else’s game. This no more true of The System than it is of The Opposition.

      If you want to play for yourself, there are only two real options: opt out and become some variety of ascetic hermit, or learn how to reverse engineer the bullshit into what’s really happening. Both are hard, and very few people choose to do either.

    • Dangerous? Citation needed. In thirty years of GMO food crop development there have been no documented cases of harm, no studies revealing any harm to humans. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that they are safe.

      • terrasodium | Mar 6, 2014 at 4:35 pm |

        I’ve often wondered what all the out of work science researchers that worked for tobacco, asbestos,and DDT companies would do for an encore. Is it still against the law to possess a monsanto patent seed for private third party scientific testing ?Or is existing consensus enough to proceed confidently for the next milleniuum?

  8. Cairenn Day | Mar 5, 2014 at 6:29 pm |

    Modern Farming is pro organic, and anti GMO site.

    REAL farmers like Monsanto, lots of urban hipsters don’t. You know, if I wanted to go to a trendy club, I would listen to the hipsters. If I want to know about farming, I will listen to farmers and the those that develop the products that put food on our table.

    • Rhoid Rager | Mar 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm |

      When you go buy a car do you prefer to listen to and trust the car salesman and the company that made the car?

      • Cairenn Day | Mar 6, 2014 at 1:32 am |

        You know who I DON”T listen to on buying a car? Bicycle and horse salesman.

        Listening to urban folks talk about farming is doing that.

        • Rhoid Rager | Mar 6, 2014 at 1:44 am |

          It makes you wonder what people did about food before fossil-fuel based agricultural chemicals and techniques came along….

          • Cairenn Day | Mar 6, 2014 at 2:21 am |

            Lots of folks starved, lots of diets were very limited. Pellagra was a major problem in areas of the southern US , less than 100 years ago.

            The population of the world was much smaller then also, starvation and plagues served to keep the numbers down. Most folks had to work the land, they were available to create new technologies and to find cures for disease and such, or even to create music and art.

          • Bullshit. There’s more than enough food to feed everyone in the world without plants that produce their own pesticides. The only reason people starve is because means of production and distribution have been hoarded, and copyrighting plants will only add to that problem.

            I should point out that I believe GM could be done healthily, but that Monsanto is doing it harmfully, and to corner the food market.

          • Cairenn Day | Mar 6, 2014 at 3:05 pm |

            First, many plants produce their own pesticides naturally.

            In general right now it is BAD governments causing issues with the distribution of food. Plants have been patented since the 1930s. Are you forgetting that patents only last for 20 yrs? The first adopted GMO is about to go off patent.

            Do you object to Golden rice also?

            Monsanto is one of 4 big players in GMO development. Most small companies cannot afford the testing costs of developing them. There is an exception that may be coming on the market, and that is the Arctic Apple developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc, a small company in BC, Can.

            The only folks that want to ‘control’ the food market is the ORGANIC food industry. They want to eliminate, not only GMOs but all traditional agriculture as well.

            Stop blaming Monsanto for something they are not doing.

          • Plants that produce their own pesticides are irrelevant. What I object to are plants that have been genetically engineered to produce toxins that I don’t want to eat.

            I don’t currently object to “Golden Rice.” But I strongly suspect there are better ways to address the problem (like eliminating bad governments).

            The organic food industry wants the government to control the food market for the better, even if they may be somewhat misguided. Regulation of the food market is a necessary thing. What I object to are Monsanto and other companies patenting and producing plants that have been genetically engineered to produce toxins that I don’t want to eat and contaminating the gene pool so that they can legally or economically force most farmers to use them.

            So in short, I will continue to blame Monsanto for what you claim they are not doing.

    • I consider organic farmers to be REAL farmers too. My family has an avocado farm, and we are in the process of transitioning to organic. We easily replaced using Roundup to kill sporadic weeds between the avocado trees with using a weed wacker, and it takes roughly the same amount of time and cost less. We easily replaced traditional fertilizer with organic fertilizer, which only cost slightly more, but well worth it because of the fact that we can sell certified organic avocados for a premium to all of the hipsters 🙂

      • Cairenn Day | Mar 6, 2014 at 1:31 am |

        There is a HUGE difference in a ‘truck garden or a small farm (less than 100 acres) and what you can do. Most folks with those are NOT depending on their farm to keep a roof over their head and clothes on the kids and gas in the vehicles.

        Of course you can sell it, it is boutique product, just like my jewelry is.

        And tree crops like avocados are very different from row crops like grains.

        • That is true. Our avocado farm is only about 10 acres, and not our main source of income. By the way, I am not anti-GMO. I am anti overuse of herbicide (which unfortunately most current GMOs result in). I think GMOs have a lot of potential for good, but I don’t think that genetically modifying crops to be resistant to Roundup so they can be drenched in roundup on a regular basis is an example of that. I think the future of weed control will be herbicide alternatives like soil steaming, cover crops, mechanical weeding, hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, etc.. I do like the genetically modifying crops to use less insecticide and fungicide though.

          • Cairenn Day | Mar 6, 2014 at 2:17 am |

            From talking with farmers with med large to large row crop farms, they say that they use LESS overall pesticide/herbicide with GMO crops. They do not drench their crops in it. It is too costly to do that. Many of them are using cover crops to help early in the season and then glyphosate is used to kill it and any weeds. It is left in place to help in weed control.

            I was reading one blog where the farmer was discussing the agricultural uses of drones. One of the ones that he was hoping for, was the ability to check his fields more often for weeds, so he could either spot treat them or even take a hoe to them

          • I love the thought of using drones to identify and spot treat weeds, as well as other high tech herbicide alternatives. I would like to see the money that is currently being spent in development of herbicide resistant GMOs being put to use to develop herbicide alternatives like that and the ones I mentioned earlier, as I like to see high tech and biotech used to solve problems rather than make them worse. It is true that GMOs like Bt corn for example do use less insecticide (which I like), but GMOs like Roundup Ready corn do NOT use less herbicide. A lot of farmers use the word “pesticide” to include insecticide, fungicide, and herbicide.

          • There’s a fundamental difference between the usage of herbicide and pesticide though, surely? A pesticide would work at the interface between the pest and the plant – a herbicide at the interface of the weed and the plant.

            How could you genetically modify a plant such that it kills a weed growing in the soil at say 6 inches from the plant? Whereas a corn borer begins to eat the Bt corn, the Bt cry unfolds in the little bug’s alkaline stomach, and the bug dies from a bad case of indegestion.

          • I’m not sure I get your point. My point is that is that overuse of herbicide is a real problem, similar to overuse of antibiotics, and that Roundup Ready and other herbicide tolerant type of GMOs do not help solve that problem. Also, if one is concerned about feeding the world, as most of the pro-GMO crowd appears to be, then they would recognize that the main GMO crops, corn and soy, are primarily grown for animal feed or biofuel, and only a small percentage goes towards feeding humans. Forgetting about biofuels for a sec, growing corn and soy to feed to animals, which are then killed and fed to humans is one of the least efficient methods of food production in use. I would not be surprised if our 10 acre avocado farm provided more food calories to humans than that of a 100 acre corn farm.

          • The use to which we put the plants we grow is nothing to do with whether or not GMO crops are safe though, is it? Corn and soy would probably be put to these uses even if there weren’t GMO varieties of them… although perhaps GMO has made them cheaper to produce and hence more cost effective as fodder and biofuel, but I don’t know.

            And as for the overuse of herbicides, is it a problem? Roundup ready food crops have increased the use of glyphosate by farmers, but I believe there’s also been a corresponding drop in the use of other more toxic herbicides.

            What I meant about the difference between herbicides and pesticides is you can with GMO techniques put the pesticide in the plant itself, but you can’t put the herbicide in the plant because the weed doesn’t eat the plant like the pest does.

          • Fist, I am not anti-GMO and I don’t think GMOs are unsafe, I am anti overuse of herbicide and herbicide resistant GMOs (which are unfortunately the majority of GMOs currently used). Second, the low cost of growing Roundup Ready GMO corn and soy is a major contributing factor in their increasing use as bio-fuel and animal feed, and thus resulting in the increasing overuse of Roundup and other herbicides that these crops are genetically modified to withstand. I love genetically modifying plants so they use less insecticide and fungicide, but not genetically modifying them to be resistant to Roundup or other herbicide so that millions of acres of farmland are regularly sprayed with herbicide. I don’t think that is a long term sustainable method of weed control. I agree that Roundup, for instance, is less toxic than some previous herbicides used, similar to how “clean coal” power plants are better for the environment than older coal power plants, but I don’ think that makes Roundup Ready crops the best or most efficient method of weed control, just as I don’t think “clean coal” is the best or most efficient method of producing energy. I believe the money being spent to develop herbicide resistant GMO crops would be better spent in development of alternative methods of weed control like soil steaming, cover crops, mechanical weeding, hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, etc. Also, someone recently mentioned use of drones to identify sporadic weed in fields so they can be removed, which is another idea I love. Nevertheless, I think GMOs have a lot of potential for good, but i don’t believe Roundup Ready GMOs are the best example of that.

          • Cairenn Day | Mar 6, 2014 at 2:55 pm |

            Where did you get the idea that they farmers ‘regularly’ spray their fields with glyphosate? They don’t. Spraying costs money and they do it as little as possible.

            There are 3 reasons why the amount of glyphosate use has gone up. 1) it became a generic and the price dropped 2) it replaced older herbicides 3) the acreage of corn increased due to the demand for ethanol.

            I would need to double check, but I think the amount of herbicide used per acre is down.

          • From what I’ve ready most GMO corn and soy farmers spray their fields 2-3 times a year with glyphosate (some more, some less, but I believe that is rough average..please correct me if I am wrong). I consider that as “regularly” spraying. I appears that we both agree that growing corn and soy for biofuel (ethanol or bio-diesel) is not the best idea. Do you also agree that growing corn and soy for animal feed is very inefficient method of food production, and that if one was interested in feeding the world they would choose a more efficient method?

    • misinformation | Mar 6, 2014 at 9:52 pm |

      What is a “REAL” farmer?

      • One that doesn’t grow organic produce or practice permaculture.

        • misinformation | Mar 7, 2014 at 12:42 am |

          I suppose I’ll wait for his/her reply but that is what seems to be the allusion…

      • Cairenn Day | Mar 7, 2014 at 2:13 am |

        A REAL farmer is someone that is getting most of their income from a farm. Generally it is someone farming a 100 acres or more, depending on the crop. It is not someone producing ‘baby vegetables’ for exclusive restaurants.

        It is not someone with a truck patch, or a pot of tomatoes on the patio. It is someone that is producing food for sale in ordinary grocery stores, like Albertsons, Kroger and even Wal Mart.

        There are real farmers with organic farms.

        I see that some folks here are quick to decide what someone thinks. Maybe you need to stop that practice. It just makes you look foolish.

        • What was quick about it? It’s quite clear you like Monsanto and hate organic farming.

          • emperorreagan | Mar 7, 2014 at 11:21 am |

            There’s the 1,000+ comments that are all on articles/discussions about GMOs and/or Monsanto (at least as far as I was willing to scroll through the poster’s comment history). So it’s probably more than just liking Monsanto.

            If you Google her, you can find her called out as a shill multiple times. You can find her shilling for BP, though, around the time of the oil spill on Facebook.

            If companies are going to pay shills to show up on websites to argue in the comments sections, they really should try to make it less obvious. Maybe post about something else – maybe try posting at Rolling Stone about some pop band or something. Concentrated activity centered on a particular topic across disparate websites makes it too obvious.

          • There are people who have a strong emotional attachment to corporations.

          • terrasodium | Mar 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm |

            Do you think internet marketers have figured out how to pass the turing test? I read the comment history and couldn’t give it a pass or fail .otherwise it seems a strange pass time for a “farmer”.

          • emperorreagan | Mar 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm |

            A service like Disqus would certainly be the place to test it, since it offers a consistent platform and connects a wide range of sites.

        • misinformation | Mar 7, 2014 at 10:53 am |

          If I’m foolish, I’ll leave it of for others to decide what you are, then. So how many of your criteria does it take? Does a real farmer make most of their living from farming? Does a real farmer have to sell to Albertsons, Kroger or even Wal Mart? Do they need to be farming 100 acres or more? They can’t be selling ‘baby vegetables’ to exclusive restaurants? Is it one of those, three, all?

          I’m not sure where you get your talking points from but they reveal a level of ignorance about farming. I farm for a living. I am surrounded by both large scale, conventional and small/med scale organic or ‘beyond organic’ (with a couple of large-scale organic seed producers mixed in). Most of the organic producers are working 40 acres or less and are not selling to any of the chains wihich you mentioned and every one of them makes most, or all of their living from farming. Restaurants and direct-to-consumer sales are often part of their business model.

          Beyond that, every large-scale conventional farmer I know, only survives on the subsidies they receive and are often producing some of the least nutritious food crops possible (with a few exceptions). So perhaps, adding bureaucrats to your list of who you listen to, in order to learn about farming, would be a good idea.

        • Cairenn Day, please answer this question. Do you also agree that growing GMO corn and soy for animal feed is very inefficient method of food production, and that if one was interested in feeding the world they would choose a more efficient method?

          • She may be moving on to greener (day-glow green) pastures, where her fertilizer is more welcome.

      • Apparently, Caireen Day’s definition of a real farmer is one who grows GMO corn or soy for animal feed, or biofuel. (which are some of the least efficient methods of producing food and energy).

  9. Cairenn Day | Mar 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm |

    Why don’t you take your anti science rant to Alex Jones or Jesse Ventura where it belongs, along side chemtrails, FEMA camps and such.

    • The above statement contains thirteen (13) facts as to what Water Fluoridation really is. None of these are in despute, all documented. Nothing to debate, no conspiracy involved. See the link for it all spelled out for you. What are you doing here if you are not looking for some truth?

      • Cairenn Day | Mar 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm |

        If I wanted to discuss your nonsense, I would go to a site that discusses it. This article is about Monsanto, how does that connect to fluoride?

        Do they make it? Put in water? Produce seeds that produce it?

        You are hijacking a discussion for your own pet conspiracy. Please take it elsewhere.

        • Jin The Ninja | Mar 7, 2014 at 12:43 pm |

          he’s the one hijacking a thread? do you know what site you’re even on? i suppose not. you just go wherever monsanto tells…er…pays you to go.

  10. terrasodium | Mar 7, 2014 at 7:33 am |

    What is the rubric (legal and pragmatic)used to define “harmful”? Do the “agreenents” with researchers provide legal conditional boundries to what can and cannot be published?How do Universities pay for research? Do the sales and marketing teams get paid more or less then the science and technology teams in the no-national corporate business model? How many cups of coffee can you buy with a nobel prize?check your balance before climbing to the rooftop, and by all means enjoy your GMO’s as a daily source of sustainance , having one more test subject for the future statistcal model will tell the tale, are ya feelin lucky punk?well are ya?

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