Anyone who supports Monsanto is a paid “shill”
Monsanto has developed a terrible reputation over the years and it is peculiar as to why that has happened. One of the reasons is because anyone that tries to defend them is labeled as a “shill.” This means the opposition believes that anyone who defends Monsanto is being paid to do so. I can assure you this is not the case. There are thousands of privately funded scientists, millions of people in agriculture, and myself who do not believe Monsanto is a terrible company and who are not getting paid to have those beliefs. The simple fact is that Monsanto, while very large, does not have nearly enough money to pay everyone who supports them, or even half of everyone who supports them. That notion is implausible and doesn’t even make sense. There has never been any evidence to show that something like this is happening. Plus, Monsanto was recently bought out by Bayer, proving again that they can and do struggle financially sometimes and have no business paying thousands of people lots of money to defend them.
(In an attempt to be as transparent as possible, my relationship with Monsanto is as follows. On our family farm, we do use Monsanto seed on a small portion of our acres and we do apply the Monsanto chemical glyphosate on our fields to control weeds. However, neither of those things are vital to our operation. Our farm does not “rely” on Monsanto in any way and could easily continue to function entirely without a buying relationship with them. Monsanto has never given our farm or my family any money to do anything on their behalf, but they did fly our family to a convention to receive an award for agricultural advocacy in 2013. However, a free flight (or any type of compensation for that matter) would never be enough for me to advocate for a company that I honestly believed was evil or bad. I do not believe Monsanto is either of those. It has always been my goal to search for and promote the truth about whatever it is I am talking about, and this blog about Monsanto is no different.)
Monsanto is evil
There are many out there who simply believe that today’s Monsanto is pure evil. There are conspiracy theories out there that Monsanto is trying to poison the world. This is simply not true if you examine the evidence. While Monsanto is a huge company, and that itself is reason enough for concern about who they are and what they do, most of what Monsanto does is not evil or even bad. They can be greedy, as can any huge company, but in most cases, what they are doing is by and large, good. Let’s discuss the main grievances people have with Monsanto.
Monsanto’s GMOs are poisonous
Most people who are anti-Monsanto are also anti-GMO. If you truly believe that GMOs are evil and are being produced to “poison the world,” it would be logical to believe that the company (companies) behind that is evil as well. However, if you examine the evidence on GMOs, it is clear that at the very least (even if you don’t support them) they are not poisonous or evil. And at the best, they are a very beneficial technology that is both feeding people and helping the environment. (Read what we believe about GMOs)
Monsanto’s glyphosate is poisonous
Next to GMOs, the biggest problem people have with Monsanto is their production of one of the top selling chemicals in the world, glyphosate. Many people believe glyphosate is over-applied, extremely toxic, and causes both health and environmental problems. On the contrary, glyphosate is one of the safest, least toxic chemicals used in agricultural production and is applied at extremely small amounts. Evidence is also strong that glyphosate does not cause health or environmental problems when used responsibly. (Read more about what we believe about glyphosate and other chemicals)
Monsanto manufactured agent orange
This is a common argument used to prove the fact that Monsanto is evil. It is slightly misleading. There are actually two “Monsanto” companies that have existed. The first one, the former Monsanto company, manufactured agent orange from 1965 to 1969 as part of a government contractor for the war. They also developed a bad reputation as a company. That chemical company was sold to Pfizer in the 1990s. The Monsanto of today is a combination of seed companies that were acquired in the 1990s and 2000s and relaunched as a separate, new “Monsanto company.” This “new Monsanto” was formed to incorporate new science and technology in the development of seed, providing farmers with the ability to create more food with less land, water, and chemicals than had been previously possible. That’s what Monsanto has been doing ever since, and has built up a very positive reputation in the agricultural community, but much of the public’s opinion of them is based on the “old Monsanto” that was a disliked chemical company. (Read more about the history of Monsanto)
Monsanto is a massive, controlling monopoly
Monsanto, while a large company, is not massive. They are 189th on the Fortune 500. They are worth $66 billion. Apple in comparison is worth $500 billion. Monsanto is also not a monopoly. There are many companies farmers can buy their chemicals and seed from. That being said, Monsanto does have a huge market share of seeds (25% of all seeds) and chemicals around the world and is the largest seed company. The consolidation of seed and chemical companies is real and is a cause for concern. But the reason they keep consolidating is because it is so difficult and costly to bring new GMOs and new chemicals to the market, due to so many regulations. In conclusion, you can’t say Monsanto is large and trying to consolidate without also recognizing the reason why: GMOs and pesticides are unbelievably regulated and inspected for health and safety and hardly anyone can afford to produce them.
Monsanto sues farmers
One of the main accusations about Monsanto is that they sue farmers. Yes, Monsanto has sued farmers before, but only because they broke the rules of the technology agreement Monsanto requires with a purchase of their seed. Just like any invention, Monsanto’s GMO seeds are patented to make sure people are not stealing from them. By signing the agreement, the farmer agrees to buy new seeds from Monsanto each year. The farmer is not forced to do this, they are free to buy non-GMO seeds from somewhere else. To be clear, Monsanto rarely sues farmers (only 8 times per year since 1998, out of thousands of seed transactions each year) If a farmer follows the rules of Monsanto’s technology agreement (don’t replant the seeds), they have nothing to worry about. Most farmers do not save seeds anymore anyway, for a variety of reasons. Monsanto does not sue for inadvertent (accidental) contamination or from cross pollination. A farmer has to willingly, knowingly break the rules in order to be sued and could easily eliminate the risk of being sued by never buying from Monsanto in the first place.
Monsanto is causing farmers to commit suicide
A widely publicized rumor several years back was that farmers in India were committing suicide after trying to plant Monsanto’s GMO seeds. It is true (and extremely sad) that 270,000 farmers have committed suicide in India over the last several decades. Monsanto, however, has never had anything to do with this, and has actually helped millions of Indian farmers with their technology. Over 90% of Indian cotton farmers now use GMO seeds. Why would the technology spread so successfully if it was making farmers commit suicide? There are many reasons Indian farmers have taken their own lives over the years, including crop failure from weather events, banking policies, cultural shame, and just an overall suicide problem in the country (over half of all suicides come from India and China). The issue is outlined in this write-up: Why are Indian farmers committing suicide?
Monsanto is bad for farmers and rural communities
There is a general feeling on the internet of “poor farmers being under Monsanto’s control.” In reality, nearly every farmer you talk to recognizes that Monsanto is just another big agricultural company who they can *choose* to buy seeds or chemicals from. There will definitely be some farmers that don’t like Monsanto, simply because they make a lot of money and charge a lot for their products, but farmers continue to buy Monsanto products because they are the best option for their farm, not because they are being forced to in any way. Monsanto is also one of the greatest contributors and donators to rural communities in America and around the world. They are constantly sponsoring youth programs, funding local research, and giving back to many non-profit organizations. Read more here: Monsanto Giving
Monsanto creates seeds that are sterile (terminator seeds)
Terminator seeds (seeds that become sterile after one year) were a concept developed by Monsanto early on the history of GMOs, but they received so much public backlash that Monsanto never brought them to market. Monsanto’s GMO seeds can be planted again the next year and they will grow, it’s just against the rules to do that. There are no terminator seeds available today nor were there ever any brought into commercialized production.
Monsanto hates bees
Many people hold the belief that pesticides and GMOs are responsible for bee population decline. We address that myth in our GMO and Chemical blogs. If you can get look past that misguided belief and examine the actual evidence, you will find that many different factors are contributing to bee decline and most of them are not related to Monsanto. Monsanto is actually working hard to find a solution to bee decline (Read more here).
Monsanto employees are all terrible people
Many people believe that all Monsanto employees must be terrible people and hate their jobs. Anyone who knows a Monsanto employee, however, knows this is not even close to true. Monsanto was voted the 59th best company to work for in the world. They are well respected in the agricultural community and the employees who work there are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. I had many friends in college take internships with Monsanto and/or went on to work for Monsanto and I never once heard them badmouth the company. (Read more about Monsanto employees and how they feel about working for Monsanto)
Monsanto employees don’t eat food containing GMOs
This myth is simply untrue and never had any grounds of being true. Monsanto has never excluded GMOs from their cafeterias nor do their employees avoid GMOs in their personal grocery shopping. (Read more)
Monsanto only sells GMOs
Monsanto sells many different seeds besides GMOs. This includes non-GMO seeds, organic seeds, and vegetable seeds. They also sell a variety of chemicals and weed control products.
Monsanto is against labeling GMOs
Monsanto has a very similar opinion to us of GMO labeling. Click here to read Monsanto’s opinion of labeling GMO products. Click here to read our opinion of GMO labeling.
Hi Greg, you have a very rational way of thinking, i wonder however why you don’t seem to apply the same rational way of think on your religious beliefs. What do you believe and why do you believe it? Is there credible evidence for it? There are many unfounded beliefs about GMO’s and farming practices, but imho opinion the belief in the Christian message is also unfounded and can not stand the rationality test. Maybe you could write a blog post about what you believe and why you believe what you believe. Do you take every word of the bible literally? If so why, if not why not and how do you determine what parts to believe and what parts not to believe? Since you are very open about being a Christian and have a very rational / scientific way of approaching every day (farming) issues, i think this is a fair question to ask. You seem to not understand why many people have irrational beliefs regarding farming practices, yet I and probably some / many others don’t understand why you don’t apply the same rational / scientific way of thinking to your religious beliefs.
Happy new year!
A atheist son of a farmer from the Netherlands
I am working on blogs about my faith and will be posting them soon. But I can assure you I apply the same rational way of thinking and basing opinions on evidence in what I believe about my faith!