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Top 5 Myths About Monsanto (Part 1)
B. J. Murphy   May 29, 2015   Ethical Technology  

Anyone who has the scientific tenacity to question “common truths” and come to a valid conclusion outside of the confines of popular opinion are destined to be heralded as someone working in the pocket of some agency. Conspiracy theories run amok throughout society, believing any large corporation to be intrinsically “evil”. One corporation in particular stands out the most: Monsanto!

Whether you’re anti-GMO or pro-GMO (genetically modified organism), there’s a good chance that you’re subsequently anti-Monsanto. This seed engineering corporation has unfortunately fell victim to a mass campaign by that of pseudo-scientists and pseudo-historians, effectively taking up the caricature of “pure evil”. The theories imposed against Monsanto vary in large quantities, some more detailed than others. And yet, no matter how absurd they might be, the idea that Monsanto is anything but a greedy corporation who want nothing more than to instill authoritarian control over farmers throughout the world is deemed inconceivable.

I used to be an anti-GMO activist. I’d fallen victim to their craftily engineered stories of transgenic crops harming both consumers and the overall environment. Whenever I thought about GMOs, I immediately thought of the evil Monsanto. Thankfully I was able to come to my senses and recognize the scientific validity behind transgenic crop production. Even then, however, I still maintained an anti-Monsanto viewpoint, believing that Monsanto represented everything that’s wrong with Big-Ag in terms of the environment and agricultural workers. To finally admit to myself that I was completely wrong about the company was probably the most difficult experience I had to go through.

Understand that I still believe that transgenic crop production will thrive once it enters into the realm of open-source DIY production, but I also now recognize the importance of Monsanto’s role in pushing transgenic crops into a widely accepted, lifesaving market. The problem, however, is that Monsanto is still being challenged by those who continue to believe in the conspiracy theories and ahistorical pretense. Below I’m going to attempt to counter-challenge the largest of these myths about the company, with the hopes of enlightening enough people to start questioning everything they’ve been told about either GMOs or Monsanto. (FYI: I want to thank Franklin Veaux, alongside his infamous “Is Monsanto evil?” response on Quora, for being my inspiration to look at this subject much more thoroughly and with an open mind.)

Myth #1: Monsanto Created Agent Orange

The myth that Monsanto, as we know the company today, was behind the development of Agent Orange – an herbicide used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War – is probably one of the most common of myths, resulting in the very “evil” image Monsanto has garnered itself over the years. The only problem with this claim is that not only was Monsanto one of many companies who helped develop Agent Orange, but subsequently isn’t even the same Monsanto that we know of today.

First off, alongside Monsanto, the other companies who helped develop Agent Orange were Hercules, Diamond Shamrock Corp., Uniroyal (tire manufacturer), and Thompson Chemicals. [1] I know what you’re thinking though. Isn’t Monsanto the main company who invented Agent Orange? No, not really. In fact, they didn’t even invent it – the Department of Defense (DoD) did! [2] The main manufacturer of Agent Orange, however, was Dow Chemical, until they’d proven themselves unreliable in manufacturing the herbicide fast enough. [3] As a result, the DoD looked to overflow suppliers, as listed above, which included Monsanto, to help keep pace.

Secondly, the Monsanto we’re talking about here isn’t the same Monsanto who is currently engineering genetically modified seeds. The Monsanto who helped in the development of Agent Orange was a chemical company that eventually merged with G.D. Searle & Company and Pharmacia & Upjohn LLC in 2000, officially becoming Pharmacia. Pharmacia, however, was soon bought off by the biopharmaceutical corporation Pfizer in 2002. [4]

Monsanto the agriculture company was merely an offshoot company from the original, whom Pfizer wanted nothing to do with when they bought off the chemical company in 2002. As a result, today’s Monsanto had split ways and formed their own management distinct from their predecessor. [5] To then blame today’s Monsanto for the development of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War would be completely asinine.

Myth #2: Monsanto Is A Large Corporation

When it comes to the size of a corporation, the larger you are, you more likely you’ll be targeted by anti-corporation activists. I tend to find this quite simplistic, even as a leftist activist myself. Back when I used to help organize demonstrations for the Occupy chapter of our general area you would constantly come into contact with those who adhered to the simplistic viewpoint that all corporations are bad. When asked who they believe to be the most “evil” of them all, Monsanto was almost always chosen.
But why? They’re not even that big in comparison to other corporations and companies. (As noted before, a lot of this research was done beforehand by Franklin Veaux on Quora, who subsequently built the graph below.)



The graph you see above depicts a large selection of companies and their annual gross revenue for 2013. As you can clearly see, which you are free to do the research yourself as well, Monsanto really isn’t that large of a company. They’re stuck between Dish Satellite TV and Starbucks, which is quite surprising for me, because I always envisioned Monsanto of being this enormous corporation in parallel with that of oil companies.

You should also note that the original Monsanto (aka Pfizer) is a much larger company – larger than Ford Motor Company and Coca Cola. They’re just shy of reaching similar gross revenue as that of UPS and Google. Add this with the realization that Pfizer bought off the very same company who helped in developing Agent Orange, you’d have to wonder why today’s Monsanto is being targeted as this large, evil corporation when, in reality, Pfizer is closer to this than Monsanto.

Myth #3: Monsanto Holds A Monopoly On Transgenic Crop Production

This is another myth that I used to believe in when pushing a pro-GMO message to people. I, too, would claim that Monsanto is an evil company who holds a monopoly on transgenic crops and should be what people oppose, not the crops themselves. Well, it would appear that I was wrong, insofar that they hold a monopoly on the production of genetically modified crops.

In all actuality, Monsanto is only one of many different companies who are working on transgenic crop production. The largest of companies working on transgenic crops are Monsanto, Syngenta AG, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Dow Agrosciences, BASF, and Bayer Cropscience. As for the smaller companies helping develop transgenic crops, they range from the United States, Australia, Canada, India, Israel, the Netherlands, and South Africa. [6]

But surely Monsanto is the largest of those companies listed, right? You would definitely think so given the amount of attention that Monsanto receives in regards to “GMOs.” Again, reality would prove otherwise, with global Swiss agribusiness Syngenta AG being the largest in comparison to Monsanto. Where Monsanto contains just over 22,000 employees working for them in 43 different countries [7,8], Syngenta is operating in 90 different countries with over 28,000 employees. [9]

Myth #4: Monsanto Is Involved In the String of Indian Farmers Committing Suicide

No matter whether I speak favorably of transgenic crops or of Monsanto, there is one topic that almost always comes up in tandem: the farmer suicides in India and their supposed link to the introduction of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton by Monsanto. This is probably one of the most dubious of myths made against the company, but is also one of the more popular myths as well.
I’ll just say it outright: Monsanto is not involved in the string of suicides amongst Indian peasant farmers. According to a 2008 study by Washington, D.C. based agriculture policy think-tank International Food Policy Institute, “our analysis clearly shows that Bt cotton is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for the occurrence of farmer suicides.” [10] Of course, they also noted that, in some areas, it would be more prevalent for Bt cotton to have an indirect role in the matter, but is “mainly the result of the context or environment in which it was planted.”

In 2011, researchers at the University of Agricultural Sciences subsequently did research on the impact Bt cotton had on Indian farmers. Not only did they not find a link on increased impoverishment of Indian farmers by the introduction of Bt cotton, they instead found the very act of withholding Bt cotton from farmers to having a much more detrimental effect on them. On top of that, while in some areas the price of Bt cotton were pretty high, it was subsequently shown that organic non-Bt cotton were carrying a much higher price range. [11]

What makes the erroneous claim of Monsanto’s Bt cotton being linked to farmer suicides in India all the more absurd would be the fact that farmer suicides have been cataloged in India since 1997, despite the fact that Bt cotton was never introduced in India until 2002. [12]



As you may also notice in the graph provided above, which was taken from 2011 study Bt cotton and farmer suicides in India: an evidence-based assessment, not only were Indian farmer suicides occurring before Bt cotton was introduced in the country in 2002, the amount of Indian farmer suicides began decreasing quite significantly after the introduction of Bt cotton. Indeed, in the 2008 study by the International Food Policy Institute, as mentioned above, they also noted that, “there is no evidence in available data of a “resurgence” of farmer suicides in India in the last five years.”

While the farmer suicides are clearly being alleviated, India is currently going through other terrible conditions, such as Vitamin A deficiencies, which is resulting in an increased number of people dying due to these micronutrient deficiencies. [13,14] In response, scientists and companies, like Monsanto, have been trying to introduce Golden Rice – a genetically modified variety of rice that has been modified to biosynthesize beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A – in developing countries like India for free! [15] The only problem is that anti-GMO opposition have been consistently pushing a fear-mongering campaign against Golden Rice, scaring countries from accepting it, consequently keeping Golden Rice on the shelves. In some countries, like the Philippines, these extremists are going as far as vandalizing and uprooting experimental plots of Golden Rice. [16]

In other words, rather than Monsanto killing people in India (among other countries), it would appear that the anti-GMO activists are the real murderers instead.

Myth #5: The Monsanto Protection Act

In March of 2013 H.R. 933 was signed into law by President Barack Obama. In response, thousands of people went into uproar, referring to it as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” claiming it to be another attempt by Monsanto at forcing their transgenic crops on people who don’t wish to consume them. Technically it was Section 735 of H.R. 933, also known as the Farmer Assurance Provision, which was unlucky enough to be deemed a “Monsanto plot.” 

Fact of the matter is that Monsanto was never even mentioned in Sec. 735, nor was it mentioned throughout the entire H.R. 933. To top it off, the bill never even specified transgenic crops. [17] So what does Sec. 735 actually say?

“SEC. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act is or has been invalidated or vacated, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon request by a farmer, grower, farm operator, or producer, immediately grant temporary permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with section 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements, including measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner: Provided, That all such conditions shall be applicable only for the interim period necessary for the Secretary to complete any required analyses or consultations related to the petition for non-regulated status: Provided further, That nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the Secretary’s authority under section 411, 412 and 414 of the Plant Protection Act.”

Once I read this, I then began reading sections 411, 412, and 414 of the Plant Protection Act. [18] Again, nowhere does the Plant Protection Act mention Monsanto, nor did it specify genetically modified organisms. Instead the act had emphasized on plant pests. All three sections go into the Secretary’s regulatory role over Plant Pest distribution, including mention of said plants only being allowed to be distributed after “governing consideration of import requests are based on sound science and are transparent and accessible.”

Back to Sec. 735 of H.R. 933, the text of this particular section of this particular bill – to which, for some reason, was being dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” – doesn’t even come close to what the anti-GMO/anti-Monsanto activists were fear-mongering about all throughout leftist media. Essentially, what is being said in Sec. 735 is that temporary distribution of any plant - whether it be conventional, organic, or transgenic - will be allowed within its interim period, so long as it remains in line with that of sections 411, 412, and 414 of the Plant Protection Act. Meaning, any temporary unregulated distribution of any plant - yes, even “GMO” plants - shall remain distributed until further scientific evidence is provided that calls into question the plant’s effects to the environment or those consuming it.

Fact of the matter is that this isn’t even new in the world of agriculture. In fact, it was merely added onto H.R. 933 to continue the mirrored text from a previous bill signed in 2012, known as H.R. 5973 (112th): Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013, on Sec. 733. [19] In other words, there was no actual “Monsanto Protection Act,” thus there was no “evil corporate attack” on farmers and consumers.

________________________________________

1. http://bit.ly/1GHXyEU
2. Zierler, David, The Invention of Ecocide: Agent Orange, Vietnam, and the Scientists Who Changed the Way We Think About the Vietnam War (2011)
3. http://bit.ly/1d2z5hC
4. http://on.pfizer.com/1iya213
5. http://bit.ly/1KstlbT
6. http://bit.ly/1dAFscK
7. http://monsanto.info/1LMyFrJ
8. http://monsanto.info/1DYxMuf
9. http://bit.ly/RuCGKl
10. http://bit.ly/1Ja1FKg
11. http://bit.ly/1FQXySr
12. http://1.usa.gov/1BsAZOu
13. http://1.usa.gov/1GHYgSw
14. http://bit.ly/1Ja26UW
15. http://bit.ly/1BsB5pj
16. http://bit.ly/1JXWM7N
17. http://1.usa.gov/1gNwIud
18. http://1.usa.gov/1KstlJ8
19. http://bit.ly/1PRdfPT

B.J. Murphy is a Technoprogressive Transhumanist activist within the East Coast region of the U.S. He's worked with the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources as a member of their Planetary Community Vanguard, helping campaign funding for the ARKYD 100 Space Telescope, an open-source means of space exploration. He is a Writer, Editor, and Social Media Manager for SeriousWonder.com and runs his own blog called The Proactionary Transhumanist. He's a co-author of both Longevitize!: Essays on the Science, Philosophy & Politics of Longevity and The Future of Business: Critical Insights On a Rapidly Changing World From 60 Futurists.



COMMENTS

There is a big chunk of the political left that has a raging hate boner for Monsanto and it is just bewildering to me.

Try using sources from things other than the Biotech giants next time.  That is know an a conflict of interest or propaganda.
This article is complete garbage and should be removed

So I looked at each reference for this article this is what I saw
There is a LOT of conflict of interest (COI)
This article should be removed IMMEDIATELY!

1. http://bit.ly/1GHXyEU - DOW (COI)
2. Zierler, David, The Invention of Ecocide: Agent Orange, Vietnam, and the Scientists Who Changed the Way We Think About the Vietnam War (2011) - Book wasn’t able to look at information
3. http://bit.ly/1d2z5hC - Article “Vietnam Women’s Union Speaks Out Over Dow Chemical Sponsorship of Olympics”
4. http://on.pfizer.com/1iya213 - Pfizer (COI)
5. http://bit.ly/1KstlbT - Excerpt from Phizer article (COI)
6. http://bit.ly/1dAFscK - (Deleted)
7. http://monsanto.info/1LMyFrJ - Monsanto (insulting COI)
8. http://monsanto.info/1DYxMuf - Monsanto(Insulting COI)
9. http://bit.ly/RuCGKl - (Deleted)
10. http://bit.ly/1Ja1FKg - IFPRI (International food policy research institute) (COI)
11. http://bit.ly/1FQXySr - Paper referencing from ISAAA ( International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications) (COI)
12. http://1.usa.gov/1BsAZOu - Article (Bt cotton and farmer suicides in India: an evidence-based assessment.)
13. http://1.usa.gov/1GHYgSw - Article (Vitamin A deficiency disorders in 16 districts of India.)
14. http://bit.ly/1Ja26UW - Article (Vitamin A Deficiency is Still a Public Health Problem in India)
15. http://bit.ly/1BsB5pj - (Website gone)
16. http://bit.ly/1JXWM7N - Article (Militant Filipino farmers destroy Golden Rice GM crop)
17. http://1.usa.gov/1gNwIud - One Hundred Thirteenth Congress of the United States of America
18. http://1.usa.gov/1KstlJ8 - Public law article (PLANT PROTECTION ACT)
19. http://bit.ly/1PRdfPT - Text of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Are you purposely lying or just absent minded? Your entire first paragraph about how the current Monsanto is not the Monsanto who created Agent Orange is not true. I went and read the source YOU posted, linking to pfizer’s webpage and the last sentence reads “In August 2002, Pharmacia completed the spin-off of its agricultural subsidiary, Monsanto Company.” meaning it finalized their association with their AGRICULTURAL SIBSIDIARY…they were previously one company, the company who creates food now and the company who created Agent Orange are one and the same. So you aren’t even reading the sources you quote, great.

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