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Monsanto Gives Food Inc Two Thumbs Down

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 01:33:43 AM PDT


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Monsanto has launched a website response to the upcoming documentary Food, Inc. I was fortunate enough to see an advance screening of the film, which I felt was very reasonable and accurate in its portrayal of the facts. Monsanto disagrees. They say:

Food, Inc. is a one-sided, biased film that the creators claim will "lift the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer." Unfortunately, Food, Inc. is counter-productive to the serious dialogue surrounding the critical topic of our nation's food supply.

Throughout this film, Food, Inc.:

  • Demonizes American farmers and the agriculture system responsible for feeding over 300 million people in the United States.
  • Presents an unrealistic view of how to feed a growing nation while ignoring the practical demands of the American consumer and the fundamental needs of consumers around the world.
  • Disregards the fact that multiple agriculture systems should - and do - coexist.

This is Monsanto propaganda at its best.

Jill Richardson :: Monsanto Gives Food Inc Two Thumbs Down
Here are some of the things I've heard from the biotech industry as a whole and - in some cases - from Monsanto specifically are:

Organics and GMOs can exist side by side, or even together.

The idea that organics and GMOs can work together (i.e. cultivate GM seeds with organic methods) is ridiculous. Setting aside the fact that GMOs are not permitted within USDA organic standards, currently the commercial GM seeds are designed for two purposes. First, so you can spray unlimited amounts of herbicide on the crops to kill the weeds without hurting the crops. Since the herbicide isn't permitted in organic farming, that kind of kills the need for those GM seeds. The other kind of GM seeds manufacture their own pesticide - Bt - which I believe is permitted in organics. But the goal behind sustainable agriculture is not creating a sterile environment where no bugs can live. You WANT the bugs, you WANT biodiversity. You'll get some of the bad bugs along with the good ones, but killing them all is antithetical to organic practices.

How about the idea that organics and GMOs can exist side by side as two separate but equal agricultural systems? Again, I do not agree. Remember that GMOs are created for an unsustainable system of agriculture in which soil life is eradicated and its functions are replaced with technology. The very definition of the word "unsustainable" is that it cannot be sustained. You cannot do it forever. At a certain point, you run out of topsoil or water or oil or you throw the climate so badly out of whack that your plants can no longer thrive. Sooner or later, if we do not choose to abandon unsustainable agricultural practices, the planet will force us to do so and it will be far more catastrophic.

We need more food to feed a growing population.

What we need first and foremost is a better distribution system for our food. We already produce more than enough food for everybody in the world to eat. We produce so much food that we put food in our cars as ethanol, and we use food to make plastic.

Organics can't feed the world (or if you want to feed the world with organics you'll have to cut down the forests)
Going on the idea that we need more food to feed a growing population is the idea that organics can't produce that much food. If you want more food, you need to either produce higher yields on the same agricultural land in production today, or increase the amount of land used in agriculture (i.e. cut down forests). But remember that we have enough food, so this is actually not a problem. And yields from biotech are actually not that great according to a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists ("Failure to Yield").

I believe I've heard that the comparison between conventional and organic differs depending on where in the world you are, but one long-running experiment in Pennsylvania by the Rodale Institute using corn and soy found that organic methods (under two systems of organic management) have higher yields than conventional in most years after the first five.

The movie demonizes the farmers that feed 300 million+ people in America.
Can I invite Monsanto to have a guided tour of any family medicine clinic in the U.S. - particularly clinics that see high percentages of disadvantaged minority patients? Ask the doctors what their top reasons for visit and diagnoses are for their patients. Yes, we are being fed but we are being fed crap that makes us very sick. And I don't think the movie demonizes the farmers at all. It shows that the farmers and the consumers are victims of the same system. In fact, the movie demonizes corporations.

Food Inc is wrong to say the US produces too much corn and subsidizes overproduction.
Again, I'll have to disagree with Monsanto. It's nice of Monsanto to point out that the U.S. is the largest corn exporter in the world but that does not negate the accusation that we produce too much corn. Food, Inc. calls out the corn that isn't exported for contributing to a food supply of unhealthy, cheap food. The converse problem of this unhealthy, cheap corn-based food is that healthy foods are (by comparison) expensive and consumers select against them when shopping, particularly those on a tight budget.

Monsanto didn't invent patenting seeds.
Congratulations, Monsanto. But that doesn't mean that it's a good idea to patent seeds or that you don't do it. You do. And I believe that Monsanto is the most aggressive of any company in legally pursuing farmers who violate their patents by saving seeds.

Monsanto sues or threatens to sue hundreds of farmers a year for saving seeds.
I don't think anybody can disprove this. Monsanto said they've sued only 138 farmers in the last decade, and less than a dozen cases went through a full trial. But from what I hear, Monsanto frequently approaches farmers, accusing them of saving seeds, and offers them an agreement to sign with certain terms and conditions including a gag order. By signing such an agreement, the farmer will avoid going to court. Is this true or not? Hard to say... all the farmers who would know about it have signed gag orders if it is!

The agriculture industry does not try to place their friends in high ranking government positions.
So says Monsanto. Well, I don't know what their role is in TRYING to place employees in high ranking government positions, but whether they try or not, it happens. And it's a problem. It wouldn't be any more or less of a problem if the ag industry was specifically lobbying for it or not.

Monsanto is not the sole supplier of seeds in the ag industry.
This is true. I don't recall the movie claiming that Monsanto WAS the sole supplier of seeds. However, they do sell the vast majority of GMO seeds, and a very high percentage of several crops are GMOs (corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugarbeets). Monsanto has competitors in the seed business, but it has a significant market share whether you are looking at GMO seeds only or all seeds.

Food, Inc claims our food supply is controlled by corporate farms.
Bull. They claim it is controlled by corporations. There's a very big difference. Nearly all American farms are family farms if you look at USDA statistics (as Monsanto points out). It's not the farmers or the ownership of the farms that is the issue. It's the corporations that sell crop inputs (pesticides, fertilizer, seeds), process foods (ADM, Conagra), control the meatpacking industry (Tyson, JBS Swift, Smithfield), and manufacture the foods people eat (General Mills, Kraft, Kellogg, McDonalds, Coca-Cola). These are the corporations the movie says control our food supply. Because they do.

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what? (1.00 / 1)
"You'll get some of the bad bugs along with the good ones, but killing them all is antithetical to organic practices."

you really need to spend more time on an organic farm.

not every bad bug has a bio" enemy" and there are times Bt and spinosad are used to wipe out large populations of pests.

while GMO may be heavy on herbicide resistance that does not define the technology nor limit its use in the future to soft controls of pest etc that could be included in the organic standards.

one of the best examples of how GMO may be helpful is oranges. the  Asian Citrus Psyllid is devastating orange groves in FL. once the pest attacks a tree its too late and causes citrus greening a horrible disease with no cure. a long story short is there are no soft alternatives to controlling this pest which could wipe out the orange industry

a GMO version of orange is thought to be the best alternative. i reccommend   doing you own web research on this imported problem.

again you make unsubstantiated claims that GMO food is making people sick: hogwash.  stupid people every day eagerly consume transfat and HFCS products which have nothing to do with GMO technology. if all we had was hybrids we would still have stupid people and crap food by products. part of the issue is capitalism and stupid consumers. blaming GMO technology is disingenuous at best and misleading at worst. believe it or not some people just don't care about their health.  


When you say (4.00 / 4)
again you make unsubstantiated claims that GMO food is making people sick

are you referring to this?

The movie demonizes the farmers that feed 300 million+ people in America.
Can I invite Monsanto to have a guided tour of any family medicine clinic in the U.S. - particularly clinics that see high percentages of disadvantaged minority patients? Ask the doctors what their top reasons for visit and diagnoses are for their patients. Yes, we are being fed but we are being fed crap that makes us very sick. And I don't think the movie demonizes the farmers at all. It shows that the farmers and the consumers are victims of the same system. In fact, the movie demonizes corporations.

I don't see here where Jill says that GMOs in particular make people sick. She doesn't say that in her anti-GMO manifesto, either. I think she would agree with you that transfats and HFCS are not components of a healthy diet, and may in fact be responsible for most of the sickness she mentions. (The truth is that we don't know exactly what's going on, though most of us have our suspicions.) I believe Jill is criticizing these corporations' practices overall (which include the creation and inclusion of transfats and HFCS in foods) in her statement above, but I'm sure Jill will correct me if I'm wrong about that. :)

It's also possible that I missed something in the article above, and if that's the case, please point it out to me. Thanks!  

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost


[ Parent ]
I disagree with you. (4.00 / 4)
Bud, I strongly disagree with your response to Jill.

A)  "you really need to spend more time on an organic farm.  Not every bad bug has a bio" enemy and there are times Bt and spinosad are used to wipe out large populations of pests."  Nowhere did Jill say there would be no bug problems with biodiversity. But a strong microbial and insect population is indisputably better for long-run production - it will minimize and largely eliminate diseases and pest outbreaks - than the sterile soils resulting from excessive use of synthetic chemicals. This point was made long ago by Sir Albert Howard and more recently by numerous other writers, some of whom are practicing organic farmers.

She does come out very strongly against GMOs, but I agree with her.  There is a great deal of doubt about them - both their efficacy (crop yields) and their side effects - that has not been adequately researched.  And if I recall correctly, some of the research that was done a while back was suppressed. I am not a fan of a future dominated by all the starry-eyed dreams of technology enthusiasts. I find it hard to believe that we can create new genetic organisms and new synthetic chemicals that won't hurt our bodies that evolved over 100s of 1000s of years in their absence. Humans are just not that smart. But too many of us have developed a technology-focussed God complex: we are NOT super-smart Gods, a little humility would be greatly appreciated.

B) "you make unsubstantiated claims that GMO food is making people sick: hogwash.  stupid people every day eagerly consume transfat and HFCS products which have nothing to do with GMO technology."  This statement really bugs me. To say that GMOs make people sick - and there is growing research to support at least some of such claims - is NOT the same thing as saying they are the ONLY things making people sick. If you read this blog for long, you quickly learn that there are many other things - like transfats, etc. - that are also harmful to people.


[ Parent ]
"If you read this blog for long" (4.00 / 2)
Hopefully that won't happen. Bud doesn't seem too happy with us. There are websites for people who approve of GMOs and this ain't one of 'em. I wonder what motivates him to continue reading and posting here when he is in such obvious disagreement. Getting paid? Naive?  

[ Parent ]
I personally have no problem (4.00 / 3)
with Bud continuing to read and comment. Debate is good. However, I sincerely hope he takes the time to read carefully and not mischaracterize the things we say.  

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost


[ Parent ]
I guess (4.00 / 3)
His comments do seem to be getting more bitter. The whole .. "I have a PHD, you need to spend more time on a farm" bit is getting old quick. It's hardly an honest debate. Hopefully new users to this site don't read that stuff and think that's what we're about.  

[ Parent ]
That's what the rest of us are here for, right? :) (4.00 / 3)
We keep the debate honest by pointing out when it's gone off course. I was never more proud of this site (sniff, sniff) than when I read the responses Jill and other folks here posted to the Monsanto boys a month or so back. I was so concerned when I saw those posts that actually I wrote Jill a panicked "OMG the site's been invaded by Monsanto shills!" email. I felt pretty stupid for having doubted the ability of the enormously smart folks here to handle a few canned corporate talking points.

I think anyone new seeing these posts would be similarly impressed. I'm equally sure that in a worst case scenario, Jill has the behind the scenes tools to make sure this site remains a haven from corporate interests.

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost


[ Parent ]
It's more insulting to me than that (4.00 / 3)
What I see him doing here is basically like a red sox fan posting on the yankees page. He says he wants to bring sanity to this site, implying we're insane when it comes to science and it's role in agriculture. The science freak meme is really annoying, and this is the last place it should receive safe haven. I believe last week Bud was pushing around the elitist heirloom tomato meme.. what's next.. will I be called a hippie?

Anyway, I'd rather read about foraging, farmers markets and pretty much anything else besides a pro-GMO lecture.  


[ Parent ]
Speaking as a Yankee fan . . . (4.00 / 2)
so far he hasn't bothered me as much as RS fans  ;) If you see me start toying with him, you'll know he's "gone there", lol!~

[ Parent ]
::Sigh:: (4.00 / 4)
I couldn't disagree with you more.

not every bad bug has a bio" enemy" and there are times Bt and spinosad are used to wipe out large populations of pests.

When did Jill say that? Not every bad bug has an enemy, and not every crop can be grown in every part of the country. If your crop is getting bugs that you can't beat without poison, grow something else.

stupid people every day eagerly consume transfat and HFCS products which have nothing to do with GMO technology

You're saying corn grown for HFCS is not GMO? That's hard to believe. Lets see what the google machine says...

In the US, by 2006 89% of the planted area of soybeans, 83% of cotton, and 61% maize were genetically modified varieties.

Oops. Wrong again bud. Maybe you should spend more time on the google and less time in the comment section here. Or how would you put it?

i reccommend   doing you own web research on this imported problem.

You made Jill's point for her, the GMO corn is being mass produced, turned into HFCS and making people sick and obese.  


[ Parent ]
Don't forget kitty litter (4.00 / 6)
We produce so much food that we put food in our cars as ethanol, and we use food to make plastic.

I saw corn based kitty litter the other day. That'd be my preferred usage of the stuff (if i had to). Let Lenny shit on the stuff, better than me or my fam eating it.

Great article Jill.. nice to be back to read a good asskicking of Liars Inc. aka Monsanto.


not a bad idea (4.00 / 5)
my kitties poop on wheat.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Mine just tried green tea and liked it (4.00 / 3)
I also like it. Doesn't seem to be tracking much, and that's sayin' something when one of the kitties has huge paws and way too may toes {grin} Also seems to be very good at controlling odor.I'm also thinking of trying the litter to add some drainage to this organic soil I bought, lol!~ It just seems like it would work :)

Isn't World's Best corn based? I know I wasn't thrilled with it for the price. If I remember correctly it sort of cemented it's self to the box. Don't think my kitties liked it either.

Can you make paper with corn?


[ Parent ]
Some parts of the corn, I'm sure (4.00 / 2)
Paper is fiber-based, so you want a part of the corn that's fibrous. I suppose you could make paper out of the stalks and husks, or maybe the silks, but probably not the kernels. And I don't know anyone who's ever tried it.

Disclaimer: I could be wrong about any or all of this, and if so, I'll deny I ever said it. :D

I have succumbed to the Twitter craze. @Omir55


[ Parent ]
That's what I was thinking, the fiber parts (4.00 / 3)
but it seems like the other parts could be used in some way to make a more durable paper-type product, like packaging. Since our government is so addicted to corn, perhaps they could channel it to better uses. Think of the trees we could save if we could use the fields. And frankly, I would prefer GMO corn paper products to food products, if we must. I actually won't use a GMO litter for my cats.

Is it cane or corn that they are using as a possible replacement for fast food containers (they break down quick and naturally in LF, iirc). I actually have a box of them in the other room, and I bought some local baby greens in a "plastic" container that was made out of a produce*

* I bought the greens partly because they were in the container and I wanted to take a pic of it for out CSA members as something to save to bring home berries in. And yes, I'm too lazy to walk to the other end of the apt to check it, lol!~


[ Parent ]
Our cafeteria at work (4.00 / 2)
uses compostable flatware made from cornstarch. Someone tried to explain the process by which it works, but organic chemistry isn't my forte so it went right over my head. I don't see why you couldn't make takeout containers from the same or a similar product, and I think someone has -- I wouldn't be too surprised but what the teriyaki my son brought over the other day was in a container made of corn plastic.

I have succumbed to the Twitter craze. @Omir55

[ Parent ]
I don't have a problem with Bud (4.00 / 4)
I enjoy his comments and the oportunity to post a viewpoint that is contrary to some of his, and, let me say this, I don't disagree with everything he says.

I don't have a problem with pesticides or herbicides in and of themselves, I sprayed garlic soap on some of my plants this morning, that's a pesticide, and I don't have a problem with selective use of BT - I'd use it if I wasn't worried about the effect it might have on the pollinators who come onto the farm. Believe me, anyone who raises plants/plant based crops knows where I'm coming from when I say I just lost about 50% of some of my young plants over the last few days to insects, so I'm spraying, but I'm being careful what I use. I'm also well aware of the risks involved with bacterial and viral infections of livestock, and parasites. Those are the inherent risks of working with plants and animals, and those risks have to be managed.

The problem I have is with what I feel is an over use of pesticides/herbicides/antibiotics/antivirals, etc. that is enabled by some crops, such as herbicide resistant crops and BT crops. Anytime you create a new niche something will come in that fills that niche. It may take a short time or a longer time, but something will fill the niche.

We see this in antibiotic resistance, antiviral resistance, herbicide resistance, etc.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....


I disagree - Im not a fan (4.00 / 2)
but to each his/her own.

I haven't enjoyed many of his comments, but I guess he's only five weeks in. Maybe next month we won't get called granola munchers or radical organics, hysterical, stupid or insane yuppie city folks that need to spend time on the farm and get a phd.

But you're right it does provide opportunities to disagree.. and in some ways it may have other benefits.  


[ Parent ]
Well, I'm not a fan of Bud (4.00 / 4)
but I do appreciate the oportunity to refute some of the things he says. I agree with some of the points he makes, just not most....

I think that the major benifit of resources like La Vida Locavore is in the exchange of information.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....


[ Parent ]
As an afterthought before I go (4.00 / 4)
out to put up strings for bean planting, I read a lot of other farm/food blogs, and I think that the exchange of information on Jill's blog here is by far the best I've run across on the net.

And I ain't suckin' up here, that's just the honest truth.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....


[ Parent ]
Thanks Joanne (4.00 / 3)
believe it or not, I appreciate him stopping by (although I can't say I understand why he reads a blog he disagrees with so strongly) because it's good to have all of the points of view aired and discussed.  

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
You're welcome Jill, (4.00 / 4)
I read Monsanto's blog as well as LVL and others.

As you say, it's good to have all points of view aired and discussed.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....


[ Parent ]
I also really enjoy your posts about your farm (4.00 / 3)
I am sure you're very busy with it right now and I don't want to ask anything that distracts you from doing what you need to, but I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of your series. I think it's important for all of us to learn from farmers about the work they do. I don't think it's necessarily right for non-farmers to form opinions about agriculture without first consulting farmers and finding out the truth from them.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Thanks Jill (4.00 / 3)
I think it's good for non-farmers to contribute their input regarding farming. After all, everyone is involved in farming, be you a consumer, farmer, or both.

I've been meaning to write some more diaries, but it's plantin' time! Yay!.

The great joy and the great "OMG it's later than I thought!" LOL AAAAA!

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....


[ Parent ]
Yuppie city folks?!?! (4.00 / 3)
Thems fightin' words, lol!~

I remember when Yuppies were all the rage. My Dad (fairly conservative) said something to me about not bringing one home and him being happy about it {picks jaw off floor}. And this is a man I was pretty sure would like these "nice" business types! Guess he got to know them on the corporate end and developed the same view I had of them from my "liberal art school" view  ;) Of course my Dad is old school work and earn philosophy. It'd be an absolute hoot if anyone referred to me as one {sh!t eatin' grin}


[ Parent ]
Bottom line on GM (4.00 / 5)
There is no GM crop that has a significantly higher yield than non-GM varieties. GM crops at this point are herbicide resistant and insecticidal. They use more pesticide than non-GM crops.The seed is more expensive and they need more fertilizer to reach their "full yield potential"

Lets not get into the GM vitamin A enhanced rice, because no one, can eat the required 9 kilograms/day needed to get the daily requirement of vitamin A.

GM crops were designed to make a profit for Monsanto et.al. If Monsanto doesn't like the content of Food Inc. they should watch "The World According to Monsanto" They will not like that one either, but then the truth can hurt.  


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