Deconstructing Monsanto's PR Message on GE Alfalfa


Alfalfa Seeds

On its website, Monsanto argues that “[b]iotech crops – like Roundup Ready alfalfa – bring immense benefits to growers, the environment and consumers around the world. That’s why over the past three years, Monsanto has filed several appeals asking the injunction be removed.”   It goes on to claim that the April 27, 2010 Supreme Court hearing “is about farmers, fairness and choice.”  And to add to its alleged tale of woe, the company cites three reasons why it is fighting the Geertson injunction:

  • The safety and efficacy of Roundup Ready alfalfa was never an issue in the original lawsuit against USDA, however the injunction took away farmers’ rights to choose to plant the technology – without scientific reasoning.
  • Farmers should be able to count on biotech crop approvals issued by the experts in federal agencies – or at least be confident that challenges to these decisions require consideration of scientific evidence.
  • Having a sound process for resolving disputed facts, like those in this case, serves the interests of farmers and the public. Our courts should not substitute facts reviewed by expert agencies, in this case APHIS/USDA, with their judgment

Seriously? Farmers? Choice? Scientific reasoning? Expert agencies’ decisions?  Sorry, Monsanto, you can talk the talk but you are certainly not doing the walk.

It’s a nay for choice and farmers.  Farmers who chose not to plant GM crops or better yet, go organic, find that they are incapable of growing these crops due to GM contamination.   And the company’s concern for farmers rings falls, especially when it reaps the profits from ever increasing seed prices (which, coincidentally, got the DOJ interested enough to investigate).  Wonder if farmers in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri,  forced to deal with superweeds in their high-tech Monsanto crops, feel the company’s concern as the shareholders count its billions.

And as for scientific reasoning and singing praises to expert agencies’ decisions, let’s hold the music on that one too, because the U.S. government conducts no independent testing of biotech crops before they are approved, nor does the government do much to track their consequences after.  Monsanto (and its rival DuPont), tightly curtail independent scientists from conducting their own studies. Because the companies patent their genetic alterations, outsiders are barred from testing the biotech seeds without company approvals.  Adding to that is the fact that U.S. agencies suffer from a serious case of the revolving door syndrome.  With biotech favorite Tom Vilsack at the helm of USDA, with the assistance of Roger N. Beachy, now Chief of the USDA’s newly created National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Michael Taylor as the FDA food safety adviser, and the likes of Nina Fedoroff, who is a special adviser on science and techology to the State Department which promotes GMOs adoption globally, not to be outdone by Dr. Islam Siddiqui, the new Chief Negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office and former CropLife America insider, it is difficult to believe that government agencies have consumers’ health and the environment as their top priorities where GMOs are concerned.

So let’s be honest here, Monsanto’s appeal in the genetically modified alfalfa case is not about farmers, fairness and choice but about protecting its right to continue growing GM seeds and encouraging the use of pesticides.