Monsanto: An evil company?

I have often wondered whether a company can truly be evil. Not a company run by evil people, but a place where decades of evil have seeped right into the corporate fabric.

Almost ten years ago, at a Business for Social Responsibility conference in Los Angeles, I attended a presentation by Monsanto. The company made the case that genetically modified foods would cure world hunger. GMOs, Monsanto asserted, would spark the next green revolution. I walked out of the session depressed and upset, wondering why Monsanto had been given a platform at the BSR event. I didn’t renew my membership.

Monsanto got its start making saccharin. In 1948, the company started making a powerful herbicide; a by-product of the process was the creation of a chemical that would later be known as dioxin.

On March 8, 1949, a massive explosion rocked a Monsanto herbicide plant. Court records indicate that 226 plant workers fell ill. In the 1960s, the factory manufactured Agent Orange, which later became the focus of lawsuits by Vietnam veterans contending that they had been harmed by exposure.

Monsanto has manufactured plastics, resins, rubber goods, fuel additives, artificial caffeine, industrial fluids, vinyl siding, anti-freeze, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides before deciding to leave the world of chemicals and instead become a life-sciences company. But Monsanto’s history still haunts us: left in its past is the potential responsibility for more than 50 Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites and dozens of toxic chemicals that most likely are still circulating in our bloodstreams.

Today, Monsanto, according to a report in Vanity Fair (Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear), has moved on to harassing farmers who (they believe) refuse to abide by an agreement not to collect any of the seeds generated by plants that Monsanto considers its intellectual property:

“Ever since commercial introduction of its G.M. seeds, in 1996, Monsanto has launched thousands of investigations and filed lawsuits against hundreds of farmers and seed dealers. In a 2007 report, the Center for Food Safety, in Washington, D.C., documented 112 such lawsuits, in 27 states. Even more significant, in the Center’s opinion, are the numbers of farmers who settle because they don’t have the money or the time to fight Monsanto. “The number of cases filed is only the tip of the iceberg,” says Bill Freese, the Center’s science-policy analyst. Freese says he has been told of many cases in which Monsanto investigators showed up at a farmer’s house or confronted him in his fields, claiming he had violated the technology agreement and demanding to see his records.”

As if it’s not already difficult enough to survive as a farmer. The dairy industry, according to the article, gets similar treatment:

“Jeff Kleinpeter takes very good care of his dairy cows. In the winter he turns on heaters to warm their barns. In the summer, fans blow gentle breezes to cool them, and on especially hot days, a fine mist floats down to take the edge off Louisiana’s heat. The dairy has gone “to the ultimate end of the earth for cow comfort,” says Kleinpeter, a fourth-generation dairy farmer in Baton Rouge.”

But Monsanto doesn’t like the label on Kleinpeter Dairy’s milk cartons: “From Cows Not Treated with rBGH.” Giving consumers that information has stirred the ire of Monsanto. The company contends that advertising by Kleinpeter and other dairies touting their “no rBGH” milk reflects adversely on Monsanto’s product.

In light of the article, Monsanto’s pledge, “Growth for a Better World,” makes for curious reading:

“We want to make the world a better place for future generations. As an agricultural company, Monsanto can do this best by providing value through the products and systems we offer to farmers.
With the growth of modern agricultural practices and crops that generate ever-increasing yields, we are helping farmers around the world to create a better future for human beings, the environment, and local economies.”

I doubt that many farmers would agree. Is Monsanto evil? I’m not sure that there is enough evidence to convict, but it’s certainly a candidate for my list of the world’s 10 worst companies.

Click here to read the full story in Vanity Fair.

33 comments

  1. Jennifer Senn /

    Not enough to convict? Thats impossible to believe. How about if the system wasn’t corrupt you could get a conviction. Now there’s the truth.

  2. Surfdancer /

    Monsanto has a long track record of lying to the public, while introducing harmful products and ‘phoods’ to the food supply. They once said RoundUp, their #1 Herbicide, was so safe, you could ‘drink it’. They labeled it as ‘Biodegradable’, but was later sued by French and US courts to remove ‘Biodegradable’ from their labels. How can we trust this company to self-monitor or trust their ‘studies’ on safety of GMOs??

  3. erin /

    Smoking was safe at one time too!!!

  4. hulagal /

    I live in Hawaii and Monsanto is destroying our land here and ocean. Our state senators and city council members have all taken money gifts from Monsanto. They lie and want to control the world`s food.

    .

  5. E Moore /

    The real problem lies in those who accept bribes from Monsanto and like companies. I will never truly understand how some people can put money ahead of doing the right thing. Why don’t people want to do the right thing?? Why are they so weak?

    There are wicked people with wicked agendas out there. It’s been speculated that 4% of the population is comprised of sociopaths. I’m starting to wonder if they also comprise a significant percentage of the world’s most powerful governments and leading corporations.

    Human nature has been behaving at its worst – no respect for ourselves, for life, for our only habitat or for other species with which we are interdependent. We are being led to an early grave.

  6. wyatt lee johnson /

    if we seperate the goverment from the corporations, then everything can be resolved with evil corporations. the us is the head of the beast. chop it off and the rest will follow. a silent revolution is at the voting booth. any 3rd party, takes no corporate $. don’t say i have to vote for so and so to keep so and so out of office, cause you are going to get corporate rule either way. i used to vote for ralph nader, now i vote libertarian. they represent both sides of the aisle. i know they have alot of the tea party folks, but the party does not represent them. they represent the constitutional rights of tea party members. there are 3 other 3rd partys, that are well known as well as many other more obscure partys , out there. any of which are worth voting for. please consider voting 3rd party. a 3rd party vote is better than no vote.

  7. Thomas Byg /

    This is not a matter of ignorance or misunderstandings it is nothing less then pure evil…like the weeds they love so… they themselves must be eradicated…

    no doubt remains…

    Hope… self doubt…concern for one others…this is the armor 
Monsanto hides behind…

    I grew up being tought “Crime doesn’t pay”…

    Monsanto and congress just taught me that it does…

  8. Russell /

    Monsanto is truly an evil corporation, and they control a vast amount of our food supply. They lie to the public so much, they can’t keep track. In fact, Monsanto knows this; that’s why they will buy Allens Vegetables and not Green Giant. Luckily, Monsanto has been thrown out of several countries; Poland, India, Hungary, and currently a large part of Europe is challenging them. However, us Americans won’t and think they can’t do anything about it — president Obama has signed many Monsanto Protection Acts. I first learned about Monsanto from some documentaries I watched on Netflix.

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