A web search for Monsanto brings up their homepage along with the phrase “A Sustainable Agriculture Company.” They have a heart-warming mission statement about “helping farmers” meet the needs of a growing population. There is an entire page called “Improving Agriculture” with several subcategories on how they purportedly do this.
It’s a masterpiece of propaganda that would make Edward Bernays proud. In fact, Monsanto has used Bernays’ strategies for decades, employing Freudian psychology to sell their products and create a sense of trust based not on logic but unconscious motivation.
Monsanto spends hundreds of millions of dollars to influence public opinion and to get federal lawmakers in its pocket. During 2010-2012 it spent over $300 million in advertising, carefully targeted in important areas like the commuter pathways of Washington, D.C. During the same time it spent $20 million lobbying government, including for approval of its RoundUp Ready alfalfa and sugarbeets. In 2011 Monsanto lobbied Congress for the creation of a “modern agriculture” caucus, and sure
enough, the “Congressional Caucus on Modern Agriculture” was created that year.
Monsanto’s most insidious claim is that they represent sustainable agriculture. If we look beyond the PR white noise, we see a far different reality.
Preventing Seed Saving. The basic premise of “sustainability” is using a resource so that it is not depleted. For thousands of years farmers have recognized this concept by saving seeds from vegetables and fruits for the next year’s crop. Monsanto crushes this tradition by not allowing the saving of seed from its patented products, and viciously goes after those who do. Farmers must buy new seeds, thereby breaking the most fundamental principle of sustainability.
Increasing Herbicide Use. Monsanto created “RoundUp Ready” crops that can withstand being sprayed by their glyphosate herbicide. The sell was that farmers could spray their entire fields with RoundUp and save labor costs of weed control. The problem is that weeds developed resistance in a matter of years, which resulted in more and more overall use of herbicides. It is estimated that 383 million pounds MORE herbicide was used since the introduction of RoundUp Ready crops than if the crops had not been in use. In response to this, Monsanto is developing GM crops that can withstand other, more toxic herbicides such as dicamba and glufosinate.