Monsanto’s Business Practices Subject of Controversy Among Sustainable Agriculture Community
Agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto is the leading producer of genetically modified seed as well as the herbicide contained in RoundUp.
Monsanto holds a monopoly on technology used to genetically modify seeds and on the overall share of genetically modified seeds available on the market.
They are also the developer and manufacturer of rBGH–a hormone that stimulates milk production in cows. The company employs about 20,000 people and is currently generating an annual revenue of about $10.5 billion.
As an industry leader, Monsanto’s activities and policies have profound effects on the food market, the agricultural industry, and the environment. They have made a number of pledges to increase the sustainability of the agriculture industry, but face numerous accusations and lawsuits relating to environmental pollution and health hazards–not to mention widespread criticism of their aggressive marketing, litigation, and lobbying efforts.
What Commitments Has Monsanto Made to Sustainable Agriculture?
Monsanto’s claims to sustainable agriculture primarily revolve around producing more with less. The company cites statistics indicating that global food production will have to increase drastically to meet the needs of our growing population. Toward that end, Monsanto believes that genetic engineering, biotechnology, and farm management practices will be able to address fulfill that need. Monsanto has set a goal of doubling corn, soy, cotton, and canola yields by 2030.
Are Monsanto’s Claims To Sustainability Disingenuous?
Many environmental and consumer protection groups view Monsanto as an irresponsible, profit-driven corporation, and there is certainly evidence to support that view. Monsanto has been implicated in creating 56 Superfund environmental hazard clean-up sites. The milk production increasing hormone they developed, known as rBGH or rBST, has also been implicated in causing hormonal imbalances, birth defects, and cancer, and has been banned in a number of countries. Monsanto is also responsible for producing the majority of the world’s glyphosate herbicides through its RoundUp brand–which have been linked to birth defects in frog and chicken embryos.
The director of corporate communications at Monsanto has been quoted as saying “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is FDA’s job.” This callow statement clearly belies Monsanto’s claim that it is committed to safety and sustainability. With these considerations in mind, it is hard to believe that Monsanto is fulfilling its purported corporate responsibility to sustainable agriculture. Monsanto’s goal of increasing yields has always been its long-standing achievement, but more and more the question is at what cost?