GMOs get a bad rap, as much for their perceived violation of what is “natural” as for misinformed fears over their safety. But drought-and pest-resistant crops also get a bum rap because of the company that holds so many of the patents for their seeds: Monsanto. Just saying the company’s name will send an environmentalist’s blood pressure spiking—the massive corporation has become a real-life example of the faceless corporations that dot dystopian landscapes of science fiction.But, like anything else, the truth is far less interesting, and we get a glimpse of it in David Friedberg’s fight against Monsanto misinformation in a New Yorker piece from earlier this month, in which the young executive of the data-amalgamating Climate Corporation defends the decision to sell the company to Monsanto for a cool $1 billion:
When I shared the news with my dad recently, his first reaction was “Monsanto?! The most evil company in the world?! I thought you were trying to make the world a BETTER place?”…I was not prepared for the sort of reaction I got from him. In fact, it hurt to hear this from my close family—especially after all of the work needed to get to this point and with so much excitement about what was ahead; to be chastised for this exciting decision was really really hard. […]Calling a company evil is easy. And if you do it enough times it can become the “reality”—because reality is just the most common perception. Say something enough times and everyone thinks it’s the truth.Generally, things that are big or revolutionary are the easiest targets. I think this is because, ultimately, people can feel out of control in the face of very new and very big things. This is especially true for new technologies delivered on a large scale. […][A] lot of the “bad things” being said about Monsanto are simple truths about the nature of doing business at scale. On the list of top lobbyists on payroll in DC, Monsanto is not even in the top 50. The “Monsanto Protection Act” is actually called the “Farmer Assurance Provision” and was drafted and written by a number of farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers, and others, to help ensure farmers aren’t denied the right to grow crops that are approved and regulated by the Federal agencies, protecting them from emerging state propositions that aren’t based on science or research.It seems to me that innuendo, anecdotal evidence, and out of context facts are used to support a simple statement—“the company is evil”—and are rooted in a lack of understanding and fear of the unknown.
If you’re at all interested in a first-hand account of a green leader nuancing his opinion on big, “evil” Monsanto, you should read the whole thing. We doubt this will be enough to sway the majority of the green base, frothing at the mouth for some actively evil agent on which they can blame the world’s environmental ailments. But the green movement needs smart thinkers, capable of reevaluation, and it looks like it has one in David Friedberg.[Photo courtesy of Getty Images]