I can see the new Monsanto ad from my office window in downtown Washington, DC this morning. It must have gone up overnight, on a bus shelter facing K Street NW. Below a close-up of rough, work-worn hands, a plaid shirtsleeve, and an ear of corn, the copy reads:
In the hands of farmers, better seeds can help meet the needs of our rapidly growing population, while protecting the Earth’s natural resources.
If only Monsanto were actually delivering those feel-good benefits.
In 2009, my UCS colleague Doug Gurian-Sherman produced Failure to Yield, a landmark report that shattered the myth that genetically engineered (GE) seeds (like those Monsanto produces) are responsible for the large yield increases produced by the nation’s corn and soybean farmers over the past decade and more. In fact, based on two dozen academic studies, our report concluded that genetically engineering herbicide-tolerant soybeans and herbicide-tolerant corn has not increased yields. The GE trait for insect-resistant corn, meanwhile, has improved yields only marginally. The increase in yields for both crops over the last 13 years, the report found, was largely due to traditional breeding or improvements in agricultural practices.
Doug’s findings more or less put the kibosh on a key piece of Monsanto’s ad campaign at the time, which claimed that its “advanced seeds… significantly increase crop yields…”
But the company’s “Earth-friendly” messaging machine has rolled relentlessly on.
Monsanto Fails Again
Now, Monsanto may want to re-write its talking points once again. That’s because today, UCS released a new web-based feature documenting its broken promises of sustainability. Eight Ways Monsanto Fails at Sustainable Agriculture details how—contrary to the messages it repeats through flashy ad campaigns and teams of lobbyists—the company is actually holding back the development and expansion of a truly sustainable agriculture and food system, one that would be good for farmers, consumers, and the planet.
Here’s how they’re doing it:
#1: Promoting Pesticide Resistance. Monsanto’s RoundupReady and Bt technologies lead to resistant weeds and insects that can make farming harder and reduce sustainability.
#2: Increasing Herbicide Use. Roundup resistance has led to greater use of herbicides, with troubling implications for biodiversity, sustainability, and human health.
#3: Spreading Gene Contamination. Engineered genes have a bad habit of turning up in non-GE crops. And when this happens, sustainable farmers—and their customers—pay a high price.
#4: Expanding Monoculture. Monsanto’s emphasis on limited varieties of a few commodity crops contributes to reduced biodiversity and, as a consequence, to increased pesticide use and fertilizer pollution.
#5: Marginalizing Alternatives. Monsanto’s single-minded emphasis on GE fixes for farming challenges may come at the expense of cheaper, more effective solutions.
#6: Lobbying and Advertising. Monsanto outspends all other agribusinesses on efforts to persuade Congress and the public to maintain the industrial agriculture status quo.
#7: Suppressing Research. By creating obstacles to independent research on its products, Monsanto makes it harder for farmers and policy makers to make informed decisions that can lead to more sustainable agriculture.
#8: Falling Short on Feeding the World. Monsanto contributes little to helping the world feed itself, and has failed to endorse science-backed solutions that don’t give its products a central role.
Help UCS Set the Record Straight
Check out the full feature for yourself. And help spread the word by Tweeting or Facebook-sharing your “favorite” way Monsanto fails, from our website.
Posted in: Food and Agriculture
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