Monsanto Improves its Bottom Line…But Not Agriculture

July 3, 2012
Karen Perry Stillerman
Sr. Strategist and Sr. Analyst, Food & Environment Program

The Monsanto Company is raking it in—last week they reported third quarter profits of $937 million. Yes, you read that right: Monsanto’s profit for the three-month period ending May 31 amounted to nearly a billion dollars, up a whopping 35% from the same quarter last year. That raging river of cash flowing in must make it easy for the company to finance a flurry of advertising and lobbying extolling the virtues its products. According to Monsanto’s PR, the company is feeding a growing population, protecting natural resources, and promoting biodiversity.

But the truth is decidedly less impressive, and now UCS is setting the record straight with an ad campaign of our own.

More Herbicide + Fewer Butterflies = Better Seeds?

UCS ads challenging Monsanto's hype in the Archives Metro station (near the U.S. EPA) in Washington, DC. The ads are also featured in stations near the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Capitol Hill.

With a series of three new ads you can see on our website, we’re taking on Monsanto’s claims directly. One of the company’s ads (coincidentally, the one that appeared across the street from UCS’s Washington, DC, office earlier in this year) says their “better seeds can help meet the needs of our rapidly growing population, while protecting the earth’s natural resources.” In response, our ad  points out that the company’s Roundup Ready crops have increased herbicide use by an estimated 383 million pounds and have been associated with an estimated 81 percent fewer monarch butterfly eggs in the Midwest—critical ground along the spectacular annual migration route of these butterflies to and from Mexico.

We’re also using our campaign to take issue with Monsanto’s suggestions that its genetic engineering technology is improving U.S. crop yields (nope, not much) and conserving water (not at all). Instead, as our ads and our analysis behind them show, the company’s products are spawning an epidemic of “superweeds” and crowding out more sustainable alternatives.

Fighting Fire with Facts

We have no illusions that Monsanto’s spin machine will let up anytime soon. After all, as Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott lays out, the company’s combination of glossy ads, high-powered lobbying, and big-time political contributions is paying off with favorable results (at least from Monsanto’s perspective) in Congress. But we expect policy-makers here in Washington to take note of our ads—which will be up all this month on city buses and in transit stations near the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s headquarters, the U.S. EPA, and Capitol Hill. And we hope those decision-makers—who are accountable to farmers and the public to really improve agriculture—will look more skeptically at Monsanto’s claims in the future and give sustainable alternatives a fair shot.

UCS still believes that the truth can be powerful, and you can help us tell it far and wide.

Take a look at our ads, and help us spread the word via Twitter or Facebook. Oh, and if you’re in the DC area, keep an eye out for our ads on Metrobuses. If you spot one and send us a photo, we’ll thank you with a reusable UCS shopping bag!