Monsanto Supersizes Farmers’ Weed Problem

, senior analyst, Food and Environment | December 12, 2013, 11:34 am EDT
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So now the Monsanto Company thinks its bad reputation with the public is primarily an air time problem. As the agribusiness giant’s Chief Technology Officer (and recent World Food Prize winner) Robert Fraley told Politico recently, Monsanto has been “absolutely riveted and focused on giving technology and tools to farmers to improve their productivity and yield and we haven’t spent nearly the time we have needed to on talking to consumers and talking to social media.”


Monsanto ad Dulles May 2013This is a company that spends, on average, $100 million per year on advertising. The past few years, it seems I can’t go to an airport (see photo at left) or ride the subway without seeing larger-than-life farmers smiling down at me from Monsanto’s ads. In 2011, the Business Marketing Association named Monsanto “Business Marketer of the Year.” The company has a blog and an online news portal, and they put out press releases nearly every day. They’re on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, and I just counted no fewer than 37 official tweets from Monsanto just in the last 24 hours.

Still, the company has concluded that it must do more to get its message out, including shaking up its communications staff and hiring a heavyweight PR firm to manage the company’s image.

But any new charm offensive, however well-managed, can’t overcome the fact that large agribusiness interests—Monsanto prime among them—stand as a major impediment to a healthy, sustainable food and farm future. And as UCS documents this week, this company’s responsibility for the latest problem facing farmers across the country—so-called superweeds—stands in stark contradiction to the warm and fuzzy public image Monsanto is trying to cultivate.

In our new policy brief, The Rise of Superweeds—And What to Do About It, we tell the story of how Monsanto’s wildly popular “Roundup Ready” system of engineered corn, soybean, and cotton seeds and herbicide has accelerated the predictable tendency of weeds to develop immunity to weed-killers, causing major headaches for farmers. A recent survey found that more than 60 million acres of U.S. farmland are infested with Monsanto’s superweeds—that’s an area roughly the size of the state of Michigan.


My colleague Doug Gurian-Sherman wrote at length yesterday about better weed control solutions from the science of agroecology. From planting cover crops to rotating more crops, these science-based practices are more effective and sustainable over the long term, and can even help farmers increase their profits.

Sadly, the communicators at Monsanto apparently haven’t heard this news. Maybe someone should take out an ad in their boardroom.

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  • Julie

    Farmers who DO stand up to Monsanto are beaten into submission through limitless spending by Monsanto on legal processes that bankrupt the farmers. It’s not that farmers don’t have the guts to resist…it’s that resisting comes at a devastating cost to them and their families.

  • Mike Comte

    don’t buy their PR campaign, don’t buy their crappy products or foods contaminated with their crappy products. Squeeze ’em out.

  • Melissa

    The problem is that most people still don’t understand that GMOs are entirely different from hybridized plants. They also don’t know enough about their immune system and gut flora. We are being genetically modified by the foods we eat! GMOs are a crime against all life.

  • Travis Raden

    It’s because of Monsanto that I started my own organic garden. All the extra fruit and veggies are sold at the farmers market, and since I’m not out to make a profit I sell them cheap. I’m a firm believer that everyone should have access to inexpensive, fresh, healthy, gmo-free organic food.

  • Shari Rich

    And this is all from the company that wants us to believe that GMO corn, soybeans, eat care safe. I say they need to reevaluate that. And no, I’m not a farmer, but I am a consumer!!

  • Shari Rich

    And this is all from the company that wants us to believe that GMO corn, soybeans, eat care safe. I say they need to reevaluate that. And no, I’m not a farmer, but I am a consumer!!

  • I can’t add anymore than what the concerned people have said except I wish Monsanto and corporations like it get lost. We consumers as we the people are labeled have the right to choose what we eat.

  • celia

    It is a shame farmers themselves don’t have enough moral fiber to stand up and change their ways when they know that what they are doing is unsustainable. But, as long as the government subsidies keep lining their pockets and Monsanto makes life easy for them they will continue. Monsanto’s claims sound too good to be true because they are. The majority of the population do not want the biochemical industry in charge of the food supply and the ever increasing importance remains to support local organic farmers.