Camlawrie’s Weblog

The World According to Monsanto

I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “that’s just the tip of the iceberg”, referring, of course, to the observation that the majority of an iceberg remains hidden from view below the surface of the water it floats in.  I feel like I may be slightly subject to this ‘iceberg’ phenomenon.  The proverbial Iceberg is a single line in the speech I presented in class in mid October.

“Are Monsanto and Syngenta bad companies that make bad products?” is a rhetorical question I posed in my speech.  At the time I simply considered it fodder to pad my illustrations that supported my message about leadership in agriculture, nothing more.  In fact, the only reason I even included it was because my roommate had alluded to scandals involving Monsanto and I thought it would make a good illustrative reference if I mentioned I knew nothing about Monsanto.  But, apparently there are a few people in this world who would vehemently answer “yes” despite the rhetorical nature of the question.  The World According to Monsanto is the title of a documentary that puts Monsanto in the hot seat and examines the negative impacts the company has had on the world.

It starts off with a few ‘did-you-know?’ facts that establish Monsanto’s origin as a chemical company rather than a biotechnology company.  Interestingly, Monsanto originally produced chemical additives for foods before entering the plastics market and finally the herbicide market.  Monsanto is most famous for developing Roundup (Glyphosate); the most widely used herbicide world wide.  After a brief history of the company, the movie explains negative impacts of Monsanto-produced chemicals, followed by allegations of a “revolving door” involving the United States Food and Drug Administration that hurried the introduction of biotechnology and transgenic crops that might not have been as safe as advertised; the film attacks recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and Roundup-Ready soybeans in this segment.  A segway into transgenic crops provides the digression into patenting seed stock, and prohibiting seed saving, and ends with a discussion suggesting conspiracy theories where Monsanto is systematically converting all the crops in the world to their genetically modified crops.  The use of global examples does an exceptional job of addressing the breadth of Monsanto’s influence on agriculture worldwide.

I took the message the movie had with a grain of salt because I had trouble believing it was the absolute truth.  While I believe there is some truth in the stories, the film was fraught with anecdotal evidence and cynical musing that can’t possibly portray an accurate picture of Monsanto and its products.  The apparent misrepresentation annoyed me, and I was disappointed with the audience who attended.  Everyone took the bait, hook, line and sinker.  Don’t get me wrong, Monsanto has been involved in some questionable business, but I think the film illustrated Monsanto as a sinister, mysterious corporation with as much to hide as Area 51.  Something which I can’t fathom as being true.  Check out the whole film on Google Video at: